Phil Shannon

No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA & The Surveillance State
Glenn Greenwald
Hamish Hamilton, 2014
259 pages, $29.99 (pb)

Glenn Greenwald’s No Place To Hide is not just a thrilling account of the award-winning journalist’s “cloak-and-dagger” encounter with National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, but a clinical and impassioned analysis of the danger posed by the US’s vast surveillance state.

Toms River: A Story of Science & Salvation
Dan Fagin
Bantam Books, 2013
538 pages, $43.95 (hb)

In yet another chapter of the well-thumbed book of “corporate avarice and government neglect”, writes Dan Fagin, the town of Toms River in New Jersey, two hours south of New York, paid a high price in cancer for the pollution of the chemical giant, Ciba-Geigy.

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI
Betty Medsger
Knopf, 2014
596 pages, $46.95 (hb)

As far as burglaries go, this one was pretty audacious. On March 8, 1971, nine anti-Vietnam-war activists in Pennsylvania burgled the FBI. They stole secret files in the regional FBI office in the small town of Media.

With careful planning, a little luck and plenty of pluck, the amateur burglars exposed, for the first time, the FBI’s political spying and suppression of democratic dissent.

Power Failure: The Inside Story of Climate Politics Under Rudd a& Gillard
Philip Chubb
Black Inc., 2014
302 pages, $29.99 (pb)

In 2007 in Australia, “climate policy was a reform full of promise and excitement,” writes Monash University journalism academic Philip Chubb in Power Failure.

The Coral Battleground
Judith Wright
Spinifex, 2014
203 pages, $29.95 (pb)

From the days when Captain Cook’s Endeavour tangled with the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, humans had learned to fear the Reef with its “treacherous waters and weather”.

But now the reef “should fear us more”, writes Judith Wright in The Coral Battleground. It is a reprint of her 1977 account of the campaign to save the largest and most spectacular marine coral ecosystem in the world from oil drilling.

Diary of a Foreign Minister
Bob Carr
Newsouth, 2014
502 pages

Too often, Bob Carr’s diary sounds like an episode of Grumpy Old Ministers.

An 18-month stint as foreign minister in the doomed Rudd-Gillard-Rudd federal Labor government, the globe-trotting Carr gripes about the dead prose of his departmental talking points, the lifeless food and draining jetlag of plane travel, the awfulness of hotels, Canberra (“the City of the Dead”) and contracting viruses from shaking hands all day on the campaign trail “without a hand sanitiser in the car ― damn!”

The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler
Ben Urwand
Belknap, 2013
327 pages, $39.95 (hb)

Throughout the 1930s, movie-goers all over the world got to see the German Nazi’s cut of every Hollywood film. Any movie touching on Germany contained no mention of Nazism or Jews.

Both these silences, as Harvard University’s Ben Urwand unearths in The Collaboration, were the result of a remarkable agreement allowing the Nazis to dictate Hollywood movie content in return for Hollywood studios keeping their access to the lucrative German market.

Taking God To School: The End of Australia’s Egalitarian Education?
Marion Maddox
Allen & Unwin, 2014
248 pages, $29.99 (pb)

To the traditional “three Rs”, Australia has added a fourth ― religion.

Religious private schools, religious instruction in public schools and religious counsellors have found generously-funded favour with successive federal and state governments, writes Macquarie University politics professor Marion Maddox, in Taking God to School.

A Spy in the Archives
By Sheila Fitzpatrick
Melbourne University Press, 2013
346 pages, $32.99 (pb)

When Sydney University Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick was doing some crafty archival sleuthing as a British PhD student in the late 1960s in Moscow, it was not unexpected that any state guardians might suspect a female spy at work.

Fitzpatrick could see some justification. “Any suspicious archives director who thought I was trying to find out the secrets of Narkompros was dead right”, she notes in Spy in the Archives.

Oil & Honey: The Education Of An Unlikely Activist
Bill McKibben
Black Inc., 2013
255 pages, $29.95(pb)

When the United States environmental writer Bill McKibben became a climate change activist, he discovered the delights of internet abuse and public meeting crazies, as he entertainingly describes in Oil and Honey.

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