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EXTRACTS FROM AMERICA’S DESTRUCTION OF IRAQ

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America’s Destruction of Iraq fills in the gaps of how America’s disastrous invasion of Iraq created the ultimate breeding ground for the Islamic State. Compounding in detail, compelling in outrage, here are some extracts.

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DEAR REFLECTION: I NEVER MEANT TO BE A REBEL EXTRACT

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Melbourne-born, Athens-based poet, author, publisher, designer, teacher and musician Jessica Bellreleases her insightful, incredibly candid memoir, Dear Reflection: I Never Meant To Be A Rebel.

The book is a firsthand recount of her turbulent youth and early adulthood as the child of Erika Bach and Demetri Vlass, founders of seminal Melburnian indie bands Ape The Cry and Hard Candy. Though loving, encouraging parents, Bach and Vlass battled their own demons over the years, the former managing a back problem that “became a nightmare of pill popping, alcohol abuse and anxiety attacks”, and the latter “retreating into silence for fear of triggering Erika’s drug-induced psychosis”.

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ISLAND HOME: A LANDSCAPE MEMOIR TIM WINTON

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Pre-orders are now available for Tim Winton’s Island Home: A Landscape Memoir, the latest from one of Australia’s most loved writers.

Winton writes: “I grew up on the world’s largest island. I’m increasingly mindful of the degree to which geography, distance and weather have moulded my sensory palate, my imagination and expectations. The island continent has not been mere background. Landscape has exerted a kind of force upon me that is every bit as geological as family.

“To be a writer preoccupied with landscape is to accept a weird and constant tension between the indoors and the outdoors. I am so thin-skinned about weather and so eager for physical sensation I seem to spend a shameful amount of energy fretting and plotting escape, like a schoolboy. Sat near a window as a pupil, I was a dead loss. And I’m not much different now. I can’t even hang a painting in my workroom, for what else is a painting but a window? My thoughts are drawn outward; I’m entranced. This country leans in on you. It weighs down hard. Like family. To my way of thinking, it is family.”

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SHE SAID SHE SAID EXTRACT IN THE SUNDAY MAIL IN BRISBANE

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Extract from She Said She Said.

I talk about my impending trip to Australia to see my family. I mention that my sister is travelling at the same time. Paula walks past and says something to me. As she walks away, the mother asks, “So. Is that your sister?”

I blurt out, “Oh, no. That used to be my husband.”

Not my proudest moment. She is bewildered. I am appalled at what I said.

I want to hide under a rock somewhere.

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FIFTY OF THE BEST TRAVEL BOOKS EVER WRITTEN

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Abe Books has picked their Top 50 Travel Books of all time.

And here’s a pick of ten of our favourites: 

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DIRTY WARS: THE WORLD IS A BATTLEFIELD

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Dirty Wars is story from the frontlines of the undeclared battlefields of the War on Terror. Award-winning journalist and best-selling author Jeremy Scahill documents the new paradigm of American war: fought far from any declared battlefield, by units that do not officially exist, in thousands of operations a month that are never publicly acknowledged. From Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond, Scahill speaks to the CIA agents, mercenaries and elite Special Operations Forces operators who populate the dark side of the many wars America is fighting. He goes deep into al Qaeda held territory in Yemen and walks the streets of Mogadishu with CIA-backed warlords. We also meet the survivors of US night raids and drone strikes, including families of US citizens targeted for assassination by their own government -who reveal the human consequences of the dirty wars the United States struggles to keep hidden.

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SHE SAID SHE SAID IN BOOKSTORES SOON AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

A Sense of Place Publishing is proud to announce the forthcoming publication of She Said She Said.

The ordinary and the extraordinary mix in this excruciatingly intimate, and at times triumphant and funny book which tells a profoundly moving story which could have been custom built for our times.

Anne M Reid had the perfect life with her perfect partner. She and Paul were together for 12 years, married with three beautiful children.

One night, without warning, Paul reveals that as a young child, he had wanted to be a girl. He had felt a total disconnection with his body and at one stage tried to castrate himself.

The book explores the nightmare Anne faced as Paul transitions to Paula, initially with hormonal treatment and eventually surgery. Anne’s husband not only had a new sex, but a new personality, different likes and dislikes, and a different take on the world. The husband she knew simply vanished and a stranger emerged.

THE POLITICS OF HEROIN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

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The Politics of Heroin in S.E. Asia, first published in 1972, was a landmark book on the heroin trade, and easily one of the most insightful books ever written on the subject. Dr Alfred McCoy is revered by journalists and fellow researchers alike, and continues to write superbly on the difficult subject of the heroin trade.

His first book on the subject was followed by The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. Here the world’s foremost expert on the subject explains how heroin is behind the multi-faceted disaster which is the war in Afghanistan.

After fighting the longest war in its history, the US stands at the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. How could this be possible? How could the world’s sole superpower have battled continuously for more than 16 years – deploying more than 100,000 troops at the conflict’s peak, sacrificing the lives of nearly 2,300 soldiers, spending more than $1tn (£740bn) on its military operations, lavishing a record $100bn more on “nation-building”, helping fund and train an army of 350,000 Afghan allies – and still not be able to pacify one of the world’s most impoverished nations? So dismal is the prospect of stability in Afghanistan that, in 2016, the Obama White House cancelled a planned withdrawal of its forces, ordering more than 8,000 troops to remain in the country indefinitely.

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THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH

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Months after it won the Man Booker Prize for 2014, Richard Flanagan’s masterful novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North remains in the best seller lists. Set in the Japanese Prisoner of War camps in Thailand during World War Two, it is a beautifully written, heart gripping wrench of a book, up there with Sebastian Faulk’s Birdsong as one of the most powerful war novels of all time. Here is the acceptance speech by author Richard Flanagan for winning the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for his masterful novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

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OWLS DO CRY

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There has been no more beautiful writer in the history of the English language than Janet Frame. Her natural poetic gifts, combined with a close documentation of her own psychic disturbances, produced a densely layered, intensely lyrical prose without peer.

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PYRAMID ASIA

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What could possibly be funny about two Tibetan boys climbing a mountain behind their village and finding a very strange object? Would any sane person laugh when the object turned out to be a time capsule created by an advanced civilisation over 300,000 years ago? And what about when the time capsule produces a hologram showing an enlightened society built on the principle of empowerment, a society which managed to destroy itself? Fantasy, the fantastical and the all too true combine in this romp through the ages.

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SILENT INVASION: CHINA’S INFLUENCE IN AUSTRALIA

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Highly controversial, Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia has a troubled history. Leading Australian publisher Allen & Unwin ditched the book in November, 2017, citing fear of legal action from the Chinese government or its proxies. The book was originally subtitled: How China Is Turning Australia into a Puppet State.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, author Clive Hamilton said: “I’m not aware of any other instance in Australian history where a foreign power has stopped publication of a book that criticises it. The reason they’ve decided not to publish this book is the very reason the book needs to be published.”

The book was only published after it was tendered as part of an Australian government inquiry into foreign interference. The SMH recorded: While such activity is carried out by other states, elements of Beijing’s influence campaign are clandestine or highly opaque. According to media investigations and warnings from spy agency ASIO, these efforts are targeted at Australian politicians and academics.

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THE TOPOGRAPHY OF TEARS: ARTICLE FROM BRAIN PICKINGS

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“Emotions are not just the fuel that powers the psychological mechanism of a reasoning creature, they are parts, highly complex and messy parts, of this creature’s reasoning itself,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote in her incisive treatise on the intelligence of emotions, titled after Proust’s powerful poetic image depicting the emotions as “geologic upheavals of thought.” But much of the messiness of our emotions comes from the inverse: Our thoughts, in a sense, are geologic upheavals of feeling — an immensity of our reasoning is devoted to making sense of, or rationalizing, the emotional patterns that underpin our intuitive responses to the world and therefore shape our very reality. Our interior lives unfold across landscapes that seem to belong to an alien world whose terrain is as difficult to map as it is to navigate — a world against which the young Dostoyevsky roiled in a frustrated letter on reason and emotion, and one which Antoine de Saint-Exupéry embraced so lyrically in one of the most memorable lines from The Little Prince: “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”

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THE RISE OF ISLAMIC STATE

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The Rise of Islamic State, written by senior Middle Eastern correspondent Patrick Cockburn, explores the origins of history’s most successful terrorist group and the unfolding of US and the West’s greatest foreign policy debacle. In military operations, by mid 2014 they had outreached Al Qaeda, taking territory that reached across borders and included the city of Mosul. The reports of their military power and brutality to their victims continue to shock and intimidate the West. Out of the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring and Syria, a weakened Al-Qaeda has allowed for new jihadi movements, especially Islamic State.

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THE LATEST ON RAQQA FROM LEADING MIDDLE EAST EXPERT PATRICK COCKBURN

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Some 150,000 people have returned to Raqqa, though they are not very visible on the streets. A few shops have reopened but there not many customers and business is slow. Beside an ancient ruin called “The Ladies’ Castle”, Basil Amar as-Sawas has a shop selling doors, some of which he makes himself, while others he buys from people whose houses have been badly damaged but they have been able to salvage some of the fittings.He says there is little money around and those who have any are reluctant to spend it while the situation remains so uncertain. Some people whose houses have survived “are selling them to businessmen because they need the money”. He has two small children below school age but for other people the absence of schools – mostly destroyed or badly damaged – is another disincentive for thinking of a return to Raqqa.

Reminders of the grim rule of Isis are everywhere. The tops of the pointed metal railing surrounding the al-Naeem Roundabout are bent outwards because that is where severed heads were put on display.

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EXTRACTS FROM THAILAND: DEADLY DESTINATION

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Thailand: Deadly Destination exposes the worst scandal in the annals of modern tourism, the high number of deaths of foreigners in the so-called Land of Smiles.

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A SENSE OF PLACE: TRAVELERS’ TALES

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Journalist Michael Shapiro goes on a pilgrimage to visit the world’s great travel writers on their home turf to get their views on their careers, the writer’s craft, and most importantly, why they chose to live where they do and what that place means to them. A Sense of Place chronicles a young writer’s conversations with his heroes, writers he’s read for years who inspired him both to pack his bags to travel and to pick up a pen and write. Michael skillfully coaxes a collective portrait through his interviews, allowing the authors to speak intimately about the writer’s life, and how place influences their work and perceptions.

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THE FUTURE OF VIOLENCE

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The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones, Confronting A New Age of Threat, by security experts Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum of the Brookings Institute and Harvard University Law School respectively, brings the reader into a very Brave New World. With the creation of everything from microdot surveillance instruments to swarm cameras to insect sized flying robotic weapons to viruses which can be manipulated by ordinary citizens and unleashed on entire cities to goggles, due to be commercialized by the end of 2015, which will allow an individual to be able to see in real time what is happening anywhere from the top of Mount Everest to Times Square, the future has already arrived. That in an era where a medieval-style holy war is also raging, the potential dangers of the rapid evolution of technology are all too painfully evident. Wittes and Blum begin their introduction to The Future of Violence with the scenario of a robotic drone spreading anthrax. But there are even more frightening scenarios: “We built walls around our countries with legal concepts such as jurisdiction. And for the most part, these intellectual, conceptual and legal constructions have held up pretty well. Yes, we had to adjust in response to al-Qaeda and other transnational nonstate actors. And yes, globalization has complicated the discussion. But the way we think about security–what it means, where it comes from, what threatens it, what protects it, and the relationship between individual and societal security–has remained remarkably stable… This way of thinking is now out of date… The fabric of society and its governance is based on dated assumptions about a technological world that no longer exists.”

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AMERICA’S DESTRUCTION OF IRAQ PAPERBACK OUT NOW

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A Sense of Place Publishing announces the release of the digital edition of America’s Destruction of Iraq. The author Michael M. O’Brien, shows how George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was the greatest foreign policy mistake the United States has ever made, the worst ever made by a modern nation-state. Tragically, he drew much of the Western world into the conflict, in the form of the so-called Coalition of the Willing. America’s notorious prisons in Iraq incubated the formation of Islamic State, not just because of the huge resentments they created inside a sovereign nation, not just because the human rights abuses which occurred within inflamed Muslim sentiment around the world, but because they proved the safest, most perfect meeting places for jihadists to plot the formation of the Islamic State. From a Washington insider and former contract worker within Iraq, America’s Destruction of Iraq brings a unique perspective amidst the growing body of literature on Iraq and the spiraling growth of Islamic State, neither soldier nor policy wonk nor academic, Michael O’Brien illustrates another aspect of the disaster of the American invasion, the appalling bureaucratic and managerial disasters that wasted billions upon billions of dollars scraped off the back of hardworking American taxpayers, all to make a dire situation worse.
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STASI: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE EAST GERMAN SECRET POLICE EXTRACT

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Could it happen again? Of course it could. It already is. Here is an extract from John Koehler’s authoritative book Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police.

“The Stasi was much, much worse than the Gestapo, if you consider only the oppression of its own people,” according to Simon Wiesenthal of Vienna, Austria, who has been hunting Nazi criminals for half a century. “The Gestapo had 40,000 officials watching a country of 80 million, while the Stasi employed 102,000 to control only 17 million.” One might add that the Nazi terror lasted only twelve years, whereas the Stasi had four decades in which to perfect its machinery of oppression, espionage, and international terrorism and subversion.

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