Books!I recently finished reading two excellent books, so here are descriptions and links.
The first is Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World.
That may sound like an unlikely subject, but it's a fascinating book, and here's a good way to know if you want to read it: the author, Dan Koeppel, also wrote an article for Popular Science in 2005 titled Can This Fruit Be Saved? I linked to it back then , because it was exactly the kind of writing I like to read, and if you like the article, then you absolutely need to read this book.
Banana plantations had an incredible (and shocking) effect on the economic and political development of Central. If you ever want to understand what the phrase "banana republic" means, then this book is for you.
Amazon link: Banana.
The second book is American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China.
Matthew Polly, a Princeton student, decided to go to the famous Shaolin Temple in China and study under the Shaolin monks. Incredibly, he did, for two years. His ability to speak Chinese and his wry sense of humor makes the story of his travels and studies tremendously entertaining. It's both fascinating and extremely funny, and if you have any interest in martial arts or China--or just good writing--then this is a good choice.
Amazon link: American Shaolin.