What We Are Reading: ‘One Step Sideways, Three Steps Forward’

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Updated 21 June 2024
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What We Are Reading: ‘One Step Sideways, Three Steps Forward’

Author: B. Rosemary Grant

Scientist Rosemary Grant’s journey in life has involved detours and sidesteps—not the shortest or the straightest of paths, but one that has led her to the top of evolutionary biology.

Grant’s unorthodox career is one woman’s solution to the problem of combining professional life as a field biologist with raising a family.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Dove’s Necklace’

Updated 17 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Dove’s Necklace’

“The Dove's Necklace,” which is written by Saudi novelist Raja Alem and translated by Katharine Halls and Adam Talib, is a captivating and multilayered novel that transports readers to the vibrant city of Makkah.

Alem masterfully weaves together the stories of several intersecting characters, creating a rich tapestry that explores themes of identity, spirituality, and the complexities of human relationships. 

At the heart of the narrative is Jumana, a young woman whose life is irrevocably altered by the discovery of an ancient necklace. It becomes the catalyst for Jumana’s journey of self-discovery as she navigates the intense social and religious expectations of her community. 

Alem explores her characters’ inner lives in her lyrical and incredibly sensitive language. A significant layer of cultural and historical depth is added to the story by the author’s examination of Makkah as a separate character, as well as Jumana’s poignant struggle to balance her personal aspirations with the demands of her faith.

What struck me most about this novel was the author’s ability to weave together the diverse tapestry of Makkah’s inhabitants. As I followed the intersecting narratives of characters like the enigmatic Basima, the troubled artist Khalid, and the enigmatic Grandfather, I was repeatedly challenged to examine my own preconceptions and biases.

Alem’s nuanced portrayal of this community, with all its complexities and contradictions, felt like a revelation. 

“The Dove’s Necklace” is not merely a work of fiction but a bold exploration of the complexities of faith, tradition, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world. Alem’s skillful use of symbolism and metaphor, particularly in her treatment of the necklace itself, adds a layer of depth and complexity to the narrative. 

Despite the novel’s weighty themes, Alem’s storytelling is never heavy-handed or didactic. She allows the reader to engage with the characters and their experiences on a deeply personal level, inviting them to consider the universal questions of identity, belonging, and the quest for spiritual fulfillment. 

A fantastic piece of literature that cuts beyond genre and cultural borders, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the diverse canon of Middle Eastern literature.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Financial Economics of Insurance’

Updated 17 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Financial Economics of Insurance’

Authors: Ralph S.J. Koijen and Motohiro Yogo

“Financial Economics of Insurance” provides a unified framework to study the impact of financial and regulatory frictions as well as imperfect competition on all insurer decisions.

The book covers all facets of the modern insurance sector, guiding readers through its complexities with empirical facts, institutional details, and quantitative modeling.


What We Are Reading Today: The Tech Coup

Updated 16 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: The Tech Coup

Author: Marietje Schaake

Over the past decades, under the cover of “innovation,” technology companies have successfully resisted regulation and have even begun to seize power from governments themselves. Facial recognition firms track citizens for police surveillance. Cryptocurrency has wiped out the personal savings of millions and threatens the stability of the global financial system. 

In “The Tech Coup,” Marietje Schaake offers a behind-the-scenes account of how technology companies crept into nearly every corner of our lives and our governments.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Snakes of Australia’

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Updated 15 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Snakes of Australia’

Authors: TIE EIPPER AND SCOTT EIPPER

With more than 1,000 photographs, Snakes of Australia illustrates and describes in detail all 240 of the continent’s species and subspecies—from file snakes, pythons, colubrids, and natricids to elapids, marine elapids, homalopsids, and blind snakes.

It features introductions to each family, species descriptions, type locations, distribution maps, and quick-identification keys to each family and genera.

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Data Economy’

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Updated 14 July 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Data Economy’

Authors: ISAAC BALEY AND LAURA VELDKAMP

The most valuable firms in the global economy are valued largely for their data. Amazon, Apple, Google, and others have proven the competitive advantage of a good data set.

And yet despite the growing importance of data as a strategic asset, modern economic theory neglects its role. In this book, Isaac Baley and Laura Veldkamp draw on a range of theoretical frameworks at the research frontier in macroeconomics and finance.