America’s Indispensable Diplomat: Abraham Lincoln on the World Stage

9780307887214By Kevin Peraino, author of Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power (Broadway Books, October 2014)

I came to Abraham Lincoln in a roundabout way. I had been working as a correspondent in the Middle East, reporting from countries like Syria and Libya and Yemen—where I was exposed to foreign affairs in a very high-intensity, granular way. I found myself searching for—almost craving—a wider, more thoughtful perspective on the events I was witnessing up close. I began poring through works about the historic traditions of American foreign policy in an attempt to make better sense of what I was seeing first hand on the ground. Continue reading

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The Internet Society: How Our Online Lives Reveal Who We Really Are

9780345812582By Christian Rudder, author of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) (Crown, September 2014)

My fellow first-years and I were the first incoming class at Harvard to get official email addresses from the school. I remember thinking, what nerd is going to send me an electronic letter? Who wouldn’t just call me? What is this garbage? It was 1993. That fall, I used my roommate’s Mosaic browser to look up guitar tab for a Steve Miller song and then, my curiosity about “The Joker” well satisfied, pretty much forgot about the Internet. Continue reading

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A Dispatch from the Medication Generation

978-0-8070-0145-5By Kaitlin Bell Barnett, author of Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up (Beacon Press, September 2014)

As the number of young people treated with psychiatric medications has risen sharply over the past couple of decades, the issue of treating kids has become a hot-button issue.

A growing chorus of critics point fingers at doctors who are allegedly too quick to pathologize ordinary childhood struggles as mental illness, and at parents allegedly too quick to medicate their children—all in the absence of scientific evidence about the drugs’ long-term effects. Mental health advocacy groups counter with anti-stigma campaigns urging people to seek help, and big pharma continues to aggressively push its drugs for more and more pediatric indications. Continue reading

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How “The Cancer of War” Alters the DNA of Nations

978-1-59051-505-1By Shahan Mufti, author of The Faithful Scribe (Other Press, September 2013).

As a writer of narrative non-fiction, I’m always searching for the most compelling characters to carry the story. In the years that I covered war as journalist from the front lines in Pakistan, a country that I call home, there were always plenty of them to choose from. War always offers extraordinary characters. There are plenty of violent, bloodthirsty villains and then there are those larger than life heroes, capable of compassion and goodness that can only be drawn from the madness of war.

Yet I repeatedly found myself drawn those characters living ordinary lives, navigating the extraordinary landscape of war: the real estate agent who finds that the war attracts speculative buyers, which allows him to make a profit of his nation’s misery; the curator who watches the collection of ancient artifacts bleed out of his museum and witnesses his culture sapped of its history; a gutsy boxer who tries to deliver hope in his fight but crumbles under the weight of his own expectation. War, I found through these characters’ lives, wasn’t always about choosing between life and death. For most people, war is about figuring out a way to survive. Continue reading

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Kinder Than Solitude: Mystery, Tragedy and Friendship with Yiyun Li

978-1-4000-6814-2By Yiyun Li, author of Kinder Than Solitude: A Novel (Random House, February 2014).

When I left China in the mid 1990s, it was still a country largely unknown to the West. Americans sometimes asked me if I had ever eaten chocolate before, or if my parents had arranged a marriage for me. But over the past twenty years, with rapid changes in technology, the world seems to have become a smaller place. A photographer in Madrid told me that he had a language partner, a high school student in Wisconsin, and he practiced English on Skype with the student, and the student practiced Spanish with him. A woman I met in London makes a living by teaching English long-distance to Chinese business people. At a playground the other day, a man was using FaceTime with his family in Europe: he showed his children on swings, and his brother and sister-in-law showed an album of their traveling in Senegal, all on their iPhone screens. Continue reading

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Would humanities courses produce doctors who are more in tune with their patients’ needs?

What Doctors FeelBeyond the usual curriculum of science and math courses for pre-med students, would a few required courses in the humanities turn out doctors who are more in tune with their patients’ needs? In “Humanities for Science Majors,” published in the September 16th issue of Publishers Weekly, Dr. Danielle Ofri writes, “When I think about the ongoing debate about the value of humanities in higher education, I’m reminded that it’s not (just) about the dwindling number of English majors. It’s about the totality of students who enter the university gates and then branch out into society.” Ofri, author of What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine (Beacon), says that the “unexpected opportunity to steep in the humanities offered me ways to think and write about medicine that I doubt would have been accessible to me otherwise.” Continue reading

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Disregarding Scholarship on the Basis of an Author’s Religious Belief

ZealotIn “Attack on Religion Scholar Puts His Book on Jesus in the Spotlight“, published August 1 by The Chronicle of Higher Education, writer Peter Monaghan discusses the controversy surrounding Reza Aslan’s recent interview on Fox News about his new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Random House, July 2013).  Zealot argues that “Jesus of Nazareth little resemble[d] the figure embraced by Christianity” where his motivations for writing the book were questioned during the interview, as he is a practicing Muslim.

“You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Lauren Green asked Mr. Aslan on “Spirited Debate,” to which Aslan explained, “I’m a scholar of religions with four degrees…who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who just happens to be a Muslim.”

What do you think? Is it legitimate to question one’s work on the basis of their identity or religious belief?

Read an excerpt from Zealot by clicking here.

Have a comment or question?  Post below to receive a complimentary copy of Zealot.

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