by Lincoln Paine (Atlantic, £30)
Before you embark on this book I’d advise considering what civilization means to you. Is it a shared way of being (the word derives from civitas—Latin for citizen)? Or is it something deeper; a compulsion that came before the word-idea, a yearning for more; a drive to experience what we do not know, to reach out beyond our immediate horizons? Lincoln Paine’s expansive survey of humanity’s relationship with the sea from 10,000 BC onwards bills itself as an alternative history of the world; it is more evidently a vigorously crafted compendium of the complex, technical ways we achieve our restless, expansionist ambitions.