New non-fiction books

This time we have some books about politics, some books on economics, the anthropocene, and a cold war spy story for your reading pleasure!

Syndetics book coverWell, you did ask : why the UK voted to leave the EU / Michael Ashcroft & Kevin Culwick.
“The UK’s vote to leave the European Union shocked the world – not to mention many people in Britain. What it revealed about our country is at least as significant for the future of politics as Brexit itself. Drawing on more than two years of intensive research by Lord Ashcroft Polls, Well, You Did Ask explains how voters came to make the most momentous political decision of our time – how they saw the choice before them, what they made of the campaign, its personalities, claims and counterclaims – and why they ultimately chose to take the UK out of the EU. To think clearly about what the referendum result means, we first need to understand how it came about. The answers are in this book.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMove fast and break things : how Facebook, Google, and Amazon have cornered culture and what it means for all of us / Jonathan Taplin.
“Google. Amazon. Facebook. The modern world is defined by vast digital monopolies turning ever-larger profits. Those of us who consume the content that feeds them are farmed for the purposes of being sold ever more products and advertising. Those that create the content – the artists, writers and musicians – are finding they can no longer survive in this unforgiving economic landscape. But it didn’t have to be this way.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverScale : the universal laws of growth, innovation, sustainability, and the pace of life in organisms, cities, economies, and companies / Geoffrey West.
“Visionary physicist Geoffrey West is a pioneer in the field of complexity science, the science of emergent systems and networks… Fascinated by issues of aging and mortality, West applied the rigor of a physicist to the biological question of why we live as long as we do and no longer. The result was astonishing, and changed science, creating a new understanding of energy use and metabolism: West found that despite the riotous diversity in the sizes of mammals, they are all, to a large degree, scaled versions of each other… West’s work has been game changing for biologists, but then he made the even bolder move of exploring his work’s applicability…and applied…[it] to the business and social world.” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverRevolting! : how the establishment are undermining democracy and what they’re afraid of / Mick Hume.
“We live in strange days in the history of democracy. Every serious politician in the Western world supports it. Yet when the EU referendum and American election both delivered the ‘wrong’ result, elites changed the merit of the people’s will, and some even tried to block it. …And yet the answer will never be to impose limitations. Popular democracy must offer better choices, rather than removing choice altogether. It’s time to defend democracy and fight for more of it, with no ifs, buts or backtracks.” (adapted from book jacket)

Defiant Earth : the fate of humans in the anthropocene / Clive Hamilton.
“Humans have become so powerful that we are disrupting the functioning of the earth, to the point where scientists now consider we have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Clive Hamilton argues this forces us to rethink what kind of creature we humans are, and to acknowledge the power we still have to change the world for good.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover$uperhubs : how the financial elite and their networks rule our world / Sandra Navidi.
$UPERHUBS is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at how the world’s most powerful titans, the -superhubs- pull the levers of our global financial system. Combining insider’s knowledge with principles of network science, Sandra Navidi offers a startling new perspective on how superhubs build their powerful networks and how their decisions impact all our lives. $UPERHUBS reveals what happens at the exclusive, invitation-only platforms – The World Economic Forum in Davos, the meetings of the International Monetary Fund, think-tank gatherings and exclusive galas…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAdults in the room : my battle with Europe’s deep establishment / Yanis Varoufakis
“Varoufakis sparked one of the most spectacular and controversial battles in recent political history when, as finance minister of Greece, he attempted to re-negotiate his country’s relationship with the EU. Despite the mass support of the Greek people and the simple logic of his arguments, he succeeded only in provoking the fury of Europe’s political, financial and media elite. But the true story of what happened is almost entirely unknown. In this fearless account, Varoufakis reveals all: an extraordinary tale of brinkmanship, hypocrisy, collusion and betrayal that will shake the deep establishment to its foundations.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA little history of economics / Niall Kishtainy.
“What causes poverty? Are economic crises inevitable under capitalism? Is government intervention in an economy a helpful approach or a disastrous idea? The answers to such basic economic questions matter to everyone, yet the unfamiliar jargon and math of economics can seem daunting. This clear, accessible, and even humorous book is ideal for young readers new to economics and for all readers who seek a better understanding of the full sweep of economic history and ideas.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn the long run we are all dead : Keynesianism, political economy, and revolution / Geoff Mann.
“A groundbreaking debunking of moderate attempts to resolve financial crises. If, in liberal capitalism, political economy is the science of government, what is it for? Is it distributional, to realize the revolution without revolutionaries? Or is it to figure out how to forestall the revolution, to teach the masses to consent to remain poor? Keynesianism is the political economy that answers ‘yes’ on both counts: the solution to crisis-induced liberal anxiety since the French Revolution, an anxiety for which “political economy” seemed a cure. If the financial crisis of 2007-2008 briefly resurrected a Keynesian sensibility long declared dead, its reluctant radicalism finds itself renewed not because ‘Keynesian economics’ is palatable once more, but because the risks to “civilization” have posed themselves so aggressively it seems no one can afford not to listen”– Provided by publisher.

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… Florida, one of the first scholars to anticipate this back-to-the-city movement …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. …A bracingly original work of research and analysis, The New Urban Crisis offers a compelling diagnosis of our economic ills and a bold prescription for more inclusive cities capable of ensuring growth and prosperity for all.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe man with the poison gun : a Cold War spy story / Serhii Plokhy.
“In 1961, a KGB agent defected to West Germany. The 30-year-old man in police custody had papers in the name of an East German, Josef Lehmann, but claimed his real name was Bogdan Stashinsky, a citizen of the Soviet Union. On the orders of his KGB bosses, he had traveled on numerous occasions to Munich, where he singlehandedly tracked down and killed two enemies of the communist regime. He used a new, specially designed secret weapon–a spray pistol delivering liquid poison that, if fired into the victim’s face, killed without leaving any trace. In 1962, after spilling his secrets to the CIA, Stashinsky was put on trial in what would be the most publicized assassination case in Cold War history.” (Adapted from publisher’s description)

New Popular non-fiction books

Our first book this month follows a currently hot topic, that of gender bias in the workplace. Then follow some books on politics, including a wry take on the recent USA election, by author P. J. O’Rourke. We end with a good old fashioned Cold War spy story.

Syndetics book coverProgrammed inequality : how Britain discarded women technologists and lost its edge in computing / Marie Hicks.
“In 1944, Britain led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer industry was all but extinct. What happened in the intervening thirty years holds lessons for all post-industrial superpowers. In Programmed Inequality, Marie Hicks explores the story of labor feminization and gendered technocracy that undercut British efforts to computerize. That failure sprang from the government’s systematic neglect of its largest trained technical workforce simply because they were women. Hicks explains why, even today, possessing technical skill is not enough to ensure that women will rise to the top in science and technology fields.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow the hell did this happen? : the election of 2016 / P.J. O’Rourke.
“This election cycle was so absurd that celebrated political satirist, journalist, and die-hard Republican P. J. O’Rourke endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. As P.J. put it, “America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692. So why not put Hillary on the dunking stool?” In How the Hell Did This Happen?, P.J. brings his critical eye and inimitable voice to some seriously risky business. Following his come-to-Satan moment with Hillary and the Beginning of End Times in November, P.J. reckons with a new age: “America is experiencing a change in the nature of leadership. We’re getting rid of our leaders. And we’re starting at the top.”” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDemocracy for realists : why elections do not produce responsive government / Christopher H. Achen, Larry M. Bartels.
Democracy for Realists assails the romantic folk-theory at the heart of contemporary thinking about democratic politics and government, and offers a provocative alternative view grounded in the actual human nature of democratic citizens. Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels deploy a wealth of social-scientific evidence to show that the familiar ideal of thoughtful citizens steering the ship of state from the voting booth is fundamentally misguided. When parties are roughly evenly matched, elections often turn on irrelevant or misleading considerations such as economic spurts or downturns beyond the incumbents’ control; the outcomes are essentially random. Thus, voters do not control the course of public policy, even indirectly…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhat we do now : standing up for your values in Trump’s America / edited by Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians.
“This collection of essays by progressive leaders suggest actual strategies on how to move forward in resistance to a Trump administration.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUtopia for realists : how we can build the ideal world / Rutger Bregman ; translated from the Dutch by Elizabeth Manton.
“From one of Europe’s leading young thinkers, a brief history of utopia and a pragmatic manifesto for how to improve the lives of the 99 percent today. A majority of Americans report that they would take two extra weeks of vacation above two extra weeks of salary, half of all business professionals say that their work offers no meaning or significance, and nearly half of all American jobs are at a high risk of being usurped by machines. Meanwhile, after working all day at jobs we often dislike, we buy things we don’t need. Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian, reminds us it needn’t be this way-and in some places it isn’t.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover“Curbing catastrophe : natural hazards and risk reduction in the modern world / Timothy H. Dixon.
“What does Japan’s 2011 nuclear accident have in common with the 2005 flooding of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina? This thought-provoking book presents a compelling account of recent and historical disasters, both natural and human-caused, drawing out common themes and providing a holistic understanding of hazards, disasters and mitigation. The book shows how billions of dollars and countless lives could be saved by adopting longer-term thinking for infrastructure planning and building, and argues that better communication is vital in reducing global risks and preventing future catastrophes.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTo be a machine : adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers, and the futurists solving the modest problem of death / Mark O’Connell.
“Transhumanism is a movement pushing the limits of our biology–of our senses, intelligence, and life spans. It has been quietly exerting its influence on technology for decades, but in the last few years it has achieved critical mass, finding support among some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley and beyond. In To Be a Machine, journalist Mark O’Connell explores the staggering (and terrifying) possibilities that present themselves when you think of your body as an outmoded device. In investigating what it means to be a machine, he offers a surprising meditation of what it means to be human.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Times companion to 2016 / [edited by Ian Brunskill].
“… brings together some of the best articles – and photographs and graphics – published by The Times between September 2015 and August 2016. … a lively mix of news features and reportage, profiles and interviews, opinion columns and expert analysis.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverConnected world : from automated work to virtual wars : the future, by those who are shaping it / Philip Larrey.
“The world as we know it is changing. Driverless cars, drone deliveries and autonomous weapon systems are no longer the stuff of science fiction. But what’s next for technology and business, and what impact will it have on our society? In Connected World. Philip Larrey of the Pontifical Lateran University explores the consequences of the new digital age in conversation with an unparalleled set of global thought-leaders…..” (adapted from Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverThe man with the poison gun : a Cold War spy story / Serhii Plokhy.
“In the fall of 1961, KGB assassin Bogdan Stashinsky defected to West Germany. After spilling his secrets to the CIA, Stashinsky was put on trial in what would be the most publicized assassination case of the entire Cold War. The publicity stirred up by the Stashinsky case forced the KGB to change its modus operandi abroad and helped end the career of Aleksandr Shelepin, one of the most ambitious and dangerous Soviet leaders. Stashinsky’s story would inspire films, plays, and books–including Ian Fleming’s last James Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun. A thrilling tale of Soviet spy craft, complete with exploding parcels, elaborately staged coverups, double agents, and double crosses…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Some popular new non-fiction books for your reading pleasure

Some ‘better news’ books this time, beginning with The Fix. “Just when it looks like the world’s problems couldn’t get much worse, The Fix cuts through the gloom like a ray of sunshine” says Adam Grant. Find it, and more, in this month’s selections.

Syndetics book coverThe fix : how nations survive and thrive in a world in decline / Jonathan Tepperman.
“From immigration reform to energy resources, from political paralysis to inequality and extremism, we are beset by a raft of huge and seemingly insurmountable issues… What goes under-reported are the success stories. Here, taking ten of the most knotty issues we face today, Jonathan Tepperman examines unsung individuals’ bold and innovative attempts against all odds and expectations to solve some of the important problems governments have struggled with for decades. The solutions described in the book aren’t speculative: they’ve all already been tried, and they work. Controversial, provocative but always stimulating, Tepperman here offers a powerful, data-driven case for optimism.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAge is just a number : what a 97-year-old record-breaker can teach us about growing older / Charles Eugster with Matt Whyman.
“Retired dental surgeon Charles Eugster rekindled a love of competitive rowing he’d neglected for most of his adult life at the age of 63. He took up bodybuilding at the age of 87. And at the age of 95 he started sprinting for the first time in his life, becoming World Champion at 200m indoor and 400m outdoor. He is a world record holder for his age group in a number of sports, and has 40 Gold Medals for World Masters Rowing. In this book, Charles shares his journey and his passionate belief that growing older needn’t slow you down. And he shows his readers how taking on new challenges, learning new things, and improving your body as it ages is not only fun, but rewarding for the individual, and beneficial to society.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverProgress : ten reasons to look forward to the future / Johan Norberg.
“It’s on the televisions, in the papers and in our minds. Every day were bludgeoned by news of how bad everything is. Financial collapse, unemployment, growing poverty, environmental disasters, disease, hunger, war. But the rarely acknowledged reality is that the economic and social progress of the past few decades has been unprecedented and that by almost any index you care to identify, things are markedly better now than they have ever been for almost everyone alive. Examining official data from the worlds most trusted institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, political commentator Johan Norberg traces just how far we have come in tackling the greatest global problems.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHalf the sky : how to change the world / Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
“Two Pulitzer Prize winners issue a call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women in the developing world. They show that a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad and that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAttack of the 50 ft. women : how gender equality can save the world! / Catherine Mayer.
“Not a single country anywhere in the world has achieved gender equality. In more than a few countries, progress for women has stalled or is reversing. Voters in the United States chose a misogynist over a female candidate for President. Yet in many of these countries, the majority of politicians and business leaders profess to believe in gender equality-as well they might. One report predicts a boost to global GDP of GBP8.3 trillion by 2025 simply by making faster progress towards narrowing the gender gap…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe four-dimensional human : ways of being in the digital world / Laurence Scott.
“A constellation of everyday digital phenomena is rewiring our inner lives. We are increasingly coaxed from the three-dimensional containment of our pre-digital selves into a wonderful and eerie fourth dimension, a world of ceaseless communication, instant information and global connection. Our portals to this new world have been wedged open, and the silhouette of a figure is slowly taking shape. But what does it feel like to be four-dimensional? How do digital technologies influence the rhythms of our thoughts, the style and tilt of our consciousness? What new sensitivities and sensibilities are emerging with our exposure to the delights, sorrows and anxieties of a networked world? And how do we live in public, with these recoded private lives?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWe do things differently : the outsiders rebooting our world / Mark Stevenson.
“Our systems are failing. Old models – for education, healthcare and government, food production, energy supply – are creaking under the weight of modern challenges. As the world’s population heads towards 10 billion, it’s clear we need new approaches. Futurologist Mark Stevenson sets out to find them, across four continents. From Brazilian favelas to high tech Boston, from rural India to a shed inventor in England’s home counties, ‘We Do Things Differently’ travels the world to find the advance guard re-imagining our future.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMan of iron : Thomas Telford and the building of Britain / Julian Glover.
“The enthralling biography of the shepherd boy who changed the world with his revolutionary engineering and whose genius we still benefit from today… With his revolutionary vision, Telford invented the modern road and created the backbone of our national road network, tying England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales together, resulting in his being dubbed ‘The Colossus of Roads’. His elegant bridges are the greatest of the pre-twentieth century, the Menai Bridge a wonder of its time and our own while the famous Pontcysyllte aqueduct in Wales with its dramatic and alarming exposed heights is a UNESCO world heritage site and still a huge draw for tourists…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe master algorithm : how the quest for the ultimate learning machine will remake our world / Pedro Domingos.
Algorithms increasingly run our lives. They find books, movies, jobs, and dates for us, manage our investments, and discover new drugs. And in the world’s top research labs and universities, the race is on to invent the ultimate learning algorithm: one capable of discovering any knowledge from data, and doing anything we want, before we even ask. Pedro Domingos, one of the field’s leading lights, lifts the veil for the first time to give us a peek inside the learning machines that power Google, Amazon, and your smartphone. Step by step, he assembles a blueprint for the future universal learner – the Master Algorithm – and discusses what it means for you, and for the future of business, science, and society… (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe brain defense : murder in Manhattan and the dawn of neuroscience in America’s courtrooms / Kevin Davis.
“In 1991, the police were called to East 72nd St. in Manhattan, where a woman’s body had fallen from a twelfth-story window. The woman’s husband, Herbert Weinstein, soon confessed to having hit and strangled his wife after an argument, then dropping her body out of their apartment window to make it look like a suicide. Shortly after Weinstein was arrested, an MRI revealed a cyst the size of an orange on his brain’s frontal lobe, the part of the brain that governs judgment and impulse control. The Weinstein case marked the dawn of a new era in America’s courtrooms.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe kingdom of women : life, love and death in China’s hidden mountains / Choo WaiHong.
“This is one of the last matriarchal societies on earth, where the women hold power. They make the major decisions, control household finances, have rightful ownership of land and property and full rights to the children born to them. Most notably, the Mosuo practice something called ‘walking marriage’ where, from the age of 13, women can choose to take lovers – as many or as few as they wish – from men within the tribe. Choo Waihong discovered the Mosuo several years ago and lived with them for six years, becoming part of a Mosuo family and of the wider community – the only non-Mosuo to have ever done so. The story of her time in the remote mountains of China is both poignant and compelling: a vibrant glimpse into a way of life that teeters on the knife-edge of extinction.” (Syndetics summary)

Popular Non-Fiction books in March

Featured this month is From Bacteria to Bach and Back, a controversial, thought-provoking book about a new theory of the evolution of minds.

Syndetics book coverFrom bacteria to Bach and back : the evolution of minds / Daniel C. Dennett.
“A leading philosopher offers a major new account of the origins of the conscious mind that explores the deep interactions of evolution, brains, and human culture, demonstrating the role of culture in installing memes, including language, in the mind.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Brexit club : the inside story of the Leave campaign’s shock victory / Owen Bennett.
“From Boris Johnson to Nigel Farage; George Galloway to Michael Gove, the campaign to get the UK out of the EU brought together some of the most colourful characters in British politics. This once-in-a-generation opportunity to free the UK from the grip of Brussels saw egos put to one side and rivalries put on hold to push for a Leave vote in the EU referendum… Or did it?”

Syndetics book coverWhy I am not a feminist : a feminist manifesto. / Jessa Crispin.
“Are you a feminist? Do you believe women are human beings and that they deserve all the same rights as men? If so, then you are a feminist… Or are you? Is it really that simple? Outspoken cultural critic Jessa Crispin says somewhere along the way, the movement for female liberation sacrificed meaning for acceptance, and left us with a banal, polite, ineffectual pose that barely challenges the status quo. In this bracing, fiercely intelligent manifesto, she demands more- nothing less than the total dismantling of the system of oppression-and of what people currently think of as feminism.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEconomism : bad economics and the rise of inequality / James Kwak ; foreword by Simon Johnson.
“Outlines a deconstruction of the framework for understanding the world of classroom economics, clarifying assumptions and misleading teachings while sharing historical insights into how economism became a prevalent influence in the U.S.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Trump survival guide : everything you need to know about what you hoped would never happen / Gene Stone, with Nicholas Bromley, Tetsuhiko Endo, Mark Langley, Michael Otterman, Kendra Pierre-Louise, Carl Pritzkat, Miranda Spencer.
“The stunning election of Donald J. Trump rocked an already divided America and left scores of citizens feeling bereft and powerless. Now, Gene Stone …offers invaluable guidance and concrete solutions they can use to make a difference in this serious call-to-arms–showing them how to move from anger and despair to activism as the Trump presidency is in full swing and he signs one executive order after another. Before we can successfully engage, we need to be clear about the battles ahead. Stone outlines political and social concepts …providing a brief history of each, a refresher on Obama’s policies, and an analysis of what Trump’s administration might do. Stone then provides an invaluable guide for fighting back…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFive ideas to fight for : how our freedom is under threat and why it matters / Anthony Lester.
“Human Rights – Equality – Free Speech – Privacy – The Rule of Law. These five ideas are vitally important to the way of life we enjoy today. The battle to establish them in law was long and difficult, and Anthony Lester was at the heart of the thirty-year campaign that resulted in the Human Rights Act, as well as the struggle for race and gender equality that culminated in the Equality Act of 2010. A fierce argument for why we must act now to ensure the survival of the ideals which enable us to live freely, Five Ideas to Fight For is a revealing account of what we need to protect our hard-won rights and freedoms.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSpymaster : the life of Britain’s most decorated cold war spy and head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield / Martin Pearce.
“The extraordinary story of the most highly decorated British spymaster of the Cold War, Sir Maurice Oldfield. Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (commonly known as the SIS or MI6), he was the first Chief to be named and pictured in the press. He was the first Chief of MI6 that hadn’t come from an upper-class background or studied at Eton or Oxbridge. Rather, he was a farmer’s son from a provincial grammar school who found himself accidentally plunged into the world of espionage by the outbreak of the Second World War. This is the fascinating life story of Maurice Oldfield, written by his nephew Martin Pearce, who remembers asking his uncle what he did for a job. ‘Oh it’s quite boring really, dear boy. I’m a kind of security guard at embassies,’ was the reply…” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe great leveler : violence and the history of inequality from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century / Walter Scheidel.
“Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return. The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInsane clown president : dispatches from the 2016 circus / Matt Taibbi.
“…In twenty-four pieces from Rolling Stone–plus two original essays–Taibbi tells the full story the campaign, from its tragi-comic beginnings to its apocalyptic conclusion, through sharp, on-the-ground reporting, incisive analysis, and gallows humor. This isn’t simply a blow-by-blow recounting of this uniquely bizarre and disturbing election season, but the wider story of the seeming collapse of American democracy.”– Provided by publisher.

Syndetics book coverWhen we are no more : how digital memory is shaping our future / Abby Smith Rumsey.
“In When We Are No More Abby Smith Rumsey explores human memory from pre-history to the present to shed light on the grand challenge facing our world–the abundance of information and scarcity of human attention. Tracing the story from cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls, to movable type, books, and the birth of the Library of Congress, Rumsey weaves a compelling narrative that explores how humans have dealt with the problem of too much information throughout our history, and indeed how we might begin solve the same problem for our digital future.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Popular non-fiction books

The highlight of this months’ books is The Machine Stops, in which 12 artists write to E.M. Forster’s imaginary Machine. The story “The Machine Stops” is included, and the book makes for fascinating reading. Also important at the moment is What is a Refugee?, a very timely book, a touch of comedy in The Revenge of Anguished English, and a new edition of the well praised Prosperity without Growth rounds up our selection.

Syndetics book coverHow change happens / Duncan Green.
“Human society is full of would-be “change agents”, a restless mix of campaigners, lobbyists, and officials, both individuals and organizations, set on transforming the world. Striking then, that not many universities have a Department of Change Studies, to which social activists can turn for advice and inspiration. Instead, scholarly discussions of change are fragmented with few conversations crossing disciplinary boundaries, rarely making it onto the radars of those actively seeking change. This book bridges the gap between academia and practice, bringing together the best research from a range of academic disciplines and the evolving practical understanding of activists to explore the topic of social and political change…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTerrorism : a history / Randall D. Law.
“We live in an era dominated by terrorism but struggle to understand its meaning and the real nature of the threat. In this new edition of his widely acclaimed survey of the topic, Randall Law makes sense of the history of terrorism by examining it within its broad political, religious and social contexts and tracing its development from the ancient world to the 21st century. In Terrorism: A History, Law reveals how the very definition of the word has changed, how the tactics and strategies of terrorism have evolved, and how those who have used it adapted to revolutions in technology, communications, and political ideologies.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe machine stops / E.M. Forster; with contributions by Julieta Aranda, Fia Backström and R. Lyon … [et. al.] ; edited by Erik Wysocan.
“In 1909 E.M. Forster (1879-1970) wrote his one work of dystopian science fiction, The Machine Stops, which imagines the world in the aftermath of an ecological crisis, where humans live in underground chambers without physical contact. Here, 12 artists–Julieta Aranda, Fia Backstrom and R. Lyon, Ed Atkins, Ian Cheng, Melanie Gilligan, Pedro Neves Marques, Tobias Madison, Jeff Nagy, Rachel Rose, Bea Schlingelhoff and Mariana Silva–contribute texts addressing culture in the networked age.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCreating freedom : power, control and the fight for our future / Raoul Martinez.
“The ideal of freedom is at the heart of our political and economic system. It is foundational to our sense of justice, our way of life, our conception of what it is to be human. But are we free in the way that we think we are? In Creating Freedom, Raoul Martinez brings together a torrent of mind-expanding ideas, facts and arguments to dismantle sacred myths central to our society – myths about free will, free markets, free media and free elections. From the lottery of our birth to the consent-manufacturing influence of concentrated wealth and power, this far-reaching manifesto lifts the veil on the mechanisms of control that pervade our lives.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlack and British : a forgotten history / David Olusoga.
“In Black and British, award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga offers readers a rich and revealing exploration of the extraordinarily long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. It reveals that behind the South Sea Bubble was Britain’s global slave-trading empire and that much of the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery. …Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how black and white Britons have been intimately entwined for centuries.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe singular universe and the reality of time : a proposal in natural philosophy / Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin.
“Cosmology is in crisis. The more we discover, the more puzzling the universe appears to be. To keep cosmology scientific, we must replace the old view in which the universe is governed by immutable laws by a new one in which laws evolve. Then we can hope to explain them. The revolution that Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin propose relies on three central ideas. The argument is readily accessible to non-scientists as well as to the physicists and cosmologists whom it challenges.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhat is a refugee? / William Maley.
“Arguing that Western states are now reaping the consequences of policies aimed at blocking safe and ‘legal’ access to asylum, What is a Refugee? shows why many proposed solutions to the refugee ‘problem’ will exacerbate tension and risk fuelling the growth of extremism among people who have been denied all hope. This lucid book also tells of the families and individuals who have sought refuge, highlighting the suffering, separation and dislocation on their perilous journeys to safety.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe revenge of anguished English : super duper bloopers, botches, and blunders / Richard Lederer ; illustrated by Jim McLean.
“Fourth in the Anguished English series, this updated collection of verbal bloopers will have word nerds in stitches. From the gas station sign stating “Eat Here and Get Gas” to the church bulletin that reads “Attend and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a health lunch,” hundreds of linguistic blunders are gathered from every layer of society and presented in this jocular assemblage, extracted exactly as they were originally presented.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBuyer beware : a New Zealand home buyer’s guide / Maria Slade.
“How to negotiate the minefield of buying a home in New Zealand today. Property prices going through the stratosphere, leaky buildings, P contamination, bullying body corporates – purchasing a house today can feel akin to entering a minefield. Written by a news journalist who has covered many of the horror stories, this book takes a no-holds-barred look at the challenges facing home buyers and offers savvy advice on how to navigate that minefield. It will appeal to all home buyers, from first-timers hoping for a small apartment to older people looking to downsize and everyone in between.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverProsperity without growth : foundations for the economy of tomorrow / Tim Jackson.
“The publication of Prosperity without Growth was a landmark in the sustainability debate. Tim Jackson’s piercing challenge to conventional economics openly questioned the most highly-prized goal of politicians and economists alike: the continued pursuit of exponential economic growth. Its findings provoked controversy, inspired debate and led to a new wave of research building on its arguments and conclusions. This substantially revised and re-written edition updates those arguments and considerably expands upon them. Seven years after it was first published, Prosperity without Growth is an essential vision of social progress in a post-crisis world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Popular non-fiction books in January

From books about making money to books about making war: economics, the human condition and rearing teenagers, there’s something for everyone in this month’s collection of new non-fiction books!

Syndetics book coverThe spies of winter : the GCHQ codebreakers who fought the Cold War / by Sinclair McKay.
“…Fascinating and insightful revelations from deep within the archives of this secret organisation reveal the story of the tumultuous early years of GCHQ as it navigated its way through an era of double agents, deception and betrayals. From the defection of the Cambridge Five and the treachery of the atomic scientist Klaus Fuchs, to the collapse of the British Empire, the ascension of Chairman Mao and the emergence of the US as a superpower, McKay deftly explores the impact these events had on the fledgling organisation.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDefeating Jihad : the winnable war / Dr. Sebastian Gorka.
“Since September 11, 2001, America has been at war. And that’s about all anyone can say with certainty about a conflict that has cost 7,000 American lives and almost $2 trillion. As long as the most basic strategic questions–Who is the enemy? Why are we fighting?–remain unanswered, victory is impossible. Yet this war is eminently winnable if we remove our ideological blinders, accurately name our enemy, and draw up a strategy to defeat him. So says Dr. Sebastian Gorka, one of the most experienced and sought-after authorities on counterterrorism…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDo humankind’s best days lie ahead? / Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley, Alain de Botton, Malcolm Gladwell ; edited by Rudyard Griffiths.
“From the Enlightenment onwards, the West has had an enduring belief that through the evolution of institutions, innovations, and ideas, the human condition is improving… But is progress inevitable? What is seen as a breakthrough or innovation in one period becomes a setback or limitation in another. In short, progress is an ideology not a fact; a way of thinking about the world as opposed to a description of reality. So is the cup half full or half empty? As part of the Munk Debates series, held in Toronto biannually, pioneering cognitive scientist Steven Pinker and bestselling author Matt Ridley squared off against noted philosopher Alain de Botton and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, giving us an entertaining and thought-provoking face-off between four of the world’s most renowned thinkers.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe econocracy : the perils of leaving economics to the experts / Joe Earle, Cahal Moran and Zach Ward-Perkins.
“One hundred years ago the idea of ‘the economy’ didn’t exist. Now, improving the economy has come to be seen as perhaps the most important task facing modern societies. Politics and policymaking are conducted in the language of economics and economic logic shapes how political issues are thought about and addressed. The result is that the majority of citizens, who cannot speak this language, are locked out of politics while political decisions are increasingly devolved to experts. The econocracy explains how economics came to be seen this way – and the damaging consequences. It opens up the discipline and demonstrates its inner workings to the wider public so that the task of reclaiming democracy can begin.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSex, likes and social media : talking to our teens in the digital age / Allison Harvey and Deana Puccio.
“Welcome to the world of the Digital Native, where self-esteem is measured in Likes, everyone is sexting and ‘Pimps and Hoes’ is an acceptable party theme. Dates have been replaced with swipes, rape jokes are hilarious and ‘No’ means ‘Yes’. For most parents, the digital landscape that our kids and teens are growing up in is uncharted territory. How do we know if they’re happy? How do we talk to them about sex and relationships? How do we give them the new tools they need when we don’t have them ourselves? This book is here to help. Based on their professional work with young people, parents and teachers – and their experiences with their own children – Deana Puccio and Allison Havey give you the tools.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverProperty entrepreneur : the wealth dragon way to build a successful property business / Vincent Wong.
“…Author Vincent Wong is one of the UK’s most dynamic and respected property entrepreneurs, and this book outlines his approach to creating wealth through property investing for both seasoned and aspiring investors. Emphasising the importance of treating property investing as a business, the author shares the wisdom of his first-hand experience and his investment techniques to help you navigate the ever-shifting property market and become a true property entrepreneur…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMolecular red : theory for the Anthropocene / McKenzie Wark.
“In Molecular Red, McKenzie Wark creates philosophical tools for the Anthropocene, our new planetary epoch, in which human and natural forces are so entwined that the future of one determines that of the other. …From the scientific pioneers who were trying to transform science during the Russia Revolution, to visionaries contemplating cyborg possibilities and science fiction dreams in late twentieth-century California, Molecular Red not only looks at the crisis of climate change that we face but also how we might be able to understand it, and how we might salvage some hope out of the wreckage.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUtopia is creepy : and other provocations / Nicholas Carr.
“With a razor wit, Nicholas Carr cuts through Silicon Valley’s unsettlingly cheery vision of the technological future to ask a hard question: Have we been seduced by a lie? Gathering a decade’s worth of posts from his blog, Rough Type, as well as his seminal essays, Utopia Is Creepy offers an alternative history of the digital age, chronicling its roller-coaster crazes and crashes, its blind triumphs, and its unintended consequences. …In famous essays including “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Privacy,” Carr dissects the logic behind Silicon Valley’s “liberation mythology,” showing how technology has both enriched and imprisoned us–often at the same time…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe unnatural world : the race to remake civilization in Earth’s newest age / David Biello.
“A Science Friday and Smithsonian Magazine Best Science Book of the Year. With the historical perspective of ‘The Song of the Dodo’ and the urgency of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, a brilliant young environmental journalist argues that we must innovate and adapt to save planet Earth. Civilization is in crisis, facing disasters of our own making on the only planet known to bear life in the vast void of the universe. We have become unwitting gardeners of the Earth, not in control, but setting the conditions under which all of life flourishes–or not. Truly, it’s survival of the innovators.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRe-imagining capitalism / edited by Dominic Barton, Dezsö Horváth, and Matthias Kipping.
“Capitalism has been an unprecedented engine of wealth creation for many centuries, leading to sustained productivity gains and long-term growth and lifting an increasing part of humanity out of poverty and subsistence. But its effects, and hence its future, have come increasingly under question: Is capitalism still improving the wealth and well-being for the many? Or, has it become destructive for the economy, where long-term value creation is being sacrificed to the pressures of short-termism; for society, where the gap between rich and poor has increased and opportunities to lift oneself out of poverty have dwindled; and for the natural environment, which seems increasingly under threat with unforeseen consequences for prosperity and global order? This volume reflects both the urgency of the needed action and the opportunity to achieve a wide-ranging agreement and lasting movement towards a more responsible, equitable, and sustainable model of capitalism in order to ensure its very survival. ” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Popular Non-fiction books for holiday reading

Some more substantial reading just in time for your holidays.

Syndetics book coverRebel crossings : new women, free lovers, and radicals in Britain and America / Sheila Rowbotham.
Rebel Crossings relates the interweaving lives of four women and two men as they journey from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, from Britain to America, and from Old World conventions toward New World utopias. Radicalised by the rise of socialism, Helena Born, Miriam Daniell, Gertrude Dix, Robert Nicol and William Bailie cross the Atlantic dreaming of liberty and equality. …offers fascinating perspectives on the historical interaction of feminism, socialism, and anarchism and on the incipient consciousness of a new sense of self, so vital for women seeking emancipation.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFour futures : visions of the world after capitalism / Peter Frase.
“Capitalism is going to end: Peter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down. In Four Futures, Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail. A whirlwind tour through science fiction, social theory and the new technologies already shaping our lives, Four Futures is a balance sheet of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if those movements fail.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe optician of Lampedusa / Emma Jane Kirby.
“From an award-winning BBC journalist, this moving book turns the testimony of an accidental hero into a timeless story about the awakening of human courage and conscience. Emma-Jane Kirby has reported extensively on the reality of mass migration today. In The Optician of Lampedusa she brings to life the moving testimony of an ordinary man whose late summer boat trip off a Sicilian island unexpectedly turns into a tragic rescue mission.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNorth Korea’s hidden revolution : how the information underground is transforming a closed society / Jieun Baek.
“One of the least understood countries in the world, North Korea has long been known for its repressive regime. Yet it is far from being an impenetrable black box. Media flows covertly into the country, and fault lines are appearing in the government’s sealed informational borders. Drawing on deeply personal interviews with North Korean defectors from all walks of life, ranging from propaganda artists to diplomats, Jieun Baek tells the story of North Korea’s information underground–the network of citizens who take extraordinary risks by circulating illicit content…” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNo place to hide : climate change : a short introduction for New Zealanders / Jim Flynn.
“Millions of educated people all over the world feel powerless in the face of climate change and its consequences, partially because the literature on the environment is so vast it is difficult to know where to begin. This short book is intended to make their search for truth manageable. …Its strongest claim is that there are really two kinds of sceptics we must rebut: not just climate change deniers but also climate engineering deniers. …we must face the fact that climate engineering is necessary to buy the time to achieve carbon-free energy, and unless this is implemented soon, we will pass the point of no return.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverThe master plan : ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Jihadi strategy for final victory / Brian H. Fishman.
“An incisive narrative history of the Islamic State, from the 2005 master plan to reestablish the Caliphate to its quest for Final Victory in 2020. Given how quickly its operations have achieved global impact, it may seem that the Islamic State materialized suddenly. In fact, al-Qaeda’s operations chief, Sayf al-Adl, devised a seven-stage plan for jihadis to conquer the world by 2020 that included reestablishing the Caliphate in Syria between 2013 and 2016. Despite a massive schism between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, al-Adl’s plan has proved remarkably prescient. In summer 2014, ISIS declared itself the Caliphate after capturing Mosul, Iraq–part of stage five in al-Adl’s plan… Only by understanding the Islamic State’s full history–and the strategy that drove it–can we understand the contradictions that may ultimately tear it apart.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhiplash : how to survive our faster future / Joi Ito and Jeff Howe.
“The world is more complex and volatile today than at any other time in our history. The tools of our modern existence are getting faster, cheaper, and smaller at an exponential rate, just as billions of strangers around the world are suddenly just one click or tweet or post away from each other… The logic of a faster future oversets the received wisdom of the past, and the people who succeed will be the ones who learn to think differently. In WHIPLASH, Joi Ito and Jeff Howe distill that logic into nine organizing principles for navigating and surviving this tumultuous period.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe social organism : a radical understanding of social media to transform your business and life / Oliver Luckett and Michael J. Casey.
“In barely a decade, social media has positioned itself at the centre of twenty-first-century life. The combined power of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine have helped topple dictators and turned anonymous teenagers into celebrities overnight. How did this happen? The scope and pace of these changes have left traditional businesses — and their old-guard marketing gatekeepers — bewildered. We simply do not comprehend social media’s form, function, and possibilities. It’s time we did.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverThank you for being late : an optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations / Thomas L. Friedman.
“We all sense it – something big is going on. You feel it in your workplace. You feel it when you talk to your children. You can’t miss it when you read the newspapers or watch the news. Our lives are speeding up – and it is dizzying. Friedman’s thesis is that to understand the twenty-first century, you need to understand that the planet’s three largest forces – Moore’s law (technology), the market (globalization) and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss) – are all accelerating at once, transforming the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics and community.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Popular non fiction books celebrating Christmas and holidays

A collection of Christmas and celebration themed books from our shelves for you to enjoy and relax with.

Syndetics book cover100 little christmas gifts to make.
“The book is excellent value, containing 100 projects from some of Search Press’s best-selling authors. The projects cover a wide variety of crafts from including papercraft, sewing, knitting, crochet, sugarcraft, felt decorations, jewelry making, cross stitch, mosaic making, decoupage, polymer clay decorations and needlepoint. All projects are simple enough for experienced beginners and will also appeal to seasoned crafters.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJamie Oliver’s Christmas cookbook.
“I’ve got all the bases covered with everything you need for the big day and any feasting meals over the festive period, as well as party fare, edible gifts, teatime treats, cocktails and of course, exciting ways to embrace and celebrate those leftovers. You’ll also find all the deeply important technical info you need, such as cooking charts, and wherever possible, I’ve designed the recipes to be cooked at the same oven temperature, so you can be efficient with time and oven space, and it’ll be super-easy for you to mix and match the different elements and build your own perfect Christmas meal. I haven’t held back. This book is the greatest hits, all wrapped up in one Christmas parcel.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThis change in the light : a collection of poems / Fiona Kidman.
“A superb collection of poetry from one of New Zealand’s top writers. Fiona Kidman’s exquisite and adroit poetry invites the reader into her life, introducing us to her family, friends and places she has loved. In turn it touches our own experiences, offering universal relevance and insight.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMidcentury Christmas : holiday fads, fancies, and fun from 1945 to 1970 / Sarah Archer.
“Midcentury America was a wonderland of department stores, suburban cul-de-sacs, and Tupperware parties. Now design maven Sarah Archer tells the story of how Christmastime in America rocketed from the Victorian period into Space Age, thanks to the new technologies and unprecedented prosperity that shaped the era. The book features a visual feast of Christmastime eats and recipes, Christmas cards from artists and designers of the era, vintage how-to templates and instructions for holiday decor from Good Housekeeping and the 1960’s craft craze, and much more. Midcentury Christmas is sure to be on everyone’s most-wanted lists.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA very merry paper Christmas : 25 creative ornaments & decorations / contributors, Anastasia Bosakowski, Ellen Deakin, Silvina De Vita, Alexandra Harrison.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year–so celebrate in style with your own festive, homemade paper crafts. From wreaths and buntings to table settings, tree toppers, and ornaments, this collection of 25 projects offers a bounty of decorative items for a beautiful holiday. Created by some of the best crafters on Etsy, they all use straightforward techniques like cutting, folding, stapling, and taping, and include templates to guide you and plenty of helpful how-to illustrations.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to celebrate everything : recipes and rituals for birthdays, holidays, family dinners, and every day in between / Jenny Rosenstrach ; photography by Chelsea Cavanaugh ; food styling by Victoria Granof.
“A warm and inviting guide to turning birthdays, holidays, and everyday occasions into cherished traditions, with more than 100 time-tested recipes… “Families crave rituals,” says Jenny Rosenstrach, and by rituals she means not just the big celebrations–Valentine’s Day dinners, Mother’s Day brunches, Halloween send-offs, Thanksgiving feasts, holiday cocktail parties–but the little ones we may not even realize are rituals…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUgly Christmas sweater party : Christmas crafts, recipes, activities / Brandy & Matt Shay.
“Put on your ugly holiday sweater and get ready to PARTY! Whether you’re planning your own wacky celebration or contributing to someone else’s festive affair, here are the most deliciously ugly (in a good way!) ideas for making Christmas merry. Dress up in a crazy Poinsettia Poncho. Serve easy-to-prepare eats and drinks like Strawberry Santa Hats and Jingle Bells Sangria. Play a game of Candy Cane Pickup. You’re ready to go: just set the date!” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChristmas at designer’s homes across America / Katharine Kaye McMillan ; Patricia Hart McMillan ; foreword by Rose Bennett Gilbert.
“Almost 400 colour images treat readers to dazzling holiday visions that leading designers have realised in their own homes — scenes usually reserved for family and friends. Be inspired by their decorating strategies and hands-on ingenuity while gleaning insider tips for preserving trees — both fresh and artificial — and caring for ornaments. Get the scoop on unusual colour schemes and centrepieces. This treasure trove showcases one-of-a-kind holiday ideas from some of the nation’s most talented interior designers, who share not only their aesthetic tastes but also family holiday rituals and favourite Christmas traditions.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChristmas Carols [paperback]
“Everyone loves a Christmas carol – in the end, even Scrooge. They have the power to summon up a special kind of midwinter mood, like the aroma of mince pies and mulled wine and the twinkle of lights on a tree. It’s a kind of magic. But how did they get that magic? In Christmas Carols Andrew Gant tells the story of some twenty carols, each accompanied by lyrics and music, unravelling a captivating – and often surprising – tale of great musicians and thinkers, saints and pagans, shepherd boys, choirboys, monks and drunks.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMake your own Christmas jumper : 20 fun and easy projects to make in a day (even if you can’t knit!) / Nicolette Lafonseca.
“Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a kitsch novelty knit – now you can make your own with these, fast, easy, no-knit ideas for one-of-a-kind Christmas jumpers. Once the sort of embarrassing gift you’d only get from your granny, these days seasonal patterned knitwear has gone well and truly mainstream. Whether it’s for charity, the office party, the kids’ nativity or the big day itself, an ironic Christmas jumper is the only thing to be seen in. With the trend growing each year, it’s increasingly difficult to be original. Unless, of course, you make your own….” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Recent new non-fiction books

Our first pick this time is an interesting book about Queen Elizabeth I who, after being excommunicated, turned to the Islam world for allies. Our last book is a celebration of popular British culture.
In-between, the always popular Sociology for Beginners in a new edition.

Syndetics book coverThe Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam
“History watchers know that 2016’s Brexit doesn’t mark the first time England has divorced itself from Europe. With the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I’s excommunication in 1570, England looked to the south (Morocco) and east (the Ottoman Empire and its enemy, Persia) for new allies in trade and war…” (adapted from Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverHow population change will transform our world / Sarah Harper.
“Population growth, primarily in Asia and Africa, is the focus of much concern. But, as Sarah Harper explains, it is not so much population growth as the changing age structures of populations that is set to transform the world in future decades.” (book jacket)

Syndetics book coverAs right as rain : the meaning and origins of popular expressions / Caroline Taggart.
“Let’s not beat about the bush: the English language is littered with linguistic quirks, which, out of context, seem completely peculiar. If you can’t quite cut the mustard, this book will explain how on earth ‘off the cuff’ came to express improvisation, why a ‘gut feeling’ is more intuitive than a brainwave, and who the heck is ‘happy’ Larry…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGood cop, bad war : my life undercover inside Britain’s biggest drug gang / Neil Woods with JS Rafaeli.
Good Cop, Bad War is a unique story about a man with a striking ability to infiltrate and extinguish drug gangs, but who, as the success of his operations grows, becomes disillusioned with the War on Drugs, ‘as he sees how it demonises those who need help while empowering the very worst elements in society’.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGirls & sex : navigating the complicated new landscape / Peggy Orenstein.
“Bestselling journalist Orenstein follows up Cinderella Ate My Daughter with a look at what happens when the little princess hits puberty. The result is an eye-opening, sometimes horrifying look at sex for today’s girls and young adults. Through frank interviews, research, and school visits, Orenstein reveals that, on average, young women are engaging in sexual contact earlier than ever, in more varied ways, and reporting more coercion and less satisfaction than their male counterparts.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeyond measure : rescuing an overscheduled, overtested, underestimated generation / Vicki Abeles ; with Grace Rubenstein.
“…Pulling from powerful anecdotes and convincing new research, Abeles presents inspirational, quantifiable success stories and shows how anyone–students, parents, and educators–can effect change. Teachers who cut students’ workload see scores rise; kids discover their own motivation once parents relieve the pressure to perform; schools that institute later start times have well-rested students who are able to learn more efficiently; and schools that emphasize depth over test prep find students more attentive, inventive, and ready to thrive.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRaising the transgender child : a complete guide for parents, families, & caregivers / Dr. Michele Angello & Alisa Bowman.
“Written by Dr. Michele Angello, a leading therapist and go-to expert in the field of transgender parenting, and Ali Bowman, bestselling writer and parent advocate, Raising the Transgender Child helps readers champion and celebrate gender diverse children while at the same time shedding fear, anger, sadness, and embarrassment. With specific and actionable advice–including coming-out letters, identity challenges, school and caregiver communications, and more –the guide provides a wealth of science-backed information alongside friendly and practical wisdom that is sure to comfort, guide, and inspire the family and friends of transgender and gender diverse children.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA farewell to ice / Peter Wadhams ; with a foreword by Walter Munk.
“Most of the scientific establishment predict that the North Pole will be free of ice around the middle of this century. As Peter Wadhams, the world’s leading expert on sea ice, demonstrates in this book, even this assessment of the future is optimistic. Wadhams has visited the Polar Regions more often than any other living scientist – 50 times since he was on the first ship to circumnavigate the Americas in 1970 – and has a uniquely authoritative perspective on the changes they have undergone and where those changes will lead. From his observations and the latest scientific research, he describes how dramatically sea ice has diminished over the past three decades, to the point at which, by the time this book is published, the Arctic may be free of ice for the first time in 10,000 years.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSociology for beginners / Richard Osborne.
“Sociology is the study of how society functions, or in some cases does not function. There are many competing schools of sociology with different conceptual systems. This introductory book traces the origins of these systems, from Enlightenment thought and the work of Auguste Comte to Karl Marx, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. Also outlines are the rapid expansion of sociology in 20th-century America and Britain, the post-World War II dominance of Talcott Parsons, the Chicago School, the rise of Structuralism, postmodernism, globalisation and digital society.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Tea Party and the remaking of Republican conservatism / Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson.
“On February 19, 2009, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli delivered a dramatic rant against Obama administration programs to shore up the plunging housing market. Invoking the Founding Fathers and ridiculing “losers” who could not pay their mortgages, Santelli called for “Tea Party” protests. Over the next two years, conservative activists took to the streets and airways, built hundreds of local Tea Party groups, and weighed in with votes and money to help right-wing Republicans win electoral victories in 2010.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe great British dream factory : the strange history of our national imagination / Dominic Sandbrook.
“…Britain’s empire has gone. We no longer matter as we once did. And yet there is still one area in which we can legitimately claim superpower status: our popular culture. …This is a book about the success and the meaning of Britain’s modern popular culture, from Bond and the Beatles to Catherine Cookson and Coronation Street, from Harry Potter, heavy metal and Kate Bush to Damien Hirst, Downton Abbey and Grand Theft Auto. Dominic Sandbrook’s superbly rich, entertaining and thought-provoking book makes it clear that The Great British Dream Factory is a very strange and wonderful place indeed.” (Syndetics summary)

New popular non-fiction

From politics to climate change, the refugee crisis to “Senior Moments”, there are some light hearted topics in amongst the serious issues in this months’ selection.

Syndetics book coverCrash, bang, wallop : the inside story of London’s Big Bang and a financial revolution that changed the world / Iain Martin.
“Big Bang was the dramatic moment in October 1986 when London became a testing ground for a new type of global finance. It embodied a wider revolution and the birth of a new age of fully electronic trading, transcontinental commerce and wealth creation on titantic scale. Published to mark the 30th anniversary of Big Bang, Crash, Bang, Wallop is the definitive, unflinching story of what really happened during one of the most daring and ambitious financial experiments in history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe madhouse effect : how climate change denial is threatening our planet, destroying our politics, and driving us crazy / Michael E. Mann and Tom Toles.
“Through satire, The Madhouse Effect portrays the intellectual pretzels into which denialists must twist logic to explain away the clear evidence that man-made activity has changed our climate. Toles’s cartoons collapse counter-scientific strategies into their biased components, helping readers see how to best strike at these fallacies. Mann’s expert skills at science communication aim to restore sanity to a debate that continues to rage against widely acknowledged scientific consensus.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCast away : true stories of survival from Europe’s refugee crisis / Charlotte McDonald-Gibson.
“In 2015, more than one million migrants and refugees, most fleeing war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East, attempted to make the perilous journey into Europe. Around three thousand lost their lives as they crossed the Mediterranean and Aegean in rickety boats provided by unscrupulous traffickers, including over seven hundred men, women, and children in a single day in April 2015.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe great derangement : climate change and the unthinkable / Amitav Ghosh.
“The extreme nature of today’s climate events, Ghosh asserts, make them peculiarly resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining. This is particularly true of serious literary fiction: hundred-year storms and freakish tornadoes simply feel too improbable. In the writing of history, too, the climate crisis has sometimes led to gross simplifications. Ghosh ends by suggesting that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence–a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms. His book serves as a great writer’s summons to confront the most urgent task of our time.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWorktown : the astonishing story of the birth of Mass-Observation / David Hall.
“In the late 1930s the Lancashire town of Bolton witnessed a ground-breaking social experiment. Over three years, a team of ninety observers recorded, in painstaking detail, the everyday lives of ordinary working people at work and play – in the pub, dance hall, factory and on holiday. Their aim was to create an ‘anthropology of ourselves’. The first of its kind, it later grew into the Mass Observation movement that proved so crucial to our understanding of public opinion in future generations.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSenior moments : looking back, looking ahead / Willard Spiegelman.
Senior Moments is a series of discrete essays that, when taken together, constitute the life of a man who, despite Western cultural notions of aging as something to be denied, overcome, and resisted, has continued to relish the simplest of pleasures: reading, looking at art, talking, and indulging in occasional fits of nostalgia while also welcoming what inevitably lies ahead. Spiegelman’s expertly crafted book considers, with wisdom and elegance, how to be alert to the joys that brim from unexpected places even as death draws near”– Provided by publisher, adapted.

Syndetics book coverFeminist fight club : an office survival manual (for a sexist workplace) / Jessica Bennett ; illustrations by Saskia Wariner, with Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell.
“In Feminist Fight Club, acclaimed journalist Jessica Bennett blends the personal stories of her real-life fight club with research, statistics, and no-bullsh*t advice for how to combat today’s sexism (and come out the other side). Part manual, part manifesto, Bennett offers a new vocabulary for the sexist archetypes women encounter every day–such as the Manterrupter, who talks over female colleagues in meetings; or the Bropropriator, who appropriates their ideas–as well as the self-sabotaging behavior women sometimes exhibit themselves…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHomo deus : a brief history of tomorrow / Yuval Noah Harari.
“…Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestselling ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’, envisions a not-too-distant world in which we face a new set of challenges. In Homo Deus, he examines our future with his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between. Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPolitics : between the extremes / Nick Clegg.
“Politics has changed. For decades Britain was divided between Left and Right but united in its belief in a two-party state. Now, with nationalism resurgent and mainstream parties in turmoil, stark new divisions define the country and the centre ground is deserted. As Deputy Prime Minister of Britain’s first coalition government in over fifty years, Nick Clegg witnessed this change from the inside. Here he offers a frank account of his experiences from his spectacular rise in the 2010 election to a brutal defeat in 2015, from his early years as an MEP in Brussels to the tumultuous fall-out of Britains EU referendum and puts the case for a new politics based on reason and compromise.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIs the planet full? / edited by Ian Goldin.
“While it is common to hear about the problems of overpopulation, might there be unexplored benefits of increasing numbers of people in the world? How can we both consider and harness the potential benefits brought by a healthier, wealthier and larger population? May more people mean more scientists to discover how our world works, more inventors and thinkers to help solve the world’s problems, more skilled people to put these ideas into practice?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline
“We all know the bad news… Jonathan Tepperman’s The Fix presents a very different picture. The book reveals the often-overlooked success stories, offering a provocative, unconventional take on the answers hiding in plain sight. The Fix presents practical advice for problem-solvers of all stripes, and stands as a necessary corrective to the hand-wringing and grim prognostication that dominates the news, making a data-driven case for optimism in a time of crushing pessimism.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)