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Books for Grownups - May 2012

New Donald Westlake mystery, plus Arlen Specter, pain management and the Arab Spring


Abundance: Why the Future Will Be Much Better Than You Think
By Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kolter
(Free Press, $26)

Diamandis (a tech entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist) and journalist Kolter contend that widespread pessimism about the future stems from our cognitive biases and the impact of mass media. This enticing book is a welcome corrective. It takes us on a whirlwind tour of the latest developments in health care, agriculture and energy that will temper any guilt you may be feeling about our generational legacy. 


Imagine: How Creativity Works
By Jonah Lehrer
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26)

Pop scientist Lehrer debunks some long-held theories on innovative thinking. Breakthrough discoveries, he reports, result from hard work, not some mystical "Eureka!" moment. Lehrer also looks at "mind-opening" experiences, from drugs to travel; lauds risk-taking and beginner’s ignorance; lays to rest the reputed efficacy of office brainstorming. So much for that apple and Newton's head!


Enemies: A History of the FBI
By Tim Weiner
(Random House, $30)

In this important and judicious account of the tension between national security and civil liberties, Weiner delivers a searing exposé of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As an intelligence outfit, claims Weiner, the FBI has reached a degree of secrecy and politicization that rival those of its antagonist, the CIA. (Weiner chronicled the latter in his Legacy of Ashes, which won a National Book Award in 2007.)

Life Among The Cannibals

Life Among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It
By Arlen Specter, with Charles Robbins
(Thomas Dunne, $26.99)

This engaging look at the disappearance of the center in Republican Party politics will resonate with American voters as they battle what threatens to be an especially virulent case of election fever this fall. Specter — a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, who switched parties from (R) to (D) in 2009 — lays bare his resentments. But he also delivers a well-informed and withering critique of brutal partisanship in national politics. 

The Arab Uprising

The Arab Uprising: The Wave of Protest that Toppled the Status Quo and the Struggle for a New Middle East
By Marc Lynch
(PublicAffairs, $26.99)

Lynch, the author of Voices of the New Arab Public (2005), is a political scientist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. This time out he offers a nuanced, insightful analysis of the Arab insurrections that first flared up in Cairo in December 2010, with ample historical context.

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