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The Newsnight book club

Newsnight book club
Welcome to the Newsnight book club.

We speak to the authors of forthcoming non-fiction works and publish extracts for you perusal and comment. Below are the books we have looked at so far.

IN THE CLUB SO FAR...

  • A WORLD WITHOUT BEES - BENJAMIN AND MCCALLUM
  • THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE - SALMAN RUSHDIE
  • TORTURE TEAM - PHILIPPE SANDS
  • THE TRILLION DOLLAR WAR - STIGLITZ & BILMES
  • NEW COLD WAR - EDWARD LUCAS
  • BROKEN - SHY KEENAN
  • IN DEFENCE OF FOOD - MICHAEL POLLAN
  • THE SECOND BOUNCE OF THE BALL - RONALD COHEN
  • FAIR GAME - VALERIE PLAME WILSON
  • MICROTRENDS - MARK J PENN
  • SOLDIER - GEN SIR MIKE JACKSON
  • WIKINOMICS - TAPSCOTT AND WILLIAMS
  • THE POLITICAL BRAIN - DREW WESTEN
  • THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR - ANDREW KEEN
  • WASHINGTON'S WAR - GEN SIR MICHAEL ROSE
  • NOT ONE OF US - ALI DIZAEI
  • THE CHILLING STARS - CALDER & SVENSMARK
  • WRITING ON THE WALL: CHINA AND THE WEST - WILL HUTTON
  • INSIDE THE GLOBAL JIHAD - OMAR NASIRI
  • GHOST PLANE - STEPHEN GREY
  • THE GOLDILOCKS ENIGMA - PAUL DAVIES
  • THE J CURVE - IAN BREMMER
  • IN THE LINE OF FIRE - PERVEZ MUSHARRAF
  • THE GOD DELUSION - RICHARD DAWKINS
  • FAITH AND FREEDOM - JIMMY CARTER
  • THE GREAT IMMIGRATION SCANDAL - STEVE MOXON
  • THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING - JOAN DIDION
  • EATING: WHAT WE EAT & WHY IT MATTERS- SINGER & MASON

    A World Without Bees

    Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum

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    Bees

    Why a book about a world without bees?

    For as far as the eye can see everything is pale pink. The valley that stretches across central California for the best part of 500 miles is blanketed with salmon-coloured orchards.

    Welcome to almond country. The trees — all 60-odd million of them — are heavy with blossom. Other than a constant stream of cars and trucks along Route 5 and ubiquitous fast food joints hugging the highway, there is little else to see in this flat, monotonous landscape, other than row upon row upon row of the blossom-bearing trees.

    The Enchantress of Florence
    By Salman Rushdie

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    The Enchantress of Florence

    The Enchantress of Florence is the story of a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a man's world.

    It brings together two cities that barely know each other - the hedonistic Mughal capital and the equally sensual Florentine.

    It is the latest book by Salman Rushdie - his novel Midnight's Children recently won the Best of the Booker prize, as voted for by the public.

    Torture Team
    By Philippe Sands

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    Torture Team

    On 2 December 2002 Donald Rumsfeld signed a memorandum authorising 18 techniques of interrogation not previously allowed by the United States.

    In Torture Team leading QC Philippe Sands traces the life of the memorandum and examines the use of torture at Guantanamo and the US airbase at Bagram.

    He also and explores issues of individual responsibility.

    The Trillion Dollar War
    By Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes

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    The Trillion Dollar WarThe Trillion Dollar War

    The Three Trillion Dollar War by Nobel award-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes of Harvard University is an attempt to put a price on how much was spent invading Iraq. The book counts direct spending by the US and UK before going on to cost everything from lives lost and damage done in the Middle East to replacing military hardware and caring for veterans in the West.

    The New Cold War
    By Edward Lucas

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    The New Cold War

    Journalist Edward Lucas claims that Russia has started a new Cold War - and the West is losing it because it is unwilling to confront the new threat.

    In the book he says: "Russia is still too weak militarily and economically, and too dependent on the outside world, to use brute force. Other tactics are just as effective."

    Broken
    By Shy Keenan

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    Broken by Shy Keenan

    Shy Keenan was systematically raped by her stepfather throughout her childhood. Her Newsnight special report in 2000, led to him and his accomplices being arrested and brought to trial. Her testimony ensured he and two other men were imprisoned.

    Broken is her story - of how surviving abused and fighting to bring those responsible to justice.

    In Defence of Food:
    The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating

    By Michael Pollan

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    In Defence of Food

    Journalist Michael Pollan argues that our idea of what food is and what we should be eating has been completely distorted by the food industry and nutritionists.

    He believes that people are now so confused about their diet that they have no idea what real food is any more.

    His book In Defence of Food has a simple doctrine at its centre - "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

    The Second Bounce of the Ball:
    Turning Risk into Opportunity

    By Ronald Cohen

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    The Second Bounce of the Ball
    Businessman Sir Ronald Cohen offers budding entrepreneurs guidance on how to approach the challenges and opportunities ahead of them.

    He says: "This book is, I hope, a timely contribution to the understanding of entrepreneurship, including the roles of venture capital and private equity, as well as a guide to becoming a successful entrepreneur."

    Sir Ronald Cohen speaks to Newsnight on Wednesday, 7 November.

    Fair Game
    By Valerie Plame Wilson

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    Fair Game by Valerie Plame Wilson

    Valerie Plame Wilson is the woman at the centre of the scandal that, ultimately, led to the downfall, prosecution and conviction of the former White House chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, for revealing her identity as a CIA spy.

    In Fair Game, Valerie Plame Wilson tells her side of the story, and details her life as a spy. An interview with Valerie Plame Wilson will be shown on Newsnight on Thursday 25 October 2007.

    Microtrends
    By Mark J Penn

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    Microtrends book cover
    In Microtrends, Mark Penn explores the trends in American society today. He suggests that the ideas shaping our world are relatively unseen - under-the-radar forces that can involve as little as one per cent of the population, yet their impact on society is huge.

    Mark Penn is Hillary Clinton's chief strategist.

    Soldier
    By Gen Sir Mike Jackson

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    Gen Sir Mike Jackson's Soldier

    General Sir Mike Jackson's autobiography Soldier details key events during his 45 years of service in the British Army. From early cadet days, through service in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles, to commanding troops in Kosovo and overseeing deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the book examines the changing face of British soldiering and warfare.

    Since standing down as Chief of Staff in 2006, he has been outspoken on many issues surrounding the military, most recently criticising US post-Iraq invasion plans.

    Wikinomics
    By Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

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    Wikinomics

    Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams looks at how companies are beginning to use mass collaboration of knowledge to gain success. The authors explain how big businesses could harness external expertise by engaging directly with and rewarding participation from their customers, users and a wide pool of informed contributors - a method of epitomised by the online encyclopaedia 'Wikipedia', where entries are written and edited by users.

    Far from being sceptical about the power of mass collaboration - see Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur, another Newsnight Book Club entry below - Tapscott and Williams claim Wikinomics could provide the basis for huge economic and intellectual growth.

    In line with their own thesis, the last chapter of the book is being written by readers.

    The Political Brain
    By Drew Westen

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    The Political Brain
    In The Political Brain Drew Westen, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, examines the role of emotion in determining national politics.

    Westen looks at how politicians capture the hearts and minds of the electorate and suggests ways in which they might better appeal to voters' brains.

    The Cult of the Amateur
    By Andrew Keen

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    The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

    Andrew Keen's new book examines his concern over online amateurism, spawned by the digital revolution. This, he feels, has had a destructive impact on our culture, economy and values.

    He rails against "uninformed political commentary", "unseemly home videos" and "embarrassingly amateurish music" and says blogs are "collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture".

    He also claims Wikipedia perpetuates a cycle of misinformation and ignorance, and labels YouTube inane and absurd.

    Washington's War
    By Gen Sir Michael Rose

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    Washington's War cover

    There has been much criticism of the US-led coalition's post war strategy in Iraq. As the insurgency has grown and sectarian violence taken hold, US forces have increasingly had to adapt their tactics - most recently boosting troop numbers in the so-called "surge" strategy.

    In General Sir Michael Rose's new book he argues that the insurgents' tactics have been seen before - ironically when George Washington's forces succeeded in defeating the British Army - then the world's greatest military power - to win independence for the US in 1776.

    Having served with the SAS and commanded the UN Protection Force in Bosnia, Sir Michael's analysis raises profound questions about tactics and leadership in the campaign in Iraq.

    Not One of Us
    By Ali Dizaei

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    Ali Dizaei's Not One of Us
    With his outspoken campaigning on race relations and reputation for day-to-day crime-fighting, Superintendent Ali Dizaei had been tipped to be Britain's first Asian chief constable.

    But Iranian-born officer was secretly suspected of a series of crimes and in 2000 became the subject of what was to become the most expensive inquiry ever into a single officer.

    Three years later he was cleared of perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and making false expense claims - leading to renewed claims that the Metropolitan Police had failed to stamp out racism.

    Not One of Us outlines how he set about clearing his name.

    The Chilling Stars
    By Nigel Calder and Henrik Svensmark

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    The Chilling Stars

    The Chilling Stars by science writer Nigel Calder and climate physicist Henrik Svensmark outlines a controversial new theory on the origins of global warming.

    The book sets out to prove that a combination of clouds, the Sun and cosmic rays - sub-atomic particles from exploding stars - have altered our climate far more than human carbon emissions.

    Svensmark's research at the Danish National Space Center suggests cosmic rays play a role in making clouds in our atmosphere. A reduction in cosmic rays in the last 100 years - due to the activity of our Sun - has meant fewer clouds and a warmer Earth.

    The Writing on the Wall
    By Will Hutton

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    The Writing on the Wall

    Will Hutton looks at the uneasy relationship between China and the West in light of the former's phenomenal economic growth - seen by many Western analysts as a threat.

    Hutton argues that the West should embrace China and promote better governance within the country by adhering to fundamental principles such as the rule of law as an example of progress.

    Inside Global Jihad
    By Omar Nasiri

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    Inside the Global Jihad by Omar Nasiri

    Omar Nasiri (not his real name) worked for European security agencies during the 1990s and infiltrated al Qaeda both in the camps of Afghanistan and in terror cells in London.

    His story is reveals the extent of al-Qaeda's preparations - years before 9/11 - to target the west, but also the British authorities' lack of awareness of the growing threat of Islamic terrorism.

    Ghost Plane
    By Stephen Grey

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    Ghost Plane

    British journalist Stephen Grey's Ghost Plane documents his investigation into the secret CIA practice of transporting terror suspects to third countries - known as "extraordinary rendition".

    The book claims many of those prisoners subsequently suffered torture at the hands of regimes such as Syria - publicly pilloried by the Bush administration but, it says, privately colluded with the name of defending the US.

    The Goldilocks Enigma
    By Paul Davies

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    The Goldilocks Enigma

    Professor Paul Davies' The Goldilocks Enigma tackles fundamental questions about the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it. Scientific breakthroughs, he argues, have brought us to the brink of comprehending the underlying structure of nature or "a final 'theory of everything'".

    Central to finding this solution, he says, is answering the Goldilocks Enigma - why is it that "the universe seems 'just right' for life"?

    The J Curve
    By Ian Bremmer

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    The J Curve

    Ian Bremmer's J Curve is a visual tool that suggests why some countries are in crisis and unstable while others are prosperous and politically solid.

    The book explains: "movement from left to right along the J curve demonstrates that a country that is stable because it is closed must go through a period of dangerous instability as it opens to the outside world".

    In the Line of Fire
    By Pervez Musharraf

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    In the Line of Fire by Pervez Musharraf

    Rather than waiting until retirement, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has chosen to publish his memoirs - or at least a part of them - while still in office. In the Line of Fire includes an account of his experiences as premier in the run up to and aftermath of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

    Some details, including his claim that one US official used threats to secure Pakistan's cooperation in the so-called war on terror, have caused much controversy.

    The God Delusion
    By Richard Dawkins

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    The God Delusion

    In The God Delusion, the scientist Richard Dawkins sets out to attack God "in all his forms".

    He argues that the rise of religious fundamentalism is dividing people around the world, while the dispute between "intelligent design" and Darwinism "is seriously undermining and restricting the teaching of science".

    Faith and Freedom
    By Jimmy Carter

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    Faith and Freedom

    In Faith and Freedom, former American President, Jimmy Carter, an evangelical Baptist, poses a direct challenge to both Conservative evangelicals and secular intellectuals. Condemning inhumane treatment of prisoners, disrespect for human rights, the destruction of the environment and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, Faith and Freedom demonstrates the ways that Christian values can inform and animate progressive politics. He also challenges the lazy stereotype of the blinkered evangelical favoured by many intellectuals in Britain.

    The Great Immigration Scandal
    By Steve Moxon

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    The Great Immigration Scandal by Steve Moxon

    When Home Office immigration caseworker Steve Moxon was sacked for blowing the whistle on what he said was widespread abuse of the government's managed migration policy, he was denounced by many as being a xenophobic agitator.

    Two years on and after a host of admissions of failure from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) his views are increasingly being accepted and his original exposé is now seen by many as prophetic.

    In a revised an updated second edition of his book The Great Immigration Scandal, Steve Moxon - who has appeared on and reported for Newsnight about immigration - assesses the interim developments and explores possible resolutions.

    The Year of Magical Thinking
    By Joan Didion

    FROM THE BLURB:

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    The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

    When Joan Didion's husband died suddenly of a heart attack, a partnership of 40 years ended in a second. Just days before, the couple had seen their only daughter fall seriously ill. Despite the unshakable reality of her husband's death, Joan Didion's thinking was far from down to earth - she found herself, for instance, keeping his shoes in case he returned.

    Slowly she realised that beneath all the ritual and words lay a simple, aching truth - that she longed to perform an impossible trick and bring him back. This is the story of a year spent wishing; a year of magical thinking.

    We regret that the extract from this book is no longer available here.

    Eating - What we eat and why it matters
    By Peter Singer and Jim Mason

    FROM THE BLURB:

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    Eating by Peter Singer and Jim Mason

    Philosopher Peter Singer and environmentalist Jim Mason follow three families with varying eating habits, from fast-food eaters to vegans, and explore how the food we eat makes its way to the table, and at what expense.

    The authors peel back each layer of food production, and examine how they ought to factor into our buying choices. And recognising that we are not all likely to become vegetarian or vegan, they go on to offer ways to make the most ethical choices within the framework of a diet that includes animal products.





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