Tag Archives: Random House

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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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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Post a Comment, Request a Free Book

If you are a college professor simply post a meaningful response or comment to any of the essays on this blog and you’ll receive a free copy of the book that’s discussed in that essay.  We will contact once we receive your comment to request your mailing information.  Please go ahead and debate this book–and a get a free book while you’re at it.

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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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Brokers of Deceit: Examining America’s Role in the Middle-East

Brokers of Deceit HC

By Rashid Khalidi, author of Brokers of Deceit (Beacon Press, March 2013).

I served as an advisor to the Madrid and Washington Palestinian-Israeli negotiations from 1991-1993, and long wanted to use documents that I collected then, but I never found an opportunity to do so. Then the research of one my graduate students on American Middle East policy revealed a trove of newly declassified American and Israeli materials that cast a fascinating light on what I had experienced in the early 1990’s. Together with my observations on the Obama administration’s failures in dealing with the Palestine issue, it inspired me to write this short book. This is not a comprehensive history of US Middle East policy, or of US policy on Palestine. Instead, it focuses on three “moments:” one is the period 1978-82, another is the 1991-93 negotiations, and the third is the last two years of Obama’s first term. I saw that the specific patterns of US bias in favor of inflexible Israeli positions that we had seen in our negotiations with the Israelis were precisely mirrored in earlier administrations, and that little or nothing has changed under this president.

The book addresses some of the common distortions of language that are so prevalent where the Palestine issue is concerned in Israeli-American official and media discourse. I deal with corrupted terms like “peace process,” “Palestinian autonomy,” “Israeli security,” and “terrorism,” all of which in this parlance have a heavily loaded meaning. I thus am challenging both those who use these terms in policy-making, political discourse and the media, and the vast literature that reproduces them without critical analysis of what they actually mean. As I suggest in the book, this is truly Orwellian, and this corrupt language has a profound impact on reality. Continue reading

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Why Nations Fail authors respond to Bill Gates

9780307719225In Why Nations Fail professors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson assert that strong, inclusive political and economic institutions—not geography, culture, or market-based tendencies—determine a nation’s success or failure. Their findings, based on fifteen years of original research, have garnered excellent to favorable reviews from academia as well as from leading voices in the international aid and development community. However, in February, Microsoft founder Bill Gates criticized the book in a much-publicized review on his website (link to his review).

In response to Gates’ assessment, the authors responded with a pointed and detailed retort:

“Why Nations Fail received the harshest reviews from those who see geography and culture as the root causes of poverty, and enlightened leaders — or even more enlightened outside donors and organizations — as the keys to economic development. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his dedication to international aid, billionaire foundation chief Bill Gates falls into this category: His Feb. 26 review of our book was particularly uncharitable. Unfortunately, however, it was also dead wrong on many counts.”  To read the rest of their essay, click here.

What do you think of Bill Gates’ assessment of Why Nations Fail?  What of the counterpoints made by the authors?

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Who Stole the American Dream?

Who Stole The American Dream HCby Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream? (Random House, September 2012).

For years, hundreds of colleges, university, and high school courses have used my books, The Russians and The Power Game: How Washington Works, in their courses. Professors and teachers have trusted the quality of my reporting, research, and writing. Students have found my work readable and intellectually engaging.

My new book, Who Stole the American Dream?, is especially well suited for university courses and seminars and high school classrooms. It combines on-the-spot reporting and storytelling with academic-level research (more than 1,000 footnotes), making it both authoritative and highly readable. My thematic treatment of American political and economic history from the 1970s to the present would work well in interdisciplinary seminars as well as courses in government, economics, political science, public policy, journalism, and modern American history. Continue reading

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