How America learned to love summer reading: Craig Fehrman on “our long, tumultuous affair with light books” and what it says aboutour sense of the good life. The whole idea of “summer reading,” it turns out, is more than a hundred years old, and it hasn’t always meant what it means nowadays. “The changing ways we’ve seen summer reading—first as an indulgence, then as a vice, and now, somewhat surprisingly, as a source of pride—says a lot about our changing attitudes toward just what leisure should be.”
What’s behind North Korea’s strange architecture? Bradley Martin on the unsettling-yet-still-impressive built environment of Pyongyang, which is built for a citizenry that doesn’t exist. With its unlit windows and empty sidewalks, “the streetscape of Pyongyang tells much of the story of North Korea: the gulf between the strange ambitions of the buildings and the often invisible citizens for whom they are notionally built.”
The professor of burps: Noy Thrupkaew on Robert Provine, a psychologist at the University of Maryland who studies our most “vulgar, noisome behaviors.” Laughing, burping, tickling, yawning, and so on “are instinctive human behaviors, universals. These are some of the bedrock of our being.”
Crowdsourcing the dictionary: Ben Zimmer on a new effort to produce a collaborative dictionary. “Words in the running include ‘floordrobe’ (‘a pile of clothes on the floor that you’re forced to select an item from when you’ve run out of fresh laundry’).”
And, Kevin Lewis on some amazing social science research – including some weight-loss advice from pre-history.
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.