Category Archives: Author Essays

The Psychological Forces That Undermine Our Criminal Justice System

9780770437763by Adam Benforado, author of Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice (Crown, June 2015)

The death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and his killer’s subsequent acquittal, led many to condemn our criminal justice system as fundamentally broken. And in the wake of high-profile cases in New York, Cleveland, and Ferguson, questions about how the law reflects—and exacerbates—racial and economic disparities have continued to dominate the national conversation. As a society, we are desperately trying to make sense of rampant gun violence, police brutality, overcrowded prisons, and widening inequality. Continue reading

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Re-defining God with the New Science of “Emergence”

9780807073391by Nancy Ellen Abrams, author of A God That Could Be Real:  Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet (Beacon Press, March 2015)

We are living at the dawn of a new picture of the universe. We now know that everything visible with our best telescopes is less than one percent of what’s really out there. Our universe is made almost entirely of “dark matter” and “dark energy” – two invisible, dynamic presences whose 13.8 billion year competition with each other has spun the galaxies into being and thus created the only possible homes for evolution and life. This must change how we think about God. Continue reading

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Prevailing Treatments for Addiction Just Don’t Work

9780807033159By Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes, authors of The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry (Beacon Press, 2015)

The major current interventions for alcoholism and other addictions are based on some terribly flawed science, and have startlingly poor success rates. These are the key findings within our 2014 book, The Sober Truth.

My co-author and I reviewed every major scientific study examining outcomes for AA and 12-step-based rehabilitation programs, and found that the most likely success rate for these programs falls somewhere between 5% and 10%. This wasn’t our finding alone; an exhaustive scientific review by the prestigious Cochrane Collection which examined all AA studies over 40 years came to an even more damning conclusion, disclosing that “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA” at all. Continue reading

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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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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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The Hidden Roots of Political Orientations

Our Political Nature HCBy Avi Tuschman, author of Our Political Nature (Prometheus Books, September 2013).

In 2002 I found myself traveling to the far corners of Peru, visiting the country’s largest mining and energy investments for a political-risk consultancy. Peru still had fresh scars from the recent Maoist guerilla war and counterinsurgency; and the conflicts festering over the earth’s assets kept these ideological specters very much alive. While gathering field intelligence, I encountered an unlikely collection of movers and shakers: the CEOs of fantastically wealthy corporations, communist defense fronts, indigenous leaders, priests, and authoritarian thugs. I also saw greed, corruption, and coercion. These experiences exposed me to radically different worldviews – and to political extremism. I was riveted by how one group’s notion of good represented another one’s idea of evil.

Since the mining-and-energy sector had billions of dollars at stake in the country, we also kept close tabs on the political dramas that unfolded within the national government. I grew fascinated by the story of the president and first lady, who was also a Stanford alumna and anthropologist. Soon after meeting her I became the youngest advisor in the Palace, where I worked on indigenous people’s affairs. Eventually, I was recruited as President Toledo’s Senior Writer. In this role I crafted articles with the seasoned statesman to shape public opinion. As we traveled around the world after his term, I had the privilege to work with numerous other presidents, and to meet prime ministers, secretaries of state, and legislators from five continents. Continue reading

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Oil Wealth and Political Poverty: Rethinking the History of Energy

Carbon Democracy TPBy Timothy Mitchell, author of Carbon Democracy (Verso, June 2013).

In the eighteen months since the publication of the first edition of this book, the United States appears to have entered a new age of energy abundance.  The extraction of gas and oil from shale formations has led to the most rapid increase in new energy supplies in the country’s history. Political leaders and the news media present this sudden reversing of a thirty-five-year decline in the US production of fossil fuels as a sign of the recovery of the country’s national independence. After the breakdown of financial institutions in 2008 – which erased trillions of dollars in wealth as stock markets, pension funds and property values crashed, and led to the loss of 7 million US jobs in the recession that followed – the energy boom also seemed to promise a return of real wealth. The fragile paper economy of financial speculation and consumer credit would give way to a ‘potential re-industrialization of the US’, built on the solid foundation of expanding material resources. Continue reading

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Revising the Vietnam Narrative: No Longer “America’s War”

Embers of War HCby Fredrik Logevall, author of Embers of War (Random House, August 2012), winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in history.

The struggle for Vietnam occupies a central place in the history of the twentieth century. Fought over a period of three decades, the conflict drew in all the world’s powers and saw two of them—first France, then the United States—attempt to subdue the revolutionary Vietnamese forces. For France, the defeat marked the effective end of her colonial empire, while for America the war left a gaping wound in the body politic that remains open to this day.  In the below essay, Logevall distills key points from his book. Continue reading

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Charles Murray, Author of Coming Apart, Examines Demographic Shifts In This New Decade

Coming Apart TRby Charles Murray, author of Coming Apart (Crown Forum, January 2012).

Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart offers a thought-provoking commentary on class in contemporary America. Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, the book demonstrates that a new upper class, who live in hyper-wealthy zip codes called SuperZIPS, and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.  In the below essay, Murray discusses trends that have occurred since 2010. Continue reading

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