“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: a biography of Elizabeth Warren, race and racism in Britain, & more

This month we have a wide range of titles in our new non-fiction, from a biography of rising American academic and politician Elizabeth Warren, to climate change and the future of the planet, as well as a look at the CIA, and issues of race and racism in Britain.

Syndetics book coverThis fight is our fight : the battle to save working people / Elizabeth Warren.
“Senator Elizabeth Warren has long been an outspoken champion of working people, and by the time the people of Massachusetts elected her in 2012, she had become one of the country’s leading progressive voices. Warren grew up in Oklahoma, and she’s never forgotten how difficult it was for her mother and father to hold on at the ragged edge of the lower middle class. An educational system that offered opportunities for all made it possible for her to achieve her dream of going to college, becoming a teacher, and, later, attending law school. But now, for many, these kinds of opportunities are gone, and a government that once looked out for working families is instead captive to the rich and powerful…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe CIA as organized crime : how illegal operations corrupt America and the world / by Douglas Valentine.
“Author of three books on CIA operations, Valentine’s research into CIA activities began when CIA Director William Colby gave him free access to interview CIA officials who had been involved in various aspects of the Phoenix program in South Vietnam. It was a permission Colby was to regret. The CIA would rescind it, making every effort to impede publication of The Phoenix Program, which documented the CIA’s elaborate system of population surveillance, control, entrapment, imprisonment, torture and assassination in Vietnam. While researching Phoenix, Valentine learned that the CIA allowed opium and heroin to flow from its secret bases in Laos, to generals and politicians on its payroll in South Vietnam…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy I’m no longer talking to white people about race / Reni Eddo-Lodge.
“In 2014, award-wining journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote on her blog about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanised, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings. Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge has written a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary examination of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverToo late : how we lost the battle with climate change / Geoffrey Maslen.
“In Too late, Geoffrey Maslen paints a sobering picture of the state of our planet and discusses how successive governments have failed to initiate change. Drawing on the work of leading climate scientists, this book is an urgent reminder that we have reached the point of no return. It is essential reading for anyone who cares about our planet’s future and what we leave for the generations to come”–Back cover.

Syndetics book coverI was toId to come alone : my journey behind the lines of Jihad / Souad Mekhennet.
“For her whole life, Souad Mekhennet, a reporter for the Washington Post who was born and educated in Germany, has had to balance the two sides of her upbringing – Muslim and Western. She has also sought to provide a mediating voice between these cultures, which too often misunderstand each other. In this compelling and evocative memoir, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighbourhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalised and the Iraqi neighbourhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNo free lunch : can New Zealand feed the world sustainably? / volume editor: Barbara Burlingame ; series editor: Claire Massey.
“The world needs nutrition-driven agriculture that operates within planetary boundaries. But how do we engage the agriculture, health and environment sectors to address the pressing local and global problems that have taken us to the edge of — and beyond — the planet’s limits to growth? What are the solutions? Do they involve short-term hardship in order to not put future generations in peril? Twenty experts give their view on how New Zealand can lead the way with robust policies and best practice for sustainable food consumption and production.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe IRA / Tim Pat Coogan.
“This updated edition of the best-selling history of the IRA now includes behind-the-scenes information on the recent advances made in the peace process. With clarity and objectivity, Coogan examines the IRA’s origins, its foreign links, bombing campaigns, hunger strikes and sectarian violence and its role in the latest attempts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. Meticulously researched and featuring interviews with past and present members of the organization, this is a compelling account of modern Irish history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPost-truth : why we have reached peak bullshit and what we can do about it / Evan Davis.
“Low-level dishonesty is rife everywhere, in the form of exaggeration, selective use of facts, economy with the truth, careful drafting – from Trump and the Brexit debate to companies that tell us ‘your call is important to us’. How did we get to a place where bullshit is not just rife but apparently so effective that it’s become the communications strategy of our times? This brilliantly insightful book steps inside the panoply of deception employed in all walks of life and assesses how it has come to this. It sets out the surprising logic which explains why bullshit is both pervasive and persistent. Why are company annual reports often nonsense? Why should you not trust estate agents? And above all, why has political campaigning become the art of stretching the truth? Drawing on behavioural science, economics, psychology and of course his knowledge of the media, Evan ends by providing readers with a tool-kit to handle the kinds of deceptions we encounter every day, and charts a route through the muddy waters of the post-truth age.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSugar : the world corrupted, from slavery to obesity / James Walvin.
“The story of mankind’s love of sweetness – the need to consume honey, cane sugar, beet sugar and chemical sweeteners – has important historical origins. To take a simple example, two centuries ago, cane sugar was vital to the burgeoning European domestic and colonial economies. For all its recent origins, today’s obesity epidemic – if that is what it is – did not emerge overnight, but instead evolved from a complexity of historical forces which stretch back centuries…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPedagogy of the oppressed / Paulo Freire ; translated by Myra Bergman Ramos
“This text argues that the perceived passivity of the poor is the direct result of economic, social and political domination. The book suggests that in some countries the oppressors use the ‘piggy bank’ system – treating students as passive, empty vessels – to preserve their authority and maintain a culture of silence. Through cooperation and dialogue, Freire suggests, the authoritarian teacher-pupil model can be replaced with critical thinking so that the student becomes co-creator of knowledge. Crucial to Freire’s argument is the belief that every human being, no matter how impoverished or illiterate, can develop an awareness of self, and the right to be heard.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRadicals : outsiders changing the world / Jamie Bartlett.
“…From dawn raids into open mines to the darkest recesses of the internet, Radicals introduces us to some of the most secretive and influential movements today: techno-futurists questing for immortality, far-right groups seeking to close borders, militant environmentalists striving to save the planet’s natural reserves by any means possible, libertarian movements founding new countries, autonomous cooperatives in self-sustaining micro-societies, and psychedelic pioneers attempting to heal society with the help of powerful hallucinogens…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJournalism and climate crisis : public engagement, media alternatives / edited by Robert A. Hackett, Susan Forde, Shane Gunster, Kerrie Foxwell-Norton.
Journalism and Climate Crisis: Public Engagement, Media Alternatives recognizes that climate change is more than an environmental crisis. This book enquires into which approaches to journalism, as a particularly important form of public communication, can best enable humanity to productively address climate crisis. Bringing together perspectives from the fields of environmental communication and journalism studies, the authors argue for forms of journalism that can encourage public engagement and mobilization to challenge the powerful interests vested in a high-carbon economy… Ultimately, the book argues for a fundamental rethinking of relationships between journalism, publics, democracy and climate crisis.” (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)

Winter Health Events in July – Food and Sports

Hear an inspiring talk by Kenny McFadden (Steven Adams’ coach) on how he changed a young man’s life with basketball; listen to Anne Else talking about memories of New Zealand cooking and baking based on her world-renowned book: The colour of food: a memoir of life, love & dinner,  and get energized by having a go at Pilates with Anne from Thrive Pilates.
All events are free to attend, located on the warm Central Library ground floor.

Wednesday 12 July, 5:30-6:30pm, Anne Else Talk: The Colour of Food, A Memoir of Life, Love and Dinner
Monday 17 July, 12-1 pm, Anna (Thrive Pilates): Pilates Lesson
Saturday 29 July, 2-3pm, Kenny McFadden Talk: Steven Adams and Basketball

Author talk by Anne Else: The Colour of Food, a memoir of life, love & dinner

Syndetics book coverWellington author Anne Else will be sharing her inspirations of food based on her internationally renowned book: The colour of food : a memoir of life, love & dinner / Anne Else.
“She has the writer’s instinct for a good story and the editor’s keen eye for accuracy and brevity… This is a disarmingly intimate life account that fast forwards and winds back as she savors and suffers a life of friendship, motherhood, love, loss and mealtimes.”- Susette Goldsmith, Listener [sourced from Amazon.com]

Anne Else is a New Zealand writer, editor, blogger, and the author or co-author of five books on women and social history. In 2004 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. The Colour of Food is her first book about her own story.

5:30-6:30pm, Wednesday 12 July,
Wellington Central Library Ground Floor.

Anna from Thrive Pilates: Pilates Lesson

Syndetics book coverHave a go with Pilates at Wellington Central Library. Anne from Thrive Pilates will teach you how to do Pilates, so wear your comfy clothes and start exercising on the floor.
Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on stretching and strengthening the whole body to improve balance, muscle-strength, flexibility and posture. Thrive Pilates has given pilates a modern twist and is a fun way for you to achieve core control, alignment, precision, axial elongation, breathing, concentration and movement integration.

12-1 pm, Monday 17 July,
Wellington Central Library Ground Floor.

Kenny McFadden talk: Basketball

Syndetics book coverKenny McFadden was awarded Sports Legend of Wellington in 2014 and was introduced to the Hall of Fame. He is the coach who had changed Steven Adams from a troubled youth to an NBA star in the OKC Thunder team. Kenny McFadden was a “player-coach” of the Wellington Saints he took the team to 7 straight finals appearances winning 5 NBL titles from 1982 to 1988. Kenny founded Hoop Club, the largest basketball club in New Zealand. Kenny was the head coach for the Junior Tall Blacks, taking them to the FIBA U19 World Championships in 2009 in Auckland.  Kenny is also the president of the Wellington Basketball Association. Join Kenny McFadden for his inspiring talk about how he had changed a young person’s life through basketball.

2-3pm, Saturday 29 July,
Wellington Central Library Ground Floor.

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New Popular non-fiction books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some popular new non-fiction books for your reading pleasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Popular Non-Fiction books in March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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