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?”