Charles Mann is one of the most riveting science writers working today. If you've read any of his pieces for The Atlantic or Wired, you'll know that he has an uncanny ability to make complex technological and scientific findings immediately accessible.
This book grew out of an Atlantic cover story by the same name, but whereas the magazine piece gave you just a taste of what the Americas might have been like before Columbus, this book imerses you in a civilization that was probably more populous, cultivated, and innovative than Europe at the time. In short, Mann turns the conventional wisdom about what North and South America were like on its head. He shows how the Amazon is largely the artifact of human engineering, with giant earthworks (canals, island mounds, fishing arteries) that prove the area is far from the pristine wilderness that environmentalists make it out to be. The revelations about terra preta -- dark earth that was, by all accounts, engineered by the Amazonians with a microorganism to make it super-fertilized -- isn't just fascinating history, but could be a breakthrough discovery for present-day third-world agriculture.
This book will give you a whole new understanding of the history of the Americas -- and maybe a little resentment towards your high-school history teacher.
One of Lewis's best. He tackles the subprime mortgage meltdown and explains the inner workings of the banking machinery that made it happen like few other writers could.
Here are the good things about John Krakauer’s amazing “Under the Banner of Heaven”: It’ll blow your mind about the Mormon church, with a revealing history of the Joseph Smith days and riveting tales of present-day latter-day sait looniness — the Lafferty murders, Elizabeth Smart. The book will get you thinking about how maybe, just maybe, Islamic fundamentalists aren’t all that different from our own homegown Christian fundamentalists. And the author is incredibly talented at weaving history, narrative, and interviews to create a swift weekend read.
Now the bad part: During and after reading the book, you’ll want to talk about it with just about everyone. And on occassion, one of those people will turn out to be a practicing Mormon. And if you’re being really dense, like me, you’ll probably end up making a huge ass of yourself.
The John Hodgman story, about going "rogue" to uncover the secrets of the Mall of America food court, is about as good as This American Life gets.
As a Mac newbie, I thought this show would offer helpful tips and insights into how to harness my new iBook, so I ordered up a 1-month subscription. Well, after listening to 10 hours of the vacuous drivel, I can honestly say the show deserves to be stripped of its 4.5-star rating and scuttled immediately. "Your Mac Life" aspires to be "Car Talk" for Apple users, but there are two problems: One, the hosts (especially Shawn King) are cringingly unfunny. Two, you could boil down all of the real content in the 2.5-hour shows to a 5 minutes, tops. Actually, after my 10-hour test run I didn't glean any truly practical knowledge whatsoever. The show spends far too much time plugging its various sponsors (ie the first 15 minutes or so), then doing umpteen product give-aways, and then talking about Apple's stock price ad infinitum. It often feels like an investor conference call gone horribly wrong, with an obnoxious, ill-informed guy named Shawn blithering on without any real insights or knowledge. Download this interminable bore at your own peril.
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