Books Words Life

The Price of Civilization – Economics and Ethics After the Fall

The Price of Civilization – Economics and Ethics After the Fall Jeffrey Sachs, Random House, 2011   Sachs says, “Much of this book is about the social responsibility of the rich” and about society’s shared values and the need to plan ahead to achieve common goals. The book is also a diagnosis of the failure of the American economy to achieve society’s common goals since the 1970’s and makes recommendations

Winner Take All, China’s Race for Resources

Winner Take All, China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the Rest of the World Dambisa Moyo, Harper Collins, 2002 This book is about supply and demand. Commodities, specifically arable land, water, energy and minerals are in demand as the global population grows and gets wealthier. More people living in cities and with middle class expectations means increased demand for goods and services – everywhere. One of these

A History of Iran; Empire of the Mind

A History of Iran; Empire of the Mind. Michael Axeworthy, Basic Books, 2008. Reviewed by Graham Mulligan The division between nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples and settled, crop-growing agriculturalists, created a tension that drives history. Nomadic wealth was in livestock, which meant it was moveable and they could escape threats or attack. By contrast peasant farmers were vulnerable, especially at harvest time, when the accumulated value of a year’s work could

The Persistence of Caste

The Persistence of Caste; The Khairlanji Murders & India’s Hidden Appartheid. Anand Teltumbde, Zed Books, 2010 Reviewed by Graham Mulligan The introduction section of this short book (192 pages) is important. It is a condensed history of Caste in India. The word ‘caste’ is from Latin castus, and in Portugese means ‘pure’ or ‘chaste’. The early Portugese explorers thought it was like ‘race’ or lineage (blood based). They were wrong;

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Trip of the Tongue, Cross-country Travels In Search of America’s Languages

Trip of the Tongue, Cross-country Travels In Search of America’s Languages; Elizabeth Little; Bloomsbury, 2012   Little is an obvious fan of language study. This book traces her search for languages (in the US) that are disappearing or at least are in danger, in the face of the predominance of English. It isn’t an academic study and it isn’t as broad-based as the title might suggest, however it is an

How the West Was Lost, Fifty Years of Economic Folly – And the Stark Choices Ahead

How the West Was Lost, Fifty Years of Economic Folly – And the Stark Choices Ahead; Dambisa Moyo   “once an idea is out it can be used and improved upon by anyone, anywhere, an idea has a marginal cost of zero”   This quote is referring to the spinoffs from the magnificent technology that enabled the Apollo moon landing in July 1969. I was a vagabond watching it on

India; The Road Ahead

India; The Road Ahead, Mark Tully, Random House, 2011   Reviewed by Graham Mulligan   The author was born in India and worked as the BBC Bureau Chief for twenty-two years. This book examines a number of themes ranging form politics, caste, religion, culture, business, history and tigers. Each chapter begins with a short essay introduction to a theme, setting a context for the personal stories that follow, as Tully

Words and Rules

Words and Rules; The Ingredients of Language; Stephen Pinker, Basic Books 1999   Reviewed by Graham Mulligan   The subject of this book is regular and irregular verbs. Everyone leans their native language in roughly the same way; lots of words and concepts assembled together following patterns and rules. People don’t just “blurt out words but rather combine them into phrases and sentences. So, what’s the issue with the verbs?

Shock of Gray

Shock of Gray, Ted C. Fishman, Scribner, 2010 Reviewed by Graham Mulligan   The subtitle to this book describes the broad themes as: ‘The aging of the world’s population and how it pits young against old, child against parent, worker against boss, company against rival, and nation against nation”. The world’s population is getting older and as it does it is bringing new challenges for all societies. Fishman warns, “the

Class Warfare; Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools

Class Warfare; Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools Steven Brill, Simon & Schuster, 2011   Reviewed by Graham Mulligan   This book is a blatant union bashing political rant masquerading as an insider look at America’s education struggles. I found it very awkwardly written with its eighty-plus ‘chapters’, which were sometimes a page and a half long. There is very little effort made by the author to present the