Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird By Andrew D. Blechman University of Queensland Press, 239pp, $ 32.95 PIGEONS were the ancient world’s equivalent of email: the Greeks sent Olympic results through them to city- states and Julius Caesar used them during his military campaigns. Andrew Blechman’s sweeping study shows the much denigrated pigeon not as the despoiler of national monuments but as an extraordinary flying machine able to stay aloft for 16 hours, and still used in undercover activity, from drug smuggling to warfare. ‘‘ Iraqi insurgents,’’ he reports, ‘‘ rely heavily on pigeons to ferry clandestine information.’’ The Politics of Heaven: America in Fearful Times By Earl Shorris W. W. Norton, 371pp, $ 37.95 ‘‘ DEMOCRACY is an old and disorderly way of going about life,’’ Earl Shorris believes, ‘‘ best when it moves slowly.’’ And, as the Athenians knew, when it involves lots of discussion. Yet in the US, ‘‘ the long siege of reasonable dialogue’’ is now seen as ‘‘ an impediment to governing and unnecessary to politics’’. Instead, guided by George W. Bush’s ‘‘ simplistic messianic mindset’’, says Shorris in this wide- ranging and provocative text, yes- or- no positions reduce critical debates to talkback rightor- wrong rants. GOODBYE, rural Provence: now Morocco gets the home restorer’s dream turned nightmare literary treatment. Partners Suzanna Clarke and Sandy McCutcheon buy a dilapidated Arab- style riad, or courtyard house, in Fez (‘‘ What a terribly 19th- century thing to do,’’ says a friend) and tackle sewer lines, beggars and ‘‘ pregnant bellies’’: bulging, damp walls. ‘‘ Annoyingly perfectionist’’ Clarke (‘‘ the Cecil B. De Mille of the show’’) supervises the job while offering a brisk commentary on the pitfalls and pleasures. A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco By Suzanna Clarke Viking, 293pp, $ 49.95 Don’t Mention the War: The British and the Germans Since 1890 By John Ramsden Abacus, 444pp, $ 27.95 DESPITE the entanglement of their ancestries, the British and Germans entered the 20th century with high mutual suspicions. ‘‘ We must go for the Germans,’’ urged the British military attache in Berlin, ‘‘ or they will go for us later.’’ The 1904 Anglo- French entente didn’t help, John Ramsden notes in his lively history, and nor did Germany’s naval build- up, which led to a flood of invasion novels ( including Erskine Childers’s classic The Riddle of the Sands ), many of which painted the Germans as bloodthirsty and duplicitous.