Thursday, April 10, 2008

An embarrassment of riches

I am in the middle of three great non-fiction books at the moment. This is generally SOP for me, but I am switching off chapter by chapter with these it seems.

Illicit by Foreign Policy editor Moises Naim is a international relations big think book that I am surprised hasn't gotten more play. You could call it the Things Thomas Friedman Leaves Out when he talks about trade and globalization. The book is about how criminal networks and enterprises use the liberalized trade system to move nuclear technology, slaves, body parts, drugs and other things that should not be traded easily throughout the system. I've only read the few chapters, but it is already an perspective changing book.

Tony Horwitz's A Voyage Long and Strange is yet another excellent blend of education and humor. He follows the paths of the lesser known explorers (Viking, Spanish, and French) who visited America before the coming of the Pilgrims. I particularly liked his coverage of De Soto, whose destructive path serves as proof point for Black Legend proponents. While trying to find the actual path De Soto took, he finds that multiple paths have been claimed despite no evidence that DeSoto ever visited. I suppose the Washington Slept Here syndrome is more wide spread than I thought.

I was a tad concerned about the subtitle of Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season. Being unaware (aside from Into Thin Air) about any controversies regarding climbing on the mountain, I worried the book might be too specialized for my tastes. Instead it presents a study of the people who run the commercialized climbing of Mount Everest as well as a neatly encapsulated history of the sport. I haven't gotten to the controversy part, but I find that author Nick Heil has written the book without excessive jargon and with a mind to keep the story moving.


Brack said...

I trust that A Voyage Long and Strange features extensive coverage of Estebanico a/k/a Estevan a/k/a Steven the Moor, for whom your founding co-blogger is named.

Tripp said...

Your erudition never fails to amaze. Yes he gets a choice part.