Monday, December 5, 2011

Making a List, Checking it Twice

Perhaps you overslept the 4:00 am sales on Black Friday or your friends and family do not understand the thrill of a waffle iron. To help you with the yearly chore of finding the perfect present, here are some books on Europe published this year that you might want to add to your holiday gift list.

Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next by John D. Kasarda and Greg Lindsay. Not strictly or even mostly a book about Europe, this book describes the airport city as an important engine of economic growth in the 21st Century. Though Schiphol in the Netherlands is a early model of this kind of city, the book describes yet another way Europe may be overtaken by Asia. Whether we’d actually want to live in these potentially dystopic hubs is another question.

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis. This is perfect for anyone on your list who wants to understand the insanity that led to the sovereign debt crisis and be entertained at the same time.

The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria by Ferran Adria. Ok, this is not technically a book about Europe but it offers a way to bring some of the ideas of the most influential chef of the last decade, Spain’s Ferran Adria, to your kitchen.  While these recipes are not the fantastically hallucinatory creations he developed for El Bulli, the upside is you don’t need a particle accelerator to make them.

Liberty’s Exiles by Maya Jasanoff. In a season of revolutions across the globe, we are accustomed to seeing the fate of the winners and losers play out on CNN. This study rescues the story of an earlier group of those on the wrong side of history: the loyalists of the American Revolution and their diaspora throughout the British Empire.

Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World by Philippe van Parijs. Just as a common currency in Europe reduced transactions costs and made the flow of goods easier, a lingua franca would reduce the costs of cross-border communication and facilitate understanding.  At the same time, it would create injustices and this leading political philosopher lays out some ways in which those might be mitigated.

Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  The unrelenting criticism of Islam will grate on some but it’s beautifully written and the description of a tolerant, multicultural Holland that we now see slipping away is compelling.  Also, her discussion of money, particularly the extension of credit to immigrants, is an element of the credit crisis rarely viewed.

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