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)

Outside the box: New non fiction

This month featuring rebels, outsiders, activists and the victims of prejudice and discrimination.

Syndetics book coverYou play the girl : on Playboy bunnies, Stepford wives, train wrecks, and other mixed messages / Carina Chocano.
“In this smart, funny, impassioned call to arms, a pop culture critic merges memoir and commentary to explore how our culture shapes ideas about who women are, what they are meant to be, and where they belong. Who is “the girl”? Look to movies, TV shows, magazines, and ads and the message is both clear and not: she is a sexed up sidekick, a princess waiting to be saved, a morally infallible angel with no opinions of her own. She’s whatever the hero needs her to be in order to become himself. She’s an abstraction, an ideal, a standard, a mercurial phantom…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to resist : turn protest to power / Matthew Bolton.
“”This extraordinary book is the roadmap for a new kind of effective activism.”‘ — Brian Eno
“This book is for people who are angry with the ways things are and want to do something about it; for people who are frustrated with the system, or worried about the direction the country is going. Maybe they’ve been on a march, posted their opinions on social media, or shouted angrily at something they’ve seen on the news but don’t feel like it’s making any difference. It is for people who want to make a change but they’re not sure how.” — Matthew Bolton” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGalileo’s middle finger : heretics, activists, and the search for justice in science / Alice Dreger.
“An impassioned defense of intellectual freedom and a clarion call to intellectual responsibility, Galileo’s Middle Finger is one American’s eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offers in Galileo’s Middle Finger an unforgettable vision of the importance of rigorous truth seeking in today’s America, where both the free press and free scholarly inquiry struggle under dire economic and political threats…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rise of the outsiders : how mainstream politics lost its way / Steve Richards.
“Something strange has been happening. All over the world, people are angry and rejecting the establishment like never before. …In this landmark book, political journalist Steve Richards provides a captivating account of the defining political phenomenon of this decade. Telling the riveting story of how eccentrics, ideologues, and strong men are breaking the political rules, he asks why they’re gaining support and examines the frightening implications of this new global rise in anti-establishment sentiment. Are we approaching a new age of populism, where democracy is eroded?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGirl up : kick ass, claim your woman card, and crush everyday sexism / Laura Bates.
“Already an international bestseller, this empowering survival guide provides no-nonsense advice on sex, social media, mental health, and sexism that young women face in their everyday life — from one of the emerging leaders in the feminist movement.” (Amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverKill all normies : the online culture wars from Tumblr and 4chan to the alt-right and Trump / Angela Nagle.
“Recent years have seen a revival of the heated culture wars of the 1990s, but this time its battle ground is the internet. On one side the alt right ranges from the once obscure neo-reactionary and white separatist movements, to geeky subcultures like 4chan. The feminist side of the online culture wars has its equally geeky subcultures right through to its mainstream expression. Kill All Normies explores some of the cultural genealogies and past parallels of these styles and subcultures, drawing from transgressive styles of 60s libertinism and conservative movements, to make the case for a rejection of the perpetual cultural turn.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIs racism an environmental threat? / Ghassan Hage.
“The ecological crisis is the most overwhelming to have ever faced humanity and its consequences permeate every domain of life. This trenchant book examines its relation to Islamophobia as the dominant form of racism today, showing how both share roots in domination, colonialism, and the logics of capitalism. Ghassan Hage proposes that both racism and humanity’s destructive relationship with the environment emanate from the same mode of inhabiting the world. The aim is to move beyond what makes us see otherness, whether human or nonhuman, as something that exists solely to be managed.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHave Black lives ever mattered? / Mumia Abu-Jamal.
“In Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? Mumia gives voice to the many people of color who have fallen to police bullets or racist abuse, and offers the post-Ferguson generation advice on how to address police abuse in the United States. This collection of his radio commentaries on the topic features an in-depth essay written especially for this book to examine the history of policing in America, with its origins in the white slave patrols of the antebellum South and an explicit mission to terrorize the country’s Black population.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe crisis of multiculturalism in Europe : a history / Rita Chin.
“In 2010, the leaders of Germany, Britain, and France each declared that multiculturalism had failed in their countries. Over the past decade, a growing consensus in Europe has voiced similar decrees. But what do these ominous proclamations, from across the political spectrum, mean? From the influx of immigrants in the 1950s to contemporary worries about refugees and terrorism, The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe examines the historical development of multiculturalism on the Continent.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTokyo geek’s guide : manga, anime, gaming, cosplay, toys, idols & more / Gianni Simone.
“Tokyo is ground zero for Japan’s popular “geek” or otaku culture–a phenomenon that has now swept across the globe. This is the most comprehensive Japan travel guide ever produced which features Tokyo’s geeky underworld. It provides a comprehensive run-down on each major Tokyo district where geeks congregate, shop, play and hang out–from hi-tech Akihabara and trendy Harajuku to newer and lesser-known haunts like chic Shimo-Kita and working-class Ikebukuro…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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. This darkly comic, often biting yet empathic, revelatory collection will inform, challenge, and engage, and give readers hope and tools for change.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSurvivor café : the legacy of trauma and the labyrinth of memory / Elizabeth Rosner.
“Elizabeth Rosner organizes her book around three trips with her father to Buchenwald concentration camp–in 1983, in 1995, and in 2015–each journey an experience in which personal history confronts both commemoration and memorialization. She explores the echoes of similar legacies among descendants of African American slaves, descendants of Cambodian survivors of the Killing Fields, descendants of survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the effects of 9/11 on the general population. Examining current brain research, Rosner depicts the efforts to understand the intergenerational inheritance of trauma, as well as the intricacies of remembrance in the aftermath of atrocity.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

New non-fiction books this month

The days are getting longer but there is still plenty of time to keep up your bedtime reading. Hunker down with the latest books on the future global energy and where it is heading or if your next tablet computer may start having feelings. Otherwise if you’re wavering between hope and hopelessness there are some great political titles that look at the future of government and our economy.

Syndetics book coverIn search of good government : great expectations & political amnesia / Laura Tingle.
“What has happened to good government? Can Malcolm Turnbull apply the lessons of the past to put things right? When leaders surf the wave of discontentment all the way to power, how do they deal with our great expectations? In her crisp, profound and witty essays, Laura Tingle seeks answers to these questions. In Political Amnesia, she ranges from ancient Rome to the demoralised state of the once-great Australian public service, from the jingoism of the past to the tabloid scandals of the internet age.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe courage of hopelessness : chronicles of a year of acting dangerously / Slavoj Žižek.
“In these troubled times, even the most pessimistic diagnosis of our future ends with an uplifting hint that things might not be as bad as all that… Yet, argues Slavoj Zizek, it is only when we have admitted to ourselves that our situation is completely hopeless that fundamental change can be brought about. …Today, he proposes, the only true question is, or should be, this- do we endorse the predominant acceptance of capitalism as a fact of human nature, or does today’s capitalism contain strong enough antagonisms to prevent its infinite reproduction? Can we, he asks, move beyond the failure of socialism, and beyond the current wave of populist rage, and initiate radical change before the train hits?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe story of be : a verb’s-eye view of the English language / David Crystal.
“The verb be has a remarkable history, and a wider range of meanings, uses, and forms than any other English word. In this book, David Crystal explores the intriguing story of this verb over 26 chapters, each linked to a particular usage. Chapters explore, for instance, circumstantial be (‘how are you?’), numerical be (‘two and two is four’), quotative be (‘so I was like, “wow”‘), and ludic be (‘oh no he isn’t!’). The discussion is accompanied by examples from a whole host of sources, literary and otherwise, such as Beowulf, Jane Austen, pantomime, and Star Wars, and further illustrated by cartoons including several from late nineteenth- and earlytwentieth-century issues of Punch.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRadical hope : letters of love and dissent in dangerous times / edited by Carolina De Robertis.
RADICAL HOPE is a collection of inspiring letters – to ancestors, to children five generations from now, to strangers in supermarket queues, to any and all who feel discouraged by contemporary politics – written by award-winning novelists, poets, political thinkers, and activists in reaction to Trump’s election.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHeart of the machine : our future in a world of artificial emotional intelligence / Richard Yonck.
“Futurist Richard Yonck argues that instilling emotions, the first, most basic, and most natural form of communication, into computers is the next leap in our centuries-old obsession with creating machines that replicate humans. But for every benefit this progress may bring to our lives, there is a possible pitfall. Emotion recognition could lead to advanced surveillance, and the same technology that can manipulate our feelings could become a method of mass control…”–Amazon.com. (adapted)

Syndetics book coverBurn out : the endgame for fossil fuels / Dieter Helm.
“An energy revolution is under way with far-reaching consequences for nations, companies, and the way we address climate change. Low oil prices are sending shockwaves through the global economy, and longtime industry observer Dieter Helm explains how this and other shifts are the harbingers of a coming energy revolution and how the fossil fuel age will come to an end. …Timely and controversial, this book concludes by offering advice on what governments and businesses can and should do now to prepare for a radically different energy future.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCritical perspectives on fossil fuels vs. renewable energy / edited by Anne C. Cunningham.
“Renewable energy is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the global economy as climate scientists and environmentalists give voice to the detrimental effects of fossil fuels. But how far have we gotten in developing efficient and sustainable energy, including solar, wind, and geothermal power, and what are the benefits of these renewable energy sources compared to fossil fuels? This text examines the issue from diverse viewpoints, allowing students to analyze key ideas in energy production through primary source evidence” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverToxic inequality : how America’s wealth gap destroys mobility, deepens the racial divide, & threatens our future / Thomas M. Shapiro.
“Since the Great Recession, most Americans’ standard of living has stagnated or declined. Economic inequality is at historic highs. But inequality’s impact differs by race; African Americans’ net wealth is just a tenth that of white Americans, and over recent decades, white families have accumulated wealth at three times the rate of black families. In our increasingly diverse nation, sociologist Thomas M. Shapiro argues, wealth disparities must be understood in tandem with racial inequities–a dangerous combination he terms “toxic inequality.” In Toxic Inequality, Shapiro reveals how these forces combine to trap families in place…”–Publisher’s description.

Syndetics book coverAgainst doom : a climate insurgency manual / Jeremy Brecher.
“Late in 2015, nearly two hundred countries signed the Paris Agreement acknowledging their individual and collective duty to protect the earth s climate and willfully refused to perform that duty. They unanimously agreed to the goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But they did not agree to a single legally binding requirement about how, or how much, they would cut emissions. In response to this institutional failure and to growing climate destruction, we are witnessing the birth of a global nonviolent constitutional insurgency…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCool : style, sound, and subversion / Greg Foley, Andrew Luecke.
COOL: Style, Sound, and Subversion is equal parts historical chronicle and handbook of the myriad subcultures–most unknown to mainstream culture–that have influenced style. Authors Greg Foley and Andrew Luecke have compiled a comprehensive list of subcultures that have evolved over more than one hundred years, taking a look at the fashion, the art, the films, the books, the music, and historical context of these style movements, many of which came to influence conventional culture and eventually became a norm. Lavish with original illustrations, COOL references a wealth of ephemera to give the reader a thoroughly vibrant picture of each movement and their sub-movements.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRemember the ladies : celebrating those who fought for freedom at the ballot box / Angela P. Dodson.
“2017 begins the centennial celebrations of women first winning the right to vote, culminating in national suffrage three years later. This book documents the milestones in that hard won struggle and reflects on women’s impact on politics since. From the birth of our nation to the recent crushing defeat of the first female presidential candidate, this book highlights women’s impact on United States politics and government…” (adapted from Syndetics summary.)

Syndetics book coverThe vanishing American adult : our coming-of-age crisis–and how to rebuild a culture of self-reliance / Ben Sasse.
“In an era of safe spaces, trigger warnings, and an unprecedented election, the country’s youth are in crisis. Senator Ben Sasse warns the nation about the existential threat to America’s future… Raised by well-meaning but overprotective parents and coddled by well-meaning but misbegotten government programs, America’s youth are ill-equipped to survive in our highly-competitive global economy…”– From the publisher. (adapted)

Syndetics book coverToo fat, too slutty, too loud : the rise and reign of the unruly woman / Anne Helen Petersen.
“From celebrity gossip expert and BuzzFeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen comes an accessible, analytical look at how female celebrities are pushing boundaries of what it means to be an “acceptable” woman. You know the type: the woman who won’t shut up, who’s too brazen, too opinionated–too much. She’s the unruly woman, and she embodies one of the most provocative and powerful forms of womanhood today. In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, Anne Helen Petersen uses the lens of “unruliness” to explore the ascension of pop culture powerhouses like Lena Dunham, Nicki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian, exploring why the public loves to love (and hate) these controversial figures.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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)