From LRB, a review of The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction by Mark Neely and This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust (and more from Bookforum). A review of Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar. Can cities save the planet? Scientists are skeptical, planners are hopeful, the Dutch are pragmatic. Adam Zeman's A Portrait of the Brain is a detailed study of the organ's workings. A new breed of urban Catholic high school asks disadvantaged kids to work for their tuition. The Peanuts cartoons are a universal pleasure, as well as a portrait of one man and his marriage. Carlin Romano reviews Political Hypocrisy by David Runciman. From Open Source, Rick Moody is in the Obama Moment. Just because Obama won a landslide doesn't mean our voting system has been fixed. Secession we can believe in: How Obama-esque activists are remaking the Vermont separatist movement. Choosing not to choose: Ever feel lost in a maze of too many options? Here's how one man let indecision be his friend. A review of Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture by Grant McCracken. A review of Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World by Andrew Rimas and Evan D. G. Fraser. Take the test: How happy are you?

From Diplomatic Courier, an article on the value of state-building vs. the cost of nation-neglecting in Afghanistan; an article on One World Government: conspiracy theory or inevitable future; and is the idea of complete nuclear disarmament remotely serious? A review of The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation by Strobe Talbott; and Democracy Without Borders?: Global Challenges to Liberal Democracy by Marc Plattner. An interview with Wesleyan economist Gary Yohe on the economics of climate change. A review of The Letters of George Santayana: Book Eight: 1948-1952. Gentlemen, stop your engines: A NASCAR fan makes the case to euthanize stock-car racing. An interview with former Christian Scientist Robert Y. Ellis on why he left the church he was raised in. Hundreds of thousands of government workers are about to retire, and we're nowhere near ready to replace them; can Obama's agenda survive if no one's around to implement it? The Chicago sit-in: Has Obama's election spurred a new mood of union activism? Conservatives are terrified that a new health care system would be so good we would never want to get rid of it. Lawyers aren't special: Why it's legitimate to investigate the Bush lawyers who approved war crimes. Can the tactics that succeeded against Big Tobacco simply be transferred to oil?

From Psychology Today, a look at why women have better things to do than make money (and part 2 and part 3); what do Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals? Men do everything they do in order to get laid (and part 2 and part 3 and part 4 and part 5 and part 6); and are men scum? A review of The Score: How the Quest for Sex Has Shaped the Modern Man by Faye Flam. A review of The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change by Angela McRobbie. Intellectual sustenance: Laleh Khalili on two intimate, nourishing and, for female academics, often simultaneous acts: breastfeeding a child and feeding one's own mind. A review of Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing by Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman. A look at the daily routines of interesting people. Here are 12 examples of what the recession means for specific things, from Spam to sex addiction. Before utensils, everything was finger food; here’s how some of our common eating tools wound up on our placemats. Don't know much about (awesome tidbits of information). Rule by whim: Sometimes grammar usage edicts are just arbitrary. The loneliness of the last native speaker: Dozens are on the verge of taking to their graves a system of communication that will vanish forever. An article on the last of the Zoroastrians.

From CJR, an interview with Clay Shirky (and part 2). The Number-Cruncher-in-Chief: When it comes to major policy reforms, cost matters; luckily, Obama's budget guru knows how to change the price tag. VHS era is winding down: The last big supplier of the tapes is ditching the format, ending the long fade-out of a product that ushered in the home theater. The Natural: An article on Bettie Page, Pollyanna of pin-ups — and what might be remembered of the life of a woman who was long ago replaced by her own representation? When Ian Halperin went undercover to investigate the lives of struggling actors in Hollywood, he soon found himself in a world of E-meter-wielding Scientologists. Martial law of the jungle: When defending the environment means calling in the military. A review of The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn by Louisa Gilder. A review of The Structural Evolution of Morality by J. McKenzie Alexander. A review of Genomes and What to Make of Them by Barry Barnes and John Dupre. More and more and more on Susan Sontag's Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 (and more from Bookforum). A review of The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds by Marilyn Yalom. Cooling down the New Cold War: How President Obama should manage Russia.

From NBER, research suggests welfare reform has led to more work but less education, and a look at how changes in Social Security have affected retirement. Zac Bissonnette on why college is a waste of money. From Forbes, a writer and reader on why book publishers fail. Making books: A veteran editor offers a year-end report on the mood in the book publishing industry. Three new books offer competing versions of J.F.K.'s assassination. Le Grand Old Party? What the Republicans can learn from France's Socialist Party. God must have parachuted him to Earth: These days Lech Wałesa is a non-person even if his face pops up on television from time to time. Plato was a backpacker: Frank Bures looks a long way back to fellow traveler Plato and the seeds of wisdom. More on Rose George’s The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. More on 2666 by Roberto Bolano. The Real Community Organizer: Craig Newmark on Craigslist, libertarianism, online democracy, and nerd values. Footprint of the Fittest: Can we identify how cultures evolve — and if so, can we change our collective course for the good of the planet? Satirists thick and thin: From Juvenal to Armando Iannucci, satire is an ancient and necessary art. As 2008 turns to 2009 at the end of this month, an extra second will be added to every clock — but who decides exactly what time it is?

From Carnegie Council, a panel on Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization by David Singh Grewal; and a panel on Creative Capitalism: A Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Other Economic Leaders, ed. Michael Kinsley (and an interview). An excerpt from The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes by Avraham Burg. From Newsweek, an interview on how to steal ships. Now comes a completely revised version of The Joy of Sex, written, for the first time, for women as much as for men. Future schlock: PJ O'Rourke on Disney's new, furiously unimaginative House of the Future. A review of Trouble with Strangers: A Study of Ethics by Terry Eagleton. A review of books about humanitarian intervention. A look at how the recession is good for Barack Obama's green agenda.  A review of Liberty by Garrison Keillor (and more). Sex and the single cerebrum: The best smut engages the body and the mind; co-founder Rufus Griscom talks about controversy, confession and, of course, arousal. Abolish the Dept. of Homeland Security: Six years on, it's still a catastrophe. Here are the top twelve insights of prominent conservatives in 2008. A review of Shakespeare's Ideas: More Things in Heaven and Earth by David Bevington. A review of Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare and Modern Culture

From Taki's Magazine, an article on The Old Right and the Antichrist. The Old New Right: Conservative grandee Richard Viguerie looks to the future of a right-wing coalition that operates outside the Republican Party. Greek to Us: An article on the death of classical education and its consequences. From Slate, an article on the media divas who refuse to appear with other guests; and how to blog: Advice from Arianna Huffington, Om Malik, and more of the Web's best pundits. The Web may be hazardous to your health: How to figure out what's ailing you without becoming a cyberchondria. eBay and the brain: What psychology teaches us about the economic downturn. How a woman described so sparingly in the Bible became Mary, the global icon. The Hope for Audacity: Todd Gitlin assesses the difference between Obama's outlook and that of FDR and LBJ. French Guiana, the overseas sliver of France, offers a bit of insight into the shifting fortunes of the United States in at least one corner of the evolving world economy. End of the book? Publishing houses are struggling with tough times and changing technology. A review of The Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment by Peter Dauvergne. A review of Music Quickens Time by Daniel Barenboim. A review of Thinking Popular Culture: War, Terrorism and Writing by Tara Brabazon. 

From The New Yorker, I love novels: Young women develop a genre for the cellular age. You never know what you’ll find in a book: Books can be handy places to stow cash, swizzle sticks, rejection letters, even leftover breakfast meats. How foreign car factories have transformed the American South. A review of The Age of Aging: How Demographics are Changing the Global Economy and Our World by George Magnus. A review of A Philosophy of Fear by Lars Svendsen. Here are some very strange portraits of Barack Obama. Eric Rauchway on learning from the New Deal's mistakes. Miss Venezuela: Experiencing what may be the most serious beauty pageant in the world. Philip Zimbardo on how ordinary people become monsters or heroes. Who lives by the road, dies by the road: More people die each month on American roads than were killed in the September 11 attacks, but where is the war on cars? (and more on Autophobia). Do Mozart and Mick Jagger really have anything in common? wonders Noel Malcolm. An essay on the epistemological status of belief. Literary noisemakers: In shift, publishers issue heavyweights for the New Year. Tony Perrottet, author of Napoleon's Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped, on the pervert's grand tour. Some people don’t have “miracle” in their vocabulary, though, so we have to ask: “Are virgin births possible?”

From The Atlantic, Joshua Kucera is spooked: The spies who loved him; a street brawl in India brings down a global kidney-transplant ring; and a rooster crows in Portland: The heartbreak of urban chicken husbandry. Dani Rodrik on letting developing nations rule. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul is a scheme made famous by Charles Ponzi; who was this crook whose name graces this scam? Slate goes inside the world's most annoying economic crisis; a look at Tim Geithner's daunting to-do list at the Treasury Department; and here's an interactive guide to the bailout trillions. How the crisis gives the US new financial power. A Democratic Love Story: Why the party's fractious economic experts have finally united. More on Geoff Nicholson's The Lost Art of Walking. From The New York Times, a look at the Buzzwords of 2008. The Internet will be tamed: A recent conference between three of the country’s most prominent scholars examined how individual accountability may eventually settle the online Wild West. Getting away with murder: Why Rafiq al-Hariri's assassins may never be caught. An excerpt from Borges and the Eternal Orangutans by Luis Fernando Verissimo. A review of The Crime of Reason and the Closing of the Scientific Mind by Robert B. Laughlin. A review of Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America by Gustav Niebuhr (and more).

From Vanity Fair, George W. Bush defended harsh interrogations by pointing to intelligence breakthroughs, but a surprising number of counterterrorist officials say that, apart from being wrong, torture just doesn’t work; and here are four letters you won't find in the George W. Bush Library. From ResetDOC, Mahmoud Belhime on the slaves of oil. Lessons from the Great Inflation: Paul Volcker and Ronald Reagan's forgotten miracle created a quarter century of prosperity — and a dangerous bubble of complacency. A review of The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home by Jane Brocket. Can the ho’s speak? Black sex workers and the politics of deviance, defiance and desire. How to land a job in Obamaland: TNR's guide to beating the Washington feeding frenzy (and more on climbing the social ladder in Obama's Washington). Christopher Hitchens on the moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas. Dahlia Lithwick on Dick Cheney's unique gift for making hard questions easy and vice versa. Good readers are cannibals: Kurt Flasch's Kampfplatze der Philosophie strides across the battlefields of philosophy from Augustine to Voltaire. From Secular Web, from fundamentalist to freethinker: It all began with Santa. Group Think: Tel Aviv professor Yuval Shavitt melds math and sociology of the Internet to predict the next big thing in music