What We Are Reading Today: Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk

Updated 01 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk

  • The book is about the civil war that ravaged Lebanon, a country splintered by factions, bedevilled by betrayal from within and without
  • Author Robert Fisk, an award-winning foreign correspondent, not only reported on the conflict, he lived through it

As Lebanon holds its first elections for a decade, the civil war that ravaged the country from 1975 to 1990 is far from forgotten.

Fisk, an award-winning foreign correspondent, not only reported on it, he lived through it, so this account of that conflict is not simply a historical and political analysis by a detached, scholarly observer.

Context is given but this is history recorded as it happened by a reporter who not only finds many witnesses but also was a witness himself.

This is a tale of a country splintered by factions, bedevilled by betrayal from within and without and by the West’s limitless ability to ignore what it finds inconvenient or does not wish to know.

By definition, it is a personal testament of the savagery of those 15 years.

Some have criticized the author for putting too much of himself in it, accusing him of self-aggrandizement.

But despite its faults (and it does have them) it has become a classic of its genre and is widely regarded as required reading for anyone wanting to understand the Middle East — especially if you are not from the Middle East.

The title is from the poem of the same name by the Lebanese-American writer Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), who is revered in Lebanon.

As a title for a war memoir, it could not be more apt. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Alzheimer Conundrum

Updated 20 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Alzheimer Conundrum

Author: Margaret Lock

Due to rapidly aging populations, the number of people worldwide experiencing dementia is increasing, and the projections are grim. Despite billions of dollars invested in medical research, no effective treatment has been discovered for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
The Alzheimer Conundrum exposes the predicaments embedded in current efforts to slow down or halt Alzheimer’s disease through early detection of pre-symptomatic biological changes in healthy individuals.
Based on a meticulous account of the history of Alzheimer’s disease and extensive in-depth interviews, Margaret Lock highlights the limitations and the dissent associated with biomarker detection. Lock argues that basic research must continue, but should be complemented by a public health approach to prevention that is economically feasible, more humane, and much more effective globally than one exclusively focused on an increasingly harried search for a cure.
Lock is the Marjorie Bronfman Professor Emerita in the Department of Social Studies of Medicine and the Department of Anthropology at McGill University.