Our feature book this month makes the case for those who have decided that life is rich and rewarding without having children. In another book, a plea has gone up for our world to not be economically governed any more by GDP, which does not measure so much of the economy, but instead measures ‘more output’. Finally, the New York Times bestseller which controversially argues that women should give control over her marriage to her husband, for a happier union.
The little big number : how GDP came to rule the world and what to do about it / Dirk Philipsen.
“In one lifetime, GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, has ballooned from a narrow economic tool into a global article of faith. …While economies and cultures measure their performance by it, GDP ignores central facts such as quality, costs, or purpose. It only measures output: more cars, more accidents; more lawyers, more trials; more extraction, more pollution–all count as success. …Dirk Philipsen uncovers a submerged history dating back to the 1600s, climaxing with the Great Depression and World War II, when the first version of GDP arrived at the forefront of politics. Today, increasing GDP is the highest goal of politics… But the world can no longer afford GDP rule. A finite planet cannot sustain blind and indefinite expansion. If we consider future generations equal to our own, replacing the GDP regime is the ethical imperative of our times.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
F*** you and goodbye / Matt Potter.
“History is written by the winners. It’s the faithful servants, the insiders, the ones who stick around, who can adapt to almost any condition that get to write the official histories. They publish the memoirs, park in the directors’ spots, erect the statues, form the new governments, wipe out the pockets of resistance, recruit the new starters, set the agendas, talk on the documentaries and retrospectives. Yet theirs – the official version – is never the whole story. The quitter’s tale offers a far more compelling, and often a more honest version of history. In F*** You and Goodbye , Matt Potter collects the pithiest, angriest, most hilarious messages of resignation throughout history, including those whose exits were a springboard to eventual success, such as Steve Jobs, George Orwell and Charlie Sheen…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The antidote : inside the world of new pharma / Barry Werth.
“… The $325 billion-a-year pharmaceutical business is America’s toughest and one of its most profitable. It’s riskier and more rigorous at just about every stage than any other business, from the towering biological uncertainties inherent in its mission to treat disease; to the 30-to-1 failure rate in bringing out a successful medicine even after a molecule clears all the hurdles to get to human testing; to the multibillion-dollar cost of ramping up a successful product; to operating in the world’s most regulated industry, matched only by nuclear power. Werth captures the full scope of Vertex’s twenty-five year drive to deliver breakthrough medicines. At a time when America struggles to maintain its innovative edge, The Antidote is a powerful inside look at one of the most intriguing and important business stories of recent decades.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Dealing with China : an insider unmasks the new economic superpower / Henry M. Paulson Jr.
“Hank Paulson has dealt with China unlike any other foreigner. As head of Goldman Sachs, Paulson had a pivotal role in opening up China to private enterprise. Then, as Treasury Secretary, he created the Strategic Economic Dialogue with what is now the world’s second-largest economy. While negotiating with China on economic reforms, he safeguarded the teetering U.S. financial system. Paulson has worked with scores of top Chinese leaders, including Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful man in decades. Now he takes readers behind closed doors to witness the future of China’s state-controlled capitalism.” (Syndetics summary)
The happiness industry : how the government and big business sold us well-being / William Davies.
“…Happiness has become the biggest idea of our age, a new religion dedicated to well-being. In this brilliant dissection of our times, political economist William Davies shows how this philosophy, first pronounced by Jeremy Bentham in the 1780s, has dominated the political debates that have delivered neoliberalism. From a history of business strategies of how to get the best out of employees, to the increased level of surveillance measuring every aspect of our lives, The Happiness Industry is an essential guide to the marketization of modern life. Davies shows that the science of happiness is less a science than an extension of hyper-capitalism.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Humans 3.0 : the upgrading of the species / Peter Nowak.
“…As the 21st century unfolds, the pace of innovation is accelerating exponentially. Breakthroughs from robotics to genetics appear almost on a daily basis. We used to create technology to change the world around us; now we’re using it to change ourselves. With vaccinations, in-vitro fertilization, and individual genetic therapy, we’re entering a new epoch… The technology that set us apart from our earliest selves is becoming part of the evolutionary process. Advancements in computing, robotics, nanotechnology, neurology, and genetics mean that our wildest imaginings could soon become commonplace. Peter Nowak deftly presents the potential outcomes both exciting and frightening of key, rapidly advancing technologies and adroitly explores both the ramifications of adopting them and what doing so will reveal about the future of our species.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Prepared for the worst : selected essays and minority reports / Christopher Hitchens.
“Christopher Hitchens is widely recognized as having been one of the liveliest and most influential of contemporary political analysts. Prepared for the Worst is a collection of the best of his essays of the 1980s published on both sides of the Atlantic. These essays confirmed his reputation as a bold commentator combining intellectual tenacity with mordant wit, whether he was writing about the intrigues of Reagan’s Washington, a popular novel, the work of Tom Paine, the man George Orwell, or reporting (with sympathy as well as toughness) from Beirut or Bombay, Warsaw or Managua.” (Syndetics summary)
Body of truth : how science, history, and culture drive our obsession with weight– and what we can do about it / Harriet Brown.
“…Harriet Brown has explored the conundrums of weight and body image for more than a decade, as a science journalist, as a woman who has struggled with weight, as a mother, wife, and professor. In this book, she describes how biology, psychology, metabolism, media, and culture come together to shape our ongoing obsession with our bodies, and what we can learn from them to help us shift the way we think. Brown exposes some of the myths behind the rhetoric of obesity, gives historical and contemporary context for what it means to be “fat”, and offers readers ways to set aside the hysteria and think about weight and health in more nuanced and accurate ways.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed : sixteen writers on the decision not to have kids / edited and with an introduction by Meghan Daum.
“One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed “fertility crisis,” and whether modern women could figure out a way to way to have it all-a successful, demanding career and the required 2.3 children-before their biological clock stopped ticking… In this provocative and controversial collection of essays, curated by writer Meghan Daum, …writers explain why they have chosen to eschew motherhood. Contributors include Lionel Shriver, Sigrid Nunez, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, who will give a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood. This collection makes a smart and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path to a happy, productive life, and takes our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The surrendered wife : a practical guide for finding intimacy, passion, and peace with a man / Laura Doyle.
“A “New York Times” bestseller, this controversial guide to improving your marriage has transformed thousands of relationships, bringing women romance, harmony, and the intimacy they crave. Like millions of women, Laura Doyle wanted her marriage to be better. But when she tried to get her husband to be more romantic, helpful, and ambitious, he withdrew–and she was lonely and exhausted from controlling everything. Desperate to be in love with her man again, she decided to stop telling him what to do and how to do it. When Doyle surrendered control, something magical happened. The union she had always dreamed of appeared. The man who had wooed her was back…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)