Saturday, June 1, 2019


Book Roundup

When I posted my latest Book Roundup on March 15 -- eleven months after my only 2018 compilation, after two in 2017, four in 2016, and five in 2015 -- I figured another one would be eminent. I got distracted, but here's a second batch of 40+ books, and I'm pretty certain that a third will be ready in a few weeks. These surveys are useful to me as a means of keeping track of what the world knows and is thinking about. I've been trying to track "the coming dark age" for some time now, but while lots of people seem to be getting dumber (or at least more certain of their ignorance), a lot of smart thinking is still being developed and preserved in books.

As I've started doing recently, I'm including various related books in bullet lists following a leading one. There's also a supplemental list at the end, of books worth noting but not (as far as I'm concerned) at much length.


Jill Abramson: Merchants of Truth: The Business and the Fight for Facts (2019, Simon & Schuster): Tries to update David Halberstam's The Powers That Be (1979) by profiling four major media corporation (The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and VICE) as they make business out of the public's appetite for news. That, of course, raises the question of how the selection and reporting of news is filtered and often distorted by each of their business and cultural models. That's an intrinsically interesting question, but not necessarily one that can be answered -- for one thing the author adds her own limited vantage point. I can't say anything about charges that sections of the book were plagiarized. Related:

  • Alan Rusbridger: Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Carol Anderson: One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy (2018, Bloomsbury USA): At some point in recent history, Republicans came to realize that it was easier to win by suppressing the vote among Democratic constituencies than it was to convince those voters of a political program which actually promises little more than to make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else. Of course, this isn't new: all republics have struggled over who counts and who doesn't, but the core idea of democracy -- each and every person is entitled to the same vote -- has been hard to argue with, until very recently. Even now, even among Republicans, the arguments tend to be disguised, and much of the mischief avoids the spotlight. Also wrote, with Tonya Bolden, We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide (2018, Bloomsbury). Previously wrote: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016). Also on voting rights:

  • Allan J Lichtman: The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present (2018, Harvard University Press).

Max Blumenthal: The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump (2019, Verso): For the most part, a basic primer on how the US fed and nurtured its eventual enemies in the Middle East, in a long series of events that ultimately show how arrogant and self-centered the architects of American policy have been. That general book has been written a half-dozen times already, with dozens of other tomes treating one aspect or another of the big picture. However, by dropping Trump into the title, he's adding another dimension: not just what American plots and wars have done to the Middle East, but what such persistent warmaking has done to the psyches of ignorant and oblivious Americans-- Trump being an example.

Steven Brill: Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall -- and Those Fighting to Reverse It (2018, Knopf): Journalist, wrote a book on Obamacare called America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healtcare System (2015), looks for a bigger picture and finds it in "an erosion of responsibility and accountability, an epidemic of shortsightedness, an increasingly hollow economic and political center, and millions of Americans gripped by apathy and hopelessness." That sounds a bit like a backgrounder for Trump's "Make American Great Again" campaign slogan, but it appears that the culprit Brill identifies is Trump's own billionaire class.

Arthur C Brooks: Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt (2019, Broadside Books): Someone might be able to write a decent book on this theme, but I doubt that the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative propagandist who revels in his sense of moral superiority, is up to the task. Previous feel-good books include: Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (2006); Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America -- and How We Can Get More of It (2008); The Battle: How the Fight Between Big Government and Free Enterprise Will Shape America's Future (2010); The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise (2012), and The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America (2015). Turns out that it's easy to "love your enemies" once you've ground them under heel, which is the author's real mission. More recent efforts to make the conservatives seem like they think and care:

  • Noah Rothman: Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America (2019, Gateway).
  • Ben Shapiro: The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great (2019, Broadside Books).

Contrast these with the right's more pedestrian hackwork, designed to rile up hatred (and otherwise confuse you):

  • Dinesh D'Souza: The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (2017, Regnery).
  • Jonah Goldberg: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy (2018, Crown Forum).
  • Mary Katherine Ham/Guy Benson: End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun) (2015; paperback, 2017, Crown Forum).
  • Derek Hunter: Outrage, Inc.: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood (2018, Broadside Books).
  • Mark R Levin: Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism (2017, Threshold Editions).
  • Ben Shapiro: Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth (2004; paperback, 2010, Thomas Nelson).

Paul Buhle/Steve Max: Eugene V Debs: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2019, Verso): Buhle was editor of Radical America, a major historian of American radical movements (co-editor of Encyclopedia of the American Let), and a long-time of the graphic book form, so the only thing surprising here is that it took so long to come together. Art by Noah Van Sciver, with additional help by Dave Nance. Actually, I've noted several of Buhle's graphic histories in the past. Here's a longer list (credits aren't always clear):

  • Paul Buhle/Nicole Schulman: Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World (paperback, 2005, Verso).
  • Paul Buhle: The Beats: A Graphic History (2009; paperback, 2010, Hill & Wang).
  • Paul Buhle/Sabrina Jones: FDR and the New Deal for Beginners (paperback, 2010, For Beginners).
  • Paul Buhle: Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith (paperback, 2013, Herald Press).
  • Paul Buhle/Noah Van Sciver: Johnny Appleseed (2017, Fantagraphics).
  • Kate Evans: Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (paperback, 2015, Verso): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle: Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic Adaptation (paperback, 2009, New Press).
  • Harvey Pekar: Students for a Democratic Society (paperback, 2009, Hill & Wang): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle: Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land (2011, Harry N Abrams).
  • Spain Rodriguez: Che: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2017, Verso): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Sharon Rudahl: Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman (paperback, 2007, New Press): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Gilbert Shelton/Paul Buhle: Radical America Komiks (paperback, 2019, PM Press): reprint of Radical America "underground comix" edition from 1969.
  • Nick Thorkelson/Paul Buhle/Andrew Lamas: Herbert Marcuse: Philosophy of Utopia: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2019, City Lights).
  • Howard Zinn/Mike Konopacki/Paul Buhle: A People's History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation (paperback, 2008, Metropolitan Books).

Chapo Trap House: The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts, and Reason (2018, Atria Books): I went through a kneejerk period in the 1960s when I rebelled so hard against the liberal warmongers of the Democratic Party that I was willing to throw away all appeals to "logic, facts, and reason," and embrace its opposite (arts, irrationality, mysticism). I changed my tune when I found that one could arrive at right conclusions through reason, and I wound up more dedicated to rationality than ever before. So at first glance I took this book to be complete, reactionary bullshit. But it turns out this is meant to be funny, and it's aimed at young people today who feel the same incoherent rage and disgust over the powers that be as I felt back in the 1960s. The authors are comedians who run some kind of podcast. And while there are some lame jokes and outright bullshit here, their core claim harbors a kernel of truth: "Capitalism, and the politics it spawns, is not working for anyone under thirty who is not a sociopath." Once you understand that, you can look elsewhere for better-reasoned explanations and proposals, but that insight is a good place to start.

Sarah Churchwell: Behold, America: The Entangled History of "America First" and "the American Dream" (2018, Basic Books): Two iconic notions, offered as sweeping generalizations about America's role in the world, adopted by various political movements for varying ends depending on the time and place. The contemporary interest angle is that both played large roles in the 2016 election, perhaps even more so than in their long and storied past. On the other hand, they're basically bullshit, at once able to flatter and mislead their political targets, and there's something rather hollow about stretching a book around them.

Kimberly Clausing: Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital (2019, Harvard University Press): Theory tells us that free trade and unrestricted mobility of capital and labor increases wealth all around. The reality is something else, as global capital has exploited economic theory to effectively escape nation-state regulation, leading to ever more extreme inequality, stripping most people of most nations of their political standing. That has in turn produced a backlash, both on the reactionary right and on the left, which sees things like "free trade agreements" as little more than a power- and wealth-grab. Causing attempts to save theory from practice, by advancing political schemes to make open borders work for everyone.

Anna Clark: The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy (2018, Metropolitan Books): We routinely receive warnings about America's crumbling infrastructure, but usually assume those threats are things that could happen in the future, not things already happening today. But the water system in Flint, Michigan has already turned toxic, killing and irreparably harming people who merely happened to live in the wrong place.

Michael D'Antonio/Peter Eisner: The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence (2018, Thomas Dunne Books): Two key questions here: How bad is Pence? And how powerful is he? Trump had promised to give his vice president unprecedented day-to-day power -- the first evidence of that was that Pence had the leading role in staffing the administration, which is how Trump got surrounded by so many orthodox extreme conservatives. But beyond his immediate influence, I can't recall a moment of disharmony between Trump and Pence -- indeed, hard to think of anyone else in the administration one can say that about. Part of this is that Pence has been eager and willing to support Trump's Kulturkampf fetishes, no matter how loony (e.g., his stunt leaving a NFL game after players took the knee during the national anthem, or his ridiculous task of holding the official press conference announcing the Space Force). The import of this is how Pence has set an example for even the most hopelessly ideological Republicans to line up behind and join forces with Trump.

Jared Diamond: Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019, Little Brown): An anthropologist who since his famous Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) has used his license to practice macrohistory, taking a view that straddles vast stretches of time and space to wrap big questions up into tidy boxes. He picks on six countries for his turning points this time: Japan (forced opening by US in 1860s), Finland (attacked by Soviet Union in 1939 following their "non-aggression" pact with Nazi Germany), Germany and Austria (post-WWII), Indonesia and Chile (victims of US-backed coups in 1965 and 1973). He draws lessons for Americans today. I doubt he has much to say about karma.

William Egginton: The Splintering of the American Mind: Identity Politics, Inequality, and Community on Today's College Campuses (2018, Bloomsbury): "Egginton argues that our colleges and universities have become exclusive, expensive clubs for the cultural and economic elite instead of a national, publicly funded project for the betterment of the country. Only a return to the goals of community, and the egalitarian values underlying a liberal arts education, can head off the further fracturing of the body politic and the splintering of the American mind." Lots of gripes about higher education these days, many from the right. Hard for me to sort these book out, probably because my own stake in academia is so tenuous:

  • Greg Lukianoff/Jonathan Haidt: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018, Penguin Books).
  • Heather MacDonald: The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermined Our Culture (2018, St Martin's Press).

David Graeber: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018, Simon & Schuster): It's long been obvious -- I first picked up this insight from a book by Paul Sweezy written in the 1950s -- that we have a lot of jobs that don't really produce anything of value, that are effectively pointless and parasitical, what Graeber has finally called bullshit. He's an anthropologist and anarchist, the writer of a major tome Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and a book of his experience and theory of Occupy Wall Street, The Democracy Project:A History, a Crisis, a Movement.

Greg Grandin: The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (2019, Metropolitan Books): Author of a number of first-rate books on America's impact on Latin America -- e.g., Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism (2006) -- easily sees the links between two centuries of US aggression and the militarization of the US-Mexico border. Timely enough to include Trump's border wall fixation, though not the latest blow up in Venezuela.

Bradley W Hart: Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States (2018, Thomas Dunne Books): Some were well known, like Charles Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh, the Bund and the America First Committee. I wouldn't be surprised to hear names like Koch and Trump pop up, although neither appear in what I've read. Still, I'd guess that actual supporters were fewer in number than sympathizers and apologists, especially those with home-grown racist and/or anti-labor agendas. On the other hand I really doubt that every isolationist was anti-semitic. Before WWII, Americans had a long history of believing that we should stay away from foreign entanglements, and the war schemes they lead to.

Daniel Immerwahr: How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States (2019, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Beyond the 48 continental states, the US managed to pick up various far-flung lands, and has actually managed to keep more of them than any European rival: Alaska and Hawaii have become full-fledged states, Puerto Rico and various smaller islands are in limbo, the Philippines were let go but only losing them to Japan, the Panama Canal Zone was returned to Panama (which was itself a US creation), Cuba was never officially on the books but treated like a colony until its revolution. This surveys most of that list, stopping short of the coups and incursions and a globe-straddling archipelago of bases and even more pervasive property claims by private Americans and friendly investors.

Stephen Kinzer: The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire (2017; paperback, 2018, St Martin's Griffin): To be clear, Roosevelt was for and Twain was against in this particular political debate (c. 1898, what we've dubbed the Spanish-American War) over whether America should impose itself on others as an empire -- arguably not the first such debate, and most certainly not the last. Evan Thomas covered the pro-empire side (mostly) in The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire (2010); also Kinzer has previously written about the 1898 annexation of Hawaii in Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq (2006). Still, would be good to pay more attention to the anti-war/empire arguments.

Eric Klinenberg: Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (2018, Crown): Sociologist, writes about the value of shared spaces -- examples given include libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks -- for building social bonds and a sense of common interests, as opposed to the fragmentation and isolation that has lately taken hold almost everywhere.

Kevin M Kruse/Julian E Zelizer: Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 (2019, WW Norton): A broad history of what I've started calling the Reagan-to-Trump era, backing up a couple years (the falls of Nixon and Saigon, OPEC embargoes, desegregation riots in Boston) to get a running start. Jill Lepore says this details how "Americans abandoned a search for common ground in favor of a political culture of endless, vicious, and -- very often -- mindless division." Kruse previously wrote White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (2005), and One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (2015). Zelizer has written The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society (2015, Penguin Press), and a few more, including books on the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Milton Lodge/Charles S Taber: The Rationalizing Voter (paperback, 2013, Cambridge University Press): Argues that "political behavior is the result of innumerable unnoticed forces and conscious deliberation is often a rationalization of automatically triggered feelings and thoughts," testing five basic hypotheses: "hot cognition, automaticity, affect transfer, affect contagion, and motivated reasoning." Yglesias used this book to explain Kanye West's embrace of Trump.

Michael Mandelbaum: The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth (2019, Oxford University Press): Argues that "in the twenty-five years after 1989, the world enjoyed the deepest peace in history." Further asserts that this blissful state ended "because three major countries -- Vladimir Putin's Russia in Europe, Xi Jinping's China in East Asia, and the Shia clerics' Iran in the Middle East -- put an end to end to it With aggressive nationalist policies aimed at overturning the prevailing political arrangements in their respective regions." Pretty amazing that anyone can look at the last 25-30 years and fail to identify the one nation that has been almost constantly at war, attacking "enemies" in more than a dozen countries scattered all around the world. Also that the author overlooked a number of other wars that broke out during the period, including the period's most deadly wars (in and around Congo).

Bill McKibben: Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? (2019, Henry Holt): Wrote one of the early books on global warming, The End of Nature (1989). I read it during a mid-summer trip to Florida, where my initial skepticism was overcome by seeing and feeling how much heat could be absorbed into the atmosphere. Still, I hated his metaphor, and he has a knack for coming up with new irritating ways to say the same thing ever since. (Eaarth was the worst.) This is his latest, probably even more impassioned as he's made his career move from critic to activist. I'd probably find his 2013 memoir, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, more to my taste than this doomsday screed. But despite the hyperbole, he's been basically right all along. You have to respect that.

John J Mearsheimer: The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (2018, Yale University Press): Foreign policy mandarin, subscribes to the realist wing like his sometime co-author Stephen M Walt, has developed a healthy skepticism about how American foreign policy is practiced. Problem here is likely to be his choice of "Liberal Dreams" as his evil strawman. Although political liberals, especially in the anti-communist 1950s, readily supported America's originally bipartisan, military-first foreign policy, this policy has never advanced "liberal dreams." For the last 30-40 years, "liberal hegemony" has never been more than a neocon ruse, an attempt to dress up old-fashioned imperial power projection with a patina of nice words. Meanwhile, Walt has his own new book:

  • Stephen M Walt: The Hell of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Steve Pearlstein: Can American Capitalism Survive? Why Greed Is Not Good, Opportunity Is Not Equal, and Fairness Won't Make Us Poor (2018, St Martin's Press): Reminded me first of Robert Kuttner's 2018 book Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism (still unread on my shelf), but the questions are slightly different. Pearlstein seems to assume democracy will have the final say, and asks instead whether capitalism can be reformed in ways that will make it palatable to most people. Clearly, its current practices like "squeezing workers, cheating customers, avoiding taxes, and leaving communities in the lurch" tend to undermine public trust and confidence.

Nomi Prins: Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (2018, Nation Books): Former bond trader, found her calling writing about the banking racket in the Bush years -- Other People's Money: The Corporate Mugging of America (2004), Jacked: How "Conservatives" Are Picking Your Pocket (Whether You Voted for Them or Not) (2006), It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals From Washington to Wall Street (2009) -- looks at how "the open door between private and central banking has ensured endless opportunities for market manipulation and asset bubbles." I'm not a big fan of the titles per sé, but few people have written more lucidly about how theirs racket works.

John Quiggin: Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly (2019, Princeton University Press): Author of Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us, an important effort to clear out much of the dead wood, takes up Henry Hazlitt's 1946 classic, Economics in One Lesson, which he summarizes as "leave markets alone, and all will be well." But all isn't well, as there are many cases of market failures, so Quiggin adds "Lesson Two: Market prices don't reflect all the opportunity costs we face as a society." He gives 400 pages of examples and explanations, in what may be one of the essential texts of modern economics.

Eric Rauchway: Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal (2018, Basic Books): After an overwhelming majority of Americans voted to free themselves from President Herbert Hoover, they faced a four-month delay until the new president could be sworn in -- a period so grueling that the US Constitution was changed to move future inaugurations up from March to January. This book covers those four months, a kind of pre-history to the famous "100 days" that followed Franklin Roosevelt's inauguration. In terms of anticipatory obstructionism, Hoover probably holds the record -- although John Adams in 1800-01 raised the bar, and Donald Trump will no doubt try to top them all in the shorter 2020-21 transition period.

Richard Rhodes: Energy: A Human History (2018, Simon & Schuster): Recaps the history of mankind as the story of claiming and taming sources of energy, possibly starting with human and domesticated animal muscle, but wood, coal, oil, and nuclear play larger roles in this story -- Rhodes seems to be especially fond of nuclear, although the four major books he's written on nuclear bombs can be read as cautionary tales. I've read those four books, plus a couple more, and don't doubt that he is capable of synthesizing such a large and important story.

Nathaniel Rich: Losing Earth: A Recent History (2019, MCD): A history, pointing out that by 1979 "we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change -- including how to stop it," which goes on to show how supposedly responsible people failed to act on that knowledge, letting us slide into the ever-increasing crisis we face today. The Reagan administration's determination to promote coal and cripple the EPA and drive science from the policy process -- I'd say "echoes of Trump" but it's the other way around -- were key, but the thing you keep running into is human reluctance to deal with a catastrophe that seems to merely loom in the future, because the worst hasn't struck yet.

Sam Rosenfeld: The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era (2017, University of Chicago Press): Assumes that the problem with politics today is partisan polarization, and seeks to find where that came from by examining the political period from 1945 through 1980, moving from "The Idea of Responsible Partisanship" to "The Making of a Vanguard Party" and "Liberal Alliance-Building for Lean Times." Winds up with a chapter on 1980-2000 and a "Conclusion: Polarization without Responsibility, 2000-2016." Rosenfeld attributes the idea that the two parties should be realigned on a liberal-conservative axis to Franklin Roosevelt. What actually forced the realignment was a single issue -- civil rights -- which straddled the 1980 divide (what we might call the tipping point). Whether this was a good or bad thing depends a lot on how important you think that issue is. But more generally, polarization always occurs when issues become more serious and less amenable to compromise -- and we see that happening now, on race (of course) but also on the more general principles of equality, fairness, justice, and whether government will serve or oppress the vast majority of the people. I don't mean to argue that polarization has no down side. The main one is that it's led one party in particular to view politics as a zero-sum game, even worse as it's blinded that party to recognizing common problems (most obviously, climate change, which Republicans furiously deny because it's inconvenient for some of their major donors).

Joseph E Stiglitz: People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent (2019, WW Norton): Major liberal economist, advised Clinton in the 1990s and bragged about it in The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade (2003), warned about Bush in the 2000s and reminded us in Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy (2010), wrote an important book on The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future (2012), and several books on trade, starting with Globalization and Its Discontents (2002). I've read (and admired) most of his books, but overlooked an earlier book, Whither Socialism?, which claimed that "market socialism" couldn't work. His analysis back then probably has much to do with his decision now to push for what he calls "progressive capitalism" as the alternative to the burgeoning movement for socialism. I'm sure he's very smart about it, but I always find it a bit sad that the only occasions when the left gains enough power to do something, they first have to spend all their energy saving capitalism's sorry ass.

Bhaskar Sunkara: The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (2019, Basic Books). Editor of Jacobin offers a primer on the history of socialism since the mid-1800s and "a realistic vision for its future" -- well short of the Soviet-era ideals, but carefully, cautiously tailored to provide universal, fair and equitable solutions to economic problems. Related:

  • Bhaskar Sunkara: The ABCs of Socialism (paperback, 2016, Verso).
  • Cinzia Arruzza/Tithi Bhattacharya/Nancy Fraser: Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto (paperback, 2019, Verso).
  • Rutger Bregman: Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World (2017, Little Brown; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books).
  • Nancy Fraser: The Old Is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born (paperback, 2019, Verso).
  • Nancy Fraser/Rahel Jaeggi: Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory (paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Kristen R Ghodsee: Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence (2018, Bold Type Books).
  • Avel Honneth: The Idea of Socialism: Towards a Renewal (2017; paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Danny Katch: Socialism . . . Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation (paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books).
  • Leigh Phillips: Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence of Growth, Progress, Industry and Stuff (paperback, 2015, Zero Books).
  • Leigh Phillips/Michal Rozworski: The People's Republic of Walmart: How the World's Biggest Corporations Are Laying the Foundation for Socialism (paperback, Verso).
  • Chantal Mouffe: For a Left Populism (2018, Verso).

Michael W Twitty: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (2017, Amistad): A family history back to its roots, focusing on the food that made each generation, and crossed in various ways from black to white and back. Also on food and the South: John T Edge: The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South (2017, Penguin).

Craig Unger: House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018, Dutton): A journalist with a nose for corrupt relationships, previously wrote House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties (2004), seems to have a ripe subject digging into Trump's various deals with Russian mobsters and oligarchs.

Jose Antonio Vargas: Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (2018, Dey Street Books): Author spent 25 years as an "undocumented" American, "living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own," before outing himself to write about the experience in the New York Times -- becoming a spokesman for the millions of "undocumented" Americans. Less about immigration either as policy or practice than about what it feels like to live in a country you have to hide from. Other recent books on immigration:

  • Francisco Cantú: The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border (2018; paperback, 2019, Riverhead Books).
  • Abdi Nor Iftin: Call Me American: A Memoir (2018, Knopf).
  • Viet Tranh Nguyen, ed: The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (2018, Harry N Abrams).
  • Peter Schrag: The World of Aufbau: Hitler's Refugees in America (2019, University of Wisconsin Press).
  • Matthew Soerens/Jenny Yang: Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (paperback, 2018, IVP Books).

William T Vollmann: Carbon Ideologies: Volume One: No Immediate Danger/Volume Two: No Good Alternative (2018, Viking): Mostly a novelist, occasionally writes non-fiction and has been known to get carried away, like his Imperial (1306 pp). This "almanac of global energy use" is similar-sized, but published in two volumes.

Jon Ward: Camelot's End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That Broke the Democratic Party (2019, Twelve): This suggests that Reagan's triumph in 1980 had more to do with a breakdown caused by Ted Kenndy's almost unprecedented primary challenge against a president of his own party. The closest analogy I can think of was Teddy Roosevelt's rebuke of William Howard Taft in 1912, which wound up with his Bull Moose third party and both losing to Woodrow Wilson. Lots of parallels there, not least the challengers' sense of entitlement. Looking back now it's clear that Carter was a forerunner of many of Reagan's issues, and as such helped to legitimize someone who had previously been viewed as a far-right fringe candidate. One wonders whether the clearer choice that Kennedy might have presented would have faired better.

Alan Wolfe: The Politics of Petulance: America in an Age of Immaturity (2018, University of Chicago Press). More like senescence, which has less to do with age than the popular choice 38 years ago to turn away from facing reality and pretend we're fine in Ronald Reagan's fantasy world. Wolfe is a political science prof (emeritus) with a long list of books, including The Seamy Side of Democracy: Repression in America (1973), Marginalized in the Middle (1996), Does American Democracy Still Work? (2006), and At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews (2014). I last noticed him when he published The Future of Liberalism (2009), a spirited defense that this must contrast with.

Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2019 PublicAffairs): Seems to focus on the new information businesses, specifically the ones that track your every step in navigating the Internet, and analyze and market that information to others hoping to manipulate you. I'm not sure how far you can push this model: is it really that important? I suspect it may even be self-limiting.


Other recent books also noted without comment:

Ben S Bernanke/Timothy F Geithner/Henry M Paulson Jr: Firefighting: The Financial Crisis and Its Lessons (paperback, 2019, Penguin Books).

William J Burns: The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal (2019, Random House).

Tucker Carlson: Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018, Free Press).

Robert A Caro: Working (2019, Knopf).

Susan Faludi: In the Darkroom (2016, Metropolitan Books; paperback, 2017, Picador).

Henry Louis Gates Jr: Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (2019, Penguin Press).

Gary Giddins: Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years 1940-1946 (2018, Little Brown).

Jonah Goldberg: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy (2018, Crown Forum).

Max Hastings: Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 (2018, Harper).

Steven Johnson: Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most (2018, Riverhead Books).

Dan Kaufman: The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics (2018, WW Norton).

Yasmin Khan: India at War: The Subcontinent and the Second World War (2015, Oxford University Press).

Lawrence Lessig: America, Compromised (2018, University of Chicago Press).

Steve Luxenberg: Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson, and America's Journey From Slavery to Segregation (2019, WW Norton).

Anna Merlan: Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power (2019, Metropolitan Books).

Ashoka Mody: Euro Tragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts (2018, Oxford University Press).

Raghuram Rajan: The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind (2019, Penguin Press).

Jeffrey D Sachs: A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism (2018, Columbia University Press).

Darrel M West: Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era (2019, Brookings Institution Press).

Joan C Williams: White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (2017, Harvard Business Review Press).