What We’re Reading: Fluke

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Updated 24 February 2024
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What We’re Reading: Fluke

Author: Brian Klaas

In “Fluke,” Brian Klaas dives deeply into the phenomenon of random chance and the chaos it can sow, taking aim at most people’s neat and tidy storybook version of reality.

The book’s argument is that we willfully ignore a bewildering but for a few small changes, our lives could be radically different. Drawing on social science, chaos theory, history, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Klaas provides a fresh look at why things happen — all while providing mind-bending lessons on how we can live smarter, be happier, and lead more fulfilling lives.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Sixty Miles Upriver

Updated 23 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Sixty Miles Upriver

Author: Richard E. Ocejo

Newburgh is a small postindustrial city of some 28,000 people located 60 miles north of New York City in the Hudson River Valley.

Like many similarly sized cities across America, it has been beset with poverty and crime after decades of decline, with few opportunities for its predominantly minority residents.

“Sixty Miles Upriver” tells the story of how Newburgh started gentrifying, describing what happens when White creative professionals seek out racially diverse and working-class communities and revealing how gentrification is increasingly happening outside large city centers in places where it unfolds in new ways.


What We Are Reading Today: A Death in the Rainforest

Updated 22 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: A Death in the Rainforest

Author: Don Kulick

As a young anthropologist, Don Kulick went to the tiny village of Gapun in New Guinea to document the death of the native Tayap, an endangered Papuan language.

“A Death in the Rainforest” takes readers inside the village, revealing what it is like to live in a place carved out like a cleft in the middle of a tropical rainforest.

This book offers insight into the impact of white society on the farthest reaches of the globe — and the story of why this anthropologist realized finally that he had to give up his study of this language and this village.

An engaging, deeply perceptive, and brilliant interrogation of what it means to study a culture, the book takes readers into a world that endures in the face of massive changes, one that is on the verge of disappearing forever.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Moon That Turns You Back’

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Updated 22 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Moon That Turns You Back’

  • The book contains various poems, some experimental, some soaked in grief, some documenting the mundane, but always with a purpose. She perhaps sums it best when she writes: “I remember so you can forget”

Author: Hala Alyan

The first time I heard Palestinian-American artist Hala Alyan speak was when she acted in the starring role in Lebanese-American filmmaker Darine Hotait’s 2015 short film, “I Say Dust.”

In those 15 minutes of beautifully shot frames, you visually travel through time, space and various emotional states as Alyan leads the way.

Both Hotait and Alyan were deliberate in showcasing their Arab-centric stories of belonging and identity. Alyan’s fierce eyes were kind but intense on the screen; her movement was soft but firm and when she spoke, she left you speechless — but in the best way.

In the film, she was the epitome of poetry, and now you can explore Alyan’s words further with her latest work, a book of poetry titled, “The Moon That Turns You Back,” which was published in March this year.

For the past decade or so, Alyan has explored stories of complexities of identity and the impact of displacement, especially in relation to the Palestinian diaspora. In this latest collection, her writing takes us through Brooklyn, Beirut, Palestine and places that exist in between or in fragmented memories.

Alyan said that she does not have just one middle name, she has six, and not a single one of those are her mother’s. She writes evocative and concize lines such as “A city full of men still has a mother,” and “every time I tell the story, I warp it,” and her poetry is vividly descriptive with lines such as “lipstick like a sliced finger.” She also writes relatable lines such as “I’m terrible at parties, secrets and money,” and “a body is a calendar of breaths.”

The book contains various poems, some experimental, some soaked in grief, some documenting the mundane, but always with a purpose. She perhaps sums it best when she writes: “I remember so you can forget.”

Alyan is an adjunct assistant professor of applied psychology at New York University after earning her doctorate in clinical psychology from Rutgers University. She has also published several novels and well-received essays. She won the Arab American Book Award in 2013 and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in 2018.

 

 


What We Are Reading Today: Plankton: A Worldwide Guide

Updated 21 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Plankton: A Worldwide Guide

Authors: Tom Jackson & Jennifer Parker

“Plankton” are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. “Plankton” provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Pox Romana’

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Updated 20 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Pox Romana’

Author: COLIN ELLIOT

In the middle of the 2nd century AD, Rome was at its prosperous and powerful apex. The emperor Marcus Aurelius reigned over a vast territory that stretched from Britain to Egypt.

The Roman-made peace, or Pax Romana, seemed to be permanent. Then, apparently out of nowhere, a sudden sickness struck the legions and laid waste to cities, including Rome itself. This fast-spreading disease, now known as the Antonine plague, may have been history’s first pandemic.