Interesting new non-fiction books

Pops book cover

Two books about women’s suffrage feature in this month’s selections. Other topics include demystifying the blockchain, parenthood, artificial intelligence and much more.

Hearts and minds : the untold story of the great pilgrimage and how women won the vote / Robinson, Jane
“Set against the colourful background of the entire campaign for women to win the vote, Hearts and Minds tells the remarkable and inspiring story of the suffragists’ march on London. 1913: the last long summer before the war. The country is gripped by suffragette fever. These impassioned crusaders have their admirers; some agree with their aims if not their forceful methods, while others are aghast at the thought of giving any female a vote. Meanwhile, hundreds of women are stepping out on to the streets of Britain. They are the suffragists: non-militant campaigners for the vote, on an astonishing six-week protest march they call the Great Pilgrimage. Rich and poor, young and old, they defy convention, risking jobs, family relationships and even their lives to persuade the country to listen to them. This is a story of ordinary people effecting extraordinary change.” (Catalogue)

Marx, capital and the madness of economic reason / Harvey, David
“In Marx and Capital, David Harvey introduces and explains the architecture of capital as expounded by Marx in the three volumes of Capital, published between 1867 and 1883. He places Marx’s observations and arguments in the context of capitalism in the second half of the nineteenth century and considers the degree to which technological, economic and industrial change during the last 150 years means the analysis and its application need to be modified.” (Catalogue)

Brexit and Ireland : the dangers, the opportunities, and the inside story of the Irish response / Connelly, Tony
“Brexit represents potentially the single greatest economic foreign-policy challenge to the Irish state since the Second World War. …Tony Connelly tells the dramatic inside story of the Irish response to this political and economic earthquake and lays out the agenda for the uncertain years ahead.” (Book jacket)

The truth machine : the blockchain and the future of everything / Casey, Michael J.
In The Truth Machine, Michael J. Casey and Paul Vigna demystify the blockchain and explain why it can restore personal control over our data, assets, and identities; grant billions of excluded people access to the global economy; and shift the balance of power to revive society’s faith in itself. They reveal the empowerment possible when self-interested middlemen give way to the transparency of the blockchain, while highlighting the job losses, assertion of special interests, and threat to social cohesion that will accompany this shift.” (Catalogue)

Pops : fatherhood in pieces / Chabon, Michael
“At the heart of this essay collection on fatherhood from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon is his GQ piece ‘My Son, the Prince of Fashion,’ explaining how he came to appreciate his 13-year-old son’s singular passion when accompanying him to Paris Men’s Fashion Week. Despite his own indifference, however, what gradually emerged as Chabon ferried his son to and from fashion shows was a deep respect for his son’s passion. With the GQ story as its centerpiece, and featuring six additional essays plus an introduction, Pops illuminates the meaning, magic, and mysteries of fatherhood as only Michael Chabon can.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Feeding my mother : comfort and laughter in the kitchen as my mom lives with memory loss / Arden, Jann
“Based on her hugely popular Facebook posts and Instagram photos, this book is an account of the transformation in Jann Arden’s life that has turned her into the primary ‘parent’ to her mom, who is in the grip of Alzheimer’s.” (Catalogue)

Chernobyl : the history of a tragedy / Plokhy, Serhii
“On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. While the authorities scrambled to understand what was occurring, workers, engineers, firefighters and those living in the area were abandoned to their fate. In Chernobyl, award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy draws on recently opened archives to recreate these events in all their drama, telling the stories of the scientists, workers, soldiers, and policemen who found themselves caught in a nuclear nightmare.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Chasing Hillary : ten years, two presidential campaigns, and one intact glass ceiling / Chozick, Amy
“For nearly a decade, award-winning New York Times journalist Amy Chozick chronicled Hillary Clinton’s pursuit of the presidency. Chozick’s assignments, covering Clinton’s imploding 2008 campaign and then her front-row seat to the 2016 election on ‘The Hillary Beat.’ In this rollicking, hilarious narrative, Chozick takes us through the high- (and low-) lights of the most noxious and dramatic presidential election in American history.” (Adapted from catalogue)

AIQ : how artificial intelligence works and how we can harness its power for a better world / Polson, Nicholas G.
“From leading data scientists Nick Polson and James Scott, what everyone needs to know to understand how artificial intelligence is changing the world and how we can use this knowledge to make better decisions in our own lives. Dozens of times per day, we all interact with intelligent machines that are constantly learning from the wealth of data now available to them. These machines, from smart phones to talking robots to self-driving cars, are remaking the world in the 21st century in the same way that the Industrial Revolution remade the world in the 19th century. AIQ is based on a simple premise: if you want to understand the modern world, then you have to know a little bit of the mathematical language spoken by intelligent machines. AIQ will teach you that language–but in an unconventional way, anchored in stories rather than equations.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Deeds not words : the story of women’s rights, then and now / Pankhurst, Helen
“Despite huge progress since the original suffragette campaigns and wave after wave of new feminism, women are still not equal. On the centenary of one of the greatest steps forward for women – the Vote – Suffragette descendent and campaigner Helen Pankhurst takes the reader on a journey exploring how women’s lives have changed over the last 100 years, and how we can take things even further.” (Catalogue)

New non-fiction books on our shelves

New Power

This time, the focus is on the environment, from people and places to animals and agriculture, plus loads more in-between.

Syndetics book coverGround work : writings on people and places / edited by Tim Dee.
“We are living in the anthropocene – an epoch where everything is being determined by the ruinous activities of just one soft-skinned, warm-blooded, short-lived, pedestrian species. How best to live in the ruins that we have made? This anthology of commissioned work tries to answer this as it explores new and enduring cultural landscapes, here and abroad, in a celebration of local distinctiveness that includes new work from some of our finest writers. Helen Macdonald, in her remarkable piece on growing up in a rented house in a 50-acre walled estate in Camberley, reflects on our failed stewardship of the planet: ‘I take stock,’ she says, ‘During this sixth extinction, we who may not have time to do anything else must write now what we can, to take stock.'” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverReckless Opportunists: Elites at the End of the Establishment:
“The Summer of 2016 revealed a crisis in Britain’s political, economic and media elite. Once successful leaders were dropping everywhere. These multiple crises at the top are no coincidence. It’s a structural problem that has developed over decades. The central theme of the book is that: the British elite has lost control. They can earn more than ever before and their decisions have powerful consequences that are widely felt. They are highly skilled when it comes to pursuing their own self-interests. But, they are also rather less able to exert control or predict the consequences of their actions. What is best for them can often be bad for their organisation, their employees or publics. These failings have an increasingly devastating effect on society and the wider public.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe animals among us : the new science of anthrozoology / John Bradshaw.
“Keeping pets is expensive, time-consuming, and seemingly irrational – so why do so many of us have an animal in our lives? Pet-keeping is much more than just a simple pastime. As John Bradshaw reveals in this highly original new work, our connection with animals is one of the very things that makes us human. …Bradshaw reveals how animals have always been an integral part of our lives- indeed, they have shaped the evolution of our minds and our bodies. Now, as increasing numbers of species are under threat, John Bradshaw warns us that if we lose the animals among us, we risk losing an essential part of ourselves.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America
“The past is another country, the old saying goes. The same might be said of the future. But which country? For Europeans and Americans today, the answer is Russia. Today’s Russia is an oligarchy propped up by illusions and repression. But it also represents the fulfilment of tendencies already present in the West. And if Moscow’s drive to dissolve Western states and values succeeds, this could become our reality too. In this visionary work of contemporary history, Timothy Snyder shows how Russia works within the West to destroy the West…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)`

Syndetics book coverYou all grow up and leave me : a memoir of teenage obsession / Piper Weiss.
“Piper Weiss was fourteen years old when her middle-aged tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, one of New York City’s most prestigious private instructors, killed himself after a failed attempt to kidnap one of his teenage students. In the aftermath, authorities discovered that this well-known figure among the Upper East Side tennis crowd was actually a frightening child predator who had built a secret torture chamber–a “Cabin of Horrors”–in his secluded rental in the Adirondacks. Before the shocking scandal broke, Piper had been thrilled to be one of “Gary’s Girls.” As reporters swarmed her private community in the wake of Wilensky’s death, Piper learned that her mentor was a predator with a sordid history of child stalking and sexual fetish. But why did she still feel protective of Gary, and why was she disappointed that he hadn’t chosen her…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEarth at risk : natural capital and the quest for sustainability / Claude Henry and Laurence Tubiana.
“This book maps out the necessary transition to sustainability, detailing the innovations in science and technology, along with law, institutional design, and economics, that can and must be put to use to avert environmental catastrophe… Though formidable obstacles remain to the realization of this significant transition, Henry and Tubiana present the case for collective initiatives and change that build momentum for implementation and action.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSaving Planet Earth : why agriculture and industry must be part of the solution / Dr Duncan A. Rouch ; Dr David F. Smith ; Professor Andrew S. Ball.
“Planet Earth is a minuscule part of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and the only place where we humans can practically live. We all know this, but why are we so slow to fix the major environmental issues which are degrading the quality of life on this one planet? Here Dr Duncan Rouch, Dr David Smith and Professor Andrew Ball answer this question, with an exciting novel response that digs down to explain how we got to this impasse. They also discuss a clear innovative forward strategy, based on a new inclusive definition of environments, that brings in agriculture and industrial companies as key stakeholders for conserving the environment.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHigh-speed empire : Chinese expansion and the future of Southeast Asia / Will Doig.
“Less than a decade ago, China did not have a single high-speed train in service. Today, it owns a network of 14,000 miles of high-speed rail, far more than the rest of the world combined. Now, China is pushing its tracks into Southeast Asia, reviving a century-old colonial fantasy of an imperial railroad stretching to Singapore; and kicking off a key piece of the One Belt One Road initiative, which has a price tag of $1 trillion and, reaches inside the borders of more than 60 countries. Journalist Will Doig traveled to Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore to chronicle the dramatic transformations taking place — and to find out whether ordinary people have a voice in this moment of economic, political, and cultural collision.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNew power : how it’s changing the 21st century – and why you need to know / Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms.
“For most of human history the rules of power were clear: power was something to be seized, and then jealously guarded. Under this ‘Old Power’ we lived in a world of rulers and subjects. Now, we all sense that something has changed. From #MeToo to Harvey Weinstein; Corbyn to Trump; from YouTube sensations to darker phenomena such as the emergence of ISIS – in our new hyper-connected world, ideas and movements can spread and flourish with astonishing force and speed. In New Power, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms confront the biggest story of our age and trace how New Power is the key to understanding where we are and will prosper in the 21st Century.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe coal truth : the fight to stop Adani, defeat the big polluters and reclaim our democracy / David Ritter.
“Since 2012, the fight to stop the opening of the vast Galilee coal basin has emerged as an iconic pivot of the Australian climate and environment movement. The Coal Truth: the fight to stop Adani, defeat the big polluters and reclaim our democracy provides a timely and colourful contribution to one of the most important struggles in our national history – over the future of the coal industry. Written by an environmental insider with an eye on the world his daughters will inherit, The Coal Truth is told with wit and verve, drawing in other specialist voices to bring to life the contours of a contest that the people of Australia can’t afford to lose.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRainforest: Dispatches From Earth’s Most Vital Frontlines [hardback]
“Rainforests are the lungs of our planet – regulators of the earth’s temperature and weather. They are also home to 50 per cent of the world’s animals and plants – which for centuries have been the source of many of our key medicines. And yet we’ve all heard of their systematic destruction… But this is the full story you’ve never heard: an in depth, wide-ranging, first-hand narrative that not only looks at the state of the world’s tropical rainforests today and the implications arising from their continuing decline, but also at what is being done, and can be done in future, to protect the forests and the 1.6 billion people that depend upon them…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeyond Manapouri : 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand / Catherine Knight.
Beyond Manapouri is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand why, in spite of the legislation and institutions put in place to improve the stewardship of our environment, we’re now facing more urgent environmental issues than ever before. In this richly illustrated and engagingly written history, Knight also identifies the cultural shifts that will need to take place if we are to live up to the ‘clean, green’ image we have constructed for ourselves in New Zealand.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

A variety of new non-fiction books

Climate Leviathan

This time we have three new books on climate change for you to devour. Other topics are death, debt, and how to make more money.

Syndetics book coverSunburnt Country: The History and Future of Climate Change in Australia.
Sunburnt Country pieces together Australia’s climate history for the first time. It uncovers a continent long vulnerable to climate extremes and variability. It gives an unparalleled perspective on how human activities have altered patterns that have been with us for millions of years, and what climate change looks like in our own backyard.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverAll that remains : a life in death / Sue Black.
“Professor Dame Sue Black discusses the subject she grapples with every day–death–bringing her unique perspective to the multitudinous circumstances in which life is lost. From the painful grieving process after losing a loved one, to violence, murder, criminal dismemberment, missing persons, war, natural disasters, unidentified bodies, historical remains — involving investigative agencies, lawyers, justice, criminal sentences, and always sadness and pain, she takes us on a scientific and reflective journey explaining the genetic DNA traits that develop before our birth, and those traits and features we gather in the twists and turns through life, all of which add up to an identity that reveals itself in death.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDreamers : how young Indians are changing the world / Snigdha Poonam.
“600 million Indians, more than half the population, are under twenty-five. This generation lives between extremes: more connected and global than ever, but with narrow ideas of Indian identity; raised with the cultural values of their grandparents, but the life goals of American teenagers. These dreamers are the face of a new India. Angry, and frustrated with being marginalised by both globalisation and India’s old politics, they place hope in the Modi government’s exclusionary nationalism and, above all, in their personal truths: shape your own future; exploit, or be exploited.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChina’s great wall of debt : shadow banks, ghost cities, massive loans, and the end of the Chinese miracle / Dinny McMahon.
“Over the course of a decade spent reporting on the ground in China as a financial journalist, Dinny McMahon gradually came to the conclusion that the widely held belief in China’s inevitable economic ascent is dangerously wrong. McMahon shows how, lurking behind the illusion of prosperity, China’s economic growth has been built on a staggering mountain of debt. McMahon goes beyond the headlines to explain how such waste has been allowed to flourish, and why one of the most powerful governments in the world has been at a loss to stop it.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverClimate leviathan : a political theory of our planetary future / Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann.
“Despite the science and the summits, leading capitalist states have not achieved anything close to an adequate level of carbon mitigation. What are the likely political and economic outcomes of this? Where is the overheating world heading? Climate Leviathan provides a radical way of thinking about the intensifying challenges to the global order. Drawing on a wide range of political thought, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann argue that rapid climate change will transform the world’s political economy and the fundamental political arrangements most people take for granted.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBuilding and dwelling : ethics for the city / Richard Sennett.
Building and Dwelling is the definitive statement on cities by the renowned public intellectual Richard Sennett. In this sweeping work, he traces the anguished relation between how cities are built and how people live in them, from ancient Athens to twenty-first-century Shanghai. Through it all, he laments that the “closed city”–segregated, regimented, and controlled–has spread from the global North to the exploding urban agglomerations of the global South. As an alternative, he argues for the “open city,” where citizens actively hash out their differences and planners experiment with urban forms that make it easier for residents to cope.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFuture presence : how virtual reality is changing human connection, intimacy, and the limits of ordinary life / Peter Rubin.
“Heralded as the most significant technological innovation since the smartphone, virtual reality is poised to transform our very notions of life and humanity. Though this tech is still in its infancy, to those on the inside, it is the future. VR will change how we work, how we experience entertainment, how we feel pleasure and other emotions, how we see ourselves, and most importantly, how we relate to each other in the real world. And we will never be the same.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnprecedented Crime : Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival
Unprecedented Crime first lays out the culpability of corporations, governmental, political and religious bodies, and especially the media through their failure to report or act on the climate emergency. No emergency response has even been contemplated by wealthy high-emitting national governments. Yet, independently of governments, scores of proven zero-carbon game changers have been coming online all over the world. These exciting technologies, described in the book, are now able to power both household electricity and energy-dense heavy industry.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover7 steps to wealth : the vital difference between property & real estate / John L. Fitzgerald.
7 Steps to Wealth is the only real estate book in Australia endorsed by three of Australia’s property billionaires. Most importantly the book exposes the difference between property and real estate, proving that it’s only the land that appreciates and that the buildings that sit on the land actually depreciate. Fitzgerald proves that certain residential land is Australia’s best growth asset–and will continue to be given current record population growth.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRandomistas : how radical researchers changed our world / Andrew Leigh.
“Randomised test are carried out on us every day–by supermarkets, search engines, online dating sites, political parties and direct marketers. But how do these tests work? Are there any ethical issues? And what do they reveal about our choices? In Randomistas, Andrew Leigh tells the stories of radical researchers who overturned conventional wisdom in medicine, politics, business, law enforcement and more. From finding the cure to scurvy to discovering what policies really improve literacy rates, randomistas have shaped life as we know it – but they often had to fight to conduct their trials and have their findings implemented.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

New home, garden and DIY picks

Design By Nature

This month’s home, garden and DIY blog features  upcycling for gardens, decorating stylish homes and even building solar powered robots at home.

Syndetics book coverHome sweet maison : the French art of making a home / Danielle Postel-Vinay.
“How do the French create the elusive and alluring sanctuaries they call home? This question long intrigued Danielle Postel-Vinay. Thanks to a chance encounter with a French expat in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and years of immersive research, she embarked on a quest to discover the secrets of the French home aesthetic. Experiencing first-hand la belle vie–the beautiful life–Postel-Vinay now shows everyone how to create their own French sanctuary, a home sweet maison, no matter where they live.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUpcycling outdoors / Max McMurdo ; photography by Brent Darby.
“Following the success of his first book Upcycling, Max has turned his thoughts to the outdoors with this truly inspirational collection of inventive projects, each built from recycled materials and unwanted ‘spare parts’. Whether you want to create a firepit from bicycle wheels, an outdoor plant display from a painted dressing table, or fashion a potting shed from three vintage doors, Max provides invaluable know-how on the tools, techniques and materials required to take you on an outdoor creative journey.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Anatomy Of Treehouses: New Buildings From An Old Tradition
“This beautiful book shows how the treehouse can be many things: from simple structures based on centuries-old woodworking skills to modern geodesic forms strung high up above the treeline. There is something magical about treehouses – whatever your age. There are treehouses with wood-burning stoves, some with copper baths and some with elevated linking walkways obscured by the canopy of trees above. The book offers both visual inspiration, but also the human stories behind the creation and design of these treehouses.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDesign by nature : creating layered, lived-in spaces inspired by the natural world / Erica Tanov ; photographs by Ngoc Minh Ngo.
“Inspired by nature’s colors, textures, and patterns, design icon Erica Tanov uses her passion for textiles to create beautiful, timeless interiors that connect us to the natural world. Now, in her first book, Design by Nature, Tanov teaches you how to train your eye to the beauty of the natural world, and then bring the outdoors in–incorporating patterns and motifs from nature, as well as actual organic elements, into simple ideas for everyday decorating and design.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNew order : a decluttering handbook for creative folks (and everyone else) / Fay Wolf ; illustrated by Jeremy Gates.
“Can a decluttered space fuel a creative mind? Heck yes, says organizing expert Fay Wolf, who has helped everyone from Hollywood celebrities to schoolteachers to work-from-home parents achieve a simpler, more fulfilling life. Here, Wolf outlines her basic rules for saying goodbye to the stuff crowding up your space and hello to new habits that free you up for the things you’re passionate about. And it can all be done in as little as a few minutes a day.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe new seed-starters handbook / Nancy Bubel with Jean Nick.
“An easy-to-use reference that gives readers the most up-to-date information on how to start seeds successfully and grow their favorite plants from year to year. Step-by-step guides to starting plants from seed, which allows for earlier harvests, greater variety, and healthier seedlings. It also presents an encyclopedia of more than 200 plants–including vegetables and fruits, garden flowers, wildflowers, herbs, trees, and shrubs–with details on how to start each from seed.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHome robotics : maker-inspired projects for building your own robots / Daniel Knox.
“Relying on common, easily-sourced components, an illustrated guide for both beginner and intermediate robotics enthusiasts offers step-by-step instructions to design and build their very own robot beginning with a simple cardboard creation to a robot powered by solar energy.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCraeft : how traditional crafts are about more than just making / Alexander Langlands.
“In a period of meaningless mass manufacturing, our growing appetite for hand-made objects, artisan food, and craft beverages reveals our deep cravings for tradition and quality. But there was a time when craft meant something very different; the Old English word craeft possessed an almost indefinable sense of knowledge, wisdom, and power. In this fascinating book, historian and popular broadcaster Alex Langlands goes in search of the mysterious lost meaning of craeft.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrom Fibre to Fabric: The Ultimate Guide to Soft Furnishings [hardback]
“This ultimate reference book for everyone involved in interior designer presents the technical knowledge needed to make the right choices. It covers the variety of fabrics available, how fibres are turned into fabrics, and how they are used in the home. The photography will inspire and delight.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTruly Nordic : Nordic craftsmanship, branding campaigns and design.
“Nordic design exhibits a philosophy that’s characterised by efficiency, clean lines and a simple and cheerful palette. History and culture have been the fundamental premise of their aesthetic approach, imbued with a respectful attitude towards nature visible in their material choices and graphic expressions. With a notion to examines creative works by regional influences, Truly Nordic explores contemporary design emerging from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The book spans cutting-edge projects from brand identities to set designs and everything in between.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNew minimalism : decluttering and design for sustainable, intentional living / Cary Telander Fortin + Kyle Louise Quilici ; photography by Kelly Ishikawa.
“This book promises an opportunity for self-reflection and lasting change, by getting to the bottom of why we’ve accumulated too much stuff in the first place, therefore allowing us to transform our lives. Professional decluttering and design team Cary and Kyle of New Minimalism will take you through every step, from assessing your emotional relationship to your stuff to decluttering your home to then turning it into a beautifully designed space that feels clean and tidy without feeling sparse or prescriptive.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe sewing book / Alison Smith.
“250 step-by-step techniques will guide you whether you are sewing clothes, making soft furnishings, or doing alterations. Master hand and machine sewing with close-up photographs and clear instructions to demystify even the trickiest techniques, and choose from 15 stylish projects to practise your sewing skills. Every project is brand new for this updated edition of the ultimate sewing bible, with 5 new sewing techniques now added. With in-depth coverage of sewing tools, techniques, and fabric, this is the ultimate sewing resource for beginners, students, and seasoned stitchers alike.” (Syndetics summary)

Interesting new non-fiction books

Beginning with Why Things Are Better Than You Think, and ending with In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It, the books in between look at the poverty of the working class, the increasing inequality suffered by the middle class, and many others.

Syndetics book coverFactfulness : Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
“When asked simple questions about global trends– what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school –we systematically get the answers wrong. In Factfulness, Hans Rosling offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases. It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe new urban crisis : how our cities are increasing inequality, deepening segregation, and failing the middle class– and what we can do about it / Richard Florida.
“In recent years, the young, educated, and affluent have surged back into cities, reversing decades of suburban flight and urban decline. And yet all is not well, Richard Florida argues in The New Urban Crisis. Florida demonstrates how the same forces that power the growth of the world’s superstar cities also generate their vexing challenges: gentrification, unaffordability, segregation, and inequality. Meanwhile, many more cities still stagnate, and middle-class neighborhoods everywhere are disappearing. Our winner-take-all cities are just one manifestation of a profound crisis in today’s urbanized knowledge economy.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMeet the Frugalwoods : achieving financial independence through simple living / Elizabeth Willard Thames.
“In 2014, Liz Thames and her husband, Nate, were conventional young urban professionals working nine-to-five jobs. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day–as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends–they enacted a plan to save as much money as they could. In less than three years, Liz and Nate reached their goal. Today they are financially independent and living out their dream with their young daughters on a sixty-six acre homestead in the woods of Vermont.” (adapted from book cover)

Syndetics book coverBroke and patriotic : why poor Americans love their country / Francesco Duina.
“Why are poor Americans so patriotic? They have significantly worse social benefits compared to other Western nations, and studies show that the American Dream of upward mobility is, for them, largely a myth. So why do these people love their country? Why have they not risen up to demand more from a system that is failing them? In Broke and Patriotic, Francesco Duina contends that the best way to answer these questions is to speak directly to America’s most impoverished. Spending time in bus stations, Laundromats, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, public libraries, and fast food restaurants, Duina conducted over sixty revealing interviews in which his participants explain how they view themselves and their country.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover“We are all fast-food workers now” : the global uprising against poverty wages / Annelise Orleck.
“Tracing a new labor movement sparked and sustained by low-wage workers from across the globe, We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now is an urgent, illuminating look at globalization as seen through the eyes of workers-activists: small farmers, fast-food servers, retail workers, hotel housekeepers, home-healthcare aides, airport workers, and adjunct professors who are fighting for respect, safety, and a living wage. With original photographs by Liz Cooke and drawing on interviews with activists in many US cities and countries around the world, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mexico, South Africa, and the Philippines, it features stories of resistance and rebellion, as well as reflections on hope and change as it rises from the bottom up.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe patterning instinct : a cultural history of humanity’s search for meaning / Jeremy Lent.
“Taking the reader on an archaeological exploration of the mind, the author, an entrepreneur and sustainability leader, uses recent findings in cognitive science and systems theory to reveal the hidden layers of values that form today’s cultural norms. By shining a light on our possible futures, the book foresees a coming struggle between two contrasting views of humanity: one driving to a technological endgame of artificially enhanced humans, the other enabling a sustainable future arising from our intrinsic connectedness with each other and the natural world. This struggle, it concludes, is one in which each of us will play a role through the meaning we choose to forge from the lives we lead.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe line becomes a river / Francisco Cantú.
“Cantú: the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Haunted by the landscape of his youth, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners are posted to remote regions crisscrossed by drug routes and smuggling corridors, where they learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Cantú tries not to think where the stories go from there. Plagued by nightmares, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the whole story.” (adapted from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverMicrotrends Squared : The New Small Forces Driving the Big Disruptions Today
“Ten years after his bestseller Microtrends, Mark Penn identifies the next wave of trends reshaping the future of business, politics, and culture. Mark Penn has boldly argued that the future is not shaped by society’s broad forces but by quiet changes within narrow slices of the population. Ten years ago, he showed how the behavior of one small group can exert an outsized influence over the whole of America. Today, the world is in perplexing upheaval, and microtrends are more influential than ever.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe doomsday machine : confessions of a nuclear war planner / Daniel Ellsberg.
“Here, for the first time, former high level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking first-hand account of America’s nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization–and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration–threatens our very survival.” (adapted from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverHow we met : the ways great love begins… / Michèle A’Court.
How We Met is based on a collection of ‘How We Met’ stories – those lovely stories couples love to tell (and we all love to hear) about how they got together. The author’s theory: that these stories of how couples meet – the romantic, absurd, serendipitous, convoluted, scandalous, breath-taking moments of connection – help to weave their lives together. Partly as ‘proof’ that they were meant to begin this couple-journey, and also because in each retelling they go back to those first falling-in-love feelings and rekindle the passion.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn conclusion, don’t worry about it / Lauren Graham.
If you’re kicking yourself for not having accomplished all you should have by now, don’t worry about it. Even without any ‘big’ accomplishments yet to your name, you are enough.
In this expansion of the 2017 commencement speech she gave at her hometown Langley High, Lauren Graham, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, reflects on growing up, pursuing your dreams, and living in the here and now.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Pessimists and optimists: New non-fiction

Image from Syndetics

From the pessimist view to the optimistic one, books with all manner of viewpoints appear in this months’ choices.

Syndetics book coverBooks that changed history / contributors, Father Michael Collins with Alexandra Black [and 3 others].
“Turn the pages of the most famous books of all time and marvel at the stories behind them. Over 75 of the world’s most celebrated, rare, and seminal books are examined and explained in this stunning treasury. Books That Changed History is a unique encyclopedia spanning the history of the written word, from 3000 BCE to the modern day. Chronological chapters show the evolution of human knowledge and the changing ways in which books are made…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRevolution / Emmanuel Macron ; translated by Jonathan Goldberg and Juliette Scott.
“In Revolution, Emmanuel Macron, the youngest president in the history of France, reveals his personal story and his inspirations, and discusses his vision of France and its future in a new world that is undergoing a ‘great transformation’ that has not been known since the Renaissance. This is a remarkable book that seeks to lay the foundations for a new society–a compelling testimony and statement of values by an important political leader who has become the flag-bearer for a new kind of politics.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe world of the book / Des Cowley and Clare Williamson.
“All earthly existence must ultimately be contained in a book.’French poet Stephane Mallarme understood that books hold the world’s stories. From the earliest known myths and legends to postmodern fictions, books are mirrors of real worlds, windows into imagined worlds and keepers of powerful ideas. Beautifully illustrated, The World of the Book is a celebration of this age-old tradition drawing upon the rare collections of the State Library of Victoria…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDestined for war : can America and China escape Thucydides’s trap? / Graham Allison.
“CHINA AND THE UNITED STATES ARE HEADING TOWARD A WAR NEITHER WANTS. The reason is Thucydides’s Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times. War broke out in twelve of them. Today, as an unstoppable China approaches an immovable America and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries “great again,” the seventeenth case looks grim…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDo we need economic inequality? / Danny Dorling.
“In this original new book, Danny Dorling critically analyses historical trends and contemporary assumptions in order to question the idea that inequality is an inevitability. What if, he asks, widespread economic inequality is actually just a passing phase, a feature of the capitalist transition from a settled rural way of life to our next highly urban steady-state? Is it really likely that we face a Blade Runner -style dystopian future divided between a tiny elite and an impoverished mass? Dorling shows how a stabilising population, changing gender relations and rising access to education make a more egalitarian alternative to this nightmare vision not only preferable, but realistic. This bold contribution to one of most significant debates of our time will be essential reading for anyone interested in our economic, social and political destiny.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArtificial intelligence : the quest for the ultimate thinking machine / Richard Urwin.
“What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? What can it do and how is it created? In this highly accessible guide to the subject, Richard Urwin bases his assessment of AI on the definition of AI as a tool that is ‘constructed to aid or substitute for human thought’. He explains how AI came about, the importance of the development of the computer and then examines how AI has developed over the years through the construction of computer programs and how the language used to construct these programs has become more and more sophisticated, thus allowing AI to become better and better.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe End of Old Age
“In this revolutionary book, Dr Marc Agronin explores the new reality of old age: that aging is not ‘old age’, but a life force with struggles and triumphs, losses and gifts, and a chance to live well. As one of America’s leading geriatric psychiatrists, Dr Agronin sees both the sickest and healthiest of senior members of society; he observes what makes their lives better and more purposeful, and what doesn’t. The latest scientific research and Dr Agronin’s first-hand experience are brilliantly and often movingly distilled in The End of Old Age…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAutomating Inequality : How High-tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor
“Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change. Today, automated systems–rather than humans–control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA lab of one’s own : science and suffrage in the First World War / Patricia Fara.
“Understanding the past is crucial for improving the future, and Patricia Fara examines how inherited prejudices continue to limit women’s scientific opportunities. Suffragists aligned themselves with scientific and technological progress. Defying arguments about intellectual inferiority and child-bearing responsibilities, during the War they won support by mobilising women to enter conventionally male domains, including science, industry, medicine, and the military…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe growth delusion : wealth, poverty, and the well-being of nations / David Pilling.
“…Ultimately, it is the perceived health of the economy which determines how much we can spend on our schools, highways, and defense; economists decide how much unemployment is acceptable and whether it is right to print money or bail out profligate banks. The backlash we are currently witnessing suggests that people are turning against the experts and their faulty understanding of our lives. Despite decades of steady economic growth, many citizens feel more pessimistic than ever, and are voting for candidates who voice undisguised contempt for the technocratic elite…” (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverCollusion : secret meetings, dirty money, and how Russia helped Donald Trump win / Luke Harding.
“December 2016. [the author] and former Moscow bureau chief, quietly meets former MI6 officer Christopher Steele in a London pub to discuss President-elect Donald Trump’s Russia connections. A month later, Steele’s now-famous dossier sparks what may be the biggest scandal of the modern era… Drawing on new material and his expert understanding of Moscow and its players, [the author] takes the reader through every bizarre and disquieting detail of the ‘Trump-Russia’ story–an event so huge it involves international espionage, off-shore banks, sketchy real estate deals, the Miss Universe pageant, mobsters, money laundering, poisoned dissidents, computer hacking, and the most shocking election in American history.” (adapted from back cover)

New non-fiction books for interesting reading during the holiday season

Some interesting new books for the holidays, beginning with the whimsical I’d rather be reading.

Syndetics book coverI’d rather be reading : a library of art for book lovers / by Guinevere de la Mare ; with essays by Maura Kelly, Ann Patchett, and Gretchen Rubin.
“In this visual ode to all things bookish, readers will get lost in page after page of contemporary art, photography, and illustrations depicting the pleasures of books. Artwork from the likes of Jane Mount, Lisa Congdon, Julia Rothman, and Sophie Blackall is interwoven with text from essayist Maura Kelly, bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, and award-winning author and independent bookstore owner Ann Patchett.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMythos : a retelling of the myths of Ancient Greece / Stephen Fry.
“The Greek myths are amongst the greatest stories ever told, passed down through millennia and inspiring writers and artists as varied as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, James Joyce and Walt Disney. They are embedded deeply in the traditions, tales and cultural DNA of the West. You’ll fall in love with Zeus, marvel at the birth of Athena, wince at Cronus and Gaia’s revenge on Ouranos, weep with King Midas and hunt with the beautiful and ferocious Artemis. Spellbinding, informative and moving, Stephen Fry’s Mythos perfectly captures these stories for the modern age – in all their rich and deeply human relevance.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTotal cat mojo : the ultimate guide to life with your cat / Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado and Bobby Rock.
“This comprehensive cat care guide from the star of the hit Animal Planet show “My Cat from Hell,” Jackson Galaxy, shows us how to eliminate feline behavioral problems by understanding cats’ instinctive behavior. Cat Mojo is the confidence that cats exhibit when they are at ease in their environment and in touch with their natural instincts–to hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, and sleep. Problems such as litter box avoidance and aggression arise when cats lack this confidence. Jackson Galaxy’s number one piece of advice to his clients is to help their cats harness their mojo. This book is his most comprehensive guide yet to cat behavior and basic cat care, rooted in understanding cats better. ” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverThe best of A. A. Gill / A. A. Gill.
“For over twenty years, people turned to A. A. Gill’s columns every Sunday – for his fearlessness, his perception, and the laughter-and-tear-provoking one-liners – but mostly because he was the best. …This is the definitive collection ofa voice that was silenced too early but that can still make us look at the world in new and surprising ways… Wherever he was – at home or abroad – he found the human story, brought it to vivid life, and rendered it with fierce honesty and bracing compassion. And he was just as truthful about himself. …it will be by turns hilarious, uplifting, controversial, unflinching, sad, funny and furious.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA glorious freedom : older women leading extraordinary lives / Lisa Congdon.
“The glory of growing older is the freedom to be more truly ourselves–with age we gain the liberty to pursue bold new endeavors and worry less about what other people think. In this richly illustrated volume, bestselling author and artist Lisa Congdon explores the power of women over the age of forty who are thriving and living life on their own terms. Profiles, interviews, and essays from women–including Vera Wang, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, Cheryl Strayed, and many more–who’ve found creative fulfillment and accomplished great things in the second half of their lives are lavishly illustrated and hand-lettered in Congdon’s signature style.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAustralian midwives / Paula Heelan.
“Sweet, funny and sometimes sad, these stories share what it is to be an Australian midwife in remote areas where resources are limited. A moving and celebratory collection of tales that brings you close to the drama and wonder of birth. Each of the thirteen midwives in this book work in extreme locations with few resources, but armed with only courage and skill, they regularly save lives and birth babies in difficult circumstances –on an airstrip, a cattle station, a dinghy (knee-deep in water with a wary eye out for the local croc), a troop-carrier or in the face of a cyclone. These stories are a tribute to both the skill of the midwives and the courage of the mothers. For these women, midwifery is not just a job – it’s a committed and passionate way of life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIt’s alive! : artificial intelligence from the logic piano to killer robots / Toby Walsh.
“The development of thinking machines is an adventure as bold and ambitious as any that humans have attempted. And the truth is that Artificial Intelligence is already an indispensable part of our daily lives. Without it, Google wouldn’t find out whatever you need to know. Your smartphone would be… just a phone. In countless ways AI has made the world what it is today. But where will AI technologies take us in the future? We know they will continue to change society, but how? Will AI destroy our jobs? Could it even pose an existential threat? What should we be doing now to prepare for the future?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAlibaba’s world : how a remarkable Chinese company is changing the face of global business / Porter Erisman.
“In September 2014, a Chinese company that most Americans had never heard of held the largest IPO in history – bigger than Google, Facebook and Twitter combined. Alibaba, now the world’s largest e-commerce company, mostly escaped Western notice for over ten years, while building a customer base more than twice the size of Amazon’s, and handling the bulk of e-commerce transactions in China. How did it happen? And what was it like to be along for such a revolutionary ride?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow language began : the story of humanity’s greatest invention / Daniel L. Everett.
“Mankind has a distinct advantage over other terrestrial species: we talk to one another. But how did we acquire the most advanced form of communication on Earth? Daniel L. Everett provides in this sweeping history a comprehensive examination of the evolutionary story of language, from the earliest speaking attempts by hominids to the more than seven thousand languages that exist today. Based on nearly forty years of fieldwork, Everett debunks long-held theories by some of history’s greatest thinkers, from Plato to Chomsky. The result is an invaluable study of what makes us human.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChristmas : a biography / Judith Flanders.
“Christmas has always been a magical time. Or has it? Thirty years after the first recorded Christmas, the Pope was already warning that too many people were spending the day, not in worship, but in partying and eating to excess. By 1616, the playwright Ben Jonson was nostalgically remembering Christmas in the old days, certain that it had been better then. Judith Flanders casts a sharp eye on myths, legends and history, deftly moving from the origins of the holiday in the Roman empire, through Christmas trees in central Europe, to what might be the first appearance of Santa Claus – in Switzerland – to draw a picture of the season as it has never been seen before.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPost-war childhood : growing up in the not-so-friendly “Baby Boomer” years / Simon Webb.
“Many British baby boomers are very nostalgic about a supposed golden age; a vanished world when children were generally freer, happier and healthier than they are now. They wandered about all day; only returning home at teatime when they were hungry. Simon Webb presents a ‘warts and all’ portrait of British childhood in the years following the end of the Second World War. He demonstrates that contrary to popular belief, it was by any measure a far more hazardous and less pleasant time to be a child, than is the case in the twenty-first century.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHighbrow, lowbrow, brilliant, despicable : 50 years of New York / by the editors of New York magazine ; writer & historian, Christopher Bonanos.
“The great story of New York City in the past half-century has been its near collapse and miraculous rebirth. A battered town left for dead, one that almost a million people abandoned and where those who remained had to live behind triple deadbolt locks, was reinvigorated by the twinned energies of starving artists and financial white knights. Since its founding in 1968, New York Magazine has told the story of that city’s constant morphing, week after week. Covering culture high and low, the drama and scandal of politics and finance, through jubilant moments and immense tragedies, the magazine has hit readers where they live, with a sensibility as fast and funny and urbane as New York itself.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

New popular nonfiction for perfect summer reading!

Some fascinating books this time, about sea level rise, AI, conservatism and more!
And to end, two very different life stories: that of a young black man Michael A., and that of James Jesus Angleton, CIA spymaster.

Syndetics book coverThe water will come : rising seas, sinking cities, and the remaking of the civilized world / Jeff Goodell.
“Across the globe, scientists and civilians alike are noticing rapidly rising sea levels, and higher and higher tides pushing more water directly into the places we live, from our most vibrant, historic cities to our last remaining traditional coastal villages. With each crack in the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica, and each tick upwards of Earth’s thermometer, we are moving closer to the brink of broad disaster. The Water Will Come is the definitive account of the coming water, why and how this will happen, and what it will all mean…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDemocracy’s detectives : the economics of investigative journalism / James T. Hamilton.
“In democratic societies, investigative journalism holds government and private institutions accountable to the public. From firings and resignations to changes in budgets and laws, the impact of this reporting can be significant–but so too are the costs. As newspapers confront shrinking subscriptions and advertising revenue, who is footing the bill for journalists to carry out their essential work? …Hamilton chronicles a remarkable record of investigative journalism’s real-world impact, showing how a single dollar invested in a story can generate hundreds of dollars in social benefits.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMachines that think : everything you need to know about the coming age of artificial intelligence.
“You might not realise it, but you interact with AIs every day. They route your phone calls, approve your credit card transactions and help your doctor interpret results. Driverless cars will soon be on the roads with a decision-making computer in charge. But how do machines actually think and learn? In Machines That Think, AI experts and New Scientist explore how artificial intelligence helps us understand human intelligence, machines that compose music and write stories – and ask if AI is really a threat” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAge of discovery : navigating the risks and rewards of our second renaissance / Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna.
“The present is a contest between the bright and dark sides of discovery. To avoid being torn apart by its stresses, we need to recognize the fact-and gain courage and wisdom from the past. Age of Discovery shows how. Now is the best moment in history to be alive, but we have never felt more anxious or divided. Human health, aggregate wealth and education are flourishing. Scientific discovery is racing forward. But the same global flows of trade, capital, people and ideas that make gains possible for some people deliver big losses to others-and make us all more vulnerable to one another…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe reactionary mind : conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump / Corey Robin.
“In The Reactionary Mind, Robin traces conservatism back to its roots in the reaction against the French Revolution. He argues that the right was inspired, and is still united, by its hostility to emancipating the lower orders. Some conservatives endorse the free market; others oppose it. Some criticize the state; others celebrate it. Underlying these differences is the impulse to defend power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality — while simultaneously making populist appeals to the masses.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSlums : the history of a global injustice / Alan Mayne.
“More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and a billion of these urban dwellers reside in neighborhoods of entrenched disadvantage–neighborhoods that are characterized as slums. Slums are often seen as a debilitating and even subversive presence within society. In reality, though, it is public policies that are often at fault, not the people who live in these neighborhoods…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWake up : the nine h#shtags of digital disruption / David Fagan.
“Your essential guide to the biggest revolution of the past century. David Fagan was at the forefront of this revolution as he helped take one of Australia’s largest media organisations from print to digital. In Wake Up, he explores the challenges and opportunities of the digital age from his position on the front line. He chronicles the rise of social media, online shopping, the Uber and Airbnb phenomena and the upending of traditional industries. Fagan observes the big emerging trends and examines the technologies leading this change, as the arrival of robots and artificial intelligence affects the way we live, work and play. If you haven’t been paying attention, now is the time to wake up.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGhosts of the tsunami : death and life in Japan’s disaster zone / Richard Lloyd Parry.
“On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of northeast Japan. Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. He found himself drawn back again and again to a village that had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own. What really happened to the local children as they waited in the schoolyard in the moments before the tsunami? Why did their teachers not evacuate them to safety? And why was the unbearable truth being so stubbornly covered up?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCuz : or, the life and times of Michael A / Danielle Allen.
“Aged 15 and living in LA, Michael Allen was arrested for a botched carjacking. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to thirteen years behind bars. After growing up in prison Michael was then released aged 26, only to be murdered three years later.
In this deeply personal yet clear-eyed memoir, Danielle Allen reconstructs her cousin’s life to try and understand how this tragedy was the end result. We become intimate with Michael’s experience, from his first steps to his first love, and with the events of his arrest, his coming of age in prison, and his attempts to make up for lost time after his release. We learn what it’s like to grow up in a city carved up by invisible gang borders; and we learn how a generation has been lost.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe ghost : the secret life of CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton / Jefferson Morley.
“CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton was one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States government in the mid-20th century, a ghost of American power. From World War II to the Cold War, Angleton operated beyond the view of the public, Congress, and even the president. He unwittingly shared intelligence secrets with Soviet spy Kim Philby. He launched mass surveillance by opening the mail of hundreds of thousands of Americans. He abetted a scheme to aid Israel’s own nuclear efforts, disregarding U.S. security. He committed perjury and obstructed the JFK assassination investigation. He oversaw a massive spying operation on the antiwar and black nationalist movements and he initiated an obsessive search for communist moles that nearly destroyed the Agency.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

“Water” you waiting for? Check out these new non-fiction books!

This month: the hot topic of water, and just how lucky are we?

Syndetics book coverThe origin of others / Toni Morrison ; with a foreword by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“America’s foremost novelist reflects on the themes that preoccupy her work and increasingly dominate national and world politics: race, fear, borders, the mass movement of peoples, the desire for belonging. What is race and why does it matter? What motivates the human tendency to construct Others? Why does the presence of Others make us so afraid? Drawing on her Norton Lectures, Toni Morrison takes up these and other vital questions bearing on identity in The Origin of Others. National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates provides a foreword to Morrison’s most personal work of nonfiction to date.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStorming the wall : climate change, migration, and homeland security / Todd Miller.
“In Storming the Wall, Todd Miller travels around the world to connect the dots between climate-ravaged communities, the corporations cashing in on border militarization, and emerging movements for environmental justice and sustainability. Reporting from the flashpoints of climate clashes, and from likely sites of futures battles, Miller chronicles a growing system of militarized divisions between the rich and the poor, the environmentally secure and the environmentally exposed. Stories of crisis, greed and violence are juxtaposed with powerful examples of solidarity and hope in this urgent and timely message from the frontlines of the post-Paris Agreement era.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverNomadland : surviving America in the twenty-first century / Jessica Bruder.
“Employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves “workampers.” In a secondhand vehicle she christens “Van Halen,” Jessica Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy–one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us.” (adapted from book cover)

Syndetics book coverOne another’s equals : the basis of human equality / Jeremy Waldron.
“Waldron argues that there is no single characteristic that serves as the basis of equality. He says the case for moral equality rests on four capacities that all humans have the potential to possess in some degree: reason, autonomy, moral agency, and ability to love. But how should we regard the differences that people display on these various dimensions? And what are we to say about those who suffer from profound disability–people whose claim to humanity seems to outstrip any particular capacities they have along these lines? Waldron, who has worked on the nature of equality for many years, confronts these questions and others fully and unflinchingly.” (adapted from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverHit refresh : the quest to rediscover Microsoft’s soul and imagine a better future for everyone / Satya Nadella with Greg Shaw and Jill Tracie Nichols.
Hit Refresh is about individual change, the transformation happening inside Microsoft, and the arrival of the most exciting and disruptive wave of technology humankind has experienced–including artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and quantum computing. It examines how people, organizations, and societies can and must transform, how they must ‘hit refresh’ in their persistent quest for new energy, new ideas, and continued relevance and renewal. Yet at its core, it’s about humans and how one of our essential qualities–empathy–will become ever more valuable in a world where technological advancement will alter the status quo as never before.” (adapted from book cover)

Syndetics book coverAmericana : a 400-year history of American capitalism / Bhu Srinivasan.
“In a winning, accessible style, Bhu Srinivasan boldly takes on four centuries of American enterprise and reveals the unexpected connections that link them. We learn how Andrew Carnegie’s early job as a telegraph messenger boy paved the way for his leadership of the steel empire that would make him one of the nation’s richest men; how the gunmaker Remington reinvented itself in the postwar years to sell typewriters; how the inner workings of the Mafia mirrored the trend of consolidation and regulation in more traditional business; and how a 1950s infrastructure bill triggered a series of events that produced one of America’s most enduring brands: KFC.” (adapted from book cover)

Syndetics book coverWe were eight years in power : an American tragedy / Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“‘We were eight years in power’ was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s ‘first white president.’ This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period–and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history.” (adapted from book jacket)

Syndetics book coverBitch doctrine : essays for dissenting adults / Laurie Penny.
“Smart and provocative, witty and uncompromising, this collection of Laurie Penny’s celebrated essays establishes her as one of the most important and vibrant political voices of our time. Bitch Doctrine takes an unflinching look at the definitive issues of our age, from the shock of Donald Trump’s election and the victories of the far right to online harassment and the transgender rights movement.” (Amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverRefuge : rethinking refugee policy in a changing world / Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.
“Global refugee numbers are at their highest levels since the end of World War II, but the system in place to deal with them, based upon a humanitarian list of imagined “basic needs,” has changed little. In Refuge, Paul Collier and Alexander Betts argue that the system fails to provide a comprehensive solution to the fundamental problem, which is how to reintegrate displaced people into society. The numbers are stark: the average length of stay in a refugee camp worldwide is 17 years. Into this situation comes the Syria crisis, which has dislocated countless families, bringing them to face an impossible choice: huddle in dangerous urban desolation, rot in dilapidated camps, or flee across the Mediterranean to increasingly unwelcoming governments.” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverThey can’t kill us all : the story of the struggle for Black lives / Wesley Lowery.
“A deeply reported book that brings alive the quest for justice in the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray, offering both unparalleled insight into the reality of police violence in America and an intimate, moving portrait of those working to end it. By posing the question, “What does the loss of any one life mean to the rest of the nation?” Lowery examines the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighborhoods with failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and too few jobs.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTwilight of the money gods : economics as a religion and how it all went wrong / John Rapley.
“Imagine one day you went to a cash-machine and found your money was gone. You rushed to your branch, where a teller said that overnight people had stopped believing in money, and it all vanished. Seem incredible? It happened, and it could happen again. Twilight of the Money Gods is the story of economics, told not as the science it strove to be, but as the religion it became. Today, amid a crisis of faith in their expertise, we must re-imagine an economics for a new era – one filled with both danger and opportunity.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Water: quality and ownership / W.F. Benfield.
“New Zealand is fortunate in having a high quality water resource. It has fuelled an agricultural revolution where production has taken precedence over management of resources. In a world where clean water is becoming a scarce resource, we must protect ours for a nation’s future wellbeing. That is why urgent steps must be taken to address the issue of pollution of water by agricultural contamination and urban waste. The book also covers claims to “ownership” of New Zealand’s waters – from the bottling companies that take water from aquifers to make fortunes selling it overseas to demands by the Iwi Leaders Group to take ownership of a natural resource that falls from the sky. These issues have to be addressed and this book is an important step in that direction. ” (Back cover)

Sneak in some reading time for these new books on politics & spies

From well-heeled suffragettes to the undercover ‘Contractor’, real fashion victims and ‘What Happened’ by Hillary Rodham Clinton, there is a mix of book on politics, spies and victims in this month’s non-fiction picks.

Image from fishpond.co.nzThe contractor : 6 true tales of counter terrorism / as told to Mark Abernethy.
‘I fix things. I can build you a house or remodel your bathroom. I can also make bad situations – and bad people – disappear.’ Meet Mike. Runs a building site, drives a ute, likes a beer, loves his nail-gun. But Mike is hiding in plain sight. When the Pentagon call him in as ‘Big Unit’, he’s another kind of contractor – one as handy with a Colt M4 as he is with a Skilsaw, a man as accustomed to danger, death, and pain as he is to a hammer and nails. In six action-packed true stories we follow a man who left foreign intelligence for a life ‘on the tools’, only to discover there’s too many dangerous scenarios and terrible people still out there.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe anatomy of a traitor : a history of espionage and betrayal / Michael Smith.
“In this compelling investigation, Michael Smith explores the critical moment in a spy’s life: that split-second decision to embrace a double life; to cheat and hide and hurt; to risk disgrace – even death – without any guarantee of being rewarded or even recognised. Through in-depth insider knowledge, Michael Smith also uncovers new and unknown cases, including ISIS, President Trump’s links with Russia and Edward Snowden’s role as a whistleblower to offer compelling psychological portrait of these men and women, homing unerringly on the fault-lines and shady corners of their characters, their weaknesses and their strengths, the lies they tell other people, and the lies they always end up telling themselves.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAgent M : the lives and spies of MI5’s Maxwell Knight / Henry Hemming.
“Maxwell Knight was perhaps the greatest spymaster in history, rumored to be the real-life inspiration for the James Bond character “M.” He did more than anyone in his era to combat the rising threat of fascism in Britain during World War II, in spite of his own history inside this movement. He was also truly eccentric–a thrice-married jazz aficionado who kept a menagerie of exotic pets–and almost totally unqualified for espionage. Yet he had a gift for turning practically anyone into a fearless secret agent. Knight’s work revolutionized British intelligence, pioneering the use of female agents, among other accomplishments. Drawing on original sources, Agent M reveals not only the story of one of the world’s greatest intelligence operators, but the sacrifices and courage required to confront fascism during a nation’s darkest time.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGame of thorns : the inside story of Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign and Donald Trump’s winning strategy / Doug Wead.
“This first authoritative account of the precipitous fall of Hillary Clinton and the rise of Donald Trump describes how the scandals of a lifetime finally reached critical mass for both candidates, though with differing results. It shows how, during the last few days of the campaign, some on Clinton’s staff saw the ghostly fog of defeat creeping up on them but were helpless to act, frozen by the self-denial.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFashion victims : the dangers of dress past and present / Alison Matthews David.
“From insidious murder weapons to blaze-igniting crinolines, clothing has been the cause of death, disease and madness throughout history, by accident and design. Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally ‘drop-dead gorgeous’ gowns. Fabulously gory and gruesome, Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women’s, men’s and children’s dress, in myth and reality.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGilded suffragists : the New York socialites who fought for women’s right to vote / Johanna Neuman.
“In the early twentieth century over two hundred of New York’s most glamorous socialites joined the suffrage movement. Their names–Astor, Belmont, Rockefeller, Tiffany, Vanderbilt, Whitney and the like–carried enormous public value. These women were the media darlings of their day because of the extravagance of their costume balls and the opulence of the French couture clothes, and they leveraged their social celebrity for political power, turning women’s right to vote into a fashionable cause… In the end, as Neuman says, when change was in the air, these women helped push women’s suffrage over the finish line.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDemocracy and its crisis / A. C. Grayling.
“Prompted by the EU referendum in the UK and the presidential election in the USA, A. C. Grayling investigates why the institutions of representative democracy seem unable to hold up against forces they were designed to manage, and why, crucially, it matters. With the advent of authoritarian leaders and the simultaneous rise of populism, representative democracy appears to be caught between a rock and a hard place, yet it is this space that it must occupy, says Grayling, if a civilized society, that looks after all its people, is to flourish.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhat happened / Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAsia’s reckoning : China, Japan, and the fate of U.S. power in the Pacific century / Richard McGregor.
“Richard McGregor’s Asia’s Reckoning is a compelling account of the widening geopolitical cracks in a region that has flourished under an American security umbrella for more than half a century. The toxic rivalry between China and Japan, two Asian giants consumed with endless history wars and ruled by entrenched political dynasties, is threatening to upend the peace underwritten by Pax Americana since World War II. Combined with Donald Trump’s disdain for America’s old alliances and China’s own regional ambitions, east Asia is entering a new era of instability and conflict… (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA farewell to ice : a report from the Arctic / Peter Wadhams.
“Peter Wadhams has been studying ice first-hand since 1970, completing 50 trips to the world’s poles and observing for himself the changes over the course of nearly five decades. His conclusions are stark: the ice caps are melting. Following the hottest summer on record, sea ice in September 2016 was the thinnest in recorded history. There is now the probability that within a few years the North Pole will be ice-free for the first time in 10,000 years. A sobering but urgent and engaging book, A Farewell to Ice shows us ice’s role on our planet, its history, and the true dimensions of the current global crisis, offering readers concrete advice about what they can do, and what must be done.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)