A captivating read for Titanic and maritime enthusiasts.

SINKABLE

OBSESSION, THE DEEP SEA, AND THE SHIPWRECK OF THE TITANIC

An exploration of the aftermath of the Titanic’s fatal voyage.

Since the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, the ship has been the subject of legends and myths, edging on an obsession for some. Rather than focusing on what caused the ship to sink, science writer Stone, author of The Food Explorer, chronicles what has happened since the night the ship struck an iceberg. “In cultural lore, the Titanic is the wreck around which all others orbit,” writes the author. “The same way a pop musician can’t escape the influence of the Beatles or Michael Jackson, shipwreckers can’t bypass the brightest star.” Stone attributes much of the ship’s outsized, iconic status to “good storytelling.” Drawing on eyewitness accounts and expert reports, the author tracks the shipwreck’s history, including how it broke apart, the discovery of its resting place in September 1985, and subsequent plans and attempts to salvage the ship. “Raising it, however, would create a new set of problems,” writes Stone, including accelerating the ship’s decay. The author also discusses how surviving the tragedy changed many lives, particularly the survivor’s shame faced by those who were able to find a lifeboat and row away from the sinking ship, leaving hundreds behind. One woman “lived the rest of her life trying to salvage her and her husband’s reputations as heartless cowards.” Additionally, Stone discusses versions of the Titanic’s story that have appeared in books and film, including, of course, James Cameron’s 1997 mega-blockbuster. Though the author focuses on the Titanic, he writes about other maritime tragedies and maritime-related science, including hypothermia, what to do if you find yourself on a sinking ship, how sound travels underwater, disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, and the effects of water pressure on the lungs. From the beginning of the narrative, Stone effectively draws readers in with his own great storytelling skills.

A captivating read for Titanic and maritime enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32937-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

PIRATE ENLIGHTENMENT, OR THE REAL LIBERTALIA

The final book from the longtime activist anthropologist.

In a lively display of up-to-date anthropology, Graeber (1961-2020) offers a behind-the-scenes view of how a skilled researcher extracts knowledge from the slimmest evidence about a long-ago multiethnic society composed of pirates and settled members of existing communities. In this posthumous book, the author turns to 17th- and 18th-century Madagascar and examines hard-to-credit sources to tease out some plausible facts about the creation and early life of a distinctive Indian Ocean society, some of whose Malagasy descendants (“the Zana-Malata”) are alive today. Exhibiting his characteristic politically tinged sympathies, Graeber describes the pirates who plied the seas and settled on Madagascar as an ethno-racially integrated proletariat “spearheading the development of new forms of democratic governance.” He also argues that many of the pirates and others displayed European Enlightenment ideas even though they inhabited “a very unlikely home for Enlightenment political experiments.” Malagasies were “Madagascar’s most stubbornly egalitarian peoples,” and, as the author shows, women played significant roles in the society, which reflected Jewish, Muslin, Ismaili, and Gnostic origins as well as native Malagasy and Christian ones. All of this information gives Graeber the chance to wonder, in his most provocative conjecture, whether Enlightenment ideals might have emerged as much beyond Western lands as within them. His argument that pirates, women traders, and community leaders in early 18th-century Madagascar were “global political actors in the fullest sense of the term” is overstated, but even with such excesses taken into account, the text is a tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history. It’s also a work written with a pleasingly light touch. The principal audience will be anthropologists, but those who love pirate lore or who seek evidence that mixed populations were long capable of establishing proto-democratic societies will also find enlightenment in these pages.

Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-374-61019-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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