Today, many Americans puzzle over why the Great Recession happened. Amazon lists more than 1,000 books on the subject. But readers today might benefit from taking a longer view. Because, as Frederick Lewis Allen told the tale in The Lords of Creation nearly ninety years ago, the conditions that arose in the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties and lay at the root of the Depression bear an uncanny resemblance to those of the current era beginning late in the 1970s.

To understand why the Great Recession happened, start here

When Allen’s book appeared in 1935, the United States (and the world) was in the throes of the Great…


Sarah Churchill Oliver, Anna Roosevelt Boettiger, and Kathleen Harriman, together at Yalta in 1945. Image: US Army Signal Corps

Few Americans today remember the name Yalta. But for two generations following the end of World War II, the word conjured up conflicting political visions of the war’s outcome. It was there on the shores of the Black Sea that Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin met for eight days in February 1945 to resolve the most troublesome questions facing the Allies: the treatment of defeated Germany, the fate of Poland, and whether the Soviet Union would enter the war with Japan. How those questions were resolved set off the Yalta controversy, which would divide Americans throughout the years…


A closely-linked network of several score brilliant men and a few women are pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence research. You’ll meet many of these high-achieving and sometimes eccentric individuals in the pages of Genius Makers. You’ll get a glimpse inside Google, Facebook, Baidu, and other major institutions where most of the cutting-edge AI research is underway. And in these pages, you’ll gain perspective on the issues and uncertainties that trouble this rarefied community. In a more general sense, Genius Makers will also show how the shifting currents of peer pressure influence the course of scientific research.

One approach among many

The principal theme…


Three remarkable American men shared this experience with the people of London in World War II.

Most accounts of the British-American alliance in World War II dwell on the closeness between Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. But a more fine-toothed inspection of history reveals that others played equally significant roles in making the relationship work. And historian Lynne Olsen has dug into contemporaneous accounts, dredging up eye-opening facts about three prominent Americans whose wartime careers were pivotal in forging and sustaining the bond. US Ambassador John Gilbert Winant. Lend-Lease administrator W. Averell Harriman. And CBS radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. In Citizens of London, she follows these three remarkable men throughout the war, tracing the many…


For at least 200,000 years, homo sapiens enjoyed the bounty of the Earth, rendering only minimal damage to the planet. That began to change with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century. Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, explains. “The pressures we exert on the planet have become so great that scientists are considering whether the Earth has entered an entirely new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, or the age of humans. It means that we are the first people to live in an age defined by human choice, in which the dominant risk…


A squadron of three US destroyers sails on a “freedom of navigation” mission in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. Nearby a smaller vessel is gushing smoke, and Captain Sara Hunt, the squadron’s commodore, orders her warships to veer off course to investigate. They find a small craft packed with electronic surveillance equipment, which they seize. And this ill-considered act in March 2034 triggers a succession of shocking events that unfold over the next four months. Not the rapid-fire, tit-for-tat exchange of strategic nuclear weapons conjured up in the most common fantasy of a Third World War. Just…


Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR-Cas9, which won her the Nobel Prize. Image: Pomona College

If you have received either the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, you benefiting from a biomedical tool called CRISPR. CRISPR technology enabled scientists to create both vaccines in record time, bypassing the clumsy and time-consuming methods employed in vaccine development in the past. The historic breakthrough that led to the now-widespread use of CRISPR in biomedical labs the world over came only in 2012. And it won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry eight years later for a remarkable woman at the University of California, Berkeley, named Jennifer Doudna.

Four main characters

Doudna’s work, and that of her students, post-docs, and colleagues…


Aline Griffith in 1945, before she became the Countess of Romanones. Image: New York Daily News Archive

Most accounts of Allied spies in World War II highlight their heroic exploits. Stealing top-secret documents. Operating clandestine radios. Leading scores or hundreds of Resistance fighters in battle. Or blowing up Nazi troop trains. Aline Griffith did none of these things. But the fascinating story Larry Loftis tells in The Princess Spy reminds us that espionage then involved a great deal more than fighting on the front lines. His tale of a middle-class American woman who became an OSS spy and married into Spanish nobility offers its own rewards for readers eager to understand World War II in depth.

Four…


Japanese military and civilian leaders in the dock at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. It was fear of a scene like this that helped stiffen the resistance to unconditional surrender. Image: Weebly.com.

Few people today wonder what led to Japan’s unconditional surrender in World War II. The United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Emperor caved. Job done. But of course the reality was far more complex. And the outcome was anything but certain.

Twenty-two years after the war ended, American historian William Craig revealed how that decision came about. He dug into hidden documents and spoke with dozens of those who played pivotal roles at the time both in Japan and the US. Day-by-day, and often hour by hour, Craig reconstructed the events that…


The US seizure of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines in 1898 enlarged the American empire, but it was far from the first move in the country’s expansion into the world. Image: PBS Learning Media

Is the United States an imperial power? No doubt, the overwhelming majority of Americans would answer the question with an emphatic no. But historian Daniel Immerwahr has a different take on the matter. In How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, he argues with impeccable logic and entertaining detail that our country has been an imperial power ever since its origins in the colonial era. And, even though the ways and means of controlling other peoples have changed over the past century, the United States continues to exercise imperial power despite possessing only a smattering…

Mal Warwick

Author, book reviewer, serial entrepreneur, board member

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