On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder (Pb $4.99, Kndl $3.99) 128 pp

I put this in because it’s a short book, and because I just found a series of very interesting videos by the author.  The first of four is at this link.  Highly recommended by me. — rls

tyrannyAmazon: The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.  Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

 

Leave a Comment

The Charterhouse of Parma

The Charterhouse of Parma, by Maurice Stendahl (Pb $11.27, Kndl $0.00) 566 pp

This is a book, a classic, I’ve had in paperback for several years, intending to read, but never getting started.  Just discovered it is free on Kindle. — rls

CharterAmazon: Headstrong and naïve, the young Italian aristocrat Fabrizio del Dongo is determined to defy the wrath of his right-wing father and go to war to fight for Napoleon. He stumbles on the Battle of Waterloo, ill-prepared, yet filled with enthusiasm for war and glory. Finally heeding advice, Fabrizio sneaks back to Milan, only to become embroiled in a series of amorous exploits, fuelled by his impetuous nature and the political chicanery of his aunt Gina and her wily lover. Judged by Balzac to be the most important French novel of its time, The Charterhouse of Parma is a compelling novel of extravagance and daring, blending the intrigues of the Italian court with the romance and excitement of youth.

Leave a Comment

The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View

The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View, by Tim Crane (Hb $24.95, Kndl $14.72) 224 pp

MeaningAmazon: Contemporary debate about religion seems to be going nowhere. Atheists persist with their arguments, many plausible and some unanswerable, but these make no impact on religious believers. Defenders of religion find atheists equally unwilling to cede ground. The Meaning of Belief offers a way out of this stalemate.

An atheist himself, Tim Crane writes that there is a fundamental flaw with most atheists’ basic approach: religion is not what they think it is. Atheists tend to treat religion as a kind of primitive cosmology, as the sort of explanation of the universe that science offers. They conclude that religious believers are irrational, superstitious, and bigoted. But this view of religion is almost entirely inaccurate. Crane offers an alternative account based on two ideas. The first is the idea of a religious impulse: the sense people have of something transcending the world of ordinary experience, even if it cannot be explicitly articulated. The second is the idea of identification: the fact that religion involves belonging to a specific social group and participating in practices that reinforce the bonds of belonging. Once these ideas are properly understood, the inadequacy of atheists’ conventional conception of religion emerges.

The Meaning of Belief does not assess the truth or falsehood of religion. Rather, it looks at the meaning of religious belief and offers a way of understanding it that both makes sense of current debate and also suggests what more intellectually responsible and practically effective attitudes atheists might take to the phenomenon of religion.

Leave a Comment

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, by Andres Resendez (Hb $9.95, Kndl $9.99)  448 pp

SlaveryAmazon:  A landmark history — the sweeping story of the enslavement of tens of thousands of Indians across America, from the time of the conquistadors up to the early 20th century

Since the time of Columbus, Indian slavery was illegal in much of the American continent. Yet, as Andrés Reséndez illuminates in his myth-shattering The Other Slavery, it was practiced for centuries as an open secret. There was no abolitionist movement to protect the tens of thousands of natives who were kidnapped and enslaved by the conquistadors, then forced to descend into the “mouth of hell” of eighteenth-century silver mines or, later, made to serve as domestics for Mormon settlers and rich Anglos.

Reséndez builds the incisive case that it was mass slavery, more than epidemics, that decimated Indian populations across North America. New evidence, including testimonies of courageous priests, rapacious merchants, Indian captives, and Anglo colonists, sheds light too on Indian enslavement of other Indians — as what started as a European business passed into the hands of indigenous operators and spread like wildfire across vast tracts of the American Southwest.

The Other Slavery reveals nothing less than a key missing piece of American history.  For over two centuries we have fought over, abolished, and tried to come to grips with African-American slavery.  It is time for the West to confront an entirely separate, equally devastating enslavement we have long failed truly to see

Leave a Comment

An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873

An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873, by Benjamin Madley (Hb $30.74, Kndl $18.81)  712 pp

GenocideAmazon: The first full account of the government-sanctioned genocide of California Indians under United States rule

Between 1846 and 1873, California’s Indian population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000. Benjamin Madley is the first historian to uncover the full extent of the slaughter, the involvement of state and federal officials, the taxpayer dollars that supported the violence, indigenous resistance, who did the killing, and why the killings ended. This deeply researched book is a comprehensive and chilling history of an American genocide.

Madley describes pre-contact California and precursors to the genocide before explaining how the Gold Rush stirred vigilante violence against California Indians. He narrates the rise of a state-sanctioned killing machine and the broad societal, judicial, and political support for genocide. Many participated: vigilantes, volunteer state militiamen, U.S. Army soldiers, U.S. congressmen, California governors, and others. The state and federal governments spent at least $1,700,000 on campaigns against California Indians. Besides evaluating government officials’ culpability, Madley considers why the slaughter constituted genocide and how other possible genocides within and beyond the Americas might be investigated using the methods presented in this groundbreaking book.

Leave a Comment

Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South

GoatGoat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South, by Karen L Cox (Hb $17.61, Kndl $9.99)

Amazon: In 1932, the city of Natchez, Mississippi, reckoned with an unexpected influx of journalists and tourists as the lurid story of a local murder was splashed across headlines nationwide. Two eccentrics, Richard Dana and Octavia Dockery—known in the press as the “Wild Man” and the “Goat Woman”—enlisted an African American man named George Pearls to rob their reclusive neighbor, Jennie Merrill, at her estate. During the attempted robbery, Merrill was shot and killed. The crime drew national coverage when it came to light that Dana and Dockery, the alleged murderers, shared their huge, decaying antebellum mansion with their goats and other livestock, which prompted journalists to call the estate “Goat Castle.” Pearls was killed by an Arkansas policeman in an unrelated incident before he could face trial. However, as was all too typical in the Jim Crow South, the white community demanded “justice,” and an innocent black woman named Emily Burns was ultimately sent to prison for the murder of Merrill. Dana and Dockery not only avoided punishment but also lived to profit from the notoriety of the murder by opening their derelict home to tourists.

Strange, fascinating, and sobering, Goat Castle tells the story of this local feud, killing, investigation, and trial, showing how a true crime tale of fallen southern grandeur and murder obscured an all too familiar story of racial injustice.

Leave a Comment

Blood Dark

Blood Dark, by Louis Guilloux (Pb $12.76, Kndl $15.99)

BloodDarkAmazon: Set during World War I, this monumental philosophical novel about human despair inspired Albert Camus’ own writing and prefigured the greater existential movement.

Blood Dark tells the story of a brilliant philosopher trapped in a provincial town and of his spiraling descent into self-destruction. Cripure, as his students call him—the name a mocking contraction of Critique of Pure Reason—despises his colleagues, despairs of his charges, and is at odds with his family. The year is 1917, and the slaughter of the First World War goes on and on, with French soldiers not only dying in droves but also beginning to rise up in protest. Still haunted by the memory of the wife who left him long ago, Cripure turns his fury and scathing wit on everyone around him. Before he knows it, a trivial dispute with a complacently patriotic colleague has embroiled him in a duel.

Leave a Comment

The Ordinary Virtues

The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World, by Michael Ignatieff (Hb $20.36, Kndl $15.37)

virtueAmazon: What moral values do human beings hold in common? As globalization draws us together economically, are our values converging or diverging? In particular, are human rights becoming a global ethic? These were the questions that led Michael Ignatieff to embark on a three-year, eight-nation journey in search of answers. The Ordinary Virtues presents Ignatieff’s discoveries and his interpretation of what globalization―and resistance to it―is doing to our conscience and our moral understanding.

Through dialogues with favela dwellers in Brazil, South Africans and Zimbabweans living in shacks, Japanese farmers, gang leaders in Los Angeles, and monks in Myanmar, Ignatieff found that while human rights may be the language of states and liberal elites, the moral language that resonates with most people is that of everyday virtues: tolerance, forgiveness, trust, and resilience. These ordinary virtues are the moral operating system in global cities and obscure shantytowns alike, the glue that makes the multicultural experiment work. Ignatieff seeks to understand the moral structure and psychology of these core values, which privilege the local over the universal, and citizens’ claims over those of strangers.

Ordinary virtues, he concludes, are antitheoretical and anti-ideological. They can be cheerfully inconsistent. When order breaks down and conflicts break out, they are easily exploited for a politics of fear and exclusion―reserved for one’s own group and denied to others. But they are also the key to healing, reconciliation, and solidarity on both a local and a global scale.

Leave a Comment

Madonna in a Fur Coat

Madonna in a Fur Coat, by SabahattMadonnain Ali

Amazon: Available in English for the first time, this best-selling Turkish classic of love and alienation in a changing world captures the vibrancy of interwar Berlin.
 
A shy young man leaves his home in rural Turkey to learn a trade and discover life in 1920s Berlin. There, amidst the city’s bustling streets, elegant museums, passionate politics, and infamous cabarets, a chance meeting with a beautiful half-Jewish artist transforms him forever. Caught between his desire for freedom from tradition and his yearning to belong, he struggles to hold on to the new life he has found with the woman he loves.

Emotionally powerful, intensely atmospheric, and touchingly profound, Madonna in a Fur Coat is an unforgettable novel about new beginnings, the relentless pull of family ties, and the unfathomable nature of the human soul. First published in 1943, this novel, with its quiet yet insistent defiance of social norms, has been topping best-seller lists in Turkey since 2013.

Leave a Comment

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen (Hb $16.80, Kndl !4.99)

 

Amazon: WINNER OF THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION

GessenNAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2017 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEWLOS ANGELES TIMESWASHINGTON POST, AND NEWSWEEK

The essential journalist and bestselling biographer of Vladimir Putin reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy.

Award-winning journalist Masha Gessen’s understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled. In The Future Is History, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own–as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings.

Gessen charts their paths against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all, and against the war it waged on understanding itself, which ensured the unobstructed reemergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today’s terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state. Powerful and urgent, The Future Is History is a cautionary tale for our time and for all time.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »