The Tyee has published my article Ten Important Nonfiction Books of 2014. Click through for the full article and many links. Excerpt:
The end of the year is often a better time to catch up on your reading than in the dead of summer. The weather discourages going outside, so it's easier to curl up with a solid nonfiction book that rewards careful attention.
With that in mind, here are 10 nonfiction books that wouldn't let me put them down this year:
Capital, by Thomas Piketty. Reading Piketty is like thinking with a 20-point IQ boost and a much better education than your own. He changes not only the way we understand economics, but how we understand Jane Austen -- whose heroines are always on the search for a rentier husband.
He won't change the older generation of economists, but as Disraeli consoles us, "While there is death, there is hope." We'll be debating Picketty 50 years from now, hopefully in a more egalitarian society.
Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster, by David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman, Susan Q. Stranahan, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The quake/tsunami that crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant is an ongoing disaster, with underpaid, over-exposed workers, botched containment projects, and thousands of people still displaced from their homes.
But governments and the nuclear industry have managed to forget its lessons; Japan is planning to build more reactors, and safety guidelines continue to treat Fukushima as a one-off case. The authors make a strong case that other reactors around the world could suffer "common-mode failure" and a catastrophic meltdown.
The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day That Almost Was, by Chantal Hébert. This is a remarkable "counterfactual" history based on what the protagonists of the referendum themselves told Hébert they had planned to do if Jacques Parizeau and the separatists had won. It makes creepy reading, because no one had really thought carefully about it.
Parizeau was idiotically optimistic about how easy it would be, even though he and his allies Lucien Bouchard and Mario Dumont had wildly different plans. Preston Manning, then leader of the Opposition, would have led his Reformers out of Parliament if Jean Chretien had refused to resign. Chretien himself might have presided over the implosion of the Liberal caucus.
No one comes off looking very bright, least of all the Liberals who drifted for another decade into a more decisive disaster.