What We Are Reading Today: The Discrete Charm of the Machine by Ken Steiglitz

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Updated 26 November 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Discrete Charm of the Machine by Ken Steiglitz

A few short decades ago, we were informed by the smooth signals of analog television and radio; we communicated using our analog telephones; and we even computed with analog computers. Today our world is digital, built with zeros and ones. Why did this revolution occur? The Discrete Charm of the Machine explains, in an engaging and accessible manner, the varied physical and logical reasons behind this radical transformation.
The spark of individual genius shines through this story of innovation: The stored program of Jacquard’s loom; Charles Babbage’s logical branching; Alan Turing’s brilliant abstraction of the discrete machine; Harry Nyquist’s foundation for digital signal processing; Claude Shannon’s breakthrough insights into the meaning of information and bandwidth; and Richard Feynman’s prescient proposals for nanotechnology and quantum computing. Ken Steiglitz follows the progression of these ideas in the building of our digital world, from the internet and artificial intelligence to the edge of the unknown.


What We Are Reading Today: Wildlife of India by Bikram Grewal

Updated 22 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Wildlife of India by Bikram Grewal

The Indian subcontinent is exceptionally rich in wildlife because of its wide variety of habitats and climates, ranging from the ocean to the Himalayas and from the Rajasthan desert to Mawsynram in Meghalaya, one of the wettest places on earth. This diversity supports a huge range of charismatic species, from the iconic tiger to clouded leopards, crocodiles to king cobras, hornbills to eagles. 

The guide begins with an overview of India’s climate and geography, its wildlife habitats and how to enjoy them, and threats to wildlife. The main part of the book includes concise species descriptions of 770 birds, 114 mammals, 72 butterflies and other insects, 54 reptiles, and 54 plants, each accompanied by a photograph. The book concludes with a section on wildlife-watching in the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

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What We Are Reading Today: Novel Relations by Alicia Mireles Christoff

Updated 19 May 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Novel Relations by Alicia Mireles Christoff

Novel Relations engages 20th-century post-Freudian British psychoanalysis in an unprecedented way: As literary theory. Placing the writing of figures like D. W. Winnicott, W. R. Bion, Michael and Enid Balint, Joan Riviere, Paula Heimann, and Betty Joseph in conversation with canonical Victorian fiction, Alicia Christoff reveals just how much object relations can teach us about how and why we read.

These thinkers illustrate the ever-shifting impact our relations with others have on the psyche, and help us see how literary figures—characters, narrators, authors, and other readers—shape and structure us too. For Christoff, novels are charged relational fields.

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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.”