Bookshelf: June 7, 2013

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

By George Packer (June 7, 2013) - "The Unwinding Journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet's significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of he era's leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents. The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer's novelistic and kaleidoscope history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date." (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Life's Operating Manual

By Tom Shadyac (June 7, 2013) "Modern society is replete with electronics-iPads, computers, cell phones, cars, and so on--and all of these come with one important accessory: a manual that teaches you how to use and care for your device. In Life's Operating Manual, Tom Shadyac answers a simple yet provocative question: is it possible that life comes with a similar set of guidelines? Once reserved for exploration by poets, prophets, and philosophers, Shadyac, the man behind such comic hits as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, brings a new voice to the mix. Inviting us into a conversation that is both challenging and empowering, he looks at the workings of nature and the ideals of the longest lasting civilization on earth in a series of essays and dialogues between the voices of truth and fear. And through this examination, he opens our eyes to one underlying principle that should guide the human race: love. This single principle is, in essence, our operating manual... and its instructions are very simple. The question he then sets out to answer is, do we have the courage to live in accordance with this precept-to step away from how society currently works and the ills we experience because of it? Do we have the fortitude to change and cast aside the ideas that have led to war, poverty, genocide, and environmental destruction? With Shadyac's inspiring vision of what the world can be and his straightforward advice on how to move toward it, your answer to these questions will be a resounding yes." (Hay House)

The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome

By Kevin D. Williamson (June 7, 2013) - "In The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome, Kevin Williamson, a National Review Online contributor, makes the bold argument that the United States government is disintegrating-and that it is a good thing. Williamson offers a radical re-envisioning of government, a powerful analysis of why it doesn't work, and an exploration of the innovative solutions to various social problems that are spontaneously emerging as a result of the failure of politics and government. Every year, consumer goods and services get better, cheaper, and more widely available while critical necessities delivered by government grow more expensive, even as their quality declines. The reason for this paradox is simple: politics. Not bad politics, not liberal politics, not conservative politics, not politics corrupted by big money or distorted by special-interest groups, but the simple practice of delivering goods and services through federal, state, and local governments and their obsolete decision-making practices. As our outmoded twentieth-century government collapses under the weight of its own incompetence and inefficiency, Williamson points to the green shoots of the brave new world that is already being born." (Harper Collins)

'I Am'

A film by Tom Shadyac (June 7, 2013) - "I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what's wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood's leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as "Ace Ventura," "Liar Liar," "The Nutty Professor," and "Bruce Almighty." However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world. Armed with nothing but his innate curiosity and a small crew to film his adventures, Shadyac set out on a twenty-first century quest for enlightenment. Meeting with a variety of thinkers and doers-remarkable men and women from the worlds of science, philosophy, academia, and faith-including such luminaries as David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lynne McTaggart, Ray Anderson, John Francis, Coleman Barks, and Marc Ian Barasch - Shadyac appears on-screen as character, commentator, guide, and even, at times, guinea pig. An irrepressible "Everyman" who asks tough questions, but offers no easy answers, he takes the audience to places it has never been before, and presents even familiar phenomena in completely new and different ways. The result is a fresh, energetic, and life-affirming film that challenges our preconceptions about human behavior while simultaneously celebrating the indomitable human spirit."