What We Are Reading Today: The War for Gaul: A New Translation by James J. O’Donnell

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Updated 24 November 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The War for Gaul: A New Translation by James J. O’Donnell

A translation that captures the power of one of the greatest war stories ever told—Julius Caesar’s account of his brutal campaign to conquer Gaul. Imagine a book about an unnecessary war written by the ruthless general of an occupying army—a vivid and dramatic propaganda piece that forces the reader to identify with the conquerors and that is designed, like the war itself, to fuel the limitless political ambitions of the author. Could such a campaign autobiography ever be a great work of literature—perhaps even one of the greatest?


What We Are Reading Today: Politics and Governance in Bangladesh by

Updated 15 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Politics and Governance in Bangladesh by

Editors: Ipshita Basu, Joe Devine, Geoff Wood

“Politics and Governance in Bangladesh” explores the central issue of Bangladeshi politics: The weakness of governance.

The coexistence of a poor governance track record and a relatively strong socioeconomic performance make Bangladesh an intriguing case which throws up exciting and relevant conceptual and policy challenges.

Structured in four sections — Political settlement, elites and deep structures; democracy, citizenship and values; civil society, local context and political change; informality and accountability — the book identifies and engages with these challenges.

Chapters by experts in the field share a number of conceptual and epistemological principles and offer a combination of theoretical and empirical insights, and cover a good range of contemporary issues and debate, according to a review on goodreads.com.

Employing a structurally determinist perspective, this book explains politics and society in Bangladesh from a novel perspective.

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What We Are Reading Today: Enemy of All Mankind by Steven Johnson

Updated 08 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Enemy of All Mankind by Steven Johnson

Enemy of All Mankind by Steven Johnson is a very highly recommended account of Henry Every, the 17th century’s most notorious pirate.

The press published wildly popular — and wildly inaccurate — reports of his nefarious adventures. The British government offered enormous bounties for his capture, alive or (preferably) dead. But Johnson argues that Every’s most lasting legacy was his inadvertent triggering of a major shift in the global economy.

Enemy of All Mankind focuses on one key event — the attack on an Indian treasure ship by Every and his crew — and its surprising repercussions across time and space.

“Bringing to life the story of a notorious pirate to a modern audience isn’t an easy task,” said a review on Goodreads.com.

Johnson is the bestselling author of several books, including Farsighted, Wonderland, How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You.

He weaves in elements from science, economics as well as history and other disciplines to set the stage for his stories.


What We Are Reading Today: How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

Updated 07 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

In How the Word Is Passed, Clint Smith seeks to examine how America memorializes, and reckons, with the legacy of slavery.

The author is a poet, educator and scholar from New Orleans who describes his visits to several locations in the US and Africa, each with a relationship to slavery.

“He uses each locale as a catalyst to discuss how these various places can inform us; how history can be passed on if we question and listen,” said a review on goodreads.com.

A review in The New York Times said: “For this timely and thought-provoking book, Smith toured sites key to the history of slavery and its present-day legacy.”

It added: “Interspersing interviews with the tourists, guides, activists and local historians he meets along the way with close readings of scholarship and poignant personal reflection, Smith holds up a mirror to America’s fraught relationship with its past, capturing a potent mixture of good intentions, earnest corrective, wilful ignorance and blatant distortion.”


What We Are Reading Today: Riverman by Ben McGrath

Updated 06 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Riverman by Ben McGrath

This book contains everything: Adventure, mystery, travelogue, and unforgettable characters.

Ben McGrath’s first book elegantly relates the true story of Dick Conant, a troubled and charismatic man who disappeared on a long-distance canoe trip from New York to Florida.

Riverman “is a portrait of an America we rarely see: a nation of unconventional characters, small river towns, and long-forgotten waterways,” said a review on Goodreads.com.

For decades, Conant paddled the rivers of America, covering the Mississippi, Yellowstone, Ohio, Hudson, as well as innumerable smaller tributaries.

These solo excursions were epic feats of planning, perseverance, and physical courage.

At the same time, Conant collected people wherever he went, creating a vast network of friends and acquaintances who would forever remember this brilliant and charming man even after a single meeting.

Conant was fortunate to experience the benefits — and the occasional hardships — of being immersed in both worlds.

“It is our great fortune that his story landed in the hands of someone who cared to tell his story well,” said the review.


What We Are Reading Today: The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs

Updated 05 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs

The Puzzler will open readers’ eyes to the power of flexible thinking and concentration.

The New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically goes on a rollicking journey to understand the enduring power of puzzles: Why people love them, what they do to their brains, and how they can improve our world.

Author A. J. Jacobs always comes up with fun creative books that spark curiosity. This one is no different. “It did lack cohesiveness but it was interesting reading about all the different histories and creators of the worlds best puzzles,” said a review in goodreads.com.

“Convinced that puzzles have made him a better person, Jacobs — four-time New York Times bestselling author — master of immersion journalism, and nightly crossworder — set out to determine their myriad benefits. And maybe, in the process, solve the puzzle of our very existence. Well, almost,” said the review.

“This is a great dive into the history of different puzzles, the quirky and unique people involved in competitions/industry/etc, and the popularity of puzzles throughout the ages.”