The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos (2018)

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The latest iPhone is great, but the real buzz in science and technology is the plight to colonize Mars. Perhaps still too far-fetched for some, the race to be the first commercial shuttle between Earth and Mars is a very real and burgeoning enterprise, with unthinkable funds being expended (and sometimes exploded) along the way. Recent movies and books such as Interstellar (2014), The Martian (2011; 2014), and The Terranauts (2016) have begun to imbue collective popular consciousness with the rather old space ambitions, but it is often hard to separate fact from fiction when they are so tightly coupled. This is where Christian Davenport’s forthcoming book, The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos, fills a rapidly widening void. A reporter for the Washington Post, Davenport has extensive material and history from which to work, and a reporter’s knack for stating facts and extracting the perfect array of material to tell the story.

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Europe: A History (1996)

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The big book that got me flagged by TSA. I was travelling to Boston recently and, as always before a trip, I was in the throes of anxiety over what reading material to take (I’m afraid I’m of the die-hard printed-book persuasion). With two hundred pages left to go in Davies’s sprawling tome, I didn’t want to lose the momentum of weeks of reading, so, despite its significant heft, I stuffed it into my carry-on bag. And that bag got promptly flagged and taken aside at airport security. After several questions about what might be in the bag, my anxiety growing sharper, the agent pulled out the ample brick. In the agent’s words, “this book is too dense for the scanner.” Luckily, its physical density does not also apply to its content.

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