More than 850 book reviews

Nonfiction rss

An eye-opening book about the air we breathe(0)

August 8, 2017

Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us, by Sam Kean @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Ever heard of dichlorodifluoromethane? (That’s CCl2F2 to you chemistry students.) Well, guess what? You inhale seven trillion molecules of the stuff every time you breathe. Yes, it’s in the air we breathe. That’s just one of the lesser… Read More ›

How Steve Bannon sold the alt-right to Donald Trump and made history

Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, by Joshua Green @@@@ (4 out of 5) Donald Trump has been in the White House for six months as I write. His approval rating today (July 25, 2017) stands at 38.9%, according to an average of national polls on Nate Silver’s widely read… Read More ›

DARPA: inventors of Agent Orange, the M16, GPS, and the Internet

The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World, by Sharon Weinberger @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Many of the products of the Pentagon’s in-house research facility, DARPA, are widely known. The Internet. GPS. The M16 rifle. Agent Orange. Stealth aircraft. What is less widely known and understood… Read More ›

The iPhone: the world’s most profitable product?

The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, by Brian Merchant @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Other Silicon Valley observers have written about the development of the iPhone—but it’s unlikely that anyone else has delved as deeply into the subject as Brian Merchant . . . or will ever do so in the future,… Read More ›

An authoritative look at technology’s potential

The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future, by Vivek Wadwa and Alex Salkever @@@@@ (5 out of 5) “Not long ago, I was very pessimistic about the future. . . Today, I talk about this being the greatest period in history, when we will solve the grand challenges of… Read More ›

A very funny book about words, grammar, and dictionaries

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, by Kory Stamper @@@@@ (5 out of 5) When you think of dictionaries, chances are good the ones that would come to mind are the Merriam-Webster Collegiate and the Oxford English Dictionary (as well as whatever comes up online). Did I get that right? Certainly, those are… Read More ›

13 good recent books about American foreign policy

In recent years I’ve read and reviewed 13 nonfiction books published in the 21st Century about aspects of American foreign policy. I’m listing them here, in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. Each title is linked to my longer review. The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide, by Gary J. Bass Though… Read More ›

Al Franken’s memoir is revealing, insightful—and funny

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken @@@@@ (5 out of 5) If you’re expecting nonstop laughs from Al Franken’s memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, you’ll be disappointed. Naturally, the book is laced with Franken’s signature humor. He rarely passes up an opportunity to go for a laugh. That even begins with… Read More ›

The astonishing story of Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood star and inventor

On “Science Friday” (June 2, 2017), which I heard on my local NPR station, KQED, host Ira Flatow interviewed author Richard Rhodes and Diane Kruger about Hedy Lamarr. Rhodes wrote the book reviewed here. Kruger will star in a film and TV mini-series based on Lamarr’s life. Because of the increased interest in that amazing woman,… Read More ›

What Trump voters believe: a Berkeley sociologist goes to the source

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild @@@@@ (5 out of 5) In her ninth book, UC Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild confronts her alarm “at the increasingly hostile split in our nation between two political camps.” Strangers in Their Own Land, a Finalist for the… Read More ›