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WATER

A BIOGRAPHY

An ingenious lesson in geopolitics.

A tour de force world history focused on water and how we use it.

Climate scientist Boccaletti, chief strategy office of the Nature Conservancy, begins with an emphatic denial that “water is an inert backdrop on the stage of human events.” To prove his thesis, he delivers an expert water-centered history of human progress from the time we became sedentary 10,000 years ago. “The story of water,” writes the author, “is not technological, but political.” Agriculture produces far more food than hunting and gathering but requires massive amounts of water. Depending on rain is unreliable, so centuries ago, farmers began to harness the power of wells, local rivers, canals, and irrigation projects, which preoccupied early governments as much as warfare. Ambitious cultures paid attention to transportation by water, which is 10 times more efficient than by land. In Boccaletti’s view, an essential feature of the rise of the nation-state in the 17th century was increased security of property, which produced an explosion of investment in water infrastructure. By the end of the 19th century, he writes, the “great American rivers…would become the basis for the rise of the American republic as the dominant economy of the twentieth,” the “hydraulic century.” Hydropower, not hydrocarbons, powered the electrification of America. Opening with the spectacular Panama Canal in 1904, the U.S. spent much of the 20th-century attempting to repeat the success of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam around the world, with spotty success. These efforts peaked during the 1970s, after which water-led development seemed to fall out of fashion—until, out of the blue, China appeared on the scene, built the Three Gorges Dam (“the largest single piece of infrastructure in the world”), and took the lead in spreading its technology around the world. “It may still be that if the twentieth was the American Century,” writes Boccaletti in this astute global study, “the twenty-first will be the Chinese one.”

An ingenious lesson in geopolitics.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4823-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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