The OD Issue 2 - page 12

book shelf
The Dragon is keen to keep abreast of published OD writing and books about ODs.
Here are publishers’ descriptions of books received by the OD Office in the last year.
Nicholas Shakespeare
(OD 1970)
Vintage, 2010
“What would you do if you
suddenly inherited £17,000,000?
This is what happens to
Andy Larkham, recently jilted
lover, and resentfully underpaid
publishing minion. Arriving late
to the funeral of his favourite
schoolteacher, he ends up in the
wrong chapel with one other
mourner, too embarrassed to
leave. Pressured to sign the
register, little does he realise what
effect that signature will have
upon his life.
The extraordinary story
that follows tells of one man’s
failed love, the temptations of
unanticipated wealth, the secrets
of damaged families and the
price of being true to oneself.
It is a romance for our times.”
Places in Syria
Francis Russell
(OD 1962)
Frances Lincoln, 2011
“In this compact guide, the erudite
and highly readable Francis
Russell describes fifty-seven
places in Syria, a country that
for millennia has been close
to the very pulse of what we
term civilization. Following
an itinerary that allows the
independent sightseer to see as
many major monuments in their
proper contexts as is practical in
a limited time, he travels from the
walled city of Damascus with its
mosques and museums to Krak
des Chevaliers, the ne plus ultra
of the medieval castle. On the way
he visits cities, towns and desert
villages, including Palmyra, one
of the great classical sites of the
Near East; the great monastery
of St Simeon, at the heart of the
series of ‘dead cities’ of Byzantine
times; Hama and its famous
nourias, the great wooden wheels
used to raise water from the
river; and many other wonders
besides. Russell’s easy and elegant
ability to share with the reader
his knowledge of Syria’s history,
geography and culture makes
the book, like his earlier one on
Italy, ‘like a conversation with a
well-informed friend. He tells you
exactly what you want to know,
in the most succinct terms’
Country Life
Religion for Atheists
Alain de Botton
(OD 1982)
Hamish Hamilton, 2012
“The boring debate between
fundamentalist believers and
non-believers is finally moved
on by Alain de Botton’s inspiring
new book, which boldly argues
that the supernatural claims of
religion are of course entirely
false - and yet that religions still
have important things to teach
the secular world.
Rather than mocking
religions, agnostics and atheists
should instead steal from them -
because they’re packed with good
ideas on how we live and arrange
our societies. Blending deep
respect with total impiety, de
Botton (a non-believer) proposes
that we should look to religions
for insights into how to build a
sense of community, make our
relationships last, get more out
of art, overcome feelings of envy
and inadequacy, and much more.
For too long non-believers
have faced a stark choice between
either swallowing peculiar
doctrines or doing away with
consoling and beautiful rituals
and ideas. At last Alain de
Botton has fashioned a far more
interesting and truly helpful
Can Intervention Work?
Rory Stewart
(OD 1986)
and Gerald Knaus
W. W. Norton & Co., 2011
“Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus
distil their remarkable first
hand experiences of political
and military interventions
into a potent examination
of what we can and cannot
achieve in a new era of “nation
building”. As they delve into
the massive, military-driven
efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan
and the Balkans, the expansion
of the EU, and the bloodless
“colour” revolutions in the
former Soviet states, the authors
reveal each effort’s enormous
consequences for international
relations, human rights and our
understanding of state-building.
Stewart and Knaus carefully
parse the philosophies that have
informed interventionism –
from neoconservative to liberal
imperialist – and draw on
their diverse experiences in the
military, non-governmental
organisations and the Iraqi
provincial government to reveal
what we can ultimately expect
from large-scale interventions
and how they might best realise
positive change in the world.”
Book Shelf
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