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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of November 24, 2008

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The Holidays are here, but there's at least one book here that might keep you from getting all warm and fuzzy about it. It's the one that reminds us, without a lot of nuance, that the end of the world is nigh. I think you'll know which one it is…

The End: Natural Disasters, Manmade Catastrophes, and the Future of Human Survival
By Marq de Villiers

You say it’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas? Maybe it’s more like a spirit of a different cast, a signification of The End: Natural Disasters, Manmade Catastrophes, and the Future of Human Survival. Indeed, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, pandemics, cosmic radiation, gamma bursts from space, colliding comets, and asteroids – those calamities that used to concern us upon occasion have become the background noise of our culture. In fact — contends author Marq de Villiers — apart from more immediate issues of global warming, "we've been living in a little bubble of stability in a great sea of chaotic change," and cataclysm is the universe's normal condition. He looks back billions of years to posit that mass extinctions have at times wiped out 96% of all species living in the seas, the world has cycled through several monumental ice ages, collisions with comets and asteroids have altered life on Earth, and land-shattering earthquakes have transformed continents. More recently, immense volcanic explosions have noticeably influenced global temperatures and human life half a dozen times — most recently Krakatoa in 1883 and Pinatobu in 1991 — and noxious gases, mammoth tsunamis, great floods, "vile winds, tropical cyclones and tornadoes," plagues and pandemics continue to threaten human survival.

Urging us to act upon and be always prepared for such inevitable natural disasters when they occur, de Villiers passes along some challenging ideas for mitigating the damage all such calamities can inflict on us and our world. Happy New Year!

Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia 5E: Fifth Edition
By Bruce Murphy

The Fifth Edition of Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia is a completely revised edition of the classic reference on world literature, first published 60 years ago to serve general readers as a "well-organized supplementary memory, in one volume." More than 10,000 entries in over 1200 pages delve into all aspects of literature from around the world: biographies of poets and playwrights, novelists and belletrists; plot synopses and character sketches from important works; historical data on literary schools, movements, terms, and awards; myths and legends; and more. The new edition continues to expand on the diversity of today's canon, with greater attention paid to traditions from around the globe as it brings sharper and updated focus to world religions and culture, and promising as well to apply accurate and contemporary reconsiderations and interpretations.

MORE NONFICTION:

Hezbollah: The Story of the Party of God: From Revolution to Institutionalization (The Middle East in Focus)
By Eitan Azani

Brilliant Moon: The Autobiography of Dilgo Khyentse
By Dilgo Khyentse

Circumference: Eratosthenes and the Ancient Quest to Measure the Globe
By Nicholas Nicastro

Cats in the Belfry (Doreen Tovey Cat Books)
By Doreen Tovey

Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme
By Calvin Trillin

FICTION:

Halo: Uprising
By Brian Michael Bendis

Princeps' Fury (Codex Alera, Book 5)
By Jim Butcher

Arctic Drift (A Dirk Pitt Novel, #20)
By Clive Cussler

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
By Alison Goodman

Knit Two
By Kate Jacobs

Your Heart Belongs to Me
By Dean Koontz

Crossroads
By Belva Plain

The Sweet In Between: A Novel
By Sheri Reynolds

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