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January 30th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Narrative and Numbers, by Aswath Damodaran



Narrative and Numbers

“No one has contributed more to the craft of valuation than Aswath Damodaran. In Narrative and Numbers, he correctly shows that you can’t understand the stock without the story. After Damodaran’s eye-opening tour, you will forever appreciate the vital contribution of human nature to number-crunching.” — Michael Mauboussin, Head of Global Financial Strategies, Credit Suisse

This week, our featured book is Narrative and Numbers: The Value of Stories in Business, by Aswath Damodaran. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

January 27th, 2017

University Press Roundup



Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

Recent events have proven inspiring for a host of university press blogs around the country and abroad. The Cambridge University Press blog kicks us off with a post by John Suler, author of Psychology of the Digital Age (2015), on the psychology of Twitter. Suler points out how the static textuality of Twitter as a medium can lead to misunderstandings in the absence of a voice or image to help interpret one’s words. It can also foster communications that consist of what one of Suler’s colleagues calls “an emotional hit and run.” Elsewhere, the University of North Carolina Press features a guest post by Gregg A. Brazinsky, author of the forthcoming Winning the Third World: Sino-American Rivalry During the Cold War. He describes the recent history of Chinese-American economic competition in the second half of the twentieth century, and looks ahead to some possible developments in the already-fractured relationship between President D. Trump’s administration and Beijing.

Women’s history is always relevant, and two recent posts are timely support for the global Women’s March this month and the early January release of the film Hidden Figures. First, the Harvard University Press Blog features a post about Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist (2016) by Laura Beers. Wilkinson was a British MP in the 1930s who was one of the first female delegates to the United Nations, and became famous for making a march of her own with two hundred unemployed shipwrights in 1936. “Beers’s portrait of Wilkinson,” the editor writes, “should reframe our understanding of the British left between the wars and bolster our sense of the possibilities for international social justice coalitions.”

Second, the Princeton University Press features a guest post by David Alan Grier, author of When Computers Were Human (2007). Taking Katherine Goble Johnson and the women of Hidden Figures as his starting point, he runs down other examples of moments when the mathematical skills of “Blacks, women, Irish, Jews and the merely poor” became essential to the everyday discoveries of scientists who later gave them scant credit for their work. The film is welcome and important, Grier writes, “because it reminds us that science is a community endeavor.”

The MIT Press, on the other hand, has looked back this month to celebrate an interesting anniversary. The 12th of January was the ‘birthday’ of the fictional supercomputer and AI presence Hal in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. David G. Stork, editor of the collected volume Hal’s Legacy: 2001′s Computer as Dream and Reality (1996), writes a fascinating post about how Hal “remains the most compelling portrayal of machine intelligence in cinema.” He also provides an overview of newer developments in AI, including a recent move towards provoking ‘deep learning’ by machines rather than relying solely on computation and mathematical reasoning.

And finally, an item of note to those interested in publishing as a profession: the Johns Hopkins University Press has begun a new monthly series of posts on their blog about the technicalities of book distribution! Davida G. Breier, the author of the series, is Manager at Hopkins Fulfillment Services, which distributes books from JHU and many other academic press clients.

Thanks for reading! As always, we hope that you enjoyed the links. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

January 27th, 2017

Leadership Imperatives to Achieve the Holy Grail of Business: Long-Term Growth



If You're in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!

“These harsh realities point to two burning questions of relevance to all senior executives: 1. Why is it so hard for companies to sustain above-market business performance? 2. What can companies do to beat the odds and crack the code to securing the holy grail of business: long-term profitable growth?” — Leonard Sherman

This week, our featured book is If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!: Strategies for Long-Term Growth, by Leonard Sherman. For the final post of the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from a short manifesto by Sherman, posted at 800-CEO-READ’s ChangeThis magazine. You can read the post in full here.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!.

In all human endeavors we tend to revere stars that perform at a superior level over a long and illustrious career. Sports Hall of Famers Aaron, Montana, Jordan, Pelé, and Nicklaus and arts honorees Ozawa, Tharp, and Simon have earned legendary acclaim for performing immeasurably beyond the reach of most mere mortals.

In business, as well, a few widely recognized companies have been able to deliver consistently superior growth over the long-term, including Amazon, who last year became the fastest company to reach $100 billion in sales, and J&J, 3M, and The Ball Corporation, each of whom has been out-innovating and outgrowing the overall market for more than a century. Read the rest of this entry »

January 26th, 2017

How Much Do You Know About Corporate Strategy?



If You're in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!

“Cats are a different breed of animal—clever, solitary hunters who are more inclined to explore new territory and to redefine the game on their own terms than to engage with the pack in a no-win dogfight. Cats are agile and innovative, and seek their prey (customers) with tactics that dogs cannot easily replicate.” — Leonard Sherman

This week, our featured book is If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!: Strategies for Long-Term Growth, by Leonard Sherman. Today, we are happy to present a quiz on corporate strategy, with information pulled from the many case studies in If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!.

January 26th, 2017

On Modernist Magazines, Little and Small — A Conversation with Eric Bulson and Donal Harris (Part 2)



On Company Time, Donal Harris

“Just about every serious author working in the U.S. contributed to big magazines in some capacity, and plenty of writers worked for them for multiple years, if not decades. Lots of them complained about this situation, but I found it an interesting occupational fact that shaped their ideas about what it means to be an author or ‘professional writer’ and what it means to produce literature. And, on the other side, I wanted to know why these magazines thought it was a good idea to hire poets to write copy!”—Donal Harris

This is the second part of a two-part conversation between Eric Bulson, author of Little Magazine, World Form and Donal Harris author of On Company Time: American Modernism in the Big Magazines (You can read part 1 here).

Bulson and Harris shift their focus from small to big to examine how magazines like Time, Life, The Crisis, shaped the direction of modernist literature the work and careers of W.E.B. Du Bois, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather and others. (Here is part one of their conversation):

Eric Bulson: On Company Time proves that Modernists weren’t as antagonistic to big magazines as we’ve been led to believe! So, how does this shift in focus influence our understanding of that period in literary history we call “modernism”? Are Willa Cather and W.E.B. Du Bois really modernists? Do we need to rethink, maybe even throw out the term?

Donal Harris: I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find out Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or even Gertrude Stein, occasionally crossed paths with big magazines. But what I discovered is that just about every serious author working in the U.S. contributed to big magazines in some capacity, and plenty of writers worked for them for multiple years, if not decades. Lots of them complained about this situation, but I found it an interesting occupational fact that might influenced their ideas about what it means to be an author or “professional writer” and what it means to produce literature. And, on the other side, I wanted to know why these magazines thought it was a good idea to hire poets to write copy!

Does the fact that a lot of American modernists made a living by selling their talent as writers mean that we should do away with the term? I don’t think so. No more so than discovering little magazines’s longer and wider history outside of Western Europe and the United States (which I was fascinated to find out about!) means that we should get rid of that term. It just means that we think about modernism’s proclaimed market aversion slightly differently. Rather than a fact on the ground, it’s a rhetorical gesture that helped to differentiate modernism’s various types of experimentation from the innovations happening in mass-market magazines.

A side effect of this altered approach is the new visibility of people like Cather and Du Bois within modernism. They took both their magazine work and their literary aspirations very seriously, and they thought about them as two sides of the same coin. I mean, it’s hard to imagine the originality of McClure’s magazine without Willa Cather, and it’s hard to imagine Cather’s novel The Professor’s House without what she learned while editing McClure’s.

EB: The story you tell about Big Magazines ends with the arrival of television. Was TV really as powerful a force as you argue here?

DH: Ending with the rise of television in the early 1950s was partially a decision of convenience, to be sure. The book is about the relationship between various forms of print media and the people who write and publish them. So I end when a new, non-print media takes the history of journalism and literature in a different direction.

Certainly what you call the “little wireless magazines” pushes forward the artistic possibilities of electronic communication to a much earlier date, which I found compelling. The periodical world I wrote about is less sanguine about these changes. In 1948, when T.S. Eliot won the Nobel Prize in Literature, about one percent of American households owned televisions. When Hemingway won it in 1954, over fifty percent did, and by 1958 over eighty percent did. And you can watch magazine circulations fall as television spreads. It was only natural for magazine editors to see the flood of television screens as a bad omen for their own longevity.

Read the rest of this entry »

January 25th, 2017

A Conversation with Leonard Sherman



If You're in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!

“In dogfights, as in business, strong players may gain a temporary advantage, but fighting for dominance with traditional weapons usually takes a heavy toll on all combatants, and the prospect for renewed battles remains a constant threat.” — Leonard Sherman

This week, our featured book is If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!: Strategies for Long-Term Growth, by Leonard Sherman. Today, we are happy to present an interview with Sherman, in which he explains the title of his book, details how companies can drive long-term growth, and lists companies that have successfully broken away from the pack by becoming a cat in a dogfight.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!.

What inspired the unusual title of your book?

My motivation for writing this book grew out of thirty years as a management consultant and venture capitalist, working with a lot of companies struggling to restore profitability and growth. I observed a number of common causes of these business challenges, so when I joined the faculty at Columbia Business School, I made growth strategy the focus of my research.

The curious title of my book metaphorically captures the competitive challenge all businesses eventually face, as well as the management mindset required to sustain profitable growth. In dogfights, as in business, strong players may gain a temporary advantage, but fighting for dominance with traditional weapons usually takes a heavy toll on all combatants, and the prospect for renewed battles remains a constant threat. As examples, the ongoing dogfights between Walmart and Target, HP and Dell, and United and American Airlines have taken a heavy toll on all players. Cats are a different breed of animal—clever, solitary hunters who are more inclined to explore new territory and to redefine the game on their own terms than to engage with the pack in a no-win dogfight. Cats are agile and innovative, and seek their prey (or in business terms: customers) with tactics that dogs cannot easily replicate. In the business dogfights cited above, Amazon, Apple, and Southwest Airlines have clearly exhibited catlike behavior.

You point out that most companies fail to sustain long-term profitable growth. Why do they fall short?

The critical starting point for an effective business strategy is a genuine, customer-centric business purpose—by which I mean a corporate ideology that inspires an organization and provides strategic clarity on the purpose and priorities of the enterprise. I want to emphasize this point because it often gets short shrift. Skeptics might scoff at this notion, noting that every company says the right things about their vision but often acts differently. After all, Wells Fargo was founded on being “a trusted provider that builds lifelong relationships one customer at a time,” and VW was committed to “offer attractive, safe and environmentally sound vehicles.” But these aberrations serve to reinforce the imperative of a customer-centric vision that really guides corporate behavior. Companies that have the best track record in sustaining long-term growth have remained true to their founding corporate vision, including Johnson & Johnson, 3M, IKEA, FedEx, Starbucks, Apple, Costco, JetBlue, and of course Amazon. Commenting on the importance of Amazon’s customer-centric business purpose, CEO Jeff Bezos said: “We’re stubborn on vision but flexible on details,” and “whenever we get into an infinite loop and can’t decide what to do, we try to convert it into a straightforward problem by saying, ‘well, what’s better for the consumer?’” An abiding genuine commitment to delivering superior customer value serves all stakeholders well. Read the rest of this entry »

January 25th, 2017

On Modernist Magazines, Little and Big — A Conversation with Eric Bulson and Donal Harris (Part 1)



Little Magazine, World Form, Eric Bulson

“I would love to believe that writers, critics, editors, and translators have been and will continue to be everywhere connected, but that is not and never has never been the case. The cold reality of literary history teaches us otherwise, and the little magazine is a great place to examine how this whole concept of a world republic of letters did and did not work globally in the twentieth century.”-Eric Bulson

Below is the first part of a two-part conversation between Eric Bulson, author of Little Magazine, World Form and Donal Harris author of On Company Time: American Modernism in the Big Magazines.

In this first part, Harris asks Bulson about his book and how it challenges the ways we have thought about the form and content of modernist magazines, their role twentieth-century global literature, and the promises and limitations of little magazines in creating a “world republic of little magazines” (In tomorrow’s post, Bulson will ask Harris about the “big” magazines):

Donal Harris: The term “little magazine” refers primarily to the non-commercial journals printed in the United States, England, and Western and Central Europe between the two World Wars. But little magazine, world form takes a different approach, both in terms of geography and time frame. What new constellations of magazines and literary scenes did you find when you thought about the legacy of this medium more broadly?

Eric Bulson: Like so many other people who have studied modernism over the years, I was under the impression that little magazines were really a western phenomenon. That, of course, is not true at all, and so the more I looked for examples from outside the usual Paris-New York-London orbit, the more I began to uncover constellations that I never knew existed.

One of the more surprising examples for me early on was Black Orpheus, a little magazine that came out of Nigeria in the 1950s, and had a major influence on the direction of what we now call Anglophone literature. And Black Orpheus was a major wake-up call for me. Once I knew that these other little magazine hubs existed, the more I began to realize that the whole timeline and geography for the little magazine was severely restricted and misleading. In fact, the old narrative that it was born with the French Symbolists in the 1890s and died at the end of the 1940s with the beginning of World War Two just doesn’t work globally. Once you modify the geographical frame, in fact, then you must change the timeline. The little magazine is born at different times in different places, and trying to get our heads around this whole idea requires that we develop new strategies for thinking about what the little magazine is and where it has been.

Donal Harris: You spend quite a bit of space discussing the idea of “form” as an overlooked aspect of scholarship on little magazines and periodicals in general. How do you see the “form” of little magazines changing (or remaining constant) during the twentieth century? And does periodical form have an impact on the content that gets included in the magazine?

Eric Bulson: Form is absolutely critical to our understanding of the historical, social, political, economic, and, of course, literary meaning of little magazines. It’s interesting, in fact, that the emphasis on form was something that book historians and art historians figured out decades ago but literary critics were slow to pick up on. Yes, the cool covers and edgy design have garnered lots of attention but not in any rigorous, analytical way. They are more of a side-show, or an after-thought, for those who are interested in getting to the “real content” of little magazines. Taking our cue from a tradition of those non-literary critics that think of the little magazine as an art object and as a medium can help us to reframe how we understand the relationship between the form and content, what’s in the little magazine and what the little magazine is made of.

One very important example for me was VVV, a Surrealist magazine printed in the United States during World War Two. It’s a magazine, yes, but it’s also a traveling art exhibit for the surrealists who chose voluntary exile after the Nazis arrived in France. There are visually stunning installations in these pages from Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp and so many others, so that reading through VVV actually feels like walking through a gallery. But as interesting as that experience might be, the payoff comes in thinking about the politics of this form, the very idea that the shape, design, structure becomes a way for these exiled surrealists to find a place for art in an increasingly repressive, violent world. So form is not just about the structure, design, and sequence: it is also about the materiality of the experience, what paper gets used for the contents and cover design, what ink and typeface are available, who does the printing and with what machines and which compositors.

Read the rest of this entry »

January 24th, 2017

Introducing “If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!”



If You're in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!

“Cats are a different breed of animal—clever, solitary hunters who are more inclined to explore new territory and to redefine the game on their own terms than to engage with the pack in a no-win dogfight. Cats are agile and innovative, and seek their prey (customers) with tactics that dogs cannot easily replicate.” — Leonard Sherman

This week, our featured book is If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!: Strategies for Long-Term Growth, by Leonard Sherman. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from the preface to If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!.

January 24th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: Mouthfeel, Human Embryo Research, Japan’s Security Renaissance, and More!



Mouthfeel

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Mouthfeel: How Texture Makes Taste
Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk. Translated by Mariela Johansen

Japan’s Security Renaissance: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century
Andrew L. Oros

Experiments in Democracy: Human Embryo Research and the Politics of Bioethics
J. Benjamin Hurlbut Read the rest of this entry »

January 23rd, 2017

Book Giveaway! If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!, by Leonard Sherman



If You're in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!

“A wonderfully comprehensive view of competition and competitive strategy and illustrating it well with contemporary examples and citing of the scholarly literature and linking that to action oriented techniques.” — John Czepiel, New York University Stern School of Business

This week, our featured book is If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!: Strategies for Long-Term Growth, by Leonard Sherman. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

January 20th, 2017

On Childhood and Love



Marriage as a Fine Art

Philippe Sollers: The love encounter between two people is the rapport between their childhoods. Without that, it doesn’t amount to much.

Julia Kristeva: You’re right to begin with childhood, because ours were so different, and yet we’ve brought them into tune.

This week, our featured book is Marriage as a Fine Art, by Julia Kristeva and Philippe Sollers. For the week’s final post, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s second chapter, in which Kristeva and Sollers discuss the importance of childhood to shaping how one lives and loves.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Marriage as a Fine Art!

January 19th, 2017

Thursday Fiction Corner: Kiku’s Prayer by Endō Shūsaku, translated by Van C. Gessel



Kiku's Prayer

Welcome to the Columbia University Press Thursday Fiction Corner! This week Russian Library and Asian Humanities editor Christine Dunbar shows once again that you can take the girl out of the Russian department, but you can’t take the Russian department out of the girl.

I recently read the novel Kiku’s Prayer by Endō Shūsaku, in Van C. Gessel’s translation. We published Kiku’s Prayer in 2012, shortly after I started working at the Press, but I picked it up now because of the publicity surrounding Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of another Endō novel, Silence. Endō was Catholic, and both novels center on Christians in Japan during the Edo period, when, as of 1614, Christianity was outlawed. Silence takes place in 1639, directly after the unsuccessful Shimabara Rebellion, in which many Christians took part and after which persecution intensified. Kiku’s Prayer, on the other hand, is set at the end of the Edo period, at the moment of transition between the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration in 1868. At this point, the remaining Japanese Christians (Kirishitans) have been practicing in hiding for over 200 years. A French priest arrives, searching for them like rumored pirate treasure (yes, there’s a post-colonial aspect to this novel too), and while he eventually finds them, he leads the local officials right to them as well. As the political situation becomes more tangled, the officials become less and less sure how to deal with these unrepentant law-breakers. As Endō is an historical novelist par excellence, this would be enough of a reason to read Kiku’s Prayer, and Van C. Gessel’s sparse but fascinating notes point out characters based on historical figures for readers whose knowledge of the period is spotty. But at its heart, the novel is an investigation of faith, personal ethics, and the question of how to live in a world that contains so much suffering.

It’s at once a novel saturated with Christianity and Christian suffering—it’s impossible to shake the subcontext of Jesus on the cross, not to mention Catholicism’s long history of martyrs—and a novel that leaves lots of room for parallel ethical decisions. For Endō, ethics is not the sole purview of Christianity, or, to put it a slightly more Christian-centric way, Christian belief is not a prerequisite for Christian behavior. The titular Kiku is a young woman who falls in love with Seikichi, one of the hidden Kirishitans. Kiku herself has little use for Christianity, which she rightly fears will lead to trouble for her beloved. Nonetheless, when Seikichi is taken away and tortured in an attempt to force him to renounce his faith, Kiku prostitutes herself, first to one of the officials overseeing the torture, and later to others in order to earn money for bribes and food for the prisoners. In doing so, Kiku endures pain and humiliation, ostracizes herself from her family, and sacrifices her very future with Seikichi, to whom she believes she can no longer make a proper wife. She carries on an outwardly heretical but authentic relationship with the Virgin Mary, whom she sees as the other woman, in the sense that she has stolen Seikichi’s love. This is the opposite of the tension between outward quiescence and inner rebellion that recurs throughout the novel, from Father Petitjean’s promise, immediately broken, not to proselytize to the Japanese to the officials’ promise that the apostasy of the tortured Kirishitans need be in word only.

For me, the pleasure of the novel is heightened by the references Endō makes to that other author obsessed with faith and doubt, Fyodor Dostoevsky. These references are fluid—in most ways, Kiku is nothing like Sonia Marmeladova, though both turn to prostitution to help relieve the sufferings of others—but specific textual moments makes such parallels clear. Lord Itō Seizaemon, for instance, gets drunk in a tavern on Kiku’s money, and then wails to his companions about his wretched nature, much in the manner of Marmeladov with Raskolnikov in the tavern, drinking away Sonia’s earnings. At other times, Itō more closely resembles Dostoevsky’s Underground Man. He is jealous of his bureaucratic peers, who are more successful, and veers between pity and cruelty towards those under his power. He even has moments of clarity, as when, leaving the teahouse where Kiku works, he says to himself: “I’m…I’m a despicable man. A truly despicable man.”

Endō and Dostoevsky share common concerns regarding logic, faith, evil, and forgiveness, but I wonder if the turn to the Russian author might not also be motivated by the process of writing an historical novel. After all, in 1868, when Kiku’s Prayer takes place, Notes from the Underground (1864) and Crime and Punishment (1866) would have just come out. Clearly, now I must read Silence to see if Dostoevsky’s anachronistic influence can be felt there.

Click below to read the first chapter of Kiku’s Prayer. In this excerpt, Kiku is still a child, but the promise of her later bravery can already be seen.

January 19th, 2017

Love and Experience



Marriage as a Fine Art

“The pages that follow resonate with current anxieties around the topic of marriage, while not falling for the unlikely merger of two into one or hinting at a happy solution to the idyllic, and failed, ‘togetherness’ of ‘diversity.’ They invite you, simply but ambitiously, to ponder the experience of marriage as one of the fine arts.” — Julia Kristeva

This week, our featured book is Marriage as a Fine Art, by Julia Kristeva and Philippe Sollers. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt in which Kristeva and Sollers discuss the nature of experience.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Marriage as a Fine Art!

January 18th, 2017

Love of the Other



Marriage as a Fine Art

“Together we fell into a dialogue that never stopped, we are still deep into a conversation with no end in sight, because it’s full of arguments; though we don’t always see eye to eye, the intensity of the conversation never flags.” — Philippe Sollers

This week, our featured book is Marriage as a Fine Art, by Julia Kristeva and Philippe Sollers. To kick off the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s fourth chapter, in which Kristeva and Sollers discuss the idea of “love” and how it impacts a relationship and a marriage.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Marriage as a Fine Art!

January 18th, 2017

New Book Wednesday: Jeffrey Sachs on Building the New American Economy, Michel Chion on Words on Screen, and More!



Building the New American Economy

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable
Jeffrey D. Sachs. Foreword by Bernie Sanders

Words on Screen
Michel Chion. Edited and translated by Claudia Gorbman

Health Care as a Right of Citizenship: The Continuing Evolution of Reform
Gunnar Almgren Read the rest of this entry »

January 17th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Julia Kristeva and Philippe Sollers’s Marriage as a Fine Art



Marriage as a Fine Art

“[Kristeva & Sollers's] performance, so smart, so practiced, is genuinely entertaining, enacted, as it is, by two people who are openly energized by showing off to and for one another. Their mutual enjoyment, as they go through their paces, is palpable. Clearly, intellectual busking is the glue that binds Kristeva and Sollers to one another.” — Vivian Gornick, New Republic

This week, our featured book is Marriage as a Fine Art, by Julia Kristeva and Philippe Sollers. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

January 12th, 2017

Three Ways to Present a Data-Rich Table



Better Presentations

“It can be tempting to present all of your data, estimates, and regression results in your presentation. But that’s what your paper is for. In a presentation, be kind to your audience and make it easier for them to absorb and understand your content.” — Jonathan Schwabish

The following is a guest post by Jonathan Schwabish, author of Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks. This post was originally published on PolicyViz, on December 8, 2016.

Three Principles of Effective Scholarly Presentations
By Jonathan Schwabish

Researchers and analysts have some unique challenges when it comes to presenting their data and analysis. We are often more focused on the data, statistics, and estimation results than soaring rhetoric or specific calls to action. That means we’re prone to showing overly dense, data-rich tables—even though the audience can’t both decipher all those numbers and listen simultaneously.

Overly dense slide

In my new book, Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers and Wonks, I explain how to create, design, and deliver effective presentations. If you’re in the habit of showing dense, data-rich tables, here are three things you can do to make it easier for your audience to follow your content.

1. Focus on the most important numbers. Yes, we know you’ve run the regression with 10 control variables and dummy variables for all 50 states, but you’re not going to talk about all of them, and we don’t really care to see all of them. It’s really those two or three estimates that are the most important, so edit the table from 150 numbers down to the most important ones. If need be, you can give your audience a handout with the full table or maybe just point them to the full paper where you’ve probably already included it.

Slide with important numbers #1
Slide with important numbers #2

2. Put them in a graph. The way our eyes and brains work together allows us to better grasp and retain information through pictures rather than just through words (this is known as the “Picture Superiority Effect”). So take your dense graph and convert it to a table (also, see point #1 about reducing the number of estimates you actually show).

Slide with graph #1
Slide with graph #2

3. Don’t show a table at all. If it’s really just one or two numbers you are going to focus on in your presentation (note that I differentiate here between what you focus on in your presentation versus what you might discuss in more detail in your paper), then maybe a table isn’t need at all. Just including the final number in large type with an image or statement will suffice. Presentations are a fundamentally different form of communication than your written report, so treat it as such.

Slide with no table

It can be tempting to present all of your data, estimates, and regression results in your presentation. But that’s what your paper is for. In a presentation, be kind to your audience and make it easier for them to absorb and understand your content—cut to the core of your ideas and highlight the most important findings and conclusions.

Read the original post at PolicyViz.

January 11th, 2017

Conserving the Environment is Crucial but Simple



Endangered Economies

“External costs pose the biggest threat to the environment by preventing nature and the economy from working together. External costs occur when a third party must pick up the tab for the negative consequences of a transaction. A transaction that occurs every day is a good example: let’s say I buy gasoline, burn it in my car, and harm people who inhale the exhaust fumes or whose climate is altered by greenhouse gases generated. The people who are injured did not purchase and burn the gas—I did. Yet I do not pay for the harm done.” — Geoffrey Heal

This week, our featured book is Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity, by Geoffrey Heal. Today, we are happy to present a guest post from Heal, in which he argues that environmental conservation is crucial to our prosperity, and indeed to the future of our civilization, and is easier than most people think. He also provides four relatively simple reforms that will transform how our economies interact with the environment and make a pristine environment compatible with growth and prosperity.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Endangered Economies!

Conserving the Environment is Crucial but Simple
By Geoffrey Heal

Our dependence on nature runs deep. There is no denying that a pristine environment improves our health, lengthens our lives and makes us more productive. Yet in our lifetimes, catastrophic environmental change will occur because of four basic, correctable errors in the design of our economic systems. We can fix the most egregious flaws in the system to correct our neglect of nature and allow the economy and the environment to coexist and nurture one other.

External costs pose the biggest threat to the environment by preventing nature and the economy from working together. External costs occur when a third party must pick up the tab for the negative consequences of a transaction. A transaction that occurs every day is a good example: let’s say I buy gasoline, burn it in my car, and harm people who inhale the exhaust fumes or whose climate is altered by greenhouse gases generated. The people who are injured did not purchase and burn the gas—I did. Yet I do not pay for the harm done. There are many ways of solving problems like this – problems that involve a social cost. We can levy a charge to reflect the costs to third parties, we can give damaged parties the right to sue, we can regulate activities that affect third parties, and more. What we can’t afford is to continue to ignore this harmful error in our economic policies. Read the rest of this entry »

January 10th, 2017

Environment and Economy—No Conflict



Endangered Economies

“External costs pose the biggest threat to the environment by preventing nature and the economy from working together. External costs occur when a third party must pick up the tab for the negative consequences of a transaction. A transaction that occurs every day is a good example: let’s say I buy gasoline, burn it in my car, and harm people who inhale the exhaust fumes or whose climate is altered by greenhouse gases generated. The people who are injured did not purchase and burn the gas—I did. Yet I do not pay for the harm done.” — Geoffrey Heal

This week, our featured book is Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity, by Geoffrey Heal. To start off the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s first chapter, in which Heal explains why there’s no real conflict in trying to save the environment and improve the economy.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Endangered Economies!

January 10th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: Desegregating the Past, Spirituality and Hospice Social Work, and More!



Desegregating the Past

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Desegregating the Past: The Public Life of Memory in the United States and South Africa
Robyn Autry

Spirituality and Hospice Social Work
Ann M. Callahan

Now available in paperback
Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army
Phyllis Birnbaum