A couple weeks ago I mentioned some of my favorite novels from the summer. Here are some nonfiction selections:
|"Yeah, wtf! I don't know either."|
The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses & the Battle over General Relativity by Pedro G. Ferreira (2014)
I am in no way a scientist, probably goes without saying, but over the last few weeks, I have found reason to yap about this book as my place of work prepares for a massive Back to the Future celebration. Anyway, I saw this book at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan. I thought, hmmm, I don’t really know much about relativity. Then I thought I should know more about relativity. I bought the book. I read the book. I now know that I know very little about relativity, which is still a lot more than I did. Surprisingly, this book by Ferreira is one of the quickest reads I’ve enjoyed in a long while. Maybe there’s something to adventuring outside one’s areas of confidence and expertise.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein (2014)
A bold and daring book that in its willingness to engage with all-encompassing issues becomes rather all-encompassing itself. The first three quarters of Klein’s text seem to engage with every industrial event and lack of political will and environmental impulse since the first lump of coal went up in smoke. The book’s memory reaches well back into history, and its concerns spiral out into a wide open future—a future that may or may not involve human life. Especially touching in the work are the parallels Klein draws between a life-sustaining planet and her struggles with her own fertility. Somehow, amidst a creeping cynicism and apocalyptic visions, she manages to find a strange sense of grace, and hope.
A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 by James Barr (2012)
Reading an article in Time Magazine sometime over the last year, I saw a reference to Barr’s history of the region in the first half of the 20th Century. I wrote it down. I read it. Similar to Klein’s This Changes Everything, Barr’s text creates an odd mixture of hope and fear. Knowing the history of the region makes apocalyptic panic and fear-mongering a less urgent affair. Yet, at the same time, an awareness of historic pain is overwhelming in its own way. How can violence of such mass and so deeply rooted ever be killed? I’m not sure, but I do know that kneejerk reactions to horrendous photos, a call for rash action disguised as righteous courage, and political games that treat real geographies like board game territories are probably solutions other than right. And, still, to do nothing is no more desirable. We should at least admit the difficulty.
The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotle (Old as hell)
Well, what can I say? I’m a huge nerd. Worse than being a huge nerd, I’m also a very traditional nerd.
Bryan Harvey tweets about books, sports, and other things @LawnChairBoys.