THE VOLGA: A History of Russia's Greatest River by Janet M. Hartley
From the Nile to the Danube and Amazon, mighty rivers have shaped world history. The Volga, the longest river in Europe, at 3,530 kilometres (2,193 miles), is well and truly in that category. Flowing from the northwest of Moscow to the Caspian Sea, ‘through the forest zone of northern European Russia to the steppe and then to arid semi-desert in the south of Russia’, the Volga shaped the patterns of trade and exchange for both Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, and is still of great importance today, writes Janet M. Hartley.
HUMAN COMPATIBLE: AI and the Problem of Control by Stuart Russell
An innovation so great that it poses a genuine existential risk to humanity, AI requires thorough debate and understanding. We were very nearly too late with nuclear weapons (for some we were too late), arguably fossil fuels too. Published at a moral crossroads for another of humanity’s dubious wonders, Human Compatible offers an accessible guidebook to AI and the nebulous problems it surfaces.
BARN CLUB: A Tale of Forgotten Elm Trees, Traditional Craft and Community Spirit by Robert J. Somerville
Robert Somerville is unashamedly nostalgic. Yes, he admits, it might seem naive and romantic to look back fondly on a time when people worked by hand, when power tools were unheard of, and when it took a large team to build a reliable structure, but ‘perhaps we romanticise the things we really miss and yearn for,’ he argues. Perhaps. He is certainly convincing. His story of raising a barn using traditional methods and tools, surrounded by a group of volunteers (the Barn Club) who crave nothing more than to be immersed in nature and work with their hands, is immensely appealing.
LIFE AFTER GRAVITY: Isaac Newton's London Career by Patricia Fara
While most books on Isaac Newton choose to focus on his scientific career and legacy, Life after Gravity starts at the point where Newton has already left Cambridge. Grey-haired at 54, he arrives in London in 1696 as the new Warden of the Mint, a place he would work at in various roles for the final three decades of his life.
ATLANTIS: A Journey in Search of Beauty by Carlo and Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano’s CV is an impressive one. The Shard, the Centre Pompidou, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New York Times Building – all his. And yet, he isn’t satisfied. Always seeking perfection, he feels very deeply the mistakes that have been made, the dreams that didn’t quite make it into reality. Atlantis is really Renzo’s story, though it is largely narrated by his son, the journalist Carlo Piano. In this highly unusual book, the duo set off on board a large research vessel and travel the world. It is a search for ‘Atlantis’, which could mean the ancient, lost city of antiquity, but is really a metaphor for perfection.
HOW TO DRAG A BODY AND OTHER SAFETY TIPS YOU HOPE TO NEVER NEED: Survival Tricks for Hacking, Hurricanes, and Hazards Life Might Throw at You by Judith Matloff
In a lifetime of reporting from some of the world’s most perilous countries Matloff, who lectures at Columbia Journalism School, has pioneered safety training for members of the media in numerous countries. She has put together this useful and entertaining compilation of survival tactics, designed to deal with the hazards of daily living and travelling.