New non-fiction books: from dragonslayers to nature wars, this month’s selections are extremely varied…..
Fractured times : culture and society in the twentieth century / Eric Hobsbawm.
“Hobsbawm examines the conditions that both created the flowering of the belle epoque and held the seeds of its disintegration: paternalistic capitalism, globalisation and the arrival of a mass consumer society.” (Book jacket)
Dragonslayers : from Beowulf to Saint George / author, Joseph A. McCullough ; illustrator, Peter Dennis.
“With its fiery breath, scaly armour, and baleful, malevolent stare, the dragon became the ultimate symbol of evil and corruption in European folklore and mythology. Often serving as a stand-in for Satan, or the power of evil gods, dragons spread death and hopelessness throughout the land. Only heroes of uncommon valour, courageousness, and purity could hope to battle these monsters and emerge victorious. Those that did became legends. They became dragonslayers. …” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Nature wars : the incredible story of how wildlife comebacks turned backyards into battlegrounds / Jim Sterba.
“In his latest, journalist Sterba (Frankie’s Place: A Love Story) provocatively and persuasively argues that just at the moment when humankind has distanced itself irrevocably from nature, its behavior patterns have put people in conflict with a natural world that they don’t know how to deal with. …Replete with statistics and a historical understanding of the cycles of humankind’s interaction with nature, Sterba tells of forests being cleared and animals hunted to extinction (until the conservation movement stepped in to curtail the damage), and people, already disconnected from the land, sprawled out into new artificial living arrangements that allowed “nuisance” animals to thrive. …(Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Data, a love story : how I gamed online dating to meet my match / Amy Webb.
“In this insightful, funny journey through online dating, Webb, a compulsively organized journalist and digital strategist, tries to find the perfect man by putting herself in his shoes. …Webb’s advice for dating both on and offline is insightful (and data-driven), and her descriptions of meddling family members, bad dates, and worse profiles are hilarious and familiar to anyone who’s tried dating online. …The story of her own experiment is funny, brutally honest, and inspirational even to the most hopeless dater. Agent: Suzanne Gluck and Erin Malone, William Morris Endeavor. (Jan. 31) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Phantom hitchhikers and other urban legends : the strange stories behind tall tales / Albert Jack.
“Jack (Red Herrings and White Elephants) unearths dozens of urban legends, conspiracy theories, weird tales, and entrenched celebrity gossip in this fun, fast-paced collection. Pegging the Internet as the main perpetrator in fostering the culture of hearsay that allows tall tales to thrive, he settles once and for all questions of whether Walt Disney’s body really is cryogenically preserved (it isn’t; in fact, his body met the opposite end: cremation) and whether Adolf Hitler had only one testicle. He also hypothesizes that there were actually two Robin Hoods and claims Captain Kidd wasn’t a pirate. …” Agent: Robert Smith, Robert Smith Literary Agency (U.K.). (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly) (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The road to Wigan Pier / George Orwell ; with a foreword by Victor Gollancz.
“George Orwell’s observations on the appalling living conditions of the unemployed of northern England in 1937, includes evaluations of middle class prejudice and apathy, and a criticism of socialism.” (Syndetics summary)
The International Bank of Bob : connecting our worlds one $25 kiva loan at a time / Bob Harris.
“While on assignment in Dubai to cover the world’s most luxurious hotels, Harris got sidetracked by the stories of the indentured immigrant laborers conscripted to build these palaces of opulence. Determined to do something to help the families of the working poor worldwide, he signed up with Kiva, an organization that allows individuals to lend money via the Internet to people in developing countries by providing microfinancing loans to small family businesses… Not content with merely helping from afar, Harris volunteered to tour the world and meet some of the Kiva recipients, and this is where the story really begins. Traveling to challenging and often war-torn places like Peru, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Beirut, Lebanon, he checks out the repair shops, furniture businesses, hair salons, yogurt makers, and livestock owners who have been made successful by the microloans, but, most important, he learns firsthand about their personal and political struggles and is deeply impacted by the lives of the new friends he makes along the way.–Siegfried, David Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Cancel the apocalypse : the new path to prosperity / Andrew Simms.
“The horsemen are galloping and there’s more than four. From climate change to financial meltdown, feral elites and social division, food crises and the peak and decline of oil, stressed water supplies and mass extinctions – it’s the age of the complex super system shock. Some sort of apocalypse seems inevitable. Can it be cancelled?These are real threats, but a great transition is in the air. History shows that human beings have an amazing ability to change and adapt. Once our basic needs are met, it’s not more voracious economic growth we need for quality of life, but a different way of organising our days, working lives and neighbourhoods. Cancel the Apocalypse shows how to put the ‘end times’ on hold and start really living.” (Syndetics summary)
Fundamentals of sustainable dwellings / Avi Friedman.
“Architect Friedman (McGill Univ., Canada) covers the principles of residential green buildings, addressing topics ranging from site location to building materials, heating and cooling systems, water efficiency, green roofs, and waste management. The author writes in a reader-friendly manner in layperson’s terms, includes many photographs and illustrations, and provides the basic principles that most architects and builders should know and hopefully follow. …. Each of the 13 chapters is punctuated with case studies relative to that particular topic. …. Summing Up: Recommended. Two-year technical program students, general readers, and professionals/practitioners. B. Rowe Michigan State UniversityCopyright American Library Association, used with permission.” (CHOICE) (adapted from Syndetics summary)
To save everything, click here : technology, solutionism, and the urge to fix problems that don’t exist / Evgeny Morozov.
“Our society is at a crossroads. Smart technology is transforming our world, making many aspects of our lives more convenient, efficient and – in some cases – fun. Better and cheaper sensors can now be embedded in almost everything, and technologies can log the products we buy and the way we use them. But, argues Evgeny Morozov, technology is having a more profound effect on us: it is changing the way we understand human society.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
A Good African story : how a small company built a global coffee brand / Andrew Rugasira.
“Since it was founded in 2003, Good African Coffee has helped thousands of farmers earn a decent living, send their children to school and escape a spiral of debt and dependence. Africa has received over $1 trillion in aid over the last 50 years and yet despite these inflows, the continent remains mired in poverty, disease and systemic corruption.” (Syndetics summary)
Plutopia : nuclear families, atomic cities, and the great Soviet and American plutonium disasters / Kate Brown.
“While many transnational histories of the nuclear arms race have been written, Kate Brown provides the first definitive account of the great plutonium disasters of the United States and the Soviet Union. In Plutopia, Brown draws on official records and dozens of interviews to tell the extraordinary stories of Richland, Washington and Ozersk, Russia – the first two cities in the world to produce plutonium. To contain secrets, American and Soviet leaders created plutopias – communities of nuclear families living in highly-subsidized, limited-access atomic cities. Fully employed and medically monitored, the residents of Richland and Ozersk enjoyed all the pleasures of consumer society, while nearby, migrants, prisoners, and soldiers were banned from plutopia – they lived in temporary “staging grounds” and often performed the most dangerous work at the plant. Brown shows that the plants’ segregation of permanent and temporary workers and of nuclear and non-nuclear zones created a bubble of immunity, where dumps and accidents were glossed over and plant managers freely embezzled and polluted. In four decades, the Hanford plant near Richland and the Maiak plant near Ozersk each issued at least 200 million curies of radioactive isotopes into the surrounding environment – equaling four Chernobyls – laying waste to hundreds of square miles and contaminating rivers, fields, forests, and food supplies. Because of the decades of secrecy, downwind and downriver neighbors of the plutonium plants had difficulty proving what they suspected, that the rash of illnesses, cancers, and birth defects in their communities were caused by the plants’ radioactive emissions. Plutopia was successful because in its zoned-off isolation it appeared to deliver the promises of the American dream and Soviet communism; in reality, it concealed disasters that remain highly unstable and threatening today…..” (adapted from Syndetics summary)