Category: Recent picks

The Fight for Change – Recent History picks for April

Compare the slow decay of Shekhawati’s abandoned mansions, with the continuing turbulent change of the Arab Spring in Jack Shenker’s The Egyptians, or the global waves explained in 1956: The World in Revolt, The New Deal and Jurgen Kocka’s Capitalism, of which the ramifications have irreversibly altered life for us all.

Syndetics book coverThe cowshed : memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution / Ji Xianlin ; translated from the Chinese by Chenxin Jiang.
“The Chinese Cultural Revolution began in 1966 and led to a ten-year-long reign of Maoist terror throughout China, in which millions died or were sent to labor camps in the country or subjected to other forms of extreme discipline and humiliation. Ji Xianlin was one of them. The Cowshed is Ji’s harrowing account of his imprisonment in 1968 on the campus of Peking University and his subsequent disillusionment with the cult of Mao.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe morning they came for us : dispatches from Syria / Janine di Giovanni.
“In May of 2012, Janine di Giovanni travelled to Syria, marking the beginning of a long relationship with the country, as she began reporting from both sides of the conflict, witnessing its descent into one of the most brutal, internecine conflicts in recent history. The Morning They Came for Us is an unflinching account of a nation on the brink of disintegration, charting an apocalyptic but at times tender story of life in a jihadist war – and an unforgettable testament to human resilience in the face of devastating, unimaginable horrors.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAbandoned India : the mansions of Shekhawati / photographs by Kip Scott ; foreword by Lal Singh Shekhawat.
“A rare and evocative photographic portrait of India, and specifically Shekhawati’s ‘abandoned’ mansions, and its desert towns. This exquisitely produced book features a selection of Scott’s work made throughout the region of Shekhawati in Rajasthan, India. Here we glimpse courtyards, living spaces, frescoes, vast interiors, both lovingly restored and bordering on ruin. Scott’s images capture the complex nature of change, of sublime beauty and decay, mirroring an India that will seduce the reader.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Egyptians : a radical story / Jack Shenker.
“From award-winning journalist Jack Shenker, The Egyptians is the essential book about Egypt and radical politics In early 2011, Cairo’s Tahrir Square briefly commanded the attention of the world. Half a decade later, the international media has largely moved on from Egypt’s explosive cycles of revolution and counter-revolution – but the Arab World’s most populous nation remains as volatile as ever, its turmoil intimately bound up with forms of authoritarian power and grassroots resistance that stretch right across the globe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe London County Council bomb damage maps, 1939-1945 / Laurence Ward.
“The aerial bombardment of London during the Second World War is one of the most significant events in the city’s modern history. Between 1939 and 1945, London and its environs experienced destruction on a huge and deadly scale, with air raids and rocket attacks reducing entire buildings and streets to rubble. This landmark publication represents an invaluable graphic representation of one of the most dramatic and affecting episodes in the history of London.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Age of Genius : the seventeenth century and the birth of the modern mind / A.C. Grayling.
The Age of Genius explores the eventful intertwining of outward event and inner intellectual life to tell, in all its richness and depth, the story of the 17th century in Europe. It was a time of creativity unparalleled in history before or since, from science to the arts, from philosophy to politics. [...] a fundamentally new way of perceiving the world emerged as reason rose to prominence over tradition, and the rights of the individual took center stage in philosophy and politics, a paradigmatic shift that would define Western thought for centuries to come.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCapitalism : a short history / Jürgen Kocka ; translated by Jeremiah Riemer.
“In this book, one of the world’s most renowned historians provides a concise and comprehensive history of capitalism within a global perspective from its medieval origins to the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. From early commercial capitalism in the Arab world, China, and Europe, to nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialization, to today’s globalized financial capitalism, Jürgen Kocka offers an unmatched account of capitalism, one that weighs its great achievements against its great costs, crises, and failures.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe New Deal : a global history / Kiran Klaus Patel.
“By avoiding the distortions of American exceptionalism, Kiran Klaus Patel shows how America’s reaction to the Great Depression connected it to the wider world. Ultimately, Patel argues, the New Deal provided the institutional scaffolding for the construction of American global hegemony in the postwar era, making this history essential for understanding both the New Deal and America’s rise to global leadership.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUntil we are free : my fight for human rights in Iran / Shirin Ebadi.
“Dr Shirin Ebadi, Iranian human rights lawyer and activist, tells of her fight for reform inside Iran, and the devastating backlash she faced after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Having fought tirelessly for democracy, equality before the law and freedom of speech, Ebadi became a global voice of inspiration. Yet, inside her own country, her life has been plagued by surveillance, intimidation and violence. An illuminating depiction of life in Iran today as well as the account of Ebadi’s personal struggle to uphold her work and keep her family together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover1956, the world in revolt / Simon Hall.
“1956 was one of the most remarkable years of the twentieth century. All across the globe, ordinary people spoke out, filled the streets and city squares, and took up arms in an attempt to win their freedom. In response to these unprecedented challenges to their authority, those in power fought back, in a desperate bid to shore up their position. It was an epic contest, and one which made 1956 – like 1789 and 1848 – a year that changed our world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Recent History Picks for March

Promising highlights from this month’s offer include City of Thorns, a personal look into the world’s largest refugee camp and Native, an insight into the complexities of a life led by an Israeli-Palestinian.

Syndetics book coverRepublic of spin : an inside history of the American presidency / David Greenberg.
“We now have, and have had for some time, according to Greenberg, the image-is-everything presidency. Spin, he argues, is here to stay; it is neither our savior nor a sinister force eating away at our democratic soul. This revealing account of politics as image in U.S. presidential culture should be read by any student of the American presidency and American politics.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBad news : last journalists in a dictatorship / Anjan Sundaram.
“Sundaram’s memoir seeks to expose the rotten dictatorship beneath the surface of the apparently stable, “democratic” postgenocide government of Rwanda. This nonfiction version of George Orwell’s 1984 is essential for anyone paying attention to African politics. (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn Palestine / Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé ; edited by Frank Barat.
“Ilan Pappé and Noam Chomsky, two leading voices in the struggle to liberate Palestine, discuss the road ahead for Palestinians and how the international community can pressure the United States and Israel to end their human rights abuses against the people of Palestine. On Palestine is the sequel to their acclaimed book, Gaza in crisis.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMidnight in broad daylight : A Japanese American family caught between two worlds / Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
“This is an epic chronicle of the Fukuharas, a Japanese family living in the Pacific Northwest in the early 20th century who moved to their mother’s ancestral home in Hiroshima during the Great Depression, only to have two of the children return to the United States, while others were conscripted in military service. Sakamoto’s scrupulously researched story employs material gathered through interviews with surviving Fukuhara family members to show how the war in the Pacific affected both the Japanese and Japanese Americans.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lovers : Afghanistan’s Romeo & Juliet : the true story of how they defied their families and escaped an honor killing / Rod Nordland.
“Growing up on neighboring farms in the Bamiyan Valley, Zakia and Ali fell in love as teens. Ali asked Zakia’s father, Zaman, for Zakia’s hand in marriage, but because they were from different tribes, Zaman refused. Nordland offers a stark, eye-opening look at the deplorable state of women’s rights in Afghanistan through the travails of a brave, determined young couple.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCity of thorns : nine lives in the world’s largest refugee camp / Ben Rawlence.
“The saga of Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, the City of Thorns of the title, reveals the sort of intersection between humanity’s greatest nightmares and triumphs that seems to belong more to fiction than to the real world. [...] Rawlence has written a book that just might change the world or, at the very least, awaken readers to one criminally forgotten corner of it. A tour de force.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNative : dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian life / Sayed Kashua ; translated form the Hebrew by Ralph Mandel.
“This startling and insightful collection of Kashua’s (Second Person Singular) popular weekly columns for the Hebrew-language newspaper Haaretz narrates the sobering reality of life as an Israeli-Palestinian. Whether recounting the insults encountered by his children, shaming from friends and critics alike, Kafkaesque encounters with the civil justice system, or his dreams of escape, Kashua maintains a light satiric tone and steady compassion even as the essays slide into disillusionment. [It] is bound to open the eyes and awaken the sympathies of a new swath of loyal readers.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover100 documents that changed the world : from the Magna Carta to WikiLeaks / Scott Christianson.
“The documents included here have changed the course of history by rewriting laws, granting freedoms and laying out constitutions. As well as official charters and presidential proclamations, there are also the hand-written documents that have gone on to shape the way we think, the scrawled notes that mark breakthroughs in the worlds of science and technology, and the annotated manuscripts that have become literary landmarks.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

History Redrawn – Recent History Picks for February

Two books this month show the fascinating stories that arise at the intersection between words and pictures. Renowned illustrator E.H. Shepard gives a first hand account of WWI through his sketchbook and Ted Danforth works through the complex entanglements between East and West through spontaneous watercolours which exemplify constant change and the ‘redrawing of history’. Also of note, a new persperctive on the work and life of Te Whiti o Rongomai at Parihaka, and a story of the heroism of two women embroiled in WWII events in the Philippines.

Syndetics book coverThe hundred-year walk : an Armenian odyssey / Dawn Anahid MacKeen.
“An epic tale of one man’s courage in the face of genocide and his granddaughter’s quest to tell his story. In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. [...] The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fortunes of Africa : a 5000-year history of wealth, greed, and endeavour / Martin Meredith.
“Africa has been coveted for its riches ever since the era of the Pharaohs. [...] In this vast and vivid panorama of history, Martin Meredith follows the fortunes of Africa over a period of 5,000 years. With compelling narrative, he traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization. He examines, too, the fate of modern African states and concludes with a glimpse of their future.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe longest trail : writings on American Indian history, culture, and politics / Alvin M. Josephy, Jr 
“Alvin Josephy Jr.’s groundbreaking, popular books and essays advocated for a fair and true historical assessment of Native Americans, and set the course for modern Native American studies. This collection, which includes magazine articles, speeches, a white paper, and introductions and chapters of books, gives a generous and reasoned view of five hundred years of Indian history in North America from first settlements in the East to the long trek of the Nez Perce Indians in the Northwest.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBuenos Aires : the biography of a city / James Gardner.
“In Buenos Aires, Art and culture critic James Gardner offers a colorful biography of the “Paris of the South”, from its origins and time as a colonial city, through its Golden age, the rise of Peron, and the Falklands War, to the present day. With entertaining asides about art, architecture, literature, food and dance, as well as local customs and colorful personalities, this is a rich and unique historical narrative of Buenos Aires.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverShepard’s war : E.H. Shepard : the man who drew Winnie-the-Pooh / compiled by James Campbell ; foreword by Minette Shepard.
Shepard is most widely known for his illustrations of the Winnie-the-Pooh series and The Wind in the Willows, and these drawings have become classics in their own right, iconic in the minds of children and adults everywhere. With over a hundred pieces of original artwork [...] this is a unique insight into the life of an incredibly talented yet humble man and a rare visual journey into the Great War.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Eastern question : a geopolitical history in 108 maps & drawings / by Ted Danforth.
“In the 19th century, the term the ‘Eastern Question’ referred to the problem posed by the impending dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the fall of which in the second decade of the 20th engendered the modern ‘muddle’ of the Middle East in the 21st. The drawings are historical political cartoons; the maps ground the reader in the geography of time and place. Painting with a broad brush, the author sketches in the story with short texts that explain the drawings as much as the drawings illustrate the texts.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHidden Britain : secret tunnels, lost chambers and unknown passageways / Alvin Nicholas.
“This extraordinary book is a treasure chest of antiquities, gripping true stories, romantic legends, and little-known curiosities. [...] Thoroughly researched and with more than 200 entries, this beautifully illustrated and highly readable book takes readers on a guided tour of a long-neglected subject. History enthusiasts, incurable romantics, and the plain curious apply within.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTe Whiti o Rongomai and the resistance of Parihaka / Danny Keenan.
“This is an account of the life and times of Te Whiti o Rongomai set against the politics and Crown policies of the nineteenth century. The book discusses the struggles Te Whiti had, as understood by some of his living relatives, against native policy of the time, and it gives insights into the motivations of Te Whiti and his actions. It explores the community at Parihaka, its resistance and the consequences of this and looks at Maori and government actions and responses up to the present day.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLife and death in the Andes : on the trail of bandits, heroes, and revolutionaries / Kim MacQuarrie.
“Unique portraits of legendary characters along South America’s mountain spine, from Charles Darwin to the present day, told by a master traveler and observer. [...] Deeply observed and beautifully written, Life and Death in the Andes shows us this land as no one has before.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAngels of the underground : the American women who resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II / Theresa Kaminski.
Angels of the Underground tells the story of two American women known only as Miss U and High Pockets. [...] Kaminksi highlights how women have always been active participants in war, whether or not they wear a military uniform. An impressive work of scholarship grounded in archival research and personal interviews, this is also a stunning story of courage and heroism in wartime.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Recent History Picks for January

This month, summer-friendly reading that will take you wandering through the wilderness of Claxton, where Mark Cocker’s seasonal nature diary springs with vivid detail. In another diary, experience a candid day in the life of Anne McEntegart, who headed a busy farm in the turbulent years of World War II in her support of the war effort. Both make sense of their human world through the subtle rhythms of nature.

Syndetics book coverClaxton : field notes from a small planet / Mark Cocker ; illustrated by Jonathan Gibbs.
“In 2001 Mark Cocker moved to Claxton, a small village in Norfolk. In a series of daily writings spanning the course of a year he explores his relationship to the landscape he lives in, to nature and to all the living things around him – the birds, plants, trees, mammals, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, bush crickets, grasshoppers, ants and bumblebees. Passionate, astonishing and inspiring, this book is a celebration of the wonder that lies in our everyday experience.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe milk lady at New Park Farm : the wartime diary of Anne McEntegart June 1943 – February 1945 / Anne McEntegart.
“Anne McEntegart wanted to support the War Effort. Her Royal Air Force officer husband was working abroad and her only child was in Canada, evacuated for safety. Aged thirty-eight, Anne left London, and her life as the wife of an officer, to work on the land and deliver milk for Walter Gossling at New Park Farm, just outside the village of Brockenhurst, in the New Forest.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverIraq : a history / John Robertson.
“In this insightful analysis, highly-respected expert John Robertson canvases the entirety of Iraq’s rich history, from the seminal advances of its Neolithic inhabitants to the aftermath of the American-led invasion and Iraq today. Grounded in extensive research, this balanced account of a country and its people explores the greatness and grandeur of Iraq’s achievements, the brutality and magnificence of its ancient empires, its contributions to the emergence of the world’senduring monotheistic faiths, and the role the great Arab caliphs of Baghdad played in the medieval cultural flowering that contributed so much to the European Renaissance and the eventual rise of the West.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSamuel Pepys : plague, fire, revolution / edited by Margarette Lincoln.
“Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) lived through one of the most exciting and troubled periods in English history.[...] Published to coincide with an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, UK, this engaging portrait explores the public and personal worlds of Pepys, not only a famous diarist whose description of the Fire of London is unequaled but also an energetic and talented man who rose from modest beginnings to become the greatest naval administrator of the age.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe forest people / Colin Turnbull.
“For three years, Colin Turnbull lived with an isolated group of Pygmies deep in the forest of the African Congo, experiencing their daily life first-hand. He attended their hunting parties and initiation ceremonies, witnessed their music and their rituals, observed their quarrels and love affairs. He documented them as an anthropologist but was accepted among them as a friend. A ground-breaking work in its time, The Forest People made him one of the most famous intellectuals of the 1960s and 1970s. It remains a transporting account of an earthly paradise and of a legendary and fascinating people.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverElizabeth : Renaissance prince / Lisa Hilton.
“With new research out of France, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, Hilton’s fresh interpretation is of a queen who saw herself primarily as a Renaissance prince and used Machiavellian statecraft to secure that position. [...] It’s a fascinating journey that shows how a marginalized newly crowned queen, whose European contemporaries considered her to be the illegitimate ruler of a pariah nation, ultimately adapted to become England’s first recognizably modern head of state.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe love of strangers : what six Muslim students learned in Jane Austen’s London / Nile Green.
“In July 1815, six Iranian students arrived in London under the escort of their chaperone, Captain Joseph D’Arcy. Their mission was to master the modern sciences behind the rapid rise of Europe. Over the next four years, they lived both the low life and high life of Regency London, from being down and out after their abandonment by D’Arcy to charming their way into society and landing on the gossip pages. The Love of Strangers tells the story of their search for love and learning in Jane Austen’s England.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFighters in the shadows : a new history of the French resistance / Robert Gildea.
“The French Resistance has an iconic status in the struggle to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe, but its story is entangled in myths. [...] Robert Gildea’s penetrating history of resistance in France during World War II sweeps aside “the French Resistance” of a thousand clichés, showing that much more was at stake than freeing a single nation from Nazi tyranny.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rift : a new Africa breaks free / Alex Perry.
“A vivid, powerful and controversial look at how the world gets Africa wrong, and how a resurgent Africa is forcing it to think again. Africa has long been misunderstood–and abused–by outsiders. Correspondent Alex Perry traveled the continent for most of a decade, meeting with entrepreneurs and warlords, professors and cocaine smugglers, presidents and jihadis. Beginning with a devastating investigation into a largely unreported war crime-in 2011, when the US and the major aid agencies helped cause a famine in which 250,000 Somalis died-he finds Africa at a moment of furious self-assertion.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPower wars : inside Obama’s post-9/11 presidency / Charlie Savage.
“Barack Obama campaigned on a promise of change from George W. Bush’s “global war on terror.” Yet from indefinite detention and drone strikes to surveillance and military tribunals, Obama ended up continuing-and in some cases expanding-many policies he inherited. What happened? In Power Wars, Charlie Savage looks inside the Obama administration’s national security legal and policy team in a way that no one has before.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Changing Places – Recent History Picks for December

This month’s picks show us that history is not about a static obsession with the past. In vivid portrayals of modern day Cuba, rapidly growing Asian America, the fiercely modern communications through which the Arab Spring gained steam and one couple’s disorienting move from inner-city New York to the deep South, these titles all examine radical change, using the past as a way to make sense of the dynamic present and future.

Syndetics book coverEmbracing Cuba / Byron Motley ; foreword by Dr. Mariela Castro-Espín.
Forgoing the political imagery that has dominated American media, Motley highlights the many ways in which Cubans retain and nourish their zest for life despite the scarcity of every day. Through his vivid photographs, readers discover the real Cuba: its heart-stopping architecture and infectious energy, its cars seemingly teleported from the past, its love of baseball so fierce as to be nearly religious, the joy of community, and the unexpected juxtapositions of life in the last bastion of communism in the Western world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe making of Asian America : a history / Erika Lee. 
“In the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInferno in Chechnya : Russian-Chechen wars, the Al Qaeda myth, and the Boston Marathon bombings / Brian Glyn Williams.
“In 2013, the United States suffered its worst terrorist bombing since 9/11 at the annual running of the Boston Marathon. When the culprits turned out to be U.S. residents of Chechen descent, Americans were shocked and confused. Why would members of an obscure Russian minority group consider America their enemy? Inferno in Chechnya is the first book to answer this riddle by tracing the roots of the Boston attack to the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHistory of the world in maps : the rise and fall of empires, countries and cities.
“From Babylonian tablets to Google Maps, the world has evolved rapidly, along with the ways in which we see it. In this time, cartography has not only kept pace with these changes, but has often driven them. In this beautiful book, over 70 maps give a visual representation of the history of the world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCrossing the river : a life in Brazil / Amy Ragsdale.
“Elegantly written and vibrant in detail, Crossing the River tells a global story through a personal memoir, examining life without the trappings of modern American culture, and revealing surprising truths about identity, family, and love.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe march of folly : from Troy to Vietnam / Barbara W. Tuchman.
“Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Barbara W. Tuchman, grapples with her boldest subject: the pervasive presence, through the ages, of failure, mismanagement, and delusion in government. Tuchman’s incomparable talent for animating the people, places, and events of history is on spectacular display. (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe new Arabs : how the millennial generation is changing the Middle East / Juan Cole. 
“Renowned blogger and Middle East expert Juan Cole takes us “inside the youth movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, showing us how activists used technology and social media to amplify their message and connect with like-minded citizens” ( The New York Times ) in this “rousing study of the Arab Spring” ( Publishers Weekly, starred review).” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe end of tsarist Russia : the march to World War I and revolution / Dominic Lieven.
“World War I and the Russian Revolution together shaped the twentieth century in profound ways … Dominic Lieven connects for the first time the two events, providing both a history of the First World War’s origins from a Russian perspective and an international history of why the revolution happened. By placing the crisis of empire at its core, Lieven links World War I to the sweep of twentieth-century global history.”– Publisher’s description.

Syndetics book coverUnderground in Berlin : a young woman’s extraordinary tale of survival in the heart of Nazi Germany / Marie Jalowicz Simon.
“In 1941, Marie Jalowicz Simon, a nineteen-year-old Berliner, made an extraordinary decision. All around her, Jews were being rounded up for deportation, forced labor, and extermination. Marie took off her yellow star, turned her back on the Jewish community, and vanished into the city. In the years that followed, Marie lived under an assumed identity, forced to accept shelter wherever she found it. Only her quick-witted determination and the most hair-raising strokes of luck allowed her to survive.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDispatches from Pluto : lost and found in the Mississippi Delta / Richard Grant.
“Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. Dispatches from Pluto is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Residual Impact – Recent History Picks for November

In this month’s picks the story of the return of an American prisoner of the North Korean War intersects with a North Korean woman’s harrowing escape from the modern day regime to Canada. These stories reveal the devastating power of struggles that have gone unnoticed; voices unheard that are starting to confront the residual traumas that affect the present day.

Syndetics book cover30-second ancient China : the 50 most important achievements of a timeless civilization, each explained in half a minute / editor, Yijie Zhuang ; contributors, Qin Cao [and others].
“In the West, the story of Ancient China is less familiar to us than that of Ancient Egypt or Rome, but it is no less absorbing, and its rollcall of achievements is easily as impressive. [...] 30-Second Ancient China becomes the perfect introduction to one of the great ancient civilizations.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe crime and the silence : confronting the massacre of Jews in wartime Jedwabne / Anna Bikont ; translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles.
“A monumental work of nonfiction on a wartime atrocity, its sixty-year denial, and the impact of its truth Jan Gross’s hugely controversial Neighbors was a historian’s disclosure of the events in the small Polish town of Jedwabne on July 10, 1941, when the citizens rounded up the Jewish population and burned them alive in a barn. The massacre was a shocking secret that had been suppressed for more than sixty years, and it provoked the most important public debate in Poland since 1989.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe war came home with him : a daughter’s memoir / Catherine Madison.
“During his years as a POW in North Korea, “Doc” Boysen endured hardships he never intended to pass along, especially to his family. Men who refused to eat starved; his children would clean their plates. Men who were weak died; his children would develop character. They would also learn to fear their father, the hero. In a memoir at once harrowing and painfully poignant, Catherine Madison tells the stories of two survivors of one man’s war: a father who withstood a prison camp’s unspeakable inhumanity and a daughter who withstood the residual cruelty that came home with him.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hidden people of North Korea : everyday life in the hermit kingdom / Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh.
“Drawing on decades of experience, noted experts Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh explore a world few outsiders can imagine. In vivid detail, the authors describe how the secretive and authoritarian government of Kim Jong-un shapes every aspect of its citizens’ lives, how the command socialist economy has utterly failed, and how ordinary individuals struggle to survive through small-scale capitalism.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKatrina : after the flood / Gary Rivlin. Katrina: After the Flood
“Ten years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana–on August 29, 2005–journalist Gary Rivlin traces the storm’s immediate damage, the city of New Orleans’s efforts to rebuild itself, and the storm’s lasting effects not just on the city’s geography and infrastructure–but on the psychic, racial, and social fabric of one of this nation’s great cities.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAfghan modern : the history of a global nation / Robert D. Crews.
“Rugged, remote, riven by tribal rivalries and religious violence, Afghanistan seems to many a country frozen in time and forsaken by the world. Afghan Modern presents a bold challenge to these misperceptions, revealing how Afghans, over the course of their history, have engaged and connected with a wider world and come to share in our modern globalized age. Always a mobile people, Afghan travelers, traders, pilgrims, scholars, and artists have ventured abroad for centuries, their cosmopolitan sensibilities providing a compass for navigating a constantly changing world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStars between the Sun and Moon : one woman’s life in North Korea and escape to freedom / Lucia Jang and Susan McClelland.
“Born in the 1970s, Lucia Jang grew up in a common, rural North Korean household–her parents worked hard, she bowed to a photo of Kim Il-Sung every night, and the family scraped by on rationed rice and a small garden. However, there is nothing common about Jang. [...] With so few accounts by North Korean women and those from its rural areas, Jang’s fascinating memoir helps us understand the lives of those many others who have no way to make their voices known.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSapiens : a brief history of humankind / Yuval Noah Harari.
“One hundred thousand years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. [...] How did we come to believe in gods, nations, and human rights; to trust money, books, and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables, and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? In Sapiens, Professor Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical–and sometimes devastating–breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific Revolutions.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRywka’s diary : the writings of a Jewish girl from the Lodz Ghetto, found at Auschwitz in 1945 and published seventy years later / Rywka Lipszyc ; edited by Anita Friedman ; translated from the Polish by Malgorzata Markoff ; with annotations by Ewa Wiatr.
“Moving and illuminating, told by a brave young girl whose strong and charismatic voice speaks for millions, Rywka’s Diary is an extraordinary addition to the history of the Holocaust and World War II.”  (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe crossing : my journey to the shattered heart of Syria / Samar Yazbek ; translated by Nashwa Gowanlock and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp.
“Samar Yazbek was well known in her native Syria as a writer and a journalist but, in 2011, she fell foul of the Assad regime and was forced to flee. Since then, determined to bear witness to the suffering of her people, she bravely revisited her homeland by squeezing through a hole in the fence on the Turkish border. From the first innocent demonstrations for democracy, through the beginnings of the Free Syrian Army, to the arrival of ISIS, she offers remarkable snapshots of soldiers, children, ordinary men and women simply trying to stay alive…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Hardened Ground – Recent History Picks for October

Lost cities, forgotten wars and starved earth make up some of the dark subject matter in this month’s selection. Despite this, titles such as in Remembering Christchurch, 1 Dead in Attic and Black Earth focus their lens on the social histories that have kept people alive through unimaginable struggle, resistances to letting these traumas repeat, while honouring the human spirit of survival.

Syndetics book coverKūpapa : the bitter legacy of Māori alliances with the Crown / Ron Crosby.
“The Treaty of Waitangi struck a bargain between two parties: the Crown and Māori. Its promises of security, however, were followed from 1845 to 1872 by a series of volatile and bloody conflicts commonly known as the New Zealand Wars. Many people today believe that these wars were fought solely between the Crown and Māori, when the reality is that Māori aligned with both sides… Kūpapa addresses those realities, the complex Treaty-related reasons for them, and the cynical use of Māori by the Crown for its own purposes.” (Publisher information)

Syndetics book coverRemembering Christchurch : voices from decades past / Alison Parr with Rosemary Baird.
“What remains when a city vanishes? Remembering Christchurch captures the human heritage that survives the devastation of the Canterbury earthquakes. In evocative interviews, older citizens share their precious memories, bringing Christchurch back to life [...] Woven through these stories, a social history of Christchurch emerges, exposing shifting attitudes to class, race, religion, sex and the place of women. Vivid and revealing, these rich memories create a lasting legacy for a much-loved city.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover1 dead in attic : after Katrina / Chris Rose.
“Full of the emotion, tragedy and even humor-which has made Chris Rose a favorite son and the voice of a lost city-these are the stories of the dead and the living, of survivors and believers, of destruction and recovery, and of hope and despair. With photographs by British photojournalist Charlie Varley, 1 Dead in Attic captures New Orleans caught between an old era and a new, New Orleans in its most desperate time, as it struggled out of floodwaters and willed itself back to life.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverParadise of the Pacific : approaching Hawaii / Susanna Moore.
“Susanna Moore pieces together the elusive, dramatic story of late-eighteenth-century Hawaii–its kings and queens, gods and goddesses, missionaries, migrants, and explorers–a not-so-distant time of abrupt transition, in which an isolated pagan world of human sacrifice and strict taboo, without a currency or a written language, was confronted with the equally ritualized world of capitalism, Western education, and Christian values.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPacific crucible : war at sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 / Ian W. Toll.
“On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss. Toll tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history and seized the strategic initiative.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlack earth : the Holocaust as history and warning / Timothy Snyder.
“By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future. The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order. Our world is closer to Hitler’s than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was — and ourselves as we are. Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNorth Korea : state of paranoia / Paul French.
“Drawing on an impressive range of insider sources and previously unseen archival material, Paul French examines the nation and its ruling regime in forensic detail. He offers a close analysis of the history and politics of North Korea; Pyongyang’s complex relations with South Korea, Japan, China, and the United States; and the troubling implications of Kim Jong-Un’s increasingly belligerent leadership in the years since his father, Kim Jong-il, died.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe worst hard time : the untold story of those who survived the great American Dust Bowl / Timothy Egan.
“The American West got lucky when Tim Egan focused his acute powers of observation on its past and present. Egan’s remarkable combination of clear analysis and warm empathy anchors his portrait of the women and men who held on to their places–and held on to their souls–through the nearly unimaginable miseries of the Dust Bowl. This book provides the finest mental exercise for people wanting to deepen, broaden, and strengthen their thinking about the relationship of human beings to this earth.”  (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFarthest field : an Indian story of the Second World War / Raghu Karnad.
“In riveting prose, Karnad retrieves the story of a single family – a story of love, rebellion, loyalty and uncertainty – and with it, the greatest revelation that is India’s Second World War. Farthest Field narrates the lost epic of India’s war, in which the largest volunteer army in history (2.5m men) fought for the British Empire, even as its countrymen fought to be free of it. It carries us from Madras to Peshawar, Egypt to Burma – unfolding the saga of a young family amazed by their swiftly changing world and swept up in its violence.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBackstairs Billy : the life of William Tallon, the Queen Mother’s most devoted servant / Tom Quinn.
“William Tallon, who died in 2007, was a shopkeeper’s son from the Midlands who rose through the ranks to work for the Queen Mother for more than fifty years. [...] Billy adored her and she adored Billy; perhaps because of his high-camp style and outrageous remarks about the well-born equerries, royal press people and advisers, but mostly because he made her gin and tonics just the way she liked them–nine-tenths gin and one-tenth tonic. Outrageously funny, scandalous, sometimes shocking, but always fascinating, this is the royal family through the eyes of one of its most extroverted servants.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Vulnerable protagonists – Recent History Picks for September

Power and politics run deep in this month’s selection. Phantom Terror, Deng Xiaoping and American Warlords cover a vast span, chronicling the internal mechanisms of those in charge. While titles like Petals and Bullets, Nagasaki and The Wisdom Seeker focus on the intense personal reserves used to pick up the pieces of these often violent legacies of power.

Syndetics book coverPetals and bullets : Dorothy Morris, New Zealand nurse in the Spanish Civil War / Mark Derby.
“This book is based on the vivid, detailed, and evocative letters New Zealand nurse Dorothy Morris sent from Spain and other European countries. They have been supplemented by wide-ranging research to record a life of outstanding professional dedication, resourcefulness, and courage. [...] Dorothy Morris’s remarkable and pioneering work in the fields of military medicine for civilian casualties, and large-scale humanitarian relief projects is told in this book for the first time.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe two-state delusion : Israel and Palestine– a tale of two narratives / Padraig O’Malley.
“Disputes over settlements [...] have repeatedly derailed peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Renowned peacemaker Padraig O’Malley argues that the moment for a two-state solution has passed. After examining each issue and speaking with Palestinians and Israelis [...] O’Malley concludes that even if such an agreement could be reached, it would be nearly impossible to implement.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Raj at war : a people’s history of India’s Second World War / Yasmin Khan.
“The Second World War was not fought by Britain alone. India produced the largest volunteer army in world history: over 2 million men. [...] Yasmin Khan presents the hidden and sometimes overlooked history of India at war, and shows how mobilisation for the war introduced seismic processes of economic, cultural and social change — decisively shaping the international war effort, the unravelling of the empire and India’s own political and economic trajectory.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPromised you a miracle : UK80-82 / Andy Beckett.
“The early 1980s in Britain were a time of hope, and of dread: of Cold War tension and imminent conflict [...] Here, Andy Beckett recreates an often misunderstood moment of transition, with all its potential and uncertainty: the first precarious years of Margaret Thatcher’s government. By the end of 1982, the country was changing, leaving the kinder, more sluggish postwar Britain decisively behind, and becoming the country we have lived in ever since: assertive, commercially driven, outward-looking, often harsher than its neighbours.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeng Xiaoping : a revolutionary life / Alexander V. Pantsov, with Steven I. Levine.
“Deng Xiaoping joined the Chinese Communist movement as a youth and rose in its ranks to become an important lieutenant of Mao’s from the 1930s onward. Two years after Mao’s death in 1976, Deng became the de facto leader of the Chinese Communist Party and the prime architect of China’s post-Mao reforms. Abandoning the Maoist socio-economic policies he had long fervently supported, he set in motion changes that would dramatically transform China’s economy, society, and position in the world. Three decades later, we are living with the results.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNagasaki : life after nuclear war / Susan Southard.
“A poignant and complex picture of the second atomic bomb’s enduring physical and psychological tolls. Eyewitness accounts are visceral and haunting… But the book’s biggest achievement is its treatment of the aftershocks in the decades since 1945.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe left side of history : World War II and the unfulfilled promise of communism in Eastern Europe / Kristen Ghodsee.
“Kristen Ghodsee tells the stories of partisans fighting behind the lines in Nazi-allied Bulgaria during World War II: British officer Frank Thompson, brother of the great historian E.P. Thompson, and fourteen-year-old Elena Lagadinova, the youngest female member of the armed anti-fascist resistance. But these people were not merely anti-fascist; they were pro-communist, idealists moved by their socialist principles to fight and sometimes die for a cause they believed to be right.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe wisdom seeker : finding the seed of advantage in the Khmer Rouge / Pisey Leng as told to Jennifer Colford ; foreword by Rob Hamill.
“Pisey Leng miraculously survived the infamous killing fields of Cambodia that claimed the lives of nearly two million people in the late seventies. In the face of unspeakable horrors, a light shined in Pisey that kept her determined to survive [...] You’ll gain insight into one of the darkest points in human history. Yet your eyes will be opened to the unlimited power you have to: find serenity and peace during the worst of times.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAmerican warlords : how Roosevelt’s high command led America to victory in World War II / Jonathan W. Jordan.
“In a lifetime shaped by politics, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proved himself a master manipulator of Congress, the press, and the public. But when war in Europe and Asia threatened America’s shores, FDR found himself in a world turned upside down, where his friends became his foes, his enemies his allies.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPhantom terror : political paranoia and the creation of the modern state, 1789-1848 / Adam Zamoyski.
“For the ruling and propertied classes of the late eighteenth century, the years following the French Revolution were characterized by intense anxiety. Monarchs and their courtiers lived in constant fear of rebellion, convinced that their power–and their heads–were at risk. [...] In this magisterial history, Zamoyski chronicles the moment when desperate monarchs took the world down the path of revolution, terror, and world war.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Fragmented Perspectives – Recent History Picks for August

Fragments of perspectives from the shadowy past characterise much of this month’s picks. Stories as painfully recent as Mike Smith’s Boko Haram are included as well as those as culturally imbued as Weegee’s depictions of NYC and the colonial mission of the Pacific in Margaret Pointer’s freshly illustrated Niue 1774-1974. Fragments from these sometimes uncertain and buried histories make for exciting reading that is elucidated here especially by the nuanced and powerful voices of individuals.

Syndetics book coverThe fortunes of Francis Barber : the true story of the Jamaican slave who became Samuel Johnson’s heir / Michael Bundock.
“This compelling book chronicles a young boy’s journey from the horrors of Jamaican slavery to the heart of London’s literary world, and reveals the unlikely friendship that changed his life. [...] There were thousands of black Britons in the eighteenth century, but few accounts of their lives exist. In uncovering Francis Barber’s story, this book not only provides insights into his life and Samuel Johnson’s but also opens a window onto London when slaves had yet to win their freedom.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA spy in the archives : a memoir of Cold War Russia / Sheila Fitzpatrick.
“Moscow in the 1960s was the other side of the Iron Curtain: mysterious, exotic, even dangerous. In 1966 the historian Sheila Fitzpatrick traveled to Moscow to research in the Soviet archives. [...] Full of drama and colorful characters, her remarkable memoir highlights the dangers and drudgery faced by Westerners living under communism.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWe’re still here, ya bastards : how the people of New Orleans rebuilt their city / Roberta Brandes Gratz.
“The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is one of the darkest chapters in American history. [...] By telling stories that are often ignored by the mainstream media, We’re Still Here Ya Bastards shows the strength and resilience of a community that continues to work to rebuild New Orleans, and reveals what Katrina couldn’t destroy: the vibrant culture, epic history, and unwavering pride of one of the greatest cities in America.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBoko Haram : inside Nigeria’s unholy war / Mike Smith.
“An insurgency in Nigeria by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has left thousands dead, shaken Africa’s biggest nation and worried the world. Yet they remain a mysterious-almost unknowable-organization. Through extensive on-the-ground reporting, Smith takes readers inside the violence and provides the first in-depth account of the conflict. [...] Interspersed with Nigerian history, this book delves into the roots of the unholy war being waged against the backdrop of an evolving extremist threat worldwide.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe porcelain thief : searching the Middle Kingdom for buried China / Huan Hsu.
“A journalist travels throughout mainland China and Taiwan in search of his family’s hidden treasure and comes to understand his ancestry as he never has before. [...] Melding memoir, travelogue, and social and political history, The Porcelain Thief offers an intimate and unforgettable way to understand the complicated events that have defined China over the past two hundred years and provides a revealing, lively perspective on contemporary Chinese society from the point of view of a Chinese American coming to terms with his hyphenated identity.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNiue 1774-1974 : 200 years of contact and change / Margaret Pointer.
“Tiny Niue lies alone in the south Pacific, a single island with formidable cliffs rising from the deep ocean. [...] Yet Niue has a surprisingly rich history of contact, from the brief landings by James Cook in 1774 through to the 19th-century visits by whalers, traders, and missionaries, and into the 20th century [...] Together, text and images unravel a fascinating and colorful Pacific story of Nukututaha, the island that stands alone.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDancing with the devil in the City of God : Rio de Janeiro on the brink / Juliana Barbassa.
“In the tradition of Detroit: An American Autopsy and Maximum City comes a deeply reported and beautifully written biography of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro [...] this kaleidoscopic portrait of Rio introduces the reader to the people who make up this city of extremes, revealing their aspirations and their grit, their violence, their hungers and their splendor, and shedding light on the future of this city they are building together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Weegee guide to New York : roaming the city with its greatest tabloid photographer / researched and compiled by Philomena Mariani and Christopher George.
“Take a walk with Weegee and discover New York City through the eyes of its most unflinching chronicler. During his storied career as the quintessential New York photojournalist, Weegee explored the city’s least glamorous pockets, depicting brutal crimes, horrific accidents, tenement dwellers, street vendors, and mischievous kids. And although his perspective was often dark and cynical, he was also tremendously sentimental about his subjects’ hard lives [...]” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fall of the Ottomans : the Great War in the Middle East / Eugene Rogan.
“In 1914 the Ottoman Empire was depleted of men and resources after years of war against Balkan nationalist and Italian forces. [...] The Great War spelled the end of the Ottomans, unleashing powerful forces that would forever change the face of the Middle East. [...] The postwar settlement led to the partition of Ottoman lands between the victorious powers, and laid the groundwork for the ongoing conflicts that continue to plague the modern Arab world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOut of ashes : a new history of Europe in the twentieth century / Konrad H. Jarausch.
“Konrad Jarausch describes how the European nations emerged from the nineteenth century with high hopes for continued material progress and proud of their imperial command over the globe, only to become embroiled in the bloodshed of World War I [...] Out of Ashes explores the paradox of the European encounter with modernity in the twentieth century, shedding new light on why it led to cataclysm, inhumanity, and self-destruction, but also social justice, democracy, and peace.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Emergent Understandings – Recent History Picks for July

This month’s selection is a reminder of history’s constant unravelling through the uncovering of memories held by personal archives, secret documents and unheard stories. Picks include Louisa Lim’s sharp lens on the collective amnesia surrounding the events in Tiananmen Square in The People’s Republic of Amnesia and the recently published first English translation of Leon Werth’s 33 days excavated by the ambitious Neversink Library. From James Angelos’ pertinent analysis of Greece’s fiscal situation and it’s wider social impacts in The Full Catastrophe to the scientific acknowledgement of aboriginal Australian knowledge and methodology surrounding land management in The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage, this month’s picks demonstrate the capacity of historical knowledge to emerge at radically different speeds.

Syndetics book coverThe People’s Republic of amnesia : Tiananmen revisited / Louisa Lim.
“Despite its emergence from backward isolation into a dynamic world economic power, a quarter-century after the People’s Army crushed unarmed protestors [...] in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, the defining event of China’s modern history remains buried. [...] In The People’s Republic of Amnesia, NPR’s China correspondent Louisa Lim offers an insider’s account of this seminal tragedy, revealing the enormous impact it had on China and the reverberations still felt today.”– Provided by publisher.

Syndetics book cover33 days / Léon Werth ; with an introduction by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ; translated by Austin Denis Johnston.
“The first ever English publication of important French author Leon Werth. Restored here with the original introduction, long thought to be lost, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince. Story Locale: The road from Paris to the line just beyond Occupied France Series Overview: The Neversink Library champions books from around the world that have been overlooked, underappreciated, looked askance at, or foolishly ignored [...]” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe full catastrophe : travels among the new Greek ruins / James Angelos.
“A transporting, good-humored, and revealing account of Greece’s dire troubles, reported from the mountain villages, idyllic islands, and hardscrabble streets that define the country today. [...] With vivid character-driven narratives and engaging reporting that offers an immersive sense of place, he brings to life some of the causes of the country’s financial collapse, and examines the changes, some hopeful and others deeply worrisome, emerging in its aftermath.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe biggest estate on earth : how Aborigines made Australia / Bill Gammage.
“Reveals the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people in presettlement Australia. Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park, with extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands, and abundant wildlife. [...] Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and this book reveals how. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires Australians now experience. With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, this book rewrites the history of the continent, with huge implications for today.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBuy me the sky : the remarkable truth of China’s one-child generations / Xinran ; translated by Esther Tyldesley and David Dobson.
With journalistic acumen and a novelist’s flair, Xinran tells the remarkable stories of men and women born in China after 1979 – the recent generations raised under China’s single-child policy. At a time when the country continues to transform at the speed of light, these generations of precious ‘one and onlies’ are burdened with expectation, yet have often been brought up without any sense of responsibility. [...] Through the fascinating stories of these only children, we catch a startling glimpse of the emerging face of China. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMy appeal to the world : in quest of truth and justice on behalf of the Tibetan people, 1961-2011 … / H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV ; presented by Sofia Stril-Rever ; translated from the French by Sebastian Houssiaux.
“His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is the foremost spokesperson for the people of the Tibetan Plateau [...] As a Buddhist monk, his main focus has been the spiritual life, and the leadership of his people in exile, ensuring their survival and preserving their unique Buddhist culture, while appealing to the world to stop the destruction of their homeland and the six million Tibetans oppressed within it.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRavensbrück : life and death in Hitler’s concentration camp for women / Sarah Helm.
“A masterly and moving account of the most horrific hidden atrocity of World War II: Ravensbrück, the only Nazi concentration camp built for women. On a sunny morning in May 1939 a phalanx of 867 women [..] was marched through the woods fifty miles north of Berlin, driven on past a shining lake, then herded in through giant gates. [..] Far more than a catalog of atrocities, however, Ravensbrück is also a compelling account of what one survivor called “the heroism, superhuman tenacity, and exceptional willpower to survive.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe street of wonderful possibilities : Whistler, Wilde & Sargent in Tite Street / Devon Cox.
“A beautifully illustrated art history and cultural biography, The Street of Wonderful Possibilities focuses on one of the most influential artistic quarters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – London’s Tite Street, where a staggering amount of talent thrived between the 1870s and 1930s, including James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Oscar Wilde and John Singer Sargent. It provides a new, fresh perspective on legendary figures in British art and literature and explores the relationship between these artists and their living environment [...]” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDancing with the enemy : the gripping story of the Jewish dance instructor who survived Auschwitz by teaching dance to the Nazis / Paul Glaser. Dancing with the Enemy: My Family’s Holocaust Secret
“Paul Glaser was an adult when he learned the truth about his heritage. Raised in a devout Roman Catholic home in the Netherlands, he had never known his father was Jewish and that their family had suffered great losses during the World War II. When Paul inquired, his father refused to provide details about the war, the camps, and especially Rosie, Paul’s estranged aunt [...] Rosie Glaser was a magnificent woman; despite everything, she remained hopeful, exuberant, and, most importantly, cunning [...]” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last empire : the final days of the Soviet Union / Serhii Plokhy.
“On Christmas Day, 1991, President George H. W. Bush addressed the nation to declare an American victory in the Cold War: earlier that day Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned as the first and last Soviet president. [...] Plokhy’s detailed, authoritative account shows that it was only after the movement for independence of the republics had gained undeniable momentum on the eve of the Ukrainian vote for independence that fall that Bush finally abandoned Gorbachev to his fate.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)


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