What's the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate

This lively, jaunty, yet ultimately serious-as-cancer little book about global climate change strikes me as evidence that the quintessential American spirit of the Founding Fathers and the Greatest Generation is alive and well. A Jeffersonian exercise in rational public discourse, appealing to the reasoned, good-hearted wisdom of an educated, well-intentioned citizenry, Greg Craven's book reminds me of the famous Norman Rockwell painting from the Four Freedoms series, Freedom of Speech. An earnest fellow in a crowd of his anxious peers gets up to say his honest piece -- and we all benefit. Craven, a high school science teacher, came to prominence just a couple of years ago with a viral Internet video laying out a logical methodology for cutting through all the controversy surrounding the topic of global warming. Craven's brainstorm was to make a lateral jump away from undecidable "right vs. wrong" arguments into the realm of risk management and quasi-journalistic vetting of sources. By applying simple principles of reasoning, he affirmed, one could pick the most beneficial future course of action for oneself, humanity, and the planet without taking sides. The issue was no longer truth but merely "placing the best bet." The first half of this ensuing book is a lucid examination of the tools necessary for making a rational examination of the facts. The second portion examines contentions and sources on both side of the debate. And a coda lays out Craven's own personal application of his strategy, followed by an invitation and template for the reader to do likewise. Throughout, Craven is modest, funny, inventive, and sincere: the ideal teacher. His breezy yet dogged pursuit of a compassionate, utilitarian plan of action in the light of uncertainty yields convincing and inspiring fruit.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.