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THE LAST WINTER

THE SCIENTISTS, ADVENTURERS, JOURNEYMEN, AND MAVERICKS TRYING TO SAVE THE WORLD

An essential addition to the library of climate change and one that ought to spur readers to do something about it.

Think these last few years of climate change have been weird? You haven’t seen anything yet, Fox warns in this ominous though beautifully written book.

“Things on earth are never the same for long,” observes writer and traveler Fox, who divides his time between Brooklyn and, it seems, everywhere else in the world. Transitory, however, doesn’t always mean natural. The author worries in particular that winter is disappearing. For heat lovers, warm winters might be welcome, but winter has a regulatory function that is essential to our planet’s heating and cooling systems and to its water supply. A new aridity now dries our forests and makes them vulnerable to wildfire. “The eight most fire-ravaged years in recorded history had all seen historically low snowpacks,” writes Fox. Indeed, much of Siberia, which has lately been seeing summer temperatures above 100 degrees, burns in season; Fox notes that a recent fire covered an area as large as the country of Greece, which, of course, has been blazing away this summer. The author has traveled widely to interview ski bums, glaciologists, Indigenous hunters, and explorers, and he smoothly incorporate their takes into the narrative. He often writes with a light hand—e.g., “it struck me that if Jesus had made it to retirement age and happened to wander into Central Washington, I wouldn’t be surprised if he followed Ed’s lead, bought a snowmobile and a pair of skis, and spent sixty days a year skiing bottomless powder.” Jesus on skis is a nice conceit, but Fox’s work is deeply grounded in science, as when he notes that in the Alps, “nearly every glacier under 11,500 feet is predicted to vanish in the next twenty to thirty years.” It’s the kind of book John McPhee would write if he were abroad in wintry places, and we’re fortunate that Fox has taken his place.

An essential addition to the library of climate change and one that ought to spur readers to do something about it.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-46092-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN TWELVE SHIPWRECKS

Gibbins combines historical knowledge with a sense of adventure, making this book a highly enjoyable package.

A popular novelist turns his hand to historical writing, focusing on what shipwrecks can tell us.

There’s something inherently romantic about shipwrecks: the mystery, the drama of disaster, the prospect of lost treasure. Gibbins, who’s found acclaim as an author of historical fiction, has long been fascinated with them, and his expertise in both archaeology and diving provides a tone of solid authority to his latest book. The author has personally dived on more than half the wrecks discussed in the book; for the other cases, he draws on historical records and accounts. “Wrecks offer special access to history at all…levels,” he writes. “Unlike many archaeological sites, a wreck represents a single event in which most of the objects were in use at that time and can often be closely dated. What might seem hazy in other evidence can be sharply defined, pointing the way to fresh insights.” Gibbins covers a wide variety of cases, including wrecks dating from classical times; a ship torpedoed during World War II; a Viking longship; a ship of Arab origin that foundered in Indonesian waters in the ninth century; the Mary Rose, the flagship of the navy of Henry VIII; and an Arctic exploring vessel, the Terror (for more on that ship, read Paul Watson’s Ice Ghost). Underwater excavation often produces valuable artifacts, but Gibbins is equally interested in the material that reveals the society of the time. He does an excellent job of placing each wreck within a broader context, as well as examining the human elements of the story. The result is a book that will appeal to readers with an interest in maritime history and who would enjoy a different, and enlightening, perspective.

Gibbins combines historical knowledge with a sense of adventure, making this book a highly enjoyable package.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781250325372

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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