The Greatest Traitor: The Secret Lives of Agent George Blake Roger Hermiston Aurum, 2013 362 pages, $39.99 (hb) George Blake was smart, resourceful and committed. A teenage courier with the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance during the war and a British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) spy after it, Blake then picked the wrong cause, says Roger Hermiston in The Greatest Traitor, converting to Marxism and becoming a Soviet mole in the SIS.
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.
Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability Peter Dauvergne & Jane Lister MIT Press, 2013, 194 pages Every big retail brand name you can think of — McDonalds and Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Nestle, Nike and Adidas, Disney and Google — are leading an apparent corporate charge towards ecological sustainability. Or so they would have us believe, say Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister in Eco-Business.