From Psychology Today, a look at why your friends have more friends than you do. The first chapter (and video) of The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life while Corresponding about Math by Steven Strogatz (and more). A growing body of experimental evidence suggests that, on the whole, we know significantly less about our friends, colleagues, and even spouses than we think we do. Faux Friendship: Enveloped by networks, do we still know how to make meaningful connections? A review of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler (and more). From Sirens, two longtime pals chat honestly about surviving one friend’s motherhood when the other remains happily child-free; and female friendship is complicated in and of itself, but when one woman gets a ring, how do the rules change? Social networking is not killing friendship: A culture that punishes men who express emotional vulnerability does a lot more damage than Facebook. From THES, a review of Mark Twain and Male Friendship: The Twichell, Howells and Rogers Friendships by Peter Messent. An article on why you should rank your friends (but not tell them). There's an awful moment in any friendship when it becomes obvious that you no longer like each other — what do you do? Friends may not always conform to the traditional idea of what a mate should be, but that isn't such a bad thing.

A review of Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language by Patricia T O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman and The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of "Proper" English, from Shakespeare to South Park by Jack Lynch (and more and more). Some care about getting English right; others don’t — for those who do, there is Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage. The two-volume, 4,448-page Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary lays claim to being the largest and the first historical thesaurus compiled for any language. William Zinsser on writing English as a second language. From The Guardian Weekly, an article on a policy in Mauritius that banishes the majority language of Kreol from schools and imposes English in its place; and international charities are warning that global efforts to raise education outcomes are being held back by the widespread denial of schooling in children’s first languages. Is technology dumbing down Japanese? Here's a map of the world that shows countries re-sized in proportion to the number of languages they’ve produced. The beckoning silence: Why half of the world's languages are in serious danger of dying out. Languages are vanishing — so what?: Maybe fewer languages would be better. Meep!: Jan Freeman on the power of the meaningless. Skxawng: Ben Zimmer on the making of science-fiction languages. Linguist Paul Frommer, creator of the Na’vi language in James Cameron's Avatar, is holding out hope that Na’vi will follow the example of Klingon, the “gold standard for this alien language niche” (and more and more and more).

Iain McLean (Oxford): The 1909 budget and the destruction of the unwritten British Constitution. From Standpoint, Geoffrey Robertson on why we need a British Bill of Rights; how European are the British? Piers Paul Read and David Heathcoat-Amory debate; and Nick Cohen on a reader's guide to Thatcherism. If Britain's got talent, why are we being run by foreigners? Big Bother: How a million surveillance cameras in London are proving George Orwell wrong. A review of The Best of Punch Cartoons: 2000 Humor Classics. From TLS, a review essay on Georgian London. A look at the unlikely origin of fish and chips. From Red Pepper, a review of Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer by Michael Mansfield (and an interview). Does British foreign secretary David Miliband, the child of Holocaust survivors and New Labour wonk, have the “icicle in the heart” it takes to become prime minister? A review of The Cult of St George in Medieval England by Jonathan Good. Daytime TV, ties civic and sexual: Gary Day learns how Britons made a modern nation and made love, not least on campus. A review of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew (and more). From Spiked, a review of Why England Lose by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski; a review of The Bully State: The End of Tolerance by Brian Monteith; and the barriers to a Republic of Britain: Brendan O’Neill says republicans face two problems today — the elite’s continuing distrust of the electorate, and the electorate’s distrust of itself. A review of Jolly Wicked, Actually: The 100 Words That Make Us English by Tony Thorne.

From The Nation, Jacqueline Stevens on America's Secret ICE Castles: Immigration agents are holding US residents in unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, while ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians — OSHA inspectors, insurance agents, religious workers — in order to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history (and an interview with Stevens). From the Acton Institute, Anthony B. Bradley on MTV’s wack morality. God Among Us: Z.N. Lupetin on the cult of celebrity. David Harvey on reshaping economic geography and the World Development Report 2009. A review of Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money by Dolly Freed. Ollie Atkins was there when Alger Hiss’ career was destroyed and Richard Nixon’s was made; he was still around the two men’s careers passed each other in the opposite direction. A review of Freedom for Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty by John Kampfner. From Skeptic, Steuart Campbell discusses the evidence of the phenomenon known as ball lightning; and a review of Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God. The use of humour to disguise an intellectual challenge: A review of Playing the Fool: Subversive Laughter in Troubled Times by Ralph Lerner. Game for anything: It was Professor Plum with the candlestick, says Gary Day, who is fascinated by a history of board games. From TLS, a review of books on Samuel Johnson. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Borg: The idea that there are totalitarianisms of the left as well as totalitarianisms of the right is one of the more insidious ideas of the 20th Century.

And please take advantage of Special Holiday Savings from Bookforum, with offers of 1 year (5 issues) for only $12.00, or 2 years (10 issues) for $24.00.

Max Blumenthal on how the “salvation narrative” projected onto Barack Obama created false expectations on the left and invited his demonisation by the right (and from TPMCafe, a book club on Republican Gomorrah). Has an Obama Doctrine emerged yet? Ed Kilgore on conservative crocodile tears about "corporatism". How anyone can call a plan to spend $200 billion a year on Americans in need a defeat for progressives is a mystery. Avishai Margalit on Obama and the rotten compromise (and a panel on On Compromise and Rotten Compromises). $2 Trillion Man: Simon Anholt on how Obama saved Brand America. Chris Cillizza on 5 myths about a president's first year. Can Obama face the "unspeakable"? If there’s one book President Obama should read over the holidays, it is JFK and the Unspeakable. Jonathan Chait on how Obama became the unemployment fall guy and on the rise of Republican nihilism: What happened to all those GOP ideas? (and more on other visions of right-wing apocalypse) Rachel Tabachnick on the new Christian Zionism and the Jews: A love/hate relationship. Words can hurt you: An interview with Mark Potok on racists, militants, and their favorite pundits. From VDare, is Obama really preparing for civil war? Just in case, Chuck Baldwin suggests a survival list. John Sides on three myths about political independents. Leon Wieseltier on Platon's Cave: What these silly sanitizations really capture is the American moment, the Obama coolness. Does Obama hate liberals? Marc Ambinder wonders. EJ Dionne on why progressives need to stop screaming and start organizing for the next health care fight.

Adam Lowther (AFRI): The Logic of the Nuclear Arsenal. Michael S. Gerson (CNA): Conventional Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age. Jonathan Granoff (GSI): The Process of Zero. From Daedalus, a special issue on nuclear power is out, including an essay by Thomas Schelling on a world without nuclear weapons? A world without nuclear weapons: Six wrong-headed cliches about disarmament. David Krieger and Richard Falk, longtime opponents of nuclear weapons, reflect on heady times as the Obama administration puts disarmament back on the map. Farewell to nuclear nonproliferation: An article on the failing diplomatic effort to contain the bomb's spread. From The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Richard Rhodes on reducing the nuclear threat: The argument for public safety. When more is less: “Redundancy” may actually reduce nuclear security. A look at the future nuclear powers you should be worried about. A review of Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al Qaeda by John Mueller. A review of A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon by Neil Sheehan. Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri goes missing in Saudi Arabia. Mohamed ElBaradei on why everyone in the Middle East wants to be American, what the neocons hath wrought, and the continuing realities of a nuclear world (and an interview). Cullen Murphy spotlights historian Garry Wills, who argues that the Bomb has blasted U.S. democracy. From Judgment and Decision Making, an article on emerging sacred values: Iran’s nuclear program. The world’s approximately 23,300 nuclear weapons are stored at an estimated 111 locations in 14 countries. The coming nuclear crisis: The world is running out of uranium and nobody seems to have noticed.

A review of Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon. Justin Norton on the fate of the epistolary novel. A review of The Historical Novel by Jerome de Groot. A review of What America Read: Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960 by Gordon Hutner. Eight years later, many novels have been written about September 11 — what can they tell us about that day? Laura Frost investigates. When lit blew into bits: The meganovel shrank, even as reading itself metastasized. From The Guardian's Book Blog, the ingredients for a blockbuster novel: Big, brash and frequently brutal, it is a genre unto itself; we all know the books we're supposed to be reading, but are they really the most important ones?; and if there's one genre you have to read before you die it's the travel book. Big-name stars with stories to tell don't always do their own heavy lifting; a look at the ghostwriters behind celebrity memoirs. After weeks of wall-to-wall press for Palin, Agassi, and Carrie Prejean, it’s clear our narcissistic culture is obsessed with memoirs; Ben Yagoda hopes the fad might be over. Phillip Lopate reviews Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda (and more and more and more). From Hemingway to war heroes, there's a romance in writers who put themselves in their own story. A look at how romance novels take the romance out of romance. Why don’t romance writers get more critical respect? An article on the New Gay Romance, written by and for straight women. A look at how Eighties-style bonkbusters are having a revival. American horror stories no longer manifest in the guise of vampires, ghosts and voodoo curses — the new fear is the dread of mental instability. In their scramble to find the next breakthrough, publishers are marketing awkward hybrids that are neither literary enough to last nor commercial enough to entertain.

A review of Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges (and more). Neal Gabler writes in defense of our Brangelina-loving, Jon and Kate–hating, Tiger-taunting, tawdry tabloid culture. Moan for all seasons: A review of How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell. What’s wrong with gentrification? Adam Sternbergh on the displacement myth. Call it a bloodless revolution or, at least, an interesting, and paradoxically real-world, experiment: political theory is getting played out on the Internet in real time. Research suggests the importance of attractiveness depends on where you live and finds "golden ratios" for female facial beauty. Sorry we ate your great-grandpa: In a jungle clearing on a small Pacific island, the descendants of a tribe of cannibals bow to a British pensioner and apologise for having his relative for dinner — literally. Why do people dance, and what makes some more confident than others? Dr Dance has the answers. A review of The Body in Medical Culture. Paul Carr posts his book Bringing Nothing To The Party: True Confessions of a New Media Whore free online. Scott McLemee contemplates the apparently timeless appeal of Ayn Rand’s paeans to commerce. The drag of devising a state-by-state mirth meter: Researchers try to measure "Gross National Happiness", but satisfaction, though nearly guaranteed, is poorly defined (and more). The proliferation of passive sedentary activities like television viewing has led to inactive lifestyles and decreased physical fitness, but can TV positively affect health as well?

And please take advantage of Special Holiday Savings from Bookforum, with offers of 1 year (5 issues) for only $12.00, or 2 years (10 issues) for $24.00.

A review of The Arabs: A History by Eugene Rogan (and more and more and more and more). The Arab states of the Gulf region have agreed to launch a single currency modelled on the euro, hoping to blaze a trail towards a pan-Arab monetary union. Pan-Arabism in context: The impulse to unity may have been sidetracked but that does not mean it was wrong, argues Galal Nassar. After 40 years in which Arab states grew steadily stronger, has the past decade seen the rise of competitors to their authority? An interview with Jo Tatchell on books about desert nations. Isabella Bird and Louisa Jebb both travelled to the Middle East at the turn of the twentieth century; Hannah Adcock compares their journals. An interview with Ziauddin Sardar on books about travel in the Middle East (and more). Veils, gold, calligraphy: Here's a mixed crop of new books surveying Middle Eastern art practices. An argumentative Arab Enlightener: A portrait of Syrian philosopher Sadiq Al-Azm. A review of Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia by Robert Lacey. Can a new research university save the Saudi economy and transform a closed society? (and more). A look at how Yemen is a failed state in the making. The Cairo Conundrum: Egypt is the linchpin to America's Middle East policy, a policy that must make interests reinforce ideals, rather than conflict with them. The latest source of instability in the Middle East isn't the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iran's nukes — it's a bitter soccer rivalry between Egypt and Algeria. A review of What's Really Wrong with the Middle East by Brian Whitaker.

A review of A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev by Vladislav Zubok. Who killed communism? Gerard DeGroot investigates. Peter Beinart on the myth of the wall's fall — brought down by Ronald Reagan's hawkish stand, right? It was Reagan's dovish side instead. A look at how the fall of the Berlin Wall was the best thing that ever happened to the Chinese Communist Party (and more and more and more and more). Karl Who?: "China is a Communist country, but I have yet to meet an actual Communist". Hollywood Comrades: Why the Soviets were such lovable movie villains. Our dangerous Cold War nostalgia: How both the left and the right abuse history. A review of Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America's Soviet Experts by David Engerman. In the former East, there is ostalgie; in the West, we too look back in longing — for the symbol of moral clarity and superiority the wall was to us. The fall of the Berlin Wall may have been good for democracy and world peace — but it wasn’t so hot for the US military’s recruiting efforts. The rise of Communist nostalgia: Do east Germans regret the fall of the Berlin Wall? (and more and more and more). Growing up in a communist dictatorship, Peter Zilahy found escape from Soviet propaganda in mythology, which also offered solutions to everyday struggles. More on The Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books That Shaped the Cold War by John V. Fleming. An interview with Jay Bergman, author of Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov. Nuke the Moon: A look at 5 certifiably insane Cold War projects.