Most of us find it hard to grasp just how much territory the Amazon region covers. This overlay map suggests the true dimensions. It also makes clear that the Amazon is not confined to Brazil but straddles nine countries. Image: Reddit

You probably haven’t heard of Colonel Percy Fawcett. But in his day a century ago he was a superstar. The media of his time ranked him with such celebrated explorers as Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone, who searched for the source of the Nile; Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered Troy; Howard Carter (King Tut’s Tomb); and Hiram Bingham III (Machu Picchu). Fawcett (1867–1925) was an eccentric English soldier and geographer with superhuman survival skills. This engrossing book traces the man’s amazing story. From his early days in the British colonial army in Sri Lanka. Through his many fabled travels into…


You won’t find simplistic and absurdly unlikely views of alien life like this except in some popular films and television, and certainly not in the books reviewed here. This image is from Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Directed by Jonathan Frakes. Shown from left: Alice Krige, Patrick Stewart. Credit: Hollywood Reporter

Since the earliest days of science fiction as an established genre, writers in the field have imagined what has come to be called First Contact with a capital F and a capital C. Most of the early speculation in the so-called Golden Era of Science Fiction (the 1930s and 40s) was laughable. But in more recent times most authors have sought to ground their work in the thinking of scientists rather than fantasists. …


Tokyo after the March 9–10 1945 firebombing mission described in The Bomber Mafia as “the longest night of the Second World War.” Image: US Army via The Japan Times

In The Bomber Mafia, Malcolm Gladwell departs from the precincts of social psychology he knows so well (The Tipping Point, Talking to Strangers, Outliers) and ventures into the history of World War II. The book, subtitled “A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War,” dramatizes the debate at the heart of the growing use of airpower in the war — the dispute between the two schools of thought about strategic bombing in WWII: high-altitude precision targeting and unrestrained area bombing of cities. Gladwell terms it “a case study in dreams gone awry.” In his telling…


In a full-page ad for Michael Lewis’ new book inside the front cover of the New York Times Magazine (May 9, 2021), the publisher asks, “Where did we go wrong? And how can we get it right?” After all, as the ad states, “In 2019, a panel of public health experts judged the U.S. to be more prepared for a pandemic than other G7 nations.” And we all know how that worked out. …


This is one of many homes that sell to the ultra-rich for $100 million or more, possibly one of several for a single family. Does it make sense for anyone to live like this in an age when a billion are starving every day? Image: Mansion Global

Back in 1996, a book entitled The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko hit the bestseller lists. The two authors demonstrated that owning a small business such as a dry cleaners or a neighborhood grocery, for example, might over time make its frugal owners into “millionaires.” The term “top 1%” wasn’t yet in common use, but the implication was those people qualified. Stanley and Danko seemed to mean that anyone who had accumulated assets totaling more than $1 million was therefore a millionaire and rich. But how naive we were to think such a thing!

The top 1% isn’t who you think


Diagram of a typology of the causes of aging that is similar to the author’s. Image: from Lopez-Otin et al., “The Hallmarks of Aging.” Cell, 2013, via Brandon Keim on Medium.

If you’re considering picking up a copy of Dr. Andrew Steele’s new book in hopes of finding some magical supplement or salve to add ten years to your life, forget it. The author is a PhD physicist turned computational biologist — a serious scientist. In Ageless, he relates the latest findings about the emergence of a new field called biogerontology. The word is a mouthful, but its meaning is transparent: it’s the study of the biological basis of aging and age-related diseases. And the author, Dr. …


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…

Mal Warwick

Author, book reviewer, serial entrepreneur, board member

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