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SirReadaLot.org


We Review the Best of the Latest Books

ISSN 1934-6557

May 2011, Issue #145

Calligraphy in 24 Hours by Veiko Kespersaks (Barrons Educational Series)

Charles M. Russell: Printed Rarities from Private Collections by Larry Len Peterson and James Lainsbury (Mountain Press Publishing Company)

The Ramble in Central Park: A Wilderness West of Fifth by Robert A. McCabe, with an introduction by Douglas Blonsky (Abbeville Press)

The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream, unabridged Audio CDs, 9 CDs, running time 11 hours by Suze Orman, read by Nancy Linari (Random House Audio)
The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream by Suze Orman (Spiegel & Grau)

The Future of Futures: The Time of Money in Financing and Society by Elena Esposito (Edward Elgar)

Service Delivery Platforms: Developing and Deploying Converged Multimedia Services edited by Syed A. Ahson and Mohammad Ilyas (CRC Press, An Auerbach Book)

Around the Table: Easy Menus for Cozy Entertaining at Home by Ellen Wright (Harvard Common Press)

Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs by Jason Ryan (Lyons Press)

Hybrids by Whitley Strieber (Tor Books)

First Philosophy: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, 2nd edition edited by Andrew Bailey, with contributing editor Robert M. Martin (Broadview Press)

63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read by Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell (Skyhorse Publishing)

Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 2nd edition edited by Francis Schssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin (Fortress Press)

Creating Space between Peshat and Derash: A Collection of Studies on Tanakh by Hayyim Angel (KTAV Publishing House)

The Living Light Cards by Meg Blackburn Losey (Weiser Books)

The Handy Science Answer Book, 4th edition by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (The Handy Answer Book Series: Visible Ink)

Primate Communication and Human Language: Vocalisation, gestures, imitation and deixis in humans and non-humans edited by Anne Vilain, Jean-Luc Schwartz, Christian Abry and Jacques Vauclair (Advances in Interaction Studies Series, Vol. 1: John Benjamins Publishing Company)

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by James Hannam (Regnery Publishing)

From Neurons to Self-Consciousness: How the Brain Generates the Mind (Gateway Books) by Bernard Korzeniewski, translated from the Polish by Pawel Wawrzyszko (Humanity Books)

The 10 Best of Everything National Parks: 800 Top Picks From Parks Coast to Coast (National Geographic the 10 Best of Everything) by National Geographic, with an introduction by Fran P. Mainella (National Geographic)

Art & Art Instruction / Calligraphy

Calligraphy in 24 Hours by Veiko Kespersaks (Barrons Educational Series)

Serious beginners who open this book can learn the ancient art of calligraphy in 24 one-hour sessions. A carefully structured beginner's course by Veiko Kespersaks, Calligraphy in 24 Hours starts with basic instruction and progresses through sessions that challenge readers with projects of increasing difficulty. An opening lesson introduces students to the standard calligraphy tools pens, inks, and papers. Tutorials go on to teach the basic strokes for constructing 15 different alphabets, letter-by-letter. Timed exercises help learners build speed and confidence and produce beautifully finished lettering with accuracy and consistency. Readers learn how to create professionally designed greeting cards, wall hangings, place settings and wedding invitations. Instructions are complemented with more than 350 how-to color illustrations.

Readers learn the principles behind a range of alphabets, letter-by-letter and stroke-by-stroke, in a series of focused, technique-based tutorials. Calligraphy in 24 Hours

  • Teaches lettering for both broad-edge and pointed nibs in a range of scripts, beginning with easy-to-learn alphabets such as Roman Capitals and Foundational, and finishing with decorative scripts like Flourished Copperplate and Flourished Spencerian.
  • Analyzes alphabets stroke-by-stroke, enabling readers to reproduce letterforms with accuracy and consistency. Essential warm-up exercises build up speed and confidence.
  • Teaches readers how to create beautiful illuminated letters, how to lay out letterforms and words, how to practice good spacing, work in and with color, and embellish basic alphabets with elegant flourishes.
  • Includes a series of practical calligraphic craft projects taught by some of today's best calligraphers. Readers try their hand at designing a bookmark, manuscript book, or family tree.

According to Kespersaks, leading Scandinavian calligraphy specialist and lettering designer, the advent of digital technologies is making handwriting as a social skill largely redundant. The amount we write every day has decreased sharply; students type their notes on computers; application forms require printed writing or block capitals; and even signatures are increasingly being replaced by electronic signatures. Typing itself may soon be obsolete as speech recognition software becomes more advanced.

However, freed from the constraints of commerce and necessity, calligraphy has become an art form in its own right, like printmaking or drawing. Contemporary calligraphers explore the limitless design capabilities of letterforms as well as their traditional use for creating documents and communicating ideas.

Practicing calligraphy will change readers way not only of writing, but also of seeing. Calligraphy in 24 Hours teaches readers to appreciate, or rediscover, the beauty of the handwritten word. As they progress through the exercises in the book, the scripts will subtly adapt to their own handwriting and become truly their own.

Arts & Photography / Antiques & Collectibles

Charles M. Russell: Printed Rarities from Private Collections by Larry Len Peterson and James Lainsbury (Mountain Press Publishing Company)

Charles M. Russell cowboy, painter, sculptor, writer was an advocate of the people, animals, landscapes, and ideals of the West. Perhaps most importantly, he was an archivist. Through his detailed and honest paintings, sculptures, line drawings,
and prose, he memorialized the Western way of life as it was at the turn of the twentieth century.
Russell was one of those rare artists who were famous during their lifetimes. Most books about Russell focus on his masterpieces, but Charles M. Russell examines the lesser-known but ubiquitous commercial works that made him a household name. These magazine covers, postcards, calendars, cigar boxes, ink blotters, letterheads, and artifacts are today some of the most highly sought after Russell memorabilia.
From Great Northern Railways See America First stamps to a 1904 tray advertising Heptol Splits, many of these items have not been seen since they were first produced. Charles M. Russell by Larry Len Peterson presents hundreds of these gems in a large, full-color format, framed by the story of Russells remarkable life. Peterson, a two-time Western Heritage Award winner for best art book of the year and recipient of the Scriver Award, is an acknowledged expert on art and art history of the American West.

Late in his life Russell wrote a six-paragraph preface for his second book of stories, More Rawhides, titled "A Few Words about Myself. In what has to be one of the great understatements in Western art, he concluded the preface by saying, I am an illustrator. There are lots better ones, but some worse. Any man that can make a living doing what he likes is lucky, and I'm that. Any time I cash in now, I win. He felt it was important for viewers to make their own judgments about the quality of his art, even though by 1925, when the book was published, Russell was considered the greatest of all Western artists, a title he still holds today. Besides his art, this quality of self-effacement, along with his concern for Native Americans, the environment, and the Western way of life, made Russell one of the most endearing of all Western figures.

Charlie, with almost no formal training, possessed a God-given talent for sculpting and painting that could not go unnoticed even though he lived in Great Falls, Montana, far away from the media capitals of the East and West coasts.

Around the turn of the century, most artists relied on illustration work to provide a steady income since the sales of their major art pieces were erratic and prices uncertain. In spite of this, most present-day coffee-table books on Western artists showcase a select group of major art pieces chosen from art museums, ignoring an artist's important illustration work. Producing a book such as Charles M. Russell on Russell's illustration career is difficult because much of the material he produced is not found in art museums but rather private collections, owned by admirers who have spent a lifetime collecting their cherished pieces. The hundreds of books, magazines, postcards, calendars, catalogs, brochures, and letterheads that carry Russell illustrations tell the real Russell story, not only of his life but also of his friends, Montana, and the West.

By the 1880s, romanticism and nostalgia for a passing way of life gripped the public, and artists such as Russell were more than ready to satisfy public interest. The May 12, 1888, issue of Harper's Weekly carried Caught in the Act, Russell's first piece in a national publication. Its caption read: "The starving Indians, with their savage faces, are even more grim from hunger. The gaunt, sore-backed horses are humped by the cold. There are the scurvy dogs that, wolf-like, are snarling as they scent the blood drops in the snow. Russell has caught the exact dreariness of it all the long stretches of the plain, that mournful aspect of a winter scene in Montana." The printing of Caught in the Act was only the beginning of a long career in which magazine articles featured either Russell illustrations or articles on the life of the Cowboy Artist the child genius of the West with no formal art training, nature having been his only instructor.

According to Charles M. Russell, early on, many recognized Russell's artistic genius and were more than willing to help further his career, especially if it meant furthering their own. In 1890 Ben Roberts, a saddle maker from Helena who later was instrumental in introducing Charlie to his wife, Nancy, copyrighted Charlie's first illustrated book, Studies of Western Life. The collection of twenty-two paintings had a regional circulation, mainly in Montana. National exposure came seven years later when the well-known Western writer Emerson Hough wrote a nonfiction book, The Story of the Cowboy that included six halftones of Russell's work. A long list of books that garnered a wide audience followed. Some carried brand-new Russell illustrations while others contained those that had been published previously.

According to Peterson, with fame came more requests from book and magazine publishers and their authors for Russell illustrations. In addition, associations and societies, rodeos and roundups, dude ranches and boot companies, almost any company imaginable, wanted a Russell on its advertising material, be it a calendar, brochure, or flyer. Nancy Russell was there to make sure the companies got what they wanted as long as the price was right. With Charlie's passing in 1926, it would be reasonable to assume that the demand for Russell art lessened, but this was not the case. Public interest only became stronger over the years following Charlie's passing, and judged by present-day prices for his original art and collectibles, it will continue indefinitely.

Charles M. Russell views Russells life and times as they unfolded in published works and other collectibles. For readers, to see a photograph of Charlie on his horse in Cascade, to examine his illustrations from Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, or to know that The Lure of the Dim Trails came with a dust jacket may help him come alive. This unprecedented book on Russell collectibles and published rarities demonstrates what made Russell so special to so many. His published works reached both the masses within his lifetime and future generations with such impact that he will always be at the forefront of Western art and Western ideals. Russell exemplifies the values of the Old West. Far from romanticizing the West, Russells art captured the harsh and beautiful reality of the everyday world he lived in.

Charles M. Russell is an extraordinary, large-format coffee-table paperback revealing an unprecedented collection of Russells masterpieces, many of them to be seen for the first time.

Arts & Photography / Travel / US

The Ramble in Central Park: A Wilderness West of Fifth by Robert A. McCabe, with an introduction by Douglas Blonsky (Abbeville Press)

The Ramble has been a particular focus of the photographers art, and Robert McCabes images are a valuable contribution to this venerable tradition. McCabes book is a testimony to the countless individual visions that each of the thirty-five million visitors brings to their time in the park. From the Introduction by Douglas Blonsky, President of the Central Park Conservancy

For many New Yorkers, Central Park is Manhattans crown jewel and what makes the city livable year round. For tourists, this urban oasis is a must-see destination on any sightseeing visit. For acclaimed photographer Robert A. McCabe, Central Park is defined by its Ramble a densely forested thirty-eight acres replete with stunning lake vistas, enormous granite boulders, a canopy of trees, winding paths and streams, and ornate and rustic bridges. McCabes photographs in The Ramble in Central Park capture this wooded labyrinth in its off-the-beaten-path glory in its most photogenic seasons.
The Ramble in Central Park is primarily organized by four regions, supplemented by one large map by Christopher Kaeser of the entire area and four close-ups of each section. The text is a series of essays by writers including The New Yorkers E. B. White and C. Stevens. Topics cover the history of the parks creation by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and the failed attempt of Robert Moses to essentially eliminate the Ramble in the 1950s, as well as the Rambles 250 species of woodland birds and the areas remarkable geology and plant life. An introduction by Central Park Conservancy President and Administrator Douglas Blonsky describes the recent renovation and continued protection of the Ramble.
McCabe in The Ramble in Central Park says that every few years, at Thanksgiving, he travels to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to photograph the scenery and wildlife in the company of his aunt, who at the age of ninety-nine is a working photographer based in Jackson. Three years ago he returned from such a visit and wandered into the Ramble. It was late fall, and the vistas had opened as the dense foliage of summer had fallen. He could not help but think how extraordinary it was to have in the heart of Manhattan this wild area fronting on a beautiful lake. He contemplated the photographic potential of the area, and how even a pocket like the Ramble could contain on a small scale many of the features that the vast tracts of Wyoming offer.

So, he set out to photograph the Ramble through the changing seasons, concentrating on the unfolding of spring's flowers and light green leaves, the development of fall with rapidly changing colors and views, and the winter snow that transforms the Ramble into another, unrecognizable world. There are still no signs, and it is still not easy to get out exactly when or where you want to; the reason is simple: the Ramble's designers' goal was to make this small area of thirty-eight acres seem large and complex by utilizing winding, twisting paths, and shrubbery and rock hills that blocked visibility. So there is really no logical way to organize a tour of the Ramble, and likewise there is absolutely no way to give directions to someone in the Ramble. The challenge, McCabe says, was to find a way to organize the photographs with some coherency. The solution: they created four imaginary neighborhoods or quarters within the Ramble.

These sections, in concert with Kaeser's comprehensive map, specially prepared for The Ramble in Central Park, enable visitors to unravel the topography of the Ramble with relative ease. The neighborhoods move, with some imprecision, from east to west. The first includes the Point, which is easily accessed from the Loeb Boathouse Restaurant, and its northern rock fields, including Balance Rock and Hackberry Hill. The second area includes the Riviera, Bow Bridge, the Rustic Shelter, the Oven, and Warbler Rock. The third is the Valley of the Gill Creek, from the small, still pool nestled in rocks at its source, to Azalea Pond, then through fields, through channels in bedrock, and finally to the dramatic Gorge, where it enters the Lake. The fourth neighborhood is simply the West. It is accessed by Bank Rock Bridge, and includes the Arch, the Cave, the Inlet, Mugger's Woods, and the Upper Lobe.

As The Ramble in Central Park has developed, McCabe says he has had the opportunity to discuss it with many New Yorkers, including some who can see the Ramble from their apartments. He is amazed that many have never visited this magical place, and many did not even recognize the name.

Central Park is a great work of art, and most appropriately has been an inspiration to painters, photographers, and writers ever since its creation. The Ramble, completed in 1859, has been a particular focus of the photographer's art, and McCabe's images are a contribution to this venerable tradition. McCabe appreciates everything from the smallest detail of an unfurled leaf to the largest vista of the Lake and the New York City skyline beyond, and his scope leaves no leaf unturned.

Originally a barren stretch of rock outcrops abutting a vast swamp, the Ramble area was transformed into intimate woodland to complement the infinite lakes and meadows and formal geometric settings such as the Mall and Bethesda Terrace. With its twisting paths, meandering streams, dramatic shifts in topography, bold rock outcrops, intimate glades, dense plantings, and a fanciful variety of rustic benches, fences, shelters, stone and wooden arches even a dark and forbidding cave the Ramble is the best example of the designers' passages of scenery that compose and recompose themselves as the visitor strolls through the landscape. In contrast to the Ramble's internal obscurity and complexity, the visitor is teased by external views that open to completely different and breathtaking experiences Bow Bridge, Bethesda Terrace, Hernshead, Balcony Bridge, the Lake, the bustling traffic on the Drive to the east, Belvedere Castle, and the Upper and Lower reservoirs.

According to Blonsky in the introduction, in 1866, the New York Evening Post declared that "The Ramble is at present the very soul of the Park." Today, with the restoration of its Lake shoreline in 2009, and the ongoing restoration of its interior woodlands by the Conservancy, they believe that the Ramble is indisputably still the soul of Central Park.

With its detailed map and informative essays, this book offers armchair travelers anywhere in the world the opportunity to take a virtual ramble in the soul of the park. Comprehensive and compelling, The Ramble in Central Park will open new vistas for the enjoyment of the Ramble, and it should appeal to nature lovers, bird watchers, and New York residents and visitors alike. It is the perfect tourist souvenir before or after a visit to Central Park and The Ramble.

Audio / Business & Investing / Personal Finance

The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream, unabridged Audio CDs, 9 CDs, running time 11 hours by Suze Orman, read by Nancy Linari (Random House Audio)

The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream by Suze Orman (Spiegel & Grau)

What does it take for listeners to create their New American Dream?
Suze Orman, the woman millions of Americans have turned to for financial advice, in The Money Class says it is time for a serious reconsideration of the American Dream what promise it still holds, what aspects are in need of revision, and how it must be refashioned to fit Americans lives so that they can once again have faith that their hard work will pay off and that a secure and hopeful future is within their reach.
In nine chapters, Orman delivers a master class on personal finance for this pivotal moment in time. She addresses every aspect of the American Dream home, family, career, retirement. She teaches listeners that in order to create lasting security they must learn to stand in their truth.

Americans must recognize, embrace, and be honest about what is real for them today and allow that understanding to inform the choices they make. The New American Dream is not the things people accumulate, says Orman, but the confidence that comes from knowing that which they have worked so hard for cannot be taken away from them.

In The Money Class, Orman, two-time Emmy Award-winning television host, #1 New York Times bestselling author, magazine and online columnist, writer/producer, and one of the top motivational speakers in the world today, teaches listeners how to take control over their present in order to build the future of their dreams.
Whether navigating the complicated mix of money and family, offering a comprehensive retirement resource, or delivering a bracing dose of reality when it comes to recalibrating ones expectations and goals, Orman educates listeners with her no-nonsense approach. She empowers listeners to live a life of integrity and honesty that will create an enduring legacy for future generations a New American Dream that lies in truth, security, financial freedom, and peace of mind.

Business & Investing / Economics / Social Science / Sociology

The Future of Futures: The Time of Money in Financing and Society by Elena Esposito (Edward Elgar)

This [book] addresses so many complex issues, ranging from the foundations of social science and the defining features of modern societies to the rationality of financial irrationality and questions of crisis management, in such a closely and consistently integrated manner that it is impossible to summarize briefly. As such, it is not a book to be skimmed nor, indeed, a book to be read just once. It is a book to be studied for its rich and wide-ranging insights, its demolition of received wisdoms, its creative critiques of economics as a discipline, its innovative conceptualizations, its reflections on the actuality and inactuality of time, and its brilliant exploration of the enigmas, paradoxes and contradictions of economic organization.... In short, this is a work that is theoretically rigorous, intellectually challenging (in the sense of provocative rather than difficult to read), descriptively and analytically powerful, and, while clearly highly topical, has profound implications for understanding past pasts as well as future presents. from the foreword by Bob Jessop

The Future of Futures reconstructs the dynamics of economics, beginning explicitly with the role and the relevance of time: money uses the future in order to generate present wealth. Financial markets sell and buy risk, thereby binding the future. Elena Esposito, Universit di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy, explains that complex risk management techniques of structured finance produce new and uncontrolled risks because they use a simplified idea of the future, failing to account for how the future reacts to attempts at controlling it. During the recent financial crisis, the future had already been used (through securitizations, derivatives and other tools) to the extent that we had many futures, but no open future available.

According to Esposito, the title of The Future of Futures is deliberately ambiguous. In the course of the book, Esposito shows that the ambiguity belongs to the analyzed phenomena. It leads to both their difficulty and their fascinating appeal. Because of this ambiguity, the book and its title can be read in many different ways.

Why the future of futures? Futures stand here for derivatives as a whole, as options, swaps, forwards and others, all of which are financial instruments. These instruments some new, others less so deal with the future. They settle in the present the buying or selling of something that will take place at a future date. That is, they are contracts that deal today with tomorrow's decisions. We speak of the future of futures first in terms of how derivatives see and shape the future, as a technical and formalized way of dealing with time and its use, having consequences for society as a whole.

Not that derivatives claim to foresee the true course of things; they are tools that react to the uncertainty and instability of the world, to the growth of risk and the resulting alarm. Derivatives turn to the future, a future that they know they don't know, and promise to protect against risks. They promise to deal in the present with the fear of the unpredictable future. The resulting dilemma is that nobody knows if this works. Experience shows that the very attempt to protect against risks produces other risks, and that the future can actually come out differently as a result of the use of derivatives. In this sense, the future of futures is to be understood as that future which results from the trade with futures, the future produced by futures, the future of our `financialized' world.

Esposito says that there is yet a third meaning to the title, one that has become all the more urgent as a result of the financial crisis in 2008. What will happen to derivatives in the future? What will be the future of futures, if we have seen that the forms of management, their regulation and their theorizing are inadequate, and should be more thoroughly reviewed?

Here the subtitle, which presents the proposal of The Future of Futures, comes into play. In order to understand these tools (and the state of finance in general), it is necessary to reconsider the role of time in the economy, that is, the time of money. Therefore the book deals with time, with how the economy handles and regards time, and with how time changes according to the way it is used. Finally, it focuses on the general meaning of time, that is, on how it varies depending on how it is used and how it is understood. While some clues are already available, and belong to the traditions of economics and of sociological theory, the experience of finance in the last decades could lead us to reconsider these more effectively.

Classical economists have pointed out that money, in its essence, is time. Financial markets do in a more daring way what money has always done. They deal with and trade in tomorrow's uncertainty today. To understand financial markets, one should start from the time of money.

The drama of the financial upheavals in the course of 2008 drew attention to the markets and to the esoteric tools they use. In turn, these have become a topic in the mass media, in politics, in public opinion and, of course, in economics. Money is fashionable. It is the central theme of our time, a theme that both involves and concerns everyone. One could also say that, in this sense, our time is the time of money, a time obsessed with money, seeking to find in its movements a clue to the general sense of society and its evolution. This is the time of money in finance. Both mysterious and urgent, it seems to get out of the technical sphere and affect society in general. We now move to the last reference of The Future of Futures, the time of money in society. This involves very different areas, such as politics, media, organizations and families, all confronted with a new form of money and a new construction of time. The time of money could help us to understand what time has become in our society, a society obsessed with time, yet a society that understands time less and less. Here our discourse leaves the economic and financial sphere and concerns itself with what has become the `risk society', a society no longer defined by its past or its traditions, but turned to the future. This orientation is adopted as a means of preparation for that future, but this produces further uncertainties.

According to Esposito, the real problem is time, in that, as long as we don't know how to handle the future (or, for that matter, what future it is that we are to handle), we cannot manage its risks. In studying the time of money, one studies the time of a society that defines itself with reference to a future that depends on it, both in the economy and in other spheres.

These are the issues and the presuppositions of The Future of Futures. They are both numerous and interwoven. The organization of the volume is linear, and should allow readers to follow the discourse, even if they are interested in only one of the issues considered (such as financial problems, sociological problems, or the concept of time). To facilitate these different readings, a brief introduction is placed at the beginning of each chapter. Thus it should prove easier to follow the line of discourse even when it addresses rather technical issues in one of the sections, given that one will know the point of the chapter and the means by which it develops without having to go into its technical elements.

The Future of Futures is divided into three parts, becoming gradually more specific. The first part deals with very general themes, which set the stage for later arguments. It starts by asking what the role of time in economics is, and by presenting all the criticisms that economists direct to themselves on this point (Chapter 1). It then introduces the sociological idea of a time that does not exist by itself, but is produced by the present to get an orientation towards the future (Chapter 2). This construction becomes more and more complex, because it interweaves both future and past perspectives of different observers and of different presents. The economy serves to manage this complexity because, if we have money, we can rely on the possibility of satisfying our needs in the future, even should others want the same goods. Chapter 3 reconstructs the meaning of economy in this view. Chapter 4 presents the role and the function of money, which stands for every other good and which links different presents and all members of society with one another. The circulation of money presupposes markets, which circulate information and allow operators to observe one another (Chapter 5). Financial markets exacerbate the mechanisms of the market and show how specific markets centered on risk have been produced, with a dynamic and structures that require much more abstract theoretical tools (Chapter 6).

The second part of The Future of Futures deals with the specifics of finance and the relationship of finance to the world. It asks whether the reality of finance is only virtual or whether it is a concrete production and circulation of wealth, and what the relationship between the paper economy and the real economy (Chapter 7) consists of. Chapter 8 presents and discusses derivatives, showing that they are contracts to sell and manage risks instruments that have become necessary in an increasingly unstable and uncertain world. It deals with the problem of whether or not they are a new form of money, though much more abstract and flexible, aimed directly at the present management of a future that one knows is unknown (Chapter 9). The resulting trade of uncertainty requires complex and formalized tools, which allow operators to price and circulate risk. Chapter 10 discusses the techniques of structured finance and their limits. These have led to unforeseeable situations and to a dramatic interlacement of time perspectives.

Part III deals with the financial crisis in 2008. In it, Esposito describes the financial crisis from the point of view of the management of time and its shortcomings. Chapter 11 reconstructs the basis of the crisis, showing that it was a matter of oversimplified visions of the future and of risk that referred to the present. As a result, the present found out that it no longer had open possibilities, in that it had already used its own future. Chapter 12 presents the spread of the crisis as an implosion of the future and of trust. This has led to a situation where, instead of overusing the future, one refuses to build it up at all, and remains paralyzed as a consequence. The state attempted to regulate the situation (Chapter 13), adopting various measures that proved more or less adequate depending on the image of the future they used, that is, depending on their ability to recognize the unpredictability of the time to come and the need to learn from it as it comes to be the case.

At the end of the journey, no concrete answers are presented and, in fact, for those who must decide, there are not even precise indications to assure them of the right thing to do or the way in which to do it. Such a claim would go against the general approach of The Future of Futures, which starts with the uncertainty and obscurity of the future. This obscurity, however, does not mean that the role of the future in operations and decisions must be bleak. On the contrary, by underlining the use of time in highly technical and often impenetrable questions of contemporary finance, one will be better able to understand an area of our society that has increasingly become all the more mysterious.

This is a brilliant and timely book that shows how financing is centrally implicated in the very unpredictability and uncertainty it purports to master. With the incisiveness, characteristic of her style and writing, Esposito reads economics in innovative ways that disclose the hidden premises by which financial instruments trade and consume the prospects of the future. Jannis Kallinikos, London School of Economics, UK

Elena Esposito analysis of financial markets and of their recent decline is radically different from the analyses which can be found in economic journals or books.... The author does not deliver recipes on how to prevent severe crises of the financial system in the future. Yet, her concept facilitates understanding of how financial futures are opened up or closed and thus provides insights into basic principles on whose basis future opportunities can be kept open and trust can be maintained. Innovative reforms of the financial system can only develop on the basis of unconventional analyses. Elena Esposito's book contains an analysis of this kind. Alfred Kieser, Mannheim University, Germany

Within the cacophony of voices trying to explain the recent financial crisis, Elena Esposito's voice sounds clear and deep.... Esposito's fascinating and beautiful work is an important contribution to the sociology of finance, a subdiscipline of sociology that took on itself an extremely important task of explaining how the finance markets really work. Barbara Czarniawska, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Elena Esposito's book is a fundamental analysis of time in economics. With economic rigour underpinned by sociological reasoning, she explains the futures market more clearly than is possible with economic analysis alone.... The book is a sound reflection on modelling time in economic theory, a must for economists. Birger P. Priddat, Witten/Herdecke University, Germany

The Future of Futures is an original and intellectually provocative book which forces the reader to think. Esposito's essay fulfils two rather different functions.... Esposito's well-written, jargon-free book will capture the attention of anyone seriously interested in the future of our market systems. Stefano Zamagni, University of Bologna and Johns Hopkins University, Bologna Center, Italy

The Future of Futures is an innovative and timely book, an excellent and accessible introduction. Readers would be well advised to put their intellectual certainties at risk by engaging with it, observe their reactions to its insights, paradoxes and analyses, learn from its challenging, paradigm-busting arguments, and contribute thereby to the development of science and the critique of economics.

Computers & Internet / Networking / Engineering / Reference

Service Delivery Platforms: Developing and Deploying Converged Multimedia Services edited by Syed A. Ahson and Mohammad Ilyas (CRC Press, An Auerbach Book)

It is becoming increasingly important for telecom operators to be able to provide service delivery platforms (SDP) quickly and efficiently in order to improve the time-to-revenue of value-added services. Presenting a rapid architecture solution to meet this challenge, Service Delivery Platforms supplies a comprehensive overview of the technical aspects of service and content delivery platforms.

Leading experts walk readers through the entire user experience including requirements for the user terminal, SDP, networks, and support systems. The book starts by examining content and media in modern networks. Evaluating basic functions and feasibility, readers learn the fundamental requirements of service delivery platforms and various types of applications and formats. Various delivery mechanisms are covered, including SRP, WAP, messaging, streaming, and broadcast. Service Delivery Platforms also:

  • Introduces the Unified Service Model (USM), a holistic approach to creating effective designs for a range of services.
  • Proposes a self-adaptive service provisioning middleware framework (ASPF) that enables seamless omnipresent service provisioning to mobile users.
  • Presents a general policy framework for web services, including policy generation, enforcement, publication, negotiation, and evolution.
  • Unveils an SOA-based enterprise application integration platform composed of a basic integration platform, a supported platform, administration tool, and development tools.

Editors are Syed Ahson, Senior Staff Software Engineer with Future Technologies and Solutions, Motorola Inc., formerly software developer with NetSpeak Corporation, adjunct faculty at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton and Mohammad Ilyas, formerly an engineer for the Water and Power Development Authority, Pakistan, formerly Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, currently Associate Dean for Research and Industry Relations there.

According to Service Delivery Platforms, convergence between the two largest networks (Telecom and IP) is taking place very rapidly and at different levels: (1) network level: unification of IP networks with traditional Telecom networks through evolving standards (Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Realtime Transfer Protocol (RTP), SS7, 3G) to support interoperability; (2) service level: traditional Telecom services like voice calls are being provisioned on the IP backbone (VoIP), while traditional IP services (most data-driven services such as multimedia, browsing, chatting, gaming, etc.) are accessible over the Telecom network.

Significant investment has been made at different layers of the converged stack, toward supporting data-driven enriched services such as multimedia, gaming, browsing, and so on. Such investments range from core network infrastructure changes (2G to 2.5G, leading to 3G, 4G) to adoption experiments with several standards (e.g., Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)) to support data-driven services (e.g., news feeds, mobile commerce, location-based service access), traditionally accessed over the IP network. Most content providers today have a mobile version of their information portals, which is accessible using mobile and cellular devices. Different game changing and competing technologies (e.g., Global Positioning System (GPS) versus cellular triangulation-driven location services, VoIP versus traditional telephone calls) in this converged marketplace are driving the big players to force an evolution in their business models.

With the market reaching saturation in several countries and revenues from voice calls decreasing rapidly, Telecom operators are aggressively looking at newer sources of revenue. So far, the typical model for providing data-driven services over the Telecom infrastructure has been through partnerships with content providers. In recent years, however, these partnership-driven services have been facing strong competition from similar technologies and applications provided by Internet content providers. These applications can be accessed through a browser-enabled phone, while paying only for the connectivity charges, and thereby adversely affect revenues from the paid-for services hosted on the Telecom operator portal. Examples of such services range from VoIP and telephony conferencing services (e.g., skype, lycatalk etc.) to various content services (maps, ringtones, etc.). An increasing number of mobile users are now using browser-enabled phones to access these services, bypassing the Telecom portal.

Telecom operators, however, have an edge over Internet service providers in terms of their still unmatched core functionalities of location, presence, call control, and so on, characterized further by carrier-grade Quality-of-Service (QoS) and high availability. Enablement of several such enriched converged services requires the core functionalities of the Telecom operator to be easily accessible and composable with third-party services providing the core application logic. Moreover, the underlying converged infrastructure (IP + telephony) needs to be smart enough to be able to provide and manage such enhanced converged services. Such services and applications require enhanced message routing and control in the core stack.

A potential channel for the Telecom operators to increase their revenue is to offer these functionalities as services to developers for creating such new innovative applications. These developers can belong to not only the select partners of the Telecom operator, but also those involved in creating a variety of long-tail applications. Additionally, due to the IP and telephony networks converging, developers can also compose their applications with third-party services available on the IP network. For example, Location and Presence information from Telecom can be clubbed with Google Maps to provide new workforce management solutions for mobile settings.

Recognizing the potential, Telecom operators have started investing heavily to redesign their back-end support systems (e.g., billing, provisioning, and network support systems) to address the challenges of providing the user with a unified communication, collaboration and service access experience. However, the core functionalities of location, presence, call control, and so on were so far used only internally by the carrier operator's core services (e.g., calls). As such, they were not accessible outside the network, and not easily integrable and interoperable with third-party services.

Toward alleviating these problems, there has been a concerted effort toward the creation of a blueprint for a common service delivery platform (SDP) over the past few years. Next-generation SDP is an architectural solution that enables the reuse of service components trapped in vertical service silos by adopting a horizontal layered approach. There are capabilities beyond network enablers that need to be exposed through the operators SDP these include mobility, operation support system billing support system (OSS-BSS), functions such as billing and provisioning, subscriber profiles, QoS attributes of network elements, as well as profiles of devices supported by the operators' network.

The salient components of an SDP are service creation environment, service orchestration environment, service execution environment, and service control and management environment. A number of standard bodies are working to come up with reference architecture for SDP. Examples are open mobile alliance service environment (OSE), Telemanagement Forum's Service Delivery Framework (SDF), Open Service Access (OSA) Parlay, and so on. Most of these reference designs expose the Telecom capabilities through flexible service-oriented architecture (SOA)-based programming interfaces such as Parlay-X. Recently, Telecom operators are also exposing their capabilities through lightweight mashable interfaces or widgets to compete with the Web 2.0 Internet service providers.

From basic concepts to research grade material, Service Delivery Platforms considers enabling technologies, security issues, DRM, and the evolving role of SDPs. It includes a comparative study of mobile data service development in the United States, China, and South Korea. Addressing roaming access, billing, standardization, and industry initiatives, it provides the broad-based understanding readers need to effectively develop and deploy converged multimedia services.

Cooking, Food & Wine

Around the Table: Easy Menus for Cozy Entertaining at Home by Ellen Wright (Harvard Common Press)

Keep it simple, don't complicate anything, and, above all, enjoy the get-together.

There's no better advice for entertaining at home. After all, the whole idea of casual entertaining is that it should be truly casual: welcoming, intimate gatherings that are conducive to lively conversation and fun.

Ellen Wright admits she's neither a restaurant chef nor a professional party-thrower, but she's been cooking and entertaining for over 40 years. Wright is the author of Bridgehampton Weekends and an interior designer. She has studied with James Beard, Madhur Jaffrey, Lydie Marshall, and Julia Child. She wrote Around the Table for other culinary non-professionals who agree that "when it comes to really enjoying a meal, there's no place like home." Filled with 24 themed menus, divided into cold weather and warm weather categories, the book is accessible. The recipe for Perfect Lemon Cake with Fresh Lemon Glaze might sound intimidating, but it calls for simple cake mix and lemon-flavored instant pudding, and comes with a sanity-saving tip: "If the cake breaks while they are unmolding it, take the pieces out and place them in their rightful positions. When you glaze, the break won't show." Entertaining at home is not about impressing guests, says Wright; it's about making them comfortable.

In Around the Table Wright offers seasonal menus, which are accompanied by full-color photographs, for easy, off-the-cuff but stylish entertaining for family and friends. Wright believes that good food is the impetus for getting together and the means to an end for creating an atmosphere of ease and enjoyment. Her menus offer ideas for just about any occasion cooks could want to plan for. It's Payback Time is perfect for when readers have enjoyed several friends' hospitality once too often without reciprocating and they need to lay out a spread, with Parmesan Toasts, Tomato Onion Soup, Glazed Pork Loin with Mustard and Brown Sugar, Boston Lettuce Gratinee, and Montana Flood Cake. Freezing Cold Winter Night is a small and cozy get-together over steaming bowls of Brisket and Cabbage Soup, Piroshkies, and Warm Apple Crisp. Last-Minute Dinner with Friends takes the pressure off of having bare cup-boards with Broiled Sesame Cheesies, Pasta Puttanesca, and Bread and Butter Pudding. Let's Stoke Up That Fire is a cookout extravaganza with Retro Shrimp Puffs, Tomato and Peach Salad, Creamed Spinach, Butterflied Leg of Lamb on the Grill, and Mary's Blond Brownies.

In every menu in Around the Table Wright highlights easy preparation and do-ahead tips and shortcuts to get cooks out of the kitchen and into the conversation, and she has plenty of ideas for serving and setting the table. She also offers her ten commandments of a successful gathering, including planning the guest list, deciding what to serve and how to serve it, getting guests involved, and, perhaps most important, not getting bogged down in the details.

Ellen Wright's Around the Table is a recipe for fun. It's packed with delicious menus that are easy to prepare and that everyone will enjoy! Colin Cowie, host of Everyday Elegance with Colin Cowie and author of Dinner after Dark

Around the Table is the next best thing to sitting down in Ellen Wright's kitchen and sharing one of her home-cooked meals. She gives us a masterful guide to cooking, entertaining, and the comforts of home. Tom Brokaw, anchor of Nightly News with Torn Brokaw

My wife and I love Ellen's recipes because they are the essence of simple elegance. A good example is her Oklahoma Chili, which warms our Texas hearts. Dan Rather, anchor of CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

Homey, doable, accessible, and delicious there's not a recipe in this collection you won't want to make. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Ellen Wright's new cookbook becomes an everyday favorite! Sally Sampson, author of Party Nuts and The $50 Dinner Party

In this amusing book Wright offers seasonal menus, accompanied by gorgeous color photographs for stylish entertaining. Pop culture references, such as a Valentine's Day dinner menu entitled "Six and the City" and a TV tray menu to accompany viewing of The Sopranos might date Around the Table, but the recipes simple, classic and, above all, easy will always be crowd-pleasers.

History / Americas / 20th Century / True Accounts / Social Sciences

Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs by Jason Ryan (Lyons Press)

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a cadre of freewheeling, pot smugglers lived at the crossroads of Miami Vice and a Jimmy Buffett song. In less than a decade, these adventurers unloaded nearly a billion dollars worth of marijuana and hashish through the eastern seaboards marshes. Then came their undoing: Operation Jackpot, one of the largest drug investigations ever launched and an opening volley in Ronald Reagans War on Drugs. This story is considered the seminal event in Regan's War on drugs that ended a nonviolent era of drug smuggling in the United States, allowing cutthroats and cocaine cowboys to take control of the drug trade.

In Jackpot, author Jason Ryan takes readers back to the heady days before drug smuggling was synonymous with deadly gunplay. During this golden age of marijuana trafficking, the countrys most prominent kingpins were a group of wayward and fun-loving Southern gentlemen who forsook college educations to sail drug-laden luxury sailboats across the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean. Les Riley, Barry Foy, and their comrades eschewed violence as much as they loved pleasure, and it was greed, lust, and disaster at sea that ultimately caught up with them, along with the law.

In a cat-and-mouse game played out in exotic locations across the globe, the smugglers sailed through hurricanes, broke out of jail and survived encounters with armed militants in Colombia, Grenada and Lebanon. Based on years of research and interviews with imprisoned and recently released smugglers and the law enforcement agents who tracked them down, Jackpot does for marijuana smuggling what Blow and Snowblind did for the cocaine trade. Ryan, South Carolina journalist and former staff reporter for the State newspaper, draws on extensive interviews, grand jury and trial transcripts, personal correspondence, news articles, and police reports.

Their nicknames Flash, Rolex, Bob the Boss, Willie the Hog, and Disco Don read like a roster of mobsters. Their destinations for acquiring drugs and depositing money the Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, and Lebanon were either exotic, white-sand resorts or rugged, war-torn coasts. To some, they were cult heroes and folk legends. Through indictments covering just a portion of their alleged misdeeds, the government accused a few dozen men of smuggling 347,000 pounds of marijuana and 130,000 pounds of hashish into the United States.

Speaking to reporters, U.S. Attorney Henry McMaster conceded that "most of it got through; a lot of it's been smoked." Still, he said, these outlaws' days were numbered.

No matter their cunning, the gentlemen smugglers would not escape the pioneering task force he had assembled with investigators from five federal agencies.

For the first time in Jackpot, some of the country's biggest marijuana and hashish kingpins go on record to describe their heady sailing adventures to procure ton after ton of illegal drugs. They reveal details of their trips, fruits of their illegal activity, and discuss:

  • An undercover sting operation performed in Antigua to capture fugitive kingpin Bob The Boss Byers.
  • The diplomatic impasse between the United States and Antigua over possession of Byers' million-dollar sailboat.
  • The contents of jailhouse letters and scribbling of some of America's most wanted men.
  • White House memos concerning Operation Jackpot and the controversial, publicity-seeking prosecutor leading the investigation.

Ryan writes a thoroughly researched account of Operation Jackpot, the drug investigation that ended the reign of South Carolina's gentlemen smugglers, marijuana kingpins who kick-started Reagan's war on drugs. rather than a comprehensive survey of marijuana and hashish smuggling in the 1970s and '80s, his book profiles personalities, focusing on a few talented smugglers and their wild exploits, such as a 1976 incident in the Florida Keys when the approach of police caused smugglers to scatter, sending a 65-foot sport fishing yacht with 15,000 pounds of marijuana on autopilot toward Cuba "never to be seen by the smugglers again." The last member of the crew to go to prison, having evaded the law for 25 years, pleaded guilty in 2008. Ryan recreates the era with a vivid, sun-drenched intensity. Publishers Weekly

High times on the high seas: Investigative reporter Ryan recounts the glory days of dope smuggling and their terrible denouement.... A well-told tale of true crime that provides a few good arguments for why it should not be a crime at all. Kirkus Reviews

Jackpot is an exciting true account, throwing light on how the War on Drugs led to greater hard-core, violent, criminal activity.

Literature & Fiction / Mysteries & Thrillers / Science Fiction & Fantasy / Hi-Tech

Hybrids by Whitley Strieber (Tor Books)

From the controversial mind of bestselling author Whitley Strieber comes a new novel exploring an unthinkable but real possibility...

In all of his work, Strieber has sought to explore puzzling phenomenon. In fact, he has become one of the leading voices in search of a scientific basis for aliens and other paranormal happenings. His national radio show, "Dreamland," and popular website, Unknown Country, present the world with scientific mysteries and possibilities. With his books, Strieber seeks to explore some of these issues that he finds most worrisome and pressing. Whether he is looking into nuclear terrorism that threatens the U.S. or the path our environmental destruction might lead to, the inspiration for the blockbuster film The Day After Tomorrow, Strieber says he seeks to educate as well as entertain his readers. With his bestseller Communion in 1987, Strieber told the story of his own encounters and abductions by aliens and he has continued to both scare and push boundaries. Now, he returns with a frightening new book: Hybrids, in which he describes a new threat to Earth.

Millions of people have described confrontations with aliens that authorities say do not exist. Drawing from a lifetime of research and his own experiences, Strieber offers up an account of the conspiracy behind alien presence on Earth, and the Hybrids that have been developed to get closer to human kind.

For years, people have feared that the experiments performed upon victims of alien abductions might lead to the creation of something that modern science considers impossible: hybrids of the alien and the human. They would think like aliens, but appear human, and be able to do something that full-blooded aliens can't walk the earth freely.

In his new thriller, Hybrids, Dr. Thomas Turner works with extraterrestrial scientists and the United States government to create an alien-human hybrid. But even after the aliens abandon the project and return home, Turner does not give up. He perfects the hybrids, giving them superhuman strength, alien brilliance and an alien's cold, cold heart.

When the government orders him to destroy his demonic handiwork, he complies, and thinks that he's succeeded. But the hybrids are smarter than Turner smarter than all of us. They survive. Reptilian, primed to kill, and furious at the human race, they dig deep and hide well, preparing for the final annihilation of mankind.

One of Turner's original creations a being more human than alien is the only person capable of defeating them. But first he must face the agonizing truth about himself and the woman he loves. He must also fight the most terrible battle in history a battle for humanity's right to exist.

In Hybrids, Strieber unleashes his skills as a thriller writer and his knowledge of the abduction phenomenon to explore what might happen if hybrids invaded the earth not from the stars, but from exactly where the aliens told Strieber they would emerge, when one of them said, "We will come from within you." It is hard to tell where this provocative author is coming from does he believe this stuff or not?

Philosophy

First Philosophy: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, 2nd edition edited by Andrew Bailey, with contributing editor Robert M. Martin (Broadview Press)

First Philosophy is an introductory anthology bringing together forty-eight readings on eight topics central to philosophy. Mindful of the intrinsic difficulty of much of the material, editor Andrew Bailey, Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, provides comprehensive introductions both to the eight topics and to each individual selection. By providing a detailed discussion of the historical and intellectual background to each piece, he helps readers approach the material without unnecessary barriers to understanding. The topics from "Does God exist?" to "Do we have free will?" and "What is justice?" are chosen with a view both to their philosophical importance and to their interest to first-year students. In an introductory chapter, Bailey provides a brief introduction to the nature of philosophical enquiry, to the nature of argument, and to the process of reading and writing within the academic discipline of philosophy.

In First Philosophy Bailey brings together classic and contemporary readings. Helpful explanatory footnotes are provided throughout. New to this second edition are readings from Alvin Plantings, Edmund Gettier, Wesley Salmon, Helen Longino, Frank Jackson, David Chalmers, A.J. Ayer, Bernard Williams, Thomas Nagel, and Susan Moller Okin. The anthology now also includes two appendices a compendium of philosophical puzzles and paradoxes, and a glossary of philosophical terms.

First Philosophy is intended to be a reasonably representative introduction to philosophy, a far from exhaustive sampling of important philosophical questions, major philosophers and their most important works, periods of philosophical history, and styles of philosophical thought. More than half of the included readings, however, were published since 1950, and another important aim of the book is to provide some background for current philosophical debates, to give readers a springboard for the plunge into the exciting world of contemporary philosophy (debates about the nature of consciousness, say, or quantum theories of free will, or feminist ethics, or the status of scientific knowledge, or welfarist vs. libertarian accounts of social justice, or ...).

The aim of First Philosophy is to introduce philosophy through philosophy itself: it is not a book about philosophy but a book of philosophy, in which great philosophers speak for themselves. Each of the readings is prefaced by a set of notes, but these notes make no attempt to explain or summarize the reading. Instead, the goal of the notes is to provide background information helpful for understanding the reading to remove as many of the unnecessary barriers to comprehension as possible, and to encourage a deeper and more sophisticated encounter with great pieces of philosophy. The notes to selections, therefore, do not stand alone and certainly are not a substitute for the reading itself: they are meant to be consulted in combination with the reading. The philosophical selections are also heavily annotated throughout by the editor, again in an effort to get merely contingent difficulties for comprehension out of the way and allow readers to devote all his or her effort to understanding the philosophy itself.)

Regarding the 'Suggestions for Critical Reflection' section: although the notes to the readings contain no philosophical critique of the selection, the questions in this section are largely intended to help readers generate their own critiques. As such, they are supposed to be thought-provoking, rather than straightforwardly easy to answer. They try to suggest fruitful avenues for critical thought (though they do not cover every possible angle of questioning, or even all the important ones), and only very rarely is there some particular 'right answer' to the question.

The readings in First Philosophy are, so far as is practicable, `complete': that is, they are entire articles, chapters, or sections of books. The editors feel it is important for students to be able to see an argument in the context in which it was originally presented; also, the fact that the readings are not edited to include only what is relevant to one particular philosophical concern means that they can be used in a variety of different ways following a variety of different lines of thought across the ages. Some instructors will wish to assign for their students shorter excerpts of some of these readings, rather than having them read all of the work included: the fact that complete, or almost complete, pieces of philosophy are included in this anthology gives the instructor the freedom to pick the excerpts that best fit their pedagogical aims. The book also includes an alternative table of contents giving suggestions for abridgement corresponding to the shortened pieces most commonly found in other introductory philosophy anthologies.

The notes to the readings in First Philosophy are almost entirely a work of synthesis, and a large number of books and articles were consulted in their preparation; it is impossible without adding an immense apparatus of notes and references to acknowledge them in detail, but all the main sources have been included as suggestions for further reading.

I would recommend First Philosophy to anyone teaching an introductory
philosophy course. Paul Churchland, University of California, San Diego

First Philosophy has a good selection of articles for my purposes, and the accompanying introductory background material is absolutely brilliant. Jillian Scott McIntosh, Simon Fraser University

This is an extremely well-done philosophy text... [It] should become a standard in introductory philosophy classes. Patricia Blanchette, University of Notre Dame

The introductions are fabulous; students find them very helpful. Overall, First Philosophy is an excellent anthology for first-year students; the text has made my job significantly easier. Jennifer M. Phillips, Indiana University, Bloomington

The main difference between other anthologies and First Philosophy is Bailey's supplementary material, which is excellent. The biographical materials are very interesting.... The explicative material is likewise excellent: clear, highly relevant, useful, easily understood. Jeff Foss, University of Victoria

For those so inclined, First Philosophy provides all the material required to grow a philosophical mind, except perhaps someone to talk to about what one has read.

Politics / Current Events

63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read by Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell (Skyhorse Publishing)

This WikiLeaks stuff is going to rank right up there with 9/11 and the murder of Kennedy. Theyre using it to curtail our freedom of speech.... Is there any doubt that theyre running a blitz against every one of our liberties? Jesse Ventura

The official spin on numerous government programs is bull, according to Jesse Ventura. Fifty years ago, even before the reign of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, we the American people knew the government was dishonest. Politicians can act anonymously, in secrecy, and behave unethically. In 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read, Ventura former Navy SEAL, wrestler, actor, former governor of Minnesota, TV personality, visiting fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and bestselling author with the help of author Dick Russell, embarks on a pursuit for truth to unveil what the U.S. government is doing behind closed doors. Ventura explains: "I've put together this book because it's become crystal clear that our democracy has been undermined from within and it's been going on for a long time." This collection is actual government data now in the public domain, written examples of criminal activity that Ventura hopes will inspire or infuriate readers to "wake up and start demanding accountability [from guilty government figures]."

63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read is a collection of government documents, and Ventura, the ultimate non-partisan truth-seeker, proves it. He and Russell walk readers through 63 of the most incriminating programs. In addition to providing original government data, Ventura discusses what it really means and how regular Americans can stop criminal behavior at the top levels of government and in the media. Among the cases discussed:

  • The CIAs top-secret program to control human behavior.
  • Operation Northwoods the military plan to hijack airplanes and blame it on Cuban terrorists.
  • The discovery of a secret Afghan archive information that never left the boardroom.
  • Potentially deadly healthcare cover-ups, including a dengue fever outbreak.
  • What the Department of Defense knows about the food supply but is keeping mum.

The same officials who are panic-stricken about WikiLeaks' revelations leaks of information that every citizen in a democracy should be able to access are front and center in the documents that Ventura presents in 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read. He proves that we've been duped into wars we shouldn't be fighting, lied to about intelligence, fed hogwash about terrorism, and tricked into losing more and more of our civil liberties.

According to Ventura, there are sixteen million documents being classified Top Secret by our government every year. Today, pretty much everything the government does is presumed secret. Ventura reveals:

  • The CIA's guide to assassination.
  • Fake terrorist attacks planned by the U.S.
  • The military's experiments on its soldiers.
  • Homeland Security's emergency detention camps.
  • Fewer and less stringent FDA inspections of the food supply.

Ventura cites the words of Patrick Henry: "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them." In 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read, he implores Americans to challenge unnecessary secrecy in the hope that government leaders will show greater ethical consideration in the future if we remove their masks today. Ventura divides the book into five sections:

  • Section 1: Links between past government perpetrations and today's political agendas.
  • Section 2: Delves into a series of government, military, and corporate secrets.
  • Section 3: A history of shady White Houses.
  • Section 4: The truth about the terrible events of September 11, 2001.
  • Section 5: Examines the War on Terror.

Ventura is a strong advocate for any source acting as a check on governmental integrity including WikiLeaks, which he considers heroic: "I say let the chips fall where they may as WikiLeaks puts the truth out there. WikiLeaks is exposing our government officials for the frauds that they are."

Similar to his previous New York Times bestselling book, American Conspiracies, the latest research and commentary in 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read, using his energetic, no-holds-barred approach, sheds new light on what politicians are not telling Americans and why it matters.

Religion & Spirituality / Christianity / Theology

Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 2nd edition edited by Francis Schssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin (Fortress Press)

Unique among contemporary resources, the landmark Systematic Theology and its distinguished contributors Anne M. Clifford, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Michael A. Fahey, Francis Schssler Fiorenza, Jeannine Hill Fletcher, John P. Galvin, Anthony J. Godzieha, Roger Haight, Elizabeth A. Johnson, David N. Power, David Tracy present in this new edition the major areas or loci of Roman Catholic theology in light of contemporary developments, especially the sea-change since Vatican II thought, the best new historical studies of traditional doctrines and Scripture, and the diverse creative impulses that come from recent philosophy and hermeneutics, culture and praxis, and ecumenical contacts.
Systematic Theology, 2nd edition, combines and updates both previous volumes, incorporating into the framework nearly twenty years of fresh thought and bibliography in each area, and adds revisions to key articles to take account of a diverse, fluid, and postmodern situation. Beyond that, however, the often completely recast contributions demonstrate the brilliant possibilities for contemporary systematic theology, thoroughly rooted in the tradition yet absolutely pertinent to today's context.

Editors are Francis Schssler Fiorenza, Charles Chauncey Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School and John P. Galvin, Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Systematic Theology provides an introductory survey of the major theological treatises of systematic theology. In the twenty years since the appearance of the first edition of these volumes, much has changed in the world, the churches, and theology. The preface to the first edition defined five goals: (1) to explain the diverse theological currents of the Second Vatican Council; (2) to describe the impetus that historical-critical studies of the Scriptures and the Roman Catholic Church's traditions and practices have had on the renewal of theology at the time of Vatican II and on the council's theological, ecclesial, and liturgical reforms; (3) to appropriate and to show the significance that recent hermeneutical theories and philosophical developments had on contemporary theology; (4) to draw attention to some recent ecumenical and bilateral statements issued by the various Christian churches; and (5) to take into account the current emphasis on practice that exists across diverse liberation theologies.

For the task of revising and updating the essays, the authors have selected various approaches. Some have added to their chapters reflection on developments in the past two decades; others have completely revised their essays, Three original authors Catherine LaCugna, Monika Hellwig, and Regis Duffy have died, so new authors were selected: Anthony Godzieba has written a new chapter 3 on the triune God, and Jeannine Hill Fletcher has written a new chapter 10 on eschatology. And since David Power wrote on individual sacraments in the first edition, he was asked to expand his work on chapter 9 to cover all the sacraments except for the section on marriage. At the end of every chapter, a new annotated bibliography has been provided. Avery Cardinal Dulles died soon after he finished his revision of chapter 2.

Though the five goals set for the original edition remain the same and are still significant, the context in which they existed has changed. As the editors adopt these five goals and interpret them anew for this edition, the fundamental question that emerges is this: "What constitutes Catholicism?" In other words, what is the meaning of Systematic Theology's subtitle, "Roman Catholic Perspectives"? An answer to this question cannot be reduced to a simple or singular formula. Any attempt to contrast Roman Catholic with Lutheran or Reformed approaches to theology is often misleading, because a focus on the areas of disagreement overlooks the more basic Christian beliefs that each shares with the others. Likewise, the contrast between the Catholic sacramental and substantial versus the Protestant prophetic principle overlooks that much of the substance of Christianity exists in the Reformation churches and much of the prophetic in the Roman Catholic Church. In a similar fashion, the polemic that understands the difference as one between an either/or or a both/and, with the latter representing Roman Catholicism, neglects how the Reformation traditions cannot be limited to the former characterization.

The answer that each of the chapters in Systematic Theology seeks to provide is that a Roman Catholic theological approach attempts to articulate the Christian faith and beliefs through an analysis of their biblical roots, the historical developments in their traditions and practices, and their ecclesial fidelity as evident in the explication of the teaching of the various councils and statements of the papacy. Such attempts bring to the fore sacramentality, universality, and union with the bishop of Rome as goals to be reflected in theology. However, these characteristics can best be understood in the categories of already and not yet. One seeks to uncover their presence, but at the same time, one seeks them as a goal yet to be achieved. Such attempts are made in Roman Catholic theology, as Joseph Ratzinger has emphasized, through various forms of correlation between faith and reason, between Christian belief and critical reflection. To the extent that Systematic Theology was generated out of the spirit of Vatican II, the authors view the challenges laid down by Vatican II and the Holy Spirit that engendered the council as significant tasks to be taken up and developed in the theological history and reflection of the individual chapters.

I welcome this second edition of Systematic Theology and congratulate the editors for their efforts in bringing it out in a single volume. It is an excellent collection of the writings of some of the best Catholic theologians, and I strongly recommend it. Richard P. McBrien, University of Notre Dame

As close to authoritative as anything could be. Theological Book Review

Finally the long-awaited second edition of this vital introduction to Catholic systematic theology has appeared. This comprehensive and critical-constructive handbook, updated to reflect the most recent scholarship, is an indispensable resource for theology students, scholars, and all those with an interest in theology. Lieven Boeve, Catholic University of Leuven

At a time of declining theological literacy, an introductory volume should necessarily provide a basic knowledge not only for collegiate religion majors, and not only for beginning theology students in master's programs, both academic and ministerial, but also for interested and informed general readers. Comprehensive and authoritative, this new edition of Systematic Theology presents a stunningly fresh understanding of the major topics of Roman Catholic theology in light of contemporary developments.

Religion & Spirituality / Judaism

Creating Space between Peshat and Derash: A Collection of Studies on Tanakh by Hayyim Angel (KTAV Publishing House)

[Hayyim Angel] is sensitive to the multiplicity of available meanings, on which he focuses the resources of our revered tradition, which are aimed with the discernment born of his considerable classroom and pulpit experience. It was a pleasure to read the essays contained in this volume and that pleasure is now yours as well. Rabbi Dr. Moshe Sokolow, Fanya Gottesfeld-Heller Professor of Jewish Education, Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University, from his foreword

Tanakh has bonded thousands of years of Jews together. Our perennial attempts at interpreting, applying the messages of Tanakh to our lives, and refining truth in our relationship to God are hallmarks of this tradition. By engaging in this pursuit, we join an age-old dialogue and experience with our greatest interpreters, from the ancient Sages of the Talmud, through the medieval period, down to the present day.

In this third collection of his essays on Tanakh, Rabbi Hayyim Angel, Rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel of New York (the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, founded in 1654), continues to present his learning methodology and in-depth text studies to a wider readership.  Creating Space between Peshat and Derash as a whole invites readers into the learning process, understanding individual passages while utilizing the underlying methodology developed and applied by our classical commentators through the ages.

Some commentators focus more on local interpretations of each word and verse. Others shift their attention to global patterns, literary allusions, and the meaning of entire passages. As the adage goes, one person's peshat is another's derash. It is difficult to ascertain the boundary of what precisely was intended by the text's author and what is imagined by a given interpreter. A creative and compelling interpretation for one might be a forced reading for another. These ambiguities result in meaningful debate and refining of ideas. By creating space between peshat and derash, we can draw layers meaning from the disputes over these boundaries.

Although many interpreters have influenced Angel, he says he gravitates to medieval commentators such as Ramban and Abarbanel as well as contemporary rabbinic scholars such as Rabbis Yoel Bin-Nun, Shalom Carmy, and Elhanan Samet. They pursue both verse-by-verse commentary and global themes. Their synthesized approach encourages readers to be methodical and careful in scholarship, and simultaneously allows for more imaginative and inspirational insight to enter the arena. Most important, they exemplify the bridge between scholarly excellence and deep religious experience.

The Talmud declares that no verse can be divested of its literal, straightforward, meaning. And Nahmanides notes, the Sages didn't say that Tanakh is only to be understood literally, meaning that non-literal interpretations are certainly in order.

According to Angel in Creating Space between Peshat and Derash, the challenge that confronts interpreters who are loyal to tradition is how to preserve the balance between the literal and non-literal elements. On the one hand, they need to be aware of the linguistic and literary possibilities inherent in each and every verse, in order to circumscribe the range of legitimate interpretation. On the other hand, however, they need to beware of stretching the text beyond its linguistic and literary limits in order to accommodate their own ideas.

The interpretation of Tanakh begs two essential questions: Why? and How? Why assume that Tanakh requires interpretation and cannot be understood literally? And, if one grants the premise that interpretation is necessary, how does one distinguish between valid interpretations and invalid ones let alone discriminate among the valid interpretations to order of preference? The Sages, from the Talmud through the twentieth century, have given these questions their due and careful consideration and arrived at the conclusions that interpretation is mandated by the inherent multiplicity of meaning that reposes in Tanakh, and that validity is determined by adherence to and consistency with our venerable tradition.

The school of R. Yishmael taught: "As a hammer shatters a rock." Just as a hammer splinters into several pieces, so is every divine utterance divisible into seventy languages.

Abbaye said: Scripture declares, "God speaks once [yet] I hear twice; strength is God's." A single verse yields several meanings [yet] a single meaning does not emerge from multiple verses. A single verse yields several meanings, yet, in the final analysis, no verse can be purged of its literal sense. Even though the prophets spoke figuratively, each figure of speech must be understood contextually just as each verse must be seen in its context. Finally, according to Angel in Creating Space between Peshat and Derash, interpretation, to be effective, must combine Scripture, tradition, and reason, in order to effect a valid interpretation.

As a Rabbi and Teacher, Angels book displays literary analyses of astonishing clarity and a commitment to reading the text in religious contexts as an aide to living. Both professional scholars and religious readers of all traditions will find it both thought-provoking and fruitful... In its unique insights, with clearly-supported arguments based on searingly close reading, and useful teachings, methodological and Biblical, Angels book is an honourable distillation of his work. The Rev. Dr. Bruce K. Gardner, Former Honorary Research Fellow in Hebrew and Semitic Languages, Aberdeen University, Scotland
If you work through these studies, you will see not only his conclusions, but also how he reaches them. That is the difference between interpretation, even brilliant interpretation, and genuine analysis. The former may be valuable in itself and excite your admiration; the latter helps you to think and study on your own. It is the quality of his analysis and the transparency of his exposition that has made Hayyim Angel a remarkably popular and influential teacher at Yeshiva College for over a decade. Rabbi Shalom Carmy, Chair of Bible and Jewish Philosophy, Yeshiva College and Editor of Tradition

The formidable range of commentaries available to contemporary readers in Creating Space between Peshat and Derash is breathtaking. Their enduring relevance is striking as they take readers by the hand and impart their knowledge and methodology.

Religion & Spirituality / New Age / Divination

The Living Light Cards by Meg Blackburn Losey (Weiser Books)

As discussed in The Secret History of Consciousness by Meg Blackburn Losey, ordained minister in spiritual science and metaphysics, the living symbols have been experienced by enlightened beings for millennia. The Living Light Cards allow users to work with these symbols. Each symbol or combination of symbols is a library of knowledge from the greatest concepts to the smallest of details. Each is also an initiation, a key, to open an awakening to the vast knowledge and giftedness that individuals carry locked within themselves.
The Living Light Cards can be used for personal guidance, initiation, divination, and re-harmonizing the energy fields of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies. They can also be used in energy healing for placement on specific areas.

As users, the masters of their own light, experience these cards, Losey warns they should not be surprised if they feel comfortably yet disturbingly familiar ... they will tug at the most ancient aspects of individuals, calling to them to remember who they are and how powerful they can be. The deck itself consists of 78 full-color cards with a Major Arcana that can be used specifically for spiritual guidance alone and a Minor Arcana that can be used with the Major Arcana for any type of reading desired. Specific layouts are provided based upon sacred geometry principals and other layouts are provided to be used for healing.
Included with the 78 cards is an 88-page guide book. The Living Light Cards are 3 inches wide by 5 inches high and of high quality for long term use.

Science / Education / Reference / Children (grades 4-12)

The Handy Science Answer Book, 4th edition by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (The Handy Answer Book Series: Visible Ink)

From the inner workings of the human body to the farthest reaches of the universe, The Handy Science Answer Book explains scientific concepts in plain English that everyone can understand.

In the years since the first edition of The Handy Science Answer Book was published in 1994, innumerable discoveries and advancements have been made in all fields of science and technology. These accomplishments range from the microscopic to the global from an understanding of how genes interact and ultimately produce proteins to the recent definition of a planet that excludes Pluto. Our society has increased its awareness of the environment and the sustainability of resources with a focus on increasing the use of renewable fuels, reducing greenhouse gases, and building green.

Presenting an educational way to explore the wonders of the world of science, The Handy Science Answer Book, a newly updated fourth edition, poses and answers 2,200 questions, providing an abundance of science facts. Children and adults will uncover some of the most interesting, unusual, and quirky science curiosities such as:

  1. Are cell phones dangerous to peoples health?
  2. Is the same strain of yeast used to make different types of beer?
  3. What is the cleanest fossil fuel?
  4. What is the largest invertebrate?
  5. What was the first computer game?
  6. When was the first time two women shared the Nobel Prize in the same field?
  7. What is an ecological footprint?
  8. What is the average weight of the human brain?
  9. What is antimatter?

Physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, climate and weather, ecology, plants and animals, biology, health and medicine, energy, technology, and more are included in The Handy Science Answer Book, a guide to the most significant scientific theories and discoveries of our time.

The volume is written by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, established in 1902, the first major library to devote a separate department to science and technology. It includes an index. The questions are interesting, unusual, frequently asked, or difficult to answer. Statistical data have been updated for the twenty-first century.

Praise for the 3rd edition:

Here's a way to answer those burning questions you wonder about, or the ones your teacher asks for homework. Dallas Morning News

A compulsively browsable collection of questions and answers on science, technology, and pseudo-science written in nontechnical language [full of] gems of useful and interesting information. Library Journal

Easily read by students in grades 4-12, this resource invites the curious mind to explore.... What a fun and educational way to explore the wonders of the world of science, the world in which we live. National Science Teachers Association

With a wide range of information suitable for everyone, this is the ideal source for anyone looking to get a better understanding of science. Entertaining and enlightening, The Handy Science Answer Book answers burning questions, supports homework assignments, provides engaging trivia, and helps satisfy curiosity. Readers will find this informative and enjoyable resource, chock full of hundreds of intriguing science and technology topics. The various changes, additions, and improvements in this new edition are welcomed, adding to and enhancing the original publication.

Science / Evolution / Words and Language / Reference

Primate Communication and Human Language: Vocalisation, gestures, imitation and deixis in humans and non-humans edited by Anne Vilain, Jean-Luc Schwartz, Christian Abry and Jacques Vauclair (Advances in Interaction Studies Series, Vol. 1: John Benjamins Publishing Company)

After a long period where it has been conceived as iconoclastic and almost forbidden, the question of language origins is now at the center of a rich debate, confronting acute proposals and original theories. Most importantly, the debate is nourished by a large set of experimental data from disciplines surrounding language. The editors of Primate Communication and Human Language have gathered researchers from various fields, with the common objective of taking as seriously as possible the search for continuities from non-human primate vocal and gestural communication systems to human speech and language, in a multidisciplinary perspective combining ethology, neuroscience, developmental psychology and linguistics, as well as computer science and robotics. New data and theoretical elaborations on the emergence of referential communication and language are debated by some of the most creative scientists in the world.

Editors of the volume are Anne Vilain, Universite de Grenoble and GIPSA-Lab; Jean-Luc Schwartz, CNRS GIPSA-Lab, Grenoble; Christian Abry, Stendhal University (Grenoble, 1971-2009); and Jacques Vauclair, Universite de Provence, Aix-en-Provence.

As the subtitle reads, the central concepts that are manipulated in Primate Communication and Human Language are vocalizations, gestures, imitation and deixis, and they are addressed in different ways, through the multiple directions explored to bring material for the issue of phylogenetic continuities towards language, and in particular, to fuel the lively debate on the vocal vs. gestural theories of language origins.

The first question to be investigated is: what do we know about primate communication? New ethological studies will help readers understand the nature and the status of the vocal and gestural communication of apes and monkeys. The basic idea underlying these studies is that a good precursor for human language should be a system with a large variety, specific use, adaptability, learnability and complexity. A large number of behavioral field observations and experimental studies are now being run in primate societies, both in the wild and in captivity, that will give answers to these questions.

Yet no phylogenetic continuity could be assessed without knowledge of the cortical analogies between the non-human and the human control of the communication systems. So behavioral data needs to be complemented by neurophysiological studies comparing the brain circuits for the vocal and gestural modalities of human and non-human primate communication. Studies on the volitional control of vocalizations and gestures, on their cortical networks, and on their links with the perceptuo-motor systems in the brain attest very clear structural and functional similarities between the vocal and the manual communication modalities, and set them as two potential precursors of human language. Specific action-perception circuits in the brain have been shown to be the basis of imitation mechanisms and even action understanding systems, so their investigation reveals the learnability of gestures and vocalizations.

Such a strong interweaving of vocal and manual modes in primate communication and brain evidently brings in the question of how these two motor systems are associated in human language, and particularly in its development. The multi-modal nature of human communication is now a widely acknowledged field of research, and both developmental and behavioral data show how closely voice and gestures are related in the acquisition and adult proficiency of oral language. And one of the crucial nodes of this common structuration appears to be the basic function of deixis. Deixis, a primary and very early element in the development of language, enables the individual to attract the attention of other individuals towards a selected focus of interest, and possibly opens a route towards reference and linguistic predication.

The comparative and developmental perspectives described previously do not really mean to solve the question of language origins, but they literally show us where language comes from. This enables us to better understand how language has been shaped by this evolutionary and developmental pathway, or in other words, to reveal a set of cognitive continuities and constraints that could have played a role in the way language units are built and combined. This opens the route to substance-based theories of phonological systems, which should attempt to 'derive language from non-language'. And this constitutes the last question in Primate Communication and Human Language: can computational models capture one or the other of these cognitive constraints and put them inside a computationally tractable scenario from which some of the properties of human language could be simulated and hopefully better understood?

Primatology including strong views from neurosciences developmental studies, phonetics and computation have now been invited in Primate Communication and Human Language in order to attempt to better describe and understand the links between all metaphorical figures of primates: Monkeys/Apes, Infants, Humans and Robots, in the search for continuities and constraints on language and speech.

And so while it is true that language represents a major difference between humans and other primates, the editors believe that it actually derives from the uniquely human abilities to read and share intentions with other people which also underwrite other uniquely human skills that emerge along with language such as declarative gestures, collaboration, pretense, and imitative learning".

Primate Communication and Human Language brings in arguments from three different directions of studies on language evolution. The first part produces new behavioral and neurophysiological findings about the complexity, adaptability and control of primate vocal communication. The second part questions the possible continuities from orofacial and manual gestures to human language, with neurophysiological, behavioral and ontogenetic data. The third part deals with the emergence and development of language through the integration of all these components, with data from developmental psychology, phonetics and computational simulations.

At the end, the editors have at their disposal a number of data and proposals relevant for the project: vocalization, communicative gestures, imitation and deixis actually seem to provide important pieces towards a communication system already available in non-human primates, and developed at an immensely elaborate stage in human language. Clearly, the major questions of language phylogeny remain unsolved and are actually not addressed in Primate Communication and Human Language such as: why did this immense improvement occur, and how did sophisticated functions of language such as elaborate syntax or referential semantics emerge and develop? Moreover, many disciplines in the language phylogeny consortium were ignored, such as genetics or, to a large extent, linguistics.

However, the basic question of continuities and precursors in primate communication is clearly enlightened. In the light of data and findings described in Primate Communication and Human Language, it appears that the writing of a convincing scenario for language emergence can hardly escape from a strong involvement of both the hand and the mouth in a closely coordinated way. Everything seems to converge in this claim: the evidence for both relatively sophisticated oral and gestural communication in monkeys and apes, their coordination in apes and through human language development, their common mirror neuron system. The expanding spiral emergence scenario proposes an interesting potential framework, in which a number of questions remain open, concerning the ability of each of these systems to push or pull the other one towards more sophistication, from all relevant sides including learning, decomposition, sequencing, reference.

Science / History & Philosophy

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by James Hannam (Regnery Publishing)

Maybe the Dark Ages weren't so dark after all...
As a physicist and historian of science James Hannam shows in his new book, The Genesis of Science, without the scholarship of the barbaric Middle Ages, modern science would not exist.
The Middle Ages were a time of one intellectual triumph after another. As Hannam writes, "The people of medieval Europe invented spectacles, the mechanical clock, the windmill, and the blast furnace by themselves. Lenses and cameras, almost all kinds of machinery, and the industrial revolution itself all owe their origins to the forgotten inventors of the Middle Ages."
In The Genesis of Science readers discover:

  • Why the scientific accomplishments of the Middle Ages surpassed those of the classical world.
  • How medieval craftsmen and scientists not only made discoveries of their own, but seized upon Eastern inventions printing, gunpowder, and the compass and improved them beyond the dreams of their originators.
  • How Galileo's notorious trial before the Inquisition was about politics, not science.
  • Why the theology of the Catholic Church, far from being an impediment, led to the development of modern science.

Most Americans take what historians teach to be factually accurate; including the fact that medieval times were the Dark Ages for science, mathematics, and technology. The Genesis of Science shows there was great scientific advancement during the Middle Ages, not despite the Church, but because of it.

The achievements of medieval science are so little known today that it might seem natural to assume that there was no scientific progress at all during the Middle Ages. Even historians seem addicted to the idea that nothing of any consequence occurred between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Closely coupled to the myth is the belief that the Church held back what meager advances were made. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church actively supported a great deal of science, but it also decided that philosophical speculation should not impinge on theology.

There were four cornerstones to how the Middle Ages laid the foundations of modern science, which can be described as institutional, technological, metaphysical, and theoretical. The main scientific institution of the Middle Ages was the university. Today, western universities remain the premier institutions for scientific research and training. Technological advances in the Middle Ages led to enormous increases in agricultural productivity and improvements in living standards. The metaphysical cornerstone of modern science is often overlooked. We take it for granted and we do not worry about why people began studying nature in the first place. Medieval scholars thought that nature followed the rules that God had ordained for it. Because God was consistent and not capricious, these natural laws were constant and worth scrutinizing. The final cornerstone is the set of theories about the world that the Middle Ages bequeathed to the early modern period John Buridan's impetus theory was a vital stepping stone towards modern mechanics, and Peter the Pilgrim analyzed magnets and suggested the use of a spherical magnet to William Gilbert. Without these scientific advances, according to The Genesis of Science, Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo could have made the progress that they did.

With an engaging fervour, James Hannam has set about rescuing the reputation of a bunch of half-forgotten thinkers, and he shows how they paved the way for modern science. Boris Johnson, Mail on Sunday
This book contains much valuable material summarised with commendable no-nonsense clarity... James Hannam has done a fine job of knocking down an old caricature. Sunday Telegraph
Hannam, the liveliest of guides, makes enjoyable reading out of some seriously dusty history and difficult ideas. Scotsman
Here, in short, is a readable book, aimed at an intelligent but ignorant layman. You'll enjoy it. Daniel Hannan MEP, Daily Telegraph
A very useful general survey of a difficult topic, and a robust defence of an unfairly maligned age. Spectator

Provocative, engaging, and a fascinating read, Hannam's The Genesis of Science will change the way readers think about our past and our future.

Science / History & Philosophy

The Genesis of Science: The Story of Greek Imagination by Stephen Bertman (Prometheus Books)

Historians often look to ancient Greece as the wellspring of Western civilization. Perhaps the most ingenious achievement of the Greek mind was the early development of the sciences. The names we give to science's many branches today from physics and chemistry to mathematics, biology, and psychology echo the Greek words that were first used to define these disciplines in ancient times and remain a testament to their groundbreaking discoveries.
What was it about the Greeks, as opposed to the far older civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, and China, that gave rise to the uniquely Western, scientific mindset? Stephen Bertman, professor emeritus of classics at the University of Windsor, explores this intriguing question in The Genesis of Science. Going beyond individual Greek discoveries in the various branches of science, Bertman emphasizes why these pioneering investigators were able to achieve what they did. Among the exceptional characteristics of Greek culture that created the seedbed for early science were:

  • The Greek emphasis on rationalism a conviction that human reason could successfully unravel the mysteries of nature and make sense of the cosmos.
  • An early form of humanism a pride and confidence in human potential despite the frailty and brief tenure of individual lives.
  • The drive to excel in every arena from the battlefield to the Olympic games and arts competitions.
  • An insatiable curiosity that sought understanding of both human nature and the world.
  • A fierce love of freedom and individualism that promoted freedom of thought the prelude to science.

Focusing on ten different branches of science, Bertman in The Genesis of Science shows why the Greeks gravitated to each specialty and explains the fascinating theories they developed, the brilliant experiments they performed, and the practical applications of their discoveries. He concludes by recounting how these early insights and achievements transmitted over the course of two thousand years have shaped the science and medicine of the contemporary world.

Classicist Bertman (Doorway Through Time) examines the scientific legacy of ancient civilizations with an emphasis on Greece. Bertman catalogues an impressive set of Greek scientific firsts, and he does so by straightforwardly organizing the science into optics, acoustics, mechanics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, medicine, meteorology, psychology, and geography. There are many familiar names (Euclid, Pythagoras, Aristotle), with familiar stories attached; Archimedes' Eureka moment is particularly well told. There are unfamiliar names, too: alchemist Maria the Jewess, who invented perhaps the first still in history; mapmaker Anaximander; and Eratosthenes, who around 200 B.C.E. calculated with surprising accuracy the polar circumference of the earth. Bertman explains the cultural reasons for the Greeks' remarkable scientific accomplishments in a fairly cursory fashion as resting on their belief in an ordered universe, whose rules can be discovered by the human mind, and a compulsion to see and understand.... He adds a deep belief in rationalism, humanism, and a desire to excel at all things as additional driving forces. Bertman is an unabashed admirer of the ancient Greeks, and his depiction of their scientific accomplishments gives readers a reason to share his admiration. Publishers Weekly

In The Genesis of Science, Stephen Bertman dares to ask two bold questions: Who invented science? and: Why them (the Greeks)? He discovers that his question is his answer: because the Greeks dared to ask that same bold question: Why? Bertman's narrative is a sweeping and energetic tale of the history of science. Drawing authentic and compelling connections between ancient and modern science, he shows with sensitivity and affection, and without any trace of pedantry, how Greek science, after two and a half millennia, continues to inspire, to inform, and even to be our science of the twenty-first century. Georgia L. Irby-Massie, associate professor of classics, The College of William and Mary, co-editor, The Encyclopedia of Ancient Natural Scientists

Modern science isn't just built on gifts from the Greeks, it is Greek to the core. In The Genesis of Science, Stephen Bertman demonstrates this core principle by breathing life into the ancient Greeks and skillfully tracing their contribution to a wide variety of disciplines, which, though altered, retain the Greek ideal and all that came with it. Moreover, Bertman does so with a humanistic, visually enhanced flair that makes the story accessible to a wide audience in an age of fear, distrust, and misunderstanding of science's goals and methods. We need more books like this one. Anthony F. Aveni, Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy, Anthropology, and Native American Studies, Colgate University

An eager and passionate, stimulating and challenging tale of how in ancient Greece the mythic imagination gave way to the restless curiosity and imaginative power of science, this book is an extended argument that the scientific outlook, now so widespread, was pervasive in ancient Greek thought. Paul T. Keyser, PhD, IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, co-editor The Encyclopedia of Ancient Natural Scientists

The Genesis of Science is an authoritative yet accessible and eloquently told story about the origins of science. Bertman's lively narrative captures the Greek genius and demonstrates the indelible influence of their discoveries on modern science and technology.

Science / Social Science / Psychology / Neuropsychology

From Neurons to Self-Consciousness: How the Brain Generates the Mind (Gateway Books) by Bernard Korzeniewski, translated from the Polish by Pawel Wawrzyszko (Humanity Books)

The nature and genesis of the mind and consciousness remains a mystery to this day, in spite of hundreds of years of philosophical considerations and scientific research. Bernard Korzeniewski says that in the texts he has read, nobody has proposed a sufficiently coherent and satisfactory explanation of the very nature of brain functioning and its correlation with a variety of mental phenomena. Any potential generalizations are usually inundated with a plethora of anatomic and physiological details, lacking any integrating conclusion. Therefore, as his reading of multiple texts and considerations allowed him to work out a vision that ordered and explained many aspects of the topic in question, he decided to present it to a general readership for their appraisal. He aimed at reaching the very core of the issue and to establish possibly a general and synthetic vision of the entire domain, or set of issues, while abstracting from detailed aspects of multiple phenomena, all of which are interesting in themselves, but not related directly to the essence of mind and consciousness, and thus prone to obscure the general overview.

From Neurons to Self-Consciousness focuses on a set of fundamental questions. What is consciousness (in itself)? What does it mean to be aware of something? What are different mental objects such as sensations, thoughts, ideas/concepts, emotions, memories present in our mind, but not existing in the external, material world? What is the difference between the sensation generated by a rose and perceived through the sense of vision, and the concept of a rose that can be retrieved from the memory at any moment? Where do the qualitative aspects of sensations come from? What does the phenomenon of memory consist in? Why do we feel pleasure and displeasure? What is the neurophysiological correlate of self consciousness, i.e., of the consciousness of one's own being conscious, of one's ego? What is the relation between consciousness and self-consciousness? Does the former condition the latter?

In From Neurons to Self-Consciousness, an overview of what is now known about brain functioning, biophysicist Korzeniewski constructs a novel theory about how consciousness gradually emerged in the course of evolution from the single neuron in certain species of sea anemone to the complex neural network of the human brain.

Korzeniewski, professor of biophysics in the Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Biotechnology at Jagiellonian University, Krakow, first explains how integrative and associative neural structures form the material substrate of the subjective conceptual network. He goes on to demonstrate how the system of instincts plus reward and punishment mechanisms makes the neural/conceptual network intentional. Finally, he argues that self-consciousness emerged when the cognitive center in the brain, which evolved to receive signals from sensory receptors, began to receive signals from itself. It thus created a representational model of itself within itself, and from this our sense of self-awareness emerged. In the end, Korzeniewski suggests that as more is learned about the working of the brain, philosophical problems that have caused centuries of speculation will simply be resolved by the facts of neurophysiology.

In From Neurons to Self-Consciousness, Korzeniewski shows how consciousness and self-consciousness in particular emerges gradually from the operation of elements of physical reality that are devoid of consciousness, as one passes from a single neuron through more and more sophisticated complexes of neurons to the extremely complex neural network that constitutes the human brain. He says that the passage should be understood in two ways. First, it should be seen as the process of evolution of our nervous system from the phase of a few neurons that manage the behavior of the entire organism (some coelenterate remain in this phase until today) to that of a complicated system the brain. Second, it should be seen as the process of proper organization of neurons into a functional superstructure, possible due to the properties of single neurons in the human brain, that constitutes a completely new quality absent from the physical world and that of living organisms, namely, that of a subjective sphere of psychic phenomena. The process leading to this seems to be extremely enigmatic. This is so because as we are, to the best of our knowledge, the only creatures endowed with consciousness (at so advanced a level) the understanding of the essence of being a human constitutes the stake of this game.

Korzeniewski also elucidates the implications of the discovered aspects of human brain functioning for the status and the limitations of our worldview and our cognitive abilities. To simplify the matter, he poses and justifies the thesis that practically all principal philosophical problems can be reduced to neurophysiology.

Therefore, From Neurons to Self-Consciousness cannot be considered as a popular science publication sensu stricte. Although it contains information based on the current state of knowledge in the domain of neurophysiology, it is also a presentation of his own, original vision of the human mind (deeply rooted in modern scientific knowledge), while his opinions coincide with those of other authors. The popular mode of presentation is aimed at facilitating the reading of those who are not specialists in the domain of neurophysiology, e.g., physicists, scholars, as well as lawyers, physicians and students who are curious about their world. He says he wrote From Neurons to Self-Consciousness with the conviction that it can be interesting for biologists of various specialties (e.g., neurophysiologists, ethologists, evolutionists) as well as a wide group of philosophers and psychologists, especially those gravitating toward cognitive science. To keep the right balance, he also attempts to separate popularized scientific knowledge from his own opinions.

The primary message of From Neurons to Self-Consciousness consists of a set of basic postulates. Korzeniewski believes that the functioning of the brain is of an emergent character, i.e., it cannot be ascribed to particular brain parts, such as particular neurons or groups of neurons, which means that the entire brain is not simply the sum of its elements. Consequently, he thinks that consciousness is a derivative of a certain functional spatiotemporal pattern of impulse transmission within the network of neurons. He shows that the representation of the world in the neural network is connotative (relational) in character and not denotative (absolute); it is of fundamental importance for the nature of mental objects and our cognitive abilities. Finally, he proposes the thesis that the relation of self-reference/self-application lying at the base of numerous logical paradoxes is responsible for the emergence of consciousness.

Dr. Korzeniewski's book is a lucid account of how self-consciousness emerges from neuronal activity. He acts as an expert guide as he leads from the base camp of brute matter, through the foothills of neuronal circuits, around the obstacles of information processing, and on to the summit of consciousness, from which we can look down with dizzying clarity at a range of philosophical and scientific problems. Dr. Guy Brown, reader in cellular biochemistry, University of Cambridge, and author of The Living End: The Future of Death, Aging and Immortality and The Energy of Life

In this fine book, Professor Bernard Korzeniewski proposes a novel theory of the brain and mind. Anyone interested in the nature of consciousness, more generally, and self consciousness, more specifically, will find From Neurons to Self-Consciousness to be an engaging introduction to this important topic. Elizabeth F. Loftus, PhD, Distinguished Professor, University of California-Irvine

Korzeniewski takes giant strides in working to unravel some of sciences great remaining mysteries: how consciousness emerged in humans, where it resides in our brains; how it is constructed; and how it developed to make us aware of ourselves. An important book that interprets what current brain research is discovering in the field. David L. Weiner, author of Battling the Inner Dummy: The Craziness of Apparently Normal People

Stimulating and rich in detail about the latest brain research, yet accessible to lay readers, From Neurons to Self-Consciousness offers scientists much to ponder.

Travel / US / Reference

The 10 Best of Everything National Parks: 800 Top Picks From Parks Coast to Coast (National Geographic the 10 Best of Everything) by National Geographic, with an introduction by Fran P. Mainella (National Geographic)

Our national parks are busy places, hosting millions of people every year, sustaining countless varieties of creatures, balancing the rumbling weight of ancient rock formations, and giving annual nutrients to vast fields of colorful plants and towering trees. Everyone and everything that partakes in the grandeur of these parks gains a unique sense of wonder. They are living, learning playgrounds for eager active children, dream expanses of roads and summits for hikers and bikers, stunning raw visions for painters, and, very simply, homes for some of our most endangered species.

National parks are more than the best idea America ever had they're our country's best playgrounds for millions of vacationers who want to enjoy recreation activities, nature and wildlife, and down-time with friends, family, or as solo travelers. This idea-filled guide covers classic parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national battlefields, national scenic trails, and beyond. Hundreds of Top 10 lists highlight every park's best attractions best lodges, best hikes, best star-gazing spots, best campfire meal spots. Destinations are covered by region, theme, season, and occasion. Photos, anecdotes from park rangers, and insider tips, plus traveler resources such as hotels and restaurants, make this the national parks guide travelers have long sought.

From their inception, national parks have preserved some of the most dynamic natural wonders, allowing people around the country to appreciate their beauty through hiking, camping and other outdoor activities. The 10 Best of Everything National Parks is an authoritative guide to these protected reserves, highlighting their most outstanding features. This guide offers new insights to national historic parks, national monuments, national battlefields, national scenic trails and everything else the parks have to offer. Its multifaceted approach offers something for everyone, from the seasoned hiker to vacationing families.

The 10 Best of Everything National Parks goes beyond the well-known national treasures such as Yellowstone and Gettysburg to draw attention to the lesser known gems that make up the over 390 national parks in America. The book is filled with new ideas and opportunities to get the family outside and taking advantage of our beautiful country.

Showcasing America's best natural playgrounds, this downright inspiring and amusing guide provides hundreds of ideas for travelers planning or dreaming about a trip to one of the country's iconic national parks. Leaving no category of national park unturned, from classic parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite to national historical parks, national monuments, national battlefields, and national scenic trails, this practical guide is bursting with insider anecdotes, and expert advice from park rangers. Organized by region, season, theme, or occasion, it gives both avid travelers and armchair explorers the itch for an all-American adventure. Readers opening The 10 Best of Everything National Parks and find:

  • Ten best lodges, hikes, mountain bike rides, horsepacking trips, rock formations, and swimming holes.
  • Ten best waterfalls, stargazing sites, picnic spots, white-water rides, walk-up summits, and scenic drives.
  • Ten best Civil War sites, island retreats, sunrises, and places to say I do.

To sum this vastness and diversity of use into lists of ten best parks is near impossible. For the group of renowned nature writers and outdoor enthusiasts working in close contact with the expertise and passion of editors at National Geographic, however, these lists became a labor of love and a record of lifetimes spent enjoying the National Park System. The individual lists are simply one person's opinion, backed by nothing more than personal knowledge, interest, and experience, and perhaps suggestions from friends and editors.

From climbs, fishing, kayaking, or drives to the most unusual places to sleep and eat, to say I do or I will, or to stare at a star-splashed nighttime sky, all are present in our national parks. Authoritative, easy to read, accessible, and lively, The 10 Best of Everything National Parks is a starting point, rather than a checklist, for first-time explorers and regular adventurers to best discover the many offerings. Everyone from armchair travelers to adventurous hikers to American history buffs will discover something special in the beautiful and historical places showcased in this book.

 

Contents this Issue:

Calligraphy in 24 Hours by Veiko Kespersaks (Barrons Educational Series)

Charles M. Russell: Printed Rarities from Private Collections by Larry Len Peterson and James Lainsbury (Mountain Press Publishing Company)

The Ramble in Central Park: A Wilderness West of Fifth by Robert A. McCabe, with an introduction by Douglas Blonsky (Abbeville Press)

The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream, unabridged Audio CDs, 9 CDs, running time 11 hours by Suze Orman, read by Nancy Linari (Random House Audio)
The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream by Suze Orman (Spiegel & Grau)

The Future of Futures: The Time of Money in Financing and Society by Elena Esposito (Edward Elgar)

Service Delivery Platforms: Developing and Deploying Converged Multimedia Services edited by Syed A. Ahson and Mohammad Ilyas (CRC Press, An Auerbach Book)

Around the Table: Easy Menus for Cozy Entertaining at Home by Ellen Wright (Harvard Common Press)

Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs by Jason Ryan (Lyons Press)

Hybrids by Whitley Strieber (Tor Books)

First Philosophy: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, 2nd edition edited by Andrew Bailey, with contributing editor Robert M. Martin (Broadview Press)

63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read by Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell (Skyhorse Publishing)

Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives, 2nd edition edited by Francis Schssler Fiorenza and John P. Galvin (Fortress Press)

Creating Space between Peshat and Derash: A Collection of Studies on Tanakh by Hayyim Angel (KTAV Publishing House)

The Living Light Cards by Meg Blackburn Losey (Weiser Books)

The Handy Science Answer Book, 4th edition by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (The Handy Answer Book Series: Visible Ink)

Primate Communication and Human Language: Vocalisation, gestures, imitation and deixis in humans and non-humans edited by Anne Vilain, Jean-Luc Schwartz, Christian Abry and Jacques Vauclair (Advances in Interaction Studies Series, Vol. 1: John Benjamins Publishing Company)

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by James Hannam (Regnery Publishing)

From Neurons to Self-Consciousness: How the Brain Generates the Mind (Gateway Books) by Bernard Korzeniewski, translated from the Polish by Pawel Wawrzyszko (Humanity Books)

The 10 Best of Everything National Parks: 800 Top Picks From Parks Coast to Coast (National Geographic the 10 Best of Everything) by National Geographic, with an introduction by Fran P. Mainella (National Geographic)