Phil Shannon

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.

The Statue Of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story
By Edward Berenson
Yale University Press, 2012,
229 pages , $35.95 (hb)

“We are the keepers of the flame of liberty,” said then-US president Ronald Reagan, opening the centennial celebration in 1986 of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour. Reagan claimed the statue as an American beacon of freedom to the world.

As Edward Berenson shows, however, the statue’s political virtue had been compromised long before Reagan’s neo-conservative hypocrisy.

Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation Of Political Power
By David McKnight
Allen & Unwin, 2012
285 pages, $29.95 (pb)

An adviser to the former New Labour government of Tony Blair in Britain called right-wing media tycoon Rupert Murdoch the “24th member of cabinet”.

The advisor said no big decision inside No. 10 was ever made without “taking into account the likely reaction” of Murdoch.

Fly & Be Damned: What Now For Aviation & Climate Change?
By Peter Mcmanners
Zed Books, 2012
182 pages, $26.95 (pb)

In a future green world, will there be a place for aviation? In Fly And Be Damned, Peter McManners thinks there will be, but air transport will look quite different.

Struggle For Freedom: Aung San Suu Kyi
By Jesper Bengtsson
Fourth Estate, 2011, 308 pages, $35 (pb)

Aung San Suu Kyi’s entry into political activism in Burma in 1988 quickly met the fate of so many other pro-democracy opponents of the Burmese military dictatorship — decades of arrest and harassment.

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years. But, as Jesper Bengtsson’s biography of the 65-year-old Suu Kyi shows, her resistance and courage, like that of so many other Burmese, has not faltered.


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