PREPARING FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by Paul Kennedy (Random House). Bad news is compellingly conveyed in this unrelentingly dire scenario of the bleak future the planet's inhabitants face because of global warming, the economy, overpopulation, technology's replacement of traditional jobs, the dominance of multinational corporations freed from local roots (thereby potentially undermining political structures), and the widening gulf between rich and poor nations. The litmus test by which our progress toward the abyss is measured is the "Essay on Population" (1798) in which Thomas Robert Malthus warned "that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man." Although Kennedy sees technological solutions to all the world's problems except the deterioration of the environment, his most pessimistic assessment is that applying those solutions means that societies must fundamentally and profoundly change their values to a cooperative, less competitive model, something he believes no society is willing to do.
The Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalists and winners are selected in each category by an independent panel of judges. Winners will be announced in the Book Review issue of October 31.