The week in books

April 9, 2009

A Blueprint for a Safer Planet: How to Manage Climate Change and Create a New Era of Progress and Prosperity by Nicholas Stern, I.G. Patel chair, head of the India Observatory and chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics. Bodley Head, £8.99, ISBN 9781847920379

"Stern's prescriptions for a low-carbon future include putting a price on carbon, investing in renewable energy and funding poor countries to keep their forests intact. Other sections, such as that on changes to current forms of carbon financing, will be strictly for the nerds. And there are omissions - he barely mentions the looming population crisis and its role in climate change, poverty and hunger. But if this year's crucial climate change negotiations are to be successful, this book will be required reading for all participants."

Fiona Harvey, Financial Times

Things I've Been Silent About: Memories by Azar Nafisi, visiting fellow and lecturer at the Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University. William Heinemann, £17.99, ISBN 9780434014033

"I'm made nervous by people who 'devour' books, let alone 'inhale' them, as Azar Nafisi claims to. It's also difficult to trust teachers of literature who tell you that 'we discussed' books when they usually mean that they talked uninterruptedly for two hours and no one in the class demurred ... This book is marketed as full of secrets, and she describes her parents' impossible marriage and their attempts to escape one another with vigorous candour."

Jane Miller, The Guardian

Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time by Bernard Wasserstein, Harriet and Ulrich E. Meyer professor of modern European Jewish history, University of Chicago. Oxford University Press, £14.99, ISBN 9780198730743

"This epic account of Europe in the 20th century grabs the reader with snappy chapters packed with telling detail and articulate assessments. Drawing on profound learning, Wasserstein's narrative adeptly changes focus from the national to the individual. In a fascinating chapter on 'Little Dictators', he notes that the Romanian Fascists known as the Iron Guard 'attracted backing not only from gutter bully boys but also ... young intellectuals, like Mircea Eliade, later a professor of religion at the University of Chicago'."

Christopher Hirst, The Independent

Seeking a Role: The United Kingdom 1951-1970 by Brian Harrison, emeritus fellow, Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Oxford University Press, £30.00, ISBN 9780198204763

"(Harrison) takes his title from the former US secretary of state Dean Acheson's remark in 1962 that Britain had 'lost an empire and not yet found a role', and in many ways this is the story of a nation that, instead of carving out a new role for itself, took solace in the escapism of consumerism and the embrace of cultural nostalgia. Harrison is less a storyteller than a landscape artist, meticulously filling in every detail of an increasingly mobile and affluent society. While he denies us the excitement of a driving narrative, his account is full of surprising details and impressive insights."

Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times.

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