Phil Shannon

Drone Warfare: Killing By Remote Control
Medea Benjamin
Verso, 2013
246 pages, $24.95(pb)

“Never before in the history of warfare,” boasted the Wall Street Journal, “have we been able to distinguish as well between combatants and civilians as we can with drones”.

The Obama administration has helped in this claim, writes Medea Benjamin in her book on the “unmanned aerial vehicle”, by conveniently defining every military-age male in a drone strike zone as a “combatant”.

Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Volcanoes
Bill McGuire
Oxford University Press, 2012
303 pages, $35.95 (hb)

It is easy to forget, says Professor Bill McGuire of University College London in Waking the Giant, that human civilisation has thrived only in the broadly benign climate of the past few thousand years following the end of the last post-glacial era.

Greening The Media
Richard Maxwell & Toby Miller
Oxford University Press, 2012
246 pages, $44.80 (pb)

There is a reason why the typical electronic product warranty lasts only 12 months, say Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller in Greening the Media.

Most digital devices are designed to “break or become uncool” after just a year, requiring regular product replacements or upgrades.

The Price of Valour: The Triumph & Tragedy of a Gallipoli Hero, Hugo Throssell, VC
John Hamilton
Pan Macmillan, 2012
393 pages, $34.99 (pb)

Captain Hugo Throssell, one of nine Australian soldiers to win a Victoria Cross for supreme bravery at Gallipoli in 1915, stunned his home-town audience of patriotic Australians in 1919 with his statement that “the war has made me a socialist”.

Overdress: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
By Elizabeth Cline
Penguin, 2012, 244 pages
$37.95 (hb)

Every year, Americans buy 20 billion garments, mostly from mass market clothes-makers such as Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Wal-Mart and Target. They then throw away 13 million tons of it says a reformed clothing-addict, Elizabeth Cline, in Overdressed.

Charity shops can’t soak up the excess with less than 20% of thrift-shop clothing donations sold on. Most of the rest goes to landfill.

Whackademia: An Insider’s Account of the Troubled University
Richard Hil
NewSouth Publishing, 2012
239 pages, $34.99 (pb)

Universities were better in the olden days, says Dr Richard Hil in Whackademia.

As an Essex University student in the 1970s, Hil joined the British Socialist Workers Party (which expanded his political horizons) and the Campaign for Real Ale (which expanded his waistline), while his lecturers stimulated his intellectual growth.

Greenwash: Big Brands & Carbon Scams
Guy Pearse
Black Inc., 2012
264 pages, $29.99 (pb)

The response of big business to global warming, their propaganda would have us believe, is to ride to the rescue by reducing their carbon emissions. As Guy Pearse shows in Greenwash, however, this is just a marketing ploy to attract the dollars of environmentally concerned customers.

Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
New York Review Books, 2012
116 pages, $19.95 (pb)

“The most hated man in my life,” declared the casual-dressed, bearded, non-conformist Chilean film director, Miguel Littin, was the balding, near-sighted, clean-shaven, Uruguayan business tycoon who accompanied Littin’s every step on his secret return to the Chile of military dictator, Augusto Pinochet, in 1985.

The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink
By Michael Blanding
Avery/Penguin, 2012
375 pages, $19.95 (pb)

The Truth About Ikea: The Secret Behind the World’s Fifth Richest Man and the Success of the Swedish Flatpack Giant
By Johan Stenebo
Gibson Square, 2011
256 pages, $22.99 (pb)

Sleeping With The Enemy: Coco Chanel, Nazi Agent
By Hal Vaughan
Chatto & Windus, 2011
279 pages, $32.95 (pb)

Fallout From Fukushima
By Richard Broinowski
Scribe, 2012
273 pages , $27.95 (pb)

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year was no accident, says Richard Broinowski in Fallout from Fukushima.

Sitting a nuclear reactor on an “active geological fault line where two of the earth’s tectonic plates collide” was courting catastrophe from an earthquake and tsunami like the one that duly hit the Pacific in March last year.

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