The Outlaw Sea

by William Langewiesche

The ocean is a realm that remains radically free," warns the author, describing a largely unregulated global shipping industry that leaves crews vulnerable to pirates and poorly maintained vessels susceptible to sinking. One such ship, the Estonia, went down in 1994 because of a broken bow visor, killing more than 800 people--an accident recounted here in riveting detail. Even more alarming are the opportunities the anarchic ocean offers to terrorists today, in the form of 40,000 ships sailing freely each year. This gripping book reads like an adventure story, yet lingers in the mind like the memory--or portent--of a disaster.
--Christina B. Gillham

The Meaning of Sports

by Michael Mandelbaum

Why do we care about spoiled millionaires who happen to be good at throwing, kicking, hitting or catching balls? It is the underlying question in this fascinating, anthropological look at the three dominant American team sports: baseball, basketball and football. Known largely for his foreign-policy expertise, Mandelbaum argues that these games are, in fact, extensions of 20th-century America. Baseball conveys a nostalgic relationship to a lost agrarian past; football embodies the post World War II admiration for a force battling for turf, and basketball is the tech-era competition in which players can use quick thinking and agility to defeat bigger opponents. These games are us--an idea compelling to sports lovers and haters alike.
--Eric Pape

Sun After Dark by Pico Iyer

Literally (and metaphorically) turning night into day, Iyer traverses endless time zones exploring the discombobulation of jet lag and exile, the loss of self in "the foreign" and the thrilling novelty of adventure. He visits Oman just before 9/11, mourns in Cambodia's killing fields and is strip-searched in a Kafkaesque Bolivian prison. But in this haunting collection of essays, the most fascinating journeys are inward.
--Vibhuti Patel