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Today's quote:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

How did you go?

 

I was going to start smoking and put on weight but three days into the new year and halfway through the first weekend I must confess I have dismally failed.

So it's back to my other vice, reading, which is a great excuse to be antisocial. I mean, you start reading and people just leave you alone and you can be as selfish as you like.

My new selections for the new year are ...

Long before the invention of printing, let alone the availability of a daily newspaper, people desired to be informed. In the pre-industrial era news was gathered and shared through conversation and gossip, civic ceremony, celebration, sermons, and proclamations. The age of print brought pamphlets, edicts, ballads, journals, and the first news-sheets, expanding the news community from local to worldwide. This groundbreaking book tracks the history of news in ten countries over the course of four centuries. It evaluates the unexpected variety of ways in which information was transmitted in the premodern world as well as the impact of expanding news media on contemporary events and the lives of an ever-more-informed public. Andrew Pettegree investigates who controlled the news and who reported it; the use of news as a tool of political protest and religious reform; issues of privacy and titillation; the persistent need for news to be current and journalists trustworthy; and people's changed sense of themselves as they experienced newly opened windows on the world. By the close of the eighteenth century, Pettegree concludes, transmission of news had become so efficient and widespread that European citizens--now aware of wars, revolutions, crime, disasters, scandals, and other events--were poised to emerge as actors in the great events unfolding around them. - description ex www.bookdepository.com

... and

In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of "Monsoon" and "Balkan Ghosts, " offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world. In "The Revenge of Geography, "Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past to look back at critical pivots in history and then to look forward at the evolving global scene. Kaplan traces the history of the world's hot spots by examining their climates, topographies, and proximities to other embattled lands. The Russian steppe's pitiless climate and limited vegetation bred hard and cruel men bent on destruction, for example, while Nazi geopoliticians distorted geopolitics entirely, calculating that space on the globe used by the British Empire and the Soviet Union could be swallowed by a greater German homeland. Kaplan then applies the lessons learned to the present crises in Europe, Russia, China, the Indian subcontinent, Turkey, Iran, and the Arab Middle East. The result is a holistic interpretation of the next cycle of conflict throughout Eurasia. Remarkably, the future can be understood in the context of temperature, land allotment, and other physical certainties: China, able to feed only 23 percent of its people from land that is only 7 percent arable, has sought energy, minerals, and metals from such brutal regimes as Burma, Iran, and Zimbabwe, putting it in moral conflict with the United States. Afghanistan's porous borders will keep it the principal invasion route into India, and a vital rear base for Pakistan, India's main enemy. Iran will exploit the advantage of being the only country that straddles both energy-producing areas of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Finally, Kaplan posits that the United States might rue engaging in far-flung conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan rather than tending to its direct neighbor Mexico, which is on the verge of becoming a semifailed state due to drug cartel carnage. A brilliant rebuttal to thinkers who suggest that globalism will trump geography, this indispensable work shows how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century's looming cataclysms. Praise for "The Revenge of Geography" "[An] ambitious and challenging new book . . . ["The Revenge of Geography"]""displays a formidable grasp of contemporary world politics and serves as a powerful reminder that it has been the planet's geophysical configurations, as much as the flow of competing religions and ideologies, that have shaped human conflicts, past and present."--Malise Ruthven, "The New York Review of Books" " " "Robert D. Kaplan, the world-traveling reporter and intellectual whose fourteen books constitute a bedrock of penetrating exposition and analysis on the post-Cold War world . . . strips away much of the cant that suffuses public discourse these days on global developments and gets to a fundamental reality: that geography remains today, as it has been throughout history, one of the most powerful drivers of world events."--"The National Interest" " " "Kaplan plunges into a planetary review that is often thrilling in its sheer scale . . . encyclopedic."--"The New Yorker" "["The Revenge of Geography"] serves the facts straight up. . . . Kaplan's realism and willingness to face hard facts make "The Revenge of Geography" a valuable antidote to the feel-good manifestoes that often masquerade as strategic thought."--The Daily Beast "From the Hardcover edition." - description ex www.bookdepository.com

I'm still waiting for Breaking Bad and Philosophy to arrive but these two will last me through the first weekend.

If you're interested in these books, search for them on God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (aka Google).

Happy New Year and happy reading!