So there have been too many weekends of Book TV authors and books I discovered and reserved (we have an awesome library — they almost always have the books I want and the rare one that isn’t locally available is available through inter-library loan. But at this point, my reach has exceeded my grasp and I have to return a bunch to the library because there are holds, or they have been renewed over the usual limit, sometime over several times. But they are all so good, that it is hard to do a fast read and form an opinion. Especially when there are some particularly well-phrased lines, and elegant paragraphs worthy of annotation as well for readers to be able to get a sense of the books and the authors.
I’m a little bummed because I had made numerous notes before I realized it was more efficient to type as I read, and now I am having trouble finding the right notebooks. Even then, I will probably have some issues because I won’t be able to read my own handwriting or the notes might be too brief or out of context to have the same kind of meaning that reading and writing avails me.
So I have decided to do a page mostly listing and linking the books to Goodreads so that you might want to give them a read as well. I will check them out again, perhaps restraining myself from the 90+ currently that have built up. These are not like cozy mystery stories in terms of pacing. Often the writing is so good, it warrants re-reading, and thinking about the significance of the concepts presented. Especially in economics which was never appealing to me. But I have found that I love love love constitutional law! And the politics has been especially revealing in this a presidential year, plus the Supreme Court vacancy, and the rise of the populist movement for Bernie Sanders, which then led to reading about the political parties and while watching and participating in them seeing how broken our system is. The corruption on the good guys’ side, the Democrats, has been and will remain appalling I fear through the convention.
There is no particular order or meaning to this list, it is really by due date at the library.
Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter
by Joe Maguire (2006)
She is an uncompromising apologist for the right and a hater of all things left. Is there anything she won’t do or say to further her agenda? The answer is no. [more text on Goodreads]
I can’t resist one discussion of her argument style (p. 151):
. . . This also contributes to Ann’s ongoing “fallacy of negation,” which basically involves the attempt to discredit one position in the effort to make one’s own “correct.” As [Michael] Shermer points out in Why People Believe Weird Things, it is a “favorite tack of creationists” who “spend the majority of their time discrediting the theory of evolution so that they can argue that since evolution is wrong, creationism must be right.”
Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (2015)
Cannot resist a quick couple of paragraphs p. 175:
In fact, teachers have been found to display a clear preference for students who show less creativity. Research has shown that the creative students tend not to be favored by teachers. Judgments of a teacher’s favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity, and judgments of a teacher’s least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity. While teachers said that they liked creative students, they (somewhat bafflingly) defined creativity using terms like well-behaved and conforming. When given adjectives more typically used to describe creative people, the teachers said that they disliked these kinds of students.”
No surprise to me!
In what is now the most-watched TED talk of all time, Sir Ken Robinson argues that the problem is that from an early age, kids are being taught to fear making mistakes, but without learning to play with different solutions and ways of thinking (which will ineveitably lead to incorrect answers), they won’t be prepared for the uncertainty and the new challenges of the changing world. As Robinson puts it, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos by Karen Piper (2014, University of Minnesota Press)
Really good read for anyone interested in water issues, which have escalated now following the Flint situation and others. And the famous Nestle CEO declaring that people do not have the right to “free” water and by God, he is doing everything he can to make sure Nestle owns all the water rights in the world. The nice thing about GoodReads too is that it will give you interesting similar books. This particular title surprised me though because I have been doing theme reading on water issues for a lot of years, and yet those books did not come up on the little “you might also like” feature.
How the Government Got in Your Backyard: Superweeds, Frankenfoods, Lawn Wars, and the (Nonpartisan) Truth About Environmental Policies by Jeff Gillman and Eric Heberlig (2011)
Did not get a chance to look at it much but still think it deserves attention. Especially with the recent publicity about the dangers of Round-up and other carcinogenic perils.
The Road to Character by David Brooks (2015)
I did not get to really look at this one before I had to return but check out the GoodReads link to get a sense of why it could be interesting in trying to understand people. My reading urgency has been more focused on politics and history and fracking and clean water and other stuff that I can be an activist about rather than cerebral understanding of people, most of whom I have to believe, given the recent Republican and Democratic conventions, and the proof of what we knew the DNC was doing to crown Hillary at the expense of Bernie Sanders and therefore the country, are amoral, selfish, ambitious, and unscrupulous who do not give a damn about real people, only the game of politics and power.
Superb book, I owned the first edition but too many moves around the country meant my 3,000 collection had to be dispersed over time. Top Ten books I recommend for every women, but especially feminists to read.
Another one on the depressing spectrum because it vividly proves that the law is not the answer, and is often the cause of great and small injustices, in particular about civil rights. I highly recommending reading it though because it will forever change your world view and perhaps help you to spot and perhaps intervene to reduce or eliminate the “little murders” of the justice system.
The boundaries of her body: A Shocking History of Women’s Rights in America by Debran Rowland (2004)
Another good reality check at the real experience of women in history. A bit ironic in the title since it seems to me that women have no boundaries to their own bodies. Domestic abuse by someone who theoretically loves you is the most cruel betrayal. Rape persists in such a degree that virtually all women will have been raped or sexually coerced or sexually abused by someone in their lives. And just recently a court decided that women have no right to privacy from Peeping Toms that take “up skirt” photos of women’s bodies and post them online. Just because they can and women mostly never know it is even happening. And now that a most assuredly Republican Theocratic court has set precedent that this it LEGAL when I see it as a variation of rape, is a sure sign that women will soon have to start taking violent civil action to regain the right to their own bodies, lives, and common decency instead of being subject to street harassment. On the plus side, somewhere they made cat calling a hate crime which is absolutely what it is perceived as by most women. It invariable turns vicious if you don’t respond, so that is a pure indicator that the cat calling was never intended to be complimentary but rather was a violation of women’s boundaries and right to walk down the street without being intimidated and cursed at for failing to obey some stranger’s mandate to “smile” followed by a “who do you think you are bitch, you dress like a whore, you are a slut!”
READ EVERYTHING this man has written!
This is another great book covering just what the title says.
The Age of Anxiety: a history of America’s turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers by Andrea Tone (2009)
I did not get to do more than take a sampling reading because I ended up just not being interested enough. I got it originally in part, because of my theme reading on pharmaceuticals and the medical insurance complex. And, since I have been caring for a demented and dying mother, I had to take some anti-anxiety drugs myself. It was a puzzle to me how my mind became so unfamiliar to me, panic attacks left me somewhat outside of my body watching me do stupid stuff because I couldn’t think straight or make a decision in the state of panic I would suddenly be in. Like sitting in a shopping center parking lot and my mind buzzing with “need to go here” and “need to this” and “what is the shortest route” and so on, just paralyzed from doing anything and not being aware of say, other cars in the parking lot and so forth.
In the GoodReads it says she covers “synthetic solutions for everyday angst” but I do not recall that as being the point of the book, and I disagree strongly with the condescension of the phrase. What I experienced was NOT everyday angst. And to diminish or disparage people who experience anxiety as if they are weak-willed or making stuff up is a severely cruel thing to propose.
This is another book I used to own when it first came out. It is superb. I didn’t end up getting a chance to reread for this blog, but obviously if I can remember it having profound insights and making me rethink the world over the decades, it is a good book. Ehrenrich is great writer with stunning insight into the waves and currents of human interactions. READ ALL HER BOOKS. This one struck me in particular because as a long time feminist, even at the time, I could see that there were unintended consequences to things like the Pill. You could no longer say “no, I might get pregnant” when pressured to have sex. The sexual liberation of women did not eliminate the stigmatization of sexual active women (and still hasn’t !!!!! fucking religion). The classic, why buy the cow when you get the milk for free” actually is so accurate it hurts, but it does assume that the cow wants to be “bought” by any given man. In fact, I’m pretty sure every woman (including myself) who says she doesn’t care if she gets married or not, would prefer to get married at least once, even if it doesn’t last. Like another book I recently read, but will have to figure out which one, marriage is still THE MAN ASKS and so BEING CHOSEN gives a woman brownie points of self-esteem that a never-been married woman can never have. And given the cultural bullying and shaming about “spinsters with cats” and assumptions that as a woman you are not desirable enough to “catch” a man, this aspect of women’s inner lives has not been investigated as much as it deserves.
But this book is about the men. And from the man point of view, yes I cannot see why they would opt for a minivan and two or three (expensive) kids, when they can get all the sex they want (because women are still able to use contraception or abortion) because women also want to have sexual intimacy. The difference is, I think, that most women hope, assume, wish, and dream of a loving relationship. Men just want sex. And a Porsche.
Read for yourself how Ehrenrich approached the topic back in the day as it was and contrast it to today now that divorce is commonplace, sex is expected (undeservingly) by men from women JUST FOR BUYING THEM DINNER. The line between marriage and prostitution was always a little thin in my mind, because after all, isn’t the point of marriage (besides breeding) so that a man can have sex anytime he wants it? So how is that so much different from prostitution? You get to live in a house, maybe have a car, and maybe a decent guy with similar interests. But when the divorce comes, and it will based on statistics, you may literally get the house for services rendered for the years of your marriage. And of course, a man needs a maid. (Neil Young) But are you willing to be a housemaid and cook and chauffeur and breeder and sex partner and relationship maintainer and career supporting and tuition paying spouse for what? How much is a woman’s life worth without a man? And then in the divorce, you net $6,000? Men have a lot of good reasons not to want to marry because it can be expensive for them. Women also have lots of reasons TO want to marry, but I think that in the long run, women might be better off taking the man’s point of view, and not sacrifice themselves and their dreams, and their opportunities in deference to a man. Sure, it doesn’t always happen that way. And marriage can be great (FYI I was married 21 years in case you were wondering) and joyful and MUTUAL support is nice too. But I suspect a current review of marriage would not find women as satisfied with it as men. There have been studies that show that married men are the happiest (who wouldn’t with a caregiver, breeder, maid, and sex partner at hand), and married women the least. That is pretty telling. Men are still expected “to help” with the housework which implies it is the woman’s responsibility, so “helping” does not win any gold stars. You sweated up those clothes, put then in the washer yourself. Anyway, give it a read – you will enjoy it!
With liberty and justice for some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful by Glenn Greenwald (2011)
Good book, well written, and spot on illustrating the way the rich and powerful have to answer to no one or break the law with impunity. Meanwhile, the ticket for a broken taillight is $200 or some such, which, if you had had $200 YOU WOULD HAVE BOUGHT A NEW TAILLIGHT. The entire legal system needs a modernization and reboot, but not the kind the conservatives want. There are too many bad precedents out there and too many bad Supreme Court Rulings that have caused misery and grief for the country and there needs to be some kind of oversight or review board because of the politicization of the courts, and the legislatures, and the infiltration of corporate “persons” to twist the system in their favor, and the deliberate takeover of the theocrats to eliminate separation of church and state to gain power over all the country.
Democracy Incorporated : Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism by Sheldon S. Wolin (2008)
A really damning indictment of what America is today, and it is not good. And this election year of 2016 is illustrating that in so many terrifying ways. This is a must read book, a bit hard of a read and hard to take the truth of, but necessary to understanding the true status of the country we are instead of the idealistic one so many hoped for and fought for for the entire life of the United States. We are going backward, and fast. If I were allowed to move to another country, Australia, England, etc. I would. But I am disabled and they have universal healthcare to which I have not contributed, so I am deemed a burden on society based on my medical needs and they won’t let me in. Since this coup of corporate and theocratic conservatives are running the show, it won’t be long before the disabled are left to starve in the streets because the only person deserving of life is a wage worker for the benefit of the elite.
Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem — and what we should do about it by Noah Feldman (2005)
The Donald’s horrific pick of Mike Pence (of Periods for Pence fame) as vice president on the Republican ticket makes it even more urgent that NORMAL PEOPLE OF FAITH deny the rabid evangelicals who do not what separation of church and state. They won’t even settle for acquiring the right to “political” speech on 1st Amendment grounds, not allowed by IRS tax code and the Johnson Amendment, which is what Trump has promised to give them. They are already excessively involved in government and Scalia was the epitome of an old Catholic white man deciding based on his own personal beliefs rather than the law, what was justice.
This book at first seems to be objective in making various cases for and against religion in political life. But a close reading betrays a belief in the sincerity of their religious values, which I do not see as Christian but rather as Theocratic Authoritarianism. NO MATTER HOW SINCERE or not those beliefs may be, they are NOT mine nor should I be subject to them, even to debate with them because they are dogmatic and intransigent in their beliefs based on thousands of years old words written by ignorant and superstitious men. I have a deeply held sincere belief that NO RELIGION should determine my civil rights, nor should the state I live in, nor should someone else’s belief of rightness or wrongness of something I might do based on their peculiar religious beliefs. Remember back in the day when the entire fucking country ate FISH ON FRIDAY because the Bible said something about not eating meat on Fridays. I don’t recall the rationale, if there was one. but it could be that they didn’t have enough meat to go around, so this was one way to extend resources. And the much mocked imprecation against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fibers, or the highly Orthodox Jewish traditions of not having dairy touch meat or some such because something about the cows producing the milk. I don’t recall and am too lazy to Google. And I am NOT DISPARAGING THEIR BELIEFS. I am just saying they are not mine and I should not be compelled to live under their biblical injunctions while living in a secular country.
(pp. 224-226) are especially troubling to me because the text seems to imply that religious beliefs should not be excluded from political discourse and only allow secular beliefs. “The usual answer made by legal secularists is that religious perspectives are not subject to REASONABLE DISAGREEMENT, whereas secular beliefs, even when they are foundational, can always be questioned, challenged, and investigated. I might change my secular foundational beliefs as a result of the conversation, but my religious beliefs will be unshakable. Legal secularists who are in this vein like to say that religion is a “conversation stopper.” In a political system that relies on debate, not force, to resolve controversial questions, stopping conversation is [“] imagined [“] to be just about the worse thing you can do.
The author goes on to describe aspects of this, citing abortion as a for instance, but the writing is so extremely rational and objective, that one cannot imagine the author actually experiencing direct confrontation with the screamers outside of Planned Parenthood. He wrongly comes to the conclusion that maintaining the separation of political speech from religious speech is “misplaced” as a concern. I regard it as a direct and very hostile action to suppress free speech, free thinking, and my civil rights. Theocrats are ABSOLUTISTS and WILL NOT ACCEPT any view, secular or divergent from their religious myths (Creationism, wold only 6,000 years old, dinosaurs and humans alive concurrently). To let religious speech into secular society’s political dialogue is as good as killing humanism and alternative viewpoints outright. Count how many times you hear “oh my god” throughout a day. You could be beheaded for that in Saudi Arabia. If we treat irrational mythological beliefs as equal to reality facts to make political decisions, then we are doomed.
He obviously does not grasp the fervor of the evangelical true believers because he thinks that they would be open to changing their beliefs! (p. 244)
We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics by Neil J. Young (2015)
Please see the link for information. I remember reading it and learning a lot about the rise of the theological driven political movement, but did not make notes enough at the time for details. Worth reading to understand our world even if the author makes conclusions I do not agree with (like how deliberate and consciously planned the evangelical takeover has been).