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The Rational Optimist
Life is getting better—and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down — all across the globe. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people’s lives as never before. The pessimists who dominate public discourse insist that we will soon reach a turning point and things will start to get worse. But they have been saying this for two hundred years. Yet Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. Prosperity comes from everybody working for everybody else. The habit of exchange and specialization—which started more than 100,000 years ago—has created a collective brain that sets human living standards on a rising trend. The mutual dependence, trust, and sharing that result are causes for hope, not despair. This bold book covers the entire sweep of human history, from the Stone Age to the Internet, from the stagnation of the Ming empire to the invention of the steam engine, from the population explosion to the likely consequences of climate change. It ends with a confident assertion that thanks to the ceaseless capacity of the human race for innovative change, and despite inevitable disasters along the way, the twenty-first century will see both human prosperity and natural biodiversity enhanced. Acute, refreshing, and revelatory, The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.Show book
Mutiny at Fort Jackson - The...
Michael D. Pierson
New Orleans was the largest city--and one of the richest--in the Confederacy, protected in part by Fort Jackson, which was just sixty-five miles down the Mississippi River. On April 27, 1862, Confederate soldiers at Fort Jackson rose up in mutiny against their commanding officers. New Orleans fell to Union forces soon thereafter. Although the Fort Jackson mutiny marked a critical turning point in the Union's campaign to regain control of this vital Confederate financial and industrial center, it has received surprisingly little attention from historians. Michael Pierson examines newly uncovered archival sources to determine why the soldiers rebelled at such a decisive moment. The mutineers were soldiers primarily recruited from New Orleans's large German and Irish immigrant populations. Pierson shows that the new nation had done nothing to encourage poor white men to feel they had a place of honor in the southern republic. He argues that the mutineers actively sought to help the Union cause. In a major reassessment of the Union administration of New Orleans that followed, Pierson demonstrates that Benjamin "Beast" Butler enjoyed the support of many white Unionists in the city. Pierson adds an urban working-class element to debates over the effects of white Unionists in Confederate states. With the personal stories of soldiers appearing throughout, Mutiny at Fort Jackson presents the Civil War from a new perspective, revealing the complexities of New Orleans society and the Confederate experience.Show book
Voyage Through the Twentieth...
Klemens von Klemperer
The account of the author's life, spent between Europe and America, is at the same time an account of his generation, one that came of age between the two World Wars. Recalling not only circumstances of his own situation but that of his friends, the author shows how this generation faced a reality that seemed fragmented, and in their shared thirst for knowledge and commitment to ideas they searched for cohesiveness among the glittering, holistic ideologies and movements of the twenties and thirties. The author's scholarly work on the German Resistance to Hitler revealed to him those who maintained dignity and courage in times of peril and despair, which became for him a life's pursuit. This work is unique in its thorough inclusion of the postwar decades and its perspective from a historian eager to rescue the "other" Germany-the Germany of the righteous rather than the Holocaust murderers.Show book
Palm Beach is known around the world as the most wealthy, glamorous, opulent, decadent, self-indulgent, sinful spot on earth. With their beautiful 3.75 square-island constantly in the media glare, Palm Beachers protect their impossibly rich society from outside scrutiny with vigilant police, ubiquitous personal security staffs, and screens of tall hedges encircling every mansion. To this bizarre suspicious, exclusive world, New York Times bestselling author Ronald Kessler brought his charm, insight, and award-winning investigative skills, and came to know Palm Beach, its celebrated and powerful residents, and its exotic social rituals as no outside writer ever has. In this colorful, entertaining, and compulsively readable book. Kessler reveals the inside story of Palm Beach society as it moves languidly through the summer months, quickens in the fall, and shifts into frenetic high speed as the season begins in December, peaks in January and February, and continues into April. When unimaginable wealth combines with unlimited leisure time oil an island barely three times the size of New York's Central Park, human foibles and desires, lust and greed, passion and avarice, become magnified and intensified. Like laboratory rats fed growth hormones, the 9,800 Palm Beach residents—87 percent of whom are millionaires—exhibit the most outlandish extremes of their breed. To tell the story, Kessler follows four Palm Beachers through the season. These four characters—the reigning queen of Palm Beach society, the night manager of Palm Beach's trendiest bar, a gay "walker" who escorts wealthy women to balls, and a thirty—six-year-old gorgeous blonde who says she "can't find a guy in Palm Beach"—know practically everyone on the island and tell what goes on behind the scenes. Interweaving the yarns of these unfor-gettable figures with the lifestyle, history, scandals, lore, and rituals of a unique island of excess, The Season creates a powerful, seamless, juicy narrative that no novelist could dream up.Show book
The Evolution of Everything -...
The New York Times bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome returns with a fascinating argument for evolution that definitively dispels a dangerous, widespread myth: that we can command and control our world. Human society evolves. Change in technology, language, morality, and society is incremental, inexorable, gradual, and spontaneous. It follows a narrative, going from one stage to the next; it creeps rather than jumps; it has its own spontaneous momentum rather than being driven from outside; it has no goal or end in mind; and it largely happens by trial and error—a version of natural selection. Much of the human world is the result of human action but not of human design: it emerges from the interactions of millions, not from the plans of a few. Drawing on fascinating evidence from science, economics, history, politics, and philosophy, Matt Ridley demolishes conventional assumptions that the great events and trends of our day are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or organized religion. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to and ter-mites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain-makers, learning happens without teaching, and morality changes for no reason other than the prevailing fashion. Although we neglect, defy, and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world. The Industrial Revolution, cell phones, the rise of Asia, and the Internet were never planned; they happened. Languages emerged and evolved by a form of natural selection, as did common law. Torture, racism, slavery, and pedophilia—all once widely regarded as acceptable—are now seen as immoral despite the decline of religion in recent decades. In this wide-ranging and erudite book, Ridley brilliantly makes the case for evolution, rather than design, as the force that has shaped much of our culture, our technology, our minds, and that even now is shaping our future. As compelling as it is controversial, as authoritative as it is ambitious, Ridley’s deeply thought-provoking book will change the way we think about the world and how it works.Show book
Teardown - Memoir of a Vanishing...
After living in San Francisco for 15 years, journalist Gordon Young found himself yearning for his Rust Belt hometown: Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and "star" of the Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me. Hoping to rediscover and help a place that once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels, but is now one of the country's most impoverished and dangerous cities, he returned to Flint with the intention of buying a house. What he found was a place of stark contrasts and dramatic stories, where an exotic dancer can afford a lavish mansion, speculators scoop up cheap houses by the dozen on eBay, and arson is often the quickest route to neighborhood beautification. Skillfully blending personal memoir, historical inquiry, and interviews with Flint residents, Young constructs a vibrant tale of a once-thriving city still fighting—despite overwhelming odds—to rise from the ashes. He befriends a rag-tag collection of urban homesteaders and die-hard locals who refuse to give up as they try to transform Flint into a smaller, greener town that offers lessons for cities all over the world. Hard-hitting, insightful, and often painfully funny, Teardown reminds us that cities are ultimately defined by people, not politics or economics.Show book