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The Ottoman Empire’s Influence on the Present Day


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In his new book, “God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World,” the historian Alan Mikhail writes: “Whether politicians, pundits and traditional historians like it or not, the world we inhabit is very much an Ottoman one.” On this week’s podcast, Mikhail explains what he means by that.

“If we look at major world-changing events of this period that have resonances down to the present — so, Columbus, the Protestant Reformation, the rise of commerical relations — that the Ottomans have a hand in all of these things,” Mikhail says. “It’s not as though Columbus didn’t cross the Atlantic, of course he did, or that Martin Luther didn’t lead a Protestant Reformation, of course he did; but there are Ottoman and Muslim elements to those stories that we have ignored or not paid attention to. A lot of the work of my book is reinserting Islam and the Ottoman Empire into those stories to give us a fuller and, I would say, more empirically true story about all of these events that we think have something to tell us about the making of the modern world.”

Benjamin Lorr visits the podcast to discuss his new book, “The Secret Life of Groceries,” which lifts the veil on the human labor, industrial agriculture and transportation challenges that go into stocking upscale food stores. Lorr explains that the book sprang from a deeply personal interest.

“For a long time I’ve been fascinated by supermarkets,” he says. “I am the type of person who will go to a supermarket on their vacation and just browse around. I think there’s almost a hallucinogenic quality with these saturated bright colors, and the fact that you walk down the aisles and to me it’s both soothing and comforting — all this choice and abundance, like miracle land — but also there’s a power that radiates out of them, and it’s almost threatening. So I had long been drawn to the supermarket.”

Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Parul Sehgal and John Williams talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books discussed this week by the Times’s critics:

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected].



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