What We Are Reading Today: Dante by John Took

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Updated 18 December 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Dante by John Took

For all that has been written about the author of the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) remains the best guide to his own life and work. Dante’s writings are therefore never far away in this authoritative and comprehensive intellectual biography, which offers a fresh account of the medieval Florentine poet’s life and thought before and after his exile in 1302.

Beginning with the often violent circumstances of Dante’s life, the book examines his successive works as testimony to the course of his passionate humanity: His lyric poetry through to the Vita nova as the great work of his first period; the Convivio, De vulgari eloquentia and the poems of his early years in exile; and the Monarchia and the Commedia as the product of his maturity. Describing as it does a journey of the mind, the book confirms the nature of Dante’s undertaking as an exploration of what he himself speaks of as “maturity in the flame of love.”

The result is an original synthesis of Dante’s life and work.


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.


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.


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.