Saturday, March 15. 2008
In looking up the books I noticed in my library/bookstore venture I ran across a few more that would have fit my criteria had I actually found (or noticed) them. Some weren't there because they're not out yet [publication dates in brackets]. A couple are books that I have but haven't gotten to yet, so I figure they're still fair game. I cut the search off rather arbitrarily one day after the library/bookstore notes. I could have kept going, and no doubt would have found more items of interest. (The last one added was Ned Sublette, and I'm sure glad I found it.) I've had to go mostly on the basis of what Amazon has to say, which often isn't enough.
Alice H Amsden: Escape From Empire: The Developing World's Journey Through Heaven and Hell (2007, MIT Press): Focus here is on how the US changed from a relatively benevolent source of development aid ("heaven") to a considerably more malign one ("hell"). I'm curious about how that maps to the political and economic changes within the US. (Curious but not likely to be very surprised.)
Greg Anrig: The Conservatives Have No Clothes: Why Right-Wing Ideas Keep Failing (2007, Wiley): Not sure if this passes my criteria -- I have a copy on my desk, and meant to get to it next until a couple of other books got in the way -- but it deserves a mention anyway. The right spent all that time market testing ideas to use as tools to seize power and came up with a bunch of things that sound good but just flat out don't work. This is a catalog.
Bill Bishop: The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart (2008, Houghton Mifflin): Bishop uses the phrase "way-of-life segregation" -- makes me think of those housing developments clustered around golf courses that have their own internal draw and external exclusion. Not sure if he's only concerned with this sort of microdivision, since sorting occurs at all levels on just about every axis. I don't see it as entirely bad -- the concentration of like-minded people can be intensely creative; e.g., Black Mountain, or the old Jewish Lower East Side -- but it often makes it harder to recognize and respect diversity. Robert Reich had a whole riff on how upscale suburbs are seceding from the rest of the country -- one obvious political impact is that it makes it real easy to see poverty as someone else's problem. [May 7]
Philip Bobbitt: Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century (2008, Knopf): Almost skipped this after seeing blurb praise from Tony Blair, and I still have my reservations: why, really, do we need wars in, let alone for, the 21st century? Big book (688 pages), claims to have the solution for terrorism. Bobbitt previously wrote the even bigger (960 pages) The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History, frequently described (and not just by Blair) as "breathtaking" and "magisterial" -- sounds like hyperintellectual war porn to me. [May 1]
Robert Bryce: Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence" (2008, Public Affairs): The good news is this book does a hatchet job on the platitudes politicians spew about energy independence, mostly by showing how nothing they propose actually does the job. The bad news is that leaves us back with fossil fuels, and he may not have much of a sense of how limited that is. Previous books: Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron and Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate.
Jonathan Chait: The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics (2007, Houghton Mifflin): The story of "supply side economics," a/k/a "voodoo economics," a theory I thought was long dead. It was originally cooked up to justify tax cuts on the rich, but nowadays the Republicans don't even need theories to do that -- it's burned into their DNA, isn't it?
Ha-Joon Chang: Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism (2007, Bloomsbury Press): Another promising book I have lined up in my queue. One of the big problems in the world today is development, and there is little reason to think the self-interested superpowers are helping anyone else to improve their standards of living.
Amy Chua: Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance -- and Why They Fall (2007, Doubleday): One more comparative macro history. Her concepts -- tolerance is key to rising empires, which fall when they lose it -- may be worth exploring, but I keep thinking the whole notion of hyperpower is so outdated these days this winds up being a curio study, and it may not be the best one. I read her World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, which was marked by her broad learning and marred by her overgeneralizations.
Gregory Clark: A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (2007, Princeton University Press): 440 pages isn't my idea of brief, but it is a big subject. Seen mixed reviews, which may mean he bit off too much, or didn't chew enough.
Victoria Clark: Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism (2007, Yale University Press): The rabid support of apocalyptic Christians for Israel has long struck me as the dirty understory of Zionism -- for one thing, the core concept is profoundly antisemitic. Author is English, so presumably she won't neglect David Lloyd George, but most recent examples are American.
Peter Clarke: The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of Pax Americana (2008, Bloomsbury Press): That would be a little over three years, presumably backdated not from the British withdrawal from Aden or Kenya but from India in 1947 -- Palestine was slightly later in 1948 (I guess the British saw how well their partition of India turned out). Even so that doesn't leave a lot of overlap with Roosevelt. One question I'm unclear about is to what extent the US chose to supplant the British empire (as happened most clearly in the Persian Gulf) as opposed to merely dismantling it. This may have some answers, although I'm just as inclined to go back to Gabriel Kolko's The Politics of War and The Limits of Power, books from the early 1970s still worth consulting. [May 13]
Patrick Cockburn: Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq (2008, Scribner): One of the best correspondents covering Iraq -- cf. his The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq. [April 8]
Hillel Cohen: Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 (2008, University of California Press): An important, little known story about how the Zionists used collaborators to seize control of Israel. Collaboration has always been critical to any successful colonial dominance, but one major effect here is how it hollowed out any prospect for a middle ground between the immigré Jews and native Palestinians.
Brian Coleman: Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies (paperback, 2007, Villard): Expanded version of the author's Rakim Told Me: Wax Facts Straight from the Original Artists -- The '80s with short essays that provide necessary background info on critical hip-hop albums. Probably the essential music book of the year. I only put off buying it because I was hoping to get a freebie. Hasn't happened, and I haven't had time.
Steve Coll: The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century (2008, Penguin Press): Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 is the main book on the CIA misadventure in Afghanistan. This is another big one (688 pages). [April 1]
Paul Collier: The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (2007, Oxford University Press): This is regarded as one of the better books around on world poverty and development, which may just mean that it sticks to tried and failed formulas. (Nicholas Kristof calls it "the best book on international affairs so far this year" -- which doesn't resolve the question one way or the other.)
Jonathan Cook: Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (paperback, 2008, Pluto Press): English journalist, writes quite a bit about Israel -- as I recall, he's based in Nazareth, a mostly Palestinian town within Israel proper. Cook also has a 2006 book, Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State.
John Darwin: After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405 (2008, Bloomsbury Press): 592 pages, which qualifies as brief given his macro subject. I can see why he wants no truck with Tamerlane, who blew through the old world like an influenza epidemic leaving nothing but death and destruction in his wake. That leaves him with Europe vs. a few old empires in Asia that more/less resisted and a couple in the Americas that succumbed very fast (although I don't know that he covers them, maybe because he's more interested in the more resilient Asian empires).
David Brion Davis: Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (2006, Oxford University Press): Returns to the subject of his 1966 breakthrough, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture, which I more/less read not long after it came out in paperback. The short of it is that slavery was more/less invented to solve labor problems in exploiting the new world, and racism was more/less invented to justify slavery. This book likely goes more into abolition, which is another perspective on those issues. Davis has spent a lifetime on this subject, and he should be worth revisiting. [Paperback April 18]
John W Dean: Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches (2007, Viking Adult): Should mention this because I did bother to read his Conservatives Without Conscience -- but not the earlier Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W Bush. He's got a bug up his ass and, well, good for him. Dean also has another book coming April 15: Pure Goldwater, co-written with Barry Jr. Oh well.
Brian Doherty: Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (2007, Public Affairs): A mixed bag, most likely way too long (768 pages). I've long admired Murray Rothbard, but don't think his utopianism really works. Most of the rest of the cast of libertarian heroes have pretty tawdry careers, with Milton Friedman the worst because he was by far the most effective. [Paperback May 26]
Brian Fagan: The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations (2008, Bloomsbury Press): A big subject, presumably related to global warming, but book is relatively modest (308 pages). I have to wonder how much evidence he really has, and how useful that evidence really is. While comparative methodologies can be enlightening, they can also be mere exercise. Fagan has several more books along these lines, like Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Nino and the Fate of Civilizations, and The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization.
Susan Faludi: The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (2007, Metropolitan Books): An account of "America's nervous breakdown after 9/11": that much seems on target. Could be insightful, but I don't have a lot of tolerance for Kulturkritik these days, which seems inevitable here.
Douglas J Feith: War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism (2008, Harper Collins): I figure all political memoirs are self-serving cons until proven otherwise, and this is certainly no exception. I'm just wondering whether Tommy Franks will get to write a blurb. [April 8]
Peter Gay: Modernism: The Lure of Heresy (2007, WW Norton): Another big (640 pages) book not big enough for its subject. I've seen it said that anyone who reads this and Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century deserves an advanced degree. I remember buying a copy of Gay's The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism when it first came out in paperback back around 1967-68, lauded with all sorts of prizes. Never finished it.
John Ghazvinian: Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil (2007, Harcourt): A report on the oil industry in Africa, especially Nigeria and Angola. Don't know how deep he goes, but the political strife over Nigeria's oil is certainly easy enough to find. The interests of the US and China are also obvious. [Paperback April 14]
Marshall I Goldman: Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia (2008, Oxford University Press): Short book on where Russia stands in the world today -- the collapsing criminal economy of the 1990s having some measure of order restored by Putin, to no small extent pumped up by Bush oil prices. I've read a couple of books on the 1990s, and could use an update. This at least seems saner than Edward Lucas' The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West. It's a pretty peculiar viewpoint that thinks Russia is threatening the West rather than the other way around. [May 30]
Glenn Greenwald: A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency (2007, Crown): Constitutional lawyer, got upset by Bush's legal advisers and started blogging, spinning off a short book called How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok, worth reading, especially if you don't know better. Judging from his blog, this is likely bigger, broader, deeper. He claimed to be apolitical before Bush. Not any more. [Paperback April 8]
Glenn Greenwald: Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics (2008, Crown): New book in the works. Not sure who he has in mind. Don't recognize the dude in the cowboy hat. [April 15]
Howard Hampton: Born in Flames: Termite Dreams, Dialectical Fairy Tales, and Pop Apocalypses (2007, Harvard University Press): Big (496 pages) collection of film and music reviews. As I recall, Hampton and I wound up inadvertently reviewing the same William Parker album for the Village Voice once. [Paperback April 15]
Chris Harman: A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (paperback, 2008, Verso): New edition, originally published in 1999. Title parallels Howard Zinn's US history primer. Clearly, a comparable survey of world history would be useful. But, but all things considered, concise (760 pages). [April 7]
Chris Hedges/Laila Al-Arian: Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians (2008, Nation Books): Read an excerpt from this in The Nation already. It's important to realize how inevitable, widespread, and counterproductive all this killing is. [June 2]
Richard Heinberg: Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (2007, New Society): Another book in my queue. I think Heinberg's understanding of energy issues (e.g., peak oil) is quite solid -- his The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies is the best book I can recommend on the subject (much better than anything Michael Klare has done). Here he ventures beyond his strong suit into water, food, climate, etc. Should be interesting.
Molly Ivins/Lou Dubose: Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch's Assault Against America's Fundamental Rights (2007, Random House): Was tempted to buy this the moment I saw it, no doubt for sentimental reasons. The more I looked at it, the more it read like a Lou Dubose book. While I agree with all this stuff about rights, it's not something I'm all that interested in reading about.
Dahr Jamail: Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (2007, Haymarket). Covers a lot more turf than the mainstream media. Much of this is probably old news by now, but things haven't change as much as they'd have you believe.
Tony Judt: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (2008, Penguin Press): A collection of previously published essays, most from New York Review of Books, which is to say most already read, most very sharp. I've read his huge Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, and recommend it highly. (Lots of quotes in my Books section.) [April 17]
Bill Kauffman: Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism (2008, Metropolitan Books): Has an elephant with peace signs on the cover, possibly a tribute to Ron Paul, who likes the book. I think it's about time someone wrote up this history. [April 15]
Ian Kershaw: Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941 (2007, Penguin Press): In particular, they changed the world by starting WWII including the Holocaust. This presumably goes into the strategizing that made those decisions appear rational at the time. I suspect much of this is groupthink, the conventional racism and militarism of the period. Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke looks like it clarifies the context within which these details were debated.
Michael T Klare: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Politics of Energy (2008, Metropolitan Books): For better or worse, Klare is the guy who's been following the problems of shrinking resources (especially oil) and mapping them to geopolitics. TomDispatch has published an excerpt from this, which had nothing new but also nothing terribly wrong. [April 15]
Steve LeVine: The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea (2007, Random House): One of largest oil bonanzas in play today -- probably the largest, but also problematical politically (check the map and see if you can figure out how to get all that oil to Houston) and also technically. For me, how good this book is depends on how technically savvy it is. The politics, after all, is open and shut stupid, at least for the forseeable future.
George E Lewis: A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (2008, University of Chicago Press): Big book (672 pages), an essential slice of jazz history that has rarely been written about before. Lewis is a brilliant avant-garde trombonist who's worked with most of these people. Should be a fine historian as well. [May 1]
Mark MacKinnon: The New Cold War: Revolutions, Rigged Elections, and Pipeline Politics in the Former Soviet Union (2007, Carroll & Graf): This covers the upheavals and conflicts on Russia's periphery (especially Georgia and the Ukraine), with various degrees of influence and interference by both the US and Russia. Unlike the continuing stream of hysterical books promoting renewed cold war conflicts with Russia and China, this is about something already started.
Jules Marchal: Lord Leverhulme's Ghosts: Colonial Exploitation in the Congo (2008, Verso): Relatively short (256 pages) book on King Leopold's murderous program, set up by British entrepreneur Lord Leverhulme, of forced labor to extract rubber wealth from the Congo. Introduction by Adam Hochschild, whose King Leopold's Ghost covers at least some of this story. It seems to me that one could expand this to cover the whole era of Belgian control, and expand it further backwards into the slave trade and forwards through Mobuto to start to get a sense of how severely the Congo has been wracked by its encounter with Europe. [June 9]
Stephen A Marglin: The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community (2008, Harvard University Press): The core idea makes sense, and can be plumbed for further insights (not sure about 376 pages worth). Clearly, economics has its place and its limits, and framing that is something that needs to be done. What I'm less clear about is community, which, being a creature of my locale and time, I don't take to be an unalloyed good.
William Marsden: Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta Is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (And Doesn't Seem to Care) (2007, Knopf Canada): This is about oil shale, which Canada has an awful lot of, which looks really yummy in a world that is otherwise starving for oil, but which is hell to extract, and not likely to get much better, like, ever. [Paperback September 30]
Arno Mayer: Ploughshares into Swords: From Zionism to Israel (2008, Verso): One of the great historians of our times. His Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The "Final Solution" in History showed his ability to freshly contextualize things you thought you already knew all too well -- just one example is his characterization of the two World Wars as "the 30 Years War of the 20th Century." That's what I expect here -- the title itself is a powerful start. [June 9]
John J Mearsheimer/Stephen M Walt: The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (2007, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Stirred up a storm of controversy when it came out, mostly from the Israel lobby. Shouldn't have been much of a surprise. It's hard to reconcile anything resembling a realist foreign policy with Israel off in some sort of weird fantasyland. [Paperback September 2]
Martin Meredith: Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa (2007, Public Affairs): Big (608 pages) book on the makings of colonial South Africa, with the discovery of diamonds in 1871 playing a particularly large role, followed by the Boer War and independence. Meredith has also written Mugabe: Power, Plunder, and the Struggle for Zimbabwe's Future, recently in paperback; also: The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.
Ilan Pappe: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (paperback, 2007, One World): Looks like this concentrates on the 1948-49 expulsions, which are still at the root of the whole conflict. Mazim Qumsiyeh suggested doing reading groups using either this or Sandy Tolan's The Lemon Tree. We're doing one on the Tolan book, which is uniquely poignant. Should get a copy of this as well.
Ilan Pappe: The Bureaucracy of Evil (2008, One World): New book, not much info on it, seems to be about the Israeli occupation machinery: the laws and bureaucracies that govern the Palestinian occupied territories. There's much more to this than just the obvious "security" layer -- the checkpoints, jails, house demolitions, barrier building, etc. It's a story that's not nearly as well known as the expulsions. [May 25]
Harvey Pekar: Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History (2008, Hill and Wang): Illustrated by Gary Dumm. Paul Buhle is listed as editor. Evidently Pekar's text is mixed with other first-person stories, and presumably Buhle has something to with that. Most likely you had to be there to care, but young people have been so misinformed on the whole era that they might learn something.
Kevin Phillips: Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (2008, Penguin Books): Not much info, but money played a key role in his American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, and the world of finance isn't getting any firmer. [April 15]
William Poundstone: Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do About It) (2008, Farrar Straus and Giroux): I've read a couple of books by Poundstone, quite a while ago, about game theory if I recall correctly. He brings that expertise to bear here.
Gerard Prunier: Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide (revised and updated edition, 2007, Cornell University Press): Helena Cobban recommended this as the most useful book on Darfur. I've read some stuff by Prunier on Darfur -- he's also written on Rwanda -- and found him to be persuasive, unlike a lot on Sudan that's highly politicized. Other books on Darfur: Alex de Waal/Julie Flint: Darfur: A Short History of a Long War; many authors: War in Darfur and the Search for Peace.
Dina Rasor/Robert Bauman: Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War (2007, Palgrave Macmillan): Second order dirt -- all this graft wouldn't exist if it weren't for the war in the first place. I doubt that any of it has a real effect on the outcome, which would be dismal even if Bush could manage it honestly and competently. Of course, he can't, for the same reasons that got him into the war in the first place. [Paperback April 29]
Graham Robb: The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, from the Revolution to the First World War (2007, WW Norton): A view of French history from the provinces, looking at how they became integrated into the Paris-centered nation. Part bicycle travelogue; the author has also written biographies of French writers like Hugo and Balzac, so most likely there's some of that too.
John Robb: Punk Rock: An Oral History (paperback, 2007, Ebury Press): Well, obviously, interviews with punk rock musicians -- UK division, 100 or so (576 pages). Presumably not the same John Robb who wrote Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization. I don't know enough to decide whether the latter book is misguided or just nuts.
Paul Roberts: The End of Food (2008, Houghton Mifflin): I haven't read Roberts' previous The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World, which seems like the best known book on the peak oil problem. This is the next logical step, given how much oil goes into growing the food that has allowed world population to expand so exorbitantly over the last century. Take the oil away and it'll start to impact the food chain and before long people -- 1.1 billion already undernourished -- will starve. Michael Pollan and Bill McKibben have advance pitches for the book. Title bumps into Thomas F Pawlick's The End of Food: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Food Supply -- and What We Can Do About it. [June 4]
Mort Rosenblum: Escaping Plato's Cave: How America's Blindness to the Rest of the World Threatens Our Survival (2007, St Martin's Press): Seems pretty obvious. Not familiar with Rosenblum, but he's previously written a book on Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit, and A Goose in Toulouse and Other Culinary Adventures in France.
AJ Rossmiller: Still Broken: A Recruit's Inside Account of the Intelligence Failures, from Baghdad to the Pentagon (2008, Presidio Press): More dirt on the Defense Department's disinformation and bungling before and after the invasion of Iraq.
Aram Roston: The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi (2008, Nation Books): You know, maybe Rumsfeld (or Feith, or whoever) was right: hand Iraq over to the crook, draw the troops down as fast as you can, and let him fend for himself. I figure he would have been dead within 3 months, but, hey, stuff happens. The more momentum behind withdrawal, the harder it would have been to reverse it. And dumb as the idea of putting Chalabi in charge was, Bush sure topped it with Bremer. Looking forward Chalabi hardly merits a biography, but maybe this ties some loose ends up.
Robert Scheer: The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America (2008, Twelve): I don't think there's a lot of mystery here, but it could be useful to sort through the steps and the logic. No idea what pornography has to do with it. I do recall a book by that title back c. 1970, something psychological about personal power. Trying to sex up the US military is pretty much a waste of time. [June 9]
Peter Dale Scott: The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (2007, University of California Press): Don't know how good this is, but there's certainly a story to be told -- precisely the one that no one in a position of power in the US wanted aired on 9/12. Scott has a couple more conspiracy books: Deep Politics and the Death of JFK and Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina.
Mark W Smith: The Official Handbook of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy 2008: The Arguments You Need to Defeat the Loony Left This Election Year (paperback, 2008, Regnery): Know your enemy stuff. I've thumbed through it and found stuff (e.g., on Israel) laughable. Not sure how consistent it is for calibrating the mindset, but it's probably a good first approximation.
Stephen J Sniegorski: The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (2008, IHS Press): Looks like a pretty thorough review. [June 1]
Ned Sublette: The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square (2008, Lawrence Hill Books): A history of New Orleans, presumably with a strong focus on the music, since Sublette is a musician, and his history of Cuban Music, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo is masterful. I'm still expecting a second volume on Cuba, since the first one shut down in 1953.
Matt Taibbi: The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire (2008, Spiegel & Grau): He takes four angles on the current state: the military, the system, the resistance, and the church. Reportedly a new book, not a collection of essays, but the first two (on Iraq and Congress) he's done elsewhere -- not that they don't deserve a few more whacks. [May 6]
Nick Turse: The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (2008, Metropolitan Books): Cover has more words, an alternate subtitle: "Mapping America's Military Industrial Technological Entertainment Academic Media Corporate Matrix." I've read some of this at TomDispatch, which features Turse regularly. Usually skip him because my tolerance for Pentagon nonsense isn't very high.
Bernard Wasserstein: Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time (2007, Oxford University Press): Huge book (928 pages), ranging from WWI to misgivings over recent muslim immigration. Title strikes me as overcharged. I've read two other books by Wasserstein, both on Israel, both sane and smart.
Eyal Weizman: Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation (2007, Verso): Looks at Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories through the prism of architecture: the settlements, the barriers, the checkpoints, Israel's control of air space and water, the roads, etc.
Matt Welch: McCain: The Myth of a Maverick (2007, Palgrave Macmillan): A first crack at deconstructing McCain, starting with the public's most obvious misconception about the man. I expect there will be more, starting with David Brock and Paul Waldman, Free Ride: John McCain and the Media, out in paperback March 25.
Hugh Wilford: The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (2008, Harvard University Press): About all the front organizations the CIA set up, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of these are old stories, but people tend to forget that Richard Wright, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Gloria Steinem were once CIA tools (or fools).
Matthew Yglesias: Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats (2008, Wiley): Well known blogger; somehow I've never read him, but recognize the name. Obviously, he has a topic one can write reams about. [April 21]
Fareed Zakaria: The Post-American World (2008, WW Norton): Further evidence that the goose is cooked? Zakaria writes, "This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else." To the zero-sum minds of the American right there is no difference. For them the idea of a post-American world is catastrophic. Zakaria strikes me as a guy who's earned his ticket to the inner sanctums of imperial power, but still has a feel for the world outside and a sense of what it means to be looking in. He'll argue that such world changes needn't be catastrophic, but that they must be recognized and acknowledged. It will be a tough pill for some to swallow. [May 5]
Idith Zertal/Akiva Eldar: Lords of the Land: The War for Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007 (2007, Nation Books): Probably the one book to to read on Israel's settlement movement. (Gershom Gorenberg's The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 came out in 2006 and covers similar ground, but seems to find the movement a touch mysterious.) Zertal's 2005 book looks interesting: Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood (similar to Tom Segev's The Seventh Million: Israelis and the Holocaust).
Howard Zinn/Mike Konopacki/Paul Buhle: A People's History of American Empire (paperback, 2008, Metropolitan Books): Based on Zinn's A People's History of the United States, starting with 9/11 and referring back to empire-related events in the past. Illustrated as a comic by Konopacki. [April 1]
Also beware that there's a new Thomas Friedman book coming out in August: Green Is the New Red, White and Blue. Oy veh!