The week in books

September 4, 2008

Everything is Connected by Daniel Barenboim, former Charles Eliot Professor, Harvard University. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £16.99 ISBN 9780297855446

"Many who have listened to Barenboim's jumbled speech, in public or in a one-to-one interview, will be surprised by how articulate he is in the written word ... Few writers have summed up as concisely or intelligently the fundamentals of classical music - the interdependence of harmony, rhythm, volume and speed - or applied them so persuasively to the most intractable political issue of the postmodern world."

Andrew Clark, Financial Times

Philip II of Macedonia by Ian Worthington, Frederick A. Middlebush professor of history, University of Missouri. Yale University Press, £25.00, ISBN 9780300120790

"Any biography requires the piecing together of partial sources and the working through of contradictory ones to create a plausible narrative. When the protagonist lived more than 2,000 years ago, this task is even more difficult. Worthington skilfully uses information from the rich documentation of Alexander the Great's early life to speculate about and suggest that of his father, and does so with a great deal of style."

Lorna Gibb, The Daily Telegraph

Blessed Days of Anaesthesia: How Anaesthetics Changed the World by Stephanie J. Snow, Wellcome research associate in the faculty of life sciences, University of Manchester. Oxford University Press, £16.99, ISBN 9780192805867

"Stephanie Snow's admirable account of the slow triumph of anaesthesia astonishes by its revelation of the inhumanity of so many doctors. Happily, some of the 19th century's greatest men - among them Darwin, Dickens and John Snow, the founder of epidemiology - reinforce one's good opinion of them by having been solidly in favour of anaesthesia from the start."

Nigel Hawkes, The Times

Interventions by Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Penguin, £8.99, ISBN 9780141031804

"These succinct, punchy essays from 2002 to February 2008 represent a sustained attack on America's international role under George W. Bush. According to Chomsky, the assumption guiding US foreign policy is now 'we own the world, so what does it matter what others think?'. From Iraq and the war on terror, to Iran's nuclear ambitions and US support for Israel, he accuses Washington of accelerating the race to destruction."

P. D. Smith, The Guardian

The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature by Daniel J. Levitin, James McGill professor and Bell chair in the psychology of electronic communication, McGill University. Penguin, £14.99, ISBN 9780525950738

"When the breathless pace of his prose leads him to make glib generalisations, a check of a few sources creates serious doubts about the way in which he summarises their findings ... Levitin's text gives the impression of an assignment by a highly intelligent student who has assembled so many references that he cannot discipline himself to omit a single one."

John Carmody, Nature.

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