They say you can tell a lot from the books on someone’s shelves. When my wife and I first began to date, this is exactly what she tried to do: get a more intimate view into my interests, mind, and heart. When I broke away to the kitchen to get us something to drink—most likely tea instead of red wine since I was abstaining then, much to her disappointment, I’m sure, as she’d grown up in Canada’s wine country—I left her alone to brush her fingertips along the fragile spines of my bruised, battered, and well-traveled paperbacks and hard-covered babies. I was terrified to discover, however, that my shelf almost scared her away, like finding a family of spiders under your pillow at a hotel.
You see, at the time, I was 100% immersed in Colombian Violentology: the study of Colombia’s armed conflict. As I worked from home, I separated my work reading from my non-work reading. I had decorated my office with all my books on violence, revolutions, and conquests from history and around the world. They were organized alphabetically, by author’s last name, instead of segregated by color, which I have always been intrinsically against, even with my books. The painter and budding interior designer who she was took mental note. This was a first glimpse into how we observed the world differently.
With titles such as Blood and Capital, Discipline and Punish, and Domination and the Arts of Resistance at eye level, I can now see how I should have never left her alone in my office. Instead, I should have guided her into my living room, where she may have been less inclined to imagine me a serial killer. It was there where I housed poetic works and books with softer titles, such as The House of Gentle Men and Me Talk Pretty One Day; but also others that could have gone either way, like The Seducer’s Diary by Søren Kierkegaard, which many view as a disturbing narrative of a man who strives to seize an innocent girl. Part of me is glad she didn’t have the chance to pluck that one from the shelf to read the back cover.
I really have to rethink my dating game, I thought to myself after she’d taken a chance on me and let me explain that I was not obsessed with violence but with how to resolve armed conflicts. Fortunately (and it was fortunate because she could have easily chosen to hightail out of there without a word), this conversation led us to explore exactly what she wished to discover when she gazed across the titles and colors of my bookshelf. We discussed our early track and field days as 400-meter sprinters, our childhoods growing up in Catholic households, and we came to understand that our true selves had more texture and depth than the shallow waters of bookshelves.
Though book spines can open a meaningful door into the Other, what is seen is often not that far-reaching. The view is shortsighted. The shelves do not completely define an individual. In a sense, we are all somehow born from the seeds of these books, but are also cultivated elsewhere.
As Founder and Editor-in-Chief of this publication, I thought it important to let you hold my own seeds in your hands, which may help you further understand not only me but the soil that nourishes The Nasiona.
For example, the name of my Nasiona column is De Otra Parte, which is Spanish for From Elsewhere. It is here where I share my essays and my interviews with people from somewhere else, thereby further getting to know others in my world. I named the column after Colombian existential philosopher Fernando González, who is known as Philosopher of Authenticity, Philosopher of Otra Parte. In a way, instead of simply looking at the bookshelves and assuming this is enough for me to construct a caricature of a person, I try to engage with the Other, and through this dialectic I may more effectively peek into authentic lives.
To keep with the spirit of Otra Parte and The Nasiona‘s mission, I’d like to share my list of readings from elsewhere, in no particular order. Many of these are titles my partner saw during the first time I welcomed her into my home, as well as those gentler spines from my living room shelves. The 54 titles below are readings that tackle what it means to be the Other, expose us to extraordinary worlds, and/or disclose interesting, at times iconoclastic, perspectives that end up feeling (or at one time felt) foreign when compared to mainstream and conventional thoughts, behaviors, and codes of conduct.
All of these writings revealed something to me I found valuable at one point in my life, and I wish to share these with you. All I ask is that you withhold judgment and tame the eagerness to essentialize me based on these readings. Do, however, use them as an invitation to more concretely grasp where I and The Nasiona come from.
They say you can tell a lot from the books on someone’s shelves, but you can tell far more if you get to know the very selves who adorn them.
(Note: the descriptions and images below come predominantly from Amazon. Click on the images to take you to the book or website. Also, all the works below are nonfiction. Maybe on another occasion I will share my fiction list.)
In an era of revolutions demanding greater liberties for mankind, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) was an ardent feminist who spoke eloquently for countless women of her time.
Having witnessed firsthand the devastating results of male improvidence, she assumed an independent role early in life, educating herself and eventually earning a living as a governess, teacher and writer. She was also an esteemed member of the radical intellectual circle that included William Godwin (father of her daughter, novelist Mary Godwin Shelley, and later her husband), Thomas Paine, William Blake, Henry Fuseli and others.
First published in 1792, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman created a scandal in its day, largely, perhaps, because of the unconventional lifestyle of its creator. Today, it is considered the first great manifesto of women’s rights, arguing passionately for the education of women: "Tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavor to keep women in the dark, because the former want only slaves, and the later a plaything."
No narrow-minded zealot, Wollstonecraft balanced passionate advocacy with a sympathetic warmth—a characteristic that helped her ideas achieve widespread influence. Anyone interested in the history of the women’s rights movement will welcome this inexpensive edition of one of the landmark documents in the struggle for human dignity, freedom and equality.
"I can identify the exact moment when things began to change. It was a cold winter afternoon. I had just turned three."
Emerging shyly from her hiding place, Mineko encounters Madam Oima, the formidable proprietress of a prolific geisha house in Gion. Madam Oima is mesmerized by the child's black hair and black eyes: she has found her successor. And so Mineko is gently, but firmly, prised away from her parents to embark on an extraordinary career, of which she will become the best. But even if you are exquisitely beautiful and the darling of the okiya, the life of a geisha is one of gruelling professional demands. And Mineko must first contend with her bitterly jealous sister who is determined to sabotage her success . . .
Captivating and poignant, GEISHA OF GION tells of Mineko's ascendancy to fame and her ultimate decision to leave the profession she found so constricting.
The works of Friedrich Nietzsche have fascinated readers around the world ever since the publication of his first book more than a hundred years ago. As Walter Kaufmann, one of the world’s leading authorities on Nietzsche, notes in his introduction, “Few writers in any age were so full of ideas,” and few writers have been so consistently misinterpreted. The Portable Nietzsche includes Kaufmann’s definitive translations of the complete and unabridged texts of Nietzsche’s four major works: Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, Nietzsche Contra Wagner and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In addition, Kaufmann brings together selections from his other books, notes, and letters, to give a full picture of Nietzsche’s development, versatility, and inexhaustibility. “In this volume, one may very conveniently have a rich review of one of the most sensitive, passionate, and misunderstood writers in Western, or any, literature.” —Newsweek
Amazing Grace is Jonathan Kozol’s classic book on life and death in the South Bronx—the poorest urban neighborhood of the United States. He brings us into overcrowded schools, dysfunctional hospitals, and rat-infested homes where families have been ravaged by depression and anxiety, drug-related violence, and the spread of AIDS. But he also introduces us to devoted and unselfish teachers, dedicated ministers, and—at the heart and center of the book—courageous and delightful children. The children we come to meet through the friendships they have formed with Jonathan defy the stereotypes of urban youth too frequently presented by the media. Tender, generous, and often religiously devout, they speak with eloquence and honesty about the poverty and racial isolation that have wounded but not hardened them. Amidst all of the despair, it is the very young whose luminous capacity for love and transcendent sense of faith in human decency give reason for hope.
(5) The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, by Robert Wright
Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women's interests? These are among the questions that have made The Moral Animal one of the most provocative science books in recent years. Wright unveils the genetic strategies behind everything from our sexual preferences to our office politics—as well as their implications for our moral codes and public policies.
Raymond Tallis criticizes attempts to "biologize" consciousness by explaining its origin in evolutionary terms and identifying mental phenomena with brain processes, to "computerize" it by identifying mind with the supposed computational activity of the brain, and to eliminate it by denying the reality of qualia.
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.
In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.
How have changes in media affected our everyday experience, behavior, and sense of identity? Such questions have generated endless arguments and speculations, but no thinker has addressed the issue with such force and originality as Joshua Meyrowitz in No Sense of Place. Advancing a daring and sophisticated theory, Meyrowitz shows how television and other electronic media have created new social situations that are no longer shaped by where we are or who is "with" us.
While other media experts have limited the debate to message content, Meyrowitz focuses on the ways in which changes in media rearrange "who knows what about whom" and "who knows what compared to whom," making it impossible for us to behave with each other in traditional ways. No Sense of Place explains how the electronic landscape has encouraged the development of
-More adultlike children and more childlike adults;
-More career-oriented women and more family-oriented men; and
-Leaders who try to act more like the "person next door" and real neighbors who want to have a greater say in local, national, and international affairs.
The dramatic changes fostered by electronic media, notes Meyrowitz, are neither entirely good nor entirely bad. In some ways, we are returning to older, pre-literate forms of social behavior, becoming "hunters and gatherers of an information age." In other ways, we are rushing forward into a new social world. New media have helped to liberate many people from restrictive, place-defined roles, but the resulting heightened expectations have also led to new social tensions and frustrations. Once taken-for-granted behaviors are now subject to constant debate and negotiation.
The book richly explicates the quadruple pun in its title: Changes in media transform how we sense information and how we make sense of our physical and social places in the world.
Influenced in part by the dialogical philosophies of Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber, Totality and Infinity departs from the ethically neutral tradition of ontology to analyze the "face-to-face" relation with the Other. First published in English by Duquesne in 1969, this has become one of the classics of modern philosophy. Fully indexed.
Emmanuel Levinas, a major voice in twentieth century philosophical thought, died in late 1995. After studying under Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in the late 1920s, Levinas went on to develop a philosophical system that placed ethics at its center. His writings have influenced several generations of French philosophers, including Jacques Derrida, and have won him an admiring audience among theologians.
A distinguished psychiatrist from Martinique who took part in the Algerian Nationalist Movement, Frantz Fanon was one of the most important theorists of revolutionary struggle, colonialism, and racial difference in history. Fanon’s masterwork is a classic alongside Edward Said’s Orientalism or The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and it is now available in a new translation that updates its language for a new generation of readers. The Wretched of the Earth is a brilliant analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, the book incisively attacks the twin perils of postindependence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. Fanon’s analysis, a veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, has been reflected all too clearly in the corruption and violence that has plagued present-day Africa. The Wretched of the Earth has had a major impact on civil rights, anticolonialism, and black consciousness movements around the world, and this bold new translation by Richard Philcox reaffirms it as a landmark.
Drawing on a broad range of disciplines, including history, literature, and philosophy―as well as the author's own experience of life on three continents―Cosmopolitanism is a moral manifesto for a planet we share with more than six billion strangers.
Kwame Anthony Appiah pens the Ethicist column for the New York Times, and is the author of the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism, among many other works. A professor of philosophy and law at New York University, Appiah lives in New York.
Jose Carlos Mariátegui was one of the leading South American social philosophers of the early twentieth century. He identified the future of Peru with the welfare of the Indian at a time when similar ideas were beginning to develop in Middle America and the Andean region. Generations of Peruvian and other Latin American social thinkers have been profoundly influenced by his writings.
Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality (Siete ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana), first published in 1928, is Mariátegui's major statement of his position and has gone into many editions, not only in Peru but also in other Latin American countries. The topics discussed in the essays—economic evolution, the problem of the Indian, the land problem, public education, the religious factor, regionalism and centralism, and the literary process—are in many respects as relevant today as when the book was written.
Mariátegui's thinking was strongly tinged with Marxism. Because contemporary sociology, anthropology, and economics have been influenced by Marxism much more in Latin America than in North America, it is important that North Americans become more aware of Mariátegui's position and accord it its proper historical significance.
An analysis of the nature, causes, and significance of violence in the second half of the twentieth century. Arendt also reexamines the relationship between war, politics, violence, and power. "Incisive, deeply probing, written with clarity and grace, it provides an ideal framework for understanding the turbulence of our times." (Nation).
Mahatma Gandhi was a profound and original thinker, one of the most influential figures in the history of the twentieth century, and a famous advocate of non-violent civil resistance. His many and varied writings largely respond to the specific challenges he faced throughout his life, and they show his evolving ideas, as well as his deepening spirituality and humanity, over several decades. Drawn from the full range of Gandhi's published work--books, articles, broadcasts, interviews, letters--this superb selection illuminates his thinking on religion and spirituality, on society and its problems, on politics and British rule, and on non-violence and civil disobedience. The pieces are arranged to underscore Gandhi's belief that transformation in human life should be from the roots upwards, from the individual through to social and political relations. The Introduction by Judith Brown--a leading authority on Gandhi--provides a succinct account of his life and his ambiguous role in the Indian nationalist movement, examines what kind of thinker and writer Gandhi was, and shows how he built a coherent body of thought.
On 1 November 1911, Lieutenant Cavarotti leaned out of the cockpit of his delicate aircraft and, holding a Haasen hand grenade, began one of the most devastating military tactics of the twentieth century: aerial bombing. This is but one of many points of entry Lindqvist presents in this innovative history. Structuring the book in a way that re-enacts the disruptions of history caused by the advent of the bomb, Lindqvist offers his readers a series of ways into and paths through this re-examination of a century of war. He turns his fresh, inquisitive eye and tireless moral sense on the fascinating histories behind the development of air power, bombs and the laws of war and international justice, demonstrating how the practices of two world wars were born of colonial warfare.
This book is a comprehensive study of cooperation among the advanced capitalist countries. Can cooperation persist without the dominance of a single power, such as the United States after World War II? To answer this pressing question, Robert Keohane analyzes the institutions, or "international regimes," through which cooperation has taken place in the world political economy and describes the evolution of these regimes as American hegemony has eroded. Refuting the idea that the decline of hegemony makes cooperation impossible, he views international regimes not as weak substitutes for world government but as devices for facilitating decentralized cooperation among egoistic actors. In the preface the author addresses the issue of cooperation after the end of the Soviet empire and with the renewed dominance of the United States, in security matters, as well as recent scholarship on cooperation.
Now a global bestseller, the remarkable life of Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan peasant woman, reflects on the experiences common to many Indian communities in Latin America. Menchú suffered gross injustice and hardship in her early life: her brother, father and mother were murdered by the Guatemalan military. She learned Spanish and turned to catechistic work as an expression of political revolt as well as religious commitment. Menchú vividly conveys the traditional beliefs of her community and her personal response to feminist and socialist ideas. Above all, these pages are illuminated by the enduring courage and passionate sense of justice of an extraordinary woman.
In his final book before his death, Primo Levi returns once more to his time at Auschwitz in a moving meditation on memory, resiliency, and the struggle to comprehend unimaginable tragedy.
Drawing on history, philosophy, and his own personal experiences, Levi asks if we have already begun to forget about the Holocaust. His last book before his death, Levi returns to the subject that would define his reputation as a writer and a witness.
Levi breaks his book into eight essays, ranging from topics like the unreliability of memory to how violence twists both the victim and the victimizer. He shares how difficult it is for him to tell his experiences with his children and friends. He also debunks the myth that most of the Germans were in the dark about the Final Solution or that Jews never attempted to escape the camps. As the Holocaust recedes into the past and fewer and fewer survivors are left to tell their stories, The Drowned and the Saved is a vital first-person testament.
Along with Elie Wiesel and Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi is remembered as one of the most powerful and perceptive writers on the Holocaust and the Jewish experience during World War II. This is an essential book both for students and literary readers. Reading Primo Levi is a lesson in the resiliency of the human spirit.
With vast erudition, Foucault cuts across disciplines and reaches back into seventeenth century to show how classical systems of knowledge, which linked all of nature within a great chain of being and analogies between the stars in the heavens and the features in a human face, gave way to the modern sciences of biology, philology, and political economy. The result is nothing less than an archaeology of the sciences that unearths old patterns of meaning and reveals the shocking arbitrariness of our received truths.
In the work that established him as the most important French thinker since Sartre, Michel Foucault offers startling evidence that "man"—man as a subject of scientific knowledge—is at best a recent invention, the result of a fundamental mutation in our culture.
Apologies pervade our news headlines and our private affairs, but how should we evaluate these often vague and deceptive rituals? Discussing numerous examples from ancient and recent history, I Was Wrong: On The Meanings of Apologies argues that we suffer from considerable confusion about the moral meanings and social functions of these complex interactions. Rather than asking whether a speech act "is or is not" an apology, Smith offers a nuanced theory of apologetic meaning. Smith leads us with a clear voice though a series of rich philosophical and interdisciplinary questions, arguing that apologies have evolved from a confluence of diverse cultural and religious practices that do not translate easily into pluralistic secular discourse.
After describing several varieties of apologies between individuals, Smith turns to collectives. Although apologies from corporations, governments, and other groups can be profoundly significant, Smith guides readers to appreciate the kinds of meaning that collective apologies often do not convey and warns of the dangers of collective acts of contrition that allow individual wrongdoers to obscure their personal blame.
(21) Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity, by David W. Galenson
When in their lives do great artists produce their greatest art? Do they strive for creative perfection throughout decades of painstaking and frustrating experimentation, or do they achieve it confidently and decisively, through meticulous planning that yields masterpieces early in their lives?
By examining the careers not only of great painters but also of important sculptors, poets, novelists, and movie directors, Old Masters and Young Geniuses offers a profound new understanding of artistic creativity. Using a wide range of evidence, David Galenson demonstrates that there are two fundamentally different approaches to innovation, and that each is associated with a distinct pattern of discovery over a lifetime.
Experimental innovators work by trial and error, and arrive at their major contributions gradually, late in life. In contrast, conceptual innovators make sudden breakthroughs by formulating new ideas, usually at an early age. Galenson shows why such artists as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Jackson Pollock, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost, and Alfred Hitchcock were experimental old masters, and why Vermeer, van Gogh, Picasso, Herman Melville, James Joyce, Sylvia Plath, and Orson Welles were conceptual young geniuses. He also explains how this changes our understanding of art and its past.
Experimental innovators seek, and conceptual innovators find. By illuminating the differences between them, this pioneering book provides vivid new insights into the mysterious processes of human creativity.
A preeminent scientist―and the world's most prominent atheist―asserts the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society, from the Crusades to 9/11.
With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe's wonders than any faith could ever muster.
Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America. It is also an outstanding political economy, a social and cultural narrative of the highest quality, and perhaps the finest description of primitive capital accumulation since Marx.
Rather than chronology, geography, or political successions, Eduardo Galeano has organized the various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation. Thus he is concerned with gold and silver, cacao and cotton, rubber and coffee, fruit, hides and wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin. These are the veins which he traces through the body of the entire continent, up to the Rio Grande and throughout the Caribbean, and all the way to their open ends where they empty into the coffers of wealth in the United States and Europe.
Weaving fact and imagery into a rich tapestry, Galeano fuses scientific analysis with the passions of a plundered and suffering people. An immense gathering of materials is framed with a vigorous style that never falters in its command of themes. All readers interested in great historical, economic, political, and social writing will find a singular analytical achievement, and an overwhelming narrative that makes history speak, unforgettably.
More than three decades after its first publication, Edward Said's groundbreaking critique of the West's historical, cultural, and political perceptions of the East has become a modern classic.
In this wide-ranging, intellectually vigorous study, Said traces the origins of "orientalism" to the centuries-long period during which Europe dominated the Middle and Near East and, from its position of power, defined "the orient" simply as "other than" the occident. This entrenched view continues to dominate western ideas and, because it does not allow the East to represent itself, prevents true understanding. Essential, and still eye-opening, Orientalism remains one of the most important books written about our divided world.
In her award-winning interrogation of the last century of American history, Samantha Power―a former Balkan war correspondent and founding executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy―asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Drawing upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policy makers, access to newly declassified documents, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields, Power provides the answer in A Problem from Hell, a groundbreaking work that tells the stories of the courageous Americans who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act.
In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.
Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.
At times of global crisis, Jonathan Schell's writings have offered important alternatives to conventional thinking. Now, as conflict escalates around the world, Schell gives us an impassioned, provocative book that points the way out of the unparalleled devastation of the twentieth century toward another, more peaceful path.
Tracing the expansion of violence to its culmination in nuclear stalemate, Schell uncovers a simultaneous but little-noted history of nonviolent action at every level of political life. His investigation ranges from the revolutions of America, France, and Russia, to the people's wars of China and Vietnam, to the great nonviolent events of modern times-including Gandhi's independence movement in India and the explosion of civic activity that brought about the surprising collapse of the Soviet Union.
Suggesting foundations of an entirely new kind on which to construct an enduring peace, The Unconquerable World is a bold book of sweeping significance.
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
Declared “the best survival book in a decade” by Outside Magazine, 438 Days is the true story of the man who survived fourteen months in a small boat drifting seven thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean.
On November 17, 2012, two men left the coast of Mexico for a weekend fishing trip in the open Pacific. That night, a violent storm ambushed them as they were fishing eighty miles offshore. As gale force winds and ten-foot waves pummeled their small, open boat from all sides and nearly capsized them, captain Salvador Alvarenga and his crewmate cut away a two-mile-long fishing line and began a desperate dash through crashing waves as they sought the safety of port.
Fourteen months later, on January 30, 2014, Alvarenga, now a hairy, wild-bearded and half-mad castaway, washed ashore on a nearly deserted island on the far side of the Pacific. He could barely speak and was unable to walk. He claimed to have drifted from Mexico, a journey of some seven thousand miles.
A “gripping saga,” (Daily Mail), 438 Days is the first-ever account of one of the most amazing survival stories in modern times. Based on dozens of hours of exclusive interviews with Alvarenga, his colleagues, search-and-rescue officials, the remote islanders who found him, and the medical team that saved his life, 438 Days is not only “an intense, immensely absorbing read” (Booklist) but an unforgettable study of the resilience, will, ingenuity and determination required for one man to survive more than a year lost and adrift at sea.
(30) The Halo Effect: . . . and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers, by Philip M. Rosenzweig
With two new chapters and a new preface, the award-winning book The Halo Effect continues to unmask the delusions found in the corporate world and provides a sharp understanding of what drives business success and failure.
Too many of today’s most prominent management gurus make steel-clad guarantees based on claims of irrefutable research, promising to reveal the secrets of why one company fails and another succeeds, and how you can become the latter. Combining equal measures of solemn-faced hype and a wide range of popular business delusions, statistical and otherwise, these self-styled experts cloud our ability to think critically about the nature of success.
Central among these delusions is the Halo Effect—the tendency to focus on the high financial performance of a successful company and then spread its golden glow to all its attributes—clear strategy, strong values, brilliant leadership, and outstanding execution. But should the same company’s sales head south, the very same attributes are universally derided—suddenly the strategy was wrong, the culture was complacent, and the leader became arrogant.
The Halo Effect not only identifies these delusions that keep us from understanding business performance, but also suggests a more accurate way to think about leading a company. This approach—focusing on strategic choice and execution, while recognizing the inherent riskiness of both—clarifies the priorities that managers face.
Brilliant and unconventional, irreverent and witty, The Halo Effect is essential reading for anyone wanting to separate fact from fiction in the world of business.
The harrowing true tale of seven escaped Soviet prisoners who desperately marched out of Siberia through China, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and over the Himalayas to British India.
(32) Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport, by Matthew Algeo
Strange as it sounds, during the 1870s and 1880s, America’s most popular spectator sport wasn’t baseball, boxing, or horseracing—it was competitive walking. Inside sold-out arenas, competitors walked around dirt tracks almost nonstop for six straight days (never on Sunday), risking their health and sanity to see who could walk the farthest—500 miles, then 520 miles, and 565 miles! These walking matches were as talked about as the weather, the details reported from coast to coast.
This long-forgotten sport, known as pedestrianism, spawned America’s first celebrity athletes and opened doors for immigrants, African Americans, and women. The top pedestrians earned a fortune in prize money and endorsement deals. But along with the excitement came the inevitable scandals, charges of doping—coca leaves!—and insider gambling. It even spawned a riot in 1879 when too many fans showed up at New York’s Gilmore’s Garden, later renamed Madison Square Garden, and were denied entry to a widely publicized showdown.
Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport chronicles competitive walking’s peculiar appeal and popularity, its rapid demise, and its enduring influence, and how pedestrianism marked the beginning of modern spectator sports in the United States.
With shocking revelations that made headlines in papers across the country, Pulitzer-Prize-winner Tim Weiner gets at the truth behind the CIA and uncovers here why nearly every CIA Director has left the agency in worse shape than when he found it; and how these profound failures jeopardize our national security.
Tim Weiner, a reporter for The New York Times, has filed stories from inside the CIA and around the world for twenty years. He is a past winner of the Pulitzer Prize for covering national security. This is his third book.
Why do our headaches persist after we take a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a fifty-cent aspirin? Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup?
When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we're making smart, rational choices. But are we?
In this newly revised and expanded edition of the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They're systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.
Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger—all by the time he was thirty. He solidified his standing as the nation's foremost political forecaster with his near perfect prediction of the 2012 election. Silver is the founder and editor in chief of the website FiveThirtyEight.
Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.
In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data, Silver visits the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. He explains and evaluates how these forecasters think and what bonds they share. What lies behind their success? Are they good—or just lucky? What patterns have they unraveled? And are their forecasts really right? He explores unanticipated commonalities and exposes unexpected juxtapositions. And sometimes, it is not so much how good a prediction is in an absolute sense that matters but how good it is relative to the competition. In other cases, prediction is still a very rudimentary—and dangerous—science.
Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.
With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our predictions, Nate Silver’s insights are an essential read.
(36) Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, by Tim Ferriss
From the author:
“For the last two years, I’ve interviewed more than 200 world-class performers for my podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. The guests range from super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.) and athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing, etc.) to legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists. For most of my guests, it’s the first time they’ve agreed to a two-to-three-hour interview. This unusual depth has helped make The Tim Ferriss Show the first business/interview podcast to pass 100 million downloads.
“This book contains the distilled tools, tactics, and ‘inside baseball’ you won’t find anywhere else. It also includes new tips from past guests, and life lessons from new ‘guests’ you haven’t met.
“What makes the show different is a relentless focus on actionable details. This is reflected in the questions. For example: What do these people do in the first sixty minutes of each morning? What do their workout routines look like, and why? What books have they gifted most to other people? What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field? What supplements do they take on a daily basis?"
What have the invention of the wheel, Pompeii, the Wall Street Crash, Harry Potter and the internet got in common? Why are all forecasters con-artists? What can Catherine the Great's lovers tell us about probability? Why should you never run for a train or read a newspaper? This book is all about Black Swans: the random events that underlie our lives, from bestsellers to world disasters. Their impact is huge; they're impossible to predict; yet after they happen we always try to rationalize them. A rallying cry to ignore the 'experts', The Black Swan shows us how to stop trying to predict everything—and take advantage of uncertainty.
A black swan is an event, positive or negative, that is deemed improbable yet causes massive consequences. In this groundbreaking and prophetic book, Taleb shows in a playful way that Black Swan events explain almost everything about our world, and yet we—especially the experts—are blind to them. In this second edition, Taleb has added a new essay, On Robustness and Fragility, which offers tools to navigate and exploit a Black Swan world.
A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends?
Told in language we all can understand, A Brief History of Time plunges into the exotic realms of black holes and quarks, of antimatter and “arrows of time,” of the big bang and a bigger God—where the possibilities are wondrous and unexpected. With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of creation.
Gender roles are nowhere more prominent than in war, yet our understanding of the relationship between gender and war is confused. Joshua Goldstein analyzes the near-total exclusion of women from combat forces, through history and across cultures. He concludes that killing in war does not come naturally for either gender, and that gender norms often mold men, women, and children to the needs of the war system.
Painter, designer, and filmmaker Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) was one of the most colorful and controversial figures in 20th-century art. A pioneer of Surrealism, he was both praised and reviled for the subconscious imagery he projected into his paintings, which he sometimes referred to as "hand-painted dream photographs."
This early autobiography, which takes him through his late thirties, is as startling and unpredictable as his art. It is superbly illustrated with over 80 photographs of Dalí and his works, and scores of Dalí drawings and sketches. On its first publication, the reviewer of Books observed: "It is impossible not to admire this painter as writer. As a whole, he . . . communicates the snobbishness, self-adoration, comedy, seriousness, fanaticism, in short the concept of life and the total picture of himself he sets out to portray."
Dalí's flamboyant self-portrait begins with his earliest recollections and ends at the pinnacle of his earliest successes. His tantalizing chapter titles and headnotes—among them "Intra-Uterine Memories," "Apprenticeship to Glory," "Permanent Expulsion from the School of Fine Arts," "Dandyism and Prison," "I am Disowned by my Family," "My Participation and my Position in the Surrealist Revolution," and "Discovery of the Apparatus for Photographing Thought"—only hint at the compelling revelations to come.
Here are fascinating glimpses of the brilliant, ambitious, and relentlessly self-promoting artist who designed theater sets, shop interiors, and jewelry as readily as he made surrealistic paintings and films. Here is the mind that could envision and create with great technical virtuosity images of serene Raphaelesque beauty one moment and nightmarish landscapes of soft watches, burning giraffes, and fly-covered carcasses the next. For anyone interested in 20th-century art and one of its most gifted and charismatic figures, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí is must reading.
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician, and it was believed to have been compiled during the late Spring and Autumn period or early Warring States period. The text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare. It is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its time. It has been the most famous and influential of China’s Seven Military Classics, and for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even the common people knew it by name. It has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.
(42) The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides
Thucydides called his account of two decades of war between Athens and Sparta “a possession for all time,” and indeed it is the first and still most famous work in the Western historical tradition. Considered essential reading for generals, statesmen, and liberally educated citizens for more than 2,000 years, The Peloponnesian War is a mine of military, moral, political, and philosophical wisdom.
However, this classic book has long presented obstacles to the uninitiated reader. Robert Strassler's new edition removes these obstacles by providing a new coherence to the narrative overall, and by effectively reconstructing the lost cultural context that Thucydides shared with his original audience. Based on the venerable Richard Crawley translation, updated and revised for modern readers. The Landmark Thucydides includes a vast array of superbly designed and presented maps, brief informative appendices by outstanding classical scholars on subjects of special relevance to the text, explanatory marginal notes on each page, an index of unprecedented subtlety, and numerous other useful features.
In any list of the Great Books of Western Civilization, The Peloponnesian War stands near the top. This authoritative new edition will ensure that its greatness is appreciated by future generations.
(43) King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, by Adam Hochschild
In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million—all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold's Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo—too long forgotten—onto the conscience of the West
Uncharitable goes where no other book on the nonprofit sector has dared to tread. Where other texts suggest ways to optimize performance inside the existing paradigm, Uncharitable suggests that the paradigm itself is the problem and calls into question our fundamental canons about charity. Author Dan Pallotta argues that society’s nonprofit ethic acts as a strict regulatory mechanism on the natural economic law. It creates an economic apartheid that denies the nonprofit sector critical tools and permissions that the for-profit sector is allowed to use without restraint (e.g., no risk-reward incentives, no profit, counterproductive limits on compensation, and moral objections to the use of donated dollars for anything other than program expenditures). These double-standards place the nonprofit sector at extreme disadvantage to the for-profit sector on every level. While the for profit sector is permitted to use all the tools of capitalism to advance the sale of consumer goods, the nonprofit sector is prohibited from using any of them to fight hunger or disease.
Capitalism is blamed for creating the inequities in our society, but charity is prohibited from using the tools of capitalism to rectify them. Ironically, this is all done in the name of charity, but it is a charity whose principal benefit flows to the for-profit sector and one that denies the nonprofit sector the tools and incentives that have built virtually everything of value in society. The very ethic we have cherished as the hallmark of our compassion is in fact what undermines it. This irrational system, Pallotta explains, has its roots in 400-year-old Puritan ethics that banished self-interest from the realm of charity. The ideology is policed today by watchdog agencies and the use of “efficiency” measures, which Pallotta argues are flawed, unjust, and should be abandoned. By declaring our independence from these obsolete ideas, Pallotta theorizes, we can dramatically accelerate progress on the most urgent social issues of our time. Pallotta has written an important, provocative, timely, and accessible book―a manifesto about equal economic rights for charity. Its greatest contribution may be to awaken society to the fact that they were so unequal in the first place.
“One of Orwell’s very best books and perhaps the best book that exists on the Spanish Civil War.”—The New Yorker
In 1936, originally intending merely to report on the Spanish Civil War as a journalist, George Orwell found himself embroiled as a participant—as a member of the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unity. Fighting against the Fascists, he described in painfully vivid and occasionally comic detail life in the trenches—with a “democratic army” composed of men with no ranks, no titles, and often no weapons—and his near fatal wounding. As the politics became tangled, Orwell was pulled into a heartbreaking conflict between his own personal ideals and the complicated realities of political power struggles.
Considered one of the finest works by a man V. S. Pritchett called “the wintry conscience of a generation,” Homage to Catalonia is both Orwell’s memoir of his experiences at the front and his tribute to those who died in what he called a fight for common decency. This edition features a new foreword by Adam Hochschild placing the war in greater context and discussing the evolution of Orwell’s views on the Spanish Civil War.
“No one except George Orwell . . . made the violence and self-dramatization of Spain so burning and terrible.”— Alfred Kazin, New York Times “A wise book, one that once read will never be forgotten.”—Chicago Sunday Tribune
'Seneca the Younger wrote the moral essay De Brevitate Vitae—"On the Shortness of Life"—to his friend Paulinus. The philosopher brings up many Stoic principles on the nature of time, namely that men waste much of it in meaningless pursuits. According to the essay, nature gives man enough time to do what is really important and the individual must allot it properly. In general, time can be best used in the study of philosophy, according to Seneca.' - Excerpted from De Brevitate Vitae on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
With this book Paul Virilio inaugurated the new science whose object of study is the "dromocratic" revolution. Speed and Politics (first published in France in 1977) is the matrix of Virilio's entire work. Building on the works of Morand, Marinetti, and McLuhan, Virilio presents a vision more radically political than that of any of his French contemporaries: speed as the engine of destruction. Speed and Politics presents a topological account of the entire history of humanity, honing in on the technological advances made possible through the militarization of society. Paralleling Heidegger's account of technology, Virilio's vision sees speed―not class or wealth―as the primary force shaping civilization. In this "technical vitalism," multiple projectiles―inert fortresses and bunkers, the "metabolic bodies" of soldiers, transport vessels, and now information and computer technology―are launched in a permanent assault on the world and on human nature. Written at a lightning-fast pace, Virilio's landmark book is a split-second, overwhelming look at how humanity's motivity has shaped the way we function today, and what might come of it.
In this remarkably wide-ranging book Professor Lowenthal analyses the ever-changing role of the past in shaping our lives. A heritage at once nurturing and burdensome, the past allows us to make sense of the present whilst imposing powerful constraints upon the way that present develops. Some aspects of the past are celebrated, others expunged, as each generation reshapes its legacy in line with current needs. Drawing on all the arts, the humanities and the social sciences, the author uses sources as diverse as science fiction and psychoanalysis to examine how rebellion against inherited tradition has given rise to the modern cult of preservation and pervasive nostalgia. Profusely illustrated, The Past is a Foreign Country shows that although the past has ceased to be a sanction for inherited power or privilege, as a focus of personal and national identity and as a bulwark against massive and distressing change it remains as potent a force as ever in human affairs.
Since its original publication in 1975, this groundbreaking work has awakened millions of people to the existence of "speciesism"—our systematic disregard of nonhuman animals—inspiring a worldwide movement to transform our attitudes to animals and eliminate the cruelty we inflict on them.
In Animal Liberation, author Peter Singer exposes the chilling realities of today's "factory farms" and product-testing procedures—destroying the spurious justifications behind them, and offering alternatives to what has become a profound environmental and social as well as moral issue. An important and persuasive appeal to conscience, fairness, decency, and justice, it is essential reading for the supporter and the skeptic alike.
In this sweeping history, bestselling author Amy Chua explains how globally dominant empires—or hyperpowers—rise and why they fall. In a series of brilliant chapter-length studies, she examines the most powerful cultures in history—from the ancient empires of Persia and China to the recent global empires of England and the United States—and reveals the reasons behind their success, as well as the roots of their ultimate demise.
Chua's analysis uncovers a fascinating historical pattern: while policies of tolerance and assimilation toward conquered peoples are essential for an empire to succeed, the multicultural society that results introduces new tensions and instabilities, threatening to pull the empire apart from within. What this means for the United States' uncertain future is the subject of Chua's provocative and surprising conclusion.
Yaldaz Sadakova is a writer and journalist in Toronto. She’s the creator of Foreignish.net.
According to Sadakova, "Foreignish is my personal blog where I publish long-form memoir stories that are specifically about the emotional and psychological aspects of immigration. So experiences like feeling invisible and unimportant because people constantly mispronounce my name, feeling otherized because I’m constantly asked where I’m from, seeing immigration bureaucracy crush my career dreams, feeling isolated because I’m the foreigner who on the surface looks completely integrated but on a deeper level doesn’t fit in, feeling ashamed of forgetting my first language and seeing my second language atrophy.
"I created Foreignish because I wanted to make sense of my own experiences as an immigrant. I always have this need to grasp the deeper meaning of things. But I’m the kind of person who can’t analyze and process things fully unless I write about them.
"I also created Foreignish because outside of fiction, I haven’t been able to find in-depth prose that deals with the psychological aspects of immigration—and I’ve been so, so hungry for that kind of writing. Personal essays about that do pop up, but they’re usually shorter, and they usually lack the complexity and nuance that I crave as a reader."
(52) A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James A. Washington
"We've got some difficult days ahead," civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., told a crowd gathered at Memphis's Clayborn Temple on April 3, 1968. "But it really doesn't matter to me now because I've been to the mountaintop. . . . And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land." These prophetic words, uttered the day before his assassination, challenged those he left behind to see that his "promised land" of racial equality became a reality; a reality to which King devoted the last twelve years of his life. These words and others are commemorated here in the only major one-volume collection of this seminal twentieth-century American prophet's writings, speeches, interviews, and autobiographical reflections. A Testament of Hope contains Martin Luther King, Jr.'s essential thoughts on nonviolence, social policy, integration, black nationalism, the ethics of love and hope, and more.
The expanded and updated edition of David Shipler's Pulitzer Prize-winning book that examines the relationship, past and present, between Arabs and Jews.
In this monumental work, extensively researched and more relevant than ever, David Shipler delves into the origins of the prejudices that exist between Jews and Arabs that have been intensified by war, terrorism, and nationalism.
Focusing on the diverse cultures that exist side by side in Israel and Israeli-controlled territories, Shipler examines the process of indoctrination that begins in schools; he discusses the far-ranging effects of socioeconomic differences, historical conflicts between Islam and Judaism, attitudes about the Holocaust, and much more. And he writes of the people: the Arab woman in love with a Jew, the retired Israeli military officer, the Palestinian guerrilla, the handsome actor whose father is Arab and whose mother is Jewish.
For Shipler, and for all who read this book, their stories and hundreds of others reflect not only the reality of "wounded spirits" but also a glimmer of hope for eventual coexistence in the Promised Land.
Richard Dawkins transformed our view of God in his blockbuster, The God Delusion, which sold more than 2 million copies in English alone. He revolutionized the way we see natural selection in the seminal bestseller The Selfish Gene. Now, he launches a fierce counterattack against proponents of "Intelligent Design" in his New York Times bestseller, The Greatest Show on Earth.
"Intelligent Design" is being taught in our schools; educators are being asked to "teach the controversy" behind evolutionary theory. There is no controversy. Dawkins sifts through rich layers of scientific evidence—from living examples of natural selection to clues in the fossil record; from natural clocks that mark the vast epochs wherein evolution ran its course to the intricacies of developing embryos; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics—to make the airtight case that "we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random selection." His unjaded passion for the natural world turns what might have been a negative argument, exposing the absurdities of the creationist position, into a positive offering to the reader: nothing less than a master’s vision of life, in all its splendor.