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Nation Readers' Summer Books | The Nation

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Nation Readers' Summer Books

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Two weeks ago we did an informal poll of Nation writers and editors asking them what they were reading this summer. The survey produced some interesting results but not nearly as interesting as the reading suggestions tendered by our readers.

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On Wednesday November, 5 at 7pm EST, Pollitt joins MSNBC’s Irin Carmon and the New School’s Terri Gordon for a live event.

Reading lists from coast to coast poured in to our website, our Facebook page, our Twitter feed and our own Nation social network. The result is below—an invaluable summer reading list for the rest of this season and then for about the next fifty summers after that!

As you'll see, the choices range from progressive standards like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn to obscure historical and philosophical tracts; from a strong Stieg Larsson faction to a raft of Christopher Hitchens readers; from numerous Tolstoy buffs to a passionate Issac Babel fan, the list is an eclectic litany of more intellectual currents then we can catalog.

Go forward and learn, as we did!

Mary Krook, Duluth MN
Endgame by Derrick Jensen
Highly recommend it for anyone interested in having a historic perspective on the times we are living in.

Nancy Spafford, Mobile AL
The Passage by Justin Cronin
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon
Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa

Karim Walker, Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Jazz by Toni Morrison

Michele Shea, Butte, MT
The American Way of War by Eugene Jarecki

Carl Keys, Pittsburgh, PA
The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D.

Jeff Rine, Madison MS
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Karen Chapman, Chula Vista, CA
How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist by Andrew Newberg, M.D., (co-author of Why God Won't Go Away), and Mark Robert Waldman

Ayesha Hasan, Karachi, Pakistan
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.

Matthew Wills, Brooklyn, NY
Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt
Njal's Saga (R.Cook translation)

Scott Judd, San Jose, CA
I'm in the middle of four books right now, and by the way, I wish I had the time to read a book a week, but anyway:
2666 by Roberto Bolano
Amazing is all I can say.
In Search of the Old Ones by David Roberts
Interesting read about the ancient Anasazi and the southwest canyon lands.
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
Really enjoying the way she deftly illuminates the words of so many great authors.
Coleman Barks translation of The Essential Rumi
And of course The Nation magazine every week.

Karen A. Johnson, Salt Lake City, UT
I'm reading five books. I'm reading some books that I've had on my list for a number of years. These include: Democracy Matters by Cornel West; The World Is a Ghetto: Race and Democracy Since World War II by Howard Winant; An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President by Randall Robinson. The fiction books are Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe & Babylon Sisters by Pearl Cleage.

Deb Hoskins, Houston, MN
How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Susan Ambrose, et als
Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson by Blair L.M. Kelley
Regenesis by C.J. Cherryh for grins!

Caterina Nelson, Boston, MA
Their Finest Hour, The Grand Alliance, Closing the Ring by Winston Churchill
Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Robyn Andrews, Greenvile, SC
Finished up The Millennium Trilogy by Larsson. Just finished The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall set in India. Getting ready for either The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman OR The redeemer by norwegian author, Jo Nesbo. Also looking forward to reading the second In the Johannes Cabal Series.
Btw, I am reading both paper and ebooks on a kindle and iPad.

Laura Newman, New York, NY
Highly recommend Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Next up, might beThe Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World by Avi Shlaim, or Little Bee by Chris Cleave, but I would like something a little more lightweight in between.

Nancy Clinton, Bennington, VT
The Closing of the Muslim Mind by Reilly. A must read for all thoughtful adults
Never Enough by Voegeli
How an Economy Grows by Schiff

Chris Curtis, Denver, CO
Herzog by Saul Bellow.

Jerry Simon, Seattle, WA
The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin

Marc Silverman, Los Angeles, CA
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
The Assassins' Gate by George Packer
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
The Sporting Club and Nobody's Angel by Thomas McGuane
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley

Craig R. Loftin , San Antonio, TX (for now!)
So far, I've read two good novels this summer: Water, Inc. by Varda Burnstyn and Blood Music by Greg Bear. The first led me to the second, as often happens with good reads! Now I'm beginning the third in this string... summer is going well! If you are concerned with the environment and are concerned about the growing strengths and powers of corporations in America, give these books a serious look.

Larry Cooper, Plymouth, MI
Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, Vol. 1: The False Messiah by Alan Hart

Jane Duncan, Bellingham, WA
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Jim Small, Myrtle Beach, SC
Stieg Larsson trilogy:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Elizabeth Rose, Lisbon, ND
Michael Cunningham, Land's End. I can't get to Provincetown this summer and miss it, so I'm enjoying it vicariously. Next up, Steven Mithen, The Singing Neanderthals and Stephen King, Under the Dome (now that the dome tome is in paperback).

Janette Rainwater, Pacific Palisades, CA
Jeepers! You guys must get advance copies of everything; I had not heard of any on the list!  But I am sure to read Birth of a Psychedelic Culture, as I met Leary and Ram Dass when the latter was still wearing a business suit--- they spoke at a colloquium at UC's Cowell Hospital when I was post-doc fellow there.
But I digress! I am currently reading:
Germany 1945: From War to Peace by Richard Bessel
Freedom Summer by Bruce Watson
The Dead Hand by David E. Hoffman
Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future by Stephen Kinzer
Every Patient Tells a Story by Lisa Sanders
The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo
The Kirov Affair by Adam Ulam
and whenever my places in the library Hold queue mature . . .
Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larrson
Inside Out by Barry Eisler

Debra Kruse, Iowa City, Iowa
Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

Jay Carr, Grand Rapids MI
Duluth by Gore Vidal

Richard A. McGregor, Saginaw, MI
The Republican Noise Machine by David Brock
The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel
Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel
Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon
The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke

Mary Bailey, New York City, NY
Agaat a novel by Marlene van Niekerk, published by Tin House Books ($20) paper, is a story of South African exploitation during apartheid, and as the country moves towards reconciliation following apartheid the 50-year relationship between a farming woman and her black maid changes too.  It's perhaps an allegory, but there is nothing abstract about the land and the lives lived there.  It's a monstrously personal epic.

Jack Milton, Davis, CA
I tend to have several going at once:
The End of America by Naomi Wolf
Into the Buzzsaw edited by Kristina Borjesson, and
The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report About 9/11 Is Unscientific and False by David Ray Griffin

Dawn Gray, Green Bay, WI
I am reading a little of everything :). The Sable Quean by Brian Jacques; re-reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow; trying to get through Machiavelli's The Prince; Dracula by Bram Stoker and probably a bunch of urban fantasy and paranormal romance fluff things that will be spur of the moment choices.

David Goossen, Louisville, CO
After bailing out on War and Peace, I really enjoyed City of Thieves by David Benioff. It was a much more enjoyable look at Russia at war. Thoroughly entertaining and very well written.

Rafael Zambrana, Houston, TX
Confronting Collapse by Michael Ruppert
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The Untied States of America by Juan Enriquez

Jo Sippie-Gora, Kinnelon, NJ
This morning, I completed Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. The 18-CD, unabridged audio book was beautifully read by Edward Herrmann. Now I've begun American Pastoral, a Pulitzer Prize winner by a fellow Jerseyean, Philip Roth.

Lexine Mainwaring, Harpswell, ME
Just finished The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Exciting and wonderful, but you already know that.
Earlier this summer I read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Mysterious, mystical, labyrinthine literature...Barcelona in the early 20th century. Excellent for summer.

Joseph Ball, Buffalo, NY
Genius on the Edge by Gerald Imber, MD
Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane DiPrima
Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid
A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne
You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier
The Best of Dorothy Parker
Known to Evil by Walter Mosley
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
The Freak Brothers Omnibus by Gilbert Shelton and others.

BG Kenley, Port Haywood, WA
Old Age in a New Age by Beth Baker
What Are Old People For? by William H. Thomas, M.D.

Patricia Thornton, Maplewood, NJ
Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent by Robert F. Barsky
Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent

Roy Nuffer, Fraser, MI
Nations Have the Right to Kill by Richard Koenigsberg
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
61 Hours by Lee Child
The Third Option by Vince Flynn
Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America by John Avlon
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James


Joyce Barwick, Boulder, CO

Europe's Promise by Steven Hill and The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle

Nicholas Galaday, Vernonia, OR
The Way of the World by Ron Suskind
Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Tom Friedman
The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney

Peter Wells Watkins, College Park, MD
Stalin's Romeo Spy by Emil Draitser, also Shush! by the same author; The Age of Comfort: When Paris Discovered Casual--and the Modern Home Began by Joan DeJean and Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt.

Davis Hooper, Silver Spring, MD
All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Remarque
The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Karl F. Albert, Shermans Dale, PA
Just finished Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Terry Eagleton (very enjoyable) and To the Elephant Graveyard by Tarquin Hall. Mr. Hall joined the hunt for a rogue elephant in the Assam area of India and captures the flavors, smells, strange mixtures of religions, and dangers of India and the wonderful intelligence and peronality of the elephants they ride through the jungle in search of the rogue. Inspired by his writing in that book I'm now reading his first novel: a delightfully humorous detective story, The Case of the Missing Servant. Reading that has temporarily interrupted my reading of 2 other books: Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind by Robert Richardson, and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein. Both books are very good.

Kathy Dzuck, Boise, ID
Savor the Moment by Norah Roberts

Earl MacMillan, Hollywood, FL
Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast, Ruffian by Jane Schwartz, and East of Eden by John Steinbeck. How's that for an eclectic mix?


Kim Chandler McDonald, Sydney

Right now I'm reading Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. It's fantastic... I veer between hysterical laughter and raucous hunger with each chapter.

David E. Rohrer, Madison, WI
God Is Not Great and Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens and The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (finished) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (soon) and Samuel Adams: A Life by Ira Stoll (just finished). Thanks for asking.

Ronald H. Rodriguez, Chicago, IL
Culture of Corruption by Michelle Malkin.

Niels Schulz, Cortland, NY
After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic by Alun Anderson
Eye opening research. You won't be able to put it down and will want to read it twice.

Catherine Louis, Chicago, IL
Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree by Tariq Ali
Essays In Existentialism by Jean-Paul Sartre
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Seymour H. Sargent, Vancouver, WA

Ten Technologies to Save the Planet by Chris Goodall

Susan Addiss, Branford, CT
I recommend A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert. This novel deals with several generations of women, descendants of a suffragist who starved herself to death for the cause. They all have their own issues, many of which resonate today. There is humor, sophisticated layering of the stories, and very good writing.

Inga Vickers, Houston, TX

Words Gone Wild by Jim Bernhard; then I have picked up an oldie by Irwin Shaw:  Short Stories, Five Decades; and Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin.

Gary L Herstein, Prescott, AZ
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
Capital by Karl Marx.
A Realistic Universe: An Introd. To Metaphysics [1916 ] by John Elof Boodin.
(All on my Kindle.)

Tim B. McAlpin, Champaign, IL

I am currently reading The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule by Frank Thomas

Doug Berman, Montclair NJ
Just finished Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens

Jackie Kennedy, Davenport, FL
The Promise by Jonathan Alter
Killer Politics by Ed Schulz

Chet J.Dlugokinski, Winter Springs, FL

Pretty Good Joke Book by Prairie Home Companion
The Silent Sea by Clive Cussler
The Spy by Clive Cussler & Justin Scott

Lyn Purdie, Carrollton, GA
I'm currently reading The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution--And Why We Need It More Than Ever by Cass R. Sunstein.

Carole Heaster, Gordonville, NY
My reading diet this summer is just like my food diet: a see-saw!  I fell in love with At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. Once the innocent boy climbed onto the back of the North Wind, I was hooked, as he held on for dear life! I am now a George MacDonald devotee. His work is ethereal. 
The 'saw' in my reading see-saw landed on author Frank R. Stockton's trilogy of Rudder Grange, Pomona's Travels and The Rudder Grangers Abroad And Other Stories. Once on board the first Rudder Grange novel, worries were left on a sandbar, laughter floated, and hours after the first chapter, I was still chuckling to myself out loud, but I was in a very lonely grocery store.

Barbara Aria, NYC, NY
The Social Agent: A True Intrigue of Sex, Lies, and Heartbreak Behind the Iron Curtain by Charles Laurence

Owen Cramer, Colorado Springs, CO

Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire by William Rosen
The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II by Fernand Braudel

Cyndy Storm, Columbia, SC
The Sea Lady

John Clement, Danville, PA
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larson

Tom Sabel, Lakewood, CO
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

Lyon Seabury, Bethel, ME
Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture by Thom Hartmann
Six Questions of Socrates: A Modern-Day Journey of Discovery Through World Philosophy by C. Phillips
A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present by Howard Zinn

Linda Raiteri, Memphis, TN
I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson,
and, despite having no interest in swordfishing, Linda Greenaw's Seaworthy: a swordboat captain returns to the sea. It was a gift and I find I am enjoying it.

William E. Stevens, Redford, MI
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Revolution doesn't happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behavior.

David Kleppe, Plymouth, MN
Some oldies besides the alluring new releases include . . .
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground
John Le Carre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
St. Augustine, The City of God
Hannah Arendt, Love and Saint Augustine
F.F. Bruce, Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free
George Will, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball
Slightly more current, not hot off the press, but still warm . . .
Stephen Law, Philosophy
Jason Holt (ed.), The Daily Show and Philosophy
Jessamyn Conrad, What You Should Know About Politics...But Don't: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues
John Lukacs, June 1941: Hitler and Stalin

David Taub Bancroft, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements; by George Woodcock
People's History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play; by Dave Zirin
Thus Spoke Zarathustra; by Friedrich Nietzsche
Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate; edited by David Coady

William E. Rupel, Yakima, WA
I'm reading The Trial of Henry Kissinger, by Christopher Hitchens.
I hope to read The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, by Richard Dawkins.

Paulette Sheflin, Parker, CO
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon.  This book is a rare and pleasant find for me--it grabbed me from the opening line, and keeps getting better.  It is a nice blend of philosophy, gritty story line, and just plain great writing. I will share this book with my daughters and my friends. Warning: Not beach reading.

Robin Nicholoff, Hotchkiss, CO
I recently finished The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It lays out a grim but plausible dystopia that is the result of our collective failures to deal global climate change, GMO's, and corporate hegemony.  Looking forward to more books by him.

Beverly Harmon, Springfield, MO
David Baldacci's Deliver Us from Evil. If you like a good mystery it's a great summer read.

John H. M. Lucas, Columbia, SC
Since the July 4th holiday, I've read The Baseball Codes and The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, two totally different reads, and both delightful.  Although they couldn't be more dissimilar, both books were absolute page-turners and difficult to put down. 
I'm currently re-reading the biography Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson, originally published in 2003.  As evidenced by the critical acclaim it received when published, this is an intensely personal, in-depth look at perhaps the quintessential "American," including his strengths, weaknesses and sometimes strange familial relationships.  It's a superb and very revealing portrait of the practical, curious, energetic, industrious, inventive, brilliant man who was very probably the most down-to-earth of all the Founding Fathers and arguably the most important man of the 18th century.

Beverly Smith, Cottonwood, AZ
The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel by Isaac Babel (with a forward by Lionel Trilling).
I found this used book, and as I'd been TRYING for years to read him, I was now finally able to experience his writing.   He's more than just a wonderful writer--  his use of words is phenomenal.  He will use an action word, rather than a descriptive one, for instance, to describe the physique of a horse.   Sounds simple, yes? Well, he works magic with WORDS!!!!!   I shall now try to find MORE books and stories by him.

Lorraine Lee, Norristown, PA
The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson
The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin
What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horowitz
You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn

Noelle Gillies, San Jose, CA
The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre

Brandi Gardner, Warsaw, IN
Currently I am reading The Lightning ThiefVampirates Blood Captain by Justin Somper, and rereading House of Stairs by William Sleator. I'm in college pursuing a career as a YA librarian. I am impatiently waiting for Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. These are all books readers of science fiction and fantasy would enjoy.

Diane Offineer, Canon City, CO
The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin
Impulse
Read Ann Brontes The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
And loved The Other Brain by Douglas Fields

Kathleen Conway, Tempe, AZ
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Burnis E. Tuck, Fresno, CA
I'm nearing the end of a wonderful long, mesmerizing post-apocalyptic vampire novel by Justin Cronin, The Passage.  This after having read Russ Baker's extremely disturbing Family of Secrets about the odious Bush family doings. 

Catherine Morency, Western Springs, IL
Ties That Bind by Phillip Margolin

Marge, Avon, OH

Loved Killer Politics by Big Ed Schultz.  Currently reading The Promise by Jonathan Alter.

Judith Keenan, San Francisco, CA
Being Upright by Reb Anderson
Mindfulness and the 12 Steps by Therese Jacobs Stewart
Imperial Ambitions by Noam Chomsky
Screenwriting For Dummies by Laura Schellhardt

Nancy S. Lovejoy, Wilbraham, MA
I'm reading too many books at once, but have been doing so for most of my almost 83 years - really love them all and have more to come:
John Dominic Crossan & Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Jesus
Karen Armstrong,  The Bible: A Biography

Shirley Rish, Mesa, AZ
The Promise by Jonathan Alter
36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldsstein
Maimonides: A Guide for Today's Perplexed by Kenneth Seeskin

John C. Pierson, Akron, OH
Nelson, Daniel, A Passion for the Land: John F. Seiberling and the Environment Movement

Margaret Tatum, Kerrville, TX
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Many of you also weighed in via The Nation's Facebook page:

Pamela Hampton
The Dunwich Horror and Others by HP Lovecraft

John Edgar Mihelic
Das Kapital by Karl Marx

Martin Bakner
Nixonland by Rick Perlstein

Plu Turner
The Code Book by Simon Singh

Scott Judd
2666 by Robert Bolano

Seraphim Winslow
Guide for the Perplexed by EF Schumacher
Living in the End Times by Slavoj Zizek
Elements of Refusal by John Zerzan

Lauren Donovan Bradford
Watership Down by Richard Adams

Carl Norman
Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson by William McKeen

Dave Dornbush
A Case of Curiosities by Allen Kurzweil
Religion Gone Bad by Mel White
Final Crisis by Greg Cox

Aurora Martinez
Nomad

Scott Haycock
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
Karl Marx by Isaiah Berlin

Jan Karlsson
Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides

Clayton L. Magruder
The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel's Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship by James Scott
The Woman Behind the New Deal The Untold Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins -- Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and the Minimum Wage by Kirstin Downey

Lew A. Welge
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Mark Gustafson
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust, translated by Lydia Davs

Colin Marston
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Hopes and Prospects by Noam Chomsky

 

Photo by Stewart Butterfield

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