Strand Bookstore, Family Values, First World War, Bollywood, War & Peace, Best Science Books, Kurdis

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How The Strand Keeps Going In The Age Of Amazon

Christopher Bonanos | New York | 24th November 2014

New York's greatest used bookstore is really "a real-estate business, fronted by a bookstore, subsidised by its own below-market lease and the office tenants upstairs". The Bass family, which founded The Strand in 1927, bought the whole 12-storey building on Broadway in 1996. The Strand turns a modest profit helped by review copies bought from "broke editorial assistants" at one-quarter of cover price and sold as new (2,150 words)

The Unfairness Of Families

Jonathan Derbyshire | Prospect | 24th November 2014

Interview with philosopher Adam Swift about family values and inequality. Should we restrict the things that parents can do for their children, in the interests of fairness? "The mechanisms that create the unfairnesses between children are mechanisms that go pretty much to the heart of family life ... Informal interactions like the reading of bedtime stories are the ones that generate the real inequalities" (2,480 words)

The Great War And The Twentieth Century

Vernon Bogdanor | History Today | 24th November 2014

Highly perceptive short review of David Reynolds's Long Shadow, arguing that the First World War was a war of choice for Britain; that British reaction to the First World War led, through appeasement, to the Second World War; and that this history of mass slaughter on the Continent turned Britain against further European involvement, even when the project assumed the peaceful shape of the European Union (740 words)

Bollywood’s Window On To India

Pankaj Mishra | Bloomberg View | 23rd November 2014

To understand India better, watch more films. Bollywood knows and nurtures the changing national mood. Serialisations of the Ramayana and Mahabharata in the 1980s "awakened a global Hindu identity" built around “family, food, religion and nationalism”. The popular films of the moment show how "Indian values heal the pain and confusion of wealthy but uprooted Hindus", particularly in the United States (720 words)

The Primacy Of Foreign Policy

Tyler Cowen | Cato | 21st November 2014

Peace has been "an occasional luxury and never a guarantee" down human history. For the past seven decades we have been lucky enough to enjoy relative peace in the West — the "pax Americana". But this has lulled us into a false sense of security. We may be living in a "peace bubble", the collapse of which could ruin us all. "The single most important thing we can do to boost long-run American growth is to get foreign policy right"

Best Science Books Of 2014

Maria Popova | Brainpickings | 24th November 2014

Leading the list are Alan Lightman's Accidental Universe, an essay collection; Diane Ackerman's Human Age, a history of humanity; Manuel Lima's Book Of Trees, which is not about trees but about our ways of organising knowledge into "branches"; E.O. Wilson's Meaning of Human Existence; and Roberto Trotter's Edge Of The Sky, a book about the universe written using a vocabulary of one thousand commonplace words (7,970 words)

Kurdistan: A Nation In Waiting

Roula Khalaf | Financial Times | 21st November 2014

Kurdistan manoeuvres towards independence. The threat of Islamic State has forced a temporary closing of ranks with the Iraqi government in Baghdad; but the Kurds doubt that Iraq can be saved. "I ask every person I meet whether Kurdistan will still be part of Iraq in a year, and the consensus view is that it will. When I put the timeframe at five years, however, most Kurds tell me that breaking away is far more probable" (4,550 words)

Automation Makes Us Dumb

Nicholas Carr | Wall Street Journal | 22nd November 2014

Computerisation traps us in "a vicious cycle of de-skilling". Pilots, doctors, architects and others cede work to machines and forget how to do it themselves. "By isolating them from hard work, [automation] dulls their skills and increases the odds that they will make mistakes. When those mistakes happen, designers respond by seeking to further restrict people’s responsibilities — spurring a new round of de-skilling" (2,355 words)

Salvage Beast

William Langewiesche | Vanity Fair | 21st November 2014

Portrait of Captain Nick Sloane, "one of the greatest seafarers at work today". Insurers and bounty hunters pay him to "to intervene where other captains have failed, and to make the best of ships that are sinking, burning, breaking apart, or severely aground". He refloated the Costa Concordia liner which foundered off Italy — a two-year job with a $1 billion budget. The "burly South African" may be "the most valuable man on the seas" (7,100 words)

Video of the day: Thomas Hobbes In Brief

What to expect: Hobbes's argument for government, narrated by Harry Shearer, with animation (2')

Thought for the day

We learn from history not to repeat old mistakes. So we make new ones instead
A.J.P. Taylor (

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