What’s past is prologue

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
by Michael Lewis

Beginning with his first semi-autobiographical book, Liar’s Poker (1989), Lewis has built a successful career chronicling some of the spectacularly disastrous bubbles created courtesy of Wall Street and the banking and finance industry. His public recognition in mainstream culture has been elevated through the film adaption of other subjects he has tackled, notably The Blind Side (2009) and Moneyball (2011).

In The Big Short (2010), he revisits the world of finance, and for a particularly complex topic, he provides an intelligible and engrossing account of the architecture of the housing and credit market that precipitated the 2008 crash. Possessed of short memories, just a few short years later the “big swinging dicks” of the banking industry appear to be bent on reinventing the failure. And so, The Big Short is a worthwhile read not only as a historical account, but also as a primer on human nature and how to build a credit bubble.

Microworld of wonders

Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones, Volumes 1–3
by Eduard J. Gübelin and John I. Koivula

The leading authorities in the gemological sub-specialty of analytical microscopy of gemstone inclusions have produced the definitive reference work on the subject in this comprehensive three-part photographic atlas. With a combined experience of more than a century between them and requiring more than two decades to complete the series, the result was worth the wait. The images are both informative and beautiful. The scope of work is a fine representation of the myriad features gemologists are likely to encounter in gems with high public recognition and even some of the less well-known gem minerals.

The crucible of creativity

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
by Ken Robinson

Making a persuasive case for nurturing and promoting creativity in formal education, Robinson presents the biographical case studies of some remarkably talented, high profile individuals to make his point. While their personalities and native interests could not be more dissimilar, the common thread in their stories was an educational experience for which traditional schooling didn’t quite work. Somehow, following the beat of their own drummer, they went on to have brilliant careers.

Robinson’s perspective on how ossified institutions fail individuals and society at large is informed by a disarming sense of humor and warm accessibility. An “out-of-the-box thinker” if ever there was one, he offers constructive ideas for cultivating an individual’s natural creative gifts in the educational setting.

Making the world go round

Niall Ferguson Niall Ferguson is a prolific author who takes the long view in The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. His detailed research into the world’s financial and economic development is reminiscent of the Will and Ariel Durants’Civilization series for scope and readability. He reaches into the distant past and briskly […]

Geologica: Earth’s Dynamic Forces

Robert Coenraads and John I. Koivula The earth is covered with beautiful, untamed landscapes. But how were they formed? Geologica is a comprehensive, richly illustrated insight into the geological heritage of our planet. Mountain ranges, archipelagos, rift valleys, deltas, swamps, and geysers – and the geological processes that created them – are brought to life […]

The Red Land

The Red Land is a detailed survey of the ancient sites in the Southeastern Desert of Egypt, located between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea, including the sites that encompassed Smaragdus Mons, or “Emerald Mountain,” the oldest emerald mines in the world, as well as the important polyglot trading port of Berenike on the Red Sea. Based on twenty years of archaeological fieldwork conducted in the Eastern Desert, The Red Land reveals the cultural, historical and economic significance that Egypt’s southeastern desert resources, overland trade routes and Red Sea ports had in the world of international trade and cultural transmission between the classical world and far eastern cultures. A range of important archaeological sites dating from Prehistoric to the Byzantine period is discussed. Numerous black and white and color illustrations are featured.