Category Archives: Author Essay

How to “Create Value in the World” with Zero to One

9780804139298By Blake Masters, co-author of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Crown Business, September 2014)

What important truth do very few people agree with you on? It sounds like an easy question. It isn’t. Wrestle with it for a few moments and you may be tempted to give up, but don’t. Every great business—indeed, every way in which the future will be different and better than the present—is rooted in a good answer to this question. Contrarian truths may be hard to find, but in a world in which so much of what we do is to simply repeat what’s been done before, creating new value means thinking from first principles, not following the crowd. 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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Girls as Boys: Disguising Identity & Changing Gender in Afghanistan

9780307952493By Jenny Nordberg, author of The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan (Crown, September 2014)

Bacha posh, the practice of dressing a girl like a boy, offers a window into a system of severe gender apartheid—a system that exists not only in Afghanistan, but in many countries where women are oppressed. The Underground Girls of Kabul is about disguising oneself to survive in such a place.

Resistance to this kind of patriarchy has occurred throughout history when women were excluded from education and unable to freely choose who they married, or whether to have children. Many girls and women beyond Afghanistan, and in our own history, have had to pretend to be boys and men to reach for rights that society dictated were not theirs.

I wanted this book to be urgent. Because I am, frankly, angry that my own education did not include a conversation about why women have historically been seen as less valuable and less important than men—nor where these ideas come from. It was always presented as an accepted, unexamined fact. In my book, I’ve searched for the roots of these beliefs, in religion, biology and culture. Continue reading

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Being Both : Reflections on Interfaith Relationships and the Spiritual Selves of Students

Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith FamilyBy Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family (Beacon Press, October 2014.)

Arriving at college, students plunge into interfaith and intercultural engagement, tagging along with new friends to mass or Hillel or a Holi celebration. Sometimes these friendships transcend invisible boundaries to become deeper interfaith relationships. And sometimes, whether or not institutions and family approve, those relationships include dating, and love.

And so it was that last fall, a Muslim student dating a Christian went to a college chaplain for guidance. The chaplain realized that she had no real training in pastoral counseling for interfaith relationships. So she invited me to campus for a Brown Bag on interfaith dating, and an evening conversation on interfaith families. In an extraordinary collaboration, the campus Hillel (Jewish students), Newman Association (Catholic students), Muslim Students Association, religious studies department, and library all co-sponsored the visit.

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Human Nature During War: An Essay by Anthony Marra

9780770436421By Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth 2014)

My interest in Chechnya began when I was in college. I spent a semester of my junior year in St. Petersburg, where I lived down the street from a Russian military academy. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-old cadets, dressed in sky-blue uniforms, marched in formation around the neighborhood each afternoon. Several blocks away, outside a metro station, men a few years older than the cadets gathered to panhandle at rush hour. These men also wore military uniforms, though theirs weren’t as clean or so neatly pressed. A number had lost their legs and wore hemmed trousers. These men were Russian veterans of the Chechen conflict that the cadets might one day join. When the cadets marched passed, they stared at the veterans as if peering into their own uncertain futures, while the veterans looked back with pity. Continue reading

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A Letter from Senator and Author Kristen Gillibrand

978-0-8041-7907-2By Kirsten Gillibrand, author of Off the Sidelines (Ballantine Books, September 2014)

Dear Educators,

From my mother and grandmother to Hillary Clinton and countless others, incredible role models have shaped me into the woman I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am without their patience, wisdom and guidance.

That is why I am so excited to announce that I have written a book about my own life and the lessons I’ve learned in order to encourage more women and girls to power past life’s obstacles and make a difference in the world around them. Continue reading

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Building Green Across America by Daniel Wallach

GreenTown USAby Daniel Wallach, foreword contributor of Green Town U.S.A.: The Handbook for America’s Sustainable Future (Hatherleigh Press, July 2013) and Executive Director and Founder of Greensburg GreenTown.

You may have heard of Greensburg, Kansas, the little town only 1.5 miles wide that was 95% destroyed by a tornado in 2007. What you may not know is that Greensburg chose to transform tragedy into opportunity by deciding to rebuild “green.” Since we made this decision, we have received quite a bit of exciting recognition. President Barack Obama mentioned it in his address to a joint session of Congress on February 24, 2009 and Leonardo DiCaprio, working with the Discovery Channel, produced a documentary. We were also featured on the Weather Channel during a segment entitled “When Weather Changed History.”

But the story of Greensburg, Kansas does not begin and end there. In fact, our decision to rebuild green is, in a way, the prelude to a new chapter for every town and city in our country, especially in light of the recent and ongoing disaster in the Gulf. Individuals across America can look to Greensburg, a.k.a. “GreenTown”, as an example of how we can change the course of history and change the way we live with the environment in mind, and how young people can be instrumental in this change.

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