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Non-fiction Book Reviews by Frank Kaminski

Frank Kaminski has been a steady contributor to Mud City Press. His work focuses on reviews of books about or pertaining to peak oil or climate change, including novels that describe a post-peak oil world. Mud City Press is proud to present this archive of Frank's non-fiction reviews. See Frank's fiction reviews.

The Kaminski Archive

ACTIVE PEACE: A Mindful Path to a Nonviolent World
"It's been pointed out countless times that humankind's current ecological crisis stems from our conviction that we're apart from nature," writes Frank Kaminski. "Scott Brown's book Active Peace takes a closer look at what lies beneath this mistaken belief, which he contends has deeply wounded all of us psychologically."
BOTANICAL TREASURES: Multi-use Plants for Renewable Resources and a Nature-based Economy
"This lively reference by veteran permaculture designer and eco-forester Joshua Smith looks at a variety remarkable plant species. In the process, it offers great insights and practical advice for those striving to embrace sustainable, nature-based ways of living–and to liberate themselves from the pernicious, ailing technosphere that dictates life for most people in the industrial world. The blessings that these plants could confer on future human and ecological well-being are legion, and Smith covers them comprehensively and engagingly."
PEAK OIL: Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture
"Matthew Schneider-Mayerson's PEAK OIL investigates the ideology and subculture of 'peakists'" writes Frank Kaminski, "and explores how their movement was influenced by the ascendancy of libertarianism into mainstream American politics and the rise of the Internet technology."
LEAN LOGIC and SURVIVING THE FUTURE
"These two books by David Fleming, one of the preeminent environmental authors of recent times," writes Frank Kaminski, "contain many treasures, but perhaps their greatest virtue is the light they shed on the fallacies of thinking that underpin so much modern-day debate."
DARK GOLD: The Human Shadow and the Global Crisis
Frank Kaminski reviews Carolyn Baker's latest book DARK GOLD, an application of the Jungian thesis of "the shadow" to our individual and global confrontation with the ongoing environmental degradation of the planet.
THE ORACLE OF OIL: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future
"This is the inaugural biography of the great 20th-century geoscientist Marion King Hubbert," writes Frank Kaminski of this landmark book, "and it sets a high bar. Its author, science journalist Mason Inman, supplies a spirited, page-turning portrait of Hubbert's life, times and ideas. Though previously known mostly for his data-driven journalism–as a writer for periodicals like Science, Nature and National Geographic News–here Inman shows that he has considerable narrative writing muscles as well."
THE AGE OF CONSEQUENCES: A Chronicle of Concern and Hope
"'I consider myself to be a professional daydreamer,' reads the opening line of Courtney White's Internet bio page," writes Frank Kaminski. "And indeed, White–a fine, imaginative thinker and writer who happens to be related to the legendary William Faulkner–has done a prodigious amount of fruitful daydreaming about the future. This dreaming isn't of the blithely pie-in-the-sky variety, though. The term White has coined for the era in which humanity now lives, the 'Age of Consequences,' will have an ominous ring to many ears. Yet his book of the same title brims with such well-founded optimism that potential readers who yearn for the 'hope' promised by its subtitle, A Chronicle of Concern and Hope, won't be disappointed."
THE SCHIZOPHRENIC SOCIETY: Lost in a make-believe world while we destroy the real one
Frank Kaminski reviews the book THE SCHIZOPHRENIC SOCIETY, Roger Boyd's application of the psychological concept of schizophrenia to modern society.
THE SEA GYPSY PHILOSOPHER: Uncommon Essays From a Thoughtful Wanderer
Frank Kaminski reviews this collection of essays by Ray Jason, self-proclaimed SEA GYPSY PHILOSOPHER.
LOVE IN THE AGE OF ECOLOGICAL APOCALYPSE: Cultivating the Relationships We Need to Thrive
Frank Kaminski reviews Carolyn Baker's new book LOVE IN THE AGE OF ECOLOGICAL APOCALYPSE. Baker, writes Kaminiski, "believes we're approaching a rite of passage that will reveal to us our true place in nature, and perhaps even transform us into a new breed of human being." Heady stuff!
AFTERBURN: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels
Frank Kaminski reviews Richard Heinberg's new book AFTERBURN, a collection of essays written by the Peak Oil movement's most influential spokesperson.
THE COLLAPSE PHENOMENON: Michael Ruppert's last book, first starring film role, and ascendancy to National Stage in 2009
Frank Kaminski traces the late Michael Ruppert's asendancy into the national spotlight.
THE LONG EMERGENCY: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century
Frank Kaminski reviews this peak oil classic, James Howard Kunstler's THE LONG EMERGENCY, ten years later.
THE WORLD AFTER CHEAP OIL
"THE WORLD AFTER CHEAP OIL," writes Frank Kaminski, "offers an exhaustive, up-to-date dissection of the world oil situation. It looks at the issue from every angle, starting with the looming supply shock for which the world's developed nations are tragically unprepared, and moving on to the concomitant crisis with Earth's climate that our oil use has unleashed."
DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change
"That this book is categorized as psychology rather than environmental science is significant," writes Frank Kaminski. "It's a measure of how intent the author and publisher are on distinguishing it from other books about climate change. The way they make it different is by turning the usual mode of climate change education on its head."
THREE BOOKS BY JOHN MICHAEL GREER
Frank Kaminski reviews three new books by John Michael Greer–STAR'S REACH, NOT THE FUTURE WE ORDERED, and DECLINE AND FALL.
THE MARKET GARDENER: A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming
"For some years now, author and farmer Jean-Martin Fortier has lived rather comfortably off the proceeds of his market garden in Québec, Canada. He, his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches and their two children generate up to $140,000 in revenue a year and feed more than 200 local families with vegetables raised on a mere acre and a half. And they do so without tractors or other industrial farm equipment. Fortier's terrific success at low-tech growing has earned him an international following and the moniker 'rock star farmer.'"
STAND
This documentary, writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "is presented from an uncommon and intriguing point of view, that of an avid paddleboard athlete and outdoorsman named Norm Hann. In the spring of 2010, Hann traveled 400 kilometers along the B.C. coastline on his stand-up board, tracing a proposed tanker route from Kitimat to Bella Bella."
CHASING ICE
Frank Kaminski reviews Jeff Orlowski's documentary film on the work of photographer James Balog. Balog's still photos and time-lapse photos of melting Arctic ice serve as sure proof of climate change and what it's doing to our planet.
INTO ETERNITY: A Film for the Future
"There's a growing sense that we modern-day humans are morally obligated to protect our descendants from the hazards of our nuclear waste," writes Frank Kaminski to set up his review of this Finnish documentary. "Yet the task of providing this protection may be a fool's errand. The most obvious way of doing it, which is to leave some sort of warning, could prove completely ineffectual and could even backfire."
COLD, HUNGRY AND IN THE DARK and SNAKE OIL
Frank Kaminski reviews two new critical examinations of fracking, Richard Heinberg's SNAKE OIL and Bill Powers' COLD, HUNGRY AND IN THE DARK.
THE FIVE STAGES OF COLLAPSE: Survivors' Toolkit
"More and more," writes Frank Kaminski in his review of Dmitry Orlov's new book THE FIVE STAGES OF COLLAPSE, "it's starting to seem like the sensible approach is to get out of the awareness-raising business entirely and focus our energies instead on providing practical guidance to those who are willing to use it."
STATE OF EMERGENCY
"So the other night I was browsing Netflix's instant view collection for a good, recent zombie movie with which to satiate my doomerish craving for mass societal mayhem and collapse," writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "when I came upon a film called STATE OF EMERGENCY. My advice to you is that if in coming days you find yourself doing the same thing, don't make the same mistake. The film is egregiously clichéd, foolishly plotted and wildly unbelievable–in short, it's a reanimated turkey of a zombie movie."
THE BLOOD OF THE EARTH: An Essay on Magic and Peak Oil
John Michael Greer's new book THE BLOOD OF THE EARTH, "is, in many ways," writes Frank Kaminski, "a grand culmination of Greer's intellectual journey. It draws on twin themes developed throughout his work–the regrettable fate of industrial civilization and the extraordinary potential of ceremonial magic–and relates them both in brilliant and myriad ways."
SUPPLY SHOCK: Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution
"Of all the proposed solutions to the conundrum of perpetual growth in a finite world," writes Kaminski in his review of Brian Czech's SUPPLY SHOCK, "one stands out for its straightforwardness and frankness. It is the notion of a steady state economy, or one that strives toward equilibrium rather than continual expansion."
A SMALL AMERICAN CITY: A Podcast Series by Duncan Crary
"For many people, a city means the excitement and the cultural allure–as well as the crowding, pollution and other problems–of an enormous metroplex. Yet that notion of a city is being challenged as more and more people come to appreciate small-city living. The former steel town of Troy, New York offers a case in point. Despite being small, it lays just as much claim to offering true "city" life as does any major world center, from New York City to London to Mumbai. It's simply a different brand of city life.," writes Frank Kaminiski in his review of Duncan Cracy's podcast series.
THE LOCALIZATION READER: Adapting to the Coming Downshift
Frank Kaminski reviews THE LOCALIZATION READER, a collection of essays about preparing for the post-carbon age, edited by Raymond De Young and Thomas Princen.
SHARE OR DIE:Vocies of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis
"We find ourselves adrift without the old social contracts and economic opportunities enjoyed by previous generations," writes Frank Kaminiski describing the predicament of Generation Y, "and that's the real reason for our underemployment, poverty and protracted parental dependence. Good credentials and a solid work ethic, once the key to success and prosperity, count for so little now."
TOO MUCH MAGIC
"James Kunstler has a new work of social criticism titled TOO MUCH MAGIC, his first nonfiction book since The Long Emergency came out in 2005. The book is an inquiry into a skewed, delusional perception of reality that Kunstler thinks has become 'baseline normal for the American public lately.' Americans, he says, have been led astray by the incredible technological advancements of recent times. We've come to believe that any problem we face is solvable—as if by magic–with the application of some new technology."
MOTHER: Caring for Seven Billion
"Christophe Fauchere's documentary film MOTHER: CARING FOR SEVEN BILLION," writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "takes a penetrating look at overpopulation, what fuels it and why the world has become complacent about the issue after making a good start in addressing it during the late 60s. The film dispels some key myths about overpopulation–chief among them the belief that it's long been solved–even if it stops short of admitting the inevitability of a world population crash as the Earth's resources deplete."
THE KUNSTLERCAST: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler
Duncan Crary's new book, THE KUNSTLERCAST, draws on four years' worth of weekly interviews with James Kunstler—in the course of an eponymous Internet talk show–and lumps them under the tagline "the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl." And Kunstler himself seems to be onboard, describing his diatribes as having "sort of evolved into a comedy act."
WEALTH OF NATURE: Economics as if Survival Mattered
"Having written extensively on occultism and the esoteric, and himself an adept in ritual magic, John Michael Greer is an eager student of the unexplained," writes Frank Kaminski in the opening to his review of Greer's latest book. "Yet he's also a sharp observer of the unexamined assumptions that people make about the physical world around them, and how these assumptions have helped land the world in its present crisis."
TWO REVIEWS: SONGS OF PETROLEUM and DIAMONDS IN MY POCKET
Frank Kaminiski reviews two memoirs, Jan Lundberg's SONGS OF PETROLEUM and Amanada Kovattana's DIAMONDS IN MY POCKET.
THE GLOBAL WARMING READER: edited and introduced by Bill McKibben
"Author Bill McKibben is a foremost authority on climate change and the machinations of those who so vehemently refute it. His latest book, THE GLOBAL WARMING READER, is a well-chosen and arranged collection of climate-related writings by the likes of James Hansen, Al Gore and George Monbiot."
LIFE WITHOUT OIL: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future
"LIFE WITHOUT OIL," writes Frank Kaminski of this book by Steve Hallet and John Wright, " is an attempt, and not a bad one, to persuade the general public of the need to wean off fossil fuels. It provides an in-depth overview of the issue, arrives at sound conclusions and uses a chatty, largely jargon-free writing style."
END OF GROWTH: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality
"While 'experts' assure us that the economy is slowly emerging from recession," writes Frank Kaminiski in this timely review, "a growing camp of well-informed dissenters thinks not. The scant evidence of recovery, insists this group, is not an anomaly but the sign of a profound sea change. THE END OF GROWTH, one book unequivocally calls it, next to a cover image of a burst balloon and a pin. The book's author, Richard Heinberg, makes his case by far the most eloquently and comprehensively–and though it may be a decidedly unwelcome one for those now struggling, that doesn't detract from its validity."
REINVENTING COLLAPSE: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects–Revised and Updated
"Neither an economist nor a formally trained scholar, Dmitry Orlov is perhaps best described in his own words, as 'more of an eyewitness' to the phenomenon on which he writes. He's a Russian émigré who saw the Soviet Union fall firsthand and has been drawing on this experience in warning of the coming U.S. collapse. He came to fame five years ago with a smash-hit Internet article that won him a loyal following and a subsequent book deal. The book, REINVENTING COLLAPSE, is now in its second edition–and regardless of how well it holds up to scholarly scrutiny, it's admirable in its wit and prodigious street smarts."
USER'S GUIDE TO THE CRISIS OF CIVILIZATION: And How to Save It
"There are two common reactions to news about our species' present-day crisis," writes Frank Kaminski. "One is confusion and bewilderment arising from the fact that even the experts can't seem to agree on which threats are real or what to do about them. The other is despair at the sheer number of crises and the dire implications of each, which can eventually lead to tune-out, apathy and annoyance whenever they're mentioned. Neither response is productive, and thus there's a dawning recognition on the part of experts, activists and educators that the way in which these issues are presented to the public must change if we're to keep people engaged. One person calling for such a change in focus is international security analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed in his USER'S GUIDE TO THE CRISIS OF CIVILIZATION."
DISASTER ON THE HORIZON: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story behind the Deepwater Well Blowout
In the six months since the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was sealed, five books have been published on the topic. Frank Kaminski applies his analysis to this one by Bob Cavnar, a man who spent his career in the oil and gas drilling business.
LOCALISATION AND RESILENCE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL: The Case of Transition Town Totnes
"For several years groups of innovative, environmentally conscious people worldwide have been part of a social change movement called Transition," writes Frank Kaminski reviewing Rob Hopkins' doctoral dissertation. "It strives to create relocalized communities that are resilient to the looming climate and energy crises, and in which 'the future with less oil could be preferable to the present.' It all began humbly enough as a class project six years ago. Since then, it's spawned thousands of communities, inspired a documentary and several books, been awarded millions in grants and vaulted its figurehead, Rob Hopkins, to something like celebrity status in southwestern England. If there's a movement today that can be welcomed as a fulfillment of David Korten's 2006 book The Great Turning, this is it." Read at Energy Bulletin.
TWILIGHT IN THE DESERT: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy
Matthew R. Simmons, one of the most respected commentators on peak oil, died in August of 2010. Frank Kaminski writes a commemorative review of the late Matt Simmon's last book, TWILIGHT IN THE DESERT. It's subtitle tells it all. Read at Energy Bulletin.
THE IMPENDING ENERGY MESS: What It Is and What It Means to You
"In The Maltese Falcon a character tells detective Sam Spade, 'By Gad, sir, you're a character, that you are! Yes, sir, there's never any telling what you'll do or say next, except that it's bound to be something astonishing.' I'm telling Bob Hirsch the same thing," says Kaminski. "There's no denying the man's considerable credentials within the energy industry, nor his contribution to peak oil scholarship as principal author of the first major U.S. government report to take the issue seriously. But neither is there any predicting what outlandish thing he'll propose next in his efforts to spread the message." Read at Energy Bulletin.
WHEN OIL PEAKED
Frank Kaminski's selection of books to review is invariably equal to his ability to critique. WHEN OIL PEAKED by Ken Deffeyes is a perfect example–an important new book viewed through Frank's discerning eye. Read at Energy Bulletin.

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