By Jonathan Alter (June 14, 2013) - "In The Center Holds, Jonathan Alter produces the first full account of America at the crossroads. With exclusive reporting and rare historical insight, he pierces the bubble of the White House and the presidential campaigns in a landmark election that marked the return of big money and the rise of big data. He tells the epic story of an embattled president fighting back with the first campaign of the Digital Age. Alter relates the untold story behind Obama's highs and lows, from the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound to the frustration of the debt ceiling fiasco to his unexpected run-ins with black and Latino activists. There are fresh details about the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist, Roger Ailes, and the online haters who suffer from "Obama Derangement Syndrome." Alter takes us inside Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's Boston campaign as well as Obama's disastrous preparation for the first debate. We meet Obama''s analytics geeks working out of "The Cave" and the man who secretly videotaped Romney's infamous comments on the "47 percent." The Center Holds will deepen our understanding of the Obama presidency, the stakes of the 2012 election, and the future of the country." (Simon & Schuster)
By Niall Ferguson (June 14, 2013) - "The decline of the West is something that has long been prophesied. Symptoms of decline are all around us: slowing growth, crushing debts, aging populations, anti-social behavior. But what is the cause? The answer, Niall Ferguson argues, is that our institutions -- the intricate frameworks within which a society can flourish or fail -- are degenerating. Representative government, the free market, the rule of law and civil society: these were the four pillars of Western societies, which set them on the path to global dominance after around 1500. In our time, however, these institutions have deteriorated. Our democracies have broken the contract between the generations by heaping IOUs on our children and grandchildren. Our markets are distorted by over-complex regulations. The rule of law has metamorphosed into the rule of lawyers. And civil society has become uncivil society. While the Arab world struggles to adopt democracy, and while China struggles to move from economic liberalization to the rule of law, Europeans and Americans alike are frittering away the institutional inheritance of centuries. To arrest the degeneration of the West, Ferguson warns, will take heroic leadership and radical reform." (Penguin UK)
A Documentary written and directed by Josh Fox (June 14, 2013) - "In the original 2010 film Gasland, director Josh Fox profiled hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of injecting a pressurized mixture of water, sand and chemicals down a drilled well, causing layers of rock deep in the earth to crack and release natural gas. The film inspired a national dialogue over the multi-layered environmental dangers potentially at risk. With GASLAND PART II, Fox examines the long-term impact of the controversial process, including claims of poisonous water, earthquakes and neurological damage, placing his focus on the people across the globe who say their lives have been irreparably changed. Traveling from the Gulf of Mexico to the heart of Texas (including Dish, home to free TV service and some of the highest concentration of gas wells in the nation), out to Los Angeles (where fracking for oil is now occuring), and back up to the Delaware River basin (where he has a family home), Fox investigates the effects of this extraction method, as well as the industry's reaction to negative allegations. The film provides startling claims that fracking may lead to earthquakes in communities that have never experienced ones before. Video footage shows wells venting methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere in massive amounts. The film also shows how the practice of fracking has gone global, as seen in a visit to rural Australia, where stoic farmers assert that their wells have been turned into potential flame-spewing gushers. And as gas drills multiply, clean-energy options are being passed over -- like hydroelectric, wind, and solar, which some experts say can provide enough energy to power the world five times over. The film argues that the gas industry is using its wealth and power to influence government policy on fracking, while buying the silence of countless American homeowners forced to move out of their longtime homes because their water has become too polluted to drink." (HBO)
By George Packer (June 7, 2013) - "The Unwinding Journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet's significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of he era's leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents. The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer's novelistic and kaleidoscope history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date." (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
By Tom Shadyac (June 7, 2013) "Modern society is replete with electronics-iPads, computers, cell phones, cars, and so on--and all of these come with one important accessory: a manual that teaches you how to use and care for your device. In Life's Operating Manual, Tom Shadyac answers a simple yet provocative question: is it possible that life comes with a similar set of guidelines? Once reserved for exploration by poets, prophets, and philosophers, Shadyac, the man behind such comic hits as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, brings a new voice to the mix. Inviting us into a conversation that is both challenging and empowering, he looks at the workings of nature and the ideals of the longest lasting civilization on earth in a series of essays and dialogues between the voices of truth and fear. And through this examination, he opens our eyes to one underlying principle that should guide the human race: love. This single principle is, in essence, our operating manual... and its instructions are very simple. The question he then sets out to answer is, do we have the courage to live in accordance with this precept-to step away from how society currently works and the ills we experience because of it? Do we have the fortitude to change and cast aside the ideas that have led to war, poverty, genocide, and environmental destruction? With Shadyac's inspiring vision of what the world can be and his straightforward advice on how to move toward it, your answer to these questions will be a resounding yes." (Hay House)
By Kevin D. Williamson (June 7, 2013) - "In The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome, Kevin Williamson, a National Review Online contributor, makes the bold argument that the United States government is disintegrating-and that it is a good thing. Williamson offers a radical re-envisioning of government, a powerful analysis of why it doesn't work, and an exploration of the innovative solutions to various social problems that are spontaneously emerging as a result of the failure of politics and government. Every year, consumer goods and services get better, cheaper, and more widely available while critical necessities delivered by government grow more expensive, even as their quality declines. The reason for this paradox is simple: politics. Not bad politics, not liberal politics, not conservative politics, not politics corrupted by big money or distorted by special-interest groups, but the simple practice of delivering goods and services through federal, state, and local governments and their obsolete decision-making practices. As our outmoded twentieth-century government collapses under the weight of its own incompetence and inefficiency, Williamson points to the green shoots of the brave new world that is already being born." (Harper Collins)
A film by Tom Shadyac (June 7, 2013) - "I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what's wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood's leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as "Ace Ventura," "Liar Liar," "The Nutty Professor," and "Bruce Almighty." However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world. Armed with nothing but his innate curiosity and a small crew to film his adventures, Shadyac set out on a twenty-first century quest for enlightenment. Meeting with a variety of thinkers and doers-remarkable men and women from the worlds of science, philosophy, academia, and faith-including such luminaries as David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lynne McTaggart, Ray Anderson, John Francis, Coleman Barks, and Marc Ian Barasch - Shadyac appears on-screen as character, commentator, guide, and even, at times, guinea pig. An irrepressible "Everyman" who asks tough questions, but offers no easy answers, he takes the audience to places it has never been before, and presents even familiar phenomena in completely new and different ways. The result is a fresh, energetic, and life-affirming film that challenges our preconceptions about human behavior while simultaneously celebrating the indomitable human spirit."
By Paul Rudnick (May 31, 2013) - "A book that will make you see yourself clearly for the first time. When Becky Randle's mother dies, she's whisked from her trailer park home to New York. There she meets Tom Kelly, the world's top designer, who presents Becky with an impossible offer: He'll design three dresses to transform the very average Becky into the most beautiful woman who ever lived. Soon Becky is remade as Rebecca -- pure five-alarm hotness to the outside world and an awkward mess of cankles and split ends when she's alone. With Rebecca's remarkable beauty as her passport, soon Becky's life resembles a fairy tale. She stars in a movie, VOGUE calls, and she starts to date Prince Gregory, heir to the English throne. That's when everything crumbles. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him. But the idea of a prince looking past Rebecca's blinding beauty to see the real girl inside? There's not enough magic in the world. Defiant, naughty, and impossibly fun, GORGEOUS answers a question that bewilders us all: Just who the hell IS that in the mirror." (Scholastic)
By Michael Isikoff (May 31, 2013) - "Filled with news-making revelations that made it a New York Times bestseller, Hubris takes us behind the scenes at the White House, CIA, Pentagon, State Department, and Congress to show how George W. Bush came to invade Iraq -- and how his administration struggled with the devastating fallout. Hubris connects the dots between Bush's expletive-laden outbursts at Saddam Hussein, the bitter battles between the CIA and the White House, the fights within the intelligence community over Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction, the outing of an undercover CIA officer, and the Bush administration's misleading sales campaign for war. Written by veteran reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn, this is an inside look at how a president took the nation to war using faulty and fraudulent intelligence. It's a dramatic page-turner and an intriguing account of conspiracy, backstabbing, bureaucratic ineptitude, journalistic malfeasance, and arrogance." (Random House)
Staring Brit Marling (May 31, 2013) - "'The East,' a suspenseful and provocative espionage thriller from acclaimed writer-director Zal Batmanglij and writer-actress Brit Marling, stars Marling as former FBI agent Sarah Moss. Moss is starting a new career at Hiller Brood, an elite private intelligence firm that ruthlessly protects the interests of it's A-list corporate clientele. Handpicked for a plum assignment by the company's head honcho, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), Sarah goes deep undercover to infiltrate The East, and elusive anarchist collective seeking revenge against major corporations guilty of covering up criminal activity. Determined, highly-trained and resourceful, Sarah soon ingratiates herself with the group, overcoming their initial suspicions and joining them on their next action or "jam." But living closely with the intensely committed members of The East, Sarah finds herself torn between her two worlds as she starts to connect with anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgard) and the rest of the collective, and awakens to the moral contradictions of her personal life." (Fox Searchlight)
By Richard Haass (May 17 2013) - "The biggest threat to the United States comes not from abroad but from within. This is the provocative, timely, and unexpected message of Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass's Foreign Policy Begins at Home. A rising China, climate change, terrorism, a nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, and a reckless North Korea all present serious challenges. But U.S. national security depends even more on the United States addressing its burgeoning deficit and debt, crumbling infrastructure, second class schools, and outdated immigration system. Foreign Policy Begins at Home describes a twenty-first century in which power is widely diffused. Globalization, revolutionary technologies, and the rise and decline of new and old powers have created a "nonpolar" world of American primacy but not domination. So far, it has been a relatively forgiving world, with no great rival threatening America directly. How long this strategic respite lasts, according to Haass, will depend largely on whether the United States puts its own house in order. Haass argues for a new American foreign policy: Restoration. At home, the new doctrine would have the country concentrate on restoring the economic foundations of American power. Overseas, the U.S. would stop trying to remake the Middle East with military force, instead emphasizing maintaining the balance of power in Asia, promoting economic integration and energy self-sufficiency in North America, and working to promote collective responses to global challenges. Haass rejects both isolationism and the notion of American decline. But he argues the United States is underperforming at home and overreaching abroad. Foreign Policy Begins at Home lays out a compelling vision for restoring America's power, influence, and ability to lead the world." (Basic Books)
By Mark Bittman (May 10, 2013) - "Six years ago, an overweight, pre-diabetic Mark Bittman faced a medical directive: adopt a vegan diet or go on medication. He was no fan of a lifelong regimen of pills, but as a food writer he lived-and worked-to eat. So neither choice was appealing. His solution was a deal with himself. He would become a "flexitarian." He adopted a diet heavy in vegetables, fruits, and grains by following a healthy vegan diet (no meat, dairy, or processed foods) all day. After 6:00 p.m. he'd eat however he wanted, though mostly in moderation. Beyond that, his plan involved no gimmicks, scales, calorie counting, or point systems. And there were no so-called forbidden foods-he ate mostly home-cooked meals that were as varied and satisfying as they were delicious, but he dealt with the realities of the office and travel and life on the run as best he could. He called this plan Vegan Before 6:00 (VB6 for short), and the results were swift and impressive. Best of all, they proved to be lasting and sustainable over the long haul. Bittman lost 35 pounds and saw all of his blood numbers move in the right direction. Using extensive scientific evidence to support his plan, the acclaimed cookbook author and food policy columnist shows why his VB6 approach succeeds when so many other regimens not only fail, but can actually lead to unwanted weight gain. He then provides all the necessary tools for making the switch to a flexitarian diet: lists for stocking the pantry, strategies for eating away from home in a variety of situations, pointers for making cooking on a daily basis both convenient and enjoyable, and a complete 28-day eating plan showing VB6 in action. Finally, Bittman provides more than 60 recipes for vegan breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, as well as non-vegan dinners that embrace the spirit of a vegetable- and grain-forward diet. If you're one of the millions who have thought of trying a vegan diet but fear it's too monotonous or unfamiliar, or simply don't want to give up the foods you love to eat, VB6 will introduce a new, flexible, and quite simply better way of eating you can really live with..for life." (Clarkson Potter)
By Glenn Greewald (May 10, 2013) - "From the nation's beginnings, the law was to be the great equalizer in American life, the guarantor of a common set of rules for all. But over the past four decades, the principle of equality before the law has been effectively abolished. Instead, a two-tiered system of justice ensures that the country's political and financial class is virtually immune from prosecution, licensed to act without restraint, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in greater numbers than in any other country in the world. Starting with Watergate, continuing on through the Iran-Contra scandal, and culminating with Obama's shielding of Bush-era officials from prosecution, Glenn Greenwald lays bare the mechanisms that have come to shield the elite from accountability. He shows how the media, both political parties, and the courts have abetted a process that has produced torture, war crimes, domestic spying, and financial fraud. Cogent, sharp, and urgent, this is a no-holds-barred indictment of a profoundly un-American system that sanctions immunity at the top and mercilessness for everyone else." (Picador)
By Jeremy Scahill (May 3, 2013) - "In Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill, author of the New York Times best-seller Blackwater, takes us inside America's new covert wars. The foot soldiers in these battles operate globally and inside the United States with orders from the White House to do whatever is necessary to hunt down, capture or kill individuals designated by the president as enemies. Dirty Wars follows the consequences of the declaration that "the world is a battlefield," as Scahill uncovers the most important foreign policy story of our time. From Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond, Scahill reports from the frontlines in this high-stakes investigation and explores the depths of America's global killing machine. He goes beneath the surface of these covert wars, conducted in the shadows, outside the range of the press, without effective congressional oversight or public debate. And, based on unprecedented access, Scahill tells the chilling story of an American citizen marked for assassination by his own government. As US leaders draw the country deeper into conflicts across the globe, setting the world stage for enormous destabilization and blowback, Americans are not only at greater risk--we are changing as a nation. Scahill unmasks the shadow warriors who prosecute these secret wars and puts a human face on the casualties of unaccountable violence that is now official policy: victims of night raids, secret prisons, cruise missile attacks and drone strikes, and whole classes of people branded as "suspected militants." Through his brave reporting, Scahill exposes the true nature of the dirty wars the United States government struggles to keep hidden." (Nation Books)
A film by Jeremy Scahill (May 3, 2013) - "Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater, into the heart of America's covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond. With a strong cinematic style, the film blurs the boundaries of documentary and fiction storytelling. Part action film and part detective story, Dirty Wars is a gripping journey into one of the most important and underreported stories of our time. Drawn into the stories and lives of the people he meets along the way, Scahill is forced to confront the painful consequences of war spinning out of control, as well as his own role as a journalist. Dirty Wars takes viewers to remote corners of the globe to see first-hand wars fought in their name and offers a behind-the-scenes look at a high stakes investigation. We are left with haunting questions about freedom and democracy, war and justice."
By Marc Maron (May 3, 2013) - "Marc Maron was a parent-scarred, angst-filled, drug-dabbling, love-starved comedian who dreamed of a simple life: a wife, a home, a sitcom to call his own. But instead he woke up one day to find himself fired from his radio job, surrounded by feral cats, and emotionally and financially annihilated by a divorce from a woman he thought he loved. He tried to heal his broken heart through whatever means he could find-minor-league hoarding, Viagra addiction, accidental racial profiling, cat fancying, flying airplanes with his mind-but nothing seemed to work. It was only when he was stripped down to nothing that he found his way back. Attempting Normal is Marc Maron's journey through the wilderness of his own mind, a collection of explosively, painfully, addictively funny stories that add up to a moving tale of hope and hopelessness, of failing, flailing, and finding a way. From standup to television to his outrageously popular podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, Marc has always been a genuine original, a disarmingly honest, intensely smart, brutally open comic who finds wisdom in the strangest places. This is his story of the winding, potholed road from madness and obsession and failure to something like normal, the thrillingly comic journey of a sympathetic f***up who's trying really hard to do better without making a bigger mess. Most of us will relate." (Spiegel & Grau)
By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (April 19, 2013) - "From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope. They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women's potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it's also the best strategy for fighting poverty. Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen."
By Salman Rushdie (April 19, 2013) - "Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India's independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India's 1,000 other "midnight's children," all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts. This novel is at once a fascinating family saga and an astonishing evocation of a vast land and its people--a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy. Twenty-five years after its publication, Midnight's Children stands apart as both an epochal work of fiction and a brilliant performance by one of the great literary voices of our time."
Based on the novel by Salman Rushdie (April 19, 2013) - "'Midnight's Children' is an epic film from Oscar-nominated director Deepa Mehta, based on the Booker Prize winning novel by Salman Rushdie. At the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, as India proclaims independence from Great Britain, two newborn babies are switched by a nurse in a Bombay hospital. Saleem Sinai, the illegitimate son of a poor woman, and Shiva, the offspring of a wealthy couple, are fated to live the destiny meant for each other. Their lives become mysteriously intertwined and are inextricably linked to India's whirlwind journey of triumphs and disasters. From unlikely romance of Saleem's grandparents to the birth of his own son, 'Midnight's Children' is a journey at once sweeping in scope and yet intimate in tone. Hopeful, comic and Magical--the film conjures images and characters as rich and unforgettable as India herself."
Featuring Colin Goddard (April 12, 2013) - "On a snowy, windy April day in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007, young Americans pursued a college education and their teachers engaged in providing it to them. Thirty-two of them died, 17 more were wounded, and six more were injured jumping out of windows. Their lives had collided with that of a tortured loner, whom a judge had written was "fundamentally ill and in need of hospitalization, and presents an eminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness," or is so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for self. One of those wounded was a 21-year-old senior International Studies major from Richmond, Virginia, named Colin Goddard. Goddard played a unique role in the horrific drama that played out at Virginia Tech University on that blustery April day: he was the only person within the building to call the police. Urged by his French professor to dial 911 as the crackle of gunfire came closer to the door of their classroom, Goddard made the call. Shot for the first time, he passed the phone to a classmate who gave the police enough information to get them to the scene three minutes later. Police got into the building, which had been barricaded, six minutes after that. For all the terrible damage that the killer did, the toll of lost lives might have been much higher if it were not for the 911 call started by Colin Goddard and continued by Emily Haas. After recovering and finishing his degree, Colin Goddard decided he was going to volunteer for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation's largest gun control organization. And he was going to convince them to sponsor him in wearing a hidden camera and going undercover into gun shows all across America, to prove how easy it is for anyone to buy a gun, with no identification, no Brady background check, and just a wad of cash. Living for 32 is his story."
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