open book

a few good books...

A American Nations:
A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

by Colin Woodward
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coverIf you have ever wondered about the logic of Red state vs. Blue state voting patterns, today's frustrating political stalemates, indeed the very meaning of your most fundamental values -- are seen to depend on and are explained almost entirely by what region of America you come from. As the author Colin Woodward sees it, the North American Continent has long been divided into 11 rival regional “nations” determined by centuries-old settlement patterns.

The 13 colonies that declared independence in 1776 had separate foundations, different religious heritages and diverse economies. Those differences have stayed with us until today and shockingly have left their marks so deeply that we are no longer consciously aware of them.


The Great Derangement:
A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion

by Matt Taibbi
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From inside understanding of the inner corrupt workings of our congress, to the pathetic flocks of 911 conspiracy theorist crazies or a morally-bankrupt Texas megachurch's Fundamentalist community, Matt deeps dig and shows us a heartbreaking view of the great unraveling of the American dream.

This book is absurdly hysterical yet poignantly sad in revealing the desperation and downright pathetic craziness of both the far left and far right.

Eight Pieces of Empire: A 20-Year Journey Through the Soviet Collapse
by Lawrence Scott Sheets
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coverA mad journey through some of the most dangerous places on earth, war reporter Lawrence Sheets' weaves a disturbing mosaic of moments in the millions of Soviet lives that were shattered by forces beyond their control. Refreshingly free of academic theorizing, this book is a hands on, front line focus on what people actually saw and experienced in those years.


A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present
by Howard Zinn
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Get ready for the other side of stories you may not
even have heard... History through the eyes of the downtrodden and poor.

Russians: The People behind the Power
by Gregory Feifer

coverAn interesting but very depressing read most of the time due to the never-ending details of rampant corruption, omnipotent oligarchs and the widespeard fear and resignation to Putin's “thugocracy.”

One take away the author makes abundantly clear: Russians do not see themselves as simply another Western nation, but instead a kind of hybrid society between the West and the East having a unique culture of their own.

The author draws a strong parallel with both the previous tsars and Communist regimes with Putin and his cronies. All 3 types of governement simply ran Russia like their own private fiefdom so nothing much as really changed...


The Disposable American:
Layoffs and Their Consequences
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coverLayoffs have become a way of life for corporate America and have cut deep into the white-collar workforce, ending job security as we knew it. Entire classes of people are being caught in a new trend of "downward mobility."

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The United States of Wal-Mart
by John Dicker
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coverDetailing poverty-level wages, skimpy benefits, scorched-earth antiunion policies, shuttered smalltown Main Streets, suburban sprawl abetment and rampant outsourcing; Wal-Mart's sins, are in many ways one and the same wth America.

The company merely caters to the national religion of consumer entitlement that assumes shoppers have no common interests with workers and puts bargain prices ahead of any social consequences.

How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World's Prosperity Depends on It

by Zachary Karabell
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The recent economic recess\sion has led many to reconsider America's place in the world and wonder whether this is indeed the twilight of American power. Over the past two decades, China and the U.S. have become one integrated hyper-economy "Chimerica".

This book is essential reading for anyone curious about the increasing economic integration and interdependence between China and America and argues that their fusion has advanced too far for either to extricate itself without severe harm.



International Relations

Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
by Chalmers Johnson
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Blowback - the unintended consequences of American activity

  • the 21st century may be a time of reckoning for the U.S.
  • a troubling prognosis of what's to come
  • a call for the United States to rethink its position in the world.

All the Shah's Men:
An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

by Stephen Kinzer
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"A well-researched object lesson in the dismal folly of so-called nation-building. British and American readers of today should blush with shame."

Resource Depletion

The Crude World:
The Violent Twilight of Oil

by Peter Maass
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cover We can all think about ways in which oil has made our life better, but in the Western world we are generally spared from the nasty side of the business. The world's dependence on oil has come at a very high price. The oil curse, as it's called, creates corrupt petro-nations and tragically often ruins the lives of much of the people who live in countries that export it. Peter Maass, an award-winning investigative journalist, takes us on a vivid tour of the troubled world oil has created. Every American should read it, and know where his daily fix really comes from.


Ragged Edge of the World
Encounters at the Frontier Where Modernity, Wildlands, and Indigenous Peoples Meet

by Eugene Linden

Review | Website

Ragged Edge of The WorldThe author brings to life experiences in unspoiled jungles and places where encroaching civilizations have altered forever the natural landscape.  Linden's diverse assignments have brought him to ragged edges of the globe, the sites where modernity, tradition and wildlands collide.

As money and ideas from the West have seeped into places like Polynesia, the Amazon, and the Arctic, Linden has witnessed dramatic transformations. The book is a fascinating journey of discovery and will change the way you view the world.

The End of Oil:
On the Edge of a Perilous New World

by Paul Roberts
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coverAll economic activity is rooted in the energy economy, which means a substantial portion of the current world economy is linked to the production and distribution of oil. But what will happen when the well starts to run dry?


The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future
by Laurence C. Smith
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2050An illuminating look at how global civilization will evolve over the next four decades.

Largely in response to the impact of climate change and resource depletion; people, agriculture, and geopolitical power will migrate northward.

One Square Inch of Silence:
One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet

by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann
Review | Website

One Square InchGordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist and Emmy award-winning sound recordist, drives his VW bus from Seattle to Washington, D.C. to “take the sonic pulse of America.” With the assistance of writer Grossmann, Hempton interweaves his intriguing and instructive on-the-road adventures with fascinating and rarely addressed facts about sound, health, and the environment.

The Statues that Walked:
Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island

by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo
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Statues that WalkedThis is an absolutely fascinating book, engaging from beginning to end. Shattering the conventional wisdom of self-generated ecocide, this book scientifically uncovers a radically different understanding of the mystery of Easter Island and its enormous array of monumental statues.


Search For Meaning“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Interesting Thoughts from a man who survived years off horror in a Nazi concentration camp. (Info >) In 1991, the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man’s Search for Meaning as one of the 10 most influential books in the United States.

I haven't read it yet but found this article in The Week (Subscriber's Link) fascinating. Excepts below...

Happiness vs. Meaningful (Thoughts on Life)

  • “Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others. This makes life meaningful, but it does not necessarily make us happy,”
  • "People pursue happiness, but it's always temporary. Pursue meaning instead."

While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning.

Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future. “Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life,” the researchers write. “Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future.” That is, people who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though they were less happy

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