This month’s selection of new non-fiction books spans a variety of environmental and political issues. From a new addition on fracking to a hilarious romp through the three years of the Gillard/Rudd government (Beyond satire : Julia Caesar & the Kevin Sutra), this month you’re spoilt for choice.
The looting of America : how Wall Street’s game of fantasy finance destroyed our jobs, pensions, and prosperity, and what we can do about it / Les Leopold.
“Deeming himself the “Main Streeter” to explain the economic crisis to average Americans, author and researcher Leopold (The Men Who Hated Work and Loved Labor) does a cagey job explaining credit derivative obligations (CDOs), and their role in the financial meltdown, in populist terms. His astute arguments make it clear that the blame earned by Wall Street and (to some degree) the government has been displaced onto ordinary Americans.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The world as it is : dispatches on the myth of human progress / Chris Hedges.
“This latest volume from famed war correspondent and columnist Chris Hedges presents a series of essays, previously published on the blog Truthdig, exploring a wide range of problems facing the left and progressive movements around the world. Topics discussed include the war in Afghanistan, the conflict in Israel-Palestine, the American left and President Obama, media collusion with corporate America, and the decline of the American empire. Hedges provides a pointed and cogent analysis of the current state of world affairs and a clear and well written explanation of what he believes is necessary to “right the ship.” (Syndetics summary)
The far enemy : why Jihad went global / Fawaz A. Gerges.
“With its up-to-the-minute, insider’s perspective, this groundbreaking book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the true nature of the international jihadist movement, based on interviews with jihadists, documents, and unpublished manifestos.” (Syndetics summary)
Inquiries into the nature of slow money : investing as if food, farms, and fertility mattered / Woody Tasch ; [foreword by Carlo Petrini].
“Inquiries into the nature of slow money presents the path for bringing money back down to earth – philosophically, strategically, and pragmatically – and with an entreprenurial spirit that is informed by decades of work by the thousands of CEOs, investers, grantmakers, food producers and consumers who are seeding the retorative economy.” (Book jacket)
Sua sponte : the forging of a modern American Ranger / Dick Couch.
“The title of this gripping volume means ‘of free will’. It is the motto of the U.S. Army’s 75th Infantry Regiment, the Rangers. Couch, a former SEALs and CIA man, brings high expertise to his subject and has had exceptional cooperation from the army in general and the Ranger community, active and retired, in studying the Rangers. The Rangers are pure warriors and try to recruit people willing to become such to fight frequently against the odds but with a wide range of highly-developed skills that usually evens the combat.” (adpted from Syndetics summary)
Wonder women : sex, power, and the quest for perfection / Debora L. Spar.
“Barnard College president Spar (The Baby Business) skillfully addresses the state of feminism and suggests that, despite historic gains in education, the workforce, and equal rights, American women suffer under “an excruciating set of mutually exclusive expectations” resulting, paradoxically, from the proliferation of options that feminism made possible. Drawing on her experiences as well as extensive research, Spar lucidly traces how the movement’s “expansive and revolutionary” political goals have evolved into a set of “vast and towering expectations” that trouble women at every stage of their lives. Wisely forgoing hostility or blame, Spar finds women struggling, if anything, with the fantasy of “having it all.” “We’re doing this to ourselves,” she writes. Her solutions call for sanity and simplicity: to kill “the myths of female perfection” and recommit to the goals of early feminism, abandoning the “individualized quest” in favor of organizational and collective change.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Beyond satire : Julia Caesar & the Kevin Sutra / Rowan Dean.
“Romping hilariously through the three years of the Gillard/Rudd government, Rowan Dean’s sharp pen and eagle eye chronicle the finest and funniest moments of what has been an exhilarating roller-coaster ride. From the back-stabbing intrigues of Julia Caesar in ancient Rome to the reincarnation of Kevin VII and the latest positions of the Kevin Sutra, from Mission Impossible exploits of forged credit cards and high class hookers to evil climate change denier monsters and ‘the world’s greatest treasurer’, from people smugglers to pink batts to politician pop stars, the most entertaining political story in Australian history finally gets the book it richly deserves. Whether you’re keen to learn how Kevin finally pulled it off, or to complete a course in dismantling democracy, or to brush up on your spin and media manipulation techniques, Beyond Satire will bring tears to your eyes of laughter. (Syndetics summary)
The default line / Faisal Islam.
“Why did Greece have to use military aeroplanes to fly in Euros at the height of its debt crisis? How can a banking system become so unregulated that it offers a gold credit card to a dog? For Channel 4’s Economics Editor Faisal Islam, these are examples of nations, institutions, and individuals crossing the ‘default line’, the point at which the optimism of economic boom flips into fiscal madness.
Having exposed the Icelandic banking crisis, watched Lehman Bros crash, investigated emerging economies in India and China and interviewed a host of key international players from the Governor of the Bank of England to the head of the the Chinese sovereign wealth fund, Faisal Islam is the perfect guide to the global economic crisis.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Walk in their shoes : can one person change the world? / Jim Ziolkowski, founder of buildOn with James S. Hirsch.
“Twenty-one years ago, Ziolkowski, then a student in the financial management program at GE Capital, was being groomed for a promising career, but after a backpacking trip in Nepal showed him how simple generosity could change the lives of the impoverished, he quit the course and founded the nonprofit buildOn, which brings education to inner-city teens, and transforms them into community service leaders in the U.S. and abroad. After struggling to secure funding and organize volunteers, Ziolkowski begins traveling the globe, documenting injustices in apartheid-era South Africa and among the street children of Brazil, while rallying the community to come together and build schools for their children. Ziolkowski balances sobering facts with an approachable writing style. His unflinching determination drove him to establish over 500 schools, turning buildOn from a nascent dream into a multimillion-dollar phenomenon. He believed that one person could indeed change the world, and his story may inspire others to do the same.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Practice to deceive / Ann Rule.
“This is Rule’s twenty-fourth true-crime book. Her latest extends an analogy she has often used: how an investigation into homicide takes, basically, a stick drawing of a person, the victim, and with each piece of evidence and parts of interviews, transforms the stick figure into a rounded, complex human being whose life holds the key to his or her death. In 2003, a man’s body was discovered in a car parked in front of a cabin on Whidbey Island, Washington. The victim, Russel Douglas, had a single gunshot wound to his head. The investigation took years to complete (it took a decade to come to trial) and wound through seven states and Mexico. Rule is at her best in tracing Douglas’ frantic, depression-fueled changes in the years preceding his murder. This account delivers quite a punch in its final revelations.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Mob boss : the life of Little Al D’Arco, the man who brought down the Mafia / Jerry Capeci and Tom Robbins.
“D’Arco was born and raised in a part of Brooklyn where becoming a gangster was almost expected. He was a good soldier who always tried to follow the “old school” edicts (e.g., no drug dealing and no threatening or hurting innocent family members). A bit of a straight arrow, unlike some of his fellow gangsters, D’Arco did not indulge in the vices of gambling, adultery, drug use, or excessive drinking. He was a good father and husband whose work ethic motivated him to ascend to acting boss of the Luchese family when the boss and underboss went into hiding. When D’Arco learned that he was next on the hit list, he turned FBI informant in 1991 and testified in over a dozen trials that resulted in more than 50 convictions. In 2002, he was sentenced to time served; he and his family currently live in an undisclosed location under witness protection. An incredibly detailed look at New York gangsters that rings true.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Running with the blood god : down and dirty with freedom fighters, rebels and misfits / Matthew Thompson.
“Troubled by a growing sense that life’s vastness is shrinking as the physical and imaginative limits of our crowded, polluted, late-in-the-day civilization close in, Matthew Thompson roams the world seeking out those who would force the horizons back – the mavericks. In doing so, he hits the streets to explore the agony of totalitarianism in Iran, the delusional wretchedness and inbred colonial passivism of the Philippines and the historical rubble of Serbia, as well as what happens in Portland, Oregon: his own father’s home town and hub of modern American anarchism. RUNNING WITH THE BLOOD GOD is a hell-raising ride which leaves his MY COLOMBIAN DEATH shaking in its wake. In this incredible work of reportage, written with the pace of a thriller, Thompson walks the line where the liberty of individuality is often a matter of life or death.” (Syndetics summary)
Countdown : our last, best hope for a future on Earth? / Alan Weisman.
“Journalist Weisman (The World Without Us) here highlights the critical connection between human population growth and ecological degradation, a subject that’s not on the table at environmental summit meetings. The author takes up the issue popularized by Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb. Human proliferation (the global population presently numbers seven billion, plus 220,000 more births per day) is a major factor in resource depletion, pollution, and climate change. Even “green revolution” hybrid crops have limitations, and climate change is beginning to effect yields, so feeding a projected peak population of ten billion sustainably looks impossible.”
(adapted from Syndetics summary)
The frackers : the outrageous inside story of the new energy revolution / Gregory Zuckerman.
“The Frackers is a riveting narrative of how a group of risk-takers ushered in a new energy age. These individuals transformed the economic, environmental and geopolitical course of the US and the world, making a fortune in the process. US oil and gas output is up about twenty percent since 2007, making the country the world’s fastest growing energy producer. Daily production is expected to hit ten million barrels by the end of 2015, equal to what Saudi Arabia currently produces. But some of the very drilling methods that have been a boon to consumers and businesses, such as fracking, also have brought potential environmental danger. A debate is heating up about how serious the dangers are and whether the individuals at the vanguard of the movement will be remembered as much for their environmental impact as the remarkable blessings they’ve brought.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)