Baby, it's cold outside. (Read a book) -

Baby, it’s cold outside. (Read a book)

Reviews and bestsellers to fill a winter weekend


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Plus, an excerpt from Tim Cook’s Warlords, the third in our five-part series with The Charles Taylor Prize nominees.


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Baby, it’s cold outside. (Read a book)

  1. The rightwing-libertarian types have Ayn Rand and her fictional capitalist dystopia to rally around (and give them stupid ideas) as they rant amongst themselves and feverishly mobilize against an imaginary ‘socialist horde’ wanting only to steal the wealth from the hard-working, godlike capitalists and ‘freemen’ – but what do we on the ‘left’ have as our own exemplar to point to as the kind of alternative we really offer, the kind of society we really support and work towards? – something that responds to Rand’s wildly deceptive misrepresentation of reality and what ‘the socialist left’ means, a world that might be even more attractive to young people or anyone trying to understand what is happening in our countries and world?

    At least part of the problem is that capitalists control everything these days, including the publishing world and the books they choose to promote, so on top of being master propagandists for what they want people to believe, they are also known to be particularly vindictive masters taking a very dim view of anyone opposing them, so the lack of books critical about the new feudalist world they are in the process of imposing being featured in their mainstream media is not surprising, and although ‘the left’ does manage some anti-capitalist publishing, it overall seems stuck in ‘serious criticism’ with little use for fiction. But fiction can have an impact on raising consciousness – we need only think of many of the great works of literature, from Victor Hugo’s masterwork Les Miserables, through the work of Dickens exposing the underbelly of British industrialism, or Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck doing the same for capitalism in America, and of course there are many novels about the life of people in oppressed countries around the world – but there seems to be almost nothing in the modern English library about the evils spawned by the capitalist drive for a new feudalism during the last 30 years. Nothing we know about, anyway – how many writers are writing such books, but cannot find a publisher for them, is an open question – given the drive of many authors to write this kind of social criticism, it can only be presumed that there are least a few such books out there, wandering around in the lonely wilderness looking for some interest.

    One such novel, creating a world where at least one small island has thrown off the capitalist chains and positing an example of how a true modern ‘social democracy’ might function, is Green Island

    Green Island is the story of a society that thrives not through the Randian fiction of the lazy masses stealing from the godlike capitalists working so hard and selflessly to create the great wealth of our modern society, but actually by stopping the capitalist parasites from stealing from us working people who create the wealth through our lives of work and innovation. Green Island paints a portrait of a peaceful, prosperous, egalitarian democracy, in contrast to Rand’s great dystopian milltown society of a few opulently living capitalists and masses of oppressed workers. On Green Island we have a small country actually run of, by and for the people, an education system actually designed to educate rather than to indoctrinate and train robots for the Randian-capitalist factories, a money-economic system designed to create a prosperous, stable economy for all, rather than the current capitalist bank-controlled money system designed to both control the workers’ world and to facilitate the transfer of wealth from workers to the elite few, a food system designed to maximise local content and work and minimise environmental impact, a police force protecting citizens from predators rather than the other way around, and etc etc etc.

    Like good novels, of course, we need a story to keep things moving, and with Green Island, the capitalists running even this small fiefdom in the North Atlantic are loathe to let the ‘socialist hordes’ take over, and call in their regime change strike force (AKA US Military) to get rid of this ‘terrorist’ government, who are of course quite agreeable to such an operation, as such a successful example of a non-capitalist society cannot be allowed to exist – and then other things happen – an unexpected regime-change *preventing* operation from the Nordic Union letting the US know there are others in the world who are fed up with the bully kicking little kids at will sticking up for Green Island, and then an intervention from a somewhat pissed off Universal One calling a ‘trial of humanity’, and wondering if they just shouldn’t let the earthlings blow themselves up this time, and get the pain and violence which seem to be their main contribution to everything out of the universe once and for all, during which we explore some of the history of how we got in this great mess, wherein we see, among many things, Faro figuring how to use religion to control people, and a certain Bushian doppelganger finding out very graphically that lying to the Universal One is not quite as free from consequence as lying to everyone else about everything.

    And that is but the outline – Green Island does share one feature with Rand – and Hugo and Dickens and Sinclair and Steinbeck – it is a big book, with a wealth of characters and situations. But this time, unlike in Rand’s books – the good guys win. Maybe, anyway. But it is an inspiring story for people looking for a better vision of our world than Atlas Shrugged.

  2. I love reading and although good points were made below, none of those comments means a damn thing if a near-Earth asteroid finds us before we find it. Look at the featured book: It’s NOT fiction folks; it’s a real world warning that we all need to heed and do something about. The asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs was only something like 10km wide…and there are a lot of those massive rocks out there crossing Earth’s path that we’re totally unaware of. Eventually, one will smack into the planet…it’s inevitable…it might be tomorrow or in hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. I dont think it wise to count on the inevitable collision happening long after we’re gone; it cousld be in our lifetimes. To ignore this is just stupid and ostrich-like. Currently, the world’s gambling that we’re not in the path of one of these Earth killers anytime soon. Back roughly a hundred years ago, the Tunguska region of the USSR was blasted by what’s now believed to have been a comet that exploded a mile or so above ground and flattened the forests for miles around as if a massive nuclear explosion had occurred. Fortunately, that happened over a very remote region of Siberia. If that same event had occurred above any ocean the death toll from the tidal wave would have been in the millions! NASA has been charged with finding and cataloguing all of these potential extinction-event asteroids so that we can be forewarned and effectively prepare a defence against them. Happily, civilization is at the stage where we now have this technological option to protect the planet from such deadly perils. It would be foolish for us to just continue to hope we’ll have sufficient warning as well as the means to actually divert the Near Earth Object (NEO) and prevent another extinction event. We dont want to be the next dinosaurs! The fact is, only a tiny fraction of NASA’s huge budget (little more than a million bucks/year) has been allotted to this massive undertaking. Please talk this up, get the conversation started where you are and send letters to whomever you think might be open to hear and do something about this. Scientists the world over have warned about these potential planet killers. Now we need our politicians to stop bickering about the small stuff and commit serious funding towards finding these dangerous planet killers so that some form of defence will be created…one that I’m certain will eventually save the planet from a disaster too huge to imagine.

  3. I could find the best prices for books at – they create competition among the sellers instantaneously