It's occurred to me maybe I should be doing more mini-book reviews. So this is the first instalment of Book Clubbing: either as in my clubbing you over the head with books (ones I've read recently and find really worthy), or as in boogying all night to the swinging sounds of really good books. Take your pick. Our theme today seems to be TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It).
The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss
If the title of this book alone doesn't grab you, you must really like your job. You may not want to (or be able to) implement Ferriss' strategies for generating automatic income with a web-based business; but you'll still likely benefit from his tips on removing meetings from your life, escaping e-mail, reducing information consumption, replacing work-til-you-die with regular "mini-retirements", re-assessing what you really want and how much, or how little, that really costs and (in particular) thinking more deeply about how to fill the void with meaningful things once meaningless work is removed. As Ferriss notes in a book full of awesome insights, "Reality is negotiable." Eye-opening.
Emergency, by Neil Strauss
Terrified by Katrina, economic turmoil, and Bush, Strauss set out to get a second passport as an escape route (from TEOTWAWKI, or just WTSHTF). However, his mission of self-sufficiency turned into one of self-respect: he learned to shoot, killed a goat, went to wilderness survival school, took an urban escape course, joined the LA Community Emergency Response Team, and finally got fully EMT trained. When he was called out for the worst train accident in CA history, he found himself running toward trouble, rather than away from it; and, having the skills to help the victims, he was "overwhelmed by a sense of purpose. Prior to this moment, my life had been dominated by the pursuit of pleasure, personal growth, and survival. I'd never imagined I'd be doing something that was actually helpful to others, or that I'd find it so fulfilling." Like Ferriss' book, this one isn't so much about what's on the cover as about how to live fully and meaningfully. Inspiring.
Band of Sisters, by Kirsten Holmstedt
In the Iraq War, more women soldiers have been involved in more combat roles (and taken more casualties) than in the Persian Gulf, Vietnam, and Korea combined. Meet the first woman to command an air force combat squadron (20 C-130s and over 200 airmen); the first female African-American aviator in the Marines (she flies Super Cobra attack helicopters); an Army medic whose ambulance was blown up by IEDs while racing to help wounded Marines (and who lived to tell the tale); 21-year old Lance Corporal Chrissy DeCaprio from Brooklyn, who mans a .50-cal M2 machine gun in the turret of an MP scout vehicle and mans it well; and an F/A-18 fighter pilot who at age 12 wrote to the U.S. Naval Academy only to be told women were not allowed to be fighter pilots (she took it as a personal challenge). Check out the awesome video preview →. Thrilling.
Globalising Hatred - The New Antisemitism, by Denis MacShane
Most of Europe's old pathologies, it seems, are right where we left them. (See the totalitarian instincts behind the EU.) Backed and braced by a surging global Islamism, the oldest hatred is climbing out of the muck again, in Europe and elsewhere now metastasizing into the more respectable "anti-Zionism". Being wildly and irrationally prejudiced against the Jewish state the one tiny corner of the world Jews created for themselves after the Holocaust demonstrated they were dead without one apparently has nothing to do with being anti-Jewish. Deeply moral reporting from this Labour MP and Minister for Europe under Blair. Bracing.
Our Final Century, by Martin Rees
In surprisingly unhysterical tones, this Cambridge cosmologist reviews the risks of cataclysmic asteroid impacts, nuclear terrorism, nanotechnological mishaps, bio-error and bio-terror from genetic engineering, super-collider high-energy particle follies, and other miscues that could cancel humanity just when we're really getting started. He believes, and can give his reasons why, that humanity has only a 50% chance of getting through the current century. (It occurred to me this might explain why we've never encountered any other intelligent life in the universe: there are just too many easy ways to accidentally wax yourself once you get to a certain level of technology.) Terrifying, but in a fun way.