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Hot, Flat and Crowded

 

 

Can citizens be helped to understand the fundamental workings of the world? Thomas Jefferson was not optimistic — though he knew that the American experiment depended on it. “Convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty,” he wrote, “and that they are not safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree.” The record since Jefferson composed those words, in 1805, has been decidedly mixed. And in the 21st century, the question of whether Americans can be “informed to a certain degree”—about the environment, about the world economy, about constitutional principles, about the judicious use of national power—before it is too late remains an open one.

No journalist has been more assiduous in attempting to explain the world — not just to Americans, but to people everywhere — than Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. His book The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999) explored two competing global drives: on the one hand, to modernize and advance, and on the other hand, to preserve a sense of cultural identity. His next book, The World Is Flat (2005), was an introduction to the accelerating process of economic globalization — and itself became a global bestseller.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded may be Friedman’s most compelling book yet. Building on his previous work, he takes aim at two large subjects. The first is the state of America—a nation that for many decades has overspent and underinvested, and that has squandered its power and its moral capital. The second is the state of the world. The planet is rapidly consuming its finite (and dirty) resources, even as the economic vitality of developing countries makes demand for those resources exponentially more intense. At the same time, global warming—the result of these same forces—portends an environmental crisis of unprecedented scope.

Is there a way out—for America as well the world? Friedman argues that the solution for one is the solution for the other — that the United States can and must take the lead in “innovating clean power and energy-efficiency systems and inspiring an ethic of conservation toward the natural world.” He is under no illusions that America is yet ready to take on this challenge. He is confident that it can—and that in doing so we will put ourselves and the rest of the planet on the right track.

In other hands, this diagnosis and prescription could be dreary and unremitting. Friedman brings to the task the skills of a master story-teller and consummate phrase-maker. Hot, Flat, and Crowded makes a provocative case for what is certain to be a global audience.

-Cullen Murphy, 2009 finalist judge
Editor at Large of Vanity Fair
2008 Nonfiction runner-up for Are We Rome?


2009 Nonfiction Runner-Up

Click to see video
Click to see video

(Click photo to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Thomas Friedman
Hot, Flat and Crowded

Thomas L. Friedman, a world-renowned author and journalist, joined The New York Times in 1981 as a financial reporter specializing in OPEC- and oil-related news and later served as the chief diplomatic, chief White House, and international economics correspondents.

A three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles reporting the Middle East conflict, the end of the cold war, U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy, international economics, and the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat. His foreign affairs column, which appears twice a week in the Times, is syndicated to seven hundred other newspapers worldwide.

Friedman is the author of From Beirut to Jerusalem (FSG, 1989), which won both the National Book Award and the Overseas Press Club Award in 1989 and was on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly twelve months. From Beirut to Jerusalem has been published in more than twenty-seven languages, including Chinese and Japanese, and is now used as a basic textbook on the Middle East in many high schools and universities.

Friedman also wrote The Lexus and the Olive Tree (FSG, 1999), one of the best selling business books in 1999, and the winner of the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for best nonfiction book on foreign policy. It is now available in twenty languages. Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11, issued by FSG in 2002, consists of columns Friedman published about September 11 as well as a diary of his private experiences and reflections during his reporting on the post-September world as he traveled from Afghanistan to Israel to Europe to Indonesia to Saudi Arabia.

In 2005, The World Is Flat was given the first Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, and Friedman was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report.

Friedman graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University with a degree in Mediterranean studies and received a master's degree in modern Middle East studies from Oxford. He has served as a visiting professor at Harvard University and has been awarded honorary degrees from several U.S. universities. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife, Ann, and their two daughters.

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