Book* [0 - 9]

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Book Roundup

I've been doing these book roundups almost as long as I've been blogging. I've long held to the idea that the state of human knowledge is realized in books -- newspapers and magazines, and the less literary forms that proliferate on the internet may be ok for "first drafts," but to be taken seriously, one needs to put it into a more permanent format, secured both by and for time. So my idea here is to spend a few days looking around to see what's new or recent (or in some cases just new to me), then write up some notes, usually from reading blurbs and customer comments, often by looking at samples, and in very rare cases by actually reading the book.

This process often results in me buying and reading more books, but in most cases I figure the research itself is sufficient. There is an element of consumer guidance here, as I hope these lists will help you decide what to read (and what to skip), to the extent our interests intersect. Nearly everything below comes from history, philosophy, and/or social science (including economics), but especially where politics are involved. Those have been my dominant interests going back to the mid-1960s, and almost exclusively since 2000, when I lost my job as a software engineer and found myself with a lot of free time (mostly thanks to a hard-working and politically astute wife). Occasionally some other interest will sneak in -- I write a lot about music but don't read much, at least in book form; before 2000, I read a lot of popular science (making up ground for my lack of formal education) and business management (I kept on top of what my bosses were thinking), but even then I rarely read fiction, and see no way I can survey it now.

The format of late has been to do short blurbs for a batch of forty books each post, followed by a list of other things I felt like noting but not saying much about. I often wound up tacking "related" lists onto the top-forty, so that section started to sprawl. Last time (Sept. 23, 2023) I decided to contain the sprawl, and hopefully expedite the schedule, by cutting the top section down to 30, promising to drop down to 20 next time -- the hope there was to get posts out in a more timely fashion. But since I didn't, I figured I'd shoot for 30 this time, then upped it to 40, then added in a few more I figured were done enough to move out of the drafts file (where a couple hundred more rough drafts and briefly noted remain).

Pictures are books listed below that made it to my Recent Reading list (also including books I've ordered but haven't gotten into yet):

  • Ned Blackhawk: The Rediscovery of America
  • Linda Dittmar: Tracing Homelands
  • Leah Hunt-Hendrix/Astra Taylor: Solidarity
  • John B Judis/Ruy Teixeira: Where Have All the Democrats Gone?
  • Steven Kahn: Illiberal America
  • Shaul Magid: The Necessity of Exile
  • Tricia Romano: The Freaks Came Out to Write
  • Timothy Shenk: Realigners
  • Richard Slotkin: A Great Disorder

Here are 40+ more/less recent books of interest in politics, the social sciences, and history, with occasional side trips, and supplementary lists to group related titles:

Daron Acemoglu/Simon Johnson: Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity (2023, PublicAffairs): Acemoglu is an economist who does big picture studies of "the historical origins of prosperity, poverty, and the effects of new technologies on economic growth, employment, and inequality," often emphasizing the role of institutions (or their absence or shortcomings), as in two previous books with James Robinson: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (2012), and The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty (2019). Johnson is also an economist, formerly chief at the IMF, who with James Kwak wrote a bestseller, 13 Bankers (2010), about the 2008 financial meltdown. I tend to be skeptical of writers trying to work at this level, but the authors do seem to understand not just that technology is a powerful driving force, but that exactly where it takes us is subject to political choice -- if, that is, we have any choice in the matter. They open with a quote from Norbert Wiener (1949): "If we combine our machine-potentials of a factory with the valuation of human beings on which our present factory system is based, we are in for an industrial revolution of unmitigated cruelty. We must be willing to deal in facts rather than in fashionable ideologies if we wish to get through this period unharmed." I would suggest working on that second sentence a bit more, as facts are rarely recognized except through a haze of ideology, and what's fashionable often diverges from what one really needs.

Elliot Ackerman: The Fifth Act: America's End in Afghanistan (2022, Penguin): Former Marine, five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, worked for CIA, has written several well-regarded novels, returned for the end and didn't like what he saw. This is much touted as a powerful work that is critical of all US administrations -- bear in mind that's not exactly the same thing as critical of the war they created -- but it strikes me as impossible for someone so deeply embedded to be able to see much beyond the battle lines.

  • Adam Wunische: Unwinnable Wars: Afghanistan and the Future of American Armed Statebuilding (paperback, 2024, Polity). Author has a long history as a military and CIA analyst, but also did some research at Quincy Institute, and admits that "armed statebuilding is overdetermined for failure."
  • Séamus Ó Fianghusa (Fennessy): The Pullout Sellout: The Betrayal of Afghanistan and America's 9/11 Legacy (paperback, 2021, Im Úr Blasta).

Tim Alberta: The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelism in an Age of Extremism (2023, Harper): Shows how American evangelicals have embraced right-wing politics under the guise of Christian Nationalism, seeing Donald Trump as their savior and redeemer, through which God might bring the nation back to its intended state of grace. It's a very heady mix, ominous to anyone who just wants to get along in an increasingly complex and diverse society. Some related books (including some pushback):

  • Anthea Butler: White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America (2021, The University of North Carolina Press).
  • Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity (2020, Broadleaf Books).
  • Jack Jenkins: American Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country (2020; paperback, 2021, Harper One).
  • Kristin Kobes Du Mez: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (2020; paperback, 2021, Liveright).
  • Robert P Jones: The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future (2023, Simon & Schuster).
  • Sarah McCammon: The Exvangelicals: Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church (2024, St Martin's Press).
  • Elizabeth Neumann: Kingdom of Rage: The Rise of Christian Extremism and the Path Back to Peace (2024, Worthy Books).
  • Bradley Onishi: Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism -- and What Comes Next (2023, Broadleaf Books).
  • Jim Wallis: The False White Gospel: Rejecting Christian Nationalism, Reclaiming True Faith, and Refounding Democracy (2024, St Martin's Essentials).
  • NT Wright/Michael F Bird: Jesus and the Powers: Christian Political Witness in an Age of Totalitarian Terror and Dysfunctional Democracies (paperback, 2024, Zondervan).

Eric Alterman: We Are Not One: A History of America's Fight Over Israel (2022, Basic Books): "This book is a history of the debate over Israel in the United States." But has there really been a debate? I suspect that much in this book will come as news even to the American Jews and Evangelicals (presumably the subject of the chapter "Alliance for Armageddon") who most reflexively and vehemently cheer Israel. The "special relationship" of America for Israel -- an affection that is welcomed by Israelis but clearly not reciprocated -- desperately needs to be reexamined in light of the instant and unblinking rallying of virtually the entire American political class when Israel set on its course of genocide against Gaza.

Isaac Arnsdorf: Finish What We Started: The MAGA Movement's Ground War to End Democracy (2024, Little Brown): There is a large and growing shelf of books lamenting various threats to democracy (some of which I'll tack on here), but few get specific to the threat, even though their greatest fears are clearly articulated at every Trump rally. The problem is not some abstract threat to the cherished concept of democracy, but a specific political movement which seeks to seize power, by any means at its disposal, and to use that power to punish its enemies and to perpetuate itself. More books on various aspects of this:

  • Ari Berman: Minority Rule: The Right-Wing Attack on the Will of the People -- and the Fight to Resist It (2024, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Joan Donovan/Emily Dreyfuss/Brian Friedberg: Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America (2022, Bloomsbury): Investigates how the right wing has weaponized social media, especially in their reduction of political argument to memes, where meaning is often reduced to tribal identity.
  • James Davison Hunter: Democracy and Solidarity: On the Cultural Roots of America's Political Crisis (2024, Yale University Press): Keywords fit here and/or under solidarity, but aims at deeper study of social mechanics rather than some activist agenda.
  • Robert Kagan: Rebellion: How Antiliberalism Is Tearing America Apart -- Again (2024, Knopf).
  • Steve Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt: Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point (2023, Crown). Authors of How Democracies Die (2018).
  • Barbara McQuade: Attack From Within: How Disinformation Is Sabotaging America (2024, Seven Stories Press).
  • David Neiwert: Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us (2020, Prometheus).
  • David Neiwert: The Age of Insurrection: The Radical Right's Assault on American Democracy (2023, Melville House).
  • Tom Nichols: Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault From Within on Modern Democracy (2021, Oxford University Press): Professor at US Naval War College.
  • David Pepper: Saving Democracy: A User's Manual for Every American (2023, St Helena Press).
  • Brynn Tannehill: American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy (2021, Transgress Press).
  • Miles Taylor: Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy From the Next Trump (2023, Atria Books): The "senior Trump administration official" who published A Warning in 2019. Most of us worry more about This Trump.

Walter Benjamin: Radio Benjamin (paperback, 2021, Verso): Famous German literary critic (1892-1940), wrote and presented radio programs from 1927-33, bringing his insights and curiosity to the new medium. This gathers the surviving transcripts from his programs (424 pp).

Lauren Benton: They Called It Peace: Worlds of Imperial Violence (2024, Princeton University Press): Blurb suggests an alternate sub: "A sweeping account of how small wars shaped global order in the age of empires." "Small wars" is a term Max Boot popularized to describe conflicts where the US -- and Europe has many more examples -- attacked some relatively defenseless enclave, for plunder or punishment or sometimes it would seem simply for sport (as they sometimes put it: "butcher and bolt"). This offers a brief (304 pp) history of the violence committed in the name of empire: Chapter 1 is "From Small Wars to Atrocity in Empires." "Peace" is rarely more than post-facto rationalization, and more often than not dissolves into resistance and revolt, which has its own "small war" etymology ("guerilla warfare"). Benton has written a fair amount about empire:

  • Lauren A Benton: Invisible Factories: The Informal Economy and Industrial Development in Spain (1990, SUNY Press).
  • Lauren Benton: Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900 (2002; paperback, 2009, Cambridge University Press).
  • Lauren Benton: A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900 (paperback, 2009, Cambridge University Press).
  • Lauren Benton/Richard J Ross, eds: Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850 (paperback, 2013, NYU Press).
  • Lauren Benton/Lisa Ford: Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (2016; paperback, 2018, Harvard University Press).
  • Lauren Benton/Bain Atwood/Adam Clulow, eds: Protection and Empire: A Global History (2017; paperback, 2018, Cambridge University Press).
  • Lauren Benton/Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, eds: A World at Sea: Maritime Practices and Global History (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).

Vincent Bevins: If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution (2023, PublicAffairs): Journalist, has written for Washington Post and Financial Times [London], covering South America and Southeast Asia, has a previous book on the mass murder of leftists in Indonesia (The Jakarrta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World). Major insight here is that the 2010s were a decade with massive protests all around the world -- Arab Spring, Turkey, Ukraine, Chile, Hong Kong are among the more famous -- that resulted in very little real change. The reasonable conclusion would be that the underlying problems are still festering, temporarily held in check by repressive measures that are likely to fail. Related:

  • Mark Engler/Paul Engler: This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century (2016; paperback, 2017, Bold Type).
  • Nadav Eyal: Revolt: The Worldwide Uprising Against Globalization (2021, Ecco; paperback, 2022, Picador).
  • Jade Saab: A Region in Revolt: Mapping the Recent Uprisings in North Africa and West Asia (paperback, 2020, Daraja Press).

Rachael Bitecofer: Hit 'Em Where It Hurts: How to Save Democracy by Beating Republicans at Their Own Game (2024, Crown). Democrats sorely need a hard-hitting political strategy book, which is what this one promises. Still, the two political parties are in many respects asymmetrical, and as such require different positions and therefore tactics. Democrats need to be able to solve problems and offer tangible returns to voters, where Republicans seem to be able to thrive on emotional appeals that only lead to counterproductive policies. Democrats need to be able to raise money, but cannot afford to be seen as corrupt, and need to garner massive support from voters who have little or no money to give. Still, Democrats need to be able to deliver at least some of the emotional satisfaction people seem to get from Republicans. One way to do that is to get nastier: to show that Republicans are crooked and deceitful and generally full of shit. Which really shouldn't be that hard for the party that believes in science, in reason, in truth, and in honest public service. More on the state of the Democrats:

  • Joshua Green: The Rebels: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the Struggle for a New American Politics (2024, Penguin Press). Green previously reported on the Republicans in Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency (2017).
  • Ryan Grim: The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution (2023, Henry Holt).
  • John B Judis/Ruy Teixeira: Where Have All the Democrats Gone? The Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes (2023, Henry Holt): The guys who promised you an "emerging Democratic majority" now promise you . . . more heartbreak.
  • Lainey Newman/Theda Skocpol: Rust Belt Union Blues: Why Working-Class Voters Are Turning Away From the Democratic Party (2023, Columbia University Press).
  • Hunter Walker/Luppe B Juppen: The Truce: Progressives, Centrists, and the Future of the Democratic Party (2024, WW Norton).

Ned Blackhawk: The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of US History (2023, Yale University Press): A prize-winning revision of American history turning on relations with the continent's native population, from the first Spanish encounters to the "Cold War Era." This story has most often been brushed aside in large-scale historical studies, but has a lot to say about what kind of people we were, and what kind we have become. Also:

  • Kathleen DuVal: Native Nations: A Millennium in North America (2024, Random House): Big book (752 pp), vast scope.

Andy Borowitz: Profiles in Ignorance: How America's Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber (2022, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster): Satirist, for years now has paddled desperately trying to stay ahead of reality, but succumbs here, writing about "The Three Stages of Ignorance." Or, as he explains: "Over the past fifty years, what some of our most prominent politicians didn't know could fill a book. This is that book."

Daniel Boyarin: The No-State Solution: A Jewish Manifesto (2023, Yale University Press): A professor of Talmudic Studies, the author tries to reconcile the justice sought by his religion with the power sought by the Israeli state, and cannot, leading him to reject the state, and to reexamine the "Jewish question" that some of his co-religionists tried to solve with Zionism. Also on Zionism and its discontents:

  • Noah Feldman: To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People (2024, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Geoffrey Levin: Our Palestine Question: Israel and American Jewish Dissent, 1948-1978 (2023, Yale University Press).
  • Shaul Magid: The Necessity of Exile: Essays From a Distance (paperback, 2023, Ayin Press).
  • Atalia Omer: Days of Awe: Reimagining Jewishness in Solidarity With Palestinians (paperback, 2019, University of Chicago Press).
  • Derek J Penslar: Zionism: An Emotional State (paperback, 2023, Rutgers University Press).
  • Rebecca Vilkomerson/Alissa Wise: Solidarity Is the Political Version of Love: Lessons From Jewish Anti-Zionist Organizing (paperback, 2024, Haymarket Books). [09-03]

Steve Coll: The Achilles Trap: Saddam Hussein, the C.I.A., and the Origins of America's Invasion of Iraq (2024, Penguin Press): He wrote the primary book on America in Afghanistan -- Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden: From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004), which was eventually given a sequel in Directorate 6: The CIA and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2018) -- as well as major side projects on the Bin Ladens and Exxon-Mobil. This, like Ghost Wars, starts in 1979, and ends in 2003 -- as the Bush invasion of Iraq was as definitive a break as the 9/11 pivot from clandestine mischief to assertion of global power, and every bit as misguided.

Matthew Desmond: Poverty, by America (2023, Crown): Asks why, and concludes that people in power like it this way. It's not an obvious choice, but in a political system where power is largely determined by money, it shouldn't be surprising to find that money is largely determined by power. As Desmond notes, "poverty isn't simply the condition of not having enough money. It's the condition of not having enough choice." Author previously wrote Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), specifically about Milwaukee. A few more books relating to poverty:

  • Kevin F Adler/Donald W Burnes: When We Walk By: Forgotten Humanity, Broken Systems, and the Role We Can Each Play in Ending Homelessness in America (paperback, 2023, North Atlantic Books).
  • Kathryn J Edin/H Luke Schaefer/Timothy J Nelson: The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America (2023, Mariner Books).
  • Joanne Samuel Goldblum/Colleen Shaddox: Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending US Poverty (2021, BenBella Books).
  • Tracie McMillan: The White Bonus: Five Families and the Cash Value of Racism in America (2024, Henry Holt).
  • Mark Robert Rank/Lawrence M Eppard/Heather E Bullock: Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong About Poverty (2021, Oxford University Press).

Bruce Gilley: In Defense of German Colonialism: And How Its Critics Empower Nazis, Communists, and the Enemies of the West (2022, Regnery): It's rather shocking that anyone could come up with a whole book of rationalizations for Germany's pre-WWI colonial empire, which is mostly remembered for its genocide of the Herero in what's now called Namibia. (But I suppose the publisher tells you what you need to know about the author.) Also in this vein:

  • Bruce Gilley: The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns's Epic Defense of the British Empire (2021, Regnery).
  • Jeff Flynn-Paul: Not Stolen: The Truth About European Colonialism in the New World (paperback, 2023, Bombardier Books): Argues that colonialism was a blessing, that all of the "shameful sins and crimes against humanity" you've read about never happened, and the true story "is more inspiring than you ever dared to imagine."

Steven Hahn: Illiberal America: A History (2024, WW Norton): A thematic review of all of American history, the theme being the impulses and forces that have always risen to threaten and often to thwart the liberal ideals Americans have celebrated, but rarely lived up to. Little distinguishes illiberalism from the more often self-proclaimed conservatism, except that it expresses not just a fondness for order but the willingness to enforce it through violence. As thematic history, I suspect this winds up fairly closely tracking Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics -- illiberalism by yet another name. Other books by Hahn:

  • Steven Hahn: The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry (1983; updated paperback, 2006, Oxford University Press).
  • Steven Hahn: A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South From Slavery to the Great Migration (2003; paperback, 2005, Belknap Press).
  • Steven Hahn: The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom (2009, Harvard University Press).
  • Steven Hahn: A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830-1910 (2016, Viking; paperback, 2017, Penguin Books).

Jonathan Haidt: The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness (2024, Penguin Press): Degree in social psychology, teaches "ethical leadership" in NYU's Stern School of Business, a conservative intellectual who can't quite be dismissed out of hand, although I find it pretty likely that much of what looks like "mental illness" to conservatives is simply stuff they don't understand. This pairs with:

  • Greg Lukianoff/Rikki Schlott: The Canceling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All -- but There is a Solution (2023, Simon & Schuster): Foreword by Jonathan Haidt, who co-wrote The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. No doubt this ignores the basic paradox, which is that while conservatives do the most complaining about "cancel culture," they're also the ones doing most of the cancelling.

Jacob Heilbrunn: America Last: The Right's Century-Long Romance With Foreign Dictators (2024, Liveright): Journalist, has a previous book, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons (2008), actually goes back a bit farther than the rise of Mussollini (third chapter; first is "Courting Kauiser Wilhelm"), winds up with Trump (of course), but in a short book he probably glosses over a lot of obvious subjects (e.g., whole books have been written about Pinochet and Friedman).

Dara Horn: People Love Dead Jews: Reports From a Haunted Present (2021; paperback, 2022, WW Norton): A novelist of some note, writes about the state and legacy of antisemitism in America (and elsewhere?), recalling Shakespeare's Shylock and Anne Frank and "the Jewish history of Harbin, China" and, no doubt, much more. Which is bound to be disturbing on some level, but exactly how cannot be known except to looking deeper into the details and nuances. That could be interesting, but hardly seems important compared to the ongoing genocide in Gaza, on top of the broader and deeper discrimination against non-Jews in Israel, which is not only fueled by the same kinds of prejudices that have been used against Jews for ages, but is also fortified by internalizing the sort of tales of victimhood Horn engages in. Also on antisemitism (and Holocaust remembrance, the trump card in the eternal victimization story):

  • David Baddiel: Jews Don't Count (2021, TLS Books): Short (144 pp), argues antisemitism is overlooked or underappreciated.
  • Omer Bartov: Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz (2018; paperback, 2019, Simon & Schuster): In Nazi-occupied Ukraine.
  • Omer Bartov: Genocide, the Holocaust and Israel-Palestine: First-Person History in Times of Crisis (paperback, 2023, Bloomsbury).
  • Jószef Debreczeni: Cold Crematorium: Reporting From the Land of Auschwitz (2024, St Martin's Press).
  • Susan J Eischeid: Mistress of Life and Death: The Dark Journey of Maria Mandl, Head Overseer of the Women's Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau (2023, Citadel).
  • Cary Nelson: Israel Denial: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, & the Faculty Campaign Against the Jewish State (paperback, 2019, Indiana University Press).
  • Dan Stone: The Holocaust: An Unfinished History (2024, Mariner Books).
  • Bari Weiss: How to Fight Anti-Semitism (2019; paperback, 2021, Crown).

Leah Hunt-Hendrix/Astra Taylor: Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea (2024, Pantheon): Liberals and leftists may share common beliefs in principles and rights, but there is an essential difference: liberals celebrate individuals, while the left sees groups, acting together, bound by solidarity, a sense not just that interests are shared but that only collective action can secure them. Not long ago, Thomas Geoghegan made a big point on how solidarity was what distinguishes the labor movement from liberalism in America, and how alien the former seems to the latter. But when I look around today, I see a lot of emphasis on solidarity. More recent books on left activism:

  • Chris Benner/Manuel Pastor: Solidarity Economics: Why Mutuality and Movements Matter (paperback, 2021, Polity).
  • Deepak Bhargava/Stephanie Luce: Practical Radicals: Seven Strategies to Change the World (2023, New Press).
  • David Fenton: The Activist's Media Handbook: Lessons From Fifty Years as a Progressive Agitator (2022, Earth Aware Editions).
  • Kelly Hayes/Mariame Kaba: Let This Radicalize You: Organizing and the Revolution of Reciprocal Care (paperback, 2023, Haymarket Books).
  • Tricia Hersey: Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto (2022, Little Brown Spark).
  • Mie Inouye: On Solidarity (paperback, 2023, Boston Review): Leads a forum, with William J Barber II, Charisse Burden-Stelly, Jodi Dean, Nathan R DuFord, Alex Gourevitch, Juliet Hooker, Daniel Martinez HoSang, David Roediger, Sarah Schulman, Astra Taylor, Leah Hunt-Hendrix, Liz Theoharis, plus articles by others.
  • Raina Lipsitz: The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics (2022, Verso).
  • Staughton Lynd/Mike Konopacki: Solidary Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement From Below (paperback, 2015, PM Press).
  • Daisy Pitkin: On the Line: Two Women's Epic Fight to Build a Union (2022; paperback, 2023, Algonquin Books).
  • Andrea J Ritchie: Practicing New Worlds: Abolition and Emergent Strategies (paperback, 2023, AK Press).
  • Erica Smiley/Sarita Gupta: The Future We Need: Organizing for a Better Democracy in the Twenty-First Century (paperback, 2022, ILR Press).
  • Cenk Uygur: Justice Is Coming: How Progressives Are Going to Take Over the Country and America Is Going to Love It (2023, St Martin's Press).

Of course, solidarity is a theme that extends beyond the US, as many recent books attest:

  • Jennifer Lynn Kelly: Invited to Witness: Solidarity Tourism Across Occupied Palestine (paperback, 2023, Duke University Press).
  • Margaret M Power: Solidarity Across the Americas: The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and Anti-Imperialism (paperback, 2023, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Rob Skinner: Peace, Decolonization and the Practice of Solidarity (2023, Bloomsbury Academic).
  • Firuzeh Shokooh Valle: In Defense of Solidarity and Pleasure: Feminist Technopolitics From the Global South (2023, Stanford University Press).
  • Daniel Widener: Third Worlds Within: Multiethnic Movements and Transnational Solidarity (paperback, 2024, Duke University Press). Foreword by Vijay Prashad.

Book series: Abolitionist Papers:

  • Mariame Kaba: We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice [Abolitionist Papers, 1] (paperback, 2021, Haymarket Books).
  • Angela Y Davis/Gina Dent/Erica R Meiners/Beth E Richie: Abolitionism. Feminism. Now. [Abolitionist Papers, 2] (paperback, 2022, Haymarket Books).
  • Robyn Maynard/Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: Rehearsals for Living [Abolitionist Papers, 3] (paperback, 2022, Haymarket Books).
  • Mizue Aizeki/Matt Mahmoudi/Coline Schupfer, eds: Resisting Borders and Technologies of Violence [Abolitionist Papers] (paperback, 2024, Haymarket Books).

Book series: Emergent Strategy (a series of 12 books):

  • Adrienne Maree Brown: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds [Emergent Strategy, 0] (paperback, 2017, AK Press).
  • Adrienne Maree Brown, ed: Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good [Emergent Strategy, 1] (paperback, 2019, AK Press).
  • Adrienne Maree Brown: Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation [Emergent Strategy, 4] (paperback, 2021, AK Press).

Jonathan Karl: Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party (2023, Dutton): Every one of these posts offers a new crop of Trump books, so the only question is which one to lead with. Lots of legal baggage down list, with his trials and tribulations likely to crowd out his more fundamental obnoxiousness and more pathetic malapropisms. But no other politician has remotely come close to the amount of press he's garnered, and that's unlikely to change any time soon. Although I'm inclined to add that this segment's collection of new Trump books is among the most boring ever:

  • Martin Baron: Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and the Washington Post (2023, Flatiron Books).
  • Ken Block: Disproven: My Unbiased Search for Vote Fraud for the Trump Campaign, the Data That Shows Why He Lost, and How We Can Improve Our Elections (2024, Forefront Books).
  • Clay Cane: The Grift: The Downward Spiral of Black Republicans From the Party of Lincoln to the Cult of Trump (2024, Sourcebooks).
  • Alan Dershowitz: Get Trump: The Threat to Civil Liberties, Due Process, and Our Constitutional Rule of Law (2023, Hot Books): Fourth (or sixth?) book the world's most opportunistically liberal lawyer has written defending Trump.
  • Elie Honig: Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It (2023, Harper): Former prosecutor, now CNN Legal Analyst, tells us something we already suspected, which is that the rich and famous enjoy huge advantages in America's so-called justice system. Granted, some of his famous examples (Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby) did wind up in jail, but only after extraordinary efforts. But his main example, Donald Trump, is still at large.
  • Cassidy Hutchinson: Enough (2023, Simon & Schuster): Trump White House aide, testified memorably to the Jan. 6 Select Committee (e.g., about Trump throwing food).
  • Michael Isikoff/Daniel Klaidman: Find Me the Votes: A Hard-Charging Georgia Prosecutor, a Rogue President, and the Plot to Steal an American Election (2024, Twelve).
  • Melissa Murray/Andrew Weissmann: The Trump Indictments: The Historic Charging Documents With Commentary (paperback, 2024, WW Norton).
  • Tim Murtaugh: Swing Hard in Case You Hit It: My Escape From Addiction and Shot at Redemption on the Trump Campaign (2024, Bombardier Books).
  • Mark Pomerantz: People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account (2023, Simon & Schuster): New York prosecutor, resigned when he thought Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg was too slow in prosecuting Trump.
  • Ethan Porter/Thomas J Wood: False Alarm: The Truth About Political Mistruths in the Trump Era (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press): 80 pp.
  • Charles Renwick: All the Presidents' Taxes: What We Can Learn (and Borrow) from the High-Stakes World of Presidential Tax-Paying (2023, Lioncrest): Short (180 pp), some but not all on Trump.
  • Ramin Setoodeh: Apprentice in Wonderland: How Donald Trump and Mark Burnett Took America Through the Looking Glass (2024, Harper). TV writer. Previously wrote: Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Story of "The View" (2019). [06-18]
  • Tristan Snell: Taking Down Trump: 12 Rules for Prosecuting Donald Trump by Someone Who Did It Successfully (2024, Melville House): Snell was the New York prosecutor on the Trump University fraud case, which was ultimately settled for $25 million, before Trump became president, so he didn't take him down very far.
  • Ali Velshi: The Trump Indictments: The 91 Criminal Counts Against the Former President of the United States (paperback, 2023, Mariner Books): Introduction plus documents.
  • Bob Woodward: The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward's Twenty Interviews With President Donald Trump (paperback, 2023, Simon & Schuster): Documentation for his books Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

Nelson Lichtenstein/Judith Stein: A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism (2023, Princeton University Press): "How the Clinton administration betrayed its progressive principles and capitulated to the right." I'm less inclined to grant him any "progressive principles." I think his plan all along was to show wealthy donors that backing Democrats would make them more money than the Reagan cronies ever would, and he delivered a pretty good case for that. But the other part of his pitch didn't fare so well: he claimed that "reinventing government" to make it more business-friendly would "trickle down" to lift up workers and alleviate poverty, so everyone would win (especially himself). To some extent, he succeeded there too, but it didn't feel like much of a win -- especially to the workers who got cut off from union jobs, to the regions that got stripped of their factories and livelihoods, and to the millions of Americans who saw the federal safety net shredded by austerity, and who fell ever deeper in debt, as a new class of "symbolic analysts" were touted as future elites. Also by the authors:

  • Nelson Lichtenstein: Labor's War at Home: The CIO in World War II (1983; paperback, 2008, Temple University Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein/Howell John Harris, eds: Industrial Democracy in America: The Ambiguous Promise (1993; revised, paperback, 1996, Cambridge University Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor (1995, Basic Books).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein, ed: American Capitalism: Social Thought and Political Economy in the Twentieth Century (2006, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (2002; revised, paperback, 2013, Princeton University Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein, ed: Wal-Mart: The Face of Twenty-First Century Capitalism (2006, paperback, New Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business (2009, Metropolitan Books; paperback, 2010, Picador).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein/Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, eds: The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination (2012; paperback, 2016, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: A Contest of Ideas: Capital, Politics and Labor (paperback, 2013, University of Illinois Press).
  • Romain Huret/Nelson Lichtenstein/Jean-Christian Vinel, eds: Capitalism Contested: The New Deal and Its Legacies (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Roy Rosenzweig/Nelson Lichtenstein/Joshua Brown/David Jaffee [American Social History Project]: Who Built America? Working People and the Nation's History: Volume Two: 1877 to the Present (third edition, paperback, 2007, Bedford/St Martin's).
  • Judith Stein: The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society (1985; paperback, 1991, Louisiana State University Press).
  • Judith Stein: Running Steel, Running America: Race, Economic Policy, and the Decline of Liberalism (paperback, 1998, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Judith Stein: Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (2010; paperback, 2011, Yale University Press).

Antony Loewenstein: The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World (paperback, 2023, Verso). Israel isn't just one of the world's most authoritarian societies, they've pioneered advanced technology to surveil and repress the people they don't like, and they've tested it extensively, so they know what works, and fix what still needs work. But they're not selfish. They got that entrepreneurial spirit, so would-be fascists anywhere in the world, whether running a country or just a local police department, can get in on the act and buy proven technology to oppress their own people. As Noam Chomsky explains: "A sad and sordid record of how 'the light unto the nations' became the purveyor of the means of violence and brutal repression from Guatemala to Myanmar and wherever else the opportunity arose." Related books:

  • Alon Arvath: The Battle for Your Computer: Israel and the Growth of the Global Cyber-Security Industry (2023, Wiley).
  • Antony Loewenstein: The Blogging Revolution: How the Newest Media Revolution Is Changing Politics, Business and Culture in India, China, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Cuba and Saudi Arabia (2008; paperback, 2015, Jaico Publishing House).
  • Antony Loewenstein: My Israel Question (3rd ed, paperback, 2009, Melbourne University Press).
  • Antony Loewenstein/Ahmed Moor, eds: After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine (2012; paperback, 2024, Saqi Books).
  • Antony Loewenstein: Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe (paperback, 2017, Verso).
  • Antony Loewenstein: Pills, Powder, and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs (paperback, 2019, Scribe).

Rachel Maddow: Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism (2023, Crown): Popular left-of-center newscaster, but she's been super annoying ever since she got Putin stuck in her craw during the 2016 election and never managed to either swallow or spit it out. But I have to wonder: who actually writes her books? And why does she put her name on the cover? I mean, I can sort of imagine her writing Drift in 2012 to show she's really a warmonger at heart, and then Blowout -- well, she totally cornered the "blame Russia" niche for three years up to 2019 -- but why write a book about Spiro Agnew during the 2020 election season? And now this, about how Nazi sympathizers in 1941 got rejected and some kind of comeuppance? Title suggests that we can also stand up to fascists today, but it's not that simple, because we're not the same us, and they're not the same them. Blurring those distinctions may sell whatever, and that's clearly the level she wants to work at, but it hardly solves anything. Nazis are a perennial theme, so here are more recent books:

  • Michael Benson: Gangsters vs. Nazis: How Jewish Mobsters Battled Nazis in WW2 Era America (2022, Citadel).
  • David De Jong: Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany's Wealthiest Dynasties (2022, Mariner Books).
  • Kathryn S Olmsted: The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler (2022, Yale University Press): As WWII approached, these six American and British moguls praised Hitler and sought to keep their countries neutral and friendly towards Nazi Germany.
  • Susan Ronald: Hitler's Aristocrats: The Secret Power Players in Britain and America Who Supported the Nazis, 1923-1941 (2023, St Martin's Press).

Branko Milanovic: Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War (2023, Belknap Press): Economist, has written several books on capitalism and inequality, moves here from the evidence of such to the realm of philosophy, focusing on what six important economists said about inequality: François Quesnay, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Vilfredo Pareto, and Simon Kuznets. Also on inequality:

  • Ann Case/Angus Deaton: Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism (2020; paperback, 2021, Princeton University Press).
  • Chuck Collins: Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good (paperback, 2016, Chelsea Green).
  • Chuck Collins: Is Inequality in America Irreversible? (paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Chuck Collins: The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions (paperback, 2021, Polity).
  • Angus Deaton: Economics in America: An Immigrant Economist Explores the Land of Inequality (2023, Princeton University Press).
  • Oded Galor: The Journey of Humanity: The Origins of Wealth and Inequality (2022, Dutton): Big picture synthesis of all of human history plus what we know about pre-history, particularly interested in the growth of wealth and inequality.
  • Michelle Jackson: Manifesto for a Dream: Inequality, Constraint, and Radical Reform (paperback, 2020, Stanford University Press).
  • Destin Jenkins: The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City (2021, University of Chicago Press).
  • Eyal Press: Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America (2021, Farrar Straux and Giroux; paperback, 2022, Picador Press).

Luke Mogelson: The Storm Is Here: An American Crucible (2022, Penguin): Reporter used to covering the War on Terror decided the real action was back in the USA in 2020, reporting on the Michigan militias and their anti-lockdown protests/crimes, police violence both before and after the George Floyd killing, and so forth up through January 6.

William L Patterson: We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People (1951; paperback, 2017, International Publishers): I saw this among the recommendations in a list of books about Israel, and figured anyone ahead of the curve deserved a mention. Turns out it's a much older book, a brief that the author (1891-1980, "a Marxist lawyer, author, and civil rights activist") presented before the UN in 1951. That's a stretch -- the American system was still more focused on exploiting labor, as an extension of slavery, than on killing people, not that they had much compunction about those they did kill -- but coming early after the world belatedly decided that genocide is a major crime, Patterson offered them a real and pressing case to think about.

Heather Cox Richardson: Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America (2023, Viking): Historian, has written several useful books on the Republican Party and Reconstruction. Recently, she's become a prolific blogger, attempting to understand contemporary events in the context of history, and often impressive as such. But her views are pretty conventionally liberal, and I've found her recent attempts to valorize Biden's foreign policy really lame even before they turned so spectacularly embarrassing. (But I can't say I've noted much by her on that of late.)

Tricia Romano: The Freaks Came Out to Write: The Definitive History of the Village Voice, the Radical Paper That Changed American Culture (2024, Public Affairs): Structured as an oral history, assembled quotes from interviews and other sources, this chronicles New York's (well, America's) biggest little underground newspaper from 1956 to its demise c. 2012, with skeletal coverage of the business and editorial masters, and a broad selection of the ever-revolting workers, who took every opportunity to transcend its economics. Much more could have been done on the latter. Just in music, there's nothing much on the brilliant jazz writing of Gary Giddins and Francis Davis (although Stanley Crouch throws enough punches to get noticed), nothing at all on the exceptional new music coverage of Tom Johnson and Kyle Gann, and not a single mention of yours truly (or dozens of others I can name who were more regular contributors). My own history goes back to subscribing when I was an 18-year-old dropout in Wichita, gathering seeds that later transformed my life, even with no clear desire let along plan to do so. All it took was an openness to say, hey, that might be interesting.

Nouriel Roubini: Megathreats: Ten Dangerous Trends That Imperil Our Future, and How to Survive Them (2022, Little Brown): Worth listing: The Mother of All Debt Crises; Private and Public Failures; The Demographic Time Bomb; The Easy Money Trap and the Boom-Bust Cycle; The Coming Great Stagflation; Currency Meltdowns and Financial Instability; The End of Globalization?; The AI Threat; The New Cold War; An Uninhabitable Planet? Ends with two versions of "Can This Disaster Be Averted?" Roubini got a lot of credit as one of the first economists to predict the crash of 2008. There's some real stuff here, but it also is some kind of hustle.

Timothy W Ryback: Takeover: Hitler's Final Rise to Power (2024, Knopf): Focuses on the few months lealding up to "January 30, 1933" (chapter 22 title here), when Germany's transferred effective power to Hitler, who then swiftly moved to seize everything else, fashion his peculiar version of MAGA ("The Third Reich," he called it), and drive Germany to war, extermination, and ruin. The broad outline is familiar by now, the nuances in the details over just how much of Hitler's program was anticipated and relished by his benefactors (almost everything, I dare say) and how many of them regretted their decision (very few, at least until the war turned against them).

David E Sanger: New Cold Wars: China's Rise, Russia's Invasion, and America's Struggle to Defend the West (2024, Crown): Journalist, covers national security for the New York Times, which evidently requires him to believe that conflicts with nuclear powers are necessary but also stable and benign, like they think the Cold War was. This was mostly nonsense, wrapped up in American myopia and arrogance, also ideological incoherence -- as Russia and China became more capitalist, the real distinction came down to them having their own arms markets, independent of the American cartel. Nothing boosts arms sales like the spectre of enemies, and falling back on decades of distrust, Russia and China were easy villains. That Russia took the bait in Ukraine should have alerted us to the risks of such thinking, but for now the arms industry is booming.

  • David E Sanger: The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age (2018; paperback, 2019, Crown).
  • Sanjaya Baru/Rahul Sharma: A New Cold War: Henry Kissinger and the Rise of China (2021, HarperCollins).
  • Michael Doyle: Cold Peace: Avoiding the New Cold War (2023; paperback, 2024, Liveright): One of the few books in this section not bought and paid for by the arms cartel. He previously wrote:
  • Michael Doyle: Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism (paperback, 1997, WW Norton).
  • John Bellamy Foster/John Ross/Deborah Veneziale: Washington's New Cold War: A Socialist Perspective (paperback, 2022, Monthly Review Press): Introduction by Vijay Prashad.
  • Gordon M Hahn: Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the "New Cold War" (paperback, 2018, McFarland).
  • Matthew Kroenig/Dan Negrea: We Win They Lose: Republican Foreign Policy & the New Cold War (2024, Republic Book Publishers): Foreword by Mike Pompeo. Declared the New Cold War has started, and China is the enemy. Kroenig is a long-time hawk, as you can see from:
  • Mark Kroenig: The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy: Why Strategic Superiority Matters (2018; paperback, 2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Matt Pottinger: The Boiling Moat: Urgent Steps to Defend Taiwan (paperback, 2024, Hoover Institution Press). [07-01]
  • Sten Rynning: NATO: From Cold War to Ukraine, a History of the World's Most Powerful Alliance (2024, Yale University Press): Rather puffy for what's basically a useless symbol -- except when it is used, it quickly turns into a liability.
  • Jim Sciutto: The Return of Great Powers: Russia, China, and the Next World War (2024, Dutton): CNN "national security" correspondent, two previous big books along these lines, including The Madman Theory: Trump Takes on the World.
  • Richard Sakwa: Deception: Russiagate and the New Cold War (paperback, 2023, Lexington Books).
  • George S Takach: Cold War 2.0: Artificial Intelligence in the New Battle Between China, Russia, and America (2024, Pegasus Books).
  • Noam Chomsky: Towards a New Cold War: US Foreign Policy From Vietnam to Reagan (1982; paperback, 2003, New Press): Searching for "new cold war" I found this ancient text, from the period when Reagan's hawks still had an old Cold War to escalate. The reprint, with a new introduction by John Pilger, clearly marked their plans for a revival with the Global War on Terror already going sideways, and reminds us that their blueprints just fed on old propaganda, easily recycled.

Along the way, I ran into some new books on the old Cold War, which bear mention here:

  • Paul Thomas Chamberlin: The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace (2018; paperback, 2019, Harper).
  • Campbell Craig/Fredrik Logevall: America's Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity (2009; second edition, paperback, 2020, Belknap Press).
  • Jeffrey A Engel: When the World Seemed New: George HW Bush and the End of the Cold War (2017; paperback, 2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
  • Bridget Kendall: The Cold War: A New Oral History (paperback, 2018, BBC Physical Audio).
  • Chris Miller: The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR (2016, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Jeff Shesol: Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War (2021; paperback, 2022, WW Norton).
  • Natalia Telepneva: Cold War Liberation: The Soviet Union and the Collapse of the Portuguese Empire in Africa, 1961-1975 (paperback, 2022, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Odd Arne Westad: The Cold War: A World History (2017, Basic Books; paperback, 2019, Random House). He previously wrote:
  • Odd Arne Westad: The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (2005; paperback, 2011, Cambridge University Press).

Tom Schaller/Paul Waldman: White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy (2024, Random House): "A searing exposé on what drives the average Republican voter in white rural America and what can be done to combat their rage." One of the more talked-about political books of late, as it documents and in many ways reinforces the divide between the Trump mob and their imagined enemies (urban, liberal, elitist, woke, ever so quick to castigate you as "deplorable"; even those who don't think of themselves as enemies are just as likely to offend with pity as loathing).

  • Michelle Wilde Anderson: The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America (2022; paperback, 2023, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster).
  • Steven Conn: The Lies of the Land: Seeing Rural America for What It Is -- and Isn't (2023, University of Chicago Press).
  • Justin Gest: The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Nicholas F Jacobs/Daniel M Shea: The Rural Voter: The Politics of Place and the Disuniting of America (2023, Columbia University Press). Jacobs previously co-wrote:
  • Nicholas F Jacobs/Sidney M Milkis: What Happened to the Vital Center?: Presidentialism, Populist Revolt, and the Fracturing of America (paperback, 2022, Oxford University Press).
  • Kathleen Hall Jamieson/Paul Waldman: The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories That Shape the Political World (2002; paperback, 2004, Oxford University Press).
  • Jonathan M Metzl: What We've Become: Living and Dying in a Country of Arms (2024, WW Norton).
  • Lainey Newman/Theda Skocpol: Rust Belt Union Blues: Why Working-Class Voters Are Turning Away From the Democratic Party (2023, Columbia University Press).
  • Paul Waldman: Fraud: The Strategy Behind the Bush Lies and Why the Media Didn't Tell You (2004, Sourcebooks).
  • Paul Waldman: Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Can Learn From Conservative Success (2006, Wiley).

Adi Schwartz/Einat Wilf: The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace (paperback, 2020, St Martin's Griffin): Two "liberal Israelis supportive of a two-state solution" argue that there is no legal basis for a "right of return" (unlike Israel's Law of Return?), and that the very suggestion is "one of the largest obstacles to successful diplomacy and lasting peace in the region." They think UNRWA should be abolished, because it perpetuates the notion that the descendants of Palestinian exiles from 1948 are refugees, and as such are entitled to return to their homeland. This book is described as "a runaway bestseller in Israel," and as such is a fair document of the state-of-mind that was prepared to commit genocide when Oct. 7, 2023 happened. Other recent books on Israel, from all over the spectrum, including one somewhat sympathetic to Hamas, and lots that are pure hasbara (also see the lists under Boyarin, Horn, and Loewenstein):

  • Ami Ayalon: Friendly Fire: How Israel Became Its Own Worst Enemy and the Hope for Its Future (paperback, 2021, Steerforth Press): Former Shin Bet director, who understands that "when Israel carries out anti-terrorist operations in a political context of hopelessness, the Palestinian public will support violence, because they have nothing to lose." He isn't the only Israeli to realize that, but he's one of the few who do who sees it as a problem.
  • Sumaya Awad/Brian Bean, eds: Palestine: A Socialist Introduction (paperback, 2020, Haymarket Books).
  • Tareq Baconi: Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance (2018; paperback, 2022, Stanford University Press): Billed as "the first history of the group on its own terms," but critical, arguing that "the movement's ideology ultimately threatens the Palestinian struggle and, inadvertently, its own legitimacy," especially where "its brutality . . . has made permissible the collective punishment of millions of Palestinian civilians." I would caution, though, that regardless of what Hamas does, it is ultimately Israel that decides to punish, up to and now including genocide.
  • Jacques Baud: Operation Al-Aqsa Flood: The Defeat of the Vanquisher (paperback, 2024, Max Milo Editions): "The way Israel is fighting the Palestinians is leading to a loss of legitimacy that seems to be accelerating."
  • Jonah Jeremy Bob/Ilan Evyatar: Target Tehran: How Israel Is Using Sabotage, Cyberwarfare, Assassination -- and Secret Diplomacy -- to Stop a Nuclear Iran and Create a New Middle East (2023, Simon & Schuster): Israelis, bragging.
  • David Brog: Reclaiming Israel's History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Peace (2017; paperback, 2018, Regnery): Note blurbs by John Hagee and Glenn Beck.
  • Alan Dershowitz: War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism (2023, Hot Books): His usual The Case Against Israel's Enemies, quickly rebranded post-October 7.
  • Asaf Elia-Shalev: Israel's Black Panthers: The Radicals Who Punctured a Nation's Founding Myth (2024, University of Calilfornia Press).
  • George Gilder: The Israel Test: How Israel's Genius Enriches and Challenges the World (paperback, 2024, Encounter Books) [07-30].
  • Daniel Gordis: Impossible Takes Longer: 75 Years After Its Creation, Has Israel Fulfilled Its Founders' Dreams? (2023, Ecco): Author of many Israel fluff books, also the primary biography of Menachem Begin.
  • Marc Lamont Hill/Mitchell Plitnick: Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics (2021; paperback, 2022, New Press): Authors "spotlight how one-sided pro-Israel policies reflect the truth-bending grip of authoritarianism on both Israel and the United States."
  • Adam Race Hochdorf: Israel Has the Right to Exist & Defend Itself (paperback, 2024, Purple Poppy Publishing): Short (90 pp) but strident propaganda screed.
  • Michael A Horowitz: Hope and Despair: Israel's Future in the New Middle East (2024, Hurst). [06-01]
  • Dan Kovalik: The Case for Palestine: Why It Matters and Why You Should Care (2024, Hot Books). [05-28]
  • Mitri Raheb: Decolonizing Palestine: The Land, the People, the Bible (paperback, 2023, Orbis Books).
  • Dan Senor/Saul Singer: The Genius of Israel: The Surprising Resilience of a Divided Nation in a Turbulent World (2023, Avid Reader/Simon & Schuster).
  • Raja Shehadeh: What Does Israel Fear From Palestine? (paperback, 2024, Other Press). [06-11]
  • Avner Shur/Aviram Halevi: Sayeret Matkal: The Greatest Operations of Israel's Elite Commandos (2023, Skyhorse): No other nation brags about its illegal foreign ops quite like Israel does.
  • Grant F Smith: How Israel Made AIPAC: The Most Harmful Foreign Influence Operation in America (paperback, 2022, Institute for Research).
  • Jamie Stern-Weiner, ed: Deluge: Gaza and Isarel From Crisis to Cataclysm (paperback, 2024, OR Books): First serious book I'm aware of to reassess Israel after the Gaza genocide started.
  • Thomas Suárez: Palestine Hijacked: How Zionism Forged an Apartheid State From River to Sea (paperback, 2022, Olive Branch Press).
  • Nathan Thrall: A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy (2023, Metropolitan Books).

More recent books on older Israel/Palestine history:

  • Teresa Aranguren/Sandra Barrillaro: Against Erasure: A Photographic Memory of Palestine Before the Nakba (2024, Haymarket Books).
  • Linda Dittmar: Tracing Homelands: Israel, Palestine, and the Claims of Belonging (paperback, 2023, Interlink Books): A memoir, starting in the 1940s, later searching out ruins of villages destroyed in the Nakba.
  • Alan Dowty: Arabs and Jews in Ottoman Palestine: Two Worlds Collide (paperback, 2021, Indiana University Press).
  • Frederic C Hof: Reaching for the Heights: The Inside Story of a Secret Attempt to Reach a Syrian-Israeli Peace (2022, USIP Press): US ambassador, mediator of 2009-11 peace talks, which were scuttled by Obama's turn against Assad in the Arab Spring.
  • JMN Jeffries: Palestine: The Reality: The Inside Story of the Balfour Declaration (paperback, 2016, Olive Branch Press).
  • Uri Kaufman: Eighteen Days in October: The Yom Kippur War and How It Created the Modern Middle East (2023, St Martin's Press).
  • Oren Kessler: Palestine 1936: The Great Revolt and the Roots of the Middle East Conflict (2023, Rowman & Littlefield): Fairly major history of an oft-overlooked but very pivotal event.
  • Jamie Kirkpatrick: The Tales of Bismuth: Dispatches From Palestine, 1945-1948 (paperback, 2024, independent).
  • Peter Shambrook: Policy of Deceit: Britain and Palestine, 1914-1939 (2023, Oneworld Academic).
  • Gardner Thompson: Legacy of Empire: Britain, Zionism and the Creation of Israel (2020; paperback, 2022, Saqi Books): This is an important part of the story, as Israelis learned the art and craft of colonialism directly from the British, sometimes in concert and sometimes in opposition, retaining the legal framework and much of the mentality of their captors and patrons.

Timothy Shenk: Realigners: Partisan Hacks, Political Visionaries, and the Struggle to Rule American Democracy (2022; paperback, 2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Portraits of pivotal political figures from the founding to the present, not always going with the obvious choices (e.g., he goes with William Sumner over Abraham Lincoln, and Mark Hanna over William Jennings Bryan).

Richard Slotkin: A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America (2024, Belknap Press): This is a sweeping history of myth in America, the stories we've invented to explain and convince ourselves, starting with the frontier and the founding, and picking up every cliché of the last 240, not neglecting Trump and MAGA, which gets the better half of Part V ("The Age of Culture War"). Also by Slotkin:

  • Richard Slotkin: Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (paperback, 1998, University of Oklahoma Press).
  • Richard Slotkin/James K Folsom, eds: So Dreadfull a Judgement: Puritan Responses to King Philip's War 1676-1677 (paperback, 1999, Wesleyan University Press).
  • Richard Slotkin: Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (paperback, 2000, University of Oklahoma Press).
  • Richard Slotkin: Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Criris of American Nationalism (paperback, 2006, St Martins Press).
  • Richard Slotkin: The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution (paperback, 2013, Liveright).
  • Richard Slotkin: Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890 (paperback, 2017, University of Oklahoma Press).

Brian Stelter: Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy (2023, Atria/One Signal): Expands on his previous Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth (2020). Fox News has long struck me as the single most important cog in the Republican mind control matrix, combining as it does self-funding, vast outreach, ideological rigor, and the immediacy and intimacy of television. More on Fox:

  • Chris Stirewalt: Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back (2022, Center Street): Former Fox News political editor, so he's contributed to the rage he writes about, and no doubt observed much more (and worse); senior fellow at AEI, which keeps him safely on the right, although he can try to pose that as balanced.
  • Kat Timpf: You Can't Joke About That: Why Everything Is Funny, Nothing Is Sacred, and We're All in This Together (2023, Broadside Books): Gutfeld! co-host and Fox News contributor.
  • Michael Wolff: The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty (2023, Henry Holt): Author of three insider-ish books on Trump, goes after the big fish this time.

Stuart Stevens: The Conspiracy to End America: Five Ways My Old Party Is Driving Our Democracy to Autocracy (2023, Twelve): "Never Trumper," former Lincoln Project strategist, back in 2020 wrote It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, returns with deeper thinking on what is no longer just his personal dilemma. He identifies "five autocratic building blocks": Propagandists; Support of a major party; Financers; Legal theories to legitimize actions; and Shock Troops.

Rory Stewart: How Not to Be a Politician (2023, Penguin Press): Wrote a book about hiking in Afghanistan, just after the Taliban fled. Wrote a book about being a British civil servant in Iraq, shortly after Bush and Blair invaded. Went back to England and wrote another book about how none of that worked. Decided to try his hand at politics, so he ran for a Tory MP seat, and won. Then he ran for party leader/prime minister, and lost. So by now, he figures he's failed enough he can write a memoir about it all. In the UK, he more optimistically called this book Politics on the Edge. For America, however . . . he opted to face the music, and 'fess up.

Yaroslav Trofimov: Our Enemies Will Vanish: The Russian Invasion and Ukraine's War of Independence (2024, Penguin Press): Wall Street Journal correspondent, born in Kyiv, highly partisan, but hailed as "the most comprehensive, authoritative book on the war to date." Latest batch of books on Ukraine:

  • Jacques Baud: The Russian Art of War: How the West Led Ukraine to Defeat (paperback, 2024, Max Milo Editions). Swiss military analyst, has a history of disparaging the West, or maybe just flattering Putin: Putin: Game Master? (2023); Operation Z (2023); The Navalny Case: Conspiracy to Serve Foreign Policy (2023).
  • Hal Brands, ed: War in Ukraine: Conflict, Strategy, and the Return of a Fractured World (paperback, 2024, Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • Glenn Diesen: The Ukraine War & the Eurasian World Order (paperback, 2024, Clarity Press): Appeals to "world order" obsessives, leaving little concern for Ukrainians.
  • Rory Finnin: Blood of Others: Stalin's Crimean Atrocity and the Poetics of Solidarity (paperback, 2024, University of Toronto Press).
  • Igort: How War Begins: Dispatches From the Ukrainian Invasion (2024, Fantagraphics): Graphic journalism.
  • Volodymyr Ishchenko: Towards the Abyss: Ukraine From Maidan to War (paperback, 2024, Verso).
  • Michael Kimmage: Collisions: The Origins of the War in Ukraine and the New Global Instability (2024, Oxford University Press).
  • Fadi Lama: Why the West Can't Win: From Bretton Woods to a Multipolar World (paperback, 2023, Clarity Press): Ukraine is one example.
  • Christopher A Lawrence: The Battle for Kyiv: The Fight for Ukraine's Capital (2024, Frontline Books).
  • Paul Moorcraft: Putin's Wars and NATO's Flaws: Why Russia Invaded Ukraine (2024, Pen and Sword Military): Author has a long list of war books, "from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe."
  • Simon Schuster: The Showman: Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky (2024, William Morrow).

Yanis Varoufakis: Techno Feudalism: What Killed Capitalism (paperback, 2024, Melville House): Greek economist, had a brief fling with fame as finance minister under the radical Syriza government, but quit rather than accept the austerity measures the EU insisted on. He argues that something fundamental has changed: "Big tech has replaced capitalism's twin pillars -- markets and profit -- with its platforms and rents. With every click and scroll, we labor like serfs to increase its power."

  • Joel Kotkin: The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (2020; paperback, 2023, Encounter Books): Not much difference between Varoufakis' "techno feudalism" and this one, especially from the vantage point of the neo-serfs.

Alexander Ward: The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump (2024, Portfolio): Major reporting on Joe Biden's foreign policy team, their critique of Trump's offenses against "democratic allies" and coddling of "authoritarians" (especially the much despised Vladimir Putin), and how they sought to return America to its pre-Trump eminence as the leader of the Free World. Less reporting on how often that backfired, with the book's cutoff date minimizing the stalemate in Ukraine, and omitting any mention of the unfolding genocide in Gaza, or Israel's persistent efforts to embroil America in war with Iran and other irrelevant but easily maligned enemies. The problem is that Biden remains trapped in the supposedly benign superpower cult that emerged post-Cold War under Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and even more committed to the real dictators of American foreign policy: Israel and the arms cartel -- precisely the graft Trump most indulged, so he's not so different from Trump after all.

Fareed Zakaria: Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash From 1600 to the Present (2024, WW Norton): Big-picture history, with opening chapters on the Netherlands, England, and France, then shifts focus to industrialization in Britain and the United States, then his more topical concerns of globalization and contemporary geopolitics.

Additional books, noted without comments other than for clarity. I reserve the right to return to some of these later (but probably won't; many are here because I don't want to think about them further).

Kali Akuno/Ajamu Nangwaya [Cooperation Jackson]: Jackson Rising; The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi (paperback, 2017, Daraja Press).

Thomas J Baker: The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy (2022, Bombardier Books): Actually, the FBI was always a threat to democracy.

Stephen Breyer: Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism (2024, Simon & Schuster): Retired Supreme Court Justice.

Jennifer Burns: Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative (2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Liz Cheney: Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning (2023, Little Brown).

Jared Cohen: Life After Power: Seven Presidents and Their Search for Purpose Beyond the White House (2024, Simon & Schuster). Previously wrote (suggesting a business plan, which is supported by his biography):

Jared Cohen: Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America (2019; paperback, 2020, Simon & Schuster).

McKay Coppins: Romney: A Reckoning (2023, Scribner).

Jeremy Eichler: Time's Echo: The Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Music of Remembrance (2023, Knopf).

Philip Gefter: Cocktails With George and Martha: Movies, Marriage, and the Making of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (2024, Bloomsbury).

Doris Kearns Goodwin: An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s (2024, Simon & Schuster).

Phil Gramm/Robert Ekelund/John Early: The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate (2022, Rowman & Littlefield).

Adam Kinzinger: Renegade: Defending Democracy and Liberty in Our Divided Country (2023, The Open Field): Former Representative (R-IL), voted to impeach Trump, served on House Jan. 6 Committee.

Erik Larson: The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War (2024, Crown).

Michael Lewis: Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon (2023, WW Norton): A profile of FTX founder ("crypto's Gatsby") Sam Bankman-Fried (since convicted for massive fraud).

Yascha Mounk: The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure (2022, Penguin Press).

Yascha Mounk: The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time (2023, Penguin Press).

Peter Pomerantsev: This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality (2019, PublicAffairs).

Peter Pomerantsev: How to Win an Information War: The Propagandist Who Outwitted Hitler (2024, PublicAffairs): On Thomas Sefton Delmer, who worked for Britain during WWII, but also thinking about the author's favorite subject, Vladimir Putin.

Marilynne Robinson: Reading Genesis (2024, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Rick Rubin: The Creative Act: A Way of Being (2023, Penguin Press): Music producer (Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash).

Patrick Ruffini: Party of the People: Inside the Multiracial Populist Coaliltion Remaking the GOP (2023, Simon & Schuster).

Salman Rushdie: Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder (2024, Random House).

Lucy Sante: I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition (2024, Penguin Press).

Erella Shadmi: The Legacy of Mothers: Matriarchies and the Gift Economy as Post Capitalist Alternatives (paperback, 2021, Inanna Publications).

John Sides/Chris Tausanovitch/Lynn Vavreck: The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy (2022; paperback, 2023, Princeton University Press).

Benn Steil: The World That Wasn't: Henry Wallace and the Fate of the American Century (2024, Avid Reader/Simon & Schuster).

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, ed: Did It Happen Here? Perspectives on Fascism and America (2024, WW Norton).

Matthew Stewart: An Emancipation of the Mind: Radical Philosophy, the War Over Slavery, and the Refounding of America (2024, WW Norton).

Calvin Trillin: The Lede: Dispatches From a Life in the Press (2024, Random House). Also note:

Calvin Trillin: Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff (2011; paperback, 2012, Random House).

James Traub: True Believer: Hubert Humphrey's Quest for a More Just America (2024, Basic Books).

Jacob L Wright: Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and Its Origins (2023, Cambridge University Press).

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Book Roundup

Last Book Roundup was on April 28, 2023, following only two in 2022. My practice then was to only post once I've accumulated a batch of 40 book notes. They aren't really reviews, because they are almost all based on reading about the books (e.g., but not exclusively, on Amazon). However, in recent years, I've added lists of related books to many entries, plus I add on an unmetered "briefly noted" list, so the absolute number of books mention has grown, making the posts huge. Last time I speculated I might cut the main list in half, to 20 books. This time I had 23 when I decided I should push this out, and much more due diligence to do, so I settled on 30. Next time will be 20 -- and hopefully less than six months. Draft file still has 88 partial drafts, 202 noted books. I've included a few books that haven't been published yet (dates in brackets) in the supplemental lists, but not as main or secondary listings.

The books on the right are ones I have read (or in Clark's case, have started -- I'm about 100 pages in). Two of those are in the supplementary lists. The second Hope Jahren is more timely, but I read (and wrote up) the memoir first. The Ther book I hoped would offer more insights into Ukraine, but had more to say about politics in Germany, Italy, and Poland. Still, someone needs to write a book that lives up to the title.

Several other books noted below are in my queue, waiting for my limited attention:

  • Cory Doctorow: The Internet Con
  • Franklin Foer: The Last Politician
  • Astra Taylor: The Age of Insecurity

I should also mention, in my queue, Samuel Moyn's previous book: Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. If I didn't have so much pending, I'd seriously consider adding Naomi Klein: Doppelganger. The title is a bit too clever, but the notion of finding perverse mirror images in the right-wing fever swamp is profound, maybe because it articulates something that's been smacking us upside the head for decades now. The long list of books I filed under Rufo is full of examples. These are books that cry out not for political debate but for psychological intervention.

As Klein notes, they often start with a kernel of truth -- often one that we on the left would at least partly agree with -- then twist it around, often blaming us for problems that their side actually caused, playing up their victimhood, less for sympathy from others than to stir up anger within their own identity cult. After all, it's not like they have any sympathy for suffering of victims outside their orbit. I've tracked quite some number of these right-wing tracts over the years, and they are clearly becoming more and more deranged.

The supplemental Iraq list is unusual here, in that it includes some books that are quite old, simply because I missed them at the time. (Christopher Hitchens is an example I don't have to scratch my head over missing. Victor Davis Hanson is one that was pretty ridiculous when it was written, but all the more so in hindsight. And Judith Miller was one held back until she thought the coast was clear.) The implicit backdrop to this list is the long list of books I've noted previously. These are collected in one huge file (6398 books, 350k words). At some point I should split this up into thematic guides. (A grep for "Iraq" finds 323 lines, which is probably close to 200 books. "Israel" finds 601 lines. "Trump" 780. "Biden" 56.)

Here are 30 more/less recent books of interest in politics, the social sciences, and history, with occasional side trips, and supplementary lists where appropriate:

Michael D Bess: Planet in Peril: Humanity's Four Greatest Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them (2022, Cambridge University Press): Fossil fuels and Climate Change; Nukes for War and Peacetime; Pandemics, Natural or Bioengineered; Artificial Intelligence. One thing that distinguishes all four is the need for international cooperation, which involves "taking the United Nations up a notch." He even tries to anticipate "rogues, cheaters, and fanatics," but only leaves six pages for the chapter on "What Could Go Wrong?"

Christopher Clark: Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World, 1848-1849 (2023, Crown): Major historical work (896 pp). I've moved on to it after reading EJ Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, which covered its six decades with remarkable concision, but didn't offer many details of the revolutionary events of 1848. People like to brag about how much wealth capitalism has bestowed on the world, but through 1848 only a very few had anything to show for it, and the new laboring class (including significant numbers of women and children) were mired in misery. Hobsbawm mentions various crop failures, famines, and crashes of the 1840s that did much to provoke revolt. But also, with nearly every nation in Europe gripped by absolute monarchy, the emerging business class had their own reasons, and ideology, for revolution. My thinking was that 1848 marked the end of an age of bourgeois revolution that started in America in 1775 and ended in 1848, after which the capitalists found they had more in common with aristocrats than with the newly militant proletariat, especially when the monarchies catered to the nouveaux riches they found themselves dependent on. One thing that Clark stresses is that even where the revolutions were successfully repressed, the victors were never able to restore their ancien regime.

NW Collins: Grey Wars: A Contemporary History of US Special Operations (2021, Yale University Press): Tries to present a broad picture of how elite military units have been used going back to 1980 (Desert One), without giving away too much, least of all anything that might damage reputations or question motives. More on special ops and clandestine war:

  • Matthew A Cole: Code Over Country: The Tragedy & Corruption of SEAL Team Six (2022, Bold Type Books).
  • Annie Jacobsen: Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins (2019, Little Brown; paperback, 2020, Back Bay Books).
  • Sean Naylor: Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command (2015, St Martin's Press; paperback, 2016, St Martin's Griffin).
  • Ric Prado: Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior (2022, St Martin's Press): Ex-CIA.
  • Dan Schilling/Lori Chapman Longfritz: Alone at Dawn: Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World's Deadliest Special Operations Force (2019, Grand Central).

Cory Doctorow: The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation (2023, Verso): Science fiction writer, with Rebecca Giblin, co-wrote Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets, plus more listed below. First liine: "This is a book for people who want to destroy Big Tech." Unclear to me how you can do that (not that I don't understand the desire for interoperability), but his explanation of why is succinct and pretty compelling. Two parts: one about "seizing," the other answers to a bunch of "what about" questions.

  • Cory Doctorow: Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (paperback, 2015, McSweeney's).
  • Cory Doctorow: Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present Moment (paperback, 2020, Tor Books): Fiction, sort of.
  • Cory Doctorow: How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (paperback, 2021, Medium Editions).

Cara Fitzpatrick: The Death of Public School: How Conservatives Won the War Over Education in America (2023, Basic Books): Looking back, the surprise may be that public schooling ever got to be so popular in America in the first place. Before 1800 (or possibly 1830), schooling was largely the province of churches, and even then only for the training of a select few. But with the scientific and industrial revolutions of the 19th century, building on the enlightened liberalism of the nation's founding, public education grew, even if it was sometimes sold as a means to naturalize and domesticate unruly immigrants. Some religions, especially Roman Catholics, continued to hold out for their own schools -- when I was growing up, I knew kids who went, and was aware their parents fretted over the costs -- and the rich had their own private schooling. The private school movement got a boost with the fight against desegregation, and Republicans found political opportunities on at several fronts: vouchers would appeal to the Catholic voters they started courting as part of Nixon's "emerging Republican majority," and charter schools would fit their privatization propaganda, and hurt teacher unions (who tended to support Democrats). Since then, the Republican Party has only gotten dumber, meaner, and more self-destructive. I doubt that means the battle is over, as the world itself has only become more complex and demanding of expert knowledge (as well as judicious politics), and that stuff has to be taught. Also:

  • Justin Driver: The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind (2018, Pantheon; paperback, 2019, Vintage Books).
  • Jack Schneider/Jennifer Berkshire: A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School (2020, New Press).

Franklin Foer: The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future (2023, Penguin Press): Journalist, writes for Atlantic, has three previous books, none with obvious political subjects (e.g., How Soccer Explains the World), so this effort at doing insider reporting of Biden's first two years is possibly novel, and almost unique compared to hundreds of scandal seekers who have gone after Trump. I've never liked Biden, so it may be faint praise to admit that he's the first president in my lifetime who has surprised me in pleasing ways -- of course, not always, and often not as much as I would have liked -- and I'm curious about how that happened. Foer seems to credit Biden himself for political pragmatism, but the bigger question is why they decided to respond to big problems in serious ways, as opposed to the studied downplaying of everything under Obama, let alone the madcap fits of Trump. Also on Biden (not much):

  • Gabriel Debendetti: The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama (2022; paperback, 2023, Henry Holt).
  • Chris Whipple: The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden's White House (2023, Scribner).

Meanwhile, the right has been busy pumping out anti-Biden tracts:

  • Nick Adams: The Most Dangerous President in History (2022, Post Hill Press): All you need to know about him is that he wrote Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization (2020).
  • Todd Bensman: Overrun: How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest Border Crisis in US History (paperback, 2023, Bombardier Books).
  • Jason Chaffetz: The Puppeteers: The People Who Control the People Who Control America (2023, Broadside Books): Pictured as puppets on cover: Biden, Schumer, Harris, Warren, Schiff?
  • Joe Concha: Come On, Man!: The Truth About Joe Biden's Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Presidency (2022, Broadside Books).
  • Jerry Dunleavy/James Hasson: Kabul: The Untold Story of Biden's Fiasco and the American Warriors Who Fought to the End (2023, Center Street).
  • Jamie Glazov: Obama's True Legacy: How He Transformed America (paperback, 2023, Republic Book Publishers).
  • Alex Marlow: Breaking Biden: Exposing the Hidden Forces and Secret Money Machine Behind Joe Biden, His Family, and His Administration (2023, Threshold Editions). [10-03]
  • Mark R Levin: The Democrat Party Hates America (2023, Threshold Editions).
  • Kimberley Strassel: The Biden Malaise: How America Bounced Back From Joe Biden's Dismal Repeat of the Jimmy Carter Years (2023, Twelve).

Joshua Frank: Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America (2022, Haymarket Books): Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in Washington, initially built as part of the Manhattan Project, the site along the Columbia River where the plutonium used on Hiroshima was created from uranium and extracted, a process that extended long after the war. The site now contains some 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, with a cleanup price tag of $677 billion (and counting).

Thomas Gabor/Fred Guttenberg: American Carnage: Shattering the Myths That Fuel Gun Violence (paperback, 2023, Mango): They enumerate 37 myths, most of which you'll find dubious (many downright bonkers) even without the supporting documentation, in eleven chapters, each with its "bottom line" summary. We've been around this block several times before, so there's not much new to add, but:

  • Thomas Gabor: Carnage: Preventing Mass Chootings in America (paperback, 2021,
  • Mark Follman: Trigger Points: Inside the Mission to Stop Mass Shootings in America (2022, Dey Street Books).
  • Cameron McWhirter/Zusha Elinson: American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 (2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Katherine Schweit: Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis (2021, Rowman & Littlefield; 2nd ed, paperback, 2023, Colvos).
  • Katherine Schweit: How to Talk About Guns With Anyone (paperback, 2023, 82 Stories).

Peter Heather/John Rapley: Why Empires Fall: Rome, America, and the Future of the West (2023, Yale University Press): Heather a historian of the late- and post-Roman period, Rapley a political economist. Reminds me that Cullen Murphy wrote a similar book in 2007: Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America. Unlikely that any of these authors asks the obvious question: what good are empires anyway? Sure, when Rome fell, it was promptly sacked by Germanic tribes (most famously the Vandals), because that's how the world worked then. But fates like that have been rare since 1945, unless you consider the IMF analogous. Most Americans might very well be better off without an empire. Same for the world.

Peter J Hotez: The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A Scientist's Warning (2023, Johns Hopkins University Press): Doctor, has written several books on public health, and has stepped up recently to counter the vast torrent of anti-vaccine nonsense coming from all (but mostly right-wing) quarters. Note that Amazon offered me a "similar items" list: virtually all of them were by anti-vax quacks (most notably RFK Jr.). [09-19]

  • Peter J Hotez: Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad (paperback, 2020, Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • Peter J Hotez: Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science (2021, Johns Hopkins University Press).

Walter Isaacson: Elon Musk (2023, Simon & Schuster): Big biography (688 pp), by the "biographer of genius," or so the hype goes: his previous subjects include Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Jennifer Doudna, and Steve Jobs. You may think you know enough about him already, but this seems to be another case where the father almost makes the son sympathetic (others include Charles Koch and Donald Trump, though at this point they should be recognized as evil in their own right). Also on Musk:

  • Ben Mezrich: Breaking Twitter: Elon Musk and the Most Controversial Corporate Takeover in History (2023, Grand Central Publishing). [11-07]
  • Jonathan Taplin: The End of Reality: How 4 Billionaires Are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and Crypto (2023, Public Affairs): Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marc Andreesen -- "the biggest wallets paying for the most blinding lights."

Hope Jahren: Lab Girl (2016, Knopf; paperback, 2017, Vintage): Memoir of growing up in a Norwegian-American household in Minnesota to become a paleobotanist, through grad school in California and teaching posts in Atlanta, Hawaii, and finally Norway, each with her main interest, a lab full of mass spectrometers and such. The most striking chapter is one on her pregnancy off the meds that kept her centered. Also chronicles Bill, her slightly more eccentric lab assistant who followed her from post to post. She also wrote:

  • Hope Jahren: The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go From Here (2021, Delacorte; paperback, 2020, Vintage): Carefully balanced, one of the best written books on the subject, a clearheadedness which recognizes that the real solution for the problem of more is simply less.

Siddharth Kara: Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives (2023, St Martin's Press): Investigation into cobalt mining in Congo -- a mineral increasingly in demand for the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used by everything from smart phones to vehicles, which Congo supplies 75% of the world market for. If you've read Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost, you may think that the exploitation of this former Belgian colony couldn't get worse, but independence under Mobutu defined the word kleptocracy, and since his demise, Congo has been ravaged by the world's longest and most devastating wars. And as always, nothing adds to human suffering more quickly than a rush for treasure.

More recent books on Africa (actually very hard to search for on Amazon):

  • JP Daughton: In the Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan Railroad the the Tragedy of French Colonialism (2021, WW Norton).
  • Dipo Faloyin: Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent (2022, WW Norton).
  • Stuart A Reid: The Lumumba Plot: The Secret History of the CIA and a Cold War Assassination (2023, Knopf). [10-17]
  • Walter Rodney: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (paperback, 2018, Verso).
  • Walter Rodney: Decolonial Marxism: Esays From the Pan-African Revolution (paperback, 2022, Verso).
  • Henry Sanderson: Volt Rush: The Winners and Losers in the Race to Go Green (paperback, 2023, Oneworld): Congo and Chile.
  • James H Smith: The Eyes of the World: Mining the Digital Age in Eastern DR Congo (paperback, 2017, University of Chicago Press).
  • Jason K Stearns: The War That Doesn't Say Its Name: The Unending Conflict in the Congo (paperback, 2023, Princeton University Press).
  • Susan Williams: White Malice: The CIA and the Covert Recolonialization of Africa (2021; paperback, 2023, PublicAffairs).

Naomi Klein: Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World 2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Canadian left-political writer, one who has regularly shown a knack not just for understanding our world but for formulating that in politically meaningful ways -- perhaps most famously in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007). New book is more personal, based as it is on the public frequently getting her confused up with Naomi Wolf, who wrote the third-wave feminist classic The Beauty Trap (1991), and who, like Klein, was involved in Occupy Wall Street. Since then, Wolf has veered erratically toward the right, and especially promoting Covid misinformation. Odd, though, that the blurb info on this book doesn't mention Wolf by name. Not unrelated:

  • Naomi Wolf: Facing the Beast: Courage, Faith, and Resistance in a New Dark Age (paperback, 2023, Chelsea Green). [11-09]

Melvyn P Leffler: Confronting Saddam Hussein: George W Bush and the Invasion of Iraq (2023, Oxford University Press): A "fair and balanced" reappraisal of the debates and process that led to Bush's decision to invade Iraq, based on new interviews with "dozens of top officials" and "declassified American and British documents." Leffler has a long history of supporting American war policy. Some of his previous books, plus other recent books on Iraq:

  • Melvyn P Leffler: A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (1992; paperback, 1993, Stanford University Press).
  • Melvyn P Leffler: The Specter of Communism: The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1953 (1994, paperback, Hill & Wang).
  • Melvyn P Leffler: For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War (2007; paperback, 2008, Hill & Wang).
  • Melvyn P Leffler: Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism: US Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015 (2017; paperback, 2019, Princeton University Press).
  • Lisa Blaydes: State of Repression: Iraq Under Saddam Hussein (2018; paperback, 2020, Princeton University Press).
  • Rolf Ekéus: Iraq Disarmed: The Story Behind the Story of the Fall of Saddam (2022, Lynne Rienner): Head of UNSCOM (Special Commission on Iraq): By one of the CIA operatives.
  • Sam Faddis: The CIA War in Kurdistan: The Untold Story of the Northern Front in the Iraq War (2020, Casemate).
  • Samuel Helfont: Iraq Against the World: Saddam, America, and the Post-Cold War Order (2023, Oxford University Press): Naval War College professor searches through Iraqi foreign policy documents to try to build a case that Saddam Hussein had it coming.
  • Steven Simon: Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East (2023, Penguin Press): Sounds a critical note, but credentials include NSC staff, State Department, RAND Corporation, and other "think tanks."

Back on the 20th anniversary, I also collected this list of older Iraq books that I hadn't otherwise cited. Most of these are old, some embarrassingly so:

  • Thabit AJ Abdullah: Dictatorship, Imperialism and Chaos: Iraq Since 1989 (paperback, 2006, Zed Books).
  • Zaid Al-Ali: The Struggle for Iraq's Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy (2014, Yale University Press).
  • Nora Bensahel: After Saddam: Prewar Planning and the Occupation of Iraq (paperback, 2008, RAND).
  • Judith Betts/Mark Pythian: The Iraq War and Democratic Governance: Britain and Australia Go to War (paperback, 2020, Palgrave Macmillan).
  • Hans Blix: Disarming Iraq: The Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004, Pantheon; paperback, 2005, Bloomsbury): Head of UN weapons inspection team.
  • Pratap Chatterjee: Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation (paperback, 2004, Seven Stories Press): Went on to write a 2009 book on Halliburton's Army.
  • Don Eberly: Liberate and Leave: Fatal Flaws in the Early Strategy for Postwar Iraq (2009, Zenith Press).
  • James Dobbins: Occupying Iraq: A History of the Coalition Provisional Authority (paperback, 2009, RAND).
  • Jessica Goodell/John Hearn: Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq (2011, Casemate): Marine Corps Mortuary Unit memoir.
  • Peter L Hahn: Missions Accomplished? The United States and Iraq Since World War I (paperback, 2011, Oxford University Press).
  • Victor Davis Hanson: Between War and Peace: Lessons From Afghanistan to Iraq (paperback, 2004, Random House): Like "don't count your chickens until the eggs are hatched"? The section on Iraq is called "The Three Week War." It includes a chapter: "Donald Rumsfeld, a Radical for Our Time."
  • Christopher Hitchens: A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq (paperback, 2003, Plume).
  • Bill Katovsky/Timothy Carlson: Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq: An Oral History (2003; paperback, 2004, Lyons Press).
  • John Keegan: The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, From Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath (2004, Knopf; paperback, 2005, Vintage).
  • Dina Rizk Khoury: Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom, and Remembrance (paperback, 2013, Cambridge University Press): Explores the near-constant culture of war in Iraq going back to the 1981-88 war with Iran.
  • Judith Miller: The Story: A Reporter's Journey (paperback, 2016, Simon & Schuster).
  • Ronan O'Callaghan: Walzer, Just War and Iraq: Ethics as Response (paperback, 2021, Routledge).
  • David L Phillips: Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco (paperback, 2006, Basic Books).
  • Lawrence Rothfield: The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind the Looting of the Iraq Museum (2009, University of Chicago Press).
  • Nadia Schadlow: War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success Into Political Victory (paperback, 2017, Georgetown University Press): Case studies on 15 American wars, from Mexico (1848) to Iraq. There's a chapter on Afghanistan (before Iraq), but nothing on Vietnam.
  • Gary Vogler: Iraq and the Politics of Oil: An Insider's Perspective (2017, University Press of Kansas): Former ExxonMobil exec, ORHA oil consultant.

Jill Lepore: The Deadline: Essays (2023, Liveright): Harvard historian, has written books on a wide range of subjects, from King Phillip's War to the Simulmatics Corporation, and to round it all out, These Truths: A History of the United States, all the while knocking out a wide range of historically astute essays for The New Yorker. This collects 640 pp of them.

David Lipsky: The Parrot and the Igloo: Climate and the Science of Denial (2023, WW Norton): Seems like every batch has a hook on which I hang the most recent batch of climate change books. This is the latest "big idea must-read book," meant to finally batter down the door of resistance, even though he must know that the problem isn't resistance but diversion, all the sneaky little side-trips politicans can be enticed along rather than biting off a task that exceeds their patience and talent. His aim is to convince you through stories (he's mostly written fiction and memoir before this), and they're less about the underlying science, which you probably know (and are tired of) by now, and more about the arts of denial -- not that I doubt there's science behind it but I still insist it's mostly art.

Other recent books on climate:

  • Neta C Crawford: The Pentagon, Climate Change, and War: Charting the Rise and Fall of US Military Emissions (2022, The MIT Press).
  • Geoff Dembicki: The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change (2022, Greystone Books): Reveals that at least by 1959 top oil executives were aware that burning their products will cause catastrophic global warming.
  • John Gertner: The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future (2019; paperback, 2020, Random House).
  • Robert S Devine: The Sustainable Economy: The Hidden Costs of Climate Change and the Path to a Prosperous Future (paperback, 2020, Anchor).
  • Jeff Goodell: The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet (2023, Little Brown): After several books that danced around the edges (Big Coal, How to Cool the Planet [on geoengineering], and The Water Will Come [rising seas, sinking cities]), he finally gets to the point. Kim Stanley Robinson, who led off with this very point in The Ministry for the Future, says: "you won't see the world the same way after reading it."
  • Mike Hulme: Climate Change Isn't Everything: Liberating Climate Politics From Alarmism (paperback, 2023, Polity): But it is one thing, a big one, one with a lot of momentum, making it hard to change even without an alarming level of political resistance.
  • Michael Mann: Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons From Earth's Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis (2023, PublicAffairs).
  • George Marshall: Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change (2014; paperback, 2015, Bloomsbury).
  • Anthony McMichael: Climate Change and the Health of Nations: Famines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations (2017; paperback, 2019, Oxford University Press).
  • David W Orr, ed: Democracy in a Hotter Time: Climate Change and Democratic Transformation (paperback, 2023, MIT Press): Foreword by Bill McKibben; afterword by Kim Stanley Robinson. [09-26]
  • Friederike Otto: Angry Weather: Heat Waves, Floods, Storms, and the New Science of Climate Change (2020; paperback, 2023, Greystone Books).
  • Geoffrey Parker: Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (2013; paperback, 2014, Yale University Press): 904 pp.
  • Rosanna Xia: California Against the Sea: Visions of Our Vanishing Coastline (2023, Heyday).

Michael Mann: On Wars (2023, Yale University Press): British-American comparative historical sociologist, wrote a series of books on The Sources of Social Power, presents this as a career capstone, surveying the entire history of war, from ancient to modern, asking why and concluding: "it is a handful of political leaders -- people with emotions and ideologies, and constrained by inherited culture and institutions -- who undertake such decisions, usually irrationally choosing war and seldom achieving their desired results." While that's true enough of the past, when war was mostly fought for plunder, and as a contest for esteem among violent males, does any of that still make sense? Sure, we do still have would-be warriors, always with their minds stuck in past fantasies, but their track record over the last century (and perhaps much more) is so dismal they should be relegated to asylums (or professional sports?). An honest book, and I have no reason to think that this one isn't, would show as much, in endless detail, but the very question -- are wars rational? -- should be unthinkable, but lamentably is still here.

John J Mearsheimer/Sebastian Rosato: How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy (2023, Yale University Press): In order for the realist foreign policy to work, one must start by assuming the underlying rationality in all actors: that they understand their interests, that they can anticipate how various strategies will work or fail, and that they can adjust their strategy to their best advantage. Given that none of those assumptions are sound, it's hard to imagine why they call the resulting policy "realism." The authors have been critical of US foreign policy of late for being too bound up in ideology, and seek to rein that in with reason, but even their examples come out cock-eyed: Putin's decision to invade Ukraine may have been rigorously rational, but it was based on a set of plainly wrong assumptions, making it clearly a bad decision, one that has hurt Russia more than Putin could ever have hoped to gain. Same can be said for Bush in 2003 Iraq, except that the authors discard that decision in the irrational bucket. The two cases are remarkably similar, starting with the imagined own interests, the unacknowledged desire for independence, and the belief that overwhelming power ("shock and awe") would result in immediate capitulation.

Samuel Moyn: Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times (2023, Yale University Press): In the 1960s, I got very upset at liberals who supported the Vietnam War. Liberals were on top of the world in 1945, but by 1948 nearly all of them had been shamed, cajoled, and/or terrorized into turning on the left, both abroad, where the US converted failing European colonies into safe havens for further capitalist exploitation, and at home, where they allowed labor unions to be purged and curtailed. Liberalism's goal of freeing all individuals seemed revolutionary compared to the aristocracy, feudalism, and slavery that preceded it, but freedom was a two-edged sword, leaving losers far more numerous than winners. With the New Deal, some liberals started to bridge the gap with the left, offering a "safety net" to help tame the worst dysfunctions of capitalism. During the Cold War, liberals split into two camps: one turning neoconservative, the other still committed to the "safety net" but less so to labor unions, and not at all to solidarity with workers and the poor abroad. Moyn tackles this problem through six portraits of early post-WWII liberals: Judith Shklar, Isaiah Berlin, Karl Popper, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Hannah Arendt, and Lionel Trilling: not the first names I thought of, but suitable for purpose, which Moyn states clearly in his first line: "Cold War liberalism was a catastrophe -- for liberalism."

Other recent books on liberalism (philosophy and its limits):

  • Russell Blackford: How We Became Post-Liberal: The Rise and Fall of Toleration (paperback, 2023, Bloomsbury). [11-16]
  • Patrick J Deneen: Why Liberalism Failed (2018; paperback, 2019, Yale University Press): Conservative critic: note blurbs by Rod Dreher, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, Barack Obama; also note that Obama's is the most conventionally conservative. Deneen followed up with:
  • Patrick J Deneen: Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future (2023, Sentinel): Wherein he argues for replacing liberalism with a "pre-postmodern conservativism." I don't know which is more impossible: convincing the masses to give up on the promise of equality, or convincing the masters, having advanced through the "pursuit of happiness" (self-interest), to care responsibly for their charges.
  • Wolfram Eilenberger: The Visionaries: Arendt, Beauvoir, Rand, Weil, and the Power of Philosophy in Dark Times (2023, Penguin Press): Another batch of thinkers from Moyn's era, intersecting with Arendt.
  • Christopher William England: Land and Liberty: Henry George and the Crafting of Modern Liberalism (2023, Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • Edmund Fawcett: Liberalism: The Life of an Idea (2014; 2nd edition, paperback, 2018, Princeton University Press). Author also has a mirror volume:
  • Edmund Fawcett: Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition (2020; paperback, 2022, Princeton University Press).
  • John Gray: The New Leviathans: Thoughts After Liberalism (2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Philosopher with a long list of titles -- two I've previously cited are Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern (2005) and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007), but there are dozens more, including Isaiah Berlin: An Interpretation of His Thought (1996). [11-07]
  • Kei Hiruta: Hannah Arendt & Isaiah Berlin: Freedom, Politics and Humanity (2021, Princeton University Press).
  • Luke Savage: The Dead Center: Reflections on Liberalism and Democracy After the End of History (paperback, 2022, OR Books).
  • Larry Siedentop: Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism (2014; paperback, 2017, Belknap Press).
  • Brad Snyder: The House of Truth: A Washington Salon and the Foundations of Liberalism (2017, Oxford University Press): From 1912, with Felix Frankfurter, Walter Lippman, etc.
  • Vikash Yadav: Liberalism's Last Man: Hayek in the Age of Political Capitalism (2023, University of Chicago Press).

Samir Puri: The Shadows of Empire: How Imperial History Shapes Our World (2021, Pegasus Books): British, of both Indian and African heritage, an international relations professor with a background in diplomacy, has a newer book on Ukraine (see Zygar, below). The cover blurb by neo-imperialist Robert D Kaplan isn't promising, but there can be little doubt that the centuries of European imperialism have left lasting marks both on the former rulers and on the formerly ruled. I've argued that the essential mission of American foreign policy after WWII was to salvage the former colonies for capitalism, which mostly involved keeping local leaders on retainer, often arming them to suppress local rebellions, sometimes sending American troops in to do the job (as in Vietnam), and sometimes failing at that (ditto). The conceit that Americans still have of leading the "free world" is a residue of the imperial mindset. So was Britain's wish in 2003 to fight another war in Iraq. So is France's desire to "help out" in Mali and Niger. So is Russia's notion that Ukraine should be grateful for their civilization. For most people, imperialism was revealed as disaster and tragedy by WWII, but these residues linger on. It's hard to change bad habits until you're conscious of them. That I take to be the point of this book. Also (his book on Ukraine is listed under Mikhail Zygar):

  • Samir Puri: Pakistan's War on Terrorism: Strategies for Combatting Jihadist Armed Groups Since 9/11 (2011, Routledge).
  • Samir Puri: Fighting and Negotiating With Armed Groups: The Difficulty of Securing Strategic Outcomes (paperback, 2019, Routledge).
  • Samir Puri: The Great Imperial Hangover: How Empires Have Shaped the World (2020; paperback, 2021, Atlantic Books): Original edition of The Shadows of Empire.

James Risen: The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, and the Kennedys -- and One Senator's Fight to Save Democracy (2023, Little Brown): A biography of three-term Senator Frank Church, the last Democrat from Idaho, an early critic of the Vietnam War, and perhaps best known for his investigations exposing all sorts of malfeasance by the CIA and FBI -- the Kennedys and the Mafia factor into this through the CIA plots against Cuba. No figure in American politics saw his reputation disintegrate more totally than J Edgar Hoover, and that was largely due to Church's discoveries. As I recall, the War Powers Act, much ignored by presidents from Reagan on, was another of his legacies.

Christopher F Rufo: America's Cultural Revolution: How the Radical Left Conquered Everything (2023, Broadside Books): That's news to me, but so claims the guy touted as "America's most effective conservative intellectual [as he] proves once and for all that Marxist radicals have taken over our nation's institutions." The "ultimate objective" of this sinister conspiracy? "replacing constitutional equality with a race-based redistribution system overseen by bureaucratic 'diversity and inclusion' officials." In other words, this book is too stupid to even make fun of. Such a vast incomprehension is only to be pitied. (By the way, if you do want to make any sense of this, consider that the Marx and later leftists as the true apostles of Enlightenment liberalism, the ones who truly aspired to liberty and justice for all, as opposed to the would-be elites who jumped off the revolutionary train as soon as they secured their rights. "Thinkers" like Rufo recall that red-baiting worked once, so they assume it will work again. Had they actually read some Marx, they'd recall the quip about history repeating first as tragedy, then as farce.) Of course, there is more right-wing paranoid delusion coming your way:

  • Joe Allen: Dark Aeon: Transhumanism and the War Against Humanity (2023, War Room Books): Foreword by Stephen K Bannon claims the politics, although paranoia about globalists and cyborgs is not exclusively right-wing.
  • Glenn Beck/Justin Haskins: Dark Future: Uncovering the Great Reset's Terrifying Next Phase (2023, Forefront Books): Amazon flags this as "Best Seller in Fascism."
  • Jerome R Corsi: The Truth: About Neo-Marxism, Cultural Maoism, and Anarchy: Exposing Woke Insanity in an Age of Disinformation (2023, Post Hill Press): A list of subjects that nobody knows less about, starting with "truth."
  • Ted Cruz: Unwoke: How to Defeat Cultural Marxism in America (2023, Regnery): US Senator (R-TX). [11-07]
  • Dinesh D'Souza: United States of Socialism: Who's Behind It. Why It's Evil. How to Stop It. (2020, All Points Books).
  • Frank Gaffney/Dede Laugesen: The Indictment: Prosecuting the Chinese Communist Party & Friends for Crimes Against America, China, and the World (2023, War Room Books): "thanks to the American elites they have captured in every sector of our society."
  • Richard Hanania: The Origins of Woke: Civil Rights Law, Corporate America, and the Triumph of Identity Politics (2023, Broadside Books). [09-19]
  • Alex Jones/Kent Heckenlively: The Great Awakening: Defeating the Globalists and Launching the Next Great Renaissance (2023, Skyhorse). [10-31]
  • Jesse Kelly: The Anti-Communist Manifesto (2023, Threshold Editions).
  • Ian Prior: Parents of the World, Unite!: How to Save Our Schools From the Left's Radical Agenda (2023, Center Street).
  • Vivek Ramaswamy: Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence (paperback, 2023, Center Street): Republican presidential candidate.
  • Jason Rantz: What's Killing America: Inside the Radical Left's Tragic Destruction of Our Cities (2023, Center Street). Then why has living in them never seemed more desirable? (Or expensive?)
  • Michael Savage: A Savage Republic: Inside the Plot to Destroy America (2023, Bombardier Books): Presumably he's talking about someone else's plot that he imagines he has some insight into, rather than his own -- but after three Trump books, wouldn't a mea culpa be in order? [11-14]
  • Ben Shapiro: The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized America's Institutions Against Dissent (2021, Broadside Books).
  • Liz Wheeler: Hide Your Children: Exposing the Marxists Behind the Attack on America's Kids (2023, Regnery): OANN host, a "titan of conservative media." [09-26] Previously wrote:
  • Liz Wheeler: Tipping Points: How to Topple the Left's House of Cards (2019, Regnery).
  • Xi Van Fleet: Mao's America: A Survivor's Warning (2023, Center Street). [10-31]
  • Kenny Xu: School of Woke: How Critical Race Theory Infiltrated American Schools & Why We Must Reclaim Them (2023, Center Street).

It's worth noting that not everyone on this team right wants to seem insane. Some have written more sensible-sounding books, but they're usually based on the same paranoid assumptions. E.g.:

  • Greg Lukianoff/Rikki Schlott: The Canceling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All -- but There is a Solution (2023, Simon & Schuster). [10-17]
  • Teresa Mull: Woke-Proof Your Life: A Handbook on Escaping Modern, Political Madness and Shielding Yourself and Your Family by Living a More Self-Sufficient, Fulfilling Life (paperback, 2023, Crisis Publications): Paranoia as self-help, including: learn to guard against "toxic empathy."
  • Dave Rubin: Don't Burn This Country: Surviving and Thriving in Our Woke Dystopia (2022, Sentinel). Also wrote:
  • Dave Rubin: Don't Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason (2020, Sentinel).
  • Will Witt: Do Not Comply: Taking Power Back From America's Corrupt Elite (2023, Center Street). Also wrote:
  • Will Witt: How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies: Taking on Liberal Arguments With Logic and Humor (2021, Center Street).

Paul Sabin: Public Citizens: The Attack on Big Government and the Remaking of American Liberalism (2021, WW Norton): The New Deal produced a broad consensus that government could work with business (especially big business) and labor unions to benefit everyone. This was attacked relentlessly by conservative business interests, especially after 1970 when productivity slowed, inflation increased, and businesses decided they should be more predatory in order to maintain their expected level of profits. Nicholas Lemann sums up this shift in his Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream (2019). Sabin's throwing another wrinkle into this story, arguing that the 1960-70s advent of "environmentalists, social critics, and consumer advocates like Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, and Ralph Nader" also contributed to the erosion of liberal faith in government. This strikes me as a bit far-fetched, as it's hard to imagine who they might expect other than a democratic government might stand up for public interests. It is true that the reputation of liberal politicians as public servants was damaged by various mistakes -- chief of which was the Vietnam War -- as well as a massive increase in corporate lobbying and media. But it is also true that "public citizens" accomplished much of what they had set out to before the political tide turned conservative. Where they failed was in not securing enough political power to protect the public's gains against the corporate lobbyists and political money.

Joanna Schwartz: Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable (2023, Viking): UCLA law professor, teaches courses on civil procedure, police accountability, and public interest lawyering. Police are very rarely held accountable for their prejudices, mistakes, judgment lapses, and unnecessary violence, as they are shielded by many layers, starting with their willingness to lie and cover for each other, their unions, administrators, lawyers (including prosecutors), judges, and enablers among the "law and order" politicians.

More on police violence:

  • Justine Barron: They Killed Freddie Gray: The Anatomy of a Police Brutality Cover-Up (2023, Arcade).
  • Devon W Carbado: Unreasonable: Black Lives, Police Power, and the Fourth Amendment (2022, New Press).
  • Ben Cohen: Above the Law: How "Qualified Immunity" Protects Violent Police (paperback, 2021, OR Books).
  • Keith Ellison: Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence (2023, Twelve): Minnesota Attorney General, charged and convicted the police responsible for killing George Floyd.
  • Jamie Thompson: Standoff: Race, Policing, and a Deadly Assault That Gripped a Nation (2020, Henry Holt).
  • Ali Winston/Darwin BondGraham: The Riders Come Out at Night: Brutality, Corruption, and Cover-Up in Oakland (2023, Atria Books).

Richard Norton Smith: An Ordinary Man: The Surprising Life and Historic Presidency of Gerald R Ford (2023, Harper): A massive production (832 pp) for the House minority leader from Michigan, who got drafted to be Vice President to help bury the tarnished Spiro Agnew, then elevated to President to pardon and escape Richard Nixon, who then managed to hold off Ronald Reagan and secure the Republican nomination in 1976, only to lose to Jimmy Carter -- which set Reagan up nicely for 1980, in what really was one of the most adversely consequential elections of our lifetime. In his time, Ford was a guy who no one really hated, because he never was that important. But Republicans managed to name an aircraft carrier for him, and now he gets a big biography, even though the title admits he wasn't up to it.

Norman Solomon: War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine (2023, New Press): Author has several books on media, as well as two previous ones on war: War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2005), and his memoir, Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters With America's Warfare State. This starts the selling of the Global War on Terror after 9/11, with how it was exploited when it was popular, and how as enthusiasm faded it gradually got swept out of sight. Still, one needs to look further back to get the point: Vietnam was touted as the "living room war" as daily broadcasts showed the war degenerating into a hopeless quagmire as dissent grew. If the military learned anything from that war, it was the importance of better managing the press. That seemed to work in the 1990 Gulf War, and the many embedded journalists in the 2003 drive to Baghdad did as they were told, but Iraq fell apart even faster than Vietnam, so the press was virtually shut down after Bremer left, with very few reporters free to dispute press office claims, and diminishing interest in finding out more.

  • Norman Solomon: False Hope: The Politics of Illusion in the Clinton Era (paperback, 1994, Common Courage Press).
  • Norman Solomon: The Trouble With Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh (paperback, 1997, Common Courage Press).
  • Martin A Lee/Norman Solomon: Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media (1990; paperback, 1998, Lyle Stuart).
  • Norman Solomon: The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media: Decoding Spin and Lies in the Mainstream News (paperback, 2002, Common Courage Press).
  • Norman Solomon/Jeff Cohen: The Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News (paperback, 2002, Common Courage Press).
  • Norman Solomon/Reese Ehrlich: Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You (paperback, 2003, Context Books).

Astra Taylor: The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart (paperback, 2023, House of Anansi Press): Author of important books on democracy and the internet, activist in Occupy Wall Street and the Debt Collective, as sharp and as broadly knowledgeable as anyone writing today. These essays were written for the CBC Massey Lectures, but sum up a world view, for a world where politicians pride themselves as guardians of our security, while plunging us into ever greater precarity.

Peter Turchin: End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration (2023, Penguin Press): Attempts to work out a scientific framework for comparative history, or rather claims to have worked one out, with a vast range of data points ("CrisisDB"), and is now intent on applying it to the anomaly that is present-day America. Much of this hangs on his concept of the over-production of elites (themselves a slippery concept, given that one can be elite in something without having effective power over anything else). The ability to jump so widely makes for a heady mix, but you mostly wind up grasping at hints.

Mikhail Zygar: War and Punishment: Putin, Zelensky, and the Path to Russia's Invasion of Ukraine (2023, Scribner): A year after the invasion comes the first wave of books trying to explain how and why it happened -- most mixed in with more than a dollop of self-serving propaganda. This is one of the more credible prospects (at least I've found interviews with him to be credible): Zygar, a Russian now based in Berlin, has many years as an independent journalist, which got him close enough to write and distant enough to publish All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin. He starts here by going deep into history to show how Russians and Ukrainians came to hold very different views of each other -- a basic cognitive dissidence that American hawks, stuck with their own myths, show no interest in. Other recent books on the conflict (Matthews and Plokhy are most comparable, and Puri offers an interesting viewpoint; others are more specialized, running the range of views; none strike me as pro-Russian, but a couple are critical of the US):

  • Gilbert Achcar: The New Cold War: The United States, Russia, and China From Kossovo to Ukraine (paperback, 2023, Haymarket Books).
  • Dominique Arel/Jesse Driscoll: Ukraine's Unnamed War: Before the Russian Invasion of 2022 (paperback, 2023, Cambridge University Press): Noted as "new edition," but not clear when the old edition was published.
  • Yevgenia Belorusets: War Diary (paperback, 2023, New Directions).
  • Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict (paperback, 2022, OR Books): Co-founder of antiwar group Codepink.
  • Mark Edele: Russia's War Against Ukraine: The Whole Story (paperback, 2023, Melbourne University Press).
  • Alexander Etkind: Russia Against Modernity (paperback, 2023, Polity): It's hard to disentangle Russia's war in Ukraine from the growth of a reactionary political philosophy (e.g., Alexsandr Dugin) that leads to such irredentism.
  • Ian Garner: Z Generation: Into the Heart of Russia's Fascist Youth (2023, Hurst): Think tank guy, "focuses on Soviet and Russian war propaganda," believes it is believed.
  • Luke Harding: Invasion: The Inside Story of Russia's Bloody War and Ukraine's Fight for Survival (paperback, 2022, Vintage): Guardian journalist.
  • Maximilian Hess: Economic War: Ukraine and the Global Conflict Between Russia and the West (2023, Hurst): Analyst for Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. Key thing here is that the economic war has been going on since 2014. [10-15]
  • Andrey Kurkov: Diary of an Invasion (2023, Deep Vellum): Novelist, based in Kyiv.
  • Aaron Maté: Cold War, Hot War: How Russiagate Created Chaos From Washington to Ukraine (paperback, 2023, OR Books). Grayzone podcaster, works with Matt Taibbi. I think there's something to this, but Grayzone sells it so hard they come off as Russian propagandists. [12-05]
  • Owen Matthews: Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin and Russia's War Against Ukraine (2023, Mudlark): British journalist, former Newsweek Moscow bureau chief.
  • Jade McGlynn: Russia's War (2023, Polity): British "specialist in Russian media, memory, and foreign policy" at King's College, London.
  • Sergei Medvedev: A War Made in Russia (paperback, 2023, Polity): Based in Helsinki, previously wrote:
  • Sergei Medvedev: The Return of the Russian Leviathan (paperback, 2019, Polity): Putin and the "archaic forces of imperial revanchism."
  • Iuliia Mendel: The Fight of Our Lives: My Time With Zelenskyy, Ukraine's Battle for Democracy, and What It Means for the World (2022, Atria/One Signal): Ukrainian journalist, Zelensky's former press secretary.
  • Christopher Miller: The War Came to Us: Life and Death in Ukraine (2023, Bloomsbury): Financial Times journalist, based in Kyiv.
  • David Petraeus/Andrew Roberts: Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare From 1945 to Ukraine (2023, Harper). [10-17]
  • Serhii Plokhy: The Russo-Ukrainian War: The Return of History (2023, WW Norton): Historian, has written books on Russia, also The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine.
  • Bartosz Popko: Stories From Ukraine: The True Price of War (paperback, 2022, self-published): Collects 18 first-person perspectives.
  • Samir Puri: Russia's Road to War With Ukraine: Invasion Amidst the Ashes of Empires (2023, Biteback): British, of Indian heritage via Africa, was an international observer at five Ukrainian elections. Previously wrote: The Great Imperial Hangover: How Empires Have Shaped the World.
  • Samuel Ramani: Putin's War on Ukraine: Russia's Campaign for Global Counter-Revolution (2023, Hurst): British "Russia expert."
  • Serhii Rudenko: Zelensky: A Biography (paperback, 2023, Polity).
  • Gwendolyn Sasse: Russia's War Against Ukraine (paperback, 2023, Polity): "Einstein Professor for the Comparative Study of Democracy and Authoritarianism" in Berlin. [11-20]
  • Philipp Ther: How the West Lost the Peace: The Great Transformation Since the Cold War (paperback, 2023, Polity): Covers a wide swath of European politics after 1989, as does his earlier book:
  • Philipp Ther: Europe Since 1989: A History (2016; paperback, 2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Serhiy Zhadan: Sky Above Kharkiv: Dispatches From the Ukrainian Front (2023, Yale University Press).

Additional books, noted without comments other than for clarity. I reserve the right to return to some of these later (but probably won't; many are here because I don't want to think about them further).

Michele Alacevich: Albert O Hirschman: An Intellectual Biography (2021, Columbia University Press): Second biography I've seen, after Jeremy Adelman: Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O Hirschman (2013), reportedly stronger on Hirschman's economic theories.

Charles Camic: Veblen: The Making of an Economist Who Unmade Economics (2020, Harvard University Press).

Rachel Chrastil: Bismarck's War: The Frano-Prussian War and the Making of Modern Europe (2023, Basic Books).

James C Cobb: C Vann Woodward: America's Historian (2022, The University of North Carolina Press).

Trae Crowder/Corey Ryan Forrester/Drew Morgan: The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin' Dixie Outta the Dark (paperback, 2017, Atria).

Trae Crowder/Corey Ryan Forrester: Round Here and Over Yonder: A Front Porch Travel Guide by Two Progressive Hillbillies (Yes, That's a Thing) (2023, Harper Horizon).

Sandrine Dixson-Declève/Owen Gaffney/Jayati Ghosh/Jorgen Randers/Johan Rockström/Per Espen Stoknes: Earth for All: A Survival Guide for Humanity (paperback, 2022, New Society): "A Report to the Club of Rome (2022) Fifty Years After The Limits to Growth (1972)."

Robert Elder: Calhoun: American Heretic (2021, Basic Books).

Roland Ennos: The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization (2020, Scribner).

Samuel G Freedman: Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights (2023, Oxford University Press).

Newt Gingrich: March to the Majority: The Real Story of the Republican Revolution (2023, Center Street): Memoir of the 1994 election that made Gingrich Speaker of the House.

Josh Hawley: The Masculine Virtues America Needs (2023, Regnery): US Senator (R-MO), famous Jan. 6 track star.

David Horowitz: I Can't Breathe: How a Racial Hoax Is Killing America (2021, Regnery).

Robert Kagan: The Ghost at the Feast: America and the Collapse of World Order, 1900-1941 (2023, Knopf): Carries on from his 2006 book, Dangerous Nation: America's Foreign Policy From Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century.

Patrick Radden Keefe: Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (2021, Doubleday).

Cody Keenan: Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America (2022, Mariner Books): Obama speechwriter, focuses on the speeches of 10 days in June 2015.

Keith Kellogg: War by Other Means: A General in the Trump White House (2021, Regnery).

Michael G Laramie: Queen Anne's War: The Second Contest for North America, 1702-1713 (2021, Westholme).

Marc Levinson: The Box: How a Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (2nd edition paperback, 2016, Princeton University Press).

Marc Levinson: Outside the Box: How Globalization Changed From Moving Stuff to Spreading Ideas (2020, Princeton University Press).

Robert Lighthizer: No Trade Is Free: Changing Course, Taking on China, and Helping America's Workers (2023, Broadside Books): Trump's US Trade Representative.

Stephen A Marglin: Raising Keynes: A Twenty-First-Century General Theory (2021, Harvard University Press): 928 pp.

Ben Mezrich: The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees (2021, Grand Central).

Walter Benn Michaels/Adolph Reed Jr: No Politics but Class Politics (paperback, 2023, Eris).

Adolph L Reed Jr: The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives (2022, Verso).

James Rickards: Sold Out: How Broken Supply Chains, Surging Inflation, and Political Instability Will Sink the Global Economy (2022, Portfolio).

Peter Robison: Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing (2021, Doubleday; paperback, 2022, Anchor).

Kermit Roosevelt III: The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story (2022, University of Chicago Press).

Julio Rosas: Fiery (But Mostly Peaceful): The 2020 Riots and the Gaslighting of America (2022, DW Books): Sees ANTIFA under every rock.

Mike Rothschild: The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything (2021, Melville House).

Marco Rubio: Decades of Decadence: How Our Spoiled Elites Blew America's Inheritance of Liberty, Security, and Prosperity (2023, Broadside Books).

Kohei Saito: Karl Marx's Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy (paperback, 2017, Monthly Review Press).

Kohei Saito: Marx in the Anthropocene: Towards the Idea of Degworth Communism (paperback, Cambridge University Press): Argues that Marx had a long-suppressed ecological critique of capitalism.

Craig Shirley: April 1945: The Hinge of History (2022, Thomas Nelson): Wrote Newt Gingrich's authorized biography.

Thomas Sowell: Social Justice Fallacies (2023, Basic Books).

David Stasavage: The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History From Antiquity to Today (2020, Princeton University Press).

Greg Steinmetz: American Rascal: How Jay Gould Built Wall Street's Biggest Fortune (2022, Simon & Schuster).

James B Stewart/Rachel Abrams: Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy (2023, Penguin Press): The struggle for succession at Paramount Global.

Cass R Sunstein: How to Interpret the Constitution (2023, Princeton University Press).

Owen Ullmann: Empathy Economics: Janet Yellen's Remarkable Rise to Power and Her Drive to Spread Prosperity to All (2022, Public Affairs).

Volker Ullrich: Germany 1923: Hyperinflation, Hitler's Putsch, and Democracy in Crisis (2023, Liveright).

Nikki Usher: News for the Rich, White, and Blue: How Place and Power Distort American Journalism (2021, Columbia University Press). Studying recent trends in newspapers, including the New York Times.

Maurizio Valsania: First Among Men: George Washington and the Myth of American Masculinity (2022, Johns Hopkins University Press).

Thomas D Williams: The Coming Christian Persecution: Why Times Are Getting Worse and How to Prepare for What Is to Come (2023, Crisis Publications): Catholic theologian.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Book Roundup

Seems like I've been working on this Book Roundup forever. The last one was October 22, 2022, preceded by one on May 1, 2022. I keep an open scratch file, sorted into things ready to go for the two sections: 40 substantial blurb-reviews, some with associated lists of related books, and a variable number of simple mentions, some with a line or two for identification. Everything I've done in the past gets copied into a monster archive file, which I consult to avoid repetition.

Someone once asked me about creating a database for book entries. I thought I responded with interest, but never heard from that person again. For what it's worth, my Next Draft file is public, but not in any of my navigation menus. I'm even giving some consideration to coming up with specialized posts on music and/or cooking, but have made little progress on that. It is always possible you'll find those subjects below.

I've been doing batches of 40 for quite a while, but as the sublists keep growing, it occurs to me that 20 would be a more reasonable chunk size, which would also help with the problem of stretching intervals. As it is, it's been a struggle to get this one out, and feel a bit bad doing so before completing a research round. (I left an incomplete one a couple months ago, then back to last fall.)

Rather unusually, nothing in the main section that I've read. I did buy a copy of Reality Blind, but read instead a previously noted book along those lines: Brian T Watson: Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time and the Future We'll Face. I am most tempted to order Kruse/Zelizer: Myth America, and Oreskes/Conway: The Big Myth. I've read previous books by Andrew Bacevich, Ha-Joon Chang, Timothy Egan, Norman G Finkelstein, Chris Hedges, China Miéville, David Quammen, Bernie Sanders, Quinn Slobodian, and Michael Walzer (long ago, his first book from 1965, The Revolution of the Saints, and at least some of his 1970 essay collection, Obligations).

I should note that while I look for items of interest, these are not recommendations (unless explicit). I write about a small number of books each time to criticize or make fun of, and I often note highly dubious books by well-known right-wing authors with little or no comment (Niall Ferguson and Victor Hanson Davis are obvious examples below). Books by political figures are usually noted and dismissed (like Ro Khanna, but I stopped to write something on Bernie Sanders).

There are also a fair number of historical tomes in the second section, especially where they are self-explanatory and not of immediate personal interest. I also tend to pass on left-wing political tomes, especially in the Marxist tradition (like David Harvey).

In the sublists, I made a partial effort to separate possibly worthwhile books from certainly bad ones, at least on climate change and Covid-19. I didn't on abortion. I'm really in no mood to consider anti-abortion views, even to ridicule them, or for that matter attempts to try to see the merits of both sides. Conversely, I didn't go far toward building up a pro-abortion list. I started intent on noting Mary Ziegler's other work, then found a couple more titles in that vein, and one political tract I can wholeheartedly endorse (Without Apology).

I held back a bunch of partly written drafts, plus a lot of barely noted books, especially where they seemed likely to be expanded and/or grouped later on (books on white supremacy and woke fit here; same for China, India, and policing). On the other hand, I grabbed up all the climate stuff I could find but hadn't mentioned earlier. It's certainly impossible to blame our political failures there on lack of information.

Andrew Bacevich: On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century (paperback, 2022, Haymarket Books): Conservative anti-militarist, head of Quincy Institute, collects a batch of essays initially written for TomDispatch from 2016-21. Donald Trump was president for most of that stretch, but without a coherent idea how to adapt American foreign policy after the broken hubris of the War on Terror, he mostly broke things, which was maddening for critics like Bacevich. Biden's solution was to revive the "obsolete past" Bacevich wants him to shed, so he's still not happy, but at least he has lots to critique.

  • Andrew Bacevich/Daniel A Sjursen, eds: Paths of Dissent: Soldiers Speak Out Against America's Misguided Wars (2022, Metropolitan Books): Title suggests an oral history, but this is actually a collection of essays.
  • Andrew Bacevich: After the Apocalypse: America's Role in a World Transformed (2021, Metropolitan Books): Paperback forthcoming [05-03].

Margaret A Burnham: By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow's Legal Executioners (2022, WW Norton): In what's been called "a paradigm-shifting investigation of Jim Crow-era violence, the legal apparatus that sustained it, and its enduring legacy." Or: "if the law cannot protect a person from lynching, then isn't lynching the law?" Lynching was in fact so fundamental to the white supremacist order that the civil rights movement spent most of its energy from 1920 to 1940 in trying to secure a federal anti-lynching law. After all, if you can't live, what else can you do? By the way, the first federal anti-lynching bill passed was in 2022, signed by Joe Biden, and named for Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955. The Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill had been passed by the House in 1922, but filibustered in the Senate.

Ha-Joon Chang: Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World (2023, Public Affairs): Korean economist, started studying developing economies, and came to suspect that much of what fellow economists were teaching on the subject didn't work, and more so, was wrong (see Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism). Since then, he's sought to debunk capitalist economics in a series of primers, like 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, and Economics: A User's Guide. Here he tries a different tactic, using food for examples, tossing in a few recipes. Perhaps he's familiar with Upton Sinclair's line: "I aimed for the public's heart, and hit it in the stomach."

Christopher O Clugston: Blip: Humanity's 300 Year Self-Terminating Experiment With Industrialism (paperback, 2019, Booklocker): There are lots of optimistic books about sustainable energy sources and not much worry about running out of other NNR (nonrenewable natural resources). This book, and its predecessor, offer the flipside to those books. The cover chart reminds me of one Richard Heinberg plotted on oil use and population, extended to project a downside mirroring the upward slant. I can think of reasons why the downside isn't necessary, but I can also imagine what happens when you add a couple more charts to the mix: one would track the efforts from the poorer parts of the world to achieve parity with the richer ones (by development and/or by emigration; it turns out that reducing population growth has little effect here); and the other (harder to quantify but easier to imagine) would track the increasing political stupidity in the richer countries. From those charts it would be a short step to war and revolution. Earlier:

  • Christopher O Clugston: Scarcity: Humanity's Final Chapter (paperback, 2012, Booklocker).

Christopher J Coyne/Abigail R Hall: Manufacturing Militarism: US Government Propaganda in the War on Terror (paperback, 2021, Stanford University Press): "The US government's prime enemy in the War on Terror is not a shadowy mastermind dispatching suicide bombers. It is the informed American citizen." They start by inflating threats, then frame them so that military force is the only option. Hence, we fund vast globe-spanning military networks to deal poorly with threats that pale in comparison to the wildfires, chemical spills, and other disasters that routinely occur. Coyne and Hall have been aware of this for some time. They are among the few who recognize that militarism directed abroad damages democracy and everyday life at home. Also:

  • Christopher J Coyne: After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy (paperback, 2007, Stanford Economics and Finance).
  • Christopher J Coyne/Abigail R Hall: Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of US Militarism (paperback, 2014, Stanford University Press).
  • Christopher J Coyne: In Search of Monsters to Destroy: The Folly of American Empire and the Paths to Peace (2022, Independent Institute).

Ron DeSantis: The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint for America's Revival (2023, Broadside Books): "He played baseball for Yale [while most were studying?], graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, and served in Iraq and the halls of Congress [not just Congress? he was a hall monitor?]. But in all these places, Ron DeSantis learned the same lesson: He didn't want to be part of the leftist elite." Nah, he wanted to be part of the far-right elite (although between Yale, Harvard, Iraq, and Congress, I doubt he met very many actual leftists. This, of course, is his campaign brief. (Amazon's "frequently bought together" offer adds Mike Pompeo's Never Give an Inch and Mike Pence's So Help Me God), so one would normally expect it to be long on homilies and short on details. Of course, his homilies are pretty dark, like "The United States has been increasingly captive to an arrogant, stale, and failed ruling class." And also: "Florida has stood as an antidote to America's failed ruling class." The table of contents not only includes chapters on "For God, for Country, and for Yale" and "Honor, Courage, and Commitment," but also "The Magic Kingdom of Woke Corporatism" and "The Liberal Elite's Praetorian Guard." And if you have any doubt that he's running, the books ends with "Make America Florida." All this in a succinct 286 pages. He's every bit as seductive as Satan. More campaign briefs (also see Mike Pompeo, separately; nothing yet for Larry Elder, Asa Hutchinson, Mike Rogers, or other phantom candidates I've heard about -- although Elder has a half-dozen books 2001-19, the last of which was a lame pitch for Trump; by the way, Trump's latest is in the second section):

  • Tom Cotton: Only the Strong: Reversing the Left's Plot to Sabotage American Power (2022, Twelve): Senator (R-AR): "A behind-the-scenes look at the dangerous failures of Presidents Barack Obama & Joe Biden," insisting that "Only the strong can preserve their freedom."
  • Nikki R Haley: If You Want Something Done . . . Leadership Lessons From Bold Women (2022, St Martin's Press): Former governor (R-SC). Been working on her campaign a long time, as she previously wrote:
  • Nikki Haley: Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story (2012, Sentinel): The inspirational back story, and:
  • Nikki R Haley: With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace (2019, St Martin's): Her claim from having been Trump's first UN Ambassador.
  • Perry Johnson: Two Cents to Save America (2023, self-published).
  • Mike Pence: So Help Me God (2022, Simon & Schuster): Former governor (R-IN), VP under Trump. 560 pp.
  • Kristi Noem: Not My First Rodeo: Lessons From the Heartland (2022, Twelve): South Dakota governor.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy: Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam (2021, Center Street): Biotech company CEO, hedge fund partner, now running for president as others try to jump on his anti-woke bandwagon.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy: Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence (2022, Center Street).
  • Vivek Ramaswamy: Capitalist Punishment: How Wall Street Is Using Your Money to Create a Country You Didn't Vote For (2023, Broadside Books). [04-25].
  • Tim Scott: America, a Redemption Story: Choosing Hope, Creating Unity (2022, Thomas Nelson): Senator (R-SC).

Timothy Egan: A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan's Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them (2023, Viking): Focuses on D.C. Stephenson, Grand Dragon of the KKK in Indiana during its 1920s resurgence, a rich and charismatic demagogue with his sights on high political office. The woman in the subtitle was Madge Oberholtzer, whom he abducted and raped, and who got a tiny bit of redemption with her "deathbed testimony." Egan is a fine writer with a knack for fishing fascinating stories out of history, but this one would feel better if she had lived to see her tormenter's downfall. I previously noted two Egan books: The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (2005), and The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America (2009). Some others:

  • Timothy Egan: The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest (1990, Knopf; paperback, 1991, Vintage).
  • Timothy Egan: Breaking Blue: How One Man's Hunt Through a Half Century of Police Cover-Ups Unlocked the Secret Behind the Nation's Oldest Continuing Murder Investigation (1992, Knopf; paperback, 2004, Sasquatch): The 1935 murder of George Conniff, unsolved until 1989.
  • Timothy Egan: Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West (1998, Knopf; paperback, 1999, Vintage).
  • Timothy Egan: The Winemaker's Daughter (2004, Knopf; paperback, 2005, Vintage): A novel.
  • Timothy Egan: Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis (2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; paperback, 2013, Mariner).
  • Timothy Egan: The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero (2016; paperback, 2017, Mariner): On Thomas F Meagher.
  • Timothy Egan: A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Caterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith (2019, Viking; paperback, 2020, Penguin).

Norman G Finkelstein: I'll Burn That Bridge When I Get to It! Heretical Thoughts on Identity Politics, Cancel Culture, and Academic Freedom (paperback, 2023, Sublation Media): A critique (544 pp) of "identity politics and cancel culture" and lament on "academic freedom" from a guy whose steadfast critique of Israel gets him canceled more often than any self-proclaimed right-wing "victim" can imagine. On the other hand, the experience seems to be taking a toll, making him even more cranky. I've cited most of his books, but missed these:

  • Norman G Finkelstein: The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years (paperback, 1996, University of Minnesota Press).
  • Norman G Finkelstein/Ruth Bettina Birn: A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (paperback, 1998, Holt).
  • Norman G Finkelstein: I Accuse! (paperback, 2020, OR Books): "Herewith a proof beyond reasonable doubt that ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda whitewashed Israel."

Peter Frankopan: The Earth Transformed: An Untold History (2023, Knopf): 736 pp. Big picture history as futurology, tracking climate change from the "dawn of time" -- billions of years where the release of atmospheric oxygen dwarfs any climate change we can imagine -- to the present and beyond. Along the way, the points is to see how many major world events can be tied to disturbances in the environment. I've seen other books trample this ground, perhaps less extensively, like David Keys: Catastrophe: An Investigation Into the Origins of Modern Civilization, and Jared Diamond: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Author previously wrote:

  • Peter Frankopan: The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (2016; Knopf; paperback, 2017, Vintage).
  • Peter Frankopan: The New Silk Roads: The New Asia and the Remaking of the World Order (2019, Knopf; paperback, 2020, Vintage).

John Taylor Gatto: Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992; 25th Anniversary Edition, paperback, 2017, New Society): Libertarian NYC teacher, eventually resigned, saying he no longer wished to "hurt kids for a living." Reminds me of Paul Goodman's classic Compulsory Miseducation (1964). For that matter, also reminds me of my own experience in the public schools, where I escaped the curses of indifference and dependency by radical insubordination. Admittedly, I've known a few people who responded well to school, who found it affirmative, and who built brilliant careers and lives on its foundation. And I know that most teachers don't mean to be ogres, and I doubt that even their supervisors have such malign intent, but rather have set up a system where the assumption of superiority makes the harm Gatto rails against all but inevitable. Gatto aso wrote:

  • John Taylor Gatto: A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling (2001; paperback, 2002, Berkeley Hills Books).
  • John Taylor Gatto: Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling (2008; paperback, 2010, New Society).
  • John Taylor Gatto: The Underground History of American Education, Volume I: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling (paperback, 2017, Valor Academy).

Rebecca Giblin/Cory Doctorow: Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets, and How We'll Win Them Back (2022, Beacon Press): This deals with monopoly powers in books, music, etc., but chokepoints go back a fair ways -- my first thought was how Hewlett-Packard connived to force me to buy ink service for a printer I naively bought from them (never again!), but IBM was notorious for similar practices back in the 1950s. Giblin is an Australian lawyer involved in several interesting projects, and Doctorow is a science fiction writer with similar interests. Still, I'm pretty skeptical about that "how we'll win them back" line.

Anand Giridharadas: The Persuaders: At the Front lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy (2022, Knopf): Having written a book (Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World) about how the rich use philanthropy less to assuage their guilty consciences than to head off potential change, he now turns to, well, I'm not sure. The prologue starts off with a section about Russian trolls and propaganda, but reviews suggest this is a series of portraits of activists trying to get their messages across, so how can you be persuasive in a world riddled with misdirection?

Jason D Greenblatt: In the Path of Abraham: How Donald Trump Made Peace in the Middle East -- and How to Stop Joe Biden From Unmaking It (2022, Wicked Son): Author worked for the Trump administration in negotiating the Abraham Accords, a project Jared Kushner has taken much of the credit for. The AA are a series of agreements between Israel, the US, and various Arab countries, where the latter normalizing relations with Israel, and therefore are allowed to buy more sophisticated arms from the US. This is basically just a continuation of the arrangement Carter negotiated with Egypt in the 1970s, and which Jordan signed on to in the 1990s. The resulting arms shipments (including from Israel) do nothing to secure peace in the region: they contribute to an arms race with Iran, and to internal conflicts like in Yemen. And the whole deal bypasses the more fundamental injustice Israel imposes within its own illegally-expanded borders on Palestinians, even on those nominally considered citizens of Israel. (On paper, there is also a "Peace to Prosperity" component for the Palestinians, but Israel has never shown any interest in it, and Trump's team are not the sort to get pushy.) The praise for Trump and the threat to Biden just proves that Greenblatt understands his fundamentally partisan role. In point of fact, Biden has no desire or need to roll back any of the Abraham Accords. The only "threat" he offers is that he might resurrect the JCPOA with Iran, which would end the potential threat Iran might poise to Israel, but would deprive Israeli leaders of an enemy they need to justify their militarism. Also:

  • David Friedman: Sledgehammer: How Breaking With the past Brought Peace to the Middle East (2022, Broadside Books): Trump's ambassador to Israel, who more than anyone personified the abject surrender of American interests to Israel, weighs in.

Nicholas Guyatt: The Hated Cage: An American Tragedy in Britain's Most Terrifying Prison (2022, Basic Books): British historian, books have covered a wide range of topics, this would seem to be a relatively obscure story: Britain's Dartmoor Prison, which held some 5,000 American sailors during and after the War of 1812 (where "they had been left to rot by their government"), and many were massacred in 1815. But it has contemporary resonance, as race, power, and dehumanization are still very much with us. Guyatt previously wrote:

  • Nicholas Guyatt: The Absence of Peace: Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (paperback, 1998, Zed Books).
  • Nicholas Guyatt: Another American Century: The United States and the World Since 9/11 (paperback, 2003, Zed Books).
  • Nicholas Guyatt: Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607-1876 (paperback, 2007, Cambridge University Press).
  • Nicholas Guyatt: Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World (paperback, 2007, Harper Perennial).
  • Nicholas Guyatt: Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation (2016, Basic Books).

Stephen J Hadley, ed: Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W Bush Passed to Barack Obama (2023, Brookings Institution Press): Big (774 pp) collection of transition papers prepared by the outgoing Bush administration for Obama, compiled by Bush's second-term National Security Advisor, with a foreword by Bush and introductions by Hadley and Condoleezza Rice (who held the NSA post before Hadley, before she became Secretary of State). Lots of disappointments in Obama's early administration, but the extent to which he maintained continuity with Bush foreign policy was among the most shameful (and stupid).

Pekka Hämäläinen: Indigenous Continent: The Epic Contest of North America (2022, Liveright). Attempts to recast the history of North America from the vantage point of its indigenous inhabitants. Still, only two chapters set the pre-1492 stage, reflecting the lack of written records for the 11-12 thousand years between their arrival from Asia and Alaska and the invaders from Europe. After that, there's a lot of history to report, though it's hitherto usually been told from the standpoint of the conquerors.

  • Pekka Hämäläinen: The Comanche Empire (2008; paperback, 2009, Yale University Press).
  • Pekka Hämäläinen: Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power (2019; paperback, 2020, Yale University Press).

Johann Hari: Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention -- and How to Think Deeply Again (2022, Crown): Superficially, this seems to fit into the tradition of anti-media screeds like Amusing Ourselves to Death, although the self-help bit wedged into the title adds a bit of the marketing the book would be better off railing against. How much self help is even possible? The table of contents enumerates twelve causes for this loss of focus, leaving scant room for solutions. How deeply do we want (or need) to think, anyway? I see blurb praise from Naomi Klein, Hillary Clinton, and Arianna Harrington, which makes me think that maybe focus is less the problem than the lack of principles and responsibility from the public figures we need to keep check on.

  • Johann Hari: Lost Connections: Why You're Depressed and How to Find Hope (2018; paperback, 2019, Bloomsbury).

Mehdi Hasan: Win Every Argument: The Art of Debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking (2023, Henry Holt): British-American journalist, started with Al Jazeera English, has moved in more respectable circles recently, and yes, he's a very erudite and penetrating interviewer. Still, seems a bit odd to frame this as a self-help book for pundits who care more about winning arguments than finding the best answers. Still, like Machiavelli's Prince, you can probably flip this around and see it as an exposé of people who win arguments with cheap tricks. Some time back, I read a book that purported to have every known sales close technique. then noted that if you don't want to buy, just list the techniques just used on you, and the salesperson will be defeated.

Chris Hedges: The Greatest Evil Is War (2022, Seven Stories Press): A former divinity student who once got his kicks as a war correspondent, seeking action everywhere from Central America to the Balkans through the Middle East and into Africa, he now offers "a blistering condemnation of war in all forms and for all reasons." I would say "about time," but it looks like he's collected these writings from a couple decades of columns. Still, those of us who consistently oppose war from the start rarely need to rewrite much.

Wes Jackson/Robert Jensen: An Inconvenient Apocalypse: Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity (paperback, 2022, University of Notre Dame Press): Short (184 pp), Jackson is an important agriculture reformer in Kansas (a folk hero, really), and Jensen is a journalism professor whose concern for the planet led him to write a book about Jackson. Title plays on Al Gore's 2006 book and film An Inconvenient Truth, but Gore's title fit together into something profound, whereas this title has a whiff of irony and desperation: sure, the situation is graver now, but apocalypse is still a bit hyperbolic, and being nonchalant about it doesn't help. Hard to tell whether this goes beyond rote alarmism. A look back at their many previous books suggests increasing pessimism.

  • Wes Jackson: Man and the Environment (paperback, 1971, Wm C Brown).
  • Wes Jackson: New Roots for Agriculture paperback, 1980, University of Nebraska Press): Introduction by Wendell Berry.
  • Wes Jackson: Altars of Unhewn Stone: Science and the Earth (paperback, 1987, North Point Press).
  • Wes Jackson: Becoming Native to This Place (paperback, 1996, Counterpoint): 136 pp.
  • Wes Jackson: Nature as Measure: The Selected Essays of Wes Jackson (paperback, 2011, Counterpoint): Introduction by Wendell Berry.
  • Wes C Jackson: The Woman at the Well: How One Encounter Changed a City (paperback, 2013, Third Ralph): 60 pp.
  • Robert Jensen: All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice (paperback, 2009, Soft Skull).
  • Robert Jensen: We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out (paperback, 2013, CreateSpace).
  • Robert Jensen: Plain Radical: Living, Loving and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (paperback, 2015, Soft Skull).
  • Robert Jensen: The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (paperback, 2005, City Lights).
  • Robert Jensen: Arguing for Our Lives: A User's Guide to Constructive Dialog (paperback, 2013, City Lights).
  • Robert Jensen: The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men (paperback, 2017, Spinifex Press).
  • Robert Jensen: The Restless and Relentless Mind of Wes Jackson: Searching for Sustainability (2021, University Press of Kansas).

Michael Kazin: What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party (2022, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Broad strokes history of the Democratic Party's many struggles to win elections, starting with Jackson (or actually, his smarter alter ego Martin van Buren), and extending to the present. The title is a curious one, given that mostly Democrats didn't manage to win, often (1860, 1896, 1972) because the Party bigwigs preferred losing to Republicans over losing to other Democrats. (The Republicans returned the favor in 1912, giving us the mixed blessings of Woodrow Wilson.) Kazin favors the left wing of the Democratic Party, and has written several books about it:

  • Michael Kazin: Barons of Labor: The San Francisco Building Trades and Union Power in the Progressive Era (1987; paperback, 1988, University of Illinois Press).
  • Michael Kazin: The Populist Persuasion: An American History (1995, Basic Books; rev ed, paperback, 2017, Cornell University Press).
  • Martin Isserman/Michael Kazin: America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s (1999, Oxford University Press; 5th ed, paperback, 2015, Oxford University Press).
  • Michael Kazin: A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan (2006, Knopf; paperback, 2007, Anchor).
  • Michael Kazin: American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (2011, Knopf; paperback, 2012, Vintage Books).
  • Michael Kazin: War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918 (2017; paperback, 2018, Simon & Schuster).

Kevin M Kruse/Julian E Zelizer, eds: Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past (2023, Basic Books): Looks like an interesting collection of revisionist essays on controversial topics in American history, like "Founding Myths" and "Vanishing Indians" up to more contemporary topics like "White Backlash," "Police Violence," and "Voter Fraud." As they point out, "Many of the lies and legends in this collection . . . stem from deliberate campaign of disinformation from the political Right." While some of these myths have deep roots in historiography, others were largely invented by the Right in recent years, in their conscious attempt to recast American history in a self-justifying light. Refuting those myths doesn't automatically place you on the Left, but the Left has rarely hid injustices in the past, because the Left exists to correct them.

Glory M Liu: Adam Smith's America: How a Scottish Philosopher Became an Icon of American Capitalism (2022, Princeton University Press). Scottish author of economics ur-text The Wealth of Nations in the pivotal American year of 1776, a coincidence that some Americans have taken as manifest destiny. This focuses on American readings of Smith's book, especially how they've been weaponized for private gain. For instance: "the so-called Chicago School's distillation of Smith's ideas into a popular and powerful myth: that rational self-interest is the only valid premise for the analysis of human behavior, and that only the invisible hand of the market, not the heavy hand of government, could guarantee personal and political freedom." That "invisible hand" has often been taken as the magic that converts personal greed into public good: not the only time a joke has been taken as gospel.

Andrew Morton: The Queen: Her Life (2022, Grand Central): The British monarchy has been dead weight since . . . well, as an American, I'd start with George III . . . but few monarchs have retreated into their useless world more gracefully than Elizabeth II. Morton is a hack who does "celebrity biographies" (Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Madonna) when he's not riding piggyback on the tabloid monarchy, but he scored one career-defining coup in getting Princess Diana to spill her guts into the book he subtitled "Her True Story -- In Her Own Words." My best guess is that this book has been lurking in his cabinet, waiting the Queen's inevitable death for an element of timeliness (it's not as if he didn't have other wares to flog). Still, this one's handy enough to hang a few more slices of useless but sometimes titillating royal gossip (the length perhaps owing to my lack of interest in the subject):

  • Andrew Morton: Diana: Her True Story -- in Her Own Words (1992; 25th anniversary edition, "featuring exclusive new material": paperback, 2017, Simon & Schuster).
  • Andrew Morton: 17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History (2015; paperback, 2016, Grand Central).
  • Andrew Morton: Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy (2018, paperback, Grand Central).
  • Andrew Morton: Meghan and the Unmasking of the Monarchy: A Hollywood Princess (2018; paperback, 2021, Grand Central).
  • Andrew Morton: Elizabeth & Margaret: The Intimate World of the Windsor Sisters (2021, Grand Central).
  • Christopher Andersen: Brothers and Wives: Inside the Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan (2021, Gallery Books).
  • Tina Brown: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor -- the Truth and the Turmoil (paperback, 2023, Crown): 608 pp. Brown previously wrote:
  • Tina Brown: The Diana Chronicles (2007, Doubleday; paperback, 2008, Knopf).
  • Tom Bower: Revenge: Meghan, Harry, and the War Between the Windsors (2022, Atria Books).
  • Lady Colin Campbell: Meghan and Harry: The Real Story (2020, Pegasus Books).
  • Dylan Howard: Royals at War: The Untold Story of Harry and Meghan's Shocking Split with the House of Windsor (2020, Skyhorse).
  • Robert Lacey: Battle of Brothers: William and Harry -- The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult (2020, Harper).
  • Valentine Low: Courtiers: Intrigue, Ambition, and the Power Players Behind the House of Windsor (2023, St Martin's Press).
  • Katie Nicholl: The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth's Legacy and the Future of the Crown (2022, Hachette Books).
  • James Patterson: Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother (2022, Little Brown).
  • Omid Scobie/Carolyn Durand: Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family (2020, Dey Street Books).
  • Prince Harry: Spare (2023, Random House): Makes a solid case that Prince William is an asshole. Makes a very weak case that he isn't.

Eric Metaxas: Fish Out of Water: A Search for the Meaning of Life (2021, Salem Books): Autobiography. Everything I read about him spells "huckster," albeit a rather clever and successful one, with his syndicated radio show, his bestsellers, and his constant stroking of common religious conceits in America, while trying to reclaim moral and intellectual high ground (against slavery, against Nazism, for American liberty, for science; miracles never cease).

  • Eric Metaxas: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask) (paperback, 2005, WaterBrook).
  • Eric Metaxas: Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (2007; paperback, 2008, Harper Collins).
  • Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2010; paperback, 2020, Thomas Nelson): Big bestseller, puts the Nazis in their place.
  • Eric Metaxas: If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (2016, Viking; paperback, 2017, Penguin).
  • Eric Metaxas: Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life (2014, Viking; paperback, 2015, Penguin).
  • Eric Metaxas: Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (2017, Viking; paperback, 2018, Penguin).
  • Eric Metaxas: Is Atheism Dead? (2021, Salem Books). No, it's just minding its own business.
  • Eric Metaxas: Letter to the American Church (2022, Salem Books).

China Miéville: A Spectre, Haunting: On the Communist Manifesto (paperback, 2022, Haymarket Books): British writer, started writing speculative fiction (novels, stories, comic books), branched out into criticism (Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, 2009) and history (October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, 2017). Here he re-reads 1848's The Communist Manifesto, both in light of the history it inspired and the history we wound up with today, and he finds it surprisingly resonant.

Gretchen Morgenson/Joshua Rosner: These Are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs -- and Wrecks -- America (2023, Simon & Schuster): Longtime financial reporters, wrote a book in 2011 on how greed wrecked the economy (Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon), zeroes in on the worst of the worst here: the private equity companies that buy companies and bleed them dry, making off with billions while employees lose their jobs, customers lose options, and we wind up having to pick up the pieces. (You may recall that Mitt Romney's Bain Capital was one such firm.)

Naomi Oreskes/Erik M Conway: The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market (2023, Bloomsbury): Possibly an important book. Authors wrote about how companies spin PR to protect toxic products -- Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues From Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (2010). The difference here is that they're pushing political ideas: they want us to hate government because they fear government -- the face they paint on democracy -- might defend public interests against private greed. So they play up corruption (mostly their own clandestine interference) and bureaucratic inefficiency as intrinsic flaws. Meanwhile, they try to paint a pretty picture of a "free market," which is actually something the entire MBA program is training to subvert. Part of the reason they've gotten away with this is that the idea of free markets is so promising. But to work, you have to have ample competition, perfect information, transparency, and integrity -- conditions that would be impossible even if tried, which is something no actual business wants.

Mike Pompeo: Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love (2023, Broadside Books): Another campaign brief, this one from "the only four-year national security member of President Trump's Cabinet, he worked to impose crushing pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran, avert a nuclear crisis with North Korea, deliver unmatched support for Israel, and bring peace to the Middle East." Note that none of those things actually worked, as he left the world in worse shape than when he joined Trump. But also note that there are issues where he wants to distance himself from Trump, as when he explains "why Trump thought his Secretary of State was too tough on China," and why Trump needed to be tougher. The first blurb reads: "Mike is a real-life Tom Clancy American hero." Perhaps running for president isn't just an ego thing with him. Maybe he just wants to start World War III. He's already abandoned his presidential campaign, so expect to find this cheap.

David Quammen: Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus (2022, Simon & Schuster): Natural science writer, his book on evolution (The Song of the Dodo is a classic), but he's also ventured into diseases, with books on AIDS and Ebola, as well as (most presciently) Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, so him tackling the Covid-19 pandemic is all but inevitable. I expected by now that we'd be seeing more serious books on Covid, but a quick check through Amazon reveals only a few plausible titles, along with a bunch of more/less paranoid hysteria:

  • Stephen Bezruchka: Inequality Kills Us All: Covid-19's Health Lessons for the World (paperback, 2022, Routledge).
  • The Covid Crisis Group: Lessons From the Covid War: An Investigative Report (paperback, 2023, Public Affairs).
  • Erik J Dahl: The Covid-19 Intelligence Failure: Why Warning Was Not Enough (paperback, Georgetown University Press).
  • Anya Kamenetz: The Stolen Year: How Covid Changed Children's Lives, and Where We Go Now (2022, Public Affairs).
  • Katherine Sorrels/Lora Arduser/et al, eds: Ohio Under Covid: Lessons From America's Heartland in Crisis (paperback, 2023, University of Michigan Press).
  • Alexander Zaitchik: Owning the Sun: A People's History of Monopoly Medicine From Aspirin to Covid-19 Vaccines (paperback, 2023, Counterpoint): Title comes from Jonas Salk, who refused to patent his polio vaccine.
  • Slavoj Zizek: Pandemic! 2: Chronicles of a Time Lost (paperback, 2021, Polity).

Let's also throw in a sample of the more extreme political screeds -- not all on the right, and some merely looking suspicious.

  • Paul Elias Alexander/Kent Heckenlively: Presidential Takedown: How Anthony Fauci, the CDC, NIH, and the WHO Conspired to Overthrow President Trump (2022, Skyhorse): So, millions of people got sick and died to make Trump look bad?
  • Vernon Coleman: Covid-19: The Greatest Hoax in History (paperback, 2022, Korsgaard).
  • Steve Deace/Daniel Horowitz: Rise of the Fourth Reich: Confronting Covid Fascism With a New Nuremberg Trial, So This Never Happens AGain (2023, Post Hill Press).
  • Toby Green/Thomas Fazi: The Covid Consensus: The Global Assault on Democracy and the Poor -- A Critique From the Left (paperback, 2023, Hurst): Critical of lockdowns and vaccines, so not my preferred left analysis.
  • Justin Hart: Gone Viral: How Covid Drove the World Insane (2022, Regnery). Title could have come from the left, but publisher argues otherwise.
  • Aaron Kheriaty: The New Abnormal: The Rise of the Biomedical Security State (2022, Regnery).
  • Pierre Kory: The War on Ivermectin: The Medicine That Save Millions and Could Have Ended the Covid Pandemic (2023, Skyhorse) [06-06]
  • John Leake/Peter A McCullough: The Courage to Face Covid-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex (paperback, 2022, Counterplay).
  • Marc Morano: The Great Reset: Global Elites and the Permanent Lockdown (2022, Regnery).
  • Steve Templeton: Fear of a Microbial Planet: How a Germophobic Safety Culture Makes Us Less Safe (paperback, 2023, Brownstone). The most sensible-sounding of this bunch, but clearly wrong in many cases: sure, there may be places where fear of germs can be carried to excess, but hospitals are an obvious exception.
  • Naomi Wolf: The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, Covid-19 and the War Against the Human (2022, All Seasons Press).

I'm not sure which of the above lists the "lab leak" stories belong in:

  • Alina Chan/Matt Ridley: Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19 (2021; paperback, 2022, Harper Perennial).
  • Andrew G Huff: The Truth About Wuhan: How I Uncovered the Biggest Lie in History (2022, Skyhorse).
  • Robert F Kennedy Jr: The Wuham Cover-Up: How US Health Officials Conspired With the Chinese Military to Hide the Origins of Covid-19 (2023, Skyhorse). [06-20]
  • Sharri Markson: What Really Happened in Wuhan: A Virus Like No Other, Countless Infections, Millions of Deaths (paperback, 2022, Harper Collins).
  • Alison Young: Pandora's Gamble: Lab Leaks, Pandemics, and a World at Risk (2023, Center Street).

Bernie Sanders: It's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism (2023, Crown): Not a typical political brief, and not just because it's unlikely he'll run for president in 2024 (although he does write about his run in 2020) -- more like because he has serious things to say. Sanders is not to my left on issues, but he sometimes strikes me as unnecessary taking risks with rhetoric, as when his 2016 stump speech wound up with a call for "political revolution." Even with the qualification, that struck me as risky, and not sufficiently clear. I've long been taking pains to stress that reforms would be just fine. Similarly, I'm inclined to accept that capitalism has some virtues, as long as it's sufficiently regulated, of course. But Sanders may be striking the right note here: after all, if you can't get angry enough, what chance do you have of putting those regulations (and other compensations) in place? Besides, there is no word more accurate: Ryan Cooper's How Are You Going to Pay for That? has lots of good ideas, but trying to dodge "capitalism" by complaining about "propertarianism" isn't one of them.

Jeff Sharlet: The Undertow: Scenes From a Slow Civil War (2023, WW Norton): Author has written previous books on the intersection of right-wing politics and religion -- The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism as the Heart of American Power (2008), and C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy (2010) -- and this follows his subjects into the post-Trump apocalypse, where "political rallies are as aflame with need and giddy expectation as religious revivals." This idea of a "slow civil war" strikes me as apt, reminding me of how slow neutrons can sustain nuclear reactions to generate heat and radioactivity short of blowing everything up. When we think of civil war, we automatically think of 1861, when each state started with its own organized militia. But civil wars usually start small and grow as the injuries compound.

Quinn Slobodian: Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy (2023, Metropolitan Books): This is about the increase in the number of special zones, which are countries or enclaves which allow business to operate with little or no democratic accountability. Businesses can avoid taxes and other regulations by shopping for favored zones, and the more they have to choose from, the more leverage they have. The book opens with the long-established Hong Kong, but there are many more, some as local as the "innovation zones" being promoted by your local and state governments. Slobodian previously wrote Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, which seems like old hat compared to this.

Jeremi Suri: Civil War by Other Means: America's Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy (2022, Public Affairs). "Worries about a new civil war in America are misplaced because the Civil War never fully ended. Its lingering embers have burst into flames at various times, including during our own." Much of this story has been told in Heather Cox Richardson's How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, but the neo-Confederate wins from Jim Crow into the 1950s haven't stood unchallenged either, as we see in the still ongoing struggle to remove Confederate monuments, or the appearance of Confederate flags in the January 6 assault on the Capitol.

Greta Thunberg: The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions (2023, Penguin Press): At 15, she emerged as an iconic leader in the campaign to take climate change seriously. She has a couple previous books -- No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference (2019), and Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis (2020) -- but one of the advantages of being a leader is you don't have to do it all yourself. She assembled, or at least put her name on (the word on the frontispiece is "created"), this mini-encyclopedia (464 pp) from the work of over 100 experts, with her own section intros. Also lots of pictures and graphs. More recent books on climate change (also see Wes Jackson, above; of course, I've published many such lists before):

  • Susan Bauer-Wu: A Future We Can Love: How We Can Reverse the Climate Crisis With the Power of Our Hearts & Minds (2023, Shambhala): "Inspired by the conversations between his holiness the Dalai Lama & Greta Thunberg." [06-13]
  • Michael D Bess: Planet in Peril: Humanity's Four Greatest Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them (2022, Cambridge University Press): Also writes about nuclear war, pandemics, and AI.
  • Zahra Biabani: Climate Optimism: Celebrating Systemic Change Around the World (paperback, 2023, Mango).
  • Jake Bittle: The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration (2023, Simon & Schuster): As climate changes, people are going to adjust by moving, and not just to/within the US, per focus here.
  • Holly Jean Buck: Ending Fossil Fuels: Why Net Zero Is Not Enough (paperback, 2021, Verso).
  • Brian Buma: The Atlas of a Changing Climate: Our Evolving Planet Visualized With More Than 100 Maps, Charts, and Infographics (2021, Timber Press).
  • Simon Clark: Firmament: The Hidden Science of Weather, Climate Change and the Air That Surrounds Us (2022, Hodder & Stoughton).
  • Stan Cox: The Path to a Livable Future: A New Politics to Fight Climate Change, Racism, and the Next Pandemic (paperback, 2021, City Lights).
  • Elizabeth Cripps: What Climate Justice Means: And Why We Should Care (paperback, 2022, Bloomsbury).
  • Steven Earle: A Brief History of Earth's Climate: Everyone's Guide to the Science of Climate Change (paperback, 2021, New Society).
  • Peter Fiekowsky/Carole Douglis: Clilmate Restoration: The Only Future That Will Sustain the Human Race (paperback, 2022, Rivertowns Books): Focus on carbon removal.
  • Chris Funk: Drought, Flood, Fire: How Climate Change Contributes to Catastrophes (2021, Cambridge University Press).
  • Joshua S Goldstein/Staffan A Qvist: A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Clilmate Change and the Rest Can Follow (2019, Public Affairs): Nuclear power advocates; "solved" is big a stretch, if true at all.
  • Matthew T Huber: Climate Change as Class War: Building Socialism on a Warming Planet (paperback, 2022, Verso).
  • Mark Z Jacobson: No Miracles Needed: How Today's Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air (new edition, paperback, 2023, Cambridge University Press).
  • Mark Z Jacobson: 100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything (paperback, 2020, Cambridge University Press).
  • Vitezslav Kremlik: A Guide to the Climate Apocalypse (paperback, 2021, Identity).
  • Joanna I Lewis: Cooperating for the Climate: Learning From International Partnerships in China's Clean Energy Sector (paperback, 2023, The MIT Press).
  • Bill McGuire: Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant's Guide (paperback, 2022, Icon Books).
  • Paul McKendrick: Scrubbing the Sky: Inside the Race to Cool the Planet (2023, Figure 1).
  • Sam Moore/Alex Roberts: The Rise of Ecofascism: Climate Change and the Far Right (paperback, 2022, Polity).
  • Frederica Perera: Children's Health and the Peril of Climate Change (2022, Oxford University Press).
  • Robert S Pindyck: Climate Future: Averting and Adapting to Climate Change (2022, Oxford University Press): Economist, puts perhaps too much emphasis on uncertainty.
  • David Pogue: How to Prepare for Climate Change: A Practical Guide to Surviving the Chaos (paperback, 2021, Simnon & Schuster): Tech writer, has written many volumes in The Missing Manual series, assumes disaster is imminent and has compiled a lengthy (624 pp), systematic survival guide.
  • Assaad Razzouk: Saving the Planet Without the Bullshit: What They Don't Tell You About the Climate Crisis (paperback, 2022, Atlantic Books).
  • Heidi Roop: The Climate Action Handbook: A Visual Guide to 100 Climate Solutions for Everyone (paperback, 2023, Sasquatch Books).
  • Herb Simmens: A Climate Vocabulary of the Future (2017; 2nd ed, paperback, 2023, Wheatmark): Kim Stanley Robinson applauds this.
  • Rebecca Solnit/Thelma Young Lutunatabua, eds: Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story From Despair to Possibility (paperback, 2023, Haymarket Books).
  • Eli Tziperman: Global Warming Science: A Quantitative Introduction to Climate Change and Its Consequences (paperback, 2022, Princeton University Press).
  • Rob Verchick: The Octopus in the Parking Garage: A Call for Climate Resilience (2023, Columbia University Press).
  • Katie Worth: Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America (paperback, 2021, Columbia Global Reports).

I suppose we can mention a few recent examples of right-wing denialism and/or escapism:

  • Jerome R Corsi: The Truth About Energy, Global Warming, and Climate Change: Exposing Climate Lies in the Age of Disinformation (paperback, 2022, Post Hill Press).
  • Alex Epstein: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels (2014; revised ed, 2021, Portfolio).
  • Alex Epstein: Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas -- Not Less (2022, Portfolio): Founder of Center for Industrial Progress, which means he doesn't depend on book royalties for his living.
  • C Paul Smith: The Climate Change Hoax Argument: The History and Science That Expose a Major International Deception (paperback, 2021, independent).
  • Robert Zubrin: The Case for Nukes: How We Can Beat Global Warming and Create a Free, Open, and Magnificent Future (paperback, 2023, Polaris): Longtime nuclear power advocate. I'm not a priori opposed, but first solve the waste problem, and end the threat of nuclear weapons. And the argument that entrepreneurs won't make the same (or worse?) mistakes as bureaucrats is risible.

Marian L Tupy/Gale E Pooley: Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet (2022, Cato Institute): Basically, they define abundance as the product of population times freedom, where the latter is plain laissez-faire capitalism. Given the latter, population is the variable, and the more the merrier. Never mind the naysayers, with their cant about finite resources, as our planet (or whatever planet these two think they live on) is "infinitely bountiful." This is, of course, extremely stupid, and as I scan down the list of raving blurbs, I can cross most of the names from the list of people to take seriously (names I recognize: George Gilder, Paul Romer, Steven Pinker, Jordan Peterson, Jason Furman, George Will, Matt Ridley, Lawrence Summers, Michael Schellenberger). A customer caught the spirit and quoted Ronald Reagan: "There are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams." That's a nice line, but the actual political system it ushered in not only slowed growth but made sure it was ever more inequally shared. And while I wouldn't say that abundance is an unimaginable goal, I will say that it only matters if it is widely distributed, which cannot happen under the political regime the Cato authors serve.

Michael Walzer: The Struggle for a Decent Politics: On "Liberal" as an Adjective (2023, Yale University Press): Billed as "one of the most prominent political philosophers of our era," his epic efforts to rationalize "just wars" have marked him as practically useless and more than a little evil. This slim (172 pp) volume examines the word "liberal" as attached to eight nouns: Democrats, Socialists, Nationalists and Internationalists, Communitarians, Feminists, Professors and Intellectuals, and Jews, then asks "Who Is and Who Isn't?" That few people today identify as liberals is due to two things: the failure of liberals from the 1960s and beyond to deliver FDR's freedom from want and from fear (largely due to their embrace of capitalist neo-colonialism, most notably in Vietnam); and the hatchet job the right did on liberals as a source of disorder (basically, they were given a lose-lose choice, and managed to do both). Still, Walzer is right that the word does survive somewhat honorably as an adjective, as his cases show, but only when it adds something to the noun it refines (e.g., liberal socialists seek equality and social solidarity, but also respect and tolerance for individuals -- not always a strong point on the historical left).

DJ White/NH Hagens: The Bottlenecks of the 21st Century: Essays on the Systems Synthesis of the Human Predicament (paperback, 2019, independent): This is sort of a "whole earth catalog" with nothing for sale, just a mess of concepts about how the world works, and facts about how it's all going to hell. Some sections: "A Probabilistic View of the Future"; "Human Cognitive Biases" (filed under "Delusional R Us"); "Receding Horizons and Peak Everything"; "Fifth Years of Buffer for a Million Years of Slime" (under "Our Faustian Ocean"); "Resetting Your Hedonic Ratchet." Hard to tell if this is crazy, or perhaps not crazy enough. Some more or less related books:

  • NJ Hagens/DJ White: Reality Blind: Integrating the Systems Science Underpinning Our Collective Futures: Volume 1 (paperback, 2021, independent): This one seems more straightforwardly organized. No Volume 2, as far as I can tell.

Andrea Wulf: Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self (2022, Knopf): Asks the question: "when did we begin to be as self-centered as we are today?" Finds answers in 1970s Germany (Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, various Schlegels, Alexander von Humboldt), contrasting them to the more mundane revolutionaries of France. She's explored this terrain extensively before. Reminds me that in order to dominate nature, you first have to name it. Previously wrote:

  • Andrea Wulf: The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession (2009, Knopf; paperback, 2010, Vintage Books).
  • Andrea Wulf: Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation (2011, Knopf; paperback, 2012, Vintage Books).
  • Andrea Wulf: Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens (2012, Knopf; paperback, 2013, Vintage Books).
  • Andrea Wulf: The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World (2015, Knopf; paperback, 2016, Vintage Books).

Mary Ziegler: Dollars for Life: The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican Establishment (2022, Yale University Press): I've long felt that the Republican establishment embrace of anti-abortion extremism was purely cynical: they wanted to break Catholics away from the Democratic Party, and saw abortion as a cheap and easy wedge issue -- one that, as it turned out, also resonated with fundamentalist protestants, who became an important political constituency in the 1980s, especially in the white South and northern suburbs (where racist "law and order" posturing was an even more powerful wedge). Ziegler ties the issue to campaign finance regulation, arguing that the anti-abortion faction came to dominate the Republican Party due to their financial prowess. I'm not so sure there ever was a monolithic Republican establishment (Mark Hanna may have come closest), but this seems to be conflating two things: the ideological purity the anti-abortion movement has successfully demanded; and the division of party power among its now unlimited elite donors and a base that is almost totally shaped by Fox and its splinter media competitors. Other books by Ziegler (including a later one, plus some recent ones on abortion):

  • Mary Ziegler: Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present (paperback, 2020, Cambridge University Press).
  • Mary Ziegler: Roe: The History of a National Obsession (2023, Yale University Press).
  • Becca Andrews: No Choice: The Destruction of Roe v. Wade and the Fight to Protect a Fundamental American Right (2022, Public Affairs).
  • Jenny Brown: WIthout Apology: The Abortion Struggle Now (paperback, 2019, Verso).
  • David S Cohen/Carole E Joffe: Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America (2020, University of California Press): And much worse now.
  • Leslie J Reagan: When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973 (1997; paperback, 2022, University of California Press).

Additional books, barely or at least briefly noted. I reserve the right to return to them later (but probably won't). Some of these are just meant to be dismissive, while others just seem self-explanatory.

Sarah Adams/Dave Benton: Benghazi: Know Thy Enemy (2022, Askari Global): Written by two former CIA officers.

Martín Arboleda: Planetary Mine: Territories of Extraction Under Late Capitalism (paperback, 2020, Verso).

Nona Willis Aronowitz: Bad Sex: Truth, Pleasure, and an Unfinished Revolution (2022, Plume).

Lucas Bessire: Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains (2021; paperback, 2022, Princeton University Press): The vanishing Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies a stretch of plains from the Texas panhandle to the Dakotas.

Katherine Blunt: California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric -- and What It Means for America's Power Grid (2022, Portfolio).

Michael Booth: Super Sushi Ramen Express: One Family's Journey Through the Belly of Japan (2016, Picador).

HW Brands: Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution (2021, Doubleday).

HW Brands: The Last Campaign: Sherman, Geronimo and the War for America (2022, Doubleday).

Douglas Brinkley: Silent Spring Revolution: John F Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Great Environmental Awakening (2022, Harper).

Frank Costigliola: Kennan: A Life Between Worlds (2023, Princeton University): Major (648 pp) biography of George F Kennan, founder and critic of the Cold War.

Neta C Crawford: The Pentagon, Climate Change, and War: Charting the Rise and Fall of US Military Emissions (2022, The MIT Press).

Matthew Dallek: Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right (2023, Basic Books).

Tom Dunkel: White Knights in the Black Orchestra: The Extraordinary Story of the Germans Who Resisted Hitler (2022, Hachette).

Noah Feldman: The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America (2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux; paperback, 2022, Picador).

Niall Ferguson: Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe (2021, Penguin Press).

Orlando Figes: The Story of Russia (2022, Metropolitan Books): British historian with many books on Russia, with this one covering the most ground in the fewest pages (368 pp).

Richard M Fried: A Genius for Confusion: Joseph R McCarthy and the Politics of Deceit (2022, Rowman & Littlefield).

Beverly Gage: G-Man: J Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century (2022, Viking).

David Graeber: Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux): "Graeber's final posthumous book."

Victor Davis Hanson: The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America (2021, Basic Books).

Malcolm Harris: Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World (2023, Little Brown): 720 pp.

David Harvey: A Companion to Marx's Grundrisse (paperback, 2023, Verso).

Jon Hilsenrath: Yellen: The Trailblazing Economist Who Navigated an Era of Upheaval (2022, Harper Business).

Cedric G Johnson: After Black Lives Matter (2023, Verso).

Robert D Kaplan: The Tragic Mind: Fear, Fate, and the Burden of Power (2023, Yale University Press).

Harvye J Kaye: The British Marxist Historians (1984; paperback, 2022, Zero Books): Foreword by Eric Hobsbawm, with a new preface by the author.

Ro Khanna: Progressive Capitalism: How to Make Tech Work for All of Us (paperback, 2023, Simon & Schuster): US Representative (D-CA). Hardcover published as Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us (2022, Simon & Schuster).

Brian Kilmeade: The President and the Freedom Fighter: Abraha Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Their Battle to Save America's Soul (2022, Sentinel): "Fox & Friends" co-host, like Bill O'Reilly has a sideline of writing politically correct histories for his smug followers. Four of his previous tomes have been conveniently boxed as America's Heroes and History: A Brian Kilmeade Collection (2021).

Charles Leerhsen: Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain (2022, Simon & Schuster).

Jonathan Martin/Alexander Burns: This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future (2022, Simon & Schuster): Covers the 2020 election and the first year of the Biden presidency, still focused on the subject they'd rather be writing about: Trump.

Forrest A Nabors: From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction (2017, University of Missouri).

David Pietrusza: Roosevelt Sweeps Nation: FDR's 1936 Landslide and the Triumph of the Liberal Ideal (2022, Diversion Books).

Diana Preston: The Evolution of Charles Darwin: The Epic Voyage of the Beagle That Forever Changed Our View of Life on Earth (2022, Atlantic Monthly Press).

Michael Pye: Europe's Babylon: The Rise and Fall of Antwerp's Golden Age (2021, Pegasus Books).

Alissa Quart: Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselvs From the American Dream (2023, Ecco). Executive director of Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a nonprofit founded by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Scott Reynolds Nelson: Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World (2022, Basic Books).

Kim Stanley Robinson: The High Sierra: A Love Story (2022, Little Brown): Science fiction novelist, appears to be a combination memoir and travel guide, with some science mixed in.

Stacy Schiff: The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams (2022, Little Brown).

Ronald H Spector: A Continent Erupts: Decolonization, Civil War, and Massacre in Postwar Asia, 1945-1955 (2022, WW Norton). Covers the same terrain as the author's In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia (2007).

Margaret Sullivan: Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life (2022, St Martin's Press): Longtime journalist, eventually made journalism itself her beat as "public editor" for the New York Times and "media columnist" for the Washington Post.

Matt Taibbi/Anonymous: The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing: An Almost True Account (2021, OR Books).

Nina Totenberg: Dinners With Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships (2022, Simon & Schuster): NPR legal affairs correspondent schmoozes with Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Donald J Trump: Letters to Trump (2023, Winning Team): "Donald J Trump is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, sports, and entertainment." Picture book, 320 pp, 4.15 lbs, $99.00. Amazon's "frequently bought together": Our Journey Together by Donald J Trump; Melania Trump: Elegance in the White House by LD Hicks.

Marcus M Witcher: Getting Right With Reagan: The Struggle for True Conservatism, 1980-2016 (2019, University Press of Kansas): Emphasizes how roundly criticized Reagan was by conservatives for never being as right-wing as they wanted.

Martin Wolf: The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism (2023, Penguin Press): Financial Times economist.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Book Roundup

Last Book Roundup was on May 1, the second of a burst of two. This one should have a follow up relatively soon, although this one was so difficult to pull together that it's hard to imagine when the next one will be ready. This is not for lack of books I know about: my draft file has nearly 300 books noted (at least before adding the short note section below, but those are in theory still eligible for a longer write up). My rule of thumb is to publish a post when I get 40 books for the top section, but a smaller number might make more sense, especially given my tendency to tack on supplementary lists. We have a lot of Russia and China this time: Abelow, Brands, Gaeotti, Hoffman, Short. A special case of sublists is when I list previous books by authors (Levine, Lopez, Mead, Moyn, Scialabba; I don't count Chomsky here because I'm only listing new books by him and co-author Prashad).

Two sublists are things I haven't done before: Under Short, I give you a select list of other books on Putin, as well as a much more indiscriminate one of books I hadn't noted before. In theory, you could look them up, but that would be a pain. It would be nice to break the big file up into topical ones, and try to sort out the potentially useful titles from the rest, including some way to flag right-wing nonsense (to varying extents: Brands, Concha, Hegseth/Goodwin, Jones, Mandelbaum, Mead, as well as a number of sublist selections).

I also sorted the Leibovich sublist into two sets: one of books which (like Leibovich) offer useful reporting on Trump (especially in his last months in office), and a second one of self-serving memoirs, mostly of Trump associates. Normally, I would have lifted one of those items to the head of the list, but none seem worthy. On the other hand, a couple books that could have been developed as longer items got stuck on sublists (under Milbank, Corn is a book that I'm actually reading). I also left Shrecker under Bunch, as the two books seemed complementary. On the other hand, I did wind up breaking Haberman out of its original perch under Leibovich. And I wound up writing an entry for Hoffman's old (2011) book as an anchor for Khodorkovsky's new one. Hoffman's book is also relevant to the Short (Putin) list, but stands a bit apart.

As I've explained repeatedly, this is basically a research exercise, meant to gain a sense of the state of knowledge and understanding of the world, reflected in book form. With few exceptions, the descriptions are based on blurbs, samples, and sometimes reviews, mostly from digging through Amazon (as unpleasant as that often is). The only books below that I've read much from are: DeLong, Leibovich, Corn, and Smil. I've ordered copies of: Cooper, Levine, Milbank, Moyn. I've also read other books from: Bunch, Chemerinsky, Chomsky, Fischer, Hochschild, Hoffman, McKibben, Draper, Purdy, Gessen, Satter, Tomasky, and further down: Berry, Heinberg, Meier, and Rushkoff.

Benjamin Abelow: How the West Brought War to Ukraine: Understanding How US and NATO Policies Led to Crisis, War, and the Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe (paperback, Siland Press): A short (88 pp) summary, valid as far as it goes, but unlikely to shed much light on why the "provocations" led to such an egregious response from Putin. I would argue that although the US wanted to expand NATO to grow its arms market, and found that the easiest way to sell expansion was to fan old and new fears of Russian power, they never had the slightest desire to actually go to war with Russia, and it's strange that Putin could ever think so. On the other hand, while traditional economic ties and Russia's imperial legacy suggest why Russians like Putin think of Ukraine should be a subservient satellite, those attachments don't justify invasion and destruction, with its attendant risk to Russia's world standing. Several blurb writers, like Noam Chomsky, praise Abelow's telling of one part of the story that is widely ignored in the US, but there are other stories that need to be integrated. For more general books on Russian history, see Galeotti below. For books specifically on Putin, see Short. Here are a few more books on the Ukraine-Russia War, a few written since the 2022 invasion, a few more going back to 2014:

  • Paul D'Anieri: Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).
  • Media Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict (paperback, 2022, OR Books). [11-15]
  • Peter Conradi: Who Lost Russia? How the World Entered a New Cold War (2017; paperback, 2022, Oneworld): Included here because it describes in more detail how the Cold War was rekindled -- many points highlighted in Abelow's short book.
  • Yuri Felshtinsky/Michael Stanchev: Blowing Up Ukraine: The Return of Russian Terror and the Threat of World War III (2022, Gibson Square): Felshtinsky has a previous book, Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror (2007).
  • Valentine Green: Russia Ukraine, Putin Zelenskyy: Your Essential Uncensored Guide to the Russia-Ukraine History and War (2022, independent): 94 pp.
  • Mark Galeotti: Putin's Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine (2022, Osprey Publishing). [11-08]
  • Taras Kuzlo: Putin's War Against Ukraine: Revolution, Nationalism, and Crime (paperback, 2017, Create Space).
  • Fred Leplat/Chris Ford, eds: Ukraine: Voices of Resistance and Solidarity (2022, Resistance Books).
  • William J O'Donnell: The Solution to Putin's War: The Lessons Learned Solving the Russian-US Cold War and Putin's Motivation and Psyche Provide a Durable Solution to Putin's War (paperback, 2022, independent): 76 pp.
  • Ilya Ponomarev/Gregg Stebben: Does Putin Have to Die? The Story of How Russia Becomes a Democracy After Losing to Ukraine (2022, Skyhorse): Seems over the top, but he was a Duma member 2007-16, the only one to vote against annexing Crimea, defected to Kyiv, where, as he put it, "I keep a machine gun by the door." [11-15]
  • Christopher M Smith: Ukraine's Revolt, Russia's Revenge (2022, Brookings Institution Press).
  • Marc Miles Vaughn: The History of Ukraine and Russia: The Tangled History That Led to Crisis (paperback, 2022, History Demystified): 164 pp.
  • Volodymyr Zelensky: A Message From Ukraine: Speeches, 2019-2022 (2022, Crown): 144 pp. [12-06]

Walt Bogdanich/Michael Forsythe: When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World's Most Powerful Consulting Firm (2022, Doubleday): Major consulting firm, their services are available anywhere a company wants to squeeze a little extra profit from their business, or rationalize and cover up their own misdeeds. A blurb from Joseph Stiglitz reads: "Every page made my blood boil as I read about McKinsey's flawed reasoning and vast profits made from ethically dubious work for governments, polluting companies and big pharma." Somewhere in my readings, I remember a piece of advice given to would-be managers: if they really want to scare their employees, just threaten them with bringing McKinsey in.

Kevin Boyle: The Shattering: America in the 1960s (2021, WW Norton): A "lively" history of the decade, expanding the decade a few years on either side, by a historian whose previous books were on civil rights and labor. I'm not sure how well this lives up to its title, a catchphrase that denotes some catastrophe that befell America, whereas I would argue that we started to find a new unity and vision that was then squelched and perverted by the political reaction of the 1970s (Nixon) and 1980s (Reagan), leaving Democrats too traumatized to even attempt to recover. I have no idea whether this book continues to ostracize the left movements of the extended 1960s, or hopes to find a way to move forward by sifting through the rubble.

Hal Brands/Michael Beckley: Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict With China (2022, WW Norton): The authors, professors and senior fellows at the American Enterprise Institute, start from a belief common among American foreign policy mandarins: "The Sino-American contest is driven by clashing geopolitical interests and a stark ideological dispute over whether authoritarianism or democracy will dominate the 21st century." That's dangerous nonsense on several levels: neither country depends on propagating its political system abroad: the US likes to talk about democracy, but is more interested in business, demanding that its "allies" open themselves to global profiteering, and pay up monopoly rents. Conflicts with the US happen when countries decline to submit to American dictates on how they do business. China is the big one, because it's the largest economy, it has the most foreign trade, and it follows a go-along-to-get-along philosophy, making it easier to deal with than the US often is. But also note that US foreign policy is largely (and increasingly, or so it seems) defined by the marketing of US arms: "allies" are countries (democratic or not) that buy US arms, "enemies" are countries that buy from someone else like Russia and China (or build their own and try to compete, like Russia and China). The "danger" comes in mostly because arms races are destabilizing, regardless of who promotes them. Also note that within this mindset, other commodities can be viewed as security issues, including chips, oil, even food. Recent (and a few forthcoming) books on China (many more in previous reports):

  • Anne-Marie Brady: China as a Great Polar Power (paperback, 2017, Cambridge University Press).
  • Kerry Brown: Xi: A Study in Power (paperback, 2022, Icon Books).
  • Maria Adele Carrai/Jennifer Rudolph/Michael Szonyi, eds: The China Questions 2: Critical Insights Into US-China Relations (2022, Harvard University Press).
  • Lulu Yilun Chen: Influence Empire: Inside the Story of Tencent and China's Tech Ambition (2022, Hodder & Stoughton). [11-22]
  • Josh Chin/Liza Lin: Surveillance State: Inside China's Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control (2022, St Martin's Press).
  • Martin Chorzempa: The Cashless Revolution: China's Reinvention of Money and the End of America's Domination of Finance and Technology (2022, Public Affairs).
  • Carl T Delfeld: Power Rivals: America and China's Superpower Struggle (paperback, 2022, Economic Security Council).
  • Frank Dikötter: China After Mao: The Rise of a Superpower (2022, Bloomsbury). Has written several earlier books on Chinese history: The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957 (2013); The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, 1962-1976 (2016); Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 (2020). [11-15]
  • Ian Easton: The Final Struggle: Inside China's Global Strategy (paperback, 2022, Eastbridge Books).
  • Howard W French: Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China's Push for Global Power (2017, Knopf; paperback, 2018, Vintage): Africa specialist, previously wrote China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa (2014).
  • Aaron L Friedberg: Getting China Wrong (2022, Polity): Wrong wrong: "the democracies underestimated the resilience, resourcefulness, and ruthless of the Chinese Community Party."
  • Chin-Hao Huang: Power and Restraint in China's Rise (paperback, 2022, Columbia University Press).
  • Chris Miller: Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology (2022, Scribner).
  • Stephen Roach: Accidental Conflict: America, China, and the Clash of False Narratives (2022, Yale University Press). [11-29]
  • Kevin Rudd: The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict Between the US and Xi Jinping's China (2022, Public Affairs): Former Prime Minister of Australia.
  • Susan L Shirk: Overreach: How China Derailed Its Peaceful Rise (2022, Oxford University Press).
  • Desmond Shum: Red Roulette: An Insider's Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today's China (2021, Sribner).
  • Robert Spalding: War Without Rules: China's Playbook for Global Domination (2022, Sentinel): Former Brigadier General, previously wrote Stealth War: How China Took Over While America's Elite Slept (2019).
  • Katie Stallard: Dancing on Bones: History and Power in China, Russia and North Korea (2022, Oxford University Press): Wilson Center fellow's Cold War revanchism.
  • Stephen Vines: Defying the Dragon: Hong Kong and the World's Largest Dictatorship (2021, Hurst).

Will Bunch: After the Ivory Tower Falls: How College Broke the American Dream and Blew Up Our Politics -- and How to Fix It (2022, William Morrow): Ever since WWII college has been sold as the ticket to success. Early on, we made an effort to promote opportunity by keeping the costs low, but as inequality increased, and the unions which protected blue collar workers were undermined, the powers that be realized that the penalties for not getting a higher education were such that they could charge more for access to privilege. One goal was to stifle political dissent (aka free thinking). Another was to restore the advantages of the wealthy. Of course, they couldn't fully revert to the elitism of the pre-WWII university system, but by shifting costs to students and suckering them into increasingly deep debt, they effectively closed the doors of the class system while maintaining a hint of openness. Granted, poor but truly exceptional students could still rise through the gauntlet but by then they were likely to be properly acculturated -- Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are good examples of this. Related:

  • Derek W Black: Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy (2020, Public Affairs).
  • Ellen Schrecker: The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s (2021, University of Chicago Press): 616 pp. Higher education grew after WWII, first with the GI Bill, then with the growth of a prosperous middle class, which suggested that everyone should go to college, and encouraged learning for its own sake. That was the promise noted here, but as the Vietnam War radicalized a generation, the forces of reaction started clamping down, eventually foreclosing that promise and restoring the notion of higher education as a passport to elite status in an increasingly inequal world.

Erwin Chemerinsky: Worse Than Nothing: The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism (2022, Yale University Press): Author has a number of books on The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (2011), as well as the more positive We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century (2018). So you can guess what he thinks of the legal theory Antonin Scalia popularized as Originalism. My own take is that it's awfully convenient to have a theory that says the law should mean whatever you think the original authors must have intended. Of course, it's bullshit, but not uncommon among conservatives, who love to claim long pedigrees for whatever their current prejudices dictate. A second problem is how Originalism fights the notion that constitutional law should be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions.

Noam Chomsky/Vijay Prashad: The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power (2022, New Press). Based on conversations, although the former's knowledge and understanding of American power is encyclopedic, and seemingly on instant recall. Prashad wrote one of the broader (and deeper) histories of the modern world: The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World. Related:

  • Noam Chomsky/Marv Waterstone: Consequences of Capitalism: Manufacturing Discontent and Resistance (paperback, 2021, Haymarket Books).
  • Noam Chomsky/James Kelman: Between Thought and Expression Lies a Lifetime: Why Ideas Matter (paperback, 2021, PM Press).
  • Noam Chomsky: Notes on Resistance (paperback, 2022, Haymarket Books): Interviews with David Barsamian.
  • Vijay Prashad: Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning From Movements for Socialism (paperback, 2022, Haymarket Books).
  • Noam Chomsky's Little Book of Selected Quotes: On Society, Capitalism, and Democracy (paperback, 2021, Lumière): 107 pp.

Joe Concha: Come On, Man! The Truth About Joe Biden's Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Presidency (2022, Broadside Books): Starts by railing about "open borders, record inflation, and skyrocketing crime." In what universe are those even things? "The withdrawal from Afghanistan left thirteen U.S. service members dead and hundreds of Americans stranded as Afghans fell from airplanes." The entry of the U.S. into Afghanistan (remember GW Bush?) left 2,426 American soldiers dead, and millions of Afghans displaced (or worse). Biden ended that, not on the best terms imaginable, but given the cards he was dealt. "Though Biden may seem like a doddering idiot, stumbling from one mistake to the next, his blunders always hew closely to progressive dreams for American policy." Like making sure all Americans have food to eat, and health care that doesn't bankrupt them? No: "Dreams like saving the planet by attacking Elon Musk and strengthening the middle class by making gas prices higher than Hunter Biden in a motel room."

Ryan Cooper: How Are You Going to Pay for That? Smart Answers to the Dumbest Questions in Politics (2022, St Martin's Press): Good idea for a book, but I was thinking more literally: a compendium of dumb questions (like the title one), each followed by a smart answer. Rather, Part I at least is a discourse in the history of economics, with something called "neo-propertarianism" singled out for especially harsh rebuke. He seems to mean neo-liberalism, but without any noble intents or rationales, which brings it back to old-fashioned capitalism, another term he'd rather duck. I've only seen the TOC for Part II, which offers more topical chapters: labor, healthcare, "the social climate," inequality, "a new collective American freedom," and finally "How to Argue with Propertarians."

J Bradford DeLong: Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century (2022, Basic Books): An economist teaching at UC Berkeley, the author has published a modest blog as long as I can remember, generally echoing and reinforcing the liberal views of Paul Krugman, all the while working on this "magnum opus" on the biggest question of our time, which is what's changed during our time. His 20th century is a long one, from 1870 to 2010, his starting date reflecting an American (as opposed to a British) bias: the industrial revolution may date back a bit earlier in England, but it really takes off after the US Civil War. The end date seems arbitrary, but the decade since doesn't (yet) have a lot to show for itself. We've seen extraordinary technological advances in this period, for the first time generating material wealth way beyond population growth. DeLong pegs the break at 1870: before then new technology was converted into population growth, but not per capita wealth, and the endpoint following the debacle of neoliberalism in the 2008 recession. He doesn't insist that the end point is terminal, but does note that the progress of the long century has repeatedly been interrupted by backsliding into war and recession, obstacles largely triggered by reactionary politics -- something we have yet to overcome, and a mental problem that may be getting even worse.

Gary Dorrien: American Democratic Socialism: History, Politics, Religion, and Theory (2021, Yale University Press): Big book (752 pp), includes chapters on the Socialist Party of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas, also on later figures who extolled socialism without a party framework, and winds up with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but the first couple chapters start with the Christian formulation of a "social gospel" and with Jewish Universalism. Dorrien has written 18 books, six with Theology in the title, and one subtitled Political and Religious Roots of European Socialism. It's good to be reminded of this history, and that the impulse behind social justice has always acted as a counterweight to the more touted focus on individualism.

David Hackett Fischer: African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals (2022, Simon & Schuster): Notable historian, one I first encountered in his Historians' Fallacies (1970), although his main work was Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989), which meticulously traced cultural threads from England to America. Here he tries something similar, only with the much more deliberately obscured connections from Africa through people brought to America as slaves. It's remarkable that he's come up with so much material (960 pp). Also on early American history:

  • Mark R Anderson: Down the Warpath to the Cedars: Indians' First Battles in the Revolution (paperback, 2022, University of Oklahoma Press).
  • Joseph J Ellis: The Cause: The American Revolution and Its Discontents, 1773-1783 (2021, Liveright).
  • Woody Holton: Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution (2021, Simon & Schuster): Major effort (800 pp) to broaden the history of America during the Revolution, by showing how "overlooked Americans" influenced the Founders.
  • Woody Holton: Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia (paperback, 1999, University of North Carolina Press);
  • Woody Holton: Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (2007; paperback, 2008, Hill & Wang).

Francis Fukuyama: Liberalism and Its Discontents (2022, Farrar Straus and Giroux). Intends a defense of "classical liberalism," which he traces back to late 17th century arguments "for the limitation of the powers of government through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction." To do that, he has to rescue his preferred doctrine from later "neoliberalism," but also from conventional "left-of-center" political interests: those who recognize that the more complex the world becomes, the more we need reasonable government regulation that limits the tendency of the rich and powerful to prey on the poor and weak. That doesn't leave him with much more than abstract principles to stand on, making it hard to convince people such hyper-individualism is in their interest.

  • Francis Fukuyama: The End of History and the Last Man (1992, Free Press): Famous pinnacle of post-Cold War triumphalism, arguing that the endpoint of history is "capitalist liberal democracy."
  • Francis Fukuyama: Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (1995; paperback, 1996, Free Press).
  • Francis Fukuyama: Falling Behind: Explaining the Development Gap Between Latin America and the United States (2008; paperback, 2011, Oxford University Press).

Mark Galeotti: A Short History of Russia: How the World's Largest Country Invented Itself, From the Pagans to Putin (2022, paperback, Hanover Square Press): One thing that's become painfully obvious in the last six months is that the Americans who direct or report on foreign policy understand very little about Russia in general and Putin in particular. They also seem to be blind to America's own contribution to the rewarming of the Cold War (see my Abelow comment above; I suppose I should reiterate my standard disclaimer here: nothing the US has done with Ukraine or NATO justifies Putin's invasion, and nothing Putin has done or can do will rectify the errors the US has committed). I don't know whether Galeotti is a good or bad observer of Russia, but in 2019 he published a short book called We Need to Talk About Putin: How the West Gets Him Wrong, and the chapters there cover a lot of sensible ground. This book here boils Russian history, including Putin, probably up to the eve of the invasion, down to 240 pp, which probably isn't enough but is certainly more than most Americans know. He also has a book coming out in November on Putin's Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine, which was mostly written before the invasion but at least deals with it. There are a couple other competing histories of Russia, as well as more specialized tracts:

  • Antony Beevor: Russia: Revolution and Civil War, 1917-1921 (2022, Viking).
  • Kees Boterbloem: Russia as Empire: Past and Present (2020, Reaktion Books).
  • Rodric Braithwaite: Russia: Myths and Realities: The History of a Country With an Unpredictable Past (2022, Pegasus Books).
  • Orlando Figes: The Story of Russia (2022, Metropolitan Books).
  • Mark Galeotti: The Weaponisation of Everything: A Field Guide to the New Way of War (2022, Yale University Press).
  • Nancy Shields Kollmann: The Russian Empire 1450-1801 (2017, Oxford University Press).

Maggie Haberman: Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America (2022, Penguin): New York Times reporter assigned to Trump starting with his campaign, pictures a younger Trump on the cover because she goes back further to merge her reporting and observations with a background character study. As such, this appears to be one of the more definitive tomes in a ridiculously large shelf of writings on Trump. Coming so late may seem to diminish its immediate usefulness, but as one of the more comprehensive studies, its utility may grow, especially once we have the luxury of regarding Trump in hindsight. (I originally listed this with similar books under Leibovich below, but decided it merited its own note.)

Oona A Hathaway/Scott J Shapiro: The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World (2017; paperback, 2018, Simon & Schuster): A history of the 1928 Paris Peace Pact, which is isn't exactly recalled today as having "remade the world," and for that matter is hardly remembered at all (even as, using the name better known in the US, the Kellogg-Briand Pact). The book puts it in a much broader context, after a Part I on "Old World Order," in the first half of Part II ("Transformation") before it gets blown up by WWII, winding up with Part III ("New World Order"), where the first three chapters merit some pondering: "The End of Conquest," "War No Longer Makes Sense," and "Why Is There Still so Much Conflict?"

Peter Hegseth/David Goodwin: Battle for the Amerian Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation (2022, Broadside Books): Fox News host, reduces his co-author to a "with" credit, but Goodwin is the one with experience in what they call "classical Christian education," where they "assigned the classics, inspired love of God and country, and raised future citizens that changed the world." Much as they seek to brainwash children to follow their political prejudices, they fear their enemies are doing the same, and winning: "Today, after 16,000 hours of K-12 indoctrination, our kids come out of government schools hating America. They roll their eyes at religion and disdain our history." It's possible that public education has become more liberal, but in my day public schools were well stocked with teachers dedicated to installing conservative identities in pupils. My own radicalism was not taught to me but found on my own after I became aware of the hypocrisy and worse of the established powers. The authors might counter than even in the 1950s education was gripped by liberal ideals -- most dangerously with the notion that learning was good for its own sake -- which introduced the possibility of doubt. (They do, after all, declaim a "century of miseducation.") I was taught that America's wars were just and advanced freedom (most notably those against monarchy, slavery, and Nazism), which raised the question what the US was trying to do in Vietnam. I was taught that the founding principle of the Declaration of Independence was that "all men are created equal," yet even then it was a major struggle to secure basic civil rights for all. Despite occasional school prayers (and the rote recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance), I don't remember God being a major part of school, but I got plenty of that in church (which, finally, also backfired). What makes this book worrying is that it seems to be a blueprint for the right-wing political movement to impose ever more draconian and dim-witted restraints on what it is permissible to discuss in school: in effect, turning them into indoctrination camps like we were taught Communists ran. I'm concerned that these schemes will turn future generations into brainless automatons at a time when we more than ever need people skilled in critical thought, but that effect will be mitigated by rebellion. Perhaps even more so, I see this kind of schooling as a cruel punishment of children who are anxious to learn and find their way in the world, but are still awfully naive and gullible.

Adam Hochschild: American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis (2022, Mariner Books): Historian, has written several books about the emergence of conscience as dissent from imperialism, starting with King Leopold's Ghost about the depradation of the Congo, backtracking to the anti-slavery movement (Bury the Chains), then forward to dissent against World War I (To End All Wars). This moves to America and picks up toward the end of the "war to make the world safe for democracy," with its "lynchings, censorship, and the sadistic, sometimes fatal abuse of conscientious objectors in military prisons," through the first great Red Scare, the collapse of the American left, and the closing of immigration.

David E Hoffman: The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia (2002; paperback, 2011, Public Affairs): This book is rather dated now, but written two years after Putin's rise to power, it provides a portrait of the oligarchy he was given by Yeltsin's corrupt mismanagement of the transition from state control to "shock treatment" markets. The scheme adopted for distributing assets let those most able to raise quick crash -- often the same crooks who ran Russia's black markets -- to grab immense fortunes dirt cheap. Part one profiles six: Alexander Smolensky, Yuri Luzhkov, Anatoly Chubais, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky. After the many disasters that befell Russia in the 1990s, Putin had his hands full. His first move was to rally the military to take back Chechnya (which had effectively broken away in what's now called the First Chechen War). That gave him some popular support, but to consolidate power he needed to bring the oligarchs under control, which started with the prosecution of Khodorkovsky. I was reminded of this when I came across the following book. We should beware that some of Putin's loudest critics are oligarchs who fell out of favor (cf. Bill Browder). Of course, there are other oligarchs who saved their empires by remaining loyal to Putin.

  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky/Martin Sixsmith: The Russia Conundrum: How the West Fell for Putin's Power Gambit -- and How to Fix It (2022, St Martin's Press).

Alex Jones: The Great Reset: And the War for the World (2022, Skyhorse): TV crackpot, in the news recently for losing a libel case filed by the families of victims in a school shooting he claimed was fake news. Joe Rogan says "he's the most misunderstood guy on the planet." Roger Stone says he's "the most maligned patriot in the country." Tucker Carlson says "maybe Alex Jones is onto something." The best Donald Trump can come up with is Jones's "reputation is amazing."

Mark Leibovich: Thank You for Your Servitude: Donald Trump's Washigton and the Price of Submission (2022, Penguin Press): Journalist, has written profiles of the rich and famous in technology and football, as well as in Washington, which he depicted as a den of thieves in his book This Town (2013: "There are no Democrats and Republicans anymore in the nation's capital, just millionaires"). The rich have often demanded subservience, but few more so than Donald Trump. Leibovich chronicles the flattery and groveling of Republicans desperate to curry favor with Trump. I recall an early cabinet meeting where they went around the table, where everyone had to praise and thank Trump -- none more so than "chief of staff" Reince Priebus, who ultimately offered a blurb for this book: "It's a hundred times worse than you've been hearing." More recent (and some forthcoming) books on Trump:

  • Rachael Bade/Karoun Demirjian: Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress's Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump (2022, William Morrow).
  • Peter Baker/Susan Glasser: The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 (2022, Doubleday). [09-20]
  • David Enrich: Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and the Corruption of Justice (2022, Mariner Books).
  • Major Garrett/David Becker: The Big Truth: Upholding Democracy in the Age of "The Big Lie" (2022, Diversion Books).
  • Jonathan Lemire: The Big Lie: Election Chaos, Political Opportunism, and the State of American Politics After 2020 (2022, Flatiron Books): Politico reporter.
  • Tim Miller: Why We Did It: A Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell (2022, Harper): Former Republican operative wakes up.

We also have more memoirs from the Trump administration and fellow travelers. None of these appears to merit its own section head:

  • Geoffrey Berman: Holding the Line: Inside the Nation's Preeminent US Attorney's Office and Its Battle With the Trump Justice Department (2022, Penguin): Former US Attorney for Southern District of New York under Trump.
  • Michael Cohen: Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the US Department of Justice Against His Critics (2022, Melville House): The former Trump fixer's second book, after Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J Trump (2020).
  • Kellyanne Conway: Here's the Deal: A Memoir (2022, Threshold Editions).
  • Michael Fanone/John Shiffman: Hold the Line: The Insurrection and One Cop's Battle for America's Soul (2022, Atria Books).
  • Jared Kushner: Breaking History: A White House Memoir (2022, Broadside Books).
  • Paul Manafort: Political Prisoner: Persecuted, Prosecuted, but Not Silenced (2022, Skyhorse): The word conspicuously missing, not just in the subtitle but in the blurbs, is "pardoned."
  • Dick Morris: The Return: Trump's Big 2024 Comeback (2022, Humanix Books): Hack more associated with the Clintons, but always looking to grub for a job.
  • Peter Navarro: Taking Back Trump's America: Why We Lost the White House and How We'll Win It Back (2022, Bombardier Books): Trump White House advisor, nominally director of trade and manufacturing policy, notably hawkish on China.
  • Kristi Noem: Not My First Rodeo: Lessons From the Heartland (2022, Twelve): South Dakota governor.
  • Mike Pence: So Help Me God (2022, Simon & Schuster): 560 pp. Not out yet, so we don't know whether he'll dish up some dirt, or just regurgitate his homilies. [11-15]

Bruce E Levine: Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person's Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian -- Strategies, Tools, and Models (paperback, 2018, AK Press): "The capacity to comply with abusive authority is humanity's fatal flaw." Although this talks of tools and models for resistance, the intro focuses on why anti-authoritarians should be valued in the first place. As it is, much social effort has been directed at breaking such people, sometimes going to the point of declaring them mentally ill. Much of this resonates with my own life, where anti-authoritarianism was an unknown but defining trait of my teenage years. Strange to see someone writing about it now, but then authoritarians have never left us, and in some respects are making a comeback. Levine also wrote:

  • Bruce E Levine: A Profession Without a Reason: The Crisis of Contemporary Psychiatry Untangled and Solved by Spinoza, Freethinking, and Radical Enlightenment (paperback, 2022, AK Press): Questions the whole edifice of modern psychiatry, in the tradition of Thomas S Szasz: The Myth of Mental Illness (1961), a book I personally found useful in my struggle with the arbiters of mental illness.

Barry Lopez: Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World: Essays (2022, Random House). Nature writer (1945-2020), bibliography is about half fiction, though titles there tend to read like Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven, Crow and Weasel, and Lessons From the Wolverine. One title here is "Our Frail Planet in Cold, Clear View." Introduction by Rebecca Solnit. Selected nonfiction:

  • Barry Lopez: Of Wolves and Men (1978; paperback, 1979, Scribner).
  • Barry Lopez: Artic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986, Scribner; paperback, 2001, Vintage).
  • Barry Lopez: Crossing Open Ground (1988, Scribner; paperback, 1989, Vintage): Essays.
  • Barry Lopez: The Rediscovery of North America (1991, University of Kentucky Press; paperback, 1992, Vintage Books): 58 pp.
  • Barry Lopez: About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory (1998, Knopf; paperback, 1999, Vintage).
  • Barry Lopez: Horizon (2019, Random House; paperback, 2020, Vintage): Essays.

William MacAskill: What We Owe Each Other (2022, Basic Books): Oxford philosophy professor, cofounded the Centre for Effective Altruism ("which has raised over $1 billion for charities"), based on his working concept about how we should be living our lives. He's gotten a lot of press in the last couple months, which makes one naturally skeptical, although I am at least impressed that one of his rave reviews comes from Rutger Bregman, whose Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World is itself a powerful argument that we can make the world much better through practical steps. Still seem a stretch that, as one Amazon reviewer put it, "people might look back in millions of years and say this was the most important book ever written." Related:

  • William MacAskill: Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work That Matters, and Make Smarter Choices About Giving Back (2015, Avery; paperback, 2016, Penguin).
  • Tony Ord: The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity (2020; paperback, 2021, Hachette Books): Another Oxford philosopher working on effective altruism.
  • Benjamin Todd: 80,000 Hours: Find a Fulfilling Career That Does Good (paperback, 2016, Create Space): As a MacAskill student at Oxford, founded the title non-profit. 80,000 is the average hours in a human career (40 per week × 50 weeks per year × 40 years).

Michael Mandelbaum: The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy: Weak Power, Great Power, Superpower, Hyperpower (2022, Oxford University Press): Implies the hits just keep on coming, but his time divisions -- Weak 1765-1865, Great 1865-1945, Super 1945-1990, and Hyper 1990-2015 -- suggest he's not so sure about the Trump effect (probably too early for him to weigh in on Biden), and that's the least of his problems. During the so-called "weak" period, Americans successfully fought two wars of independence against Britain -- that was Madison's view of the War of 1812, and while the war results were mixed, it finally ended Britain's attempts to control American shipping -- and an expansionist war against Mexico, as well as minor scraps with Barbary pirates and the opening of the China trade, and it ended with a Civil War where the Union became the technically most advanced fighting force in the world. American power was always base on economic power, which exceeded Britain's by the end of the 19th century. With WWII the US economy reached 50% of worldwide GDP, and in its fight against Germany and Japan, the US built a network of bases that straddled the globe, less concerned with empire -- which the war had proven was no longer a viable principle for ordering the world -- than with protecting a vast expansion of corporate business interests. Still, it's sheer hubris to call American power in that period "super," and even more so "hyper." US economic power started to slip after its WWII apogee. By 1990, Europe had achieved parity with the US, and Japan was richer per capita, and China was starting its rapid rise. The Soviet Union collapsed less because the US outbid it in the arms race than because Eastern Europe wanted to join in the bounty of Western Europe. Since then, the US has not only become an ever-smaller slice of the world economy, its enormous arms advantages have proven to be useless and often counterproductive, although that doesn't seem to have sunk into the blinkered brains of the people who work the "hyperpower" grift. The Table of Contents doesn't seem too bad here, so this is probably a decent recounting of the history, but looking over his past book list, he strikes me as a hack or an idiot, and possibly both. QED: in 2011, he was co-author of That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, with Thomas Friedman (who is definitely both).

Bill McKibben: The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened (2022, Henry Holt): Seems like he's been writing the same book over and over since his critical book on climate change, The End of Nature (1989). I guess it was the one that convinced me some years later when I read it on a midsummer trip to Florida, although I never stopped hating the much-too-sharp "end of nature" dividing line, and always suspected him of being a sanctimonious scold. The twist here is that it's structured as a memoir, so we should get a glimpse of his class and educational background (Harvard), but at 240 pp I wouldn't expect much detail on the devolution of the American Dream. As for "graying," he's ten years younger than me, so he missed out on the 1950s, the decade when we really enjoyed burning cheap gasoline.

Walter Russell Mead: The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People (2022, Knopf): Big (672 pp) tract on the "special relationship" between Israel and the United States, and its supposed benefits for the Jewish people, with pretensions of "demolish[ing] the myths that both pro-Zionists and anti-Zionists have fostered over the years" -- always in favor of the prevailing security doctrines. Blurbs are all from reliable supporters of Israel, most firmly ensconced on the right. As Dan Senor puts it a bit too revealingly, "Walter shows that US support for Israel is ingrained in American political culture and critical to America's strategy for world order." I can imagine architects of American world order not binding themselves so helplessly to Israel, but none since James Baker (or maybe Dwight Eisenhower) have so much as entertained the thought. This book is intended to make it even harder to break the common bonds of colonialism and occupation. Mead has also written:

  • Walter Russell Mead: Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition (1987; paperback, 1988, Houghton Mifflin).
  • Walter Russell Mead: Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (2001, Knopf; paperback, 2002, Routledge).
  • Walter Russell Mead: Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk (2004, Knopf; paperback, 2005, Vintage).
  • Walter Russell Mead: God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World (2007, Knopf; paperback, 2008, Vintage).

Dana Milbank: The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party (2022, Doubleday): Washington Post columnist, but (hopefully) not just recycling his recent columns, as the promise here is to offer some historical context, showing that today's Republicans are linear descendents of at least several decades of past Republicans, with Newt Gingrich a key transitional figure on the way to today's gallery of crazy. (I would have started with Nixon and Reagan, although I can see arguments for older and less successful figures, like Goldwater and McCarthy.) The mainstream press seems to be the last haven of reporters desperately trying to find rare voices of reason among Republicans. On the other hand, consider how similar is the title of Thomas Frank's 2008 book: The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation. Related:

  • David Corn: American Psychosis: A Historical Investigation of How the Republican Party Went Crazy (2022, Twelve): Same theme, but goes back to the Goldwater nomination in 1964, drawing a line not from Goldwater to Trump but from the shared characteristics of both's supporters (or from McCarthy, with at least a dotted line back to the Know Nothings, the Anti-Masons, and the Salem witch trials). (I bought this after Milbank, but decided to read it first.)
  • Robert Draper: Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind (2022, Penguin): Author of one of the best books on George W Bush: Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W Bush (2007), and eventually followed it up with the near-definitive To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq (2020). This starts with the 2020 election, which strikes me as a little late.
  • Nicole Hemmer: Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s (2022, Basic Books): This moves the pivot to Gingrich and/or the rise of Fox, in both cases focusing not on the platitudes used to disguise the Reagan-Bush right turn but on relentless villification of the enemy.
  • Nicole Hemmer: Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics (paperback, 2018, University of Pennsylvania Press).

Samuel Moyn: Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (2022, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Author has a background of writing about human rights, which gives this book a peculiar frame of mind, asking whether war can be made humane (I'd say certainly not) as opposed to a different question, whether a war can have an effect which is on balance humanitarian (I'm doubtful but it's harder to be certain, because it's conditioned on an unknowable future). Americans have argue in favor of both, and especially since the end of the Cold War those arguments have come to dominate debate over whether to go to war: at least public debate, where advocates of war like to dress their motives (most often revenge or intimidation) with higher-minded arguments. Also by Moyn:

  • Samuel Moyn: A Holocaust Controversy: The Treblinka Affair in Postwar France (paperback, 2005, Brandeis University Press).
  • Samuel Moyn: The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010; paperback, 2012, Belknap Press).
  • Samuel Moyn: Human Rights and the Uses of History (expanded 2nd edition, 2014; paperback, 2017, Verso).
  • Samuel Moyn: Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018; paperback, 2019, Belknap Press).

David Pepper: Laboratories of Autocracy: A Wake-Up Call From Behind the Lines (paperback, 2021, St Helena Press): Lawyer, has written several novels (political thrillers), examines how Republicans have taken over statehouses and used them as political forums for suppressing votes, gerrymandering, pushing their culture war agendas, and tripping over each other in competition to shower business interests with special favors. I would expect something on ALEC here: the Republican organization that crafts model laws for state legislature, leading to the systematic sweep of bad ideas across every state Republicans have seized power in. (A prime example of their work is the "stand your ground" laws promoting gun violence.)

  • Jacob Grumbach: Laboratories Against Democracy: How National Parties Transformed State Politics (2022, Princeton University Press): Practically the same title as Pepper's book, but with more both-sides-ism.
  • Ira Shapiro: The Betrayal: How Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans Abandoned America (2022, Rowman & Littlefield).

Jedediah Purdy: Two Cheers for Politics: Why Democracy Is Flawed, Frightening -- and Our Best Hope (2022, Basic Books): Serious thinker, was touted as a homeschooled genius from West Virginia in 1999 when his first book appeared (For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today -- as I recall, he was anti-irony), but even then had graduated from Harvard and would go on to Yale Law School, a post as an Appeals Court clerk, a fellow at the New America Foundation, then on to teaching law at Duke. Six books later, he sensibly writes: "Politics is not optional, even though we may wish it were." The basic reason is that if you don't stop them, people who seek to take over and use government for their own private interests will enjoy a free run to loot and pillage. On the other hand, people rarely perceive public interests clearly, due to flaws in the system and in the people who campaign in it. Seems likely to me that the 23 years since he first wrote have pushed him to the left, even if he remains a stick-in-the-mud.

  • Zach Gershberg/Sean Illing: The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion (2022, University of Chicago Press).

George Scialabba: How to Be Depressed (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press). Author made his reputation as a social critic with freelance book reviews, eventually collected in several volumes. This is sort of a memoir: a collection he's kept of notes from various psychiatrists who have attempted to treat his depression over the years (he was 72 when this came out), which as Barbara Ehrenreich points out, winds up being "a devastating critique of psychiatry." His other books:

  • George Scialabba: Divided Mind (2006, Arrowsmith Press).
  • George Scialabba: What Are Intellectuals Good For? (paperback, 2009, Pressed Wafer).
  • George Scialabba: The Modern Predicament (paperback, 2011, Pressed Wafer).
  • George Scialabba: For the Republic: Political Essays (paperback, 2013, Pressed Wafer).
  • George Scialabba: Low Dishonest Decades: Essays & Reviews 1980-2015 (paperback, 2016, Pressed Wafer).
  • George Scialabba: Slouching Toward Utopia: Essays & Reviews (paperback, 2018, Pressed Wafer).

Matthias Schmelzer/Andrea Vetter/Aaron Vansintjan: The Future Is Degrowth: A Guide to a World Beyond Capitalism (2022, Verso). Argues that "economic growth isn't working, and it cannot be made to work." Needs to be more specific. It's a common liberal convenience to see growth as the solution that benefits all, therefore saving us from having to tackle inequality. Of course, in a resource-limited world, growth cannot be infinite, which makes the inequality problem all the more pressing. As growth is so tightly bound up with capitalism, many sketches of a more equitable degrowth society go by "postcapitalism," a word this title points at.

  • Samuel Alexander/Brendan Gleeson: Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary (2018; paperback, 2019, Palgrave Macmillan).
  • Samuel Alexander: Beyond Capitalist Realism: The Politics, Energetics, and Aesthetics of Degrowth (paperback, 2021, Simplicity Institute).
  • Lucio Baccaro/Mark Blyth/Jonas Pontusson, eds: Diminishing Returns: The New Politics of Growth and Stagnation (paperback, 2022, Oxford University Press).
  • Nathan Barlow/Livia Regen/Noémie Cadiou, eds: Degrowth & Strategy: How to Bring About Social-Ecological Transformation (paperback, 2022, Mayflybooks/Ephemera).
  • Giacomo D'Alisa/Federico Demaria/Giorgos Kallis: Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era (paperback, 2014, Routledge).
  • Jason Hickel: Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (paperback, 2021, Windmill Books).
  • Tim Jackson: Post Growth: Life After Capitalism (paperback, 2021, Polity).
  • Giorgos Kallis: Degrowth [The Economy: Key Ideas] (paperback, 2018, Agenda Publishing).
  • Giorgos Kallis: In Defense of Degrowth: Opinions and Manifestos (paperback, 2018, Uneven Earth Press).
  • Giorgos Kallis: Limits: Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care (paperback, 2019, Stanford Briefs).
  • Giorgos Kallis/Susan Paulson/Giacomo D'Alisia/Federico Demaria: The Case for Degrowth (paperback, 2020, Polity).
  • Vincent Liegey/Anitra Nelson: Exploring Degrowth: A Critical Guide (paperback, 2020, Pluto Press).
  • Paul Mason: Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being (paperback, 2020, Penguin): Previously wrote Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future (2016).
  • Oli Mould: Seven Ethics Against Capitalism: Towards a Planetary Commons (paperback, 2021, Polity).
  • Anitra Nelson: Beyond Money: A Postcapitalist Strategy (paperback, 2022, Pluto Press).

Peter Shinkle: Uniting America: How FDR and Henry Stimson Brought Democrats and Republicans Together to Win World War II (2022, St Martin's Press): I generally accept the argument that Franklin Roosevelt thought American involvement in WWII was inevitable, and that he rather relished the leading the nation in that fight. That's likely why he chose to run for an unprecedented third term. True, he ran as an anti-war candidate in 1940, but so had Wilson in 1916. While Wilson quickly changed course in 1917, leaving a lot of ill-feeling even after winning the war, Roosevelt was patient, waiting for right moment, which was served up by Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, followed immediately by declarations of war by Japan and Germany. Anti-war sentiment on both the right and left evaporated almost immediately. This book suggests another reason for such unity in entering the war: in 1940, Roosevelt laid the groundwork by inviting prominent Republicans to take over the War Department (Henry Stimson, Secretary of State under Hoover) and the Navy (Frank Knox, 1936 VP nominee). A chart early in the book shows that many more Republicans were given strategic positions even before Pearl Harbor. The bipartisan alliance survived the war, and even in the hyper-polarized present both parties can be counted on to line up behind wars like Afghanistan and Ukraine. (Iraq had a few dissenting Democrats, but every one of the 2004 presidential hopefuls rallied to the cause. The only 2008 exception was Obama, who closed ranks with the hawks after becoming president, and who kept one Republican Secretary of Defense, then later replaced him with another.) I have serious reservations against calling WWII "the good war" -- it was horrible any way you slice it, ultimately turning the US as genocidal as its opponents, leaving the "losers" destroyed and the "winners" insufferably conceited and soulless -- but FDR made it look so easy few appreciate what a remarkable job he did in running it. No later US president has come remotely close.

Philip Short: Putin (2022, Henry Holt): Weighing in at 864 pp, this is billed as "the first comprehensive, fully up-to-date biography of Vladimir Putin," but its July release means it's missing an all-important chapter on the decision to invade Ukraine in March and the still on-going war, with Putin challenged as never before by international sanctions, internal dissent, and military frustration. Author has previously published biographies of François Mitterand, Pol Pot, and Mao, as well as a book from 1982 called The Dragon and the Bear: Inside China & Russia Today. I've cited numerous books on Putin the past, most notably:

  • Catherine Belton: Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux; paperback, 2022, Picador).
  • Karen Dawiska: Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? (2014; paperback, 2015, Simon & Schuster).
  • Timothy Frye: Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin's Russia (2021; paperback, 2022, Princeton University Press): "Looking beyond Putin to understand how today's Russia actually works."
  • Mark Galeotti: We Need to Talk About Putin: How the West Gets Him Wrong (paperback, 2019, Penguin Random House).
  • Masha Gessen: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012; paperback, 2013, Riverhead).
  • Steven Lee Myers: The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin (2015, Knopf; paperback, 2016, Vintage Books)
  • David Satter: The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin (2016; paperback, 2017, Yale University Press).
  • Mikhail Zygar: All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin (2016; paperback, 2017, PublicAffairs).

Some recent ones I had missed:

  • Heidi Blake: From Russia With Blood: The Kremlin's Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin's Secret War on the West (2019, Mulholland Books).
  • Eliot Borenstein: Plots Against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy After Socialism (paperback, 2019, Cornell University Press).
  • Anna Borshchevskaya: Putin's War in Syria: Russian Foreign Policy and the Price of America's Absence (2021, IB Tauris): "Washington's go-to expert on Russian involvement in the Middle East."
  • Michel Eltchaninoff: Inside the Mind of Vladimir Putin (paperback, 2018, Hurst): Originally published in French in 2015.
  • Samuel A Greene/Graeme B Robertson: Putin vs the People: The Perilous Politics of a Divided Russia (2019; paperback, 2022, Yale University Press).
  • Amy Knight: Putin's Killers: The Kremlin and the Art of Political Assassination (2017, Thomas Dunne Books; paperback, 2019, Biteback).
  • David G Lewis: Russia's New Authoritarianism: Putin and the Politics of Order (2021, Edinburgh University Press).
  • Michael Millerman: Inside "Putin's Brain": The Political Philosophy of Alexander Dugin (paperback, 2022, independent): Nickname for Dugin, who got in the press recently when his daughter was killed by a car bomb, kind of like Karl Rove was referred to as "Bush's Brain," but not really (Rove actually was in a position to pull Bush's strings, like Steve Bannon would have been if they only worked); Dugin is more of a free pundit who thinks up arguments to flatter Putin -- Trump and the Republicans have dozens of acolytes to do that.
  • Anna Revell: Putin: Vladimir Putin's Holy Mother Russia: A Biography of the Most Powerful Man in Russia (paperback, 2017, independent).
  • Andrew S Weiss/Brian "Box" Brown: Accidental Czar: The Life and Lies of Vladimir Putin (2022, First Second): Graphic novel biography, all the better to present Putin as "a devious cartoon villain, constantly plotting and scheming to destroy his enemies around the globe and in Ukraine." [11-08].
  • Amber Snow, ed: On the Brink of War: Selected Speeches by Vladimir Putin (paperback, 2022, independent).
  • Vladimir Putin: First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President (paperback, 2000, Public Affairs): Not recent, but I hadn't noticed it before. Not the sort of subtitle a sane person might come up with.

Daniel Sjursen: A True History of the United States: Indigenous Genocide, Racialized Slavery, Hyper-Capitalism, Militarist Imperialism and Other Overlooked Aspects of American Exceptionalism (paperback, 2021, Steerforth Press/Truth to Power): Author spent 18 years in US Army, taught history at West Point, retired a Major (long using that rank as part of his byline). I don't much like it when an author claims their book to be a true story, but in Sjursen's world of antiwar conservatism everything must be cut-and-dry. In any case, he has a lot of myth and rationalization to cut through, and does so in a sensible 688 pp. Seems like I've read a bunch of this online, and while truth may be elusive, he's rarely wrong.

Vaclav Smil: How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We're Going (2022, Viking): Bill Gates' favorite author, a Czech-born Canadian scientist with several dozen books, mostly relating to energy policy. The title tempted me to pick this up -- after all, good policy must be rooted in "how the world really works" -- but learned little I didn't already know, and found his imagination overly constrained by fossil fuels. (Perhaps this should have been expected, given that one of his titles from as recent as 2015 is Natural Gas: Fuel for the 21st Century.) He has lots of books, but I'll only note a couple recent ones:

  • Vaclav Smil: Energy and Civilization: A History (paperback, 2018, The MIT Press).
  • Vaclav Smil: Numbers Don't Lie: 71 Stories to Help Us Understand the Modern World (paperback, 2021, Penguin Books).

Michael Tomasky: The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity (2022, Doubleday): Political writer, edits Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, has a couple books, including one in 1996 announcing that the left is dead (Left for Dead), and one in 2019 that tried to salvage the center (If We Can Keep It), seems to have rediscovered the progressive sympathies he always claimed to have -- probably because the title has been presented as an ovearching concept for Biden's Build Back Better agenda. He has some suggestions, like critiquing economics that put self-interest over public needs, and recognizing that such traditional American ideals as freedom and democracy need to be grounded in a sense of shared equality, which has been all but killed by the neoliberal consensus.

Gaia Vince: Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World (2022, Flatiron Books): For the last 30-40 years, we have been divided into two camps: one recognized that people were changing the atmosphere in ways that would affect global climate, with far-ranging risks but couched in assurances that we could save ourselves through more/less easy reforms; the other denied that climate change this was happening, or denied that it would make much real difference, or trusted in God and/or capitalism to swiftly correct any problems that did occur. Perhaps we need a third approach, which admits we've failed to prevent climate change but takes seriously how to deal with the myriad problems it causes. One such problem is that as climate changes, some parts of the world will become uninhabitable, and others will become unsuitable for current uses. This will push many people to leave their current homes, and seek new abodes, and often new occupations. That's what this book is about: noting, for instance, that in 2018 1.2 million people in the US were displaced by extreme conditions, up to 1.7 million in 2020, as the US "averages a billion dollar disaster every eighteen days." Other parts of the world are in even more peril. ("In India alone, close to a billion people will be at risk.") There are other reasons why people move away from their homes, and that's been happening for some while, but it would be surprising if it didn't accelerate in coming years. How well we handle this change will say much about us as people, and about our future.

  • Gaia Vince: Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made (2014; paperback, 2015, Milkweed).
  • Gaia Vince: Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time (2020, Basic Books).

Brian T Watson: Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time, and the Future We'll Face (paperback, 2019, Anvilside Press): I could imagine writing a book like this, which starts with a long laundry list of systemic problems (Capitalism, Technology, Webworld, Politics, Media, Education, Human Nature, The Environment, Human Population, Transportation, Miscellaneous Forces) then winds up showing how any (let alone all) of them are unlikely to be solved (that chapter is called "Possible Reforms and Their Likelihood"). I'd shuffle the deck a bit -- in the 1990s, when I started thinking along these lines, I started with resources and environment, but back then I at least had some faith in reason to see a way through technical obstacles, but that idea has taken a beating ever since. So I see no more reason to be optimistic than the author, not that I would deny that the very act of looking into the abyss implies a certain unreasoned hope. Missing here is recognition of the unknown: e.g., no mention of pandemic a mere year before Covid-19 hit. While climate was most likely mentioned under Environment or Population, it's at least as much a headline as "Webworld." Another big topic is war: both as a cause of destruction and as a likely consequence, in both its conventional and annihilationist modes. Bibliography is just a list of mostly familiar books relevant to each chapter.

Additional books, with very brief (or in most cases no) comments. There is no count limit here per post (although I kept a lot of books back for lack of time to consider them; current count = 232). It's possible I will write a further entry on these at a later date.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present (2020; paperback, 2021, WW Norton): Previous subtitle: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall. List of "protagonists" runs from Idi Amin to Donald J Trump.

Wendell Berry: The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice (paperback, 2022, Shoemaker).

Alan S Blinder: A Monetary and Fiscal History of the United States, 1961-2021 (2022, Princeton University Press).

Cori Bush: The Forerunner: A story of Pain and Perseverance in America (2022, Knopf): US Representative (D-MO).

Jelani Cobb/David Remnick, eds: The Matter of Black Lives: Writing From the New Yorker (2021, Ecco): 848 pp.

Ted Cruz: Justice Corrupted: How the Left Weaponized Our Legal System (2022, Regnery): The only "weaponizing" going on is on the right. If Cruz were more perceptive, he'd be a happy man.

Mike Davis: Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and Economy in the History of the U.S. Working Class (1986; 1999; 2018, paperback, 2018): His first book, reprinted with similar covers along with: City of Quartz (1990), Ecology of Fear (1998), Late Victorian Holocausts (2001), Planet of Slums (2006), Buda's Wagon (2007), and The Monster Enters: Covid-19, the Avian Flu and the Plagues of Capitalism (2020, a revision of his 2005 book The Monster at Our Door).

Ludo De Witte: The Assassination of Lumumba (2001; paperback, 2022, Verso).

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: Not a Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion (2021, Beacon Press).

Russ Feingold/Peter Prindiville: The Constitution in Jeopardy: An Unprecedented Effort to Rewrite Our Fundamental Law and What We Can Do About It (2022, Public Affairs): Former US Senator (D-WI).

Phil Gramm/Robert Ekelund/John Early: The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate (2022, Rowman & Littlefield): Former US Senator [R-TX], a prime architect not just of increasing inequality but specifically of the 2008 financial meltdown.

Max Hastings: The Abyss: Nuclear Crisis Cuba 1962 (2022, Harper): "Author of twenty-eight books, most about conflict."

Richard Heinberg: Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival (paperback, 2021, New Society).

Will Hurd: American Reboot: An Idealist's Guide to Getting Big Things Done (2022, Simon & Schuster): Former US Congressman (R-TX) and CIA officer.

Andrew Kirtzman: Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America's Mayor (2022, Simon & Schuster).

Henry Kissinger: Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy (2022, Penguin). Sections on: Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat, Le Kuan Yew, and Margaret Thatcher.

Arthur B Laffer/Brian Domitrovic/Jeanne Cairns: Taxes Have Consequences: An Income Tax History of the United States (2022, Post Hill Press): Supply-side guru, argues that economies boom when cutting marginal taxes, lag when taxes goes up. Almost always wrong.

Andrew Meier: Morgenthau: Power, Privilege, and the Rise of an American Dynasty (2022, Random House): 1072 pp.

Scott Nations: A History of the United States in Five Crashes: Stock Market Meltdowns That Defined a Nation (2017; paperback, 2018, William Morrow): 1907, 1929, 1987, 2008, 2010 (the "flash crash").

Benjamin Netanyahu: Bibi: My Story (2022, Threshold Editions): Former Prime Minister of Israel. Note far-right publisher.

Michael Ratner: Moving the Bar: My Life as a Radical Lawyer (paperback, 2021, OR Books). Worked for Center for Constitutional Rights and National Lawyers Guild. Died 2016.

Douglas Rushkoff: Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires (2022, WW Norton): The most obvious are Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, with their rocket ship companies promising literal escape from Earth, but the mentality in the tech world is more widespread.

William Shatner/Joshua Brandon: Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder (2022, Atria Books).

Sheldon Whitehouse/Jennifer Mueller: The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court (2022, The New Press).

Richard D Wolff: The Sickness Is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us From Pandemics or Itself (paperback, 2020, Democracy at Work).

Julian E Zelizer, ed: The Presidency of Donald J Trump: A First Historical Assessment (paperback, 2022, Princeton University Press): Historian, similar books on Bush and Obama.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Book Roundup

These are basically leftovers from my April 3 Book Roundup. That one was the first in nearly a year (since April 18, 2021), so I made an effort to pick out the most important books, and I was able to pad the usual 40 entries out with a lot of related books. I even had, from my own reading, seven book cover pics I could share. On the other hand, I haven't read any of the books below. Some interest me. Some repulse me. I think it's worth knowing that the others exist.

Randall Balmer: Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (2021, Eerdmans): Short (141 pp), but makes a simple point: that the political engagement of right-wing evangelicals was a response not to Roe v. Wade (abortion), but to Green v. Connally, a ruling that threatened the tax-exempt status of racially discriminatory institutions (such as Bob Jones University, in 1976). Nor is this the first time someone has looked beneath ostensible arguments on the right to find racism underneath.

Glenn Beck/Justin Haskins: The Great Reset: Joe Biden and the Rise of Twenty-First-Century Fascism (2022, Forefront Books). Ridiculous paranoia from the TV/radio mogul, aided by Justin Haskins, identified as director of the Stopping Socialism Center at The Heartland Institute. Three chapters lay out the rationale for the "fascist" takeover of America: the pandemic, climate change, and modern monetary theory. The amusing twist is that the forces of fascism aren't the unwashed masses, but a conspiracy of "woke" globalized corporations and their coordinating groups like the World Economic Forum. Rest assured that Beck has a plan for "Derailing the Great Reset." I haven't read that far, but it probably involves buying a lot of T-shirts and mugs.

Gal Beckerman: The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas (2022, Crown): Argues that "radical ideas" -- could be novel ideas or innovations, but author is explicitly thinking about social and political movements -- are best (or only) developed in "quiet, closed networks that allow a small group to incubate their ideas before broadcasting them widely." That makes for a backhanded critique of social media, where everything is exposed and damned little of it matters.

Leslie MM Blume: Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World (2020; paperback, 2021, Simon & Schuster): The journalist was John Hersey, who managed to visit Hiroshima before the US Army locked it down, and famously reported on it in The New Yorker, the essay that became the book Hiroshima. Hersey went on to become a bestselling novelist, but he wrote another classic piece of quick journalism, The Algiers Motel Incident, in 1967 on the Detroit Riot.

Ray Dalio: The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail (2021, Simon & Schuster): Founder and cochairman of Bridgewater Associates ("the largest and best performing hedge fund in the world"), offers a sweeping history of everything, not so much to enlighten, especially not critique, but more as a betting guide for the excessively rich. Blurb list includes: Bill Gates, Henry Paulson, Mark Cuban, Jamie Dimon, as well as useful idiots like Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Henry Kissinger. Makes you wonder who he's conning now, to what purpose.

David M Drucker: In Trump's Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP (2021, Twelve): Instantly disposable fodder for political junkies only, trying to sort out what options Republicans have for a future when they're still stuck in their own past. Some other books assaying the Republican future:

  • Chris Christie: Republican Rescue: Saving the Party From Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden (2021, Threshold Editions).
  • Matthew Continetti: The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism (2022, Basic Books): AEI hack, a more ambitious intellectual history, but pitched over Trump.
  • Geoff Duncan: GOP 2.0: How the 2020 Election Can Lead to a Better Way Forward for America's Conservative Party (2021, Forefront Books).
  • Newt Gingrich: Beyond Biden: Rebuilding the America We Love (2021, Center Street).
  • Samuel L Popkin: Crackup: The Republican Implosion and the Future of Presidential Politics (2021, Oxford University Press).

Caroline Elkins: Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire (2022, Knopf): Big book (896 pp), but lots of blood to cover. Even before there was a British Empire, England was littered with kings and aristocrats that met violent ends, struggles between clans, and efforts by the crown to put down popular revolts. The British Empire was one long pageant of violence, against the natives they marauded and/or enslaved, against rival empires, even against their own settlers. From before the 1763 war with France through the 1964 independence of Kenya, it's unlikely there was a single year when the British weren't fighting someone somewhere. So this book seems about right. Indeed, it seems like the logical progression for a writers who started out with Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya. More on British history:

  • Padraic X Scanlan: Slave Empire: How Slavery Built Modern Britain (2022, Robinson): Probably important enough to merit its own entry, but a prime example of an empire based on violence, which is Elkins' theme. Recent American scholarship has pointed out how profits from slave labor fueled industrialization. The same is likely true here, but also noted is how antislavery further expanded the British Empire.
  • Sathnam Sanghera: Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain (paperback, 2021, Viking): The British Empire is defunct, but its selective memory still imbues political and cultural thought, in ways few are conscious of, but a British-born Punjabi journalist seems to have some insight into that.

Steve Forbes/Nathan Lewis/Elizabeth Ames: Inflation: What It Is, Why It's Bad, and How to Fix It (2022, Encounter Books): File this short (168 pp) under "opposition research": a compendium of what rich Republicans are saying whenever wage workers start to get a leg up. Forbes inherited a business media empire before running for president, Lewis is a hardcore gold bug, and Ames probably wrote the book to order. One suspects the hyperbole is going to be off the charts when they start talking about "1970s's-style 'Great Inflation'" (a line coined by Robert Samuelson and rarely used by anyone else), but then they disclose that "some observers even fear a descent into the kind of Weimar-style hyperinflation that has torn apart so many nations." I'm not saying that inflation is good: it hurts some people and helps others (e.g., it allows people to pay off debts with inflated dollars, which reduces the return to the lenders. Since the former tend to be poorer than the latter, the rich scream bloody murder every time it ticks up, and plot to exact their revenge on everyone else.

Amy Fried/Douglas B Harris: At War With Government: How Conservatives Weaponized Distrust From Goldwater to Trump (2021, Columbia University Press): It's hard to live if you can't trust the people around you to behave predictably, to follow laws and rules, and show you some respect and maybe even kindness. For better or worse, most of us grew up learning to trust government to act in the public interest, but conservative Republicans have repeatedly attacked the very foundations of public trust, and it turns out much harder to restore trust than to degrade it. This matters because many of the problems we face can only be addressed as public works.

Matthew Gabriele/David M Perry: The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe (2021, Harper): Title implies a radical departure from the traditional characterization of Europe's "Dark Ages" -- one that has partly fallen out of favor as historians have tried to blur the traditional demarcation between Medieval and Renaissance, but still, this book starts around 430 CE, with the Roman Empire crumbling but not quite fallen, and they allow the Middle Ages to end around 1321. Some more recent books on medieval European history:

  • Dan Jones: Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2021, Viking): British historian (with a TV sideline), has written quite a bit on the Middle Ages, including: Summer of Blood: The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 (2009); The Plantagenets: The Kings Who Made England (2012); The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors (2014); Magna Carta: The Making and Legacy of the Great Charter (2014); The Templars: The Rise and the Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors (2017); Crusaders: An Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Land (2019).
  • Marc Morris: The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England (2021, Hutchinson): British historian, books include: A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain (2008); The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England (2012); King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta (2015); William I: England's Conqueror (2016).
  • Neil Price: Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings (2020, Basic Books).
  • Peter H Wilson: Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire (2020, Belknap Press): 1008 pp.
  • Patrick Wyman: The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years That Shook the World, 1490-1530 (2021, Twelve).

David Gelles: The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America -- and How to Undo His Legacy (2022, Simon & Schuster): During his tenure as CEO of General Electric, Welch was touted as a great business leader, an innovator even. But much of what he did was to bring back the lean-and-mean mentality of an earlier (pre-union) stage of capitalism, combined with cold analysis. I wouldn't say he "broke capitalism," but he did much to restore its bad name, and as such it's nice to see his name drug through the mud again.

Gary Gerstle: The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free Market (2022, Oxford University Press): Big picture historian -- has previous books on American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century and Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government From the Founding to the Present -- tries to construct a "rise and fall" scenario for neoliberalism after a couple chapters on the New Deal and the managerial capitalism it produced (or allowed). It's not clear to me that neoliberalism has fallen, as the business interests that benefited from it are still very much in power, but its intellectual cachet for everyone else is in tatters.

Garrett M Graff: Watergate: A New History (2022, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster): Big new book (832 pp) on a scandal which I suppose seems relevant again with the impeachment of Trump (twice), perhaps less so because it continues to shock than because we're starting to feel nostalgic for an era when a disgraced president resigned, in large part because his own party refused to follow lock step in the coverup. Other recent books on Nixon/Watergate:

  • Dwight Chapin: The President's Man: The Memoirs of Nixon's Trusted Aide (2022, William Morrow): Personal aide, then deputy assistant in Nixon White House. Doesn't seem to have done any jail time (as his boss, Bob Haldeman, did).
  • Michael Dobbs: King Richard: Nixon and Watergate: An American Tragedy (2021, Knopf).
  • Irwin F Gellman: Campaign of the Century: Kennedy, Nixon, and the Election of 1960 (2022, Yale University Press).
  • Shane O'Sullivan: Dirty Tricks: Nixon, Watergate, and the CIA (2018, Hot Books).
  • Geoff Shepard: The Nixon Conspiracy: Watergate and the Plot to Remove the President (2021, Bombardier Books). Deputy counsel on Nixon's Watergate defense team, still litigating. Also wrote: The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot That Brought Nixon Down (2015); even more paranoid is The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President: Inside the Real Watergate Conspiracy (2008), which identifies "a young lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee named Hillary Rodham" among the conspirators.

Karen J Greenberg: Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of American Democracy From the War on Terror to Donald Trump (2021, Princeton University Press): Edited Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib, wrote The Least Worst Place (2009) on the Guantanamo gulag, summed up her worries on lawlessness in Rogue Justice (2016), so the main thing that this also incorporates is the contempt for democracy showed repeatedly by Trump and his administration.

Linda Greenhouse: Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months That Transformed the Supreme Court (2021, Random House): Sure, there are a lot of books about the hypothetical demise of American democracy, but this is a case study of what seems very likely be a significant turning point. With the Supreme Court effectively packed by Republican presidents -- in two critical cases elected by the Electoral College after losing the popular vote -- and a Senate where power is seriously skewed, conservative strategists are increasingly turning toward the courts to dictate policies that lack popular support and to disrupt ones that are popular. Related:

  • Jackie Calmes: Dissent: The Radicalization of the Republican Party and Its Capture of the Court (2021, Twelve).

Jane Harman: Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Makes Us Less Safe (2021, St Martin's Press): Former US Representative (D-CA), ranking member of House Intelligence Commitee, supported Bush's Iraq war, "served on advisory boards for the CIA, Director of National Intelligence, and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State."

Kyle Harper: Plagues Upon the Earth: Disease and the Course of Human History (2021, Princeton University Press): "A sweeping germ's eye view of history from human origins to global pandemics." Big subject, even for 704 pp., with the development of agriculture, the increasing population density of cities, and the migration of people and their animals (and their germs) to new territories playing major roles.

Katja Hoyer: Blood and Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German Empire, 1871-1918 (2021, Pegasus): Surprisingly short (272 pp) for a story that comprises so many wars (albeit brief ones until the big loss of 1914-18), a madcap stab at colonial empire building in Africa and the Pacific, and the legal and bureaucratic innovations of perhaps the most famous political figure of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck.

Ian Ona Johnson: Faustian Bargain: The Soviet-German Partnership and the Origins of the Second World War (2021, Oxford University Press): My first thought was that this was about the 1939 "pact" between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union which defined a partition of Poland, allowing Germany to grab most of Poland without risking a deeper war with Russia (which got German permission to do some grabbing itself, which turned out badly for Stalin both coming and going). But the book focuses more on an earlier "bargain" between Imperial Germany and the Bolsheviks, which led to the Russian Revolution, and subsequent armistice which ceded much Russian territory to Germany, as well as ending the two-front war Germany was fighting. Evidently, German-Soviet cooperation didn't end there, although I'm a little sketchy on the details.

Jonathan M Katz: Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America's Empire (2021, St Martin's Press): Butler was "the most celebrated warfighter of his time" -- from the Spanish War of 1898, the Philippines, the "gunboat diplomacy" occupations of Nicaragua and Haiti, up to the eve of WWII -- but he's better known for book he wrote about his experiences, called War Is a Racket.

Chuck Klosterman: The Nineties: A Book (2022, Penguin Press): Born in 1972, so I imagine he relates to the 1990s rather like I did to the 1970s, when everything seemed new and full of opportunity. The two decades are similar (yet distinct from earlier and later decades) in a couple respects: they offered relatively liberal interludes between wars (Vietnam into the 1970s, the Cold War into the 1990s) and later reaction/remilitarization (Reagan in the 1980s, Bush in the 2000s). While I was young enough to enjoy parts of the 1990s, it rather seems like a wasted decade now, and one I feel no nostalgia for. (Seth Myers, does a bit I find incongruous called "In My Time," where he waxes nostalgic for artifacts of his youth, which turn out to be from the 1990s. He was born in 1973.) Klosterman wrote his first book on glam metal (which suggests that at root he's a fellow rock critic; even if we don't like the same shit, it's a style thang), and followed that up with a couple novels and several essay collections, so this may be his bed for a magnum opus. Or it may just be a scrapbook, a bunch of things he lived through and thought were neat at the time. Some other Klosterman books:

  • Chuck Klosterman: Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (2001; paperback, 2002, Scribner).
  • Chuck Klosterman: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (2003; paperback, 2004, Scribner).
  • Chuck Klosterman: Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story (2005; paperback, 2006, Scribner).
  • Chuck Klosterman: IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas (2006; paperback, 2007, Scribner).
  • Chuck Klosterman: Eating the Dinosaur (2009; paperback, 2010, Scribner): "Klosterman's Lester Bangs-lite approach is frequently engaging."
  • Chuck Klosterman: I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined) (2013; paperback, 2014, Scribner): Asks questions like "who is more worthy of our vitriol -- Bill Clinton or Don Henley?" Wrote a column for the New York Times called "The Ethicist."
  • Chuck Klosterman: But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past (2016; paperback, 2017, Penguin Books).
  • Chuck Klosterman: X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Books).
  • Chuck Klosterman: Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction (2019; paperback, 2020, Penguin Books)

Elizabeth Kolbert: Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (2021, Crown): New Yorker writer, wrote Field Notes From a Catastrophe (about climate change) and The Sixth Extinction (about how humans, not just through climate change, have decimated the biosphere). When I was young, the last 10,000 years of geological history was called the Recent, but the more common terms these days is the Anthropocene, where nature reflects the many changes wrought by human beings. Three essays: "Down the River," "Into the Wild," "Up in the Air."

Robert Kuttner: Going Big: FDR's Legacy, Biden's New Deal, and the Struggle to Save Democracy (2022, New Press). Short (192 pp), meant to flatter Biden, to lift him to the stature needs demand, or at least to suggest the possibility. Kuttner has written a number of big books on politics and the economy -- the one I was most impressed with was The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity (2007) -- but this is more reminiscent of his quickie, Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency. Stripped of hope, today we're left with his 7th chapter, "Obama's Missed Moment." That leaves "America's Last Chance" as chapter 8. Here's hoping that optimism is contagious.

Christopher Leonard: The Lords of Easy Money: How the Federal Reserve Broke the American Economy (2022, Simon & Schuster): Business reporter, previously wrote The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business (2014), and Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America (2019). His critique of the Fed echoes points more commonly aired on the right (Republicans have always railed against quantitative easing), but a core problem with depending on the Fed to regulate the economy is that their only real tool to simulate the economy is their ability to push money out to banks, who are then more likely to bid up assets than to make productive investments. Conversely, the Fed's only tool for fighting inflation is to raise interest rates (i.e., to inflate the cost of borrowing), in the hope that the resulting constriction will put people out of work, depress consumer demand, and eventually affect prices. Still, I've always assumed that a growing economy is better than a strangled one (as was the case 1979-82), so I figured quantitative easing must have been a good thing. But unwinding it may pose new problems. Also on the Fed:

  • Karen Petrou: Engine of Inequality: The Fed and the Future of Wealth in America (2021, Wiley).
  • Nick Timiraos: Trillion Dollar Triage: How Jay Powell and the Fed Battled a President and a Pandemic -- and Prevented Economic Disaster (2022, Little Brown): Wall Street Journal reporter writes another chapter on how the Fed saved capitalism. Blurb writers include David Wessell (author of a similar book lionizing Ben Bernanke), Alan Blinder (former Fed vice-chair), Jacob Lew (former Secretary of the Treasury), and Austan Goolsbee (former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers).

Mark R Levin: American Marxism (2021, Threshold Editions): Fox News star, has a bunch of bestselling, crowd-pleasing books. I'd be interested in a book on this subject, but not from this clown. Tell me more about Paul Sweezy, Eugene Genovese, Paul Piccone. But these titles are just exercises in confusion: "Hate America, Inc."; "Racism, Genderism, and Marxism"; "'Climate Change' Fanaticism."

Jonathan Levy: Ages of American Capitalism: A History of the United States (2021, Random House): Big (944 pp) single-volume history of America, its division into "ages" of: commerce (1660-1860), capital (1860-1932), control (1932-80), and chaos (1980-). The terms are somewhat arbitrary -- "control" and "chaos" refers to the role of the state in the economy, with increasing regulation stailizing a broader affluence, and decreasing regulation fracturing into greater inequality. "Commerce" and "capital" are covers for mercantilism and industrialization, with the shift from bonded- to wage-slavery, with capital accumulating as machines scaled up surplus value. But the periods precisely line up with my political era scheme, aside from combining the Jefferson-to-Buchanan era with its mostly colonial prehistory, because Jefferson's "second revolution" did little to alter the economy -- other than opening up the western frontier for expansion, a distinctive aspect of American capitalism, but not a new direction (after all, gobbling up native land was central from the start). One question the periodization raises is whether the political shifts were consequences of economic changes, or vice versa.

Eugene Linden: Fire and Flood: A People's History of Climate Change, From 1979 to the Present (2022, Penguin Press): This covers a fairly short period of time (not much more than 40 years), yet people today are more likely to be surprised by how much was known that far back, given how little we tried to do about it. Sections run decade by decade, examining each on its own scale: the reality of climate change; the scientific consensus about it; public opinion and political will; and business and finance. Linden previously wrote:

  • Eugene Linden: Affluence and Discontent: The Anatomy of Consumer Societies (1979, Viking).
  • Eugene Linden: The Future in Plain Sight: Nine Clues to the Coming Instability (1998; paperback, 2019, Simon & Schuster): First part examines nine clues in ten chapters, including one on infectious disease. Second part are "Scenes From 2050," including "Kansas: Trouble on the Farm."
  • Eugene Linden: The Parrot's Lament and Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity (1999, Dutton; paperback, 2000, Plume).
  • Eugene Linden: The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity (2002, Dutton; paperback, 2003, Plume).
  • Eugene Linden: The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations (2006; paperback, 2007, Simon & Schuster).

Nesrine Malik: We Need New Stories: The Myths That Subvert Freedom (2021, WW Norton): Chapter titles enumerate six myths: the Reliable Narrator, a Political Correctness Crisis, the Free Speech Crisis, Harmful Identify Politics, National Exceptionalism, Gender Equality. These are myths that have taken up residence in the minds of the right, filling them with fear and loathing.

Alfred W McCoy: To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change (2021, Haymarket Books): Longtime critic of America's empire, with pathbreaking coverage of The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia and a major book on the Philippines (Policing America's Empire), among much more. Goes deep into history here, starting around 1300 and looking forward to 2300 (two chapters after "Pax Americana" are on China and climate change). For someone supposedly critical of American power, he seems oddly stuck in the notion that someone has to order the world.

Heather McGhee: The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (2021, One World): An "expert in economic and social policy," "former president of the inequality-focused think tank Demos," "now chairs the board of Color of Change, the nation's largest online racial justice organization." The obvious subject here is to try to quantify the social and economic costs of racism, including "for white people, too." That seems intuitively obvious, but clearly some people need it spelled out. One step is to explain "that life can be more than a zero-sum game." I wonder whether she goes further and explains that racism is a negative-sum game: one where one person's losses don't accrue to any other person; they're just wasted.

Sean McMeekin: Stalin's War: A New History of World War II (2021, Basic Books): Long (864 pp.), claims "Stalin -- not Hitler -- was the animating force of World War II." Which is totally wrong, as he seems to be reconstructing through Cold War prejudices. He even goes so far as to credit Stalin with nudging Japan into bombing Pearl Harbor, "unleashing a devastating war of attrition between Japan and the 'Anglo-Saxon' capitalist powers he viewed as his ultimate adversary." The result is one of the most distorted and deranged readings of history since, well, McMeekin's own The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2015).

J David McSwane: Pandemic, Inc.: Chasing the Capitalists and Thieves Who Got Rich While We Got Sick (2022, Atria/One Signal): ProPublica writer, follows the money (over $10 billion). "I have resisted the notion that capitalism itself is to blame for all of this." But isn't capitalism the system that ensures that whatever customers (in this case the government) are willing to spend will be sucked up by one firm or another, fraudulent or not? Good regulation, including transparency, may make the market more efficient and/or effective, but the isn't the drive to corrupt deep in the genes? And isn't it obvious that a political system built on, by, and for private money, is going to be easy pickings?

Neel Mehta/Adi Agashe/Parth Detroja: Bubble or Revolution? The Present and Future of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies (paperback, 2019, Paravane Ventures): My attitude toward cryptocurrency is fundamentally hostile: on the one hand, I'm annoyed that such a thing (or whatever it is?) even exists (or is even imagined to?); on the other, I suspect that everyone associated with it is up to no good. Of course, on a conceptual level, the same things can be said about money -- and one need hardly look beyond Wall Street to find copious examples it it being used for no good. But conventional money has proven to be very useful, even essential: without it, everything would have to be continuously revalued according to everything else, and little else would get done. But if conventional money works find, why invent crypto? One possibility is that it provides a means for criminals to transfer funds without alerting the government. Another is that it gives rich people something more they can speculate on. Maybe there are other uses, and other angles to be considered. Kim Stanley Robinson, in The Ministry for the Future, seems to regard blockchain as useful for limiting the ills of finance. I don't understand how he thinks that, and have little interest in figuring it out, but there's enough crap going around about cryptocurrency I figured I could collect a book list (looking for general books, and ignoring virtually everything that seems to be pitched toward investors).

  • Michael J Casey/Paul Vigna: The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything (2018, St Martin's Press; paperback, 2019, Picador).
  • Ric Edelman: The Truth About Crypto: A Practical, Easy-to-Understand Guide to Bitcoin, Blockchain, NFTs, and Other Digital Assets (paperback, 2022, Simon & Schuster). [05-22]
  • Jacob Goldstein: Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing (2020, Hachette Books; paperback, 2021, Atlantic Books): Places crypto in the long history of "made-up things" we use as money.
  • Matthew Leising: Out of the Ether: The Amazing Story of Ethereum and the $55 Million Heist That Almost Destroyed It All (2020, Wiley).
  • Anthony Lewis: The Basics of Bitcoin and Blockchains: An Introduction to Cryptocurrencies and the Technology That Powers Them (2018, Mango).
  • Isaiah McCall: Gold 2.0: Opening the Vault to the Secrets of Cryptocurrency (paperback, 2022, independent).
  • Ben Mezrich: Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption (2019, Flatiron Books): Author of a long list of "creative nonfiction," mostly celebrating people who became rich for dubious but clever exploits, such as Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions (2002), Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets (2004), and Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs and the Greatest Wealth in History (2015).
  • Justin Rezvani: Unapologetic Freedom: How Bitcoin Defeats Censorship, Ensures Sovereighty, and Reclaims Our Liberty Forever (paperback, 2022, Justin Rezvani).
  • Laura Shin: The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze (2022, Public Affairs).
  • Knut Svanholm: Bitcoin: Everything Divided by 21 Million (paperback, 2022, Konsensus Network).

Ethan Michaeli: Twelve Tribes: Promise and Peril in the New Israel (2021, Custom House): I read another book some time ago (possibly Richard Ben Cramer's How Israel Lost: The Four Questions) that broke Israeli Jews down into six or so groups, suggesting that one reason they never seriously tried to defuse the conflict with Palestinians was that a common enemy was the only thing that held them together. Further division echoing the biblical twelve shouldn't be too hard. I often look at Amazon reviews to get a sense of a book. Here I found a rare case where a 1-star review made the book seem more interesting (usually they just reveal the reviewer to be a moron): "Stay away from this book unless you like reading about falafel and Israeli salad under the disguise of a pseudo existential interpretation of contemporary Israeli society." But isn't breaking bread together a good way to get to know others? And that reminds me that Cramer had a whole section on Israeli "white meat" (pork, from pigs who spend their lives on platforms so their feet never touch Israeli soil). More on Israel/Palestine:

  • Ian Black: Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel 1917-2017 (2017, Atlantic Monthly Press).
  • Omri Boehm: Haifa Republic: A Democratic Future for Israel (paperback, 2021, New York Review Books): Conceding that "two states" is no longer possible, makes a pitch for binationalism.
  • Sylvain Cypel: The State of Israel vs. the Jews (2021, Other Press): A view from France, argues that Israel, with its "whiff of fascism," has become a liability and increasingly a threat for Jews in the diaspora.
  • Khaled Elgindy: Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians From Balfour to Trump (2019, Brookings Institution Press).
  • James L Gelvin: The Israel-Palestine Conflict: A History (4th edition, paperback, 2021, Cambridge University Press).
  • Jeffrey Herf: Israel's Moment: International Support for and Opposition to Establishing the Jewish State, 1945-1949 (2022, Cambridge University Press).
  • Tony Shaw/Giora Goodman: Hollywood and Israel: A History (paperback, 2022, Columbia University Press).
  • Daniel Sokatch: Can We Talk About Israel? A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted (2021, Bloomsbury): CEO of New Israel Fund, former director of Progressive Jewish Alliance, based in San Francisco, so seems to be one of the dwindling number of liberal zionists still trying to make it work.

Moisés Naím: The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century (2022, St Martin's Press): Wrote The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be (2013), which argued that power has intrinsic limits, especially a dependence on competent followers. Here he seems to be backtracking (not that he approves). The interrim has seen a number of autocrats rise to greater power, but how stable are they really?

Evan Osnos: Wildland: The Making of America's Fury (2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Former China correspondent, subject of his first book, wrote a big biography of Joe Biden for his second (one of a mere handful of 2020 campaign books on Biden, compared to many hundreds on Trump). This is more like a memoir, an attempt to make some sense of what happened to America between Sept. 11, 2001 and Jan. 6, 2021 ("two assults on the country's sense of itself").

Richard Overy: Blood and Ruins: The Last Imperial War, 1931-1945 (2022, Viking): British military historian, dates WWII from the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, rather than waiting for Germany to invade Poland (1939) or for Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor (1941). Big subject, big book (1040 pp). One thing that is poorly remembered today is that the World Wars were fought (initially, anyway) by nations that believed empire was a supreme good, one they sought to expand. (The US and the Soviet Union were less interested in territory, and more into the slightly nebulous notion of hegemony.)

Gideon Rachman: The Age of the Strongman: How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy Around the World (2022, Other Press): The list seems ominous enough: Putin, Trump, Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Orban, Xi. But aside from Xi, how successful have they been? We seem to be riding a stronger authoritarian wave than we've seen since the 1930s (and how did that turn out?). But aside from Xi, everyone on the list got elected in something like a fair democratic election -- not that they haven't tried to use their power to lock themselves in and their opponents out. Their skill seems to have been the ability to sell bigotry to the masses while garnering support from the rich -- which is basically the definition Robert Paxton came up with in The Anatomy of Fascism. But fascists in the 1930s used their charisma to strengthen state power, whereas today's "strongmen" tend to weaken the state (except for repressive political purposes), shifting real power to a private sector that is primarily motivated by greed. It's hard to see them remaining viable enough to last, but like a vermin infestation they may be hard to clear out. Rachman previously wrote:

  • Gideon Rachman: Zero-Sum World: Politics, Power and Prosperity After the Crash (2010; paperback, 2011, Atlantic): To be fair, he's not arguing that zero-sum is the way the world works, but that zero-sum thinking gets in the way of cooperation needed to solve big problems, like climate change.
  • Gideon Rachman: Easternization: War and Peace in the Asian Century (2016, Bodley Head; paperback, 2017, Vintage).
  • Gideon Rachman: Easternization: Asia's Rise and America's Decline From Obama to Trump and Beyond (2017; paperback, 2018, Other Press).

Matthew Rose: A World After Liberalism: Philosophers of the Radical Right (2021, Yale University Press): Short (208 pp) survey of five "thinkers": Oswald Spengler ("The Prophet"), Julius Evola ("The Fantasist"); Francis Parker Yockey ("The Anti-Semite"); Alain de Benoist ("The Pagan"); Samuel Francis ("The Nationalist"); with a final chapter on "The Christian Question." Might seem more important if there was more evidence of thinking on the right, at least among the supposedly literate talking heads.

Gordon S Wood: Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolution (2021, Oxford University Press): Author of The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (1969), which I've long regarded as the standard book on the politics of the American Revolution. This is a set of lectures on the idea of constitutionalism during the Revolution, a subject no one knows better.

Jia Lynn Yang: One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 (2020; paperback, 2021, WW Norton): Covers a period cleanly defined by two immigration laws: the 1924 law extended racial exclusions and established a quota system which discriminated against countries that had provided most immigrants over the previous 30 years (notably Italy, Poland, and Russia, effectively ending Jewish immigration); and the 1965 law which ended the quota system and other racial and religions bans. The 1924 law was probably the peak moment of post-Civil War racism, while 1965 coincided with major civil rights legislation: the same forces coalesced behind both, drawing on a new understanding of what the nation had fought against in WWII.

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

Matthew Algeo: All This Marvelous Potential: Robert Kennedy's 1968 Tour of Appalachia (2020, Chicago Review Press).

William M Arkin: The Generals Have No Clothes: The Untold Story of Our Endless Wars (2021, Simon & Schuster).

Jung Chang: Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China (2019, Knopf).

Erwin Chemerinsky: Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights (2021, Liveright).

Joshua L Cherniss: Liberalism in Dark Times: The Liberal Ethos in the Twentieth Century (2021, Princeton University Press).

Jennet Conant: The Great Secret: The Classified World War II Disaster That Launched the War on Cancer (2020, WW Norton).

Geoff Dyer: The Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other Endings (2022, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Erika Fatland: The Border: A Journey Around Russia Through North Korea, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and the Northeast Passage (2021, Pegasus Books).

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

Jeffrey Frank: The Trials of Harry S Truman: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945-1953 (2022, Simon & Schuster).

John Ghazvinian: America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present (2021, Knopf).

Marie Gottschalk: Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics (paperback, 2016, Princeton University Press).

Jon Grinspan: The Age of Acrimony: How Americans Fought to Fix Their Democracy, 1865-1915 (2021, Bloomsbury).

Sergei Guriev/Daniel Treisman: Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century (2022, Princeton University Press).

Colin Jerolmack: Up to Heaven and Down to Hell: Fracking, Freedom, and Community in an American Town (2021, Princeton University Press).

John B Judis: The Politics of Our Time: Populism, Nationalism, Socialism (2021, Columbia Global Reports).

Robert D Kaplan: Adriatic: A Concert of Civilizations at the End of the Modern Age (2022, Random House): Amazon review: "Lazy, superficial travelogue posing as historical insight."

Michael G Laramie: King William's War: The First Contest for North America, 1689-1697 (2017, Westholme).

Roger Lowenstein: Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War (2022, Penguin Press).

Bruno Maçães: History Has Begun: The Birth of a New America (2020, Oxford University Press): Portuguese geopolitics guru, based in Istanbul, previous books The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order and Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order.

David Mamet: Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch (2022, Broadside Books): Wide-ranging essay collection from a famous playwright and right-wing crank.

Mark Mazower: The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe (2021, Penguin Press).

Douglas Murray: The War on the West (2022, Broadside). Thin-skinned, xenophobic right-winger claiming victimhood 500+ years after Columbus. Previously wrote:

  • Douglas Murray: The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam (2017; paperback, 2018, Bloomsbury).
  • Douglas Murray: The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity (2019; paperback, 2021, Bloomsbury).

Kathryn Olivarius: Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom (2022, Belknap Press): On New Orleans, "where yellow fever epidemics killed as many as 150,000 people during the nineteenth century."

Reece Peck: Fox Populism: Branding Conservatism as Working Class (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).

Nathaniel Philbrick: Travels With George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy (2021, Viking; paperback, 2022, Penguin Books).

Ari Rabin-Havt: The Fighting Soul: On the Road With Bernie Sanders (2022, Liveright): Deputy campaign manager for Sanders in 2020.

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

Vaclav Smil: Numbers Don't Lie: 71 Stories to Help Us Understand the Modern World (paperback, 2021, Penguin Books).

Ray Takeyh: The Last Shah: America, Iran, and the Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty (2021, Yale University Press).

Nicholas Wapshott: Samuelson/Friedman: The Battle Over the Free Market (2021, WW Norton): Author previously wrote Keynes/Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics (2011).

Olivier Zunz: The Man Who Understood Democracy: The Life of Alexis de Tocqueville (2022, Princeton University Press).

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Book Roundup

It's been a year since my last round of Book Roundups -- I posted two sets in 2021, one on April 4, the other on April 18. The format is to provide 40 one-paragraph review/blurbs, followed by an arbitrary number of one-or-zero line notices: books I felt like noting the existence of but didn't feel like writing up anything more substantial (although I may return to them later). The main section has also grown of late, ever since I started listing "related" books in a bullet list under the main reviews. These are books that might otherwise have dropped to the second section, but are more usefully grouped in the first. I used to do a section on paperback reprints of previously mentioned books, but haven't kept those listings up to date.

The Book Roundups are useful for me inasmuch as they give me a broad survey of what's recently available, and what we know about the world. I mostly follow politics, economics, and history here, because that's almost always my current reading. (It's less that that's what I'm interested in than that's what little I have time for.) The reviews eventually get stuffed into a big file. I had a reader once inquire about setting up a database for reviews like that, I expressed some interest, but he never got back to me, so it's still just an idea.

Needless to say, I've hardly read any of these books -- a more or less accurate list of what I have read is here. I mostly find these books by browsing through Amazon, reading the blurbs there, sometimes the reviews, and sometimes bits of the books ("look inside"). That, along with whatever previous information I've accumulated, gives me a rough sense of what the book is about, and what sort of angle it takes.

As with last year, I wouldn't be surprised to follow this with a second post. I have a couple dozen more reviews written, but also have accumulated a list of about 200 books in my scratch file (before adding the second section here), so I have plenty of material to work with.

I'm struck by how many of the entries below provoke thoughts about how to understand the Putin invasion of Ukraine. The big one, to which I've hung another 24 books, is ME Sarotte's book on NATO expansion, Not One Inch, where most of the books now read as obsolete, and many as totally unhinged. The following bit on Peter Schweizer's Red-Handed shows you that American misunderstanding of China is if anything even more dangerous and deranged. Still, it's pretty easy to predict that once the shooting stops in Ukraine, the result is going to look a lot like the status quo ante (aside from thousands of people killed, millions displaced, and many billions of dollars of physical damage, none of which had to happen) -- although the only prediction more certain is that none of the participants will learn the right lessons from the ordeal, mostly because they didn't ask the right questions before.

Yasmeen Abutaleb/Damian Paletta: Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History (2021, Harper). Washington Post reporters, evidently had a fair degree of inside access to the White House and its "toxic environment of blame, sycophancy, and political pressure" -- very characteristic of the president himself, whose concerns never went beyond appearances, and whose instincts were almost always wrong. The result was that the US response to the pandemic was the worst, at least in terms of outcomes, of any large/wealthy nation anywhere, but he left the entire issue so politically polarized that his idiocy continued to plague the nation a year later. We're starting to see books on various aspects of the pandemic, like these:

  • Brendan Borrell: The First Shots: The Epic Rivalvies and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine (2021, Mariner Books).
  • Albert Bourla: Moonshot: Inside Pfizer's Nine-Month Race to Make the Impossible Possible (2022, Harper Business): Pfizer CEO, bragging. Note that Moderna delivered a similar vaccine is almost the same time frame.
  • Ryan A Bourne: Economics in One Virus: An Introduction to Economic Reasoning Through COVID-19 (paperback, 2021, Cato Institute).
  • Alina Chan/Matt Ridley: Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19 (2021, Harper).
  • Mike Davis: The Monster Enters: COVID-19, Avian Flu and the Plagues of Capitalism (paperback, 2020, OR Books): Looks like a short (240 pp) update of the author's 2005 book, The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu, with occasional notes from his substantial 2001 magnum opus, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. He's entitled, as the threat he saw in Avian Flu has finally materialized, with the short-sighted profiteering of hegemonic capitalism accelerating and deepening the crisis.
  • Scott Gottlieb: Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic (2021, Harper).
  • Richard Horton: The COVID-19 Catastrophe: What's Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again (2nd edition, paperback, 2021, Polity): Editor of The Lancet, short (180 pp).
  • Michael Lewis: The Premonition: A Pandemic Story (2021, WW Norton): The first Covid book to appear, following several public health workers as they first assessed the pandemic and worked to try to stop it -- not very successfully, I'm afraid, but credit their foresight. Short enough you should also go back to his The Fifth Risk, about how the Trump administration's contempt for expertise in general and the civil service in particular has made the world much more dangerous.
  • Debora MacKenzie: COVID-19: The Pandemic That Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One (2020, Hachette).
  • Sharri Markson: What Really Happened in Wuhan: A Virus Like No Other, Countless Infections, Millions of Deaths (2021, Harper Collins).
  • Joe Miller/Ozlem Tureci/Ugur Sahin: The Vaccine: Inside the Race to Conquer the COVID-19 Pandemic (2022, St Martin's Press).
  • John Nichols: Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis (2022, Verso).
  • Nicole Saphier: Panic Attack: Playing Politics With Science in the Fight Against COVID-19 (2021, Broadside): I'm sure that various Democratic governors and mayors can be faulted for "political" responses to the pandemic, and that the politicization of many issues around it and them has been tragic, but the author loses me when she blames "knee-jerk anti-Trumpism" for making it all worse. Trump played a singularly unhelpful role, which only got worse as he instinctively cheered on the anti-lockdown, anti-mask, and anti-vax mobs. Knee-jerk implies no reasoning was involved, but there are so many sound reasons to oppose Trump that enumerating them is exhausting.
  • Andy Slavitt: Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the US Coronavirus Response (2021, St Martin's Press).
  • Rob Wallace: Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID-19 (paperback, 2020, Monthly Review Press).
  • Gregory Zuckerman: A Shot to Save the World: The Inside Story of the Life-or-Death Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine (2021, Portfolio).

Spencer Ackerman: Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump (2021, Viking). I don't doubt that the War on Terror has taken a tragic toll on the nation's psyche, both in its leaders' blind faith in the efficacy of force and the sense of superiority possession of such terrible firepower has engendered. On the other hand, that the author could see Trump as the endpoint of such rot and degradation suggests a lack of imagination. Or perhaps it only reflects what a disaster Trump's election and administration was.

Kai Bird: The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter (2021, Crown): Big book (784 pp), a major attempt to provide a fresh reading on an often-maligned one-term president -- in my division of US history into eras I group him with Buchanan, Hoover, and Trump among the dead-ends opposite Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan -- by a skilled writer who's never stooped to routine political biography before. With one exception, his books have dealt with security cases: Robert Oppenheimer, McGeorge and William Bundy, John J McCloy, Robert Ames. The exception is Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978, a memoir from growing up there -- his father was a US Foreign Service Officer, so he also has Beirut, Dhahran, Cairo, and Mumbai experiences -- expanded into a sharp history, but that may have drawn him to Carter. It's often said that the New Deal/Great Society model had run its course by 1980, and Americans were hungry for some kind of change. In retrospect, it looks like Carter paved the way for Reagan, hurting him with old Democrats while unable to find a new coalition. But Carter was much smarter and much less glib than Reagan, and he had real empathy with people, who Reagan and the Repubicans treated like suckers. Whatever complaints one has about Carter as president, it's clear that he's been a remarkable ex-president -- a credit to a country that has too few of them left.

Mark Bowden/Matthew Teague: The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It (2022, Atlantic Monthly Press): Bowden is a bestselling author of nonfiction thrillers like Black Hawk Down (on Somalia), Killing Pablo (drug kingpin Escobar), and The Finish (on killing Osama Bin Laden). So he wasn't an obvious journalist to expose Trump's efforts to deny and steal victory after losing the 2020 election, but he can be counted on to bring breathless energy to the subject. Trump's scheming to overturn the 2021 election, including his call to Washington on January 6 to storm the Capitol, has produced yet another wave of Trump books, along with a few more latecomers:

  • William P Barr: One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General (2022, William Morrow): Sucked up to Trump enough to get appointed, entered with his own agenda, mostly did what he hoped to do, got out when he realized the end was nigh.
  • Michael C Bender: Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost (2021, Twelve): Wall Street Journal reporter.
  • Walter Frank: Do We Have a Center? 2016, 2020, and the Challenge of the Trump Presidency (2019, Walter Frank).
  • Stephanie Grisham: I'll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House (2021, Harper): Trump campaign flak, promoted to White House Press Secretary in 2019, where she famously took very few questions.
  • Josh Hawley: The Tyranny of Big Tech (2021, Regnery): US Senator (R-MO), book canceled by Simon & Schuster after Hawley's salute to the storming of the Capitol. Slim (200 pp).
  • Elie Honig: Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor's Code and Corrupted the Justice Department (2021, Harper).
  • David Cay Johnston: The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family (2021, Simon & Schuster).
  • Jonathan Karl: Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show (2021, Dutton): Previously wrote Front Row at the Trump Show (2020), which evidently needed another chapter.
  • Julie Kelly: January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right (paperback, 2021, Bombardier Books): Shameless attempt to portray the rioters and their idol as victims, "being exploited by the Democratic Party and the national news media to criminalize political protest and free speech in America."
  • Carol Leonnig/Philip Rucker: I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trump's Catastrophic Final Year (2021, Penguin Press): Washington Post reporters, wrote A Very Stable Genius: Donald J Trump's Testing of America (2020).
  • Mark Meadows: The Chief's Chief (2021, All Seasons Press): Trump unindicted co-conspirator (White House Chief of Staff).
  • Peter Navarro: In Trump Time: My Journal of America's Plague Year (2021, All Seasons Press): Senior Trump aide, long-established China basher.
  • Jamie Raskin: Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy (2022, Harper): Congressman, led impeachment of Trump following Jan. 6.
  • Adam Schiff: Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could (2021, Random House): Congressman, led first impeachment of Trump.
  • Nick Timiraos: Trillion Dollar Triage: How Jay Powell and the Fed Battled a President and a Pandemic -- and Prevented Economic Disaster (2022, Little Brown).
  • Michael Wolff: Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency (2021, Henry Holt): Curious how many of these rush jobs on Trump's big lie start with ironic titles from the man himself. Wolf previously wrote Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (2018) and Siege: Trump Under Fire (2019).
  • Bob Woodward/Robert Costa: Peril (2021, Simon & Schuster): Third book from Woodward on Trump, titles reduced to short words like Fear and Rage.

Andrew Cockburn: The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine (2021, Verso): Back in (and slightly before) WWII, the US military directed private companies to build weapons, and paid them handsomely (with a guarantee of costs +10% profit). Still, capitalism has a genius for exploiting margins, so over time the arms industries went from taking orders to dreaming up and selling products to an ever-eager defense bureaucracy, the result being Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex." Since then, it's only gotten worse, especially as the hybrid war machine scours the world for conflicts to sell into, with extra profits whenever the shooting and bombing starts.

Donald Cohen/Allen Mikaelian: The Privatization of Everything: How the Plunder of Public Goods Transformed America and How We Can Fight Back (2021, New Press). It's long been argued that government-owned firms are inefficient, incompetent, and/or simply political, and that many such functions could be taken over by private firms, which were touted as so much more efficient they could save taxpayers money as well as earning a profit. This has been done hundreds, maybe thousands of times, and the track record has been abysmal, yet the onslaught of lobbyists and profiteers is relentless, and the political system is so prone to corruption that ordinary people wind up spending a lot of time fighting their scams. But rather than having to deal with them on a case-by-case basis, we need to wise up to the fundamental flaw at the root of all these plots.

Jack E Davis: The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea (paperback, 2018, Liveright): Environmental historian takes a broad and deep look at the Gulf of Mexico, starting 150 million years ago, but mostly since 1513, and most of that since 1945. Won a Pulitzer Prize.

Mike Davis/Jon Wiener: Set the Night on Fire: LA in the Sixties (2020, Verso): Big book (800 pp). Davis has written many, wide-ranging books, including a previous one on Los Angeles, City of Quartz (1990), and Planet of Slums (2006). Wiener has written a number of books, including Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files (2000), and How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America (2012). The new book focuses on social and political movements in the 1960s. Both authors are in their upper 70s, and have slowed down. Chances are they see this book as where their careers have been heading.

Alan Dershowitz: Cancel Culture: The Latest Attack on Free Speech and Due Process (2020, Hot Books): Famously liberal Democrat, but always willing to lend a helping hand to rapists and murderers, as long as they're filthy rich. Consequently, the blurbs here skew a bit to the right: Steve Forbes: "Alan Dershowitz is a living profile in courage." Benjamin Netanyahu: "The truth has no greater defender than Alan Dershowitz." Ted Cruz: "Courage and principle are rare today. Professor Dershowitz has them both." But "cancel culture" isn't about free speech. It's about power, and how much the powerful whine when someone questions their judgment. First time I heard the phrase was from Ivanka Trump, who somehow wangled an invite to speak at a Wichita State University commencement, then got disinvited when nearly everyone who heard about it said, "what the fuck?" Let's face it, no one gets "canceled" unless they got scheduled in the first place. Also (later):

  • Alan Dershowitz: The Case Against the New Censorship: Protecting Free Speech From Big Tech, Progressives and Universities (2021, Hot Books). [04-20]

Joseph Fishkin/William E Forbath: The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: Reconstructing the Economic Foundations of American Democracy (2022, Harvard University Press): A substantial effort (640 pp) not just to re-examine the US Constitution as an effort to limit oligarchy, but also reviewing the major progressive moments in American history (including Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society, and a final chapter on "Building a Democracy of Opportunity Today." The founders have taken a beating recently, both from the mythmaking "originalists" and from critics of their repeated failures to challenge racism, but within limits at key junctures the best (and best-remembered) of them opposed conservative impulses to harden the stratas of inequality. Also by the authors:

  • Joseph Fishkin: Bottlenecks: A New Theory of Equal Opportunity (2014; paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
  • William E Forbath: Law and the Shaping of the American Labor Movement (paperback, 1991, Harvard University Press).

Catherine Coleman Flowers: Waste: One Woman's Fight Against America's Dirty Secret (2020; paperback, 2022, New Press): The single most effective public health measure US government has taken, by far, has been the construction of modern sewage systems, but evidently they haven't been built everywhere, and you won't need many guesses as to which people and places got left out. The author grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, and this is the story of her fight to get help there, and elsewhere.

Lily Geismer: Left Behind: The Democrats' Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality (2022, Public Affairs): "The 40-year history of how Democrats chose political opportunity over addressing inequality -- and how the poor have paid the price." Actually, not just the poor: the so-called middle class has gotten hit pretty hard as well (debt for college has been a major factor there, as has the loss of unions and the consequent loss of jobs). Geismer is correct that Democrats have been complicit in this -- especially the New Democrats who supported Clinton and Gore, but also politicians who went with their flow like Obama, Cuomo, and Rahm Emmanuel. So while Republicans wholeheartedly plotted to pump up the rich, they could also point to Democrats as corrupt elitists, out of touch with the downtrodden working class (at least the white part). Those Democrats can point to higher rates of growth under their administrations, but by overlooking equity, they've weakened their own political base -- perhaps fatally, had Republicans not been working so hard to represent themselves a public menaces, a threat so dire that Democrats could count on votes from people they almost never paid any attention to. I suspect that the worst of this wasn't what Democrats actually did but how they tacitly legitimized concerns and approaches that Republicans claimed for purely tactical reasons (e.g., market-oriented carbon trading credits, or the sloppy patchwork reform that came to be known as Obamacare).

Amitav Ghosh: The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (2021, University of Chicago Press): Indian novelist and essayist, originally from Kolkata, Ph.D from Oxford, lives in New York. His novels are historical, exploring stories related to colonialism, with several set around Britain's Opium War with China. He has a recent essay collection called The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2017), and ties many of his interests together here, starting with the Dutch slaughter of natives to corner the nutmeg trade, extending to today's climate crisis, with much emphasis on wisdom native peoples have despite (or because of) being trampled in the mad rush to empire.

Peter S Goodman: Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World (2022, Custom House): New York Times global economics correspondent, previously wrote Past Due: The End of Easy Money and the Renewal of the American Economy (2009), which was about more than the "masters of the universe" as the economy collapsed. This time he singles out five "Davos men" (defined as "a member of the global billionaire class," named for the ritzy resort "where the species is known to gather annually to cleanse its reputation"), but realizes you can't understand their significance without looking at the devastation they leave behind. I suppose one could complain that the anointed five are famous Americans (Jeff Bezos, Stephen Schwarzman, Larry Fink, Jamie Dimon, Marc Benioff) but the species is truly global, as are their victims.

David Graeber/David Wengrow: The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Major project, posthumous for Graeber, a famous anthropologist and political activist -- Debt: The First 5,000 Years is his major work -- co-written with the British archaeologist, reviews much of the factual record around the early development of agriculture, cities, states, and classes, finding many bones to pick with previous popularizers of the age, but mostly concluding that anything is possible, and nothing is inevitable. I've cited most of Graeber's books, at least since Debt (2011), but here are ones I missed:

  • David Graeber: Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (paperback, 2001, Palgrave Macmillan).
  • David Graeber: Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (paperback, 2004, Prickly Paradigm Press).
  • David Graeber: Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire (paperback, 2007, AK Press).
  • David Graeber: Lost People: Magic and the Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar (paperback, 2007, Indiana University Press).
  • David Graeber: Direct Action: An Ethnography (paperback, 2009, AK Press).
  • David Graeber: Revolutions in Reverse: Essays on Politics, Violence, Art and Imagination (paperback, 2011, Autonomedia).
  • David Graeber/Marshall Sahlins: On Kings (2016; paperback, 2017, HAU).
  • David Wengrow: What Makes Civilization? The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West (2010; paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • David Wengrow: The Origins of Monsters: Image and Cognition in the First Age of Mechanical Reproduction (paperback, 2020, Princeton University Press).

Nikole Hannah-Jones: The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story (2021, One World): Eighteen essays exploring the not just the history of slavery but its lasting legacy, combined with 36 poems and works of fiction "illuminating key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance," and an archive of photographs. As history it may go a bit overboard into alternative mythmaking, but the right had already seized on this book as the one they most wanted to make sure young people in America won't get exposed to. And it's not because they don't want young people to be made to feel bad for being Americans. It's because they recognize how little they have done to overcome slavery's legacy, and fear that young people will blame them for their inaction. I'm reminded of how older Germans never talked about Nazism and the Holocaust after 1945, but in the 1960s a new generation of postwar babies grew up and learned to face the past, largely because they were never part of it. That could happen here, but not if the vested political interests of the right have any say.

Jason Hickel: Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (2021, paperback, Windmill Books): Capitalism demands infinite growth, but nothing can continue infinitely, so the real question is when and how those expectations break down. Add this to the growing literature on ecological limits and post-capitalism. Other books:

  • Jason Hickel: The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions (paperback, 2018, Windmill Books).
  • Andreas Malm: How to Blow Up a Pipeline (paperback, 2021, Verso): A "lyrical manifesto," appears to argue for "strategic acceptance of property destruction and violence." I'd prefer to read it as a cautionary plea for non-violent reforms.
  • Andreas Malm: Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency: War Communism in the Twenty-First Century (paperback, 2020, Verso).
  • Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective: White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism (paperback, 2021, Verso).

Elizabeth Hinton: America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s (2021, Liveright): The "race riots" of the 1960s are remembered much more than the acts of police violence that triggered many of them (and that conditioned the rest). Hinton not only surveys root causes, she shows how the "riots" can be reframed as rebellions, as acts determind to affect change. Looks like an important book, as does her previous From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (2016).

Bradley Hope/Justin Scheck: Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman's Ruthless Quest for Global Power (2020, John Murray; paperback, 2021, Hachette): In recent decades, the Saudi crown has been passed through a line of elderly brothers, who took a cautious role, dishing out money to buy stability, anything to not rock the boat. That changed in 2017 when King Salman promoted his 32-year-old seventh son to Crown Prince, and gave him effective control over the government. Initially touted as a reformer, MBS is now best known for his cruel war in Yemen and for ordering the murder of critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi -- acts which have started to erode US support (although nothing Trump wasn't comfortable with). Lately, MBS has conspired with Russia to prop up oil prices, which got to be a problem with the Ukraine War. With its vase oil reserves, the Saudi dictatorship has long been a potential threat to world peace, but with MBS in control, that threat is becoming real.

Martin Indyk: Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy (2021, Knopf): Hard to think of a less appealing pairing of author and subject. Kissinger did a bit of what was called "shuttle diplomacy" between Israel and various Arab states, but had nothing to show for it, which was exactly the way Israel liked it. It was not until Jimmy Carter before Israel was willing to take a deal with Egypt that basically took the risk of a future war with Arab states off the table. Kissinger's own interest rarely strayed from his Great Game with the Soviet Union -- the main effect in the Middle East was his scheme to line up Saudi Arabia and Iran as proxy partners. The former took the alliance as license to proselytize their fundamentalist brand of Islam, leading to jihadists volunteering first to fight the Soviet Union, then America. Meanwhile, close association with the Shah in Iran turned the revolution against America. Indyk is small potatoes compared to Kissinger, which may be why he's so deferential, but he was one of the Clinton people who helped wreck the Oslo Accords.

Edward-Isaac Dovere: Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats' Campaigns to Defeat Trump (2021, Viking): Atlantic staff writer, got stuck with covering the Democratic side of the 2020 election, and seems to be taking his bad luck out on us. You'd think that every election would produce at least one major chronicle, something following the line of tomes Theodore H White wrote for 1960, 1964, and 1968. Yet while there were tons of books published on Trump in and after 2020, including several major ones on his post-defeat shenanigans, the only other one I've noticed so far was the Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes quickie, Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency -- the title suggesting not just that their hearts weren't into the book, but their brains weren't engaged either. This is ironic, because virtually all of the substantive policy arguments that surfaced during 2019-20 occurred within the diverse Democratic Party field. But then, after the hotly contest Iowa/New Hampshire contests were settled, making Bernie Sanders the front-runner, with Michael Bloomberg the "great white hope" of the oligarchy. When it became clear that Bloomberg had no more appeal to Democrats than Trump did, Democrats panicked and threw their personal and policy preferences aside, making Joe Biden the compromise no one wanted. Someone who cared could have mined those stories for meaning, especially compared to the superficiality of the mainstream media, but no one did. Rather, we spent the last six months of the campaign whether a majority of voters were insane enough to give Trump four more years, and hoping Biden didn't further embarrass himself. Still, with billions of dollars in play, against the unprecedented pandemic backdrop, there's a big story to be sorted out. It deserves something deeper than a cliché like "battle for the soul." Aside from Lucky (previously reported), this is all I could find (not explicitly focusing on Trump):

  • Andrew Busch/John J Pitney Jr: Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics (paperback, 2021, Rowman & Littlefield).
  • Larry J Sabato/Kyle Kondik/J Miles Coleman, eds: A Return to Normacy? The 2020 Election That (Almost) Broke America (paperback, 2021, Rowman & Littlefield).

Fred Kaplan: The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War (paperback, 2021, Simon & Schuster): Military affairs columnist for Slate, not as hostile to the world of arms as I am, but clear-headed enough to useful -- e.g., his 2008 book Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power, which picked apart the neocon conceits (RMA, for "revolution in military affairs") led to the catastrophe in Iraq. He starts this with mention of Trump's "fire and fury" threat, then goes back to show that such thinking has been common since 1945, even if rarely exposed from a figure with so little grasp of reason and consequences. The chapter on "Madman Theories" brings to mind Nixon, who coined the term, but also Putin putting Russia's nuclear forces "on alert," in the latest gambit to fight a conventional war shielded by intimations of apocalypse. At least between Nixon and Brezhnev (or Kennedy and Krushchev) the underlying assumption was that both sides could be depended on to act rationally. It's hard to be so confident now: Putin's invasion of Ukraine is at least a species of madness; on the other hand, while Biden is much saner than Trump, what passes for sanity when "thinking about the unthinkable" is pretty shady, especially since the 1990s, when the neocons reformulated American policy to justify "preventive war" against any potential challenge to American "hyperpower." Some other books on nuclear weapons:

  • Vipin Narang: Seeking the Bomb: Strategies of Nuclear Proliferation (paperback, 2022, Princeton University Press).
  • Ankit Panda: Kim Jong Un and the Bomb: Survival and Deterrence in North Korea (2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Chris Wallace/Mitch Weiss: Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World (2020, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster).

Michael E Mann: The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet (2021, PublicAffairs): Must it be a war? Everyone loses in war, initially by being foolish enough to think winning is possible. Mann has several books on the dangers of climate change. This one reviews how vested interests have deflected reform by an intense campaign of denial and/or deflection ("misinformation and misdirection"). You probably know that, although some sections (e.g., "It's YOUR Fault," "Put a Price on It. Or Not.") have yet to become commonplaces. Of course, he offers hope at the end. And of course, his next book will be even more dire. Many more books on climate change have appeared since my last roundup:

  • Kate Aronoff: Over Heated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet -- and How We Fight Back (2021, Bold Type Books).
  • Alice Bell: Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis (2021, Counterpoint).
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty: The Climate of History in a Planetary Age (2021, University of Chicago Press).
  • Aviva Chomsky: Is Science Enough? Forty Critical Questions About Climate Justice (paperback, 2022, Beacon Press).
  • John Doerr: Speed & Scale: An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis (2021, Portfolio).
  • Christiana Figueres/Tom Rivett-Carnac: The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis (2020, Knopf): UN negotiators for 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • John Freeman, ed: Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a Divided World (paperback, 2020, Penguin Books).
  • Paul Hawken: Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation (paperback, 2021, Penguin Books): Updates his Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (2017).
  • Katharine Hayhoe: Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World (2021, Atria/One Signal): Chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy.
  • Eric Holthaus: The Future Earth: A Radical Vision for What's Possible in the Age of Warming (2020, Harper One).
  • Andreas Karelas: Climate Courage: How Tackling Clilmate Change Can Build Community, Transform the Economy, and Bridge the Political Divide in America (paperback, 2020, Beacon Press).
  • Sarah Jaquette Ray: A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet (paperback, 2020, University of California Press).
  • Ayana Elizabeth Johnson/Katharine K Wilkinson, eds: All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (paperback, 2021, One World).
  • Stephen J Pyne: The Pyrocene: How We Created an Age of Fire, and What Happens Next (2021, University of California Press).
  • James Gustave Speth: They Knew: The US Federal Government's Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis (2021, The MIT Press).
  • Sally Weintrobe: Psychological Roots of the Cliate Crisis: Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare (paperback, 2021, Bloomsbury).

Louis Menand: The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War (2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux; paperback, 2022, Picador): Author won a Pulitzer for his major intellectual history of America in the late 19th century, The Metaphysical Club (2001), here tackles an even larger subject: the period from WWII to Vietnam he grew up in, one of extraordinary vigor for American industry, one which finally shrugged off the feelings of being second to Europe, yet one that was circumscribed by censorious politics. Sample line: "If you asked me when I was growing up what the most important good in life was, I would have said 'freedom.' Now I can see that freedom was the slogan of the times. The word was invoked to justify everything." I'm not sure how he winds up squaring that off, but the period is rich in material. And he does devote much of the first chapter to George Kennan, who we rarely think of as an intellectual figure but who more than anyone else set the course of the Cold War. That chapter ends with a John Adams quote: "Power always thinks it has a great Soul."

Edward S Miller: Bankrupting the Enemy: The US Financial Siege of Japan Before Pearl Harbor (2007, Naval Institute Press): I normally don't note books this old, but I hadn't noticed this one before, and it turns out to be timely. This is the story of sanctions the US imposed on Japan before the attack on Pearl Harbor -- some that I was aware of, but with more details that I didn't know. Japan had invaded and conquered Manchuria in 1929, and was fighting in eastern China from 1937 on. The US wasn't formally allied with China, but Chiang Kai-Shek (or at least his wife and her family) had important ties in the US, and that's where Roosevelt's sympathies lied. Japan had no domestic oil, and under sanctions could no longer buy oil or arms from the US, so they could either back down on the war effort, or double down on it, which for oil meant capturing Dutch Indonesia. And that's what they did, in a clear example of sanctions leading to much broader war.

Nicholas Mulder: The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War (2022, Yale University Press): History of early efforts (1914-45) to formulate economic weapons both as implements and as alternatives to war. The first iteration, of course, was Winston Churchill's blockade of Germany, by which he hoped to inflict mass starvation, thinking that might lead the German people to revolt against their leaders and sue for peace. Blockades returned with a vengeance during WWII, war so total that economic forces were decisive. In between, it was hoped that the mere threat of economic deprivation could influence the behavior of nations. It rarely, if ever, did. Another much larger book could be written to cover the post-WWII period, again redolent of folly and spitefulness, but the critical chapter on Ukraine is still unclear. Biden has promised not to engage troops, but vowed to impose he most costly sanctions ever as punishment for Russia's rogue behavior. That's certainly a saner course than escalating toward Armageddon, but will it be effective, or just another exercise in callous disregard for the people at the bottom of the political pyramid?

William Neuman: Things Are Never So Bad That They Can't Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela (2022, St Martin's Press). I'm skeptical of anything Americans write about Venezuela, but it's also clear to me that the Chavez-Maduro regimes have made some mistakes, especially in their handling of oil resources -- e.g., they've "shared the wealth" by selling gasoline locally cheap, rather than investing the profits in things that would actually raise living standards. Neuman's bias is evident in his framework, "tragic journey from petro-riches to poverty." It's not like there was no poverty before Chavez, when the "petro-riches" belonged to foreign capital and their local lackeys. All along, Chavez and Maduro have had to struggle with those economic elites and their increasingly vicious support from the US (especially under Trump, but Biden hasn't done much different).

George Packer: Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal (2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Journalist, still bitterly remembered for his non-trivial role in promoting war in Iraq, has usually written more thoughtfully about American society, although I have to wonder about his conceptual skills when he tries to divide America up into four tranches: Free America ("individuals serving the interests of corporations and the wealthy"), Smart America ("the professional elite"), Real America ("the white Christian nationalism of the heartland"), and Just America ("members of identity groups that inflict or suffer oppression") -- not, of course, that he approves of such division and polarization. But if America is so afflicted, what on earth justifies the title cliché?

Jeremy W Peters: Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted (2022, Crown): Reporting on "how did the party of Lincoln become the party of Trump?" but as he only starts with Sarah Palin, the real subject is the rise of extreme crazy in the GOP, and cutting the story off with the 2020 election leaves him a few chapters short. Previous histories of the Republican far right move tend to focus on dark money forces, and they still deserve credit and blame. But there seems to be a psychological force driving Republicans inexorably to the right, even as they prove more and more inept at solving problems. Some more recent books on the right-wing fringe (for more, especially pointing toward violence, see Barbara F Walter below):

  • John S Huntington: Far-Right Vanguard: The Radical Roots of Modern Conservatism (2021, University of Pennsylvania Press): History on how/why right-wing parties tend to get taken over by their farthest right-wing factions, which of course leads us to Donald Trump, not that earlier examples weren't as far gone.
  • Edward H Miller: Nut Country: Right-Wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategy (paperback, 2016, University of Chicago Press).
  • Edward H Miller: A Conspiratorial Life: Robert Welch, the John Birch Society, and the Revolution of American Conservatism (2022, University of Chicago Press).
  • Brynn Tannehill: American Fascism: How the GOP Is Subverting Democracy (2021, Transgress Press).

Adrian Phillips: Fighting Churchill, Appeasing Hitler: Neville Chamberlain, Sir Horace Wilson, & Britain's Plight of Appeasement: 1937-1939 (2019, Pegasus Books): Poor Neville Chamberlain, savaged again for being a silly peacenik despite being the Prime Minister who ultimately plunged the UK into a world war it was unprepared for, which ultimately broke the bank and the empire that built it. His rival Churchill revived his career on second-guessing Chamberlain, who has remained the butt of pro-war fantasists ever since. This book is clearly partisan, faulting Chamberlain from every conceivable angle. Related:

  • Tim Bouverie: Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War (2019, Tim Duggan Books).
  • Erik Larson: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (2020; paperback, 2022, Crown).

Serhii Plokhy: Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (2021, WW Norton): Ukrainian historian, teaches at Harvard, previous books include The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine (2015), and Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe. I've recently read several writers try to draw constructive precedents from the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), but I'm more struck by this: "more often than not, the Americans and Soviets misread each other, operated under false information, and came perilously close to nuclear catastrophe." When he writes his inevitable history of Russia's attack on Ukraine in 2022, he will likely be able to recycle that line.

Elizabeth D Samet: Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness (2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Professor of English at West Point, has written books about teaching soldiers to read literature, like Soldier's Heart (2007), and No Man's Land (2014). I find this bizarre, but Tom Engelhardt (as steadfast a war critic as we have) praised her, and reading a few pages exploding myths about WWII (Studs Terkel's subject in The Good War) is interesting, even if she's more ambivalent than I would be.

ME Sarotte: Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate (2021, Yale University Press): Putin's invasion of Ukraine will soon be written about by many people, but those writers will have to start with the enlargement of NATO, which is the subject here. Except we now know that what it led to wasn't a stalemate, and that those who figured that Putin wouldn't do anything crazy as he was boxed in calculated badly. The backlash NATO and other attempts to flip Ukraine provoked has already caused an enormous amount of pain and suffering, and risks much greater disaster. This is as good a place as any to hang a list of other recent books on NATO, Ukraine, and Putin (including a couple books I've mentioned earlier, but have more to say about now):

  • Catherine Belton: Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Bill Browder: Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice (paperback, 2015, Simon & Schuster): Improbable oligarch, got rich in Russia, turned on Putin when his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was murdered, lobbied for the law used to sanction individual oligarchs.
  • Bill Browder: Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath (2022, Simon & Schuster). [04/22]
  • William J Burns: The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal (2019; paperback, 2020, Random House): Former State Department official, Ambassador to Russia (2005-08), now Biden's CIA Director.
  • Samuel Charap/Timothy J Colton: Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia (paperback, 2016, Routledge).
  • Stephen F Cohen: War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate (paperback, 2019, Hot Books): One of the few Russia experts to warn against demonizing Putin and risking restarting the Cold War, he died in 2020 after this book came out. He's likely to be dismissed today as "pro-Putin," but his direst predictions have clearly come true.
  • Isaac Stone Fish: America Second: How America's Elites Are Making China Stronger (2022, Knopf): CEO of Strategy Risks, where the main product is fear of China.
  • Timothy Frye: Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin's Russia (2021, Princeton University Press): "Looking beyond Putin to understand how today's Russia actually works."
  • Keir Giles: Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia to Confront the West (paperback, 2019, Brookings Institute Press/Chatham House): British security wonk.
  • Andy Greenberg: Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers (paperback, 2020, Anchor): Until the Ukraine invasion, cyberwarfare struck me as the greatest danger Russia posed, mostly because there seemed to be few inhibitions against its use. As such, it seemed like a good reason to reduce conflict stress.
  • Fiona Hill: There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century (2021, Mariner Books). Memoir, testified against Trump in impeachment.
  • Seth G Jones: Three Dangerous Men: Russia, China, Iran and the Rise of Irregular Warfare (2021, WW Norton): Defense hack, author of In the Graveyard of Empires (2010, on Afghanistan), hedging his bets on where the next war bonanza will appear.
  • Rebekah Koffler: Putin's Playbook: Russia's Secret Plan to Defeat America (2021, Regnery): Russian-born CIA asset, "has led 'red' teams during wargames," which makes her a significant source of Washington's delusions about Russia's interests and motives.
  • Oscar Jonsson: The Russian Understanding of War: Blurring the Lines Between War and Peace (paperback, 2019, Georgetown University Press): Director of a Swedish "foreign and security policy think tank."
  • Michael McFaul: From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia (2018, Houghton Mifflin): Under Obama, had a great deal to do with poisoning relations between US and Russia. Since then has been a front-line anti-Russia hawk.
  • David Murphy: The Finnish-Soviet Winter War 1939-40: Stalin's Hollow Victory (2021, paperback, Osprey): Short (96 pp.), not necessarily germane to Ukraine, but was a senseless exercise in Russia asserting imperial attitude just because Stalin thought he could get away with it. Finland had zero strategic value in the coming fight with Nazi Germany.
  • Constantine Pleshakov: The Crimean Nexus: Putin's War and the Clash of Civilizations (2017, Yale University Press).
  • Andrei Soldatov/Irina Borogan: The Red Web: The Kremlin's Wars on the Internet (2015; paperback, 2017, Public Affairs).
  • Kathryn E Stoner: Russia: Its Power and Purpose in the New Global Order (2021, Oxford University Press): Associate of McFaul's, with another attempt to paint Russia as implacably anti-American.
  • Alexander S. Vindman: Here, Right Matters (2021, Harper): Ukraine specialist, testified against Trump in impeachment.
  • Joseph Weisberg: Russia Upside Down: An Exit Strategy for the Second Cold War (2021, PublicAffairs): Former CIA officer in Russia during the collapse, creator of TV series The Americans, argues that the New Cold War model is wrong and needs to be changed. Fat chance of that now.
  • Tony Wood: Russia Without Putin: Money, Power and the Myths of the New Cold War (2018; paperback, 2020, Verso).
  • Joshua Yaffa: Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia (2020, Tim Duggan; paperback, 2021, Crown): New Yorker writer, promises a "rich and novelistic tour of contemporary Russia."
  • Marie Yovanovitch: Lessons From the Edge: A Memoir (2022, Mariner Books): Former US Ambassador to Ukraine, testified in first Trump impeachment.

Peter Schweizer: Red-Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win (2022, Harper): Right-wing hack, started with hagiographies of Reagan and the Bush Family, has a remarkable ability to see virtue in conservatives (who "work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more . . . and even hug their children more") and evil in liberals (one subtitle is Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy). Still, his hatred for the latter occasionally leads him to do some actual reporting -- e.g., Clinton Cash (2015), even if (as Clinton described his own welfare bill) it's "wrapped up in a sack of shit." This is another such sack, but sure, a lot of Americans have cozied up to China over the years, and some of them may well be liberals, still it's more likely that they did so not to "help China win" (whatever that means) but simply to make money -- not an exclusively liberal trait. The bigger problem is how this sort of red-baiting fits in with the arms-funded great power games that have been trying to increase tensions between the US and China (as they have between the US and Russia). Some samples (not all from the right, but you can probably figure out who's in the business of stoking this conflict):

  • Kerry Brown/Kalley Wu Tzu Hui: The Trouble With Taiwan: History, the United States and a Rising China (paperback, 2021, Zed Books).
  • Joanna Chiu: China Unbound: A New World Disorder (paperback, 2021, House of Anansi Press).
  • Mark L Clifford: Today Hong Kong, Tomorrow the World: What China's Crackdown Reveals About Its Plasn to End Freedom Everywhere (2022, St Martin's Press): The key word here is "everywhere," which is a massive projection beyond the actual subject at hand.
  • Elbridge A Colby: The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict (2021, Yale University Press): Lead architect of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, "showing how the United States can prepare to win a war with China that we cannot afford to lose."
  • Rush Doshi: The Long Game: China's Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (2021, Oxford University Press): China strategist at Brookings.
  • Elizabeth C Economy: The World According to China (2022, Polity).
  • Clive Hamilton/Mareike Ohlberg: Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World (2020, Oneworld).
  • Sam Kaplan: Challenging China: Smart Strategies for Dealing with China in the Xi Jinping Era (2021, Tuttle).
  • Clyde Prestowitz: The World Turned Upside Down: America, China, and the Struggle for Global Leadership (2021, Yale University Press).
  • Erich Schwartzel: Red Carpet: Hollywood, China, and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy (2022, Penguin Press).

Brendan Simms/Charlie Laderman: Hitler's American Gamble: Pearl Harbor and Germany's March to Global War (2021, Basic Books): As I understand it, Franklin Roosevelt was more desirous of entering war with Germany than with Japan, although the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, gave Roosevelt the opening he had been waiting for. Still, it was Germany that declared war first, on Dec. 11, saving Roosevelt the trouble. This book focuses on Hitler's thinking in that five-day window. Hitler and WWII remain a popular book subject. Some recent titles:

  • 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): The "100 days" concept was grafted onto Hitler from Franklin Roosevelt's early legislative blitz, which was unprecedented and despite becoming a journalism staple has never come close to being matched. Still, Hitler's consolidation of his grasp on power was remarkably quick and brutal, and that initial power grab made all the rest pretty much inevitable.
  • Robert Gellately: Hitler's True Believers: How Ordinary People Became Nazis (2020, Oxford University Press): Looks dubious, as author has bounced back and forth writing books against Hitler and Stalin.
  • Harald Jähner: Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955 (2022, Alfred A Knopf).
  • Stephan Malinowski: Nazis and Nobles: The History of a Misalliance (2021, Oxford University Press).
  • David McKean: Watching Darkness Fall: FDR, His Ambassadors, and the Rise of Adolf Hitler (2021, St Martin's Press).
  • Andrew Nagorski: 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War (2019, Simon & Schuster): Previously wrote The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II (2007), which stretched from late 1941 into Spring, 1942, and deflected the German advance south, toward defeat at Stalingrad. Also: Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power (2013).
  • Michael S Neiberg: When France Fell: The Vichy Crisis and the Fate of the Anglo-American Alliance (2021, Harvard University Press).
  • Volker Ulrich: Eight Days in May: The Final Collapse of the Third Reich (2021, Liveright): Author of the two-volume Hitler: A Biography.

Astra Taylor: Remake the World: Essays, Reflections, Rebellions (paperback, 2021, Haymarket Books): Author of two fairly major books I read recently -- The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age (2014), and Democracy May Not Exist: But We'll Miss It When It's Gone (2019) -- with a couple of documentary movies to her credit, collects 15 substantial essays on matters that interest her, especially debt ("Wipe the Slate Clean" -- a project, the Debt Collective, that grew out of her involvement in Occupy Wall Street), but also "activism" vs. organizing, education, democracy, listening, capitalism as "The Insecurity Machine," social media ("The Dads of Tech"), automation, "Who Speaks for the Trees?" I'm often blown away by the depth of her reading, the breadth of her travels, the quality of her thinking, and her commitment to making this a better world. [PS: Looking at her Wikipedia page, I see that she was "unschooled" until entering 9th grade at 13, then "abandoned high school" at 16 to attend college classes, and did a year at Brown. Much I can relate to there, especially dropping out of high school at 16, although it took me much longer to move on, and I'll never have as much to show for my troubles.] Some other books she's involved with:

  • JD Beresford: A World of Women (paperback, 2022, MIT Press): New edition of a novel from 1913. Introduction by Astra Taylor.
  • Debt Collective: Can't Pay, Won't Pay: The Case for Economic Disobedience and Debt Abolition (paperback, 2020, Haymarket Books).
  • Stephanie DeGooyer/Alastair Hunt/Lida Maxwell/Samuel Moyn: The Right to Have Rights (paperback, 2020, Verso): Reflections on a concept put forth 60 years ago by Hannah Arendt. Afterword by Astra Taylor.
  • Brittany M Powell: The Debt Project: 99 Portraits Across America (2020, Graphic Arts Books): Foreword by Astra Taylor.
  • Astra Taylor, ed: Examined Life: Excursions With Contemporary Thinkers (paperback, 2009, New Press): Interviews with eight philosophers, tied to her film: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Judith Butler, Michael Hardt, Martha Nussbaum, Avital Ronell, Peter Singer, Cornell West, Slavoj Zizek, with her sister ("disability rights activist") Sunaura Taylor.
  • Astra Taylor: Unschooling (2012, n+1): 19 pp essay, starting with a memoir of not going to school, aided by brilliant parents and siblings. From an Amazon review: "This is a 2 dollar hand grenade you can toss in the direction of the cookie cutter masses."

Adam Tooze: Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World's Economy (2021, Viking): Economic historian, made his reputation with The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (2007), and since then has only gotten more ambitious -- The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (2014) -- and more timely -- Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (2018). This time he's first out of the gate, his book rushed out a mere year after the first virus lockdowns, so he has nothing like the decade accorded to Crashed. Still, the events were unprecedented, and revealed several cracks in prevailing neoliberal theory that had managed to withstand the 2008 collapse, so he has plenty to write about, and is likely to be as comprehensive, measured, and insightful as always.

Barbara F Walter: How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them (2022, Crown): An attempt to develop a typology of civil war genesis from dozens of recent conflicts (but not really including our own familiar Civil War, except as a data point on one of her scales). She certainly shows that the chances of civil war are higher now then they've been since the late 1960s, when we went through the upheavals and reactions over civil rights, race relations, war, and other issues. Whether that makes civil war likely now is hard to say, but a high point of the book is Walters' prescise description of the January 6 riot/insurrection. Related, including several items on white supremacists, since they seem to be the most keen on triggering violence:

  • Philip S Gorski/Samuel L Perry: The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy (2022, Oxford University Press).
  • Jonathan Greenblatt: It Could Happen Here: Why America Is Tipping From Hate to the Unthinkable -- and How We Can Stop It (2022, Mariner Books): Anti-Defamation League CEO.
  • Alexander Laban Hinton: It Can Happen Here: White Power and the Rising Threat of Genocide in the US (2021, NYU Press).
  • Robert P Jones: White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity (2020, Simon & Schuster).
  • Sara Kamali: Homegrown Hate: Why White Nationalists and Militant Islamists Are Waging War Against the United States (2021, University of California Press).
  • Talia Lavin: Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy (2020, Legacy Lit).
  • Stephen Marche: The Next Civil War: Dispatches From the Future (2022, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster): Speculative scenarios.
  • Cynthia Miller-Idriss: Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right (2020; paperback, 2022, Princeton University Press).
  • Malcolm Nance: They Want to Kill Americans: The Militias, Terrorists, and Deranged Ideology of the Trump Insurgency (2022, St Martin's Press). [07-12]
  • Arie Perliger: American Zealots: Inside Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism (paperback, 2020, Columbia University Press).

Isabella M Weber: How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate (2021, Routledge): The 1980s saw much debate in both Russia and China, at least in elite circles, about economic reform, market development, and political freedom. In Russia, Gorbachev tended to look toward liberal European models, imagining a transition to a more democratic socialism. The debate in China is less known, partly due to the opaque cloaking of the ruling circles, but it's easy to imagine them looking more at Russia, but more in fear than envy. When Russia finally broke for "shock therapy," China recoiled and tightened central control, allowing markets and entrepreneurialism to develop but without political power. The results were a disastrous economic collapse in Russia, followed by a slow recovery owned by oligarchs, versus exceptionally long and strong growth in China. One suspects that a big part of recent American antipathy toward China is rooted is the fear that China may gain influence abroad by exporting their development model.

Craig Whitlock: The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War (2021, Simon & Schuster): Washington Post reporter put his name to this, but my impression is that the raw sources were compiled by the Pentagon in a fit of introspection much like their history of the Vietnam War, better known as The Pentagon Papers. The book was reported on before the US withdrew and the Taliban took over, but didn't appear until days later. It shows what some of us knew all along: that the war was destined for failure, and that the military and the politicians lied systematically to mask their failures. Some more (but not many) recent Afghanistan books:

  • Antonio Giustozzi: The Taliban at War: 2001-2018 (2019, Oxford University Press): New paperback edition forthcoming May 1, with dates adjusted to 2001-2021.
  • Annie Jacobsen: First Platoon: A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance (2021, Dutton).
  • Christopher D Kolenda: Zero-Sum Victory: What We're Getting Wrong About War (2021, University of Kentucky Press): Retired army colonel, "goes far towards explaining why President Biden chose to pull US forces out of Afghanistan."
  • Carter Malkasian: The American War in Afghanistan: A History (2021, Oxford University Press): US military advisor, came out in July, so unlikely to have had a clue about August.
  • Wesley Morgan: The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan's Pech Valley (2021, Random House).

Vladislav M Zubok: Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union (2021, Yale University Press). Supposedly a "major reinterpretation" of the Gorbachev years, starting with the death of Brezhnev and the elevation of KGB chief Yuri Andropov, who supposedly wanted to reform the Soviet system but (unlike his protege Gorbachev) would brook no dissent along the way. Describing Gorbachev's reforms as "misguided" tells us little. More telling is the charge that he "deprived the government of resources and empowered separatism." One can imagine Andropov plotting a course similar to what the Chinese actually did: economic reforms while not allowing any independent political voice. It's worth remembering that Gorbachev survived a major coup effort from prominent elements in the military and party apparatus, but fell to a second coup, this one launched from the SSR level, after Yeltsin got the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine to join him in breaking up the Soviet Union -- a coup which looked like further reform in the direction Gorbachev had already established by allowing dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, but which was actually a conservative power grab by officials in the old hierarchy. (The Baltic states, Armenia, and Georgia were already agitating for independence, and would likely break away, but in all other cases local party leaders discovered the spoils of privatizing their local fiefdoms.) This matters because nominal independence didn't threaten Russia's sense of superiority, until with Ukraine it finally did. Zubok, who teaches at the London School of Economics, previously wrote:

  • Vladislav Zubok/Constantin Pleshakov: Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Krushchev (paperback, 1997, Harvard University Press).
  • Vladislav M Zubok: A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War From Stalin to Gorbachev (paperback, 2009, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Vladislav Zubok: Zhivago's Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia (2009, Belknap Press).
  • Serhii Plokhy: The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union (2014; paperback, 2015, Basic Books).

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

Theodor W Adorno: Aspects of the New Right-Wing Extremism (paperback, 2020, Polity): Lectures, from 1967.

Anne Applebaum: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (2020; paperback, 2021, Anchor).

Joshua Bloom: Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (2013; paperback, 2016, University of California Press).

Anthony Bourdain/Laurie Woolever: World Travel: An Irreverent Guide (2021, Ecco).

Ron Chernow: Grant (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Books): 1104 pp.

Noam Chomsky: The Precipice: Neoliberalism, the Pandemic and the Urgent Need for Radical Change (paperback, 2021, Haymarket Books): Interviews by CJ Polychroniou.

Ron Formisano: American Oligarchy: The Permanent Political Class (paperback, 2017, University of Illinois Press).

Hannah Gadsby: Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir (2022, Ballantine Books): Australian comedian.

Janet M Hartley: The Volga: A History of Russia's Greatest River (2021, Yale University Press).

Heather Havrilesky: Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage (2022, Ecco).

Martin Jay: Splinters in Your Eye: Essays on the Frankfurt School (paperback, 2020, Verso).

Walter Johnson: The Broken Heart of America: St Louis and the Violent History of the United States (2020, Basic Books).

Zachary Karabell: Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the Amerian Way of Power (2021, Penguin).

Amy Klobuchar: Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power From the Gilded Age to the Digital Age (2021, Knopf).

Elie Mystal: Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution (2022, New Press).

Nick Offerman: Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside (2021, Dutton).

Thomas Piketty: Time for Socialism: Dispatches From a World on Fire, 2016-2021 (2021, Yale University Press): Compilation of short (op-ed?) pieces.

Thomas Piketty: A Brief History of Equality (2022, Belknap Press). [04/19]

Ben Rhodes: After the Fall: Being American in the World We've Made (2021, Random House).

Donald A Ritchie: The Columnist: Leaks, Lies, and Libel in Drew Pearson's Washington (2021, Oxford University Press).

Sarah Smarsh: She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs (2020, Scribner).

Rebecca Solnit: Orwell's Roses (2021, Viking).

Elizabeth Warren: Persist (2021, Metropolitan Books): US Senator (D-MA).

Joby Warrick: Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America's Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World (2021, Doubleday): Syria's chemical weapons?

Alexander Zevin: Liberalism at Large: The World According to the Economist (2019, Verso Books).

Ask a question, or send a comment.

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 Frøland: 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.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Book Roundup

Thought it might be a good time to do another Book Roundup. Last ones were October 16 and October 14, just before the 2020 election, when I was trying to round up anything (and everything) out on Trump. Those followed two more 2020 posts, from May 21 and May 16. I doubt Trump caused more people to read in 2020, but he sure stimulated more people to write.

Ground rules here: 40 books in the main section, some of which got me to tack on a supplemental reading list, and a final section of books I noticed but decided not to comment on (other than minor notes; e.g. on author identity). I may expand on the short listings in the future, but most often I just want to put the books behind me.

Very little out yet on the big stories of 2020: the pandemic, the recession, and the election, but see the Allen and Zakaria entries below -- oddly enough, given how much was written about the 2008 recession, there is as yet very little specifically on 2020's economic downturn. On the other hand, there is a lot about US foreign policy, including the long and interminable proclivity for war. I missed several opportunities to combine entries, but the books I focused on seem like significant ones. I limited my China entry to current affairs, especially the superpower rivalry that has Washington hawks so excited. I found more historical books on China, but didn't get them organized, so they'll wait.

Robert Christgau wrote a review of the Sublettes' book, so I figured I should look at it, even though it's a few years old (2016). At the time, I was reading Michael W Twitty's The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, which covers the same territory from an opposite tack: reconstructing the past from what it's left in the present. I then started looking for other books on slavery, and was surprised to come up with a long set of monographs I hadn't previously noted before. Also surprised to find that most of them were based outside of the US, with some viewing the slave trade from Africa and/or Europe.

Only books I've read from the following list are those by: Mike Konczal, Stephen Wertheim. (I've also read a lot by Millhiser in Vox.) Nothing else on the shelf or on order. I usually find several books I'm eager to read, so this seems like slim pickings, but my writing projects are so up in the air I'm not sure which direction to look. Certainly not to the several right-wing books noted below, which are unlikely to offer anything but evidence of how conservatism has devolved into nothing but more than a deranged and pathetic mental state. I've done similar things in the past, but the supplemental list under Soukup sets a new record for unhinged paranoia. The common perception here is that it's the left that's out to destroy America, which strains credulity two ways: what do they mean by destroy? and who is this left that has so much influence and power? The mind boggles. (Many on the left have chosen not to contest the right over patriotism, given its close association with militarism and chauvinism, but as the right becomes ever more blatant in their antipathy to democracy, we're now starting to see articles arguing that it's the right that's become un-American. A welcome piece here: Zack Beauchamp: The conservative movement is rejecting America.)

I probably have enough books for a follow-up post, but have yet to write much about half of what I'd need. I'm also thinking about doing separate posts on music and cooking books, but I'd be hard-pressed to come up with enough of either, unless I extended by time window.

Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes: Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency (2021, Crown): Political reporters for NBC News and The Hill, were first out the gate with their 2016 election book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign, evidently figured they'd match that with a quickie account of how Biden was similarly doomed, then when he won had 30 seconds or so to choose a new title. The lucky campaigner both times was Trump, but by 2020 he had dug such a deep hole that even his luck couldn't pull him out. More on the 2020 election (ignoring books on how Trump was robbed):

  • Andrew E Busch/John J Pitney: Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics (2021, Rowman & Littlefield).
  • Larry J Sabato/Kyle Kondik/J Miles Coleman, eds: A Return to Normalcy? The 2020 Election That (Almost) Broke America (2021, Rowman & Littlefield).

Albena Azmanova: Capitalism on Edge: How Fighting Precarity Can Achieve Radical Change Without Crisis or Utopia (paperback, 2020, Columbia University Press): I don't think I ever heard "precarity" before about a year ago, but it must have popped up a dozen times since. Same root as "precarious," but refers to the general condition, where everything is precarious, which is to say optimized and marginalized to the point where it could break any moment. In 2020, even before any significant numbers of people became infected with Covid-19, before retail stores were locked down, highly optimized "just-in-time" supply lines crippled the economy. Then within a few weeks health care and retail firms broke down due to shortages. For another example, in March 2021 a ridiculously oversized ship got blown into a bank of the Suez Canal, disrupting worldwide shipping. A month before that, a cold snap broke the power grid in Texas, which in turn broke water systems. So yeah, precarity is everywhere. This isn't unrelated to what Naomi Klein calls "disaster capitalism," but shows that Klein was far too optimistic in her expectation that capitalists would continue to profit from disasters. Clearly, there are limits, and that opens up political opportunities for challenging precarity. To cite one example, it's long been clear to me that it's too late to prevent global warming. Sure, there are things one can still do to keep it from getting much worse, and as an engineer I appreciate the advantages of prevention over repair, but the pressing need now is for disaster contingency and recovery. And that may mean rolling back and limiting capitalism's drive for profit.

Nicholson Baker: Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act (2020, Penguin Press): A history of "Project Baseless": "a crash Pentagon program begun in the early fifties that aimed to achieve 'an Air Force-wide combat capability in biological and chemical warfare at the earliest possible date.'" Or perhaps that's just the prism for a book on what we can glean from what the government tries to hide from us, imperfectly illuminated by the law's requirement that the government is obligated to answer (not all that completely) the public's questions. "Along the way, he unearths stories of balloons carrying crop disease, leaflet bombs filled with feathers, suicidal scientists, leaky centrifuges, paranoid political-warfare tacticians, insane experiments on animals and humans, weaponized ticks, ferocious propaganda battles with China, and cover and deception plans meant to trick the Kremlin into ramping up its germ-warfare program."

Vincent Bevins: The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World (2020, PublicAffairs): Details the systematic massacre of hundreds of thousands of alleged leftists in Indonesia in 1965-66, supported by the US and to a large extent directed by the CIA. This was one of the most egregious examples of a pattern repeated elsewhere, especially in Latin America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela), and even more brutally under cover of war (Vietnam, Cambodia). And, of course, most recently with the "targeted [and less discriminating] killings" of the "Global War on Terror." Related:

  • Vijay Prashad: Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations (paperback, 2020, Monthly Review Press).

Rosa Brooks: Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City (2021, Penguin Press): OK, this one is weird. Author is daugher of trained scientist and radical journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, who (among much else) went undercover to work shit jobs and wrote a bestseller about her experiences. Brooks became a lawyer, married a career soldier, got a job working in the Pentagon, wrote a book about it -- more pro-military than I'd like, but not stupid either. For her second book, she immersed again, becoming a sworn, armed reserve police officer in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department. She trained like a regular cop but just worked 24 hours per month, patrolling streets and busting suspects, while keeping her tenured job teaching at Georgetown. I read a few pages, and her experiences are interesting enough. I haven't seen her conclusions, but probably not stupid either.

Nick Bryant: When America Stopped Being Great: A History of the Present (2021, Bloomsbury): Greatness, even more than beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. America hasn't seemed great to me since the mid-1960s, and what changed then had more to do with my growing understanding of history than tarnished reality (not that the Vietnam debacle didn't drive my review). By 1970, my disillusionment was so complete that later evocations of greatness, like Trump's Make America Great Again boast, struck me as nonsensical (or maybe just a disingenuous way of saying "Make America White Again"). So I was a bit curious to find an author promising to pin down an actual turning point. However, I doubt anyone will like this book. Bryant is British, which means he grew up with his own delusions of greatness, and transferred them to the America that supplanted Britain as the cornerstone and hegemon of world capitalism. Bryant dates this decline from Reagan's ascendency in 1980, and traces the rot through "Bill and Newt" (3rd chapter title) to Donald Trump (last third of the book). There is real substance to that decline, although you had to actually live here to understand the real impact of Reagan-to-Trump (a good book in that regard is Kurt Andersen's Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America). But the idea of greatness has always depended on blind spots. When Britain was such a great empire in the mid-19th century, wasn't Dickens writing about ragpickers in London? Indeed, isn't pining for greatness some kind of mental illness? Before Trump, the American politician most associated with the word was Lyndon Johnson, the architect of the Great Society. As I recall, Bill Moyers tried to talk Johnson into calling his social welfare programs the Good Society, but good wasn't good enough for Johnson: he wanted great, which turned out to be unattainable.

Francisco Cantú: The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border (2018; paperback, 2019, Riverhead Books): Born on the American side of the US-Mexico border, descended from immigrants from the other side, the author worked for the Border Patrol, then quit when the "dehumanizing enterprise" got to be too much for him. A memoir, with further investigations and meditation.

Anne Case/Angus Deaton: Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism (paperback, 2021, Princeton University Press): "Deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism are rising dramatically in the United States, claiming hundreds of thousands of American lives." I don't doubt that predatory capitalism and inequality are to blame, but I'd like to expand the matrix to see how war and debt relate -- not independent factors, but concrete manifestations of more general maladies. Harder to measure is how the conservative creeds of self-reliance and distrust in public social services weigh in. Deaton previously wrote The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality (2013).

Paul Thomas Chamberlin: The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace (2018; paperback, 2019, Harper): The "Cold War" wasn't so cold, and while it could have been much worse, the wars fought for and against "communism" took a huge toll, especially in Asia. Chamberlin cites 14 million dead from 1945-90, which is about one fifth of the WWII death toll and a third of WWI. Focuses on Asia, with early chapters on China, Korea, and Indochina, moving on to Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Middle East, but doesn't seem to cover Europe, Latin America or Africa -- significant arenas of conflict, albeit with lesser body counts. Still, while we should welcome a reminder of how high those body counts were, the most extraordinary thing about America's anti-communist crusade was how global it was. The US sought global power, not through direct rule but by installing a hegemonic politico-economic system everywhere, or failing that by isolating noncomforming nations so they're excluded from the world system. It's hard to exaggerate the amount of hubris that mission required. No surprise it led to millions of careless deaths. Nor did it end in 1990. After the Soviet Union imploded, the quest for domination only grew more determined, as did the inevitable resistance.

Steve Deace/Todd Erzen: Faucian Bargain: The Most Powerful and Dangerous Bureaucrat in American History (paperback, 2021, Post Hill Press): I guess hyperbole sells, at least in certain quarters: "#1 Best Seller" at Amazon, "As seen on Tucker Carlson Tonight, As heard on Glenn Beck." I can understand why the authors don't like knowledgeable authorities, but not why they consider Anthony Fauci either powerful or dangerous. He had little effect within the Trump administration, and rarely challenged the rampant nonsense around him. On the other hand, to be the most "in American history," he has to beat out some seriously powerful and dangerous bureaucrats. Of the top of my head: J Edgar Hoover, Floyd Dominy, Harry Anslinger, Andrew Mellon, Alan Greenspan, Edward Teller, Allen Dulles, Henry Kissinger -- when you start getting into spooks and warlords, the list mushrooms. And beneath the Federal level, you get characters like Robert Moses and William Mulholland -- you can make a pretty strong case for them.

Luke Epplin: Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball (2021, Flatiron Books). On the 1948 Cleveland Indians, the first team to integrate in the American League (actually in 1947, after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers). The four men are owner Bill Veeck ("as in wreck"), Larry Doby (young black outfielder), Bob Feller (Hall of Fame pitcher, not one of his better years at 19-15 -- actually Bob Lemon had the better year, at 20-14, 2.82 ERA, plus 2-0 in the World Series), and Satchel Paige (old black pitcher). Whereas Dodger GM Branch Rickey looked for a can't miss black player in his prime (Robinson was a 28-year-old rookie in 1947, hit .297, with 125 runs, 12 HR and 29 SB), Veeck sought to blow up all the rationalizations (at least too green and too old) why blacks couldn't play in the majors. Feller was the team's star, but Cleveland hadn't come close until 24-year-old Doby hit .301 with 14 HR and 41-year-old Paige went 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA. By the way, Veeck continued to break patterns in hiring black players, adding Luke Easter and Minnie Minoso in 1949.

Philip H Gordon: Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (2020, St Martin's Press): Certified foreign policy mandarin, Obama's Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (2009-13) and White House Coordinator for the Middle East (2013-15), so he's had plenty of opportunity to see "well-intentioned plans" go awry: Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the coup that ended Egypt's brief democracy all occurred on his watch. He also inherited the longer-term consequences of Bush's signature regime change projects: Afghanistan and Iraq. Not to mention efforts going back to 1953 to decide who rules Iran, and for whom. Despite all this empirical evidence -- and this is just the Middle East; one could write similar books on Latin America, Africa, and the Far East -- not clear whether Gordon spells out the core fallacy behind regime change: the belief that other governments should serve not their own people but US national interests. Still, a step in the right direction. Albeit another example of someone who got smarter after leaving the job, having been replaced by others who have yet to learn the same lessons.

Martin Gurri: The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium (2014; 2nd Edition, 2018, Stripe Press): Former CIA analyst, complains about how the glut of "open media" today limits the ability of elites to hoodwink the public, leaving most people deeply distrustful. Second edition offers an "I told you so" on Trump, although the list of things he claims to have anticipated also includes Brexit and Arab Spring. I read Sean Illing's interview with this guy at Vox, and didn't get anything useful out of it. I suspect two problems. One is that "elites" have become much more compartmentalized over time: while they still dominate their institutions, they are less linked, and as such have less influence beyond their limited spheres of control. Someone should take a shot at updating C Wright Mills' The Power Elite, not that such a task will be easy. The second is that while elites may have had some widespread value in the past, their prime directive has always been self-preservation, and that becomes harder the easier it is for the public to examine their lives. The simplest explanation for the "revolt of the public" is that most people have come to know better than to trust elites. That some charlatans and posers like Trump have taken advantage only shows that the loss of trust has caused some confusion.

Sarah Jaffe: Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone (2021, Bold Type Books): Antonio Gramsci had a concept he called Fordism, where factory work had become so thoughtlessly repetitive workers could disengage and let their minds wander, in some sense reclaiming their own time. That turned out to be a phase, as machines claimed most of those jobs. Since then companies have an ever larger slice of worker time and mind share, as jobs (or more fashionably, careers) follow you home and fill your dreams. This surveys a wide range of work, the common denominators that the employer demands ever more while returning what? Since the 1970s, economists have been preaching that businesses have only one purpose, which is to maximalize investor returns, and as that lesson sunk in, management has become hard pressed to offer any comfort to their workers. Sure, workers are encouraged to find their own value in their dedication. But the returns go elsewhere. Related:

  • Mariana Mazzucato: Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism (2021, Harper Business).
  • Jamie Merisotis: Human Work in the Age of Smart Machines (2020, Rosetta Books).
  • Gavin Mueller: Breaking Things at Work: The Luddites Are Right About Why You Hate Your Job (paperback, 2021, Verso).
  • Jake Rosenfeld: You're Paid What You're Worth: And Other Myths of the Modern Economy (2021, Belknap Press).
  • Rick Wartzman: The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America (2017, PubicAffairs).

Mike Konczal: Freedom From the Market: America's Fight to Liberate Itself From the Grip of the Invisible Hand (2021, New Press): Drawing on a wide range of historical examples, tries to make the case that the path to greater freedom comes through more free things. Eight chapters, each starting with "Free": Land, Time, Life, Security, Care, Health, Economy, and Education. This contrasts with the neoliberalism, which tries to create markets for everything, assuming their magic will always work for the best.

Ivan Krastev/Stephen Holmes: The Light That Failed: Why the West Is Losing the Fight for Democracy (2020, Pegasus Books): Maybe because the West doesn't really believe in democracy? I mean, sure, it's OK for us, within the constraints of corporate-owned media, but what happens with impoverished masses start electing parties that favor popular interests over those of business elites? You get coups like Guatemala, Iran, Greece, Congo, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Chile (all US-backed, 1950s-1970s), or maybe something more subtle, like the "Washington Consensus" IMF, or the ECB's limits placed on Greece's Syriza government. Trump's "coddling" of authoritarians and plots to overthrow left-leaning governments in Venezuela and Bolivia isn't new policy not likely to change in the Biden restoration. Holmes wrote a good book back in 2007: The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror. Krastev runs something called the Centre for Liberal Strategies, in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Charles A Kupchan: Isolationism: A History of America's Efforts to Shield Itself From the World (2020, Oxford University Press): The first thing to understand about "isolationism" is that it was a word invented to discredit anyone opposed to or skeptical of the global interventionism which developed in and around the Second World War and its anti-communist aftermath -- a formula which has led to endless war and great hardships at home. Before the rise of "liberal internationalism" Americans, starting with George Washington, sought to interact with the world without forming imperial alliances or (for the most part) foreign colonies. Kupchan understands this, but still warns about a resurgence of "isolationism" as a backlash against the repeated failures of the interventionists. It's a phony argument, aimed at no one real, its sole purpose to shelter the disastrous record of its partisans.

Diana Lind: Brave New Home: Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing (2020, Bold Type Books): As far as I can tell, another entry in a recent flurry of books arguing for denser urban living -- antecedents include David Owen's Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability, perhaps even Jane Jacobs' pro-urban Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and James Howard Kunstler's anti-suburban The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape (1993). I suspected this new urbanism took a hit with the 2020 pandemic, but maybe it's more important than ever. Related books:

  • Alex Krieger: City on a Hill: Urban Idealism in America From the Puritans to the Present (2019, Belknap Press).
  • Peter Marcuse/David Madden: In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis (paperback, 2016, Verso).
  • Charles L Marohn Jr: Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity (2019, Wiley).
  • Roman Mars/Kurt Kohlstedt: The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design (2020, Houghton Mifflin).
  • Charles Montgomery: Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design (paperback, 2014, FSG Adult).
  • Daniel Parolek: Missing Middle Housing: Thinking Big and Building Small to Respond to Today's Housing Crisis (paperback, 2020, Island Press).
  • Shane Phillips: The Affordable City: Strategies for Putting Housing Within Reach (And Keeping It There) (paperback, 2020, Island Press).
  • Josh Ryan-Collins/Toby Lloyd/Laurie Macfarlane: Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing (paperback, 2017, Zed Books).
  • David Sim: Soft City: Building Density for Everyday Life (paperback, 2019, Island Press).
  • Jeff Speck: Walkable City: How Downtown an Save Ameria, One Step at a Time (paperback, 2013, North Point Press).
  • Jeff Speck: Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places (paperback, 2018, Island Press).

Bjorn Lomborg: False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet (2020, Basic Books): The "skeptical environmentalist" (title of his 2001 book) is still in business, as one of the most skillful opponents of climate change activism, not really trying to deny the problem but always insisting that we refrain from rash acts and be conscientious about costs, offering the odd proposal that isn't acted on either -- a typical title is Smart Solutions to Climate Change, Comparing Costs and Benefits (2010). He might be more credible had he not been latched onto by companies that profit from burning carbon-based fuels. Related:

  • Steven E Koonin: Unsettled? What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters (2021, BenBella Books). [04-27]
  • Michael Shellenberger: Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All (2020, Harper). Another guy who's built a successful business out of environmental policy, his especially friendly to nuclear power interests.

Erik Loomis: A History of America in Ten Strikes (2018, New Press): Focuses on pivotal events, from the Lowell Mill Girls Strike in the 1830s to the Air Traffic Controllers (1981) and Justice for Janitors (1990). Some are famous, like the Flint Sit-Down Strike (1937), while others were lesser known -- indeed, Slaves on Strike (1861-65) wasn't an event but a protracted, persistent resistance, like the labor's entire history, only fraught with even more danger.

Valeria Luiselli: Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (paperback, 2017, Coffee House Press): Born in Mexico City, grew up in South Africa, wrote a couple novels, wound up working in US immigration courts as a translator, helping others (mostly children) trying to find their way through the labyrinth and gauntlet. Short (128 pp) and judicious, structured inspired by the questionaires that try to pigeonhole people who rarely fit.

Mahmood Mamdani: Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities (2020, Belknap Press): Born of the Indian diaspora in East Africa, one way British imperialists created minority schisms in their colonies. That's not the explicit subject here, but a viewpoint, as Mamdani devotes chapters to: The Indian Question in the United States; Nuremberg: The Failure of Denazificiation; Settlers and Natives in Apartheid South Africa; Sudan: Colonialism, Independence, and Secession; The Israel/Palestine Question.

Ian Millhiser: The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court Is Reshaping America (paperback, 2021, Columbia Global Reports): Covers the courts for Vox, a source I've found to be invaluable. As he notes, from 2011-20, while "Congress enacted hardly any major legislation outside of the tax law President Donald Trump signed in 2017," "the Supreme Court dismantled much of America's campaign finance law, severely weakened the Voting Rights Act, permitted states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, created a new 'religious liberty' doctrine permitting someone who objects to the law on religious grounds to diminish the rights of third parties, weakened laws shielding workers from sexual and racial harassment, expanded the right of employers to shunt workers with legal grievances into a privatized arbitration system, undercut public sector unions' ability to raise funds, effetively eliminated the president's recess appointment power, and halted President Obama's Clean Power Plan." I think we have a tendency to see disasters as future (and therefore preventable), but the right has long been obsessed with capturing the courts and using their power to force their agenda. While the worst may still be to come, the bad is very much with us. More on law and the courts:

  • Michael Avery/Danielle McLaughlin: The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back From Liberals (2013, Vanderbilt University Press).
  • Howard Gillman/Erwin Chemerinsky: The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State (2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Amanda Hollis-Brusky: Ideas With Consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution (2015; paperback, 2019, Oxford University Press).
  • Ilya Shapiro: Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court (2020, Gateway Editions).
  • Steven M Teles: The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (paperback, 2010, Princeton University Press).

Pankaj Mishra: Bland Fanatics: Liberals, Race, and Empire (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Essay collection, scattered subjects, many pointing out how western liberals have often fallen short of their proclaimed ideals, especially where empires and colonies are concerned. Born in India, based in UK, wrote substantial histories both of western political thought (Age of Anger: A History of the Present) and of colonial efforts to come to grips with it (From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia).

Anne Nelson: Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right (2019, Bloomsbury): On the Council for National Policy, founded in 1981 by "a group of some fifty Republican operatives, evangelicals, oil barons, and gun lobbyists . . . to coordinate their attack on civil liberties and the social safety net," developing into "a strategic nerve center for channeling money and mobilizing votes behind the scenes." The group includes and/or aligns with many of the better known financiers of the far-right, like the Koch, Mercer, and DeVos families. Follows the money.

John Nichols: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party: The Enduring Legacy of Henry Wallace's Antifascist, Antiracist Politics (2020, Verso): FDR's Agriculture Secretary, and pick for Vice President in 1940, was booted off the ticket in 1944 in a revolt that elevated Harry Truman to president after Roosevelt's death in 1945 instead of the more progressive Wallace. One of the great unanswerable questions is whether as President Wallace would have steered the US away from the "Cold War" conflict with the Soviet Union and made the UN a more viable international organization. Wallace did run in 1948, promising to restore cooperation with the Soviet Union, and was subjected to a merciless barrage of red-baiting, and was defeated so decisively that he was never again a factor in American politics, so whatever "fight for the soul" Nichols imagines must have occurred, and been lost, much earlier. Wallace was a genuinely interesting figure, worth taking a closer look at, though more for his transition from Republican farmer advocate to ardent New Dealer than for his place in any pantheon of Democratic Party progressives. I doubt Nichols is doing anyone any favors by tacking pictures of Jesse Jackson, Bernie Sanders, and AOC onto the cover along with Wallace and FDR. Other books on Wallace:

  • John C Culver/John Hyde: American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A Wallace (paperback, 2001, WW Norton): Culver was a Senator from Iowa. George McGovern says: "a great book about a great man. I can't recall when -- if ever -- I've read a better biography."
  • Thomas W Devine: Henry Wallace's 1948 Presidential Campaign and the Future of Postwar Liberalism (paperback, 2015, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Norman D Markowitz: The Rise and Fall of the People's Century: Henry A Wallace and American Liberalism, 1941-1948 (1973, Free Press).

Robert D Putnam: The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again (2020, Simon & Schuster): Sociologist, wrote the famous Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000), flawed most by the failure of revival. He's still looking and hoping here, the new insight being the recognition that highly individualistic times today aren't unprecedented -- he looks back to the Gilded Age of the late 1800s -- and sees an alternative in the more egalitarian New Deal/Great Society period.

Thomas Rid: Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Starts with the Russian Revolution, which its protagonists saw as the first step toward worldwide class revolution, and its enemies saw as a threat to their class privileges and imperial force. Therefore, the book is largely organized around the Cold War, although the techniques and ulterior motives for lying and misrepresenting are a much broader subject.

Josh Rogin: Chaos Under Heaven: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the Twenty-First Century (2021, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Washington Post/CNN correspondent, focuses on Trump's incoherent and ineffective grappling with China. One might draw useful lessons from recent history, but Rogin's "battle of the twenty-first century" shows no understanding beyond a flair for headlines. It's not unusual for unreflective people to project their own views onto others, so it's not surprising that many Americans suspect that China seeks to rule the world -- the first fallacy there is that while the US has been fortunate to gain widespread acceptance of its ordering principles, the US never has ruled the world, and never can. Much of the world has tolerated US leadership only so long as it's been benign, which is what Trump's "America First" rhetoric threatened to undo. China's offense has been to play the US-led system to its advantage, growing its own wealth at a rate far exceeding America's, with enough size and technology to match or exceed the US. More on China and/or superpower rivalry:

  • Ryan Hass: Stronger: Adapting America's China Strategy in the Age of Competitive Interdependence (2021, Yale University Press).
  • Jonathan E Hillman: The Emperor's New Road: China and the Project of the Century (2020, Yale University Press).
  • Matthew Kroenig: The Return of Great Power Rivalry: Democracy Versus Autocracy Fro the Ancient World to the US and China (2020, Oxford University Press): Director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, and author of several books, like The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy and Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons.
  • Kai-Fu Lee: AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order (2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
  • Rana Mitter: China's Good War: How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism (2020, Belknap Press).
  • Thomas Orlik: China: The Bubble That Never Pops (2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Michael Pillsbury: The Hundred Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as a Global Superpower (2016, St Martin's Griffin): Trump adviser, based on work he did for CIA.
  • Michael Schuman: Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World (2020, PublicAffairs): While I think Americans are mostly projecting their own neuroses onto China, it is true that China was once the richest nation in the world, and was brought low by Western imperialism, so "make China great again" has some resonance here.
  • Robert Spalding: Stealth War: How China Took Over While America's Elite Slept (2019, Portfolio): Retired USAF Brigadier General.
  • Xiaowei Wang: Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech in China's Countryside (paperback, 2020, FSG Originals).

PS: Shortly after posting, I ran into another batch of books I should have included here:

  • Yuen Yuen Ang: How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (2016, Cornell University Press).
  • Yuen Yuen Ang: China's Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption (2020, Cambridge University Press).
  • Jude D Blanchette: China's New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong (2019, Oxford University Press).
  • Dan Blumenthal: The China Nightmare: The Grand Ambitions of a Decaying State (paperback, 2020, AEI Press).
  • Michael Booth: Three Tigers, One Mountain: A Journey Through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan (2020, St Martin's Press; paperback, 2021, Picador).
  • Timothy Brook: Great State: China and the World (2020, Harper): Big picture history, going back to 1300.
  • Richard Conrad: Culture Hacks: Deciphering Differences in American, Chinese, and Japanese Thinking (paperback, 2019, Lioncrest).
  • Bill Gertz: Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China's Drive for Global Supremacy (2019; paperback, 2021, Encounter Books).
  • Bill Gertz: How China's Communist Party Made the World Sick (paperback, 2020, Encounter Books): 64 pp.
  • Yanzhong Huang: Toxic Politics: China's Environmental Health Crisis and Its Challenge to the Chinese State (paperback, 2020, Cambridge University Press).
  • Ho-fung Hung: The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World (paperback, 2017, Columbia University Press).
  • Nigel Inkster: The Great Decoupling: China, America and the Struggle for Technological Supremacy (2021, Hurst).
  • Sam Kaplan: Challenging China: Smart Strategies for Dealing With China in the Xi Jinping Era (2021, Tuttle). [04-20]
  • Arthur R Kroeber: China's Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Yifei Li/Judith Shapiro: China Goes Green: Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet (paperback, 2020, Polity).
  • Kishore Mahbubani: Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy (2020, PublicAffairs).
  • Steven W Mosher: Bully of Asia: Why China's Dream Is the New Threat to World Order (2017, Regnery): President of Population Research Institute, which seems to exist mostly to bash China's "one child" policy.
  • Johan Nylander: The Epic Split: Why 'Made in China' Is Going Out of Style (paperback, 2020, independent).
  • Amelia Pang: Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America's Cheap Goods (2021, Algonquin Books).
  • Luke Patey: How China Loses: The Pushback Against Chinese Global Ambitions (2021, Oxford University Press).
  • John Poindexter/Robert McFarlane/Richard Levine: America's #1 Adversary: And What We Must Do About It -- Now! (paperback, 2020, Fidelis): 112 pp, pictures of Xi and Trump on cover.
  • Clyde Prestowitz: The World Turned Upside Down: America, China, and the Struggle for Global Leadership (2021, Yale University Press): Author worked in Reagan Commerce Department, has a lot of books on economic power relations, his obsessions shifting from Japan to China. Quick list: [Clyde V Prestowitz Jr:] Trading Places: How We Are Giving Our Future to Japan and How to Reclaim It (paperback, 1990, Basic Books); [Clyde V Prestowitz Jr/Ronald A Morse/Alan Tonelson, eds:] Powernomics (paperback, 1991, Madison Books); Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions (2003, Basic Books); Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East (2005; paperback, 2006, Basic Books); The Betrayal of American Prosperity: Free Market Delusions, America's Decline, and How We Must Compete in the Post-Dollar Era (2010; paperback, 2015, Free Press); Japan Restored: How Japan Can Reinvent Itself and Why This is Important for America and the World (2015, Tuttle).
  • Dexter Roberts: The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World (2020, St Martin's Press).
  • Sean R Roberts: The War on the Uyghurs: China's Internal Campaign Against a Muslim Minority (2020, Princeton University Press).
  • Scott Rozelle/Natalie Hell: Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China's Rise (2020, University of Chicago Press).
  • David Shambaugh: Where Great Powers Meet: America & China in Southeast Asia (2020, Oxford University Press).
  • David Shambaugh, ed: China and the World (paperback, 2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Jeremy Stone: Trump Returns for 2025! The US vs China (2021, independent): 81 pp.
  • Sebastian Strangio: In the Dragon's Shadow: Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century (2020, Yale University Press).
  • Kal Strittmatter: We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China's Surveillance State (2020, Custom House).


  • Gordon C Chang: The Coming Collapse of China (paperback, 2001, Random House): Omitted from list above because it's 20 years old, also because it's clearly wrong. Blurb from Cato Institute reviewer: "A compelling account of the rot in China's institutions and the forces at work to end the Communist Party's monopoly on power." The Director of Asian Studies at AEI adds: "Quite simply the best book I know about China's future." Of course, there are still people who believe this sort of thing, but are fortunate not to have had their predictions nailed down so far in the past.

Amity Shlaes: Great Society: A New History (2019, Harper): Right-wing historian, was employed by the GW Bush library (although I don't see that in her credits; instead, she won a Hayek Book Prize, wrote for the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and "chairs the board of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation"). Her mission in life is to show that everything good in American politics was really bad (e.g., her book on the New Deal, The Forgotten Man), and vice versa (see her Coolidge). This extends the hatchet job to LBJ's social welfare programs, including the immensely popular Medicare. According to Alan Greenspan, this "reads like a novel" (meaning like it was made up?), "covering the high hopes and catastrophic missteps of our well-meaning leaders." The only "catastrophic misstep" I can clearly attribute to LBJ was the Vietnam War, but that's probably now what these right-wing assholes have in mind. The fact is, the War on Poverty [sic] was very successful until Nixon came along and put Donald Rumsfeld in charge of the Office of Economic Development.

Robert Skidelsky: What's Wrong With Economics? (2020, Yale University Press): Has written a major biography of John Maynard Keynes, as well as several other interesting books. Fair to say he follows Keynes' model, but more important is that like Keynes he stops to ask what good is economics for how we live, for us to enjoy our lives. That's still pretty radical within what many of its protagonists like to call the "dismal science."

Jerome Slater: Mythologies Without End: The US, Israel, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1917-2020 (2020, Oxford University Press): A substantial (512 pp) effort to cover the whole history of the conflict, from the Zionist plan to colonize Palestine, British sponsorship of the project, the founding of Israel and the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians, through Israel's subsequent wars with Arab states and the Palestinian people. Extra focus on American attitudes and policies, which have vacillated between peacemaking efforts and reflexive support for Israel's military and colonial projects, which have made peace impossible (or, at least to right-wing Israelis, undesirable). Should take its place as the best introductory text for Americans. Other recent books:

  • Noura Erakat: Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine (2019; 2020, Stanford University Press).
  • Jeff Halper: Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine: Zionism, Settler Colonialism, and the Case for One Democratic State (paperback, 2021, Pluto Press).
  • Rashid Khalidi: The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance 1917-2017 (2020, Metropolitan Books; paperback, Picador, 2021).
  • Marc Lamont Hill/Mitchell Plitnick: Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics (2021, New Press).
  • Ian S Lustick: Paradigm Lost: From Two-State Solution to One-State Reality (2019, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Nur Masalha: Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History (2018; paperback, 2020, Zed Books).
  • Noa Tishby: Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth (2021, Free Press): "Tishby founded the nonprofit 'Act for Israel,' Israel's first online advocacy organization, and has become widely known as Israel's unofficial ambassador."
  • Linda Sarsour: We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance (paperback, 2021, 37 Ink).
  • Robert Spencer: The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process (2019, Bombardier): Blames the Palestinians for unrealistic hopes.

Stephen R Soukup: The Dictatorship of Woke Capital: How Political Correctness Captured Big Business (2021, Encounter Books): Few things are more galling to the far-right than how the very corporations they work so hard to enrich betray them by trying to come off as "woke" -- anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ, sensitive to women and/or the environment. They see this as the sinister effect of the Left's "slow, methodical battle for control of the institutions of Western civilization," as opposed to a mere bottom-line calculation that there's no profit in insulting and degrading diverse customers and citizens. (Of course, where there is a profit to be gained from war, fraud, and/or ruin, there are plenty of corporations eager to jump in.) Of course, this is just one example of the crazed stupidity that the right publishes. For more recent examples:

  • Jason Chaffetz: They Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste: The Truth About Disaster Liberalism (2021, Broadside Books).
  • Cheryl K Chumley: Socialists Don't Sleep: Christians Must Rise or America Will Fall (2020, Humanix Books).
  • David Horowitz: Dark Agenda: The War to Destroy Christian America (2019, Humanix Books).
  • Andy Ngo: Unmasked: Inside Antifa's Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy (2021, Center Street).
  • Evan Sayet: The Woke Supremacy: An Anti-Socialist Manifesto (paperback, 2020, independent).

Paul Starr: Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies (2019, Yale University Press). The concept here is how political actors try to perpetuate their rule by locking in (entrenching) their agenda, to make it hard to change or undo even if they lose power. Some of this is baked into the system, like the Constitution's supermajority requirement for amendments and impeachment, as well as built-in biases like equal representation for states. Some have been contrived (but are defended as tradition), like gerrymandering and the filibuster. Needless to say, conservatives are more dedicated to entrenchment than progressives (although FDR made a point how Social Security was designed to make it impossible to take away). The Republican obsession with packing the courts is probably the most obvious and ambitious example of entrenchment. Starr provides historical examples of entrenchment, and sometimes overcoming it, as with slavery.

Ned and Constance Sublette: The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry (2016; paperback, 2017, Lawrence Hill): Major history of slavery in America, from its introduction to emancipation, with particular emphasis on the business of breeding and selling people. Blurb describes this as "an alternative history," but since when does focusing on the real costs of slavery without sparing the feelings of dead politicians alternative? Sounds like what history should do. Ned Sublette previously wrote major books on Cuban music and New Orleans, while Constance Sublette has written several novels. Other recent books on slavery (and its aftermath):

  • Alice L Baumgartner: South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War (2020, Basic Books).
  • Herman L Bennett: African Kings and Black Slaves: Sovereignty and Dispossession in the Early Modern Atlantic (paperback, 2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Daina Ramey Berry: The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, From Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (paperback, 2017, Beacon Press).
  • Vincent Brown: Tacky's Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (2020, Belknap Press).
  • Trevor Burnard/John Garrigus: The Plantation Machine: Atlantic Capitalism in French Saint-Domingue and British Jamaica (paperback, 2018, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Trevor Burnard: Jamaica in the Age of Revolution (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Sylvane A Diouf: Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons (paperback, 2016, NYU Press).
  • Erica Armstrong Dunbar: Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge (2017; paperback, 2018, 37 Ink).
  • John Harris: The Last Slave Ships: New York and the End of the Middle Passage (2020, Yale University Press).
  • Gerald Horne: The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in the Long Sixteenth Century (paperback, 2020, Monthly Review Press).
  • Miranda Kaufmann: Black Tudors: The Untold Story (2017; paperback, 2018, Oneworld).
  • Ibram X Kendi/Keisha N Blain, eds: Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 (2021, One World).
  • Jeffrey R Kerr-Ritchie: Rebellious Passage: The Creole Revolt and America's Coastal Slave Trade (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).
  • Jill Lepore: New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiray in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (paperback, 2006, Vintage).
  • Daniel Rasmussen: American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt (2011, Harper; paperback, 2012, Harper Perennial).
  • Julius S Scott: The Common Wind: Afro-Amerian Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution (2018; paperback, 2020, Verso).
  • Jason T Sharples: The World That Fear Made: Slave Revolts and Conspiracy Scares in Early America (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Manisha Sinha: The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition (paperback, 2017, Yale University Press).
  • Clint Smith: How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America (2021, Little Brown). [06-01]
  • Sasha Turner: Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica (2019, paperback, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Cécile Vidal: Caribbean New Orleans: Empire, Race, and the Making of a Slave Society (2019, University of North Carolina).
  • Christine Walker: Jamaica Ladies: Female Slaveholders and the Creation of Britain's Atlantic Empire (paperback, 2020, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Jonathan Daniel Wells: The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War (2020, Bold Type Books).
  • David Wheat: Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640 (paperback, 2018, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Tom Zoellner: Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire (2020, Harvard University Press): Jamaica, 1831.
  • David Zucchino: Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy (paperback, 2021, Grove Press).

PS: Shortly after posting, I ran into another batch of books I should have included here:

  • Sven Beckert/Seth Rockman, eds: Slavery's Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development (paperback, 2018, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Richard Bell: Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home (2019, 37 Ink).
  • Daina Ramey Berry/Leslie M Harris, eds: Sexuality and Slavery: Reclaiming Intimate Histories in the Americas (paperback, 2018, University of Georgia Press).
  • David W Blight: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018; paperback, 2020, Simon & Schuster): 912 pp.
  • Thomas A Foster: Rethinking Rufus: Sexual Violations of Enslaved Men (paperback, 2019, University of Georgia Press).
  • Joanne B Freeman: The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War (2018; Farrar Straus and Giroux; paperback, 2019, Picador).
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr: Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (2019; paperback, 2020, Penguin Books).
  • Tera W Hunter: Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (2017; paperback, 2019, Belknap Press).
  • Jessica Marie Johnson: Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Walter Johnson: The Broken Heart of America: St Louis and the Violent History of the United States (2020, Basic Books).
  • Martha S Jones: Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (paperback, 2018, Cambridge University Press).
  • Stephanie E Jones-Rogers: They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (2019, Yale University Press).
  • Kate Masur: Until Justice Be Done: America's First Civil Rights Movement, From the Revolution to Reconstruction (2021, WW Norton).
  • W Caleb McDaniel: Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America (2019, Oxford University Press).
  • Caitlin Rosenthal: Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management (2018; paperback, 2019, Harvard University Press).

David Vine: The United States of War: A Global History of America's Endless Conrflicts, From Columbus to the Islamic State (2020, University of California Press): The phrase "endless war" is a recent coinage, reflecting the fact that the very definition of the Global War on Terrorism ensures that there will always be challengers, even in the unlikely chance where "victory" appears total -- not that there are any such cases. Still, given the forward-looking concept, it's tempting to also look back, and Vine finds so many wars so far back they all blur into endlessness. More specifically, he reminds us that America was founded in conquest and occupation, bound to belief in racial and cultural superiority, and those factors have tainted all subsequent wars. Indeed, they define the blind fault lines of recent failures. After all, what is an endless war but one that cannot be won by a nation too blind to accept its futility? Vine previously wrote Base Nation: How American Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (2015, Metropolitan Books).

Stephen Wertheim: Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of US Global Supremacy (2020, Belknap Press): Starts with an introductory section on what "internationalism" meant before interventionists -- the small sliver of elites eager to join the war against Germany, as they had in 1917 -- coined the term to slander those who recognized George Washington's warnings against foreign alliances and standing armies, many of whom were in favor of agreements to limit or outlaw war, and who supported America's "open door" trade policies. The rest of the book covers the evolving thinking of said elites during a narrow slice of time, from the fall of France in May 1940 to the defeat of Germany and Japan in 1945. Early on, when Germany seemed likely to be a long-term world power, those elites flirted with the idea of some kind of regional hegemons, where the US, UK, and Germany could split up the world. (Russia, China, and Japan were afterthoughts, at best.) But rather quickly, the elites gravitated to a postwar aim of world dominance, which became possible as the German invasion of the Soviet Union stalled, and the US entered the war both in Europe and the Pacific. Indeed, by the time the war was won, the US had bases strung all around the world, and a manufacturing economy that exceeded the rest of the world. The book doesn't cover how this ambition and capability for world domination was then refashioned into a struggle against communism and its potential anti-colonial allies, but the notion that the US should dominate all around the world made both the quest and the resistance that resulted all but inevitable. Indeed, the only force that might have throttled those ambitions was the traditional American aversion to empire and foreign entanglements, which was neatly bottled up as "isolationism" and disparaged by the postwar Red Scare. Recent books on post-WWII foreign policy, up to the present moment, where interventionist disasters have led to ever more strident denunciations of isolationism:

  • Stephen E Ambrose/Douglas G Brinkley: Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 (1971; ninth edition, paperback, 2010, Penguin).
  • Michael Beckley: Unrivaled: Why Ameria Will Remain the World's Sole Superpower (2018, Cornell University Press).
  • Alexander Cooley/Daniel Nexon: Exit From Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order (2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Richard Haass: A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order (2017, Penguin Press).
  • G John Ikenberry: A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order (2020, Yale University Press).
  • Robert Kagan: The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World (2018, Knopf; 2019, paperback, Vintage).
  • Rebecca Lissner/Mira Rapp-Hooper: An Open World: How America Can Win the Contest for Twenty-First Century Order (2020, Yale University Press): Assumes there is a contest, and that it is winnable, an attractive proposition in the US and nowhere else.
  • Stephen Sestanovich: Maximalist: America in the World From Truman to Obama (2014, Knopf; paperback, 2014, Vintage).
  • Robert B Zoellick: America in the World: A History of US Diplomacy and Foreign Policy (2020, Twelve): Author has a long history in US foreign policy, including Deputy Chief of Staff to GW Bush and President of World Bank.

Daniel Yergin: The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations (2020, Penguin Press). He wrote a big history of the oil industry -- The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (1991) -- and parlayed his reputation into a consulting company, closely aligned with the industry and hostile to those pesky climate change obsessives. So his "maps" are closely aligned with the supply of oil and gas, with only the last two (of six) sections briefly considering anything else -- most likely not as necessary change but as marginal risks.

Julian E Zelizar: Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party (2020, Penguin Press): The history of the Republican Party from 1968 on presents us with a series of major figures who tried (and partly succeeded) in moving the political world ever further to the right. Nixon may look like a liberal in retrospect, and Reagan may look like a folksy optimist, but they were among the most successful at finding pressure points that worked for the right. The line moves on through Newt Gingrich, GW Bush, and Donald Trump. This covers Gingrich, who relative to his time was probably the most extreme and ruthless, leaving in his wake an unprecedentedly shameless militancy in the Republican rank-and-file.

Fareed Zakaria: Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World (2020, WW Norton): Always quick on the draw -- his most famous book is The Post-American World (2008, revised as Release 2.0 in 2011) -- he is the first semi-famous person to weigh in on how the pandemic will change things, at least at book length. The most common take elsewhere is that it won't change things so much as accelerate pre-existing trends, something he's collected a huge dossier on. Still, I can't say as I'm impressed by "lessons" like: "What Matters Is Not the Quantity of Government but the Quality," "Markets Are Not Enough," "Life Is Digital," "Inequality Will Get Worse," "Globalization Is Not Dead," and "The World Is Becoming Bipolar." I wouldn't have bothered, but this was the best hook I could find on which to hang -- most "post-pandemic" books published so far are pitched at investors, some appearing as early as April 2020 (I've skipped the earliest):

  • Ross Douthat: The Decadent Society: America Before and After the Pandemic (2020; paperback, 2021, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster): Reissue of pre-pandemic book with trendy new subtitle.
  • Scott Galloway: Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity (2020, Portfolio).
  • John Micklethwait/Adrian Wooldridge: The Wake Up Call: Why the Pandemic Has Exposed the Weakness of the West, and How to Fix It (2020, Harper Via).
  • Pedro Morillas: What Now? After the Pandemic and the Savage Capitalism (paperback, 2020, independent).
  • James Rickards: The New Great Depression: Winners and Losers in a Post-Pandemic World (2021, Portfolio).

Other recent books of interest, barely noted:

Stacey Abrams: Lead From the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change (paperback, 2019, Picador): Retitled reissue of her 2018 book, Minority Leader: How to Lead From the Outside and Make Real Change.

Stacey Abrams: Our Time Is Now (2020, Henry Holt).

Theodor W Adorno: Aspects of the New Right-Wing Extremism (paperback, 2020, Polity): A lecture from 1967.

Nancy J Altman: The Truth About Social Security: The Founders' Words Refute Revisionist History, Zombie Lies, and Common Misunderstandings (paperback, 2018, Strong Arm Press).

Hunter Biden: Beautiful Things: A Memoir (2021, Gallery Books).

John Boehner: On the House: A Washington Memoir (2021, St Martin's Press): Former Speaker of the House (R-OH, 1991-2015).

Hal Brands/Charles Edel: The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order (2019, Yale University Press).

Ian Bremmer: Us vs Them: The Failure of Globalism (2018, Portfolio).

Dorothy A Brown: The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans -- and How We Can Fix It (2021, Crown).

Wendy Brown: In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West (paperback, 2019, Columbia University Press): "The Wellek Library Lectures."

Jessica Bruder: Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (paperback, 2018, WW Norton): The book behind the movie.

Robert Bryce: A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations (2020, Public Affairs).

William J Burns: The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal (2019; paperback, 2020, Random House): Former State Department official, Ambassador to Russia (2005-08), now Biden's CIA Director.

W Joseph Campbell: Lost in a Gallup: Polling Failure in US Presidential Elections (2020, University of California Press): Chronicles repeated polling failures from 1936 through 2016, just in time for another one in 2020.

James R Copland: The Unelected: How an Unaccountable Elite Is Governing America (2020, Encounter Books): Conservative think tank fellow attacks the regulatory state. Same title could be written from the left.

Tammy Duckworth: Every Day Is a Gift: A Memoir (2021, Twelve): US Senator (D-IL).

Joan Didion: Let Me Tell You What I Mean (2021, Knopf): Essay collection.

Ben Ehrenreich: Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time (2020, Counterpoint).

Bill Gates: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need (2021, Knopf).

Henry Louis Gates Jr: The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song (2021, Penguin Press).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg/Amanda L Tyler: Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue: A Life's Work Fighting for a More Perfect Union (2021, University of California Press).

Thom Hartmann: The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy From the Ruling Class (paperback, 2021, Berrett-Koehler).

David Harvey: A Companion to Marx's Capital: The Complete Edition (paperback, 2018, Verso): 768 pp.

Theo Horesh: The Fascism This Time: And the Global Future of Democracy (paperback, 2020, Cosmopolis Press).

Wiliam G Howell/Terry M Moe: Presidents, Populism, and the Crisis of Democracy (paperback, 2020, University of Chicago Press).

Adam Jentleson: Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy (2021, Liveright).

Garett Jones: 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less (2020, Stanford University Press).

Irshad Manji: Don't Label Me: An Incredible Conversation for Divided Times (2019, St Martin's Press).

Piers Morgan: Wake Up: Why the World Has Gone Nuts (2020, Harper Collins).

Ilhan Omar: This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey From Refugee to Congresswoman (2020, Dey Street Books): US Representative (D-MN).

Ben Sheehan: OMG WTF Does the Constitution Actually Say? A Non-Boring Guide to How Our Democracy Is Supposed to Work (2020, Black Dog & Leventhal). Executive producer at Funny or Die, founder of OMG WTF in six battleground states, "projects he's been involved with have received over a billion views."

Cass R Sunstein: Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don't Want to Know (2020, MIT Press).

Cass R Sunstein: Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception (2021, Oxford University Press).

Julia Sweig: Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight (2021, Random House).

Michael Swanson: The War State: The Cold War Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex and the Power Elite, 1945-1963 (paperback, 2013, CreateSpace).

Joe William Trotter Jr: Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America (2019, University of California Press).

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Book Roundup

Having pushed all the Trump books out earlier this week, here's a batch of 40 more book blurbs, plus another 110 books briefly noted -- 48 in the following section, plus 62 tacked onto main section notes. [PS: Added some books after this count. Also note that I added more Trump-related books to the previous post.]

I find this exercise useful to keep track of what the world knows -- at least, what knowledgeable people in America are saying about what concerns them. But there's also an element of nostalgia at work here. For most of my life, I visited book stores two or more times a week, spending innumerable hours poking through the shelves. I slacked off when Borders was driven out of business. Hasn't helped that Barnes & Noble has mostly turned into a toy store. Blame it on Amazon if you want, but they're my main source for these notes.

Still, I keep feeling that I'm not getting as systematic a survey as I'd like. Amazon has replaced their related suggestions with "books you may like," which are so redundant from page to page that they smell like ads. Their browsing system is even lamer, leading me at times to search for other sources -- to little avail. I keep thinking this list is rather arbitrary. In fact, I have as many book titles jotted down in my draft file, but didn't feel like writing up at the moment of discovery, and haven't taken the time to backtrack. Meanwhile, I'm including Ted Cruz, because the moment I saw the book I knew what to say.

I was figuring four times a year would be a reasonable pace, but then came up with the idea of briefly noting titles I didn't feel like writing about. That probably reduces the need to 2-3 times per year. This is the second this year (not counting the two Trump sets). Could do a third, but may not get to it.

Books from the main section I've read so far: Danielle S Allen: Our Declaration; Thomas Frank: The People, No; Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets. Just started Sheri Berman: Democracy and Dicatorship in Europe, and have Kurt Andersen: Evil Geniuses on deck. I haven't updated the archive yet. It's too big to be useful for readers, but I use it to check whether I've written on a book before. As such, I need to get it updated before working on a new installment. I've jotted down enough book titles for another post, but don't plan on writing them up until after the election.

Danielle S Allen: Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014; paperback, 2015, Liveright): A deep reading of all 1,337 words, often taking several chapters to work through a single sentence, disentangling multiple authors and printers who added their own distinct touches, the historical context, and the debates that were ultimately obscured in compromise. I've long been convinced that the only way to gain agreement is through equality, and Allen shows how this works in very specific ways.

Kurt Andersen: Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America (2020, Random House): More of a novelist and humor writer (3 and 5 books respectively -- a 1980 humor title is Tools of Power: The Elitist's Guide to the Ruthless Exploitation of Everybody and Everything) until recently, when he tried to sum up the whole of American history as Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire (2017), offers a brief recap of the 1970s and before, then surveys the many things that have gone wrong since -- I assume properly assigning blame to right-wingers who fit the title, not that there haven't been plenty more who came up a bit short in the "genius" department.

Anne Applebaum: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (2020, Doubleday): Like Timothy Snyder, an historian who thinks her research on Eastern Europe -- e.g., Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine (2018) -- gives her the authority to comment on the rise of illiberalism and the eclipse of democracy under Republicans in America. While it can be occasionally amusing to compare Republican Party discipline to Soviet apparatchiki, it misses much, like the fundamental Communist commitment to serve the working class -- nothing like that among America's anti-democrats. Isn't it much more likely to find anti-democratic roots in American history, with its legacy of colonial rule, slavery, capitalism, and empire?

Sheri Berman: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day (2019, Oxford University Press): A broad comparative history of political systems in Western Europe -- the table of contents doesn't offer anything east of Germany and Italy, or earlier than the late 18th century, but the introduction starts earlier and looks further. Lots of recent books on current threats to democracy from would-be dictators, but few go back further than the 1930s, obscuring two essential points: the promise of democracy was to expand and equalize power, in most cases achieved only through revolution against autocracy; would-be dictators almost always sought to defend or restore autocratic power. Of course, the earlier term was aristocracy, but conservatives have proven flexible enough to stand up for any class that enjoys the privileges of wealth.

David Brooks: The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (2019, Random House): Right-wing pundit/hack, likes to exult the moral superiority of conservatives, a profession of whitewashing that's been hard to sustain since Trump became his followers' leader. This seems to have nudged him into resistance, but here he mainly tunnels into his own personal conviction of moral superiority, thinking that will protect him from the evils of his former comrades, as well as from the masses he's always dedicated himself to keeping in their place.

Lee Camp: Bullet Points and Punch Lines: The Most Important Commentary Ever Written on the Epic American Tragicomedy (paperback, 2020, PM Press). Left political commentator, has a rep as a comedian, but his chapter titles aren't very funny -- "The Pentagon Can't Account for 21 Trillion Dollars (That's Not a Typo)," "Nearly 100 Thousand Pentagon Whistleblower Complaints Have Been Silenced," "Everyone Has Fallen for Lies about Venezuela," "Trump's Miliary Drops a Bomb Every 12 Minutes, and No One Is Talking about It," etc.), and each piece comes with footnotes. Jimmy Dore (another "comedian") wrote the introduction, and Chris Hedges (a moralist with no discernible sense of humor) the foreword. They, too, have books:

  • Jimmy Dore: Your Country Is Just Not That Into You: How the Media, Wall Street, and Both Political Parties Keep on Screwing You -- Even After You've Moved On (paperback, 2014, Running Press).
  • Chris Hedges: America: The Farewell Tour (2018; paperback, 2019, Simon & Schuster).

Sarah Chayes: On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake (2020, Knopf): Journalist, covered the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, made herself at home there, wrote a book about how corruption undermined whatever best intentions some of the American occupiers might have had -- The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (2006) -- winding up on the US payroll as "special advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" on corruption. She moved on to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and wrote another big book on corruption: Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. Here she finally reaches the major leagues, looking at corruption in America. Table of contents suggests her interests fade out past the 1990s, which is a shame considering that Trump's worth a long book all by himself. I guess it's hard to write history while it's still happening. Much as it's hard to rebuild a country while you're still blowing it to shit.

Ellis Cose: The Short Life & Curious Death of Free Speech in America (2020, Amistad). Journalist, twelfth book though I hadn't noticed any of the earlier ones, many dealing with racism. Blurb here describes this as "about the stranglehold the rich and powerful have on free speech." This fits in with my definition of advertising as not free but very expensive speech, priced to form a barrier to entry against those who cannot afford it. I'm not sure this even gets around to advertising, as he starts with hate speech and incitement to violence, and moves on to consider how the right's "defense" of "free speech" on campus attempts to stifle it. Some other books by Cose:

  • Ellis Cose: A Nation of Strangers: Prejudice, Politics, and the Populating of America (1992, William Morrow).
  • Ellis Cose: The Rage of a Privileged Class: Why Are Middle-Class Blacks Angry? Why Should America Care? (paperback, 1994, Harper Perennial).
  • Ellis Cose: Man's World: How Real Is Male Privilege -- and How High Is Its Price? (paperback, 1995, Harper Collins).
  • Ellis Cose: Color-Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World (1996; paperback, 1998, Harper Perennial).
  • Ellis Cose: The Envy of the World: On Being a Black Man in America (2002, Atria; paperback, 2003, Washington Square Press).
  • Ellis Cose: Bone to Pick: Of Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Repearation, and Revenge (2004, Atria; paperback, 2005, Washington Square Press).
  • Ellis Cose: The End of Anger: A New Generation's Take on Race and Rage (2011; paperback, 2012, Ecco).
  • Ellis Cose: Democracy, if We Can Keep It: The ACLU's 100-Year Fight for Rights in America (2020, New Press).

Ted Cruz: One Vote Away: How a Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History (2020, Regnery): Seems like uncanny timing, but what he's really arguing is that losing a seat from the 5-4 right-wing majority would give "the left the power to curtail or even abolish the freedoms that have made our country a beacon to the world." I'd ask "what the fuck?" but he kindly enumerates the threat: "One vote preserves your right to speak freely, to bear arms, and to exercise your faith." Given that two of those are much more carefully protected by liberals, it really just comes down to the guns, doesn't it? Well, and things Cruz doesn't publicize, because they protect and further empower privileged elites, like Cruz.

David Dayen: Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power (2020, New Press): "Today, practically everything we buy, everywhere we shop, and every service we secure comes from a heavily concentrated market." This concentration generates most of the profits businesses enjoy, sucking money up to feed the ever-growing wealth of the very richest people on the planet. Focuses more on case studies than on statistical scale, but works even more inexorably there. Along with money, monopoly sucks up power, giving corporations and their masters ever more control over our lives. Dayen previously wrote Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud (paperback, 2017, New Press). Other recent books on monopoly:

  • Samir Amin: Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx's Law of Value (paperback, 2018, Monthly Review Press). Amin was born in Egypt with a French mother, lived most of his life (1932-2018) in France, wrote many books on colonialism, imperialism, globalization, and capitalism's effect around the world.
  • Michele Boldrin/David K Levine: Against Intellectual Monopoly (paperback, 2010, Cambridge University Press).
  • Michael Mark Cohen: The Conspiracy of Capital: Law, Violence, and American Popular Radicalism in the Age of Monopoly (paperback, 2019, University of Massachusetts Press).
  • Thom Hartmann: The Hiden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream (paperback, 2020, Berrett-Koehler).
  • Sally Hubbard: Monopolies Suck: 7 Ways Big Corporations Rule Your Life and How to Take Back Control (2020, Simon & Schuster). [October 27]
  • N Stephen Kinsella: Against Intellectual Proprty (paperback, 2015, Ludwig von Mises Institute): 72 pp.
  • Jack Lawrence Luzkow: Monopoly Restored: How the Super-Rich Robbed Main Street (2018, Palgrave Macmillan).
  • Barry C Lynn: Liberty From All Masters: The New American Autocracy vs the Will of the People (St Martin's Press).
  • Jonathan Tepper/Denise Hearn: The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition (2018, Wiley).
  • Zephyr Teachout: Break 'Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money (2020, All Points Books). Introduction by Bernie Sanders.

By the way, searching for "monopoly" also brought up some older books (one might even say classics):

  • Paul A Baran/Paul M Sweezy: Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order (1966, Monthly Review Press). Baran also wrote The Political Economy of Growth (1957), and The Longer View: Essays Toward a Critique of Political Economy (1970). Sweezy's first book was Monopoly and Competition in the English Coal Trade, 1550-1850 (1938), but he is better known for The Theory of Capitalist Development (1946) and this book. He also co-authored, with Harry Magdoff, The End of Prosperity (1977), which shows uncanny timing.
  • Harry Braverman: Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (paperback, 1974, Monthly Review Press). A "25th Anniversary" edition was published in 1999.
  • Michael Burawoy: Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labor Process Under Monopoly Capitalism (paperback, 1982, University of Chicago Press).
  • John Bellamy Foster, ed: The Age of Monopoly Capital: Selected Correspondence of Paul M Sweezy and Paul A Baran, 1949-1964 (paperback, 2018, Aakar Books).

Robert Draper: To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq (2020, Penguin Press): Seems like this whole saga has been recounted many times before, but I doubt it hurts to be reminded of how arrogant and mendacious the Bush administration was to sell their plot to invade and occupy Iraq. It's all but universally agreed now that doing so was a very foolish thing -- many of us could have told you so at the time, yet the self-conception of the neocons demanded that the war be pursued and insisted that its success was inevitable (their only debates were if, or more likely when, they'd push on through Syria and Iran). Draper's previous books include Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W Bush (2007).

Thomas Frank: The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism (2020, Metropolitan Books): Like myself, a Kansas-bred author with a long interest in and sympathy for the Peoples Party, which swept into power in Kansas around 1890, and fizzled as a political party after aligning with William Jennings Bryan's Democrats in 1896. Frank covers the opposition to Bryan in 1896, and the less successful opposition to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, in some detail, finding common threads of "anti-populism." He then jumps to the present day, finding anti-populism once more on the rise, but anomalously among the coastal liberal elites who have taken over the Democratic Party -- a group he skewered in his 2016 book Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?. I'm less impressed by that part of the book. I don't doubt that liberal elites have their blind spots, but the right still embodies the anti-populism of 1896 and 1936 in near pristine form, and they're still the biggest problem.

Beth Gardiner: Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution (2019, University of Chicago Press): Air quality decreased steadily in the US until laws were passed to regulate it in the 1970s -- laws which worked, although it's hard to say for how long given the Trump administration's resolve to limit enforcement of the regulations it isn't able to overturn directly. Elsewhere the situation is often worse -- in London, where the author lives, and even worse in places she visits like Poland and India. All told, "air pollution prematurely kills seven million people every year." Related:

  • Gary Fuller: The Invisible Killer: The Rising Global Threat of Air Pollution -- and How We Can Fight Back (2019, Melville House).
  • Tim Smedley: Clearing the Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution (2019, Bloomsbury Sigma).
  • Dean Spence: Air: Pollution, Climate Change and India's Choice Between Policy and Pretence (paperback, 2019, Harper Collins India).

Mary Grabar: Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America (2019, Regnery). The book Grabar attacks is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which revisits American history with eyes open to the experiences and views of those people treated most harshly by American power -- people who have often been forgotten when respectable histories were written. Whether Zinn actually "turned a generation against America" is questionable. He certainly opened some eyes to past (and present) injustices, giving us a clearer idea of what needs to be changed in moving forward. He's also upset a lot of conservatives, who are happy with their myths.

Steven Greenhouse: Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor (2019, Knopf): Journalist, covered labor for New York Times 1983-2014, previously writing The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker (2008, Knopf), so he has a long, detailed view of the dismantling of labor power in America, but he should also be able to point out cases of increased worker militancy over the last few years, as well as the revived interest of left Democrats in unions. I'd expect there to be more books on this, but I'm having trouble finding them.

  • Mark A Bradley: Blood Runs Coal: The Yablonski Murders and the Battle for the United Mine Workers of America (2020, WW Norton).
  • Phil Cohen: Fighting Union Busters in a Carolina Carpet Mill: An Organizer's Memoir (paperback, 2020, McFarland).
  • Erik Loomis: A History of America in Ten Strikes (2018, New Press).
  • Jane McAlevey: A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy (2020, Ecco).
  • Lane Windham: Knocking on Labor's Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide (paperback, 2019, University of North Carolina Press).

Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality (2020, Liveright): Authors have a long line of important books on the rise of the right since 2000 -- their The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care, and Retirement and How You Can Fight Back (2007) -- is one of the most insightful. This adds a few Trump ruffles, but is most important for reminding us that Trump's worst policies are long-term Republican projects, the purpose of which is to make the rich not just richer but more powerful, aiming to lock their advantages in well into the future.

Yuval Noah Harari: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018, Spiegel & Grau): Israeli historian, wrote big picture books like Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014) and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2017), takes a swing at a scattering of topics, like "Civilization" ("there is just one civilization in the world"), "Nationalism" ("global problems need global answers"), "War" ("never underestimate human stupidity"), "Ignorance" ("you know less than you think"), "Meaning" ("life is not a story").

Sarah Stewart Holland/Beth A Silvers: I Think You're Wrong (but I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations 2019, Thomas Nelson): "Sarah from the left and Beth from the right," share a podcast called Pantsuit Politics, fill a small niche for folks who don't live in any of our self-defined, self-affirmed ideological ghettoes, who run into people from warring political camps and don't want to shy away from the subject. I think that's a different concern from the so-called centrists, who are often as narrow-minded as the extremists but are sneakier, pretending to be reasonable while trying to covertly push self-serving agendas. Related:

  • Justin Lee: Talking Across the Divide: How to Communicate With People You Disagree With and Maybe Even Change the World (paperback, 2018, Tarcher Perigee).

Seth Masket: Learning From Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020 (2020, Cambridge University Press): Democratic Party strategist, sees Joe Biden's nomination as "a strategic choice by a party that had elevated electability above all other concerns." That's far from the only possible lesson that could be discerned from Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016, but it's certainly true that the Democratic left is much more united behind Biden than the right/center would have been behind Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Whether Democrats can sell Biden to marginal voters (both ones tempted to vote for Trump or some other candidate and ones who prone to skipping the vote) remains to be seen. I'm no Biden fan, but I'm not unhappy with this resolution. But it's clear to me that another lesson from 2016 is that the Democrats have to learn to deliver results, and have to make a case and a stink when Republicans block them -- the sudden backtracking of Clinton in 1993 and Obama in 2009 led to catastrophic losses in Congress, and while both remained personally popular enough to win second terms, neither delivered on more than a tiny fraction of their campaign promises. Their loss of faith was a major factor in Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016.

Stephanie Kelton: The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy (2020, Public Affairs): All about MMT, which would seem to rationalize much more extensive government deficit spending than is commonly regarded as prudent. If valid, it would provide an answer to the naysayers who always reject left proposals by declaring them too expensive. I can't say as I understand it, and will note that many Keynesian economists remain skeptical or worse (and these are people who generally believe that more deficit spending is a good thing). Related:

  • Jacob Goldstein: Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing (2020, Hachette Books).
  • Edward Fullbrook/Jamie Morgan, eds: Modern Monetary Theory and Its Critics (paperback, 2020, WEA).
  • Robert Hockett/Aaron James: Money From Nothing: Or, Why We Should Stop Worrying About Debt and Learn to Love the Federal Reserve (2020, Melville House). This book may deserve its own review: Hockett is a Green New Deal adviser to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez; James is the philosopher who wrote: Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump.
  • WF Mitchell/LR Wray/MJ Watts: Modern Monetary Theory and Practice: An Introductory Text (paperback, 2016, CreateSpace).
  • Warren Mosler: Soft Currency Economics II: What Everyone Thinks That They Know About Monetary Policy Is Wrong (paperback, 2013, CreateSpace).
  • L Randall Wray: Modern Money Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems (2012; 2nd edition, paperback, 2015, Palgrave Macmillan).
  • Randall Wray: A Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century (paperback, 2020, Academic Press).

Ibram X Kendi: How to Be an Antiracist (2019, One World): Historian, wrote a major book Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016), which explored five Amerian figures in depth: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, WEB DuBois, and Angela Davis. This book recounts his family life, events which revealed racism in various guises, leading to a taxonomy he contrasts with "antiracism"; some examples: "assimilationist"/"segregationist," "biological," "ethnic"; also "internalized racism." This book became a belated bestseller after the George Floyd killing.

Matthew C Klein/Michael Pettis: Trade Wars Are Class Wars: How Rising Inequality Distorts the Global Economy and Threatens International Peace (2020, Yale University Press): "A provocative look at how today's trade conflicts are caused by governments promoting the interests of elites at the expense of workers." That's certainly what happens when the US negotiates trade deals: businesses lobby for advantages (especially for the collection of rents on patents and copyrights), while opposition from unions concerned about jobs and wages is casually ignored. The US has run trade deficits ever since 1970, and that turns out to be an efficient way to transfer wealth from workers/consumers to the rich, as those deficits are recycled through the banks to help prop up the assets of the rich.

Richard Kreitner: Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America's Imperfect Union (2020, Little Brown): A history going back to the colonial period of movements to unite and divide the American colonies/states. While the history is interesting, its utility to thinking about the recent Red/Blue State split is less clear. Every state has a substantial purple minority, at least partly protected by the federal government and economic and cultural union. Division would increase polarization, both within and between nascent states. One could instead have looked at secession and division around the world, where the results have most often been ominous. Aside from numerous border clashes and internal purges, the most common result is an increase in government plunder and oligarchy. One critique I've seen of this book [actually, of the David French book below] is that it's way too optimistic. This is precisely the sort of subject which inspires high hopes and bitter disappointment.

  • David French: Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation (2020, St Martin's Press). [October 6]

David Paul Kuhn: The Hardhat Riot: Nixon, New York City, and the Dawn of the White Working-Class Revolution (2020, Oxford University Press): About the New York City mob -- supposedly unionized construction workers -- that went berserk attacking anti-war protesters in the days after the Kent State massacre in 1970. Nixon had escalated the war in Vietnam, and was rationalizing his act by claiming support of a "silent majority" of Americans, so he was delighted to see some such group emerge from silence. Nowadays, this is seen as a pivotal event in the turn of the white working class toward Republican reaction. It did seem to have a class aspect to it, given that at this point the antiwar movement was mostly associated with middle-class (and wealthier) students at universities (although veterans were becoming increasingly prominent).

Jill Lepore: If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future (2020, Liveright): Historian, major early work was on King Philip's War in the colonial period, but she's jumped around a lot, landing here post-WWII when computers were first used for Cold War propaganda and plotting political campaigns. I read a precis of this in The New Yorker and figured it to be a stand-alone essay, so I have no idea how she expanded that to 452 pages. Except, I guess, that "the future" is one of those expansive subjects.

Evan Osnos: Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now (2020, Scribner): New Yorker writer, looks like a quickie (192 pp) but not available until a week before the election (which is to say a week before the most important fact becomes known). Even so, there is very little serious competition, despite the fact that Biden has been a shoe-in for the nomination since mid-March, after having been the front-runner for most of 2015, and was well known long before. If anything, this pathetic list suggests that who he is or what he stands for hardly matters next to the horrors of his opponent. [October 27] Other Biden books (including previous mentions*):

  • David Hagan: No Ordinary Joe: The Life & Career of Joe Biden (paperback, 2020, Opplan): 134 pp.
  • *Steven Levingston: Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership (2019, Hachette Books)
  • *Branko Marcetic: Yesterday's Man: The Case Against Joe Biden (paperback, 2020, Verso): left-wing critique.
  • *Mike McCormick: Joe Biden Unauthorized: And the 2020 Crackup of the Democratic Party (paperback, 2020, 15 Years a Deplorable): right-wing attack.
  • Jules Witcover: Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption (2010; revised, paperback, 2019, William Morrow).

Dave Rubin: Don't Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason (2020, Sentinel): Author, who describes himself as "a former progressive turned classical liberal," claims to have "the most-watched show about free speech and big ideas on YouTube." But his "free thinking" is mostly borrowed from Jordan Peterson, and his received nonsense is anything but free. Rather, it supports a factless rant against an imaginary left, which is based on his failure to understand the first thing about the real left, which is that all people deserve respect and support, in a way that fairly balances individual desires with collective needs. Classical liberalism started to understand that, before falling into a hedonism that celebrated the greediest individuals as they trampled over everyone else. They flatter themselves as "free thinkers" when all they really are is self-indulgent. It's all very sad.

Michael J Sandel: The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good? (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Another look at the false promise and sordid reality of meritocracy -- the notion that people rise to their level of ability, which easily gets twisted around to rationalizing that inequality as it exists is a reflection of merit. Chris Hayes wrote a good book on this subject -- Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (2012), and there have been others, like Daniel Markovits: The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite (2019). Sandel is more of a philosopher, with previous books like Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (2009), and What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012).

Jared Yates Sexton: American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World but Failed Its People (2020, Dutton): I suppose you could say that the genius of the American political system is its ability to satisfy all special interests, as long as they aren't seen as impinging on one another (and by design they are rarely seen otherwise). This, rather than deep ideological beliefs, explains a lot of American foreign policy. Thus, the US happily does the bidding of companies in foreign countries. Conversely, interests that aren't strongly represented among Washington lobbyists have no clout, and their number includes almost everyone in the world. But sometimes, the indifference and casual cruelty of US foreign policy comes back to bite us, so maybe the system doesn't balance interests off so well after all? I think that's what the author is getting at here, but with Trump on the one hand and his neoliberal/neoconservative critics on the other, there's a lot of extra muck to wade through. But one has to conclude that the persistent practice of injustice abroad eventually leads to injustice at home.

David Shimer: Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference (2020, Knopf): Tries to put Russia's "interference" with the 2016 US election into historical context, finding that both the US and Russia have mucked each other about, and much of the rest of the world, for a long time. He gets to 100 years by citing Russia's attempt to lead Communist Parties around the world through Comintern. Not sure whether he mentions that the US (like Great Britain and a few others) sent troops to Russia in 1918 to fight against the Revolution. (He does allow that "Foreign democracies assumed the Comintern had powers it did not.") Of more concern here is the recent cyberwarfare, not least because it seems like a low-risk way to do under-handed things. Sensible leaders would negotiate agreements to reduce or end the problem. Trump and Putin aren't sensible.

Bryant Simon: The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Sory of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives (2017, New Press): The story of a fire in a chicken processing plant in Hamlet, NC (1991), killing 25 workers -- an omen that the days of the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire are returning.

Neal Simon: Contract to Unite America: Ten Reforms to Reclaim Our Republic (2020, Real Clear Publishing): Author ran as an independent for Senate from Maryland, and lost, of course. He suffers from the typical myopia of centrists: thinking the two parties are mirror opposites, and insisting there is more common ground (and no crippling differences) between them than there is. Accordingly, his ten reforms are almost purely procedural: Open Primaries Act, Educated Electorate Act ("A nonpartisan Federal Debate Commission will be created to ensure the fairness and caliber of presidential and congressional election debates"), Term Limits Constitutional Amendment, Elections Transparency Act, Campaign Finance Constitutional Amendment ("Government may distinguish between corporations and people, and Congress and the states can apply reasonable limits on campaign spending"), Ballot Access Act, Fair Districts Act, Fair Representation Act, Congressional Rules, and Creating a Culture of Unity ("We call on our next president to form a bipartisan administration, for Congress to sign a civility pledge, for Americans to participate in national service, and for our schools to revive civics education"). The reality is that American politics has become polarized around the deepest divide of the modern era: between the rich and the masses. As self-appointed agents of the rich, the Republicans have come to view democracy as a trap, which is why they feel no qualms about lying, cheating, and stealing. And as they have become successful at exploiting loopholes and inequities in law and even in the Constitution, some Democrats are realizing that they, too, have to fight dirty, even if they can justify to themselves the need to restore and preserve democracy. Related:

  • Lee Drutman: Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America (2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Charles Wheelan: The Centrist Manifesto (paperback, 2019, WW Norton).

Roberto Sirvent/Danny Haiphong: American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News -- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (2019, Skyhorse): By "fake news" they mean propaganda, more specifically stories that were spun by apologists of power, hoping to convince people that Americans are more exceptional and more innocent than is plainly the case. I've long thought that "American exceptionalism" was a self-flattering myth wrapped around a set of trivial truths, such that you could never really pick it apart, even as it was used to justify unconscionable deeds. "American innocence" is harder to explain, no matter how far you go back or afield, so that angle poses a fat target for these authors.

Timothy Snyder: Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty From a Hospital Diary (paperback, 2020, Crown): The historian and author of On Liberty: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century got sick, and (barely) lived to write about it. Doesn't reflect well on the American health care system . . . or on American democracy, which are not unrelated.

Jim Tankersley: The Riches of This Land (2020, Public Affairs): The post-WWII economic boom built the most expansive middle class in American history, a novelty at the time, and today an increasingly distant memory. What happened? Good question, but I'm not so sure about his answer: "He begins by unraveling the real mystery of the American economy since the 1970s -- not where did the jobs go, but why haven't new and better ones been created to replace them." The secret of the middle class was never that everyone had all of the education and opportunity to get the best jobs they could. The secret was that all jobs, even menial ones, paid enough to live on. That didn't last because wages failed to keep up with inflation and productivity gains -- because workers got screwed coming and going. Of course, it's true that America was never as middle class as white folks thought, and that weakness started the slide.

Alex S Vitale: The End of Policing (paperback, 2018, Verso): This book and author got a fair amount of attention after the "defund the police" meme spread following the George Floyd murder. Matthew Yglesias wrote a review, finding Vitale's arguments not quite convincing. That's probably right in some final analysis, but unless you start to question the principles behind policing, prosecution, incarceration, etc., it's impossible to straighten out the mess we're in. For instance, I think we need more policing of spam and hacking on the Internet, but don't necessarily see jail as the solution. I looked through my books file and found just 12 references to "police" and 10 to "policing," including: Paul Butler: Chokehold: Policing Black Men (2017); Angela Davis, ed: Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment (2017); Virginia Eubanks: Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (2018); Jordan T Camp/Christina Heatherton, eds: Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (2016); James Forman Jr: Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (2017). A quick search uncovered some more (and no doubt still more will appear soon):

  • Radley Balko: Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces (paperback, 2014, Public Affairs).
  • Simon Balto: Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago From Red Summer to Black Power (paperback, 2020, University of North Carolina Press).
  • David Correia/Tyler Wall: Police: A Field Guide (paperback, 2018, Verso).
  • Max Felker-Kantor: Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD (paperback, 2020, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Barry Friedman: Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission (paperback, 2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Sidney L Harring: Policing a Class Society (2nd ed, paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
  • Charles D Hayes: Blue Bias: An Ex-Cop Turned Philosopher Examines the Learning and Resolve Necessary to End Hidden Prejudice in Policing (paperback, 2020, Autodidactic Press).
  • Matthew Horace: The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America's Law Enforcement (paperback, 2019, Hachette Books).
  • Marisol LeBrón: Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico (paperback, 2019, University of California Press).
  • Andrea J Ritchie: Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color (paperback, 2017, Beacon Press).
  • Maya Schenwar/Victoria Law: Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms (2020, New Press).
  • Maya Schenwar/Joe Macaré/Alana Yu-lan Price, eds: Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books).
  • Danielle Sered: Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair (2019, New Press).
  • Kristian Williams: Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (revised, paperback, 2015, AK Press).
  • Franklin E Zimring: When Police Kill (paperback, 2018, Harvard Universitiy Press).

Isabel Wilkerson: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (2020, Random House): A book on how inequality gets preserved and locked in inherited systems passed on from generation to generation. Compares several such systems, starting with the now-banned caste system in India. Wilkerson's specialty is Afro-American history -- her major book was The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (2010) -- so it's easy enough to see how one might try to view racial inequality through the lens caste provides. The third system Wilkerson considers is the race hierarchy instituted by Nazi Germany, but the latter was short-lived and frankly genocidal, whereas the American system lasted for hundreds of years, and the Indian one for thousands. No doubt this is informative, not least when she gets personal, but doesn't it obscure at least one key point? Inequality persists even after formal caste systems are ended, at which point isn't class the more relevant concept?

Meaghan Winter: All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States (2019, Bold Type Books): Title comes from former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's slogan, which in itself doesn't make it convincing or appealing. Still, the argument that the left needs to campaign everywhere is important. It's certainly something that the right understands, not least because in a multi-tiered political system any jurisdiction they can seize can be used to throttle opposition, to prohibit change, and to consolidate power. The right is always seeking to increase its power, thereby increasing inequality and injustice. Any success they have generates resistance, which makes for fertile ground for the left to organize. Or you could look at it from the wrong end of the telescope: we've actually had Democratic presidents with no interest or success at building local parties, and they've proven ineffective and sometimes downright dangerous.

Matthew Yglesias: One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger (2020, Portfolio): Possibly the most successful pundit of the blog era, parlayed that into co-founder of Vox, which is where I get a high percentage of my Weekend Roundup articles from. Won a poll as "neoliberal shill of the year" recently, which doesn't mean all the horrors we often associate with that label, but does still indicate a strong focus on market pricing mechanisms and unbounded growth. This book expands on his posts extolling the benefits of immigration, which is how he hopes to triple the population of the United States. Why that may even be a good thing is hard to say, but evidently he gins up old clichés about keeping or making American number one, faced as it is with competitors like China and India which already have their billion people. That's a really bad reason. By the way:

  • Doug Saunders: Maximum Canada: Toward a Country of 100 Million (paperback, 2019, Vintage Canada).

Daniel Ziblatt: Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy (paperback, 2017, Cambridge University Press): Co-author, with Steven Levitsky, of How Democracies Die (2018), a book much in vogue recently as Trump has eroded and further bespoiled the system of graft and manipulation that has long passed for democracy in America. In his comparative study of the growth of democracy in Europe from 1830 to 1933, Ziblatt argues that expansion of the vote has depended more on what conservative parties decided to allow than on collective action by the middle and/or working classes. Still, don't discount fear of revolution as motivation for conservatives -- Russia is the exception that proves the rule. Another formula for disaster: when conservative parties tried to claw back aristocratic privileges, as the fascists did in the 1920s and 1930s, and the Republicans have tried to do since 1980.

Other recent books, briefly noted.

Peter Baker/Susan Glasser: The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A Baker III (2020, Doubleday): 720 pp.

Susan Berfeld: The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, JP Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism (2020, Bloomsbury).

John O Brennan: Undaunted: My Fight Against America's Enemies, at Home and Abroad (2020, Caledon Books): Obama's CIA director.

Pete Buttigieg: Trust: America's Best Chance (2020, Liveright).

Irin Carmon/Shana Knizhnik: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2015, Dey Street Books).

Alexis Cole: You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington (2020, Viking).

Andrew Cuomo: American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic (2020, Crown): New York governor.

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class (2017; paperback, 2018, Princeton University Press).

Jeremy Dauber: Jewish Comedy: A Serious History (paperback, 2018, WW Norton).

Alan Dershowitz: The Case for Liberalism in an Age of Extremism: Or, Why I Left the Left but Can't Join the Right (2020, Hot Books).

Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (paperback, 2018, Beacon Press).

Leonard Downie Jr: All About the Story: News, Power, Politics, and the Washington Post (2020, Public Affairs).

Rod Dreher: Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (2020, Sentinel): "Crunchy Con."

Wolfram Ellenberger: Time of the Magicians: Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger, and the Decade That Reinvented Philosophy (2020, Penguin Press).

Abdul El-Sayed: Healing Politics: A Doctor's Journey Into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic (2020, Abrams Press).

Federico Finchelstein: A Brief History of Fascist Lies (2020, University of California Press).

Stanley Fish: The First: How to Think About Hate Speech, Campus Speeh, Religious Speech, Fake News, Post-Truth, and Donald Trump (2019, Atria/One Signal).

Raúl Gallegos: Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela (2016, Potomac Books).

Barton Gellman: Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State (2020, Penguin Press).

Daniel Q Gillion: The Loud Minority: Why Protests Matter in American Democracy (2020, Princeton University Press).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: My Own Words (paperback, 2018, Simon & Schuster).

Philip H Gordon: Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (2020, St Martin's Press).

Trey Gowdy: Doesn't Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade (2020, Crown Forum).

Ryan Grim: We've Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement (paperback, 2019, Strong Arm Press): Looks like several years of reporting, perhaps going back to the 1980s, but such early stories are constructed (or selected) with an eye to the present.

Richard Haass: The World: A Brief Introduction (2020, Penguin Press). Bush administrations diplomat, Council on Foreign Relations.

Malcolm Harris: Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials (2017, Little Brown; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books).

John Higgs: Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century (paperback, 2015, Soft Skull Press).

Katie Hill: She Will Rise: Becoming a Warrior in the Battle for True Equality (2020, Grand Central): Elected to Congress, resigned at first hint of scandal, wrote a book.

Harvey J Kaye: Take Hold of Our History: Make America Radical Again (paperback, 2019, Zero Books).

James Kirchick: The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age (2017, Yale University Press).

Jane Kleeb: Harvest the Vote: How Democrats Can Win Again in Rural America (2020, Ecco).

Anthony T Kronman: The Assault on American Excellence (2019, Free Press).

Lawrence Lessig: They Don't Represent Us: Reclaiming Our Democracy (2019, Dey Street Books).

Verlan Lewis: Ideas of Power: The Politics of American Party Ideology Development (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).

Robert Jay Lifton: Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry (2019, New Press).

Fredrik Logevall: JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956 (2020, Random House): 816 pp.

Eric Lonergan/Mark Blyth: Angrynomics (paperback, 2020, Agenda).

HR McMaster: Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World (2020, Harper).

Jon Meacham: His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope (2020, Random House). Major biographer, with books on Jefferson, Jackson, Franklin and Winston.

Russell Muirhead/Nancy L Rosenblum: A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy (2019, Princeton University Press).

Thomas E Patterson: How America Lost Its Mind: The Assault on Reason That's Crippling Our Democracy (2019, University of Oklahoma Press).

Thomas E Patterson: Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself? And Why It Needs to Reclaim Its Conservative Ideals (paperback, 2020, independent).

Joshua L Powell: Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Acount of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America (2020, Twelve): Author was a NRA senior strategist and chief of staff to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

Markus Prior: Hooked: How Politics Captures People's Interest (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).

Alex Ross: Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux). 784 pp.

Douglas Rushkoff: Team Human: Our Technologies, Markets, and Cultural Institutions -- Once Forces for Human Connection and Expression -- Now Isolate and Repress Us. It's Time to Remake Society Together, Not as Individual Players but as the Team We Actually Are (2019, WW Norton).

Jeffrey D Sachs: The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions (2020, Columbia University Press).

Mark Salter: The Luckiest Man: Life With John McCain (2020, Simon & Schuster): The late Senator's long-time ghostwriter.

Antonin Scalia: The Essential Scalia: On the Constitution, the Courts, and the Rule of Law (2020, Crown Forum).

Nathan Schneider: Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy (2018, Bold Type Books).

Al Sharpton: Rise Up: Confronting a Country at the Crossroads (2020, Hanover Square Press).

Vandana Shiva: Who Really Feeds the World? The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology (paperback, 2016, North Atlantic Books).

Margaret Sullivan: Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy (paperback, 2020, Columbia Global Reports): Washington Post media columnist, 105 pp.

Jennifer Taub: Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime (2020, Viking).

George F Will: The Conservative Sensibility (2018; paperback, 2020, Hachette Books).

Leandra Ruth Zarnow: Battling Bella: The Protest Politics of Bella Abzug (2019, Harvard University Press).

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

More Trump Books

Back in May, I was working on a book roundup, my first since October 2019. I found I had so many books on Trump, his administration, and the 2020 presidential campaign that I thought it best to break them out into a separate post (see: Trump Books), before proceeding to a non-Trump Book Roundup a few days later. In an effort to be comprehensive, I did two things I don't normally do: I included a list of books I had previously noted (some with new or trimmed-down blurbs), and I looked ahead to identify forthcoming books up through the election. I thought I did a pretty thorough job, but it turns out I missed a bunch of books -- especially several bestsellers. I wrote a bit about them in the blog, including a general roundup note on September 7. I promised then to catch up with my next book roundup. Turns out that once again there's enough Trump material -- including a few forthcoming books -- to warrant a separate post.

Again, this will be followed shortly with a regular book roundup. This next post will cover several significant critiques of the Trump era, albeit ones that don't obsess over Trump himself -- prime examples are: Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality, and Thomas Frank: The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism. I may look at the Democratic Party side of the election, but there doesn't seem to be much new there -- I wrote up a fairly long list in the Trump Books post, under Dan Pfeiffer: Un-Trumping America: A Plan to Make America a Democracy Again -- but I do have something written for Seth Masket: Learning From Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020. I'm thinking I might hang a list of Joe Biden books under Evan Osnos' still-forthcoming biography, but it won't be very long.

* Book added since initial posting.

Michael Anton: The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return (2020, Regnery): Publisher is all the signal you need, but here's some background: Anton wrote a famous essay calling 2016 "The Flight 93 Election," because he figured it was better to storm the cockpit and crash the plane than to let Hillary Clinton win. He explains "the stakes" here: "The Democratic Party has become the party of 'identity politics' -- and every one of those identities is defined against a unifying national heritage of patriotism, pride in America's past, and hope for a shared future. . . . Against them is a divided Republican Party. Gravely misunderstanding the opposition, old-style Republicans still seek bipartisanship and accommodation, wrongly assuming that Democrats care about playing by the tiresome old rules laid down in the Constitution and other fundamental charters of American liberty." Previous and related:

  • Michael Anton: After the Flight 93 Election: The Vote That Saved America and What We Still Have to Lose (paperback, 2019, Encounter Books).
  • Mike Gonzalez: The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics Is Dividing the Land of the Free (2020, Encounter Books).
  • James S Robbins: Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past (2018, Regnery): "reveals that the radical Left controls education, the media, and the Democratic party. . . . and they seek to demean, demolish, and relentlessly attack America's past in order to control America's present."
  • Ben Shapiro: How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps (2020, Broadside Books). Less of a tie-in, but let's also note (and dispose) of:
  • Ben Shapiro: Facts (Still) Don't Care About Your Feelings: The Brutally Honest Sequel to the National Smash Hit (paperback, 2020, Creators Publishing).

Devlin Barrett: October Surprise: How the FBI Tried to Save Itself and Crashed an Election (2020, Public Affairs): How FBI head James Comey threw the 2016 election to Donald Trump -- "a pulsating narrative of an agency seized with righteous certainty that waded into the most important political moment in the life of the nation, and has no idea how to back out with dignity."

Maria Bartiromo/James Freeman: The Cost: Trump, China, and American Revival (2020, Threshold Editions). Fox Business face, name much larger on the cover of this propaganda tract, lashing out at Trump's enemies both within government and beyond, but especially "the Chinese communist government." Conclusion: "The destruction caused by the coronavirus is the latest and greatest test for the Trump prosperity agenda." [October 27]

Bob Bauer/Jack Goldsmith: After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency (paperback, 2020, Lawfare Institute): Fifty recommendations for reforming the Presidency, most likely sensible ones especially given the fears that electing a deranged sociopath like Trump elicits. Authors have worked in the White House under Bush II and Obama.

Paul Begala: You're Fired: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump (2020, Simon & Schuster): Chief strategist for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, ran a pro-Obama Super PAC in 2012, has co-authored two books with James Carville. Starts with a "Mea Culpa" for 2016, then a chapter on "Coronavirus," before he starts recycling his greatest hits (e.g., "It's Still the Economy, Stupid."

Tom Burgis: Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World (2020, Harper): "He follows the dirty money that is flooding the global economy, emboldening dictators, and poisoning democracies. From the Kremlin to Beijing, Harare to Riyadh, Paris to the White House," warning that "the thieves are uniting," and "the human cost will be great." Previously wrote The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth (2015).

Michael Cohen: Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J Trump (2020, Skyhorse): Given how many sensible policy reasons one can enumerate for opposing Trump, no one needs to read (much less pay for) this book. But if you want dirt, the premise here is that nobody knows more about a scumbag than another one.

Jerome R Corsi: Coup d'État: Exposing Deep State Treason and the Plan to Re-Elect President Trump (2020, Post Hill Press): Best-selling right-wing author and unindicted Roger Stone co-conspirator. Not sure how I missed this -- perhaps it seemed like a reprint of his 2018 book, Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump. His conspiracy theories have the advantage of targeting unseen forces that are every bit as troubling to the left, if not to the sort of Democrats who get security clearances. On the other hand, I've missed Corsi books in the past. Here are some:

  • John E O'Neill/Jerome R Corsi: Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry (2004, Regnery).
  • Jerome R Corsi/Craig R Smith: Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil (2005, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger With Mexico and Canada (2007, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: America for Sale: Fighting the New World Order, Surviving a Global Depression, and Preserving USA Sovereignty (2009, Threshold Editions).
  • Jerome R Corsi: The Shroud Codex (2010, Threshold Editions).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case That Barack Obama is Not Eligible to Be President (2011, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: The Great Oil Conspiracy: How the US Government Hid the Nazi Discovery of Abiotic Oil From the American People (2012, Skyhorse).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Who Really Killed Kennedy? 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations About the JFK Assassination (2013, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Bad Samaritans: The ACLU's Relentless Campaign to Erase Faith From the Public Square (2013, Thomas Nelson).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Hunting Hitler: New Scientific Evidence That Hitler Escaped Nazi Germany (2014, Skyhorse).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Partners in Crime: The Clintons' Scheme to Monetize the White House for Personal Profit (2016, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: How I Became a Political Prisoner of Mueller's "Witch Hunt" (2019, Post Hill Press).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Framing Flynn: The Scandalous Takedown of an American General (2021, Post Hill Press). [January 26]

John W Dean/Bob Altemeyer: Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers (2020, Melville House): The conservative conscience of Nixon's Watergate scandal, became an outspoken critic of GW Bush -- cf. Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W Bush (2004), Conservatives Without Conscience (2006), and Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches (2007) -- was overdue for a broadside on Trump. Probably overwhelmed.

Norman Eisen: A Case for the American People: The United States V. Donald J Trump (2020, Crown): Democrats' special impeachment counsel on the House Judiciary Committee.

Greg Geisler: The Top 300 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Vote for Donald Trump (Even if You Are a Lifelong Republican) (paperback, 2020, independent). First one reads: "Trump is an existential threat to our republic. Trump derogates our long-standing, shared beliefs that have represented who we are as a nation:" -- then enumerates 20 such beliefs, and refers to "Appendix A" for quotes. Amazon's sample doesn't stops before number 3 ("Trump commits treason . . .") is done enumerating the many ways Trump appeases "our enemy, Russia." That's not even a point I would make.

Masha Gessen: Surviving Autocracy (2020, Riverhead Books): Russian, fled to New York as her vitriol against Vladimir Putin increased, has written extensively on him and the stifling of reform politics in Russia. Attempts to draw lessons from there for dealing with Trump here, although a key early chapter is "Waiting for the Reichstag Fire" -- reminding us that autocracy (and for that matter evil) takes various forms which reinforce common assumptions. I don't think it's necessary to view Trump as a malignancy comparable to Hitler or even Putin, but it's also no accident (and really no shame) that some people do.

Jeffrey Goldberg, ed: The American Crisis: What Went Wrong. How We Recover. (paperback, 2020, Simon & Schuster). Fairly substantial (576 pp) collection of essays from The Atlantic, including a 165 page section called "The Age of Trump." There's a lot here, like a 2018 article by Ed Yong called "When the Next Plague Hits" which predicts that Trump won't handle it well.

John R Hibbing: The Securitarian Personality: What Really Motivates Trump's Base and Why It Matters for the Post-Trump Era (2020, Oxford University Press). Posits a slight but key difference between Trump supporters and the supporters of 1930s fascist parties Theodor Adorno characterized in The Authoritarian Personality. These Trumpists crave "protection for themselves, their families, and their dominant cultural group from these embodied outsider threats," while other threats "such as climate change, Covid-19, and economic inequality" hardly phase them at all. That doesn't sound so different to me. Both feel aggrieved, blame others, and seek to crush them and gain privileges thereby, with few qualms about violence -- indeed, many relish the prospect.

Harold Holzer: The Presidents vs the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media -- From the Founding Fathers to Fake News. By now there must be a whole shelf of books which pick a topic where Donald Trump is an extreme, unprecedented outlier, and show how the other 44 presidents had their own slightly checkered records. George Washington didn't like how the press treated him, but kept it to himself. John Adams had a much thinner skin. Theodor Roosevelt and John Kennedy were particularly adept at currying favor with reporters. Trump hasn't gone as far as Adams in banning unfavorable press, but he has weaponized the media in ways no one before imagined.

Stephen F Knott: The Lost Soul of the American Presidency: The Decline Into Demagoguery and the Prospects for Renewal (paperback, 2020, University of Kansas Press). Cover pictures George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Donald Trump. Jackson and Trump count among the demagogues, with Knott blaming Jefferson for "paving the way" toward Jackson. Knott, a professor at the US Naval War College, cites several presidents who "resisted pandering": Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, William Howard Taft -- note that two of those were unpopular single-term rejects.

Carlos Lozada: What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era (2020, Simon & Schuster): A Washington Post book critic surveys "some 150 volumes claiming to diagnose why Trump was elected and what his presidency reveals about our nation," and finds them "more defensive than incisive, more righteous than right." I'd like to see the reading list. (Publisher website mentions, without giving authors: Hillbilly Elegy [JD Vance]; On Tyranny [Timothy Snyder]; No Is Not Enough [Naomi Klein]; How to Be an Antiracist [Ibram X Kendi]; The Corrosion of Conservatism [Max Boot].)

Suzanne Mettler/Robert C Lieberman: Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy (2020, St Martin's Press): History, explores four threats ("political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power") through "five moments in history when democracy in the US was under siege: the 1790s, the Civil War [1850s], the Gilded Age [the 1890s], the Depression [1930s], and Watergate [1970s]." As they point out, the present is no less grave.

James A Morone: Republic of Wrath: How American Politics Turned Tribal From George Washington to Donald Trump (2020, Basic Books): Historian, focuses on key elections including most of the ones in Suzanne Mettler/Robert C Lieberman: Four Threats: The Recurring Crises in American History. Polarization is symptomatic of those crises, although the causes are rooted more in injustices that cannot be easily resolved. Last chapter gloms 1968-2020 together as "We Win, They Lose" -- politics as a zero-sum game. Shouldn't be like that.

Michael S Schmidt: Donald Trump V. the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President (2020, Random House): A detailed history more of the steps leading up to the special counsel appointment of Robert S Mueller than of the subsequent investigation, or the later impeachment case.

Allison Stanger: Whistleblowers: Honesty in America From Washington to Trump (2019, Yale University Press): Short book, the historical period ("From the Revolution to 9/11") a mere 106 pages but helps establish that the need to expose the secretive machinations of government isn't new with "The Internet Age" (the second, shorter part, with Edward Snowden getting his own chapter). Trump is mentioned in the title but slighted in the text: it was, after all, a "whistleblower complaint" that led to his impeachment charges, and that was just one of many, beyond the even more common leaks and efforts to halt them.

Peter Strzok: Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J Trump (2020, Houghton Mifflin): FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence, 22 years with the FBI focusing on Russian espionage threats, purged for his supposed hostility to Trump.

Kevin Sullivan/Mary Jordan: Trump on Trial: The Investigation, Impeachment, Acquittal, and Aftermath (2020, Scribner): Front cover also lists Washington Post, and a "previous books" page leads with four of the newspaper's books, followed by books by Sullivan and/or Jordan. Title page adds "Steve Luxenberg, Editor." They say journalism is the first draft of history, and that's what you get here: yesterday's yellowed papers.

Kristin B Tate: The Liberal Invasion of Red State America (2020, Regnery). Curiously, she tries to have it both ways: claiming there's an exodus from blue states because Democrats have made it too expensive to live there, but also blaming those same "refugees" for making red states purplish or even blue (Colorado and New Hampshire are examples of the latter). A serious scholar could try to refine this further, but wouldn't get her book published by Regnery.

Mary L Trump: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020, Simon & Schuster): The President's niece, daughter of his older brother Fred Jr, also flaunts her PhD in psychology, which gives her a unique angle, and an insider advantage over the other shrinks who have merely imagined Trump on their couches. It's one thing to check off the boxes on mental maladies like narcissistic personality disorder, another to locate their causes in this peculiar family dynamic.

Madeleine Westerhout: Off the Record: My Dream Job at the White House, How I Lost It, and What I Learned (2020, Center Street). Former executive assistant to Trump. Not clear what her faux pas was, but even after being fired she's still sucking up to Trump.

Tim Weiner: The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare 1945-2020 (2020, Henry Holt): Author of major books on the CIA (Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA) and the FBI (Enemies: A History of the FBI). The Cold War chapters are probably old hat, succinctly told, but I have to wonder how deep he gets into the post-Soviet era, especially US efforts to rig elections in the Ukraine, and even in Russia itself (Yeltsin was not a US puppet, but various Clinton aides worked for his election).

Andrew Weissmann: Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation (2020, Random House): Lead prosecutor under Mueller, whose unredacted report still hasn't been made public.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady (2020, Gallery Books): Former aide to Mrs. Trump, "trusted adviser," and event planner, burns a friendship going back to 2003, revealing both author and subject to be as vain and tedious as you'd expect.

Bob Woodward: Rage (2020, Simon & Schuster): The exalted court reporter's second Trump book, after 2018's Fear, burned some bridges this time, especially with his February recording of a semi-coherent understanding of the coronavirus pandemic threat even before he started minimizing the threat in public, paving the way for his incompetent management -- the only sense in which he can claim to have made America "number one."

More Trump books are briefly noted below. I'm roughly dividing this into two lists: the first is by Trump/Republican partisans, which should give you an idea of how deceitful and/or deranged they can be; the other not just by opponents, but includes academics and other writers who strive to be fair, balanced, and objective. Of course, those who succeed, and retain a shred of concern for their fellows, wind up being opponents. The top section includes some of both, but they should be easy enough to sort out from the blurbs. (If you need help, I would have filed the following under propaganda: Anton, et al.; Bartiromo; Corsi; Tate; Westerhout. Several others started out in the Trump camp, or at least counted themselves as conservatives, before developing doubts.)

Trump propaganda, briefly noted:

TM Ballantyne Jr: Trump: The First 100 Days: The Assault Intensifies (paperback, 2017, Ballantyne Books).

Allum Bokhari: #Deleted: Big Tech's Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal the Election (2020, Center Street).

Dan Bongino: Follow the Money: The Shocking Deep State Connections of the Anti-Trump Cabal (2020, Post Hill Press). [October 6]

Brian Burch: A New Catholic Moment: Donald Trump and the Politics of the Common Good (paperback, 2020, independent).

*Michael R Caputo: The Ukraine Hoax: How Decades of Corruption in the Former Soviet Republic Led to Trump's Phony Impeachment (2020, Bombardier Books).

Steve Cioccolanti: President Trump's Pro-Christian Accomplishments (paperback, 2020, Discover Media).

Dan Crenshaw: Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage (2020, Twelve): A "rising star in Republican politics."

Dinesh D'Souza: United States of Socialism: Who's Behind It. Why It's Evil. How to Stop It. (2020, All Points Books).

*Tom Fitton: A Republic Under Assault: The Left's Ongoing Attack on American Freedom (2020, Threshold Editions). [October 20]

Matt Gaetz: Firebrand: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution (2020, Bombardier Books).

*Rick Gates: Wicked Game: An Insider's Story on How Trump Won, Mueller Failed, and America Lost (2020, Post Hill Press).

Sean Hannity: Live Free or Die: American (and the World) on the Brink (2020, Threshold Editions).

Mike Huckabee/Steve Feazel: The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution (2020, Trilogy Christian Publishing).

Jerome Hudson: 50 Things They Don't Want You to Know About Trump (paperback, 2020, Harper Collins): Entertainment editor at [October 27]

Michael Knight: President Trump and the New World Order: The Ramtha Trump Prophecy (paperback, 2017, North Star).

*Fred V Lucas: Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (2020, Bombardier).

*Theodore Roosevelt Malloch/Felipe J Cuello: Trump's World: Geo Deus (2020, Humanix Books).

Matt Margolis: Airborne: How the Liberal Media Weaponized the Coronavirus Against Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, Bombardier Books).

Florance McKoy: What Donald Trump Means to America: A Black Woman Shares What God Shows Her About This 45th President of the United States (paperback, 2020, Impact Communications).

Devin Nunes: Countdown to Socialism (paperback, 2020, Encounter Books).

Candace Owens: Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape From the Democrat Plantation (2020, Threshold Editions).

Carter Page: Abuse and Power: How an Innocent American Was Framed in an Attempted Coup Against the President (2020, Regnery).

TJ Paine: Qanon Phenomenon: A Detailed Report on the "Storm" That Is About to Destroy the Deep State That Conspires Against the United States and on the "Great Awakening" That Will Make America Great Again! (paperback, 2020, independent).

Rand Paul: The Case Against Socialism (2019, Broadside Books).

Jeanine Pirro: Don't Lie to Me: And Stop Trying to Steal Our Freedom (2020, Center Street).

Joel B Pollak: Red November: Will the Country Vote Red for Trump or Red for Socialism? (2020, Center Street).

Phil Robertson: Jesus Politics: How to Win Back the Soul of America (2020, Thomas Nelson): Duck Dynasty dude.

Darrell Scott: Nothing to Lose: Unlikely Allies in the Struggle for a Better Black America (2020, Post Hill Press).

Robert Isaac Skidmore: Edge of the Abyss: The Usefulness of Antichrist Terminology in the Era of Donald Trump (2020, Chiron Publications).

Lee Smith: The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020, Center Street).

Franko Solar: The Sky Is Falling! Blame Trump: Why Democrats Want to Impeach Donald J Trump (paperback, 2020, La Maison).

Neville Teller: Trump and the Holy Land 2016-2020: The Deal of the Century (paperback, 2020, Troubador).

Cal Thomas: America's Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers . . . and the Future of the United States (paperback, 2020, Zondervan).

Donald Trump Jr: Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats' Defense of the Indefensible (2020, Donald J Trump Jr).

Harry Turtledove/James Morrow/Cat Rambo: And the Last Trump Shall Shound: A Future History of America (paperback, 2020, Caezik).

Kendall L Walker: A Biblical Evaluation of the Morals and Ethics of Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, independent).

Other Trump-related books, briefly noted. These are not necessarily useful or interesting, but aren't obviously right-wing propaganda. My earlier post included a whole section of humor/parody books, but I didn't find more of those worth noting. (Humor has been invaluable during the last 3.75 years, but I'm not feeling it at the moment.)

Daniel Allott: On the Road in Trump's America: A Journey Into the Heart of a Divided Nation (2020, Republic). [October 20]

*Christopher F Arndt: The Right's Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound: From Hayek to Trump (paperback, 2016, Bulkington Press).

*Anthony Atamanuik/Neil Casey: American Tantrum: The Donald J Trump Presidential Archives (paperback, 2019, Harper Collins): Satire.

Isaac J Bailey: Why Didn't We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland (2020, Other Press). [October 6]

Amanuel Biedemariam: The History of the USA in Eritrea: From Franklin D Roosevelt to Barack Obama and How Donald Trump Changed the Course of History (paperback, 2020,

Nina Burleigh: The Trump Women: Part of the Deal (paperback, 2020, Gallery Books).

*Geraldo Cadava: The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, From Nixon to Trump (2020, Ecco).

Zachary Callen/Philip Rocco, eds: American Political Development and the Trump Presidency (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).

SV Dáte: The Useful Idiot: How Donald Trump Killed the Republican Party With Racism and the Rest of Us With Coronavirus (paperback, 2020, independent).

*Bill Eddy: Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths: And How We Can Stop! (2019, Berrett-Koehler).

*Randolph M Feezell: The ABCs of Trump: Asshole, Bullshitter, Chauvinist, Essays on Life in Trumpworld (2020, Randolph M Feezell).

Sally Frazer: Fire & Blood, Fire & Fury: Daenerys Targaryen, Donald Trump, and the American Public's Enduring Susceptibility to Authoritarian Figures (paperback, 2020, independent).

*John Gartner: All I Ever Wanted to Know About Donald Trump I Learned From His Tweets: A Psychological Exploration of the President Via Twitter (paperback, 2017, Skyhorse).

Mark Green/Ralph Nader: Wrecking America: How Trump's Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All (paperback, 2020, Skyhorse).

*Lawrence Grossberg: Under the Cover of Chaos: Trump and the Battle for the American Right (paperback, 2018, Pluto Press).

Michael B Harrington: The Forty Year Con Game: Everything You Need to Know About Donald Trump's Threat to Democracy (paperback, 2019, Author Solutions).

Kelly Hyman: Top Ten Reasons to Dump Trump in 2020 (paperback, 2019, Strauss Consultants).

*Charlie Laderman/Brendan Simms: Donald Trump: The Making of a World View (paperback, 2017, Bloomsbury Academic).

*Yuval Levin: A Time to build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream (2020, Basic Books): AEI.

*Matt K Lewis: Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Went From the Party of Reagan to the Party of Trump (paperback, 2016, Hachette).

Janet McIntosh/Norma Mendoza-Denton, eds: Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies (paperback, 2020, Cambridge University Press).

Shannon Bow O'Brien: Donald Trump and the Kayfabe Presidency: Professional Wrestling Rhetoric in the White House

PJ O'Rourke: A Cry From the Far Middle: Dispatches From a Divided Land (2020, Atlantic Monthly Press).

Brian L Ott/Greg Dickinson: The Twitter Presidency: Donald J Trump and the Politics of White Rage (2020, Routledge).

Rodney S Patterson: Trumping the Race Card: A National Agenda, Moving Beyond Race and Racism (paperback, 2019, Learner's Group).

*Douglas E Schoen/Jessica Tarlov: America in the Age of Trump: A Bipartisan Guide (paperback, 2018, Encounter Books).

*Jennifer M Silva: We're Still Here: Pain and Politics in the Heart of America (2019, Oxford University Press).

Theda Skocpol/Caroline Tervo, eds: Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists From the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance (paperback, 2020, Oxford University Press).

Terry Silverman: 1000 Dumbest Things Donald Trump Has Said and Done (paperback, 2020, independent).

*Scott Stedman: Real News: An Investigative Reporter Uncovers the Foundations of the Trump-Russia Conspiracy (2019, Skyhorse).

Strobe Talbott: Our Founders' Warning: The Age of Reason Meets the Age of Trump (2020, Brookings Institution Press).

Tom Telcholz: The Worst President Ever: Prominent Republican and Former Trump Administration Officials Speak Out Against Trump (paperback, 2020, independent).

Barney Warf, ed: Political Landscapes of Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, Routledge). [October 29]

Tahmina Watson: Legal Heroes in the Trump Era (2020, Tahmina Watson).

*Darrell M West: Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era (2020, Brookings Institution Press).

*Alexander Zaitchik: The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump's America (2016, Hot Books).

I might as well mention my own not-yet-book, tentatively titled The Last Days of American Empire IV: Extracts From a Notebook (.odt format, and large), which covers 2017 up to last week (more forthcoming). The title seemed more obvious as I was compiling Volume I, which covers the GW Bush years, 2001-08. It was clear from his initial overreach after 9/11/2001 that Bush was going to push the American Empire past its breaking point. Indeed, that was the one point Osama Bin Laden got right in provoking America into its Global War on Terror. Nothing since then has changed my mind, so I kept the title through Obama's presidency, covered in Volume II and Volume III, although by then the rot seemed more reflected at home, in ever increasing inequality and an increasing sense of injustice. But where Obama at least seemed to recognize problems and was intent on patching them up with as little inconvenience to the rich as possible, Trump has repeatedly blown things up, stripping away any semblance of normalcy or even rational planning. Indeed, the driving motivation in chronicling the last four years as been dumbfounded wonder at how destructive a politician could be.

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