By Nathan Bierma

Content & Context

The Books & Culture Weblog

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This Week:

  1. February Book Blog
  2. Places & Culture
  3. Weekly Digest


So far this weblog has dealt mostly with culture, but once a month, it will do justice to the other half of this magazine's name, as a supplement to B&C's weekly Web exclusive Book of the Week. Were you to actually obtain all of the books reviewed here, your den would soon resemble the office of B&C editor John Wilson, with stacks of books sprouting from the floor and surrounding the room like Stonehenge. But perhaps you'll find a few worth following up on, and deem the rest of these reviews—sampling the arts, history, culture, science and ideas—a worthy substitute for the books themselves.

Book News:

Earlier: Publishing president driven from Random House after merger. From the New York Times.

Book Reviews:

More theoretical physics: Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, in the NY Times.

From B&C:

Skip to Digest


From the New York Times:

ROME, Feb. 13—Ah, the wonders that greet a visitor to Rome! Look up, and spires and domes scale the sky. Look down a bit, and the chipped remnants of ancient columns stand tall, defying the passage of time. Look down again, at street level, and there it lurks: the spell-breaking, reverie-rupturing contribution of many of today's Romans, in swirls and swishes of black and blue, like bruises on a beauty who deserves so much better. Graffiti is here, there and everywhere, an enduring vexation that seems to be flourishing of late. It creeps like a stubborn vine across the pale yellow- and clay-colored buildings near the Campo dei Fiori. It sprouts in the shadows of the Colosseum. It skirts Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, and it hems the Via del Corso. … In few other environs does graffiti seem as incongruous as in Rome, even though Italians invented the concept and coined the word for it. And in few other environs is it as revealing a window into the present-day spirit of the place.
QASSIM PROVINCE, Saudi Arabia—From the air, the circular wheat fields of this arid land's breadbasket look like forest-green poker chips strewn across the brown desert. But they are outnumbered by the ghostly silhouettes of fields left to fade back into the sand, places where the kingdom's gamble on agriculture has sucked precious aquifers dry. … Saudi Arabia may sit atop the world's largest oil reserves, but the other side of the geological coin is that the country also sits atop one of the world's smallest reserves of water. It does not have a single lake or river. … Muhammad H. al-Qunaibet, a hydrologist and government adviser, estimates that the country uses 6.34 trillion gallons of water a year for agriculture, but says that only a third of that is replaced through rainfall.
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