REVIEW: Before fleeing in horror from a book about numbers and mathematics, take a moment to consider the humor of Charles Wheelan’s “Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data” (ISBN: 978-0-393-34777-7). Odds are you’ll enjoy it. Well, at least sixty or seventy percent of it.
Book Reviews of new and interesting books
Book Review: Supreme Injustice in ‘Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable’
REVIEW: Demonstrating how the malignancy known as Conservatism has repeatedly poisoned the Supreme Court of the United States, “Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted” by Ian Millhiser (ISBN: 9781568584560) is detailed, horrific, and important.
REVIEW: Barton Swaim has done what every writer secretly longs to do: publish the unvarnished reality about his jerk employer. Too short to be called a tell-all, ‘The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics’ (ISBN: 9781476769929) is an interesting portrait of a stupid and disgusting Republican politician (as if there’s any other kind).
REVIEW: Richard Nixon embodied nearly everything that is evil about Conservatives, and then he added alcoholism and paranoia to the mix. In Tim Weiner’s ‘One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon’ (ISBN: 9781627790833), the revelations from Nixon’s recently-released secret tapes go beyond the deceitfulness we already knew about Tricky Dick.
Robotics, politics, and economics — they’re coming to take your job. That’s just one warning in “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future” (ISBN: 9780465059997), Martin Ford’s quietly frightening book that’s actually more about economics than robotics.
REVIEW: It may sound like baby-talk but Dada was a controversial art movement that flared up during World War I and insisted on taking unconventionality to new heights. “Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century” (ISBN: 9780465089963) by Jed Rasula presents a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of Dadaists as they attempted to forever alter art and literature.
REVIEW: Making things go ‘boom’ is just one result of the incredible journey of the scientists working with Ernest O. Lawrence. His besmirch and destruction lairs — oops, I mean research and development facilities — shaped our modern age. Michael Hiltzik takes you up close and personal with the people of “Big Science” (ISBN: 9781451675757) who put us on the road to dealing with the dreaded military-industrial complex.
BOOK REVIEW: If humanity keeps on its present course, the result may well be “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” (ISBN: 9781250062185). Elizabeth Kolbert’s writing is delightful even as her book documents a doomsday scenario.
REVIEW: Chuckles, chortles, grins, guffaws and belly laughs. You’ll find all that and more in ‘The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America’ (ISBN: 9780060920081), a wonderfully observant and politically incorrect book from Bill Bryson.
REVIEW: With two million copies sold, Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States’ (ISBN: 9780060838652) is possibly the most successful history book in, well, history. It is also riveting, sobering, and valuable. While decent Americans admire it, RWNJs loathe it.
BOOK REVIEW: While it’s aimed at policy wonks instead of the normal reading public, “We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money” (ISBN: 9780199332243) by Edward D. Kleinbard contains much that could help the USA live up to our repeated claims of being the greatest nation in the world.
BOOK REVIEW: From a force for good to today’s evil incarnate, the Republican Party has had its rare ups and insidious downs before arriving at their current position as supporters of gridlock, corporatism, oligarchy, and all things anti-humane. In “To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party” (ISBN: 9780465024315) the whole sordid story of the GOP is told by Heather Cox Richardson in lightning-fast segments.
Book Review: Tons of ‘Corruption in America’ – venality has been in bloodstream of politicians since founding
REVIEW: Zephyr Teachout believes that venality has been on the minds and in the bloodstream of politicians since the founding of the nation. In “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United” (ISBN: 9780674050402) she makes the case and provides some possible resolutions to the problem.
REVIEW: How often do you look forward to reading about science and history? Bill Bryson makes learning enjoyable in ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ (ISBN: 978-0-307-88515-9) now available in an illustrated edition. Why can’t textbooks be this delightful and fascinating?
REVIEW: Naomi Klein writes passionately and persuasively in her new book, ‘This Changes Everything’ (ISBN: 9781451697384). It will anger you, scare you, throw you for a loop, and ultimately uplift you.
REVIEW: A strange saga filled to the brim with fear and loathing, Rick Perlstein’s ‘The Invisible Bridge’ documents the point in US history where the rightwing began to team up with corporations, racists, and morons to begin systematically destroying this nation. Subtitled ‘The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,’ the book (ISBN: 978-1-4767-8241-6) is a well-written chill ride full of ominous shudders.
REVIEW (by John Scott G): Stacks of facts tumble over each other in the second edition of ‘What You Should Know About Politics…But Don’t” (ISBN-13: 9781611454758) by Jessamyn Conrad, and it would be an incredibly valuable book if it contained an index. Still, this is a fairly handy reference guide despite some notable lapses into placating the odious conservative fringe.
REVIEW (by John Scott G): Economics professor Richard Wolff regularly raises eyebrows with his clear-eyed explication of the many advantages of Marxism. Now, in “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism” (ISBN 9781608462476), he makes the case for curing some of capitalism’s ills via Workers’ Self-Directed Enterprises.
REVIEW (by John Scott G) : The U.S. is drowning in laws, laws, and more laws. So says Philip K. Howard in his fast-paced “The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government” (ISBN-13: 978-0-393-08282-1). He calls for some common sense changes of attitude and makes a good case for constitutional amendments as part of the cure.
REVIEW: Humanity triumphs on every page of Elizabeth Warren’s “A Fighting Chance” (ISBN: 9781627790529). Her life story is inspirational but it’s her goals — fairness, a level playing field, justice — that are crucial to our country’s future.
REVIEW: Glenn Greenwald’s excellent “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State” (ISBN: 9781627790734) is not only about Edward Snowden and the NSA; it’s also about power. Who gets to watch you? Who gets to know your life’s decisions? Who gets to monitor your activities? And who is watching the watchers?
REVIEW: With an eye-catching title, Elijah Wald’s “How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music” (ISBN: 9780199756971) is an off-kilter look at the progression of music from ragtime to rock to rap, with lots of insights on swing, jazz, folk, and blues. Consistently interesting and fun to read, the book pays special attention to what the media and the American mindset have done to influence the music we hear today.
REVIEW: Peter Schuck’s “Why Government Fails So Often: And How it Can do Better” (ISBN: 9780691161624) takes 30 pages of brilliant observation and crams it into 412 pages of text. His combination of garrulousness and impenetrable language makes it a very long and extensive and extended and elongated and lengthy and protracted and time-consuming and boring read.
BOOK REVIEW: Peeling back the thick tapestries of privacy shielding the odious Koch brothers, Daniel Schulman’s “Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty” (ISBN: 9781455518739) is consistently compelling and a good read. There’s a lot here: the Koch’s anti-American politics, their disgusting waste of personal wealth, their in-fighting and lawsuits, their dysfunctional family life, and their attitude of total warfare against people in the middle class.
BOOK REVIEW: Spies! Treachery! Deception! Camels! With an eye for detail and a love of intrigue, Scott Anderson plunks you down in the desert for ‘Lawrence in Arabia’ (ISBN-13: 978-0385532921). The author unleashes a rip-snortin’ tale that ultimately reveals a lot of the backstory on the muddle that is today’s Middle East.
BOOK REVIEW: When you die, what happens? Lots of folks are attempting to make money by demonstrating they have the answer, but there’s this teeny-tiny thing called facts getting in their way. Mary Roach finds humor in every bone-chilling moment of her investigation.
The dozen essays in “Jazz/Not Jazz” all tend to pick, poke, and prod the meaning of the term and the elastic nature of the genre. Which is good, but the book is often academic in the extreme and often turns into a snooze-a-palooza. After trying for years to interest friends in jazz, it must be […]