Sunday, April 18, 2021


Book Roundup

I had quite a few tabs left open when I posted my April 4 Book Roundup. I wanted to tidy them up, so I kept writing and searching and writing some more. I also had a bunch of old blurbs left over -- some going back a couple years -- that I wanted to get rid of, so in short order I wound up with enough for another Book Roundup.

In putting this together, I found a bunch of books that I should have listed under my previous Josh Rogin (China-US rivalry) and Ned and Constance Sublette (slavery) entries, so added them as PS lists to the previous column (link above). The new China list is even longer than my original, and somewhat more varied, but doesn't generally go very far back into Chinese history. (Saving that for a future entry.)

Only book here I've even started to read is Russell Cobb's on Oklahoma. Seems like I'm falling ever farther behind, but at least this exercise moves some unknown-unknowns into known-unknowns.


Götz Aly: Europe Against the Jews: 1880-1945 (2020, Metropolitan Books): Not just the Nazis, but the broader historical context of anti-semitism in which the Nazis rose to power, found strategic allies as they expanded their power over Europe, and committed their genocide.

Michael Barone: How America's Political Parties Change (And How They Don't) (2019, Encounter Books): Long-time co-author of The Almanac of American Politics (25 editions since 1971) brings his considerable expertise to the question of whether Trump's 2016 election signaled a realignment of parties. Answer seems to be not much, but note: Barone appears to be solidly ensconced on the right end of the political spectrum.

David A Bell: Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Historical sketches of revolutionary leaders, most of whom let their charisma go to their heads, turning into despots: Pasquale Paoli, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Toussaint Louverture, and Simon Bolivar. (Washington was the exception, in that he twice walked away from power that was his for the taking.)

Jason Bisnoff: Fake Politics: How Corporate and Government Groups Create and Maintain a Monopoly on Truth (2019, Skyhorse). On how corporations and right-wing lobbyists fund protests to make it look like their special interests are clamored for by "grassroots" movements. Some cases covered here: "the tea party, oil industry, big tobacco, big data, and news media."

Mark Bittman: Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, From Sustainable to Suicidal (2021, Houghton Mifflin): As a cookbook author, he's tended toward the encyclopedia while trying to remain accessible -- e.g., How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food (1998). Here he's looking for something deeper: a global history of food, merged with a political tract about what we should be growing and eating now.

Russell Cobb: The Great Oklahoma Swindle: Race, Religion, and Lies in America's Weirdest State (2020, Bison Books). I spent a fair amount of time in Oklahoma when I was growing up, and two things struck me as especially weird: one is that every small town we stopped at had a Civil War cannon in the town square, even though Oklahoma wasn't part of the Confederacy, and didn't become a state until 1908; the other is that most of the people we knew there had stronger Southern accents than the people we knew from Arkansas. In the early 1800s Oklahoma was a dumping ground for Indians forced off their lands in the South. From the 1870s the US government started carving off chunks for settlers, nearly all of whom came from the South -- most whites who claimed the state for Dixie. By the 1920s Oklahoma had become reliably racist and Democratic, evolving in the 1970s to Republican. I've found that it shares a number of traits with New Hampshire, like collecting a lot of state revenues from badly maintained toll roads. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and Oklahoma has enough to fill a book -- perhaps this one. Also on Oklahoma:

  • Abandoned Atlas Foundation: Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State (paperback, 2021, America Through Time).
  • Sam Anderson: Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City . . . Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dreaming of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis (2018; paperback, 2019, Crown).
  • Landry Brewer: Cold War Oklahoma (paperback, 2019, The History Press).
  • Regina Daniel: Abandoned Picher, Oklahoma: The Most Toxic Town in America (paperback, 2019, America Through Time).
  • David Grann: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (2017, Doubleday; paperback, 2018, Simon & Schuster).
  • Eddie Jackson: Oklalusa: The Story of the Black State Movement in Oklahoma (paperback, 2020, independent).
  • Randy Krehbiel: Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre (2019, University of Oklahoma Press).
  • David L Payne: Tulsa's Black Wall Street: The Story of Greenwood (paperback, 2018, independent).

Jonathan Cohn: The Ten Year War: Obamacare and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage (2021, St Martin's Press): Major history of the passage of Obama's Affordable Care Act, its troubled implementation and aftermath as Republicans sought to repeal or at least sabotage the law. Cohn wrote one of the more important books on health care before ACA: Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis -- and the People Who Pay the Price (2007). He recapitulates that story in the first part, then reviews its passage and subsequent Republican attempts to repeal or at least sabotage. Although ACA made a bad situation a bit less worse, it also missed the point, which is that you can't get to universal coverage while requiring people to buy private insurance, and you can't manage the health care system sensibly while leaving it in the hands of profit-seeking intermediaries.

Mike Davis/Jon Wiener: Set the Night on Fire: LA in the Sixties (2020, Verso): Both authors have long histories of writing book about radical politics -- Wiener is best known for his work on John Lennon, but he also wrote Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Seven; Davis has a long bibliography, including two previous books on Los Angeles: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (1990), and Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster (1998). This covers the whole range of political upheaval in the 1960s, but much of it will be about racism and the civil rights struggle.

Abdul El-Sayed/Micah Johnson: Medicare for All: A Citizen's Guide (2021, Oxford University Press). The solution isn't going away, because the problem isn't going away. Sure, it's possible to improve Obamacare, but that's mostly by throwing money at it, as the system is designed to preserve the profits of a parasitic and unnecessary middle layer in every transaction. Still, that's not the worst problem with private insurance. More important is a guarantee that everyone is covered, and that everyone is taken care of equally. Consistency pays for itself in efficiency, and those savings can be converted to better care: more comprehensive, and more robust. More recent books on health care:

  • Timothy Faust: Health Justice Now: Single Payer and What Comes Next (paperback, 2019, Melville House).
  • Catherine Lutz/Andrea Mazzarino: War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (paperback, 2019, NYU Press).

Robert Gellately: Hitler's True Believers: How Ordinary People Became Nazis (2020, Oxford University Press): Seems like a fair question, but I doubt there's an easy or clear answer. It's not clear how many Germans supported how much of Hitler's program, or when, or why. I'm reminded of the characterization of conservative political thought as nothing but "irritable mental gestures." I suspect that the racism and anti-semitism that were central to Nazi ideology were taken as little else, until Hitler raised and legitimized them. More important were resentment over the Great War loss and reparations, which turned to pride as Hitler's renascent militarism seemed to cower the formerly victorious France and Britain. The result was that most Germans were fiercely loyal to Hitler until the end of the war, after which they discarded their Nazi heritage as quickly as possible. On the other hand, I suspect that Gellately will try to pin everything on ideology. After all, that was his tack in his previous book, Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War. Stalin's purges showed him to be pragmatic and cynical, with no consistent ideology. Other recent books on Nazi Germany, especially its origins and control:

  • Rüdiger Barth/Hauke Friederichs: The Last Winter of the Weimar Republic: The Rise of the Third Reich (2020, Pegasus Books).
  • Richard J Evans: The Hitler Conspiracies: The Protocols, The Stab in the Back, The Reichstag Fire, Rudolf Hess, the Escape From the Bunker (2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Peter Fritzsche: Hitler's First Hundred Days: When Germans Embraced the Third Reich (2020, Basic Books).
  • Carl Müller Frřland: Understanding Nazi Ideology: The Genesis and Impact of a Political Faith (paperback, 2020, McFarland).
  • Benjamin Carter Hett: The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic (2018; paperback, 2019, St Martin's Griffin).
  • Benjamin Carter Hett: The Nazi Menace: Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and the Road to War (2020, Henry Holt).
  • Florian Huber: Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself: The Downfall of Ordinary Germans, 1945 (2019, Allen Lane). Reports that at the end of the war, thousands of German committed suicide rather than face defeat (most famously Hitler himself).
  • Peter Ross Range: The Unfathomable Ascent: How Hitler Came to Power (2020, Little Brown).
  • Volker Ullrich: Hitler: Ascent: 1889-1939 (2016, Knopf; paperback, 2017, Vintage Books): Biography, 1008 pp.
  • Volker Ullrich: Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945 (2020, Knopf): More biography, 848 pp.

Jamal Greene: How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession With Rights Is Tearing America Apart (2021, Houghton Mifflin): Law professor, perhaps explaining his desire to nitpick, especially to object when judges decide "rights" trump conflicting interests. I'm reluctant to go along, seeing as how much progress over the last century has come from expanding the realm of personal rights. On the other hand, as the judiciary has been stocked with right-wing cadres, we're seeing novel claims of "rights" used for reactionary purposes (e.g., political spending is "free speech," and regulations are being stripped where they're in conflict with "religious choice").

Robert Harms: Land of Tears: The Exploration and Exploitation of Equatorial Africa (2019, Basic Books): Covers three decades from 1870 as western explorers (and exploiters) finally penetrated the Congo basin and East Africa, lands they had traded with through coastal intermediaries for centuries (not that the slave trade didn't have ramifications far inland). This was "the scramble for Africa," the period when European powers competed to fill in the maps of Africa with their colonial colors, while collecting ivory, rubber, and whatever else of value they could cart off.

Gregory B Jaczko: Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator (2019, Simon & Schuster): Political memoir of the one-time (2009-12) head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a time that includes the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Jaczko was one of the very few critics of nuclear power to ever get inside this "watchdog" agency -- his appointment was pushed by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) with the express agenda of opposing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository. He has since gone on to found "a clean energy development company," so it's fair to say that his rogue-ness has always been consistent with his incentives. That doesn't necessarily make him wrong, and he does offer a contrast to the much longer history of NRC chairs and members with long-standing interests in the nuclear power industry.

Adam Jentleson: Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy (2021, Liveright): They like to call it "the world's greatest deliberative body," but the main purpose of all that deliberation was to stall any sort of changes, but especially progressive reforms. The Senate has always been skewed against popular control, more check than balance, and that undemocratic bias has been locked in: in today's 50-50 Senate, Democrats represent 41 million more people than Republicans, but have the same number of votes. A big part of this is the filibuster, hence it looms large in this book, but there's more if you scratch deeper.

Marc C Johnson: Tuesday Night Massacre: Four Senate Elections and the Radicalization of the Republican Party (paperback, 2021, OUP): The election was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan took the presidency from Jimmy Carter, and the Republicans gained control of the Senate, in large part by purging well-known liberal Democrats Frank Church (ID), George McGovern (SD), John Culver (IA), and Birch Bayh (IN).

Tony Keddie: Republican Jesus: How the Right Has Rewritten the Gospels (2020, University of California Press): "Jesus loves borders, guns, unborn babies, and economic prosperity and hates homosexuality, taxes, welfare, and universal healthcare." Keddie, a historian of the early Christian period, cares to argue those "outrageous misreadings." I'm sure he's right, but care less, having long ago rejected a far more benign understanding of Christianity.

Charles R Kesler: Crisis of the Two Constitutions: The Rise, Decline, & Recovery of American Greatness (2021, Encounter Books): Editor of Claremont Review of Books, seems to be regarded as an actual thinker among pro-Trump conservatives. I read an interview with him, and gleaned no insights into his thinking, other than a muddle of dislikes and vague fears. He's even more evasive on the providing any substance for his sub-title: When was America great? Why isn't it now? How can it be great in the future? Or, simply, what the fuck does "great" mean in regard to nations?

Patrick Kingsley: The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis (2017, Liveright): British, writes for The Guardian. Details various stories of refugees struggling to flee dangers in Africa and the Middle East to reach asylum in Europe.

Elizabeth Kolbert: Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (2021, Crown): Geologic time is divided into epochs, with the recent ice ages dubbed the Pleistocene. The relatively short sliver of time since their retreat was simply "The Recent," but as we become aware of the extraordinary changes wrought by human beings, a new name has been gaining currency: Anthropocene. New Yorker writer Kolbert has written a number of essays on this, compiled into two important books: Field Notes From a Catastrophe and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. More essays, this time chronicling efforts to undo the thoughtless attack on nature through better thinking.

Bruce Levine: Thaddeus Stevens: Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter for Racial Justice (2021, Simon & Schuster): Abolitionist, politician, a leader of the "radical Republicans" and their push for "a second American revolution," advanced through the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, and the short-lived reconstruction of the defeated slave regime. Due for a revival as we finally shake those last Confederate cobwebs from our collective consciousness.

Benjamin Lorr: The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket (2020, Avery): Based on hundreds of interviews over five years into every facet of the product chain that winds up filling grocery store shelves, which is to say most of what we eat every day.

Rachel Maddow/Michael Yarvitz: Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House (2020, Crown): When Richard Nixon insisted "I am not a crook," he may well have been thinking of Spiro Agnew, his vice-president, figuring all things are relative. He did, at least, dispose of Agnew before handing in his own resignation -- a small favor, but a real one. Perhaps with Trump as president, now is a good time to be reminded of past instances of unsavory greed in or near the White House. However, I find it hard to see how the MSNBC broadcaster would have had time or inclination to write on a story so far from her established interests, so I wouldn't be surprise if this is really Yarvitz's book, with Maddow using her fame and notoreity to help peddle it.

Heather McGhee: The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (2021, One World): Attempts some kind of cost-benefit analysis of racism, which can be difficult because many of the costs are second- or third-degree effects. E.g., wouldn't we have a higher minimum wage, more public benefits, better health care, etc., if government activity that helps people equally wasn't disparaged by racists. Chapter 2 is called "Racism Drained the Pool." It starts with a discussion of infrastructure, which has been neglected because racism divides us, limiting public interest. McGhee travels around the country, sniffing out concrete examples. Fundamentally sound point.

Wesley Morgan: The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan's Pech Valley (2021, Random House): "Military affairs reporter," evidently knows which side his bread is buttered on, but can't quite sugar coat everything. Typical blurb: "captures the heroism, fear, and exultation of combat while laying out a damning portrait of military leaders who rushed into battle against an enemy they didn't understand and ultimately couldn't beat." Book covers 2002-17, with author first visiting Pech/Kunar in 2010. Despite all evidence to the contrary, embedded journalists cling to the belief that US troops mean well, and that they are somehow allaying an even worse fate. But they are the catastrophe.

Gary Saul Morson/Morton Schapiro: Minds Wide Shut: How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us (2021, Princeton University Press). Authors are literary scholars, which may be why they love to pick up a good cliché. On page 23, they write: "Fundamentalists are hedgehogs." They believe that literature teaches us to be foxes, even though novels are full of tragic hedgehogs. Isaiah Berlin's parable is famous enough it scarcely needs footnoting, but I wonder whether the authors haven't fallen into their own trap in siding with the foxes. Their argument turns on defining fundamentalism, which turns out to be a one-size-fits-all reduction of all sorts of disagreeable beliefs, ultimately defined by little more than the stubborn certainty with which they are held. I don't disagree that dialogue is preferable, but wonder whether insisting on it isn't another fundamentalism, one denying any core principles. As I've found that the denial of principles is itself one, I doubt their house of cards will stand. Authors also wrote:

  • Gary Saul Morson/Morton Schapiro: Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn From the Humanities (2017; paperback, 2018, Princeton University Press).

John Mueller: The Stupidity of War: American Foreign Policy and the Case for Complacency (2021, Cambridge University Press): I've been waiting for a book to back up this title, but I'd probably start with the balance sheet: it's impossible to win at war, or even anticipate the costs and consequences; even when you have something that looks like victory, it's likely to turn into a trap. As military operations, the US in Afghanistan and Iraq easily seized territory and set up compliant governments, but were unable to sustain control, settling into quagmires. History is full of examples, but focus on history risks obscuring how the equations have changed since the decline of colonial empires. Up through WWII, aggressive politicians could imagine gains from conquest, but with more and more people demanding independence and autonomy, the world has, in Jonathan Schell's phrase, become unconquerable. That should result in nations cutting back on their military expenses, and as that happens, there is ever less need for military defense. Early in the 20th century, there were diplomatic efforts to outlaw war and to promote disarmament. One would have expected such efforts to resume after the conflagration of WWII, but the US sought a different kind of world dominance, and to that end disguised its War Department as Defense, projecting power through a worldwide network of bases and "mutual defense pacts." True, the Soviet Union reciprocated, giving the US a "threat" to defend against, but when that "threat" ended, the US became if anything even more aggressive. Mueller argues that the US has systematically exaggerated threats ever since 1945. This has enabled a huge bureaucracy to accumulate an enormous arsenal to fend off imaginary threats -- something that would have been mere waste had it not buttressed an arrogant foreign policy which has itself provoked resistance and led to self-debilitating wars. He goes on to argue that "a policy of complacency and appeasement likely would have worked better." If the word "appeasement" sticks in your craw, it's because we've been indoctrinated for 75 years to think that the cause of WWII was not Hitler's madness (conditioned by centuries of European imperialism, and by the punitive sanctions placed on Germany after WWI) but Neville Chamberlain's "appeasement" to Hitler's pre-war demand for a slice of Czechoslovakia. Mueller could have picked less inflammatory words, but his point is apt. Most post-WWII conflicts could have been managed better with diplomacy and the promise of trade and development, and more safely without the peril of arms and annihilation. What I'd like to see is the US unwind its imperial posture through negotiations with the rest of the world. No nation really benefits from nuclear weapons, foreign bases, or cyberwarfare, so why not agree to eliminate them? And given that the US is far and away the world's greatest threat, why would other countries not agree to follow suit? If that seems like a dream, it's actually one that's more than 100 years old -- only the technology has changed, but the advent of machine guns, poison gas, and aerial bombing was already terrifying enough. But isn't the first step toward realizing that dream recognizing the stupidity of war?

Serhii Plokhy: Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missle Crisis (2021, WW Norton). Author teaches Ukrainian history at Harvard, so don't expect him to be a Krushchev fan, but he's had the luxury of sifting through recently opened Soviet archives, which offer a broader perspective than the usual American take on the 1962 crisis -- usually presented as hagiography, a tribute to John F Kennedy's steely resolve and cool reason. It seems more likely that all three leaders (also Fidel Castro) had their blind spots, misapprehensions, and rash tempers, which contributed to the peril as well as its resolution.

Serhii Plokhy: The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union (paperback, 2015, Basic Books): I've likened the end of the Soviet Union to a wrestling match where one fighter collapses with a heart attack, and the other seizes the opportunity to pounce on his disabled opponent and claim victory. That isn't Plokhy's metaphor, but he cites a "victory" speech by GWH Bush the day after Gorbachev resigned that illustrates it perfectly. Plokhii attributes the end mostly to the growing independence movements (especially in Ukraine and Russia, which was Boris Yeltsin's power base), having little to do with US pressure (which if anything was paralyzed by fear and misunderstanding).

Varshini Prakash/Guido Girgenti, eds: Winning the Green New Deal: Why We Must, How We Can (paperback, 2020, Simon & Schuster). Sixteen essays on various aspects and arguments, written before the 2020 election. Biden campaigned in the primaries against GND, but offers a subset in his big infrastructure bill and his newfound climate focus, along with jobs support -- the New Deal part of GND. As long as you combine more sustainable energy policy with economic support to minimize the effects of dislocations, it doesn't matter what you call it. Some recent Green New Deal (and climate-related) books:

  • Max Ajl: A People's Green New Deal (paperback, 2021, Pluto Press). [05-20]
  • Kate Aronoff: Over Heated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet -- and How We Fight Back (2021, Bold Type Books). [04-20]
  • Noam Chomsky/Robert Pollin: Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal (paperback, 2020, Verso).
  • Stan Cox: The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can (paperback, 2020, City Lights).
  • Ronnie Cummins: Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food, and a Green New Deal (paperback, 2020, Chelsea Green).
  • Robert C Hockett: Financing the Green New Deal: A Plan of Action and Renewal (paperback, 2020, Palgrave Macmillan).
  • Ayana Elizabeth Johnson/Katharine K Wilkinson, eds: All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (2020, One World).
  • Michael E Mann: The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet (2021, PublicAffairs).
  • Marc Morano: Green Fraud: Why the Green New Deal Is Even Worse Than You Think (2021, Regnery): Previously wrote The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change. Attacks "this Marxist plan masquerading as environmental policy," arguing that it's really "about controlling every aspect of American lives and implementing broad, socialist policies."

Dennis C Rasmussen: Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders (2021, Princeton University Press): We tend to blindly celebrate the wisdom of the American Republic's founders, but this points out most of them soon had misgivings. This focuses on Washington (rued "the rise of partisanship"), Hamilton ("felt that the federal government was too weak"), Adams ("believed the people lacked civic virtue"), and Jefferson (bemoaned "sectional divisions laid bare by the spread of slavery"). Also discusses the exception to the rule: James Madison.

Eric Rauchway: Why the New Deal Matters (2021, Yale University Press): Historian, previously wrote the even briefer The Great Depression & the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction (160 pp vs 232 here), as well as more detailed monographs on the same period. One thing that seems strange in retrospect was how little we were taught about Franklin Roosevelt during my childhood (1955-67), especially compared to the way Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (especially) Lincoln were lionized after less epochal presidencies. (Republicans have since given Reagan the same treatment, to somewhat lesser effect).

Touré F Reed: Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism (paperback, 2020, Verso): Not obvious to me what "race reductionism" means -- perhaps the single-minded focus on one factor (in this case, race) to the exclusion of all others. "Reed argues that Afro-Americans' quest for freedom has been most successful when a common-good, rather than identity-group, strategy has determined tactics and alliances." If that's all the point is, sure.

Lawrence Rosenthal: Empire of Resentment: Populism's Toxic Embrace of Nationalism (2020, New Press): Missed this in last autumn's survey of Trump books, possibly because it aspires to greater generalities. Like fellow Kansan Thomas Frank, I've never accepted the notion that Trump had any connection to populism, but if you do buy the link, the real question is why did "populists" choose to align themselves with conservatives, whose real agenda is simply the preservation of a hierarchy defined principally by wealth. Conservatives have long tried to broaden their base by capturing nationalist and religious fancies, so if "populists" accept the rightful rule of the rich, of course they're going to pick up the extra baggage -- which in America is laced with racism and gun fetishism.

Guy Smith: Guns and Control: A Nonpartisan Guide to Understanding Mass Public Shootings, Gun Accidents, Crime, Public Carry, Suicides, Defensive Use, and More (2020, Skyhorse). Founder, Gun Facts Project ("We are neither pro-gun nor anti-gun. We are pro-math and anti-BS"). Despite this "nonpartisan" angle, note that the NRA has been especially vigilant about preventing any statistical survey and analysis of gun incidents. By the way, an Amazon search for "gun control" yields many more pro-gun books than anti-, starting with two books by Stephen P Halbrook crying over Gun Control in the Third Reich and Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, John R Lott Jr's many books, like the clearly unsound More Guns Less Crime -- a rationale that can only be justified by excluding overwhelming evidence. Also: Stalked and Defenseless: How Gun Control Helped My Stalker Murder My Husband in Front of Me. Some recent, less obviously ridiculous books on guns:

  • Carol Anderson: The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America (2021, Bloomsbury). [06-01]
  • William Briggs: How America Got Its Guns: A History of the Gun Violence Crisis (paperback, 2017, University of New Mexico Press).
  • Donald J Campbell: America's Gun Wars: A Cultural History of Gun Control in the United States (2019, Praeger).
  • Tom Frame: Gun Control: What Australia Got Right (and Wrong) (paperback, 2019, University of New South Wales Press).
  • Ioan Grillo: Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels (2021, Bloomsbury).
  • Dennis A Henigan: "Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People": And Other Myths About Guns and Gun Control (paperback, 2016, Beacon Press).
  • Matthew J Lacombe: Firepower: How the NRA Turned Gun Owners Into a Political Force (2021, Princeton University Press).
  • Chris Murphy: The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy (2020, Random House): US Senator (D-CT).
  • Frank Smyth: The NRA: The Unauthorized History (2020, Flatiron Books).
  • Robert J Spitzer: Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights (2015; paperback, 2017, Oxford University Press).
  • Igor Volsky: Guns Down: How to Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future With Fewer Guns (2019, New Press).

Daniel Susskind: A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond (2020, Metropolitan Books): Oxford economist, sees the future and thinks, hey, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm sympathetic to that point of view, but understand that to make it work you have to have a public support network that eases the transitions, and that provides support for people unable to make them. I've had two careers that were pretty much ended by technology shifts, which to some extent I nudged forward. I always figured that the more of my work that could be automated, the more I could do new things -- and that's pretty much how it worked out, although not necessarily to my profit. So I think this will be an increasingly important subject. At least, unless we get wiped out by stupid shit in the meantime. Related, which leads to post-scarcity economics and postcapitalism:

  • Aaron Bastani: Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto (paperback, 2020, Verso).
  • Aaron Benanav: Automation and the Future of Work (2020, Verso).
  • Manu Saadia: Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek (2016, Pipertext).
  • Rick Webb: The Economics of Star Trek: The Proto-Post-Scarcity Economy (revised edition, paperback, 2019, independent).

Frederick Taylor: 1939: A People's History of the Coming of the Second World War (2020, WW Norton): This starts with September 1938, as Hitler starts to make aggressive moves east, and follows the diplomacy until it becomes purely military. Also on the War:

  • Judy Batalion: The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos (2021, William Morrow).
  • Tim Bouverie: Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War (2019, Tim Duggan Books).
  • Paul Dickson: The Rise of the GI Army, 1940-1941: The Forgotten Story of How America Forged a Powerful Army Before Pearl Harbor (2020, Atlantic Monthly Press).
  • Richard B Frank: Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War: July 1937-May 1942 (2020; paperback, 2021, WW Norton).
  • John Gooch: Mussolini's War: Fascist Italy From Triumph to Collapse: 1935-1943 (2020, Pegasus Books).
  • Gershom Gorenberg: War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis From the Middle East (2021, PublicAffairs).
  • Erik Larson: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (2020, Crown).
  • Sean McMeekin: Stalin's War: A New History of World War II (2021, Basic Books): 864 pp.
  • Takuma Melber: Pearl Harbor: Japan's Attack and America's Entry Into World War II (2020, Polity).
  • Roger Moorhouse: Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II (2020, Basic Books).
  • Andrew Nagorski: 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War (2019, Simon & Schuster).
  • Adrian Phillips: Fighting Churchill, Appeasing Hitler: Neville Chamberlain, Sir Horace Wilson, & Britain's Plight of Appeasement: 1937-1939 (2019, Pegasus).

Larry Tye: Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy (2020, Houghton Mifflin): Big (608 pp) biography of the Wisconsin Republican Senator, whose name is synonymous with red baiting. His fall, after extending his slanders to the Army, was so precipitous that McCarthyism is remembered as an abomination, even by those following in his footsteps -- e.g., Donald Trump, whose early mentor was McCarthy's own counsel, Roy Cohn.

Clive Thompson: Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World (2019, Penguin Press): A fairly breezy survey of the art and history of software engineering, from ENIAC to (or past) Facebook. Having made a decent living at this for over 20 years, this is comfortable turf for me, the more nuts and bolts the better.

Dietrich Vollrath: Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success (2020, University of Chicago Press): Argues "our current slowdown is, in fact, a sign of our widespread economic success. Our powerful economy has already supplied so much of the necessary stuff of modern life, brought us so much comfort, security, and luxury, that we have turned to new forms of production and consumption that increase our well-being but do not contribute to growth in GDP." This argument may not be so unconventional, as it is suggested by Robert J Gordon: The Rise and Fall of American Growth, who shows that reduced growth after 1970 is connected to a shift in consumption factors, and James Galbraith: The End of Normal. This focuses on America, but when I first read the title I thought first of Japan: economists have complained about slack growth there since 1990, but the standard of living seems stable. This makes me wonder if the left shouldn't focus more on safety net and risk issues, as opposed to wage increases (unions and minimum wage). Longer term, this is good news, as infinite growth was never going to happen anyway. Also that political strategies based on shared growth aren't going to work. In fact, I believe businessfolk realized this around 1970, when growth rates started to drop significantly. From that point, the only way they could satisfy their own growth expectations was to take more from the rest of us, which is what they've been doing for 50 years now.

Jia Lynn Yang: One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 (2020, WW Norton): In 1924, Congress passed a law restricting immigration by imposing national quotas, which discriminated against recent waves of immigrants from south-and-eastern Europe (as well as previously restricted Africa and Asia). In 1965, the quota system was repealed, allowing immigration to expand with demand. More focus on how immigration got opened up than how it got shut down, including bits on the author's parents.


Other recent books of interest, barely noted (I may write more on some of these later):

Scott Anderson: The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War -- A Tragedy in Three Acts (2020, Doubleday).

Nicholas Aschoff: The New Prophets of Capital (paperback, 2015, Verso): Critiques of Sheryl Sandberg, John Mackey, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill & Melinda Gates.

Joel Bakan: The New Corporation: How "Good" Corporations Are Bad for Democracy (paperback, 2020, Knopf): Effectively an update to Bakan's 2005 book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power.

Charles M Blow: The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto (2021, Harper).

Lynne Cheney: The Virginia Dynasty: Four Presidents and the Creation of the American Nation (2020, Viking).

Marie Favereau: The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World (2021, Belknap Press).

Steve Fraser: Mongrel Firebugs and Men of Property: Capitalism and Class Conflict in American History (paperback, 2019, Verso).

Timothy Frye: Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin's Russia (2021, Princeton University Press).

Eddie S Glaude Jr: Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own (2020, Crown).

Glenn Greenwald: Securing Democracy: My Fight for Press Freedom and Justice in Bolsonaro's Brazil (2021, Haymarket Books).

Eliza Griswold: Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux; paperback, 2019, Picador Books): Won Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Peter Guralnick: Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing (2020, Little Brown).

Tom Holland: Dominion: How the Christian Rvolution Remade the World (2019; paperback, 2021, Basic Books).

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling: A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (2020, PublicAffairs).

John B Judis: The Socialist Awakening: What's Different Now About the Left (paperback, 2020, Columbia Global Reports).

Fred Kaplan: The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War (2020, Simon & Schuster).

Robert D Kaplan: The Good American: The Epic Life of Bob Gersony, the US Government's Greatest Humanitarian (2021, Random House).

Alexander Keyssar: Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? (2020, Harvard University Press).

Susan W Kieffer: The Dynamics of Disaster (2013; paperback, 2014, WW Norton).

Ümit Kurt: The Armenians of Aintab: The Economics of Genocide in an Ottoman Province (2021, Harvard University Press).

Victoria Law: "Prisons Make Us Safer": And 20 Other Myths About Mass Incarceration

Edward N Luttwak: Coup D'État: A Practial Handbook (1968; revised, paperback, 2016, Harvard University Press).

Charlton D McIlwain: Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter (2019, ).

Alexander Mikaberidze: The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History (2020, Oxford University Press): 960 pp.

Thant Myint-U: The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century (2019; paperback, 2021, WW Norton).

Tom Nichols: The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters (2017; paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).

Susan Page: Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power (2021, Twelve).

Jeremy D Popkin: A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution (2019, Basic Books).

Eric A Posner/E Glen Weyl: Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society (2018, Princeton University Press).

Michael Provence: The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East (paperback, 2017, Cambridge University Press).

Thomas E Ricks: First Principles: What America's Founders Learned From the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country (2020, Harper).

Ritchie Robertson: The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790 (2021, Harper): Big (1008 pp).

Martin Sandbu: The Economics of Belonging: A Radical Plan to Win Back the Left Behind and Achieve Prosperity for All (2020, Princeton University Press).

James Shapiro: Shakespeare in a Divided Ameria: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future (paperback, 2021, Penguin Books).

David O Stewart: George Washington: The Political Rise of America's Founding Father (2021, Dutton).

Cass R Sunstein: This Is Not Normal: The Politics of Everyday Expectations (2021, Yale University Press): Essay collection.

Hadas Thier: A People's Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics (paperback, 2020, Haymarket Books).

Karen Tumulty: The Triumph of Nancy Reagan (2021, Simon & Schuster): 672 pp.

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