Friday, October 03, 2008

RSA Library Update - September 2008

RSA Library Update - September 2008

What follows is a complete list of RSA library acquisitions for the month of September 2008. Fellows are welcome to e-mail the Library if they wish to borrow any of these items.

000s – Generalities

100s – Philosophy & Psychology

Gary Marcus
Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind
Faber, 2008, 153 MAR
A 'kluge' is an engineering term for a makeshift solution, an inelegant construction that somehow works. This is Gary Marcus' analogy for the way the human mind has evolved. Arguing against a whole tradition that praises our human minds as the most perfect result of evolution, Marcus shows how imperfect and ill-adapted our brains really are. They have had to adapt from the environment of our early hominid origins to a complex world in which our penchant for short-term satisfactions is literally fatal. We are prone to rages, addictions and other habits that limit our capacity for rational action in every sphere, from food to politics.

Jurgen Wolff
Focus: The Power of Targeted Thinking
Prentice Hall Life, 2008, 153.733 WOL
Time management has evolved. No longer can traditional methods, the type suited to making repetitive tasks more efficient, be used. The age of 24/7 connectivity and constant demands has lead to frantic multi-tasking and fire-fighting. The result: lots of activity, not much achievement. Most time management books are written for left-brain people who are already organized and see things in an analytical way, and some still use age-old techniques. With Focus, you are exposed to recent discoveries that allow you to achieve a state of flow that can lead to maximum achievement in minimum time.

A. C. Grayling
The Choice of Hercules: Pleasure, Duty and the Good Life in the 21st Century
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007, 171.2 GRA
Duty or Pleasure? This was the legendary choice which faced Hercules, and which pre-eminent philosopher AC Grayling uses as the starting point of his masterful new book. He shows us how much more people can understand about themselves and their world by reflecting on today's moral challenges. Above all, he explores the idea that certain demands and certain pleasures are necessary, not just because of their intrinsic merits but because of what they do for each other. The Good Life or the good life? With exceptional clarity and unrivalled prose, Grayling addresses the everyday ethical choices which confront us all.

200s – Religion

Mark Vernon
After Atheism: Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life
Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, 211.7 VER
The broadside against religion launched by a new breed of evangelical atheists has generated much heat but little light. Locked in battle against their Christian opponents the argument goes nowhere fast, and in an age of extremism, nurtures the dangerous vice of intolerance. Mark Vernon was an Anglican priest, left a conviction atheist, but now finds himself to be a committed and increasingly passionate agnostic. Part personal story, part philosophical search, After Atheism argues that the contemporary lust for certainty is demeaning of our humanity. The key to wisdom - as Socrates, the great theologians and the best scientists know - is understanding the limits of our knowledge.

300s – Social Sciences

Hans Lrause Hansen and Jens Hoff (eds.)
Digital Governance, Networked Societies: Creating Authority, Community and Identity in a Globalized World
Samfundslitteratur, 2006, 302.231 SAN
This volume explores the role of the Internet in the creation and reconfiguration of political authority, community and identity in a globalising world. A string of case studies demonstrates how the Internet and connectivity facilitate the creation of political authorities 'within' and 'beyond' the nation state, and how it lies at the core of the formation of automated forms of power and the emergence of a plethora of communities with global reach and outlook, affecting identity formation processes and social dynamics. These developments have important repercussions for politics and democracy. Politics in the Information Age becomes a 'politics of presence' and a 'politics of becoming', as expressed through multiple practices, connections and organisational forms, as well as the complex formation of political identities. In such a set-up, democracy comes to depend more on ethics and less on procedures. This volume lays the foundation for further work on politics and democracy in the Information Age.

Bruno Latour
Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory
Oxford University Press, 2007, 302.3 LAT
Reassembling the Social is a fundamental challenge from one of the world's leading social theorists to how we understand society and the 'social'. Bruno Latour's contention is that the word 'social', as used by Social Scientists, has become laden with assumptions to the point where it is a misnomer. Rather than simply indicating what is already assembled together, it is now used in a way that makes assumptions about the nature of what is assembled. It has become a word that designates two distinct things: a process of assembling; and a type of material, distinct from others. Latour shows why 'the social' cannot be thought of as a kind of material or domain, and disputes attempts to provide a 'social explanations' of other states of affairs. Drawing on his extensive work examining the 'assemblages' of nature, Latour finds it necessary to scrutinize thoroughly the exact content of what is assembled under the umbrella of Society. This approach, a 'sociology of associations', has become known as Actor-Network-Theory.

David Nye
Technology Matters: Questions to Live With
MIT, 2007, 303.483 NYE
We use technology to shape our world, yet we think little about the choices we are making. In Technology Matters, Nye tackles ten central questions about our relationship to technology, integrating a half-century of ideas about technology into ten cogent and concise chapters, with wide-ranging historical examples from many societies. Among them: Does technology shape us, or do we shape it? Is technology inevitable or unpredictable? Are we using modern technology to create cultural uniformity, or diversity? To create abundance, or an ecological crisis? To destroy jobs, or create new opportunities? Should the market choose our technologies? Does ubiquitous technology expand our mental horizons, or encapsulate us in artifice? These large questions may have no final answers yet, but we need to wrestle with them - to live them, so that we may, as Rilke puts it, live along some distant day into the answers.

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
Harvard Business Press, 2008, 303.4833 BER
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff define 'the groundswell' as a social structure in which technology puts power into the hands of individuals and communities, not institutions. We see examples of this all around us: Second Life, You Tube, Twitter, etc. The technology that is enabling this has created a permanent, long lasting shift in the way the world works. This compelling, research-based book will not only identify the emerging components of this shift, but will also help companies build their businesses around it with data and advice, regardless of what specific new technologies come along. Li and Bernoff, well-known thought leaders in the area of social technology, have used their considerable resources at Forrester Research to generate hard consumer data that quantifies a viable business opportunity. Based on their work with dozens of companies presented in the book, the authors are able to credibly describe how business can participate in the new social medium in order to communicate with, energize, support, and learn from their customers.

Richard Watson
Future Files: 5 Trends for the next 50 Years
Nicholas Brealey, 2008, 303.49 WAT
Filled with provocative forecasts about how the world might change in the next half century, Future Files examines emerging patterns and developments in society, technology, economy, and business, and makes educated speculations as to where they might take us. It is indispensable to business analysts, strategists and organisations who need to stay ahead of the game as well as providing rich and fascinating material for dinner party conversations.

Julia Neuberger
Not Dead Yet: A Manifesto for Old Age
HarperCollins, 2008, 305.260941 NEU
Britain is getting old -- and fast. Due to the combination of a decline in birth rates and an increase in life expectancy we are rapidly heading towards a crisis -- in health, housing, finance and long-term care. Despite this seismic shift in our demographic makeup, the way we view and treat the old has barely adjusted. It is shocking, for example, that despite less than 1 in 20 British people wanting to reside in a care home in their old age, 1 in 5 die in one. It is time that we examined how we look after ourselves as we age -- and address the issues that when young we take for granted as a right, not a privilege.

Hugh Miles
Playing Cards in Cairo
Abacus, 2008, 305.486970962 MIL
Recently installed in Cairo as a freelance journalist and expat barfly, Hugh Miles soon meets and falls in love with Roda, a beautiful Egyptian doctor, who introduces him to Egypt's favourite pastime, the card game tarneeb, to her all-female card circle, and to a previously unseen side of life in the Middle East's greatest city. While the women cut and shuffle, Miles listens to their stories and learns about what it means to be a young Muslim woman, dating, dieting and divorcing in a country where traditional Islamic values are in the ascendant. Yosra struggles with an addiction to prescription drugs; Nadia copes with a baby and an abusive husband; neighbour Reem comes to terms with plastic surgery gone wrong; while her sister attempts to conceal her secret love-marriage from her family and to breathe life into a clothes shop run by a regime apparatchik with an Islamist vision of retail. Hugh Miles takes a fascinating sideways look at the lives of young Egyptians, and finds himself on a romantic adventure that will lead him to Islam and bind him to the Arab world for ever.

Amy Spencer
DIY: The Rise of Lo-fi Culture
Marion Boyars, 2008, 306.48426 SPE
Since the ‘90s, hundreds of zines, records and CDs have been produced by individuals in reaction to the shortcomings of the mainstream media. The central message: if you can find the cultural experience you are looking for, create your own alternative! This exploration of lo-fi culture traces the origin of the DIY ethics back to the sci-fi zines of the ‘30s, the self-publishing of the beats, the skiffle movement of the ‘50s, and the ‘70s punk scne.

David Marquand
Britain Since 1918: The Strange Career of British Democracy
Orion, 2008, 320.94109042 MAR
The story of British democracy opens more than 350 years ago: The Levellers of the 17th century, 18th-century radicals, the Chartists and the Reform Acts are all part of the unsteady and fiercely contested progress towards a democratic constitution and universal male suffrage in 1918. Dreams, visions and ideals are important too - of George Orwell, and Enoch Powell, Milton, Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke, Churchill and Lord Salisbury, Aneurin Bevan and Tony Benn - for they have also shaped our outlook. BRITAIN SINCE 1918 is a formidable combination of narrative and analysis: entertaining, instructive and thought-provoking.

Michael Moore
Mike’s Election Guide 2008
Penguin Books, 2008, 324.60973 MOO
Michael Moore returns to give you the low-down on the ins and outs of voting, answering all those pressing questions you've always wondered about, such as, Why should I vote? It only encourages them. Can my vote be bought (and what's the starting price)? The candidates seem to think I'm stupid. Should I just go along to keep them happy? It seems like just anyone can run for office. Is that a good idea? For anyone who thought voting was just a load of ballots, this is the book you need to read before marking your X. Enfranchisement has never been so exciting!

Polly Toynbee and David Walker
Unjust Rewards: Exposing Greed and Inequality in Britain Today
Granta, 2008, 339.20941 TOY
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. City workers earn millions and manual workers earn less than they did thirty years ago. The widening gap is tearing apart the fabric of our society. In this urgent polemic, Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee and the Guardian's economics editor David Walker present a worrying portrait of Britain today. Their gripping investigation takes them to a Cable and Wireless AGM, a chairman of a FTSE 100 company, a council estate, an inner city school and a Sure-Start programme. High earners have little idea that half of British people earn less that GBP22,300, and are amazed to learn that a third of the population live below the poverty line. Unjust Rewards sets the agenda for the next general election.

Trevor Paglen
I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have To Be Destroyed By Me
Melville House Publishing, 2008, 355.13420973 PAG
They're on the shoulder of all military personnel: patches that symbolize what a soldier's unit does. But what happens if it's top secret? Although the actual projects represented here (such as the notorious Area 51) are classified, these patches, worn by military units working on classified missions, are precisely photographed, strangely hinting at a world about which little is known. By submitting hundreds of Freedom of Information requests, the author has also assembled an extensive and readable guide to the patches included here, making this volume one of the best available surveys of the military's black world - a $27 billion industry that has quietly grown by almost 50 percent since 9/11. Trevor Paglen is a geographer by training, and an expert on clandestine military installations, and leads expeditions to the secret bases of the American West.

Catherine Arnold
Bedlam: London and Madness
Simon & Schuster, 2008, 362.209421 ARN
'Bedlam!' The very name conjures up graphic images of naked patients chained among filthy straw, or parading untended wards deluded that they are Napoleon or Jesus Christ. We owe this image of madness to William Hogarth, who, in plate eight of his 1735 Rake's Progress series, depicts the anti-hero in Bedlam, the latest addition to a freak show providing entertainment for Londoners between trips to the Tower Zoo, puppet shows and public executions. Following the historical narrative structure of her acclaimed Necropolis, Bedlam examines the capital's treatment of the insane over the centuries, from the founding of Bethlehem Hospital in 1247 through the heyday of the great Victorian asylums to the more enlightened attitudes that prevail today.

David Simon
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
Canongate, 2008, 363.25952097526 SIM
The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. At the centre of this hurricane of crime is the city's homicide unit, a small brotherhood of men confronted by the darkest of American visions. David Simon was the first reporter ever to gain unlimited access to a homicide unit, and his remarkable book is both a compelling account of casework and an investigation into our culture of violence. The narrative follows Donald Worden, a veteran investigator nearing the end of his career; Harry Edgerton, an iconoclastic black detective in a mostly white unit; and Tom Pellegrini, an earnest rookie who takes on the year's most difficult case, the brutal rape and murder of an eleven-year-old girl.

Kelly Grovier
The Gaol: The Story of Newgate, London’s Most Notorious Prison
John Murray, 2008, 365.9421 GRO
For over 800 years, Newgate was the grimy axel around which British society slowly twisted. This is where such legendary outlaws as Robin Hood and Captain Kidd met their fates, where the rapier-wielding playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe sharpened their quills, and where flamboyant highwaymen like Claude Duval and James Maclaine made legions of women swoon. While London’s theatres came and went, the gaol endured as its unofficial stage. By piecing together the lives of forgotten figures as well as re-examining the prisons links with more famous individuals, from Dick Whittington to Charles Dickens, this thrilling history goes in search of a ghostly place, erased by time, which has inspired more poems and plays, paintings and novels, than any other structure in British history.

Guy Claxton
What’s the Point of School? Rediscovering the Heart of Education
Oneworld, 2008, 370.1 CLA
With their emphasis on regurgitated knowledge and stressful exams, today's schools actually do more harm than good. Guiding readers past the sterile debates about City Academies and dumbed-down exams, Claxton proves that education's key responsibility should be to create enthusiastic learners who will go on to thrive as adults in a swiftly-changing, dynamic world. Students must be encouraged to sharpen their wits, ask questions, and think for themselves - all without chucking out Shakespeare or the Periodic Table. Blending down-to-earth examples with the latest advances in brain science, and written with passion, wit, and authority, this brilliant book will inspire teachers, parents, and readers of all backgrounds to join a practical revolution and foster in the next generation a natural curiosity and the spirit of adventure.

400s – Language

500s – Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Marcus Chown
Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You
Faber, 2008, 530.12 CHO
The two towering achievements of modern physics are quantum theory and Einstein's general theory of relativity. But, almost a century after their advent, most people haven't the slightest clue what either is about. Did you know that there's so much empty space inside matter that the entire human race could be squeezed into the volume of a sugar cube? Or that you grow old more quickly on the top floor of a building than on the ground floor? Get set for the most entertaining science book of the year.

600s – Technology (Applied Sciences)

Lisa Appignanesi
Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present
Virago, 2008, 616.890082 APP
This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, when more and more of our inner life and emotions have become a matter for medics and therapists. Here, too, is the story of the professions that have grown up to offer treatment, of how over the years symptoms and diagnoses have developed together to create fashions in illness and how treatments have succeeded or sometimes failed, even when those providing care were women too. Mad, Bad and Sad takes us on a fascinating journey through the fragile, extraordinary human mind.

Tom Vanderbilt
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way we do (and What it Says about Us)
Allen Lane, 2008, 629.283 VAN
Why does the other lane always seem to be moving faster? Why are people so different inside their cars than they are outside them? Is traffic a microcosm of society, or does the road make its own rules? Traffic speaks volumes: bringing together people from every walk of life. In this hugely enjoyable, curiosity-filled book, Tom Vanderbilt explains why traffic problems are really people problems. Traffic shows that how we behave walking the streets, on our bikes and in our cars is an astonishing cultural indicator; a living, constantly surprising model, what physicists call 'emergent collective behaviour'. Vanderbilt chauffeurs us through why it's so hard to pay attention in traffic, why women cause more congestion than men, what factors make us more likely to honk our horns amongst a host of eye-opening highway conundrums. This book will change the way you view the world and help you better navigate it.

Luke Johnson
The Maverick: Dispatches from an Unrepentant Capitalist
Harriman House, 2007, 650 JOH
For eight years between 1998 and 2006, Luke Johnson wrote a regular column as The Maverick in The Sunday Telegraph. His short, pithy essays tackled subjects ranging from rich lists to bankrupt companies, from high finance to investment techniques, from philanthropy to trophy wives, bringing a practitioner's eye to the commercial world and the people in it. The Maverick quickly developed a cult following among readers who wanted to understand the blunt truth about investment, entrepreneurs, business history, and corporate life. This book brings together 84 of the best articles, with updates, in a single volume. What makes them unique is that Luke Johnson is not just a first-class writer, he is also one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs. He is the Chairman of Channel 4, and made his name with Pizza Express, has run and owned businesses in many different sectors, and now takes stakes in fast-growing businesses through his company, Risk Capital Partners. The diversity of his experience enables him to write with insight and perspective about the very serious matter of making and losing money. If you are in business, you will find The Maverick entertaining, informative and inspiring. If you are not in business, you will discover what makes business people tick, the hurdles they have to overcome to succeed, and the substantial benefits they bring to society.

Jeff Howe
Crowdsourcing: How the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business
Random House Business, 2008, 658.405802854678 HOW
First identified by journalist Jeff Howe in an article in Wired in June 2006, Crowdsourcing describes the process by which the power of the many can be harnessed together on the internet to build and to innovate. Now he shows precisely how this has become possible - how complex social, technological and economic developments have fused together to make Crowdsourcing an increasingly powerful force in more and more areas of our daily lives. Crowdsourcing is now a part of our lives, whether we're aware of it or not. If we're to benefit from what it can achieve, we need to understand where it's come from and how it works - and where it's taking us.

Peter M. Senge
The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organisations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World
Nicholas Brealey, 2008, 658.408 SEN
The Necessary Revolution reveals how corporations and organizations are, in the face of looming environmental crises and pressure from social issues, finding solutions that ensure both long- term survival and real-time business success. It is destined to become the essential handbook for everyone who understands the need to act and work together now to create a sustainable world for ourselves and the generations to come. The Necessary Revolution contains a wealth of strategies to help anyone, regardless of role or title, build the confidence and competence to respond effectively to the greatest challenge of our time. It is destined to become the essential handbook for everyone who understands the need to act and work together-now-to create a sustainable world for ourselves and the generations to follow.

Julie Perigo
Winners in the Second Half: A Guide for Executives at the Top of their Game
John Wiley, 2008, 658.409 PER
Later career, 'the second half of the game', is not, as it is often perceived to be, a period of decline or a black hole, but an inspirational time of Generative Leadership and a challenging opportunity for better tactics. This book explores common fears and uncertainties about the second half of the game, enabling you to feel comfortable exploring opportunities previously outside of your comfort zone and feel confident about your future.

700s – The Arts

Don Thompson
The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art and Auction Houses
Aurum, 2008, 706.88 THO
The Twelve Million Dollar Stuffed Shark is the first book to look at the economics of the modern art world and the marketing strategies which power the market to produce such astronomical prices. Don Thompson, an economics professor specializing in art and auctions, talks to auction houses, dealers, and collectors to find out the source of Charles Saatchi's Midas touch, and how far a gallery like White Cube has contributed to Damien Hirst becoming the highest-earning artist in the world. He unravels the Byzantine sale procedures by which the top auction houses maintain both premium prices for what they sell and their own pre-eminence, but also shows us a market whose most spectacular excesses are driven just as often by far simpler human urges like lust and self-aggrandizement. It is a world in which brand is all-important, and which in many ways has most in common with the branded world of luxury fashion. The result is a fascinating, shrewd and highly readable insight into a modern-day phenomenon.

Tom McCarthy
Tintin and the Secret of Literature
Granta, 2007, 741.59493 MCC
Herge's Tintin cartoon adventures have been translated into more than fifty languages and read by tens of millions of children aged, as their publishers like to say, 'from 7 to 77.' Arguing that their characters are as strong and their plots as complex as any dreamt up by the great novelists, Tom McCarthy asks a simple question: is Tintin literature? McCarthy takes a cue from Tintin himself, who spends much of his time tracking down illicit radio signals, entering crypts and decoding puzzles and suggests that we too need to 'tune in' and decode if we want to capture what's going on in Herge's work. What emerges is a remarkable story of hushed-up royal descent, in both Herge's work and his own family history. McCarthy shows how the themes this story generates - expulsion from home, violation of the sacred, the host-guest relationship turned sour, and anxieties around questions of forgery and fakeness - are the same that have fuelled and troubled writers from the classical era to the present day. His startling conclusion is that Tintin's ultimate 'secret' is that of literature itself.

Michael Peppiatt
Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma
Constable, 2008, 759.2 PEP
Published in 1996, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma was the first in-depth study of the artist's life. It has not been superseded. In this substantially revised, updated edition to coincide with the artist's centenary, Peppiatt has incorporated confidential material Bacon gave him, which he did not include in the first edition. This valuable, first-hand information comes from the hundreds of conversations Bacon had with Peppiatt, often late into the night, over thirty years, particularly during the periods Bacon spent living and working in Paris. It includes insights into Bacon's intimate relationships, his artistic convictions and his general view of life, as well as his acerbic comments on his contemporaries. Similarly, his recent research into the artist's background - his tortured affair with the sadistic Peter Lacy in Tangier, for instance, and the baffling circumstances of his death in Madrid - shed light on unexplored areas of Bacon's life and work.

Daniel Barenboim
Everything is Connected: The Power of Music
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008, 780 BAR
Daniel Barenboim's new book vividly describes his lifelong pursuit of knowledge and understanding, not only of music and of life, but of one through the other. As he himself says in the introduction,” This is not a book for musicians, nor is it one for non-musicians, but rather for the curious mind that wishes to discover the parallels between music and life and the wisdom that becomes audible to the thinking ear.” From the problems of timing - whether in a piece of music or a political process - to the philosophy of Spinoza and its relevance to musical interpretation, Barenboim advocates the integration of music and musical thought into our everyday lives.

Sarah Street
British National Cinema
Routledge, 2008, 791.430941 STR
With films as diverse as Bhaji on the Beach, The Dam Busters, Trainspotting, The Draughtsman's Contract, Prick Up Your Ears, Ratcatcher, This Is England and Atonement, British cinema has produced wide-ranging notions of British culture, identity and nationhood. British National Cinema is a comprehensive introduction to the British film industry within an economic, political and social context.

Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman
Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals
MIT, 2003, 794.8 SAL
As pop culture, games are as important as film or television--but game design has yet to develop a theoretical framework or critical vocabulary. In Rules of Play, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman present a much-needed primer for this emerging field. They offer a unified model for looking at all kinds of games, from board games and sports to computer and video games, and Rules of Play is a catalyst for innovation, filled with new concepts, strategies, and methodologies for creating and understanding games.. Building an aesthetics of interactive systems, Salen and Zimmerman define core concepts like play, design, and interactivity.

John Carlin
Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation
Atlantic, 2008, 796.3330964 CAR
24 June 1995. Ellis Park in Johannesburg. The Springboks versus The All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final. Nelson Mandela steps onto the pitch wearing a Springboks shirt and, before a global audience of millions, a new country is born. This book tells the incredible story of Mandela's journey to that moment. As the day of the final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup dawned, and the Springboks faced New Zealand's all-conquering All Blacks, more was at stake than a sporting trophy. When Nelson Mandela appeared wearing a Springboks jersey and led the all-white Afrikaner-dominated team in singing South Africa's new national anthem, he conquered white South Africa. Playing the Enemy tells the extraordinary human story of how that moment became possible. It shows how a sport, once the preserve of South Africa's Afrikaans-speaking minority, came to unify the new rainbow nation, and tells of how - just occasionally - something as simple as a game really can help people to rise above themselves and see beyond their differences.

800s – Literature

Michael Chabon
Maps and Legends
McSweeney's Publishing, 2008, 801.95 CHA
The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay pens a work of literary non-fiction--a series of linked essays in praise of reading and writing.

Haruki Murakami
What I Talk about when I Talk about Running
Harvill Secker, 2008, 895.635 MUR
In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he'd completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a slew of critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and on his writing. Equal parts travelogue, training log, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and settings ranging from Tokyo's Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvellous lens of sport emerges a cornucopia of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back.

900s – Geography & History

David Andress
1789: The Threshold of the Modern Age
Little, Brown, 2008, 909.7 AND
In 1789 the world stood at the threshold of the modern age. While the French Revolution and the election of George Washington seemed to herald a new global order, Britain stood shocked at the new world unfolding before her. Two documents were drafted which would change the very meanings of citizens and statehood: the US Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. The age of royal despotism had ended. But beneath this veneer of progress, darker forces were at work: the French Revolution spiralled out of control, American slavery expanded and the armed forces of the British Empire were unleashed in India. From 'mad' King George III to J.J. Rousseau and Thomas Paine, from Pitt the Younger to Robespierre, David Andress illuminates a world on the brink through the men who held its future in their hands.

Chris Patten
What Next? Surviving the Twenty-first Century
Allen Lane, 2008, 909.83 PAT
Globalisation, energy, international crime, Weapons of Mass Destruction, nuclear proliferation, small arms proliferation, international drugs trafficking, climate change, water shortage, migration, epidemic disease, the fraying of the nation state: the list of challenges facing our world is itself proliferating rapidly, and nobody seems to have much of a grip on what is going on. Digesting vast amounts of information from a multiplicity of sources, and drawing on his experience at the highest levels of national and international politics, Chris Patten analyses what we know in each of these areas and argues how in each of them we could get somewhere we might want to be. Very little, he says, has turned out as we might have expected twenty years ago, but there is plenty we can still do. Readers of Patten's previous books will know what a penetrating analyst and engaging writer he is. This is his most ambitious and impressive yet.

Andrew Mueller
I Wouldn’t Start from Here: The 21st Century and where it all went wrong
Portobello, 2008, 909.831 MUE
What is a jaded rock journalist doing in the company of mercenaries, terrorists, warmongers and hitmen? Andrew Mueller doesn’t consider himself a ‘proper’ reporter; yet somehow he’s found himself skidding around the globe from failed state to ravaged warzone to desolate no-man’s-land in an attempt to unpick why we humans seem so prone to plucking war from the jaws of peace, why so much that can go wrong does go wrong, and why some conflicts suddenly seem to find themselves resolved. Here we travel with him as he ducks for cover in Gaza, runs roadblocks in Iraq, hang out with Hezbollah, and gets arrested in Cameroon.

London through a Lens
Time Out, 2008, 914.2100222 TIM
The capital like you've never seen it before. London through a Lens brings together over 200 images of the city from the birth of photography to the present. Based on the popular slot in the weekly Time Out magazine, it avoids the usual tourist cliches in favour of beautiful, shocking, intriguing and amusing pictures - each with explanatory text - that create a vibrant portrait of London's many faces. Taken from the vast archives of Getty Images, the photos mix the momentous and the mundane, cultural highs and sporting lows, iconic buildings and forgotten streets, famous figures and ordinary Londoners. Some are by acclaimed photographers, some by anonymous snappers, and many are rare or never published. The result: a rich and arresting visual biography - and the perfect gift for anyone interested in London.

Frank Westerman
Harvill Secker, 2008, 915.662 WES
Ararat is a breathtaking journey along the fault-line between religion and science, a pilgrimage by a non-believer that takes Frank Westerman to Mount Ararat where, as biblical tradition has it, Noah's Ark ran aground and God made his covenant with mankind. Mount Ararat is now a geographical, political and cultural crossroads, bound up with the centuries-old history of warfare between different cultures in this region.As Westerman stands at its foot it poses both a physical and a religious challenge: where is the God from my children's bible? Who or what has taken his place? Can one free oneself of a religious upbringing? He meets geologists, priests, and, on the mountain's high slopes, an expedition in search of the Ark's remains. And also a Russian astronaut who observes that 'there is something between heaven and earth about which we humans know nothing'. Ararat is a dazzling, highly personal book about science, religion and all that lies between, by one of Europe's most celebrated young writers.

Richard Grant
Bandit Roads: Into the Lawless Heart of Mexico
Little, Brown, 2008, 917.21 GRA
There are many ways to die in the Sierra Madre, a notorious nine-hundred-mile mountain range in northern Mexico where AK-47s are fetish objects, the law is almost non-existent and power lies in the hands of brutal drug mafias. Thousands of tons of opium and marijuana are produced there every year. Richard Grant thought it would be a good idea to travel the length of the Sierra Madre and write a book about it. He was warned before he left that he would be killed. But driven by what he calls 'an unfortunate fascination' for this mysterious region, Grant sets off anyway. In a remarkable piece of investigative writing, he evokes a sinister, surreal landscape of lonely mesas, canyons sometimes deeper than the Grand Canyon, hostile villages and an outlaw culture where homicide is the most common cause of death and grandmothers sell cocaine. Finally his luck runs out and he finds himself fleeing for his life, pursued by men who would murder a stranger in their territory 'to please the trigger finger'.

Ophelia Field
The Kit-Cat Club: Friends who Imagined a Nation
HarperPress, 2008, 941.0680922 FIE
The fascinating history of the male-only members of the Kit-Cat Club, the unofficial centre of Whig power in 17th century Britain, and home to the greatest political and artistic thinkers of a generation. The Kit-Cat Club was founded in the late 1690s when London bookseller Jacob Tonson forged a partnership with pie-maker Christopher (Kit) Cat. What began as an eccentric publishing rights deal - Tonson paying to feed talented young writers and receiving first option on their works - developed into a unique gathering of intellects and interests, then into an unofficial centre of Whig power during the reigns of William & Mary, Anne and George I. With consummate skill, Ophelia Field portrays this formative period in British history through the club's intimate lens, describing the vicious Tory-Whig 'paper wars' and the mechanics of aristocratic patronage, the London theatre world and its battles over sexual morality, England's Union with Scotland and the hurly-burly of Westminster politics. Tracing the Kit-Cat Club's far-reaching influence for the first time, this group biography illuminates a period when the British were searching for, and just beginning to find, a new national identity.

Orlando Figes
The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia
Penguin, 2008, 947.0842 FIG
Drawing on a huge range of sources, Orlando Figes tells the story of how Russians tried to endure life under Stalin. Those who shaped the political system became, very frequently, its victims. Those who were its victims were frequently quite blameless. The Whisperers recreates the sort of maze in which Russians found themselves, where an unwitting wrong turn could either destroy a family or, perversely, later save it: a society in which everyone spoke in whispers - whether to protect themselves, their families, neighbours or friends - or to inform on them.

Richard Dowden
Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles
Portobello, 2008, 960.32 DOW
Richard Dowden is a leading Africa correspondent; since first arriving in Idi Amin’s Uganda in 1971, he has never stopped learning about and reporting on real Africans and the realities of lie in Africa’s many and varied lands. Dowden combines on a novelist’s gift for atmosphere with the unblinking scholar’s grasp of historical change to produce one of the most compelling and revealing accounts of modern sub-Saharan Africa yet. His experiences there required him to re-evaluate all he had been taught to believe, and his landmark book enables its readers to see and understand this miraculous continent in a new light.

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