Sadly, I failed miserably this week to crank out a brief review or two. Nevertheless, I’m confident you’ll start seeing some new posts before you know it. But until then, here’s yet another preview post to tide you over.
How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt – Everywhere one looks, from Eastern Europe to Latin America to these United States democracy looks besieged. Here’s how it happened and what we can do to reverse the trend.
Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam by Robert Dreyfuss – Remember, it wasn’t that long ago left-leaning, secularist ideologies like Communism, Pan-Arabism and Palestinian nationalism were the rage throughout the Arab and Muslim world and threatened to overthrow the status quo. In response the United States and, to a lesser degree Great Britain turned to Islamist groups or Islamic-oriented regimes like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to stem their rising tides.
The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray – The second of my 20 Books of Summer. This one might have been a slight disappointment, but first let me reflect upon Murray’s words before I make my final pronouncement.
Well, it’s officially summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. I’m happy to report we’ve had some nice weather of late and that’s made it easier to read outside, be it at the park, on my porch or hanging out on the outdoor patio at my local watering hole. Once again I’m behind in my blogging but at least I’ve been a productive reader. Below are three books, of which one is fiction. All three are historical in nature. Two out of the three deal with the Holocaust and one covers the early Cold War period.
Even though I’ve emerged from my blogging slump there’s still a lot of work left to be done. So, until I can crank out a post or two or three, here’s three more coming attractions. Just like the books in my earlier post, all three are works of nonfiction courtesy of my local public library.
Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance–and Why They Fall by Amy Chua – When most people think of Amy Chua, they associate her with from her controversial best-seller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother but I discovered Chua in 2016 when I read her 2014 book The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.While reading it, Day of Empire didn’t hugely impress me. However, after finishing it Chua’s book keeps growing on me. And that’s a never a bad sign.
The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe by Marci Shore – Since I love reading stuff on Eastern Europe I couldn’t resist grabbing this one. While I can’t call her 2013 effort uneven, there are parts of her book I enjoyed and other parts I did not. The Taste of Ashes nevertheless is sophisticated and detailed. This thinking person’s guide to Eastern Europe did not leave me disappointed.
Seminary Boy by John Cornwell – Considering my fondness for religious memoirs it was a no-brainer I’d grab this one sooner or later after seeing it on the library shelf. Cornwell recalls his childhood growing up in a poor Anglo-Irish home and the time he spent in a British minor seminary (a kind of Catholic boarding school to prepare boys for the priesthood) and the many struggles and relationships he experienced along the way.
Well, I think I might be out of my blogging slump. Be that as it may, I keep finishing books and that of course means I keep falling behind in my blogging. So, until I can crank out new posts, here’s three more coming attractions to hold you over. As you can see they’re all works of nonfiction. I’m happy to report I enjoyed all three books.
A Secret Life: The Polish Colonel, His Covert Mission, And The Price He Paid To Save His Country by Benjamin Weiser – Yet another excellent book I discovered thanks to my local public library. I love stuff like this dealing with the 70 and 80s Cold War.
The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin by David Satter – Freaky scary exposé of domestic black ops in post-Soviet Russia.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann – I love when a book lives up to all the hype. Murder, mayhem, corruption, racism, and old-school gumshoe detective work. There’s a good chance this one makes my year-end Best Nonfiction List. Damn near impossible to put down!
Most book bloggers love a good reading challenge and I’m no exception. Last week thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Jean at Howling Frog Books I learned Cathy, of 746 Books is hosting her annual 20 Books of Summer Challenge. The rules are simple and there’s no pressure. Just choose 20 books to read between June 1 and September 3. Nothing is set in stone. You can swap out a book for different one, skip a book or two or even fail to read all the books on your list. You can even cut your list down to 10 or 15. This sounds like a reading challenge I can’t pass up. I’ve selected 21 books, which includes an alternate in case I end up tossing one aside. Truth be told, I’d love nothing better than to read all 21 of these before the end of summer.
- A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment by Philipp Bloom
- The Enlightenment: An interpretation; The Rise of Modern Paganism by Peter Gay
- The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand
- Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football by Jim Dent
- Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel Dennett
- Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
- The Knowledge Web: From Electronic Agents to Stonehenge and Back — And Other Journeys Through Knowledge by James Burke
- A History of Western Morals by Crane Brinton
- The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery by Richard Elliott Friedman
- God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright
- The Evolution of God by Robert Wright
- Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson
- The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View by Richard Tarnas
- The Case for God by Karen Armstrong
- Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative by David Brock
- The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor by David S. Landes
- The Story of Judaism by Bernard Bamberger
- The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray
- When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry by Gal Beckerman
I’m going to try to work my way out of my current blogging slump by doing yet another Coming Attractions post. Good grief, if I can’t write about books perhaps I can remind the world I’m still reading. Who knows, maybe this will inspire me to finally get off my butt and do a little blogging!
Sex, Time, and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution by Leonard Shlain – I’ve been wanting to read Shlain’s 2004 book for well over a decade but after hearing my brother-in-law rave about it over a couple of beers at a local watering hole a few weeks back I took his advice and borrowed a copy from my public library. While I’m still weighing the pros and cons of this readable and thought-provoking book let’s just say after waiting so many years to finally read it I was not disappointed.
The Invisible Arab: The Promise and Peril of the Arab Revolutions by Marwan Bishara – I kept seeing Bishara’s book at the public library but never grabbed it. Then one day my curiosity got the better of me and I secured a copy. Bishara, chief policy analyst of Al Jazeera English and the anchor of the program “Empire,” looks at the state of the Arab World, chiefly through the lens of the Arab Spring. I didn’t enjoy The Invisible Arab as much as I’d hoped but nevertheless Bishara taught me more than a thing or two.
Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics by Lawrence O’Donnell – From one cable TV news host to another. Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” has written a superb book chronicling the 1968 Presidential Election and above all its lasting importance. Not only am I confident Playing with Fire will make my year-end Best Nonfiction List there’s a good chance it might end up my favorite piece of nonfiction for 2018.
The bad news is I’ve been in a bit of a blogging slump. The good news is, even though I haven’t been posting, I’ve been reading some excellent books. As you can see, I’ve been hitting the nonfiction stuff pretty hard of late. As far as subject matter goes, it’s a diverse lot, covering science, history, memoir and politics.
Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures by Bill Schutt – A friend recommended this a few years ago and I finally got around to reading it. Imagine the science writing of David Quammen and Carl Zimmer with a dash of Bill Bryson’s humor.
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos – Not only did this win the National Book Award, it was also a Pulitzer Prize Finalist and an Economist Best Book of the Year. And yes, it deserves all the hype.
Fleeing Fundamentalism: A Minister’s Wife Examines Faith by Carlene Cross – After seeing this one of the library shelf over the last couple of years my curiosity finally got the better of me so I borrowed a copy. I was not disappointed.
Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism by Ian Bremmer- One of a handful of “thought leaders” I follow. I’ve been a fan of Bremmer ever since I saw his interview on The Charlie Rose Show eight years ago.
An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler by Peter Fritzsche – An outstanding look at life in Nazi occupied Europe based on first hand accounts like letters and diaries. Right now this book is a strong candidate for my favorite nonfiction book of 2018.
God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson – This book sat ignored and unread in my private library for far too long. Glad I finally got around to reading it.
Not only are these excellent books there’s a good chance most or even all of them will make my year-end Best Nonfiction List. Hopefully soon I’ll break out of my blogging slump and start writing about these six outstanding works of nonfiction.