new books

How Huxley and Orwell Predicted Our Future (and Present)

Jerry Sander

Here’s what, I believe, neither Huxley, nor Orwell, nor any of us saw coming: It’s not a matter of government using technology to enslave the people. It is a matter of technology using the government to harness people’s loyalties, monies, and energies. It is about the creation of a vast, quiet sea of smiling economic slaves. Technology has proven itself more of a powerfully uniting force than government. The Trump/Never Trump divide is real and is full of unforgivable (and unforgiven) vitriol that promises to last into the next decade.

Desperately Seeking Sasquatch in John Zada’s ‘Valleys of the Noble Beyond’

Lee Polevoi

John Zada went on multiple journeys to the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia for his new book, In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond. In small towns and villages, Zada meets many people who claim to have seen the Sasquatch, “the alleged race of half-man, half-ape giants” on the loose in the wild. Like its distant counterpart, the Yeti, a rumored denizen of the Himalayans, the Sasquatch, aka Bigfoot, has purportedly left behind footprints and engaged in random encounters with hunters, fishermen, and members of the Kitasoo, Heiltsuk, and other First Nation peoples.

 

Greed, Piracy, and Murder at Sea in Ian Urbina’s ‘Outlaw Ocean’

Lee Polevoi

The scope of reporting in The Outlaw Ocean is remarkable. Urbina covers a wide swath of oceangoing banditry and mayhem, and delivers his findings in clear, transparent prose that brings this sordid activity to life. Often the conditions in which he’s present are serious, if not potentially life-threatening. On a Ghanaian port police boat, for example, “the waves swelled to fifteen feet high, and I sensed that the men, not without reason, were getting scared.”

Reliving the Old West in Téa Obreht’s ‘Inland’

Lee Polevoi

In a second narrative strand, a Turkish refugee and outlaw named Lurie Mattie finds his fortunes inextricably linked with the U.S. Camel Corps, a little-known (and real) adjunct of the military around the time of the Civil War. Throughout his part of the story, spanning some 40 years, Lurie addresses his dromedary pack animal, Burke, as they make their way across the Wild West. Lurie, too, speaks with the ghost of a fellow renegade. Inland is saturated with the realm of the occult and more than a hint of magical realism.

Discovering the Origins of the Tube: The Lifeblood of London

Oliver Green and Benjamin Graham

The Metropolitan Railway was a novel attempt to solve a slightly different transport problem: how to get around or across the congested city quickly and conveniently. At the Parliamentary Select Committee on Metropolitan Communications in 1855, one witness who gave evidence complained that it took longer to get across town, navigating the crowded streets from London Bridge to Paddington, than it did to travel up to London by train from Brighton. Some might argue that the situation has not improved much, but the growth and development of London’s underground railway system over more than 150 years have been phenomenal

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Sleuthing American Landscapes With Suzanne Lessard in ‘The Absent Hand’

Lee Polevoi

Armed with a self-proclaimed mission to “sleuth” American ground (“to understand the change in landscape form and meaning and what it could tell us about ourselves as a society now”), Lessard embarks on numerous journeys, described in the series of essays that make up The Absent Hand. Destinations range from her home village of Rensselaerville, New York, and the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg to King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania and Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

The Future Is Here in John Lanchester's Dystopian 'The Wall'

Lee Polevoi

A decade or two into the future, after a tumultuous global climate event called the Change, an island nation (much like England) has built a Wall to protect itself against marauding outsiders, known as the Others. Those charged with protecting the borders, known as the Defenders, must maintain a 24/7 vigilance against attack and penetration. In many ways, it’s a world not all that different from what we know today, except that—as one example—rising waters around the planet have made beaches extinct.

A Harrowing Tale of the Incarceration System in Shane Bauer’s ‘American Prison’

Lee Polevoi

American Prison aims to be several different things, including a first-person undercover account of what it feels like to guard a general population in a for-profit prison. It’s also  an in-depth history of American convict labor and the rise of private prisons since Colonial times—and how outsourced incarceration has grown over time into a huge business. Bauer’s risky enterprise into life as a corrections officer was partly informed by his experiences as a prisoner in Iran for more than two years. 

The Republic Torn Asunder in Ben Fountain’s ‘Beautiful Country Burn Again’

Lee Polevoi

In Beautiful Country Burn Again, Fountain revisits the tumultuous 2016 presidential campaign. Interspersed with his vivid, on-the-scene reportage are sections he calls “Book of Days,” a more or less objective compilation of world events taking place in the months leading up to Election Day. (It makes for grim reading.) He also theorizes at length about something he calls The Third Reinvention, addressing—with the hopes of reforming or eliminating—wealth inequality, white supremacy, and damage already inflicted on the democratic system.

John Cleese Discusses Something ‘Completely Different’ in ‘Professor at Large’

Sam Chapin

If you had asked me why it was funny, I probably would have yelled, “Ni!” and ran away. And I’d wager that a lot of Python faithfuls have a hard time enunciating their affections for the material--it feels so effortlessly humorous. It’s easy to forget that someone actually wrote it. In John Cleese’s new book, Professor at Large: The Cornell Years, he gives an intimate and exhaustive exploration of his creative and analytical mind, allowing us to see firsthand the inner workings of a comedic genius. 

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