Nonfiction Views: The dumpster of books, plus this week’s new nonfiction
Good evening, everyone. A little information about how the websites of indie bookstores like my Literate Lizard work, particularly the many who run on the American Booksellers Association’s IndieCommerce ecommerce platform. The book covers, the publisher description and the review quotes you see from any book you browse are pulled from the database of Ingram Book Distribution, the largest book distributor in the United States.
In the original version of the ABA’s IndieCommerce simply pulled the descriptions over. But as you may know, this past summer I upgraded The Literate Lizard to the new IndieCommerce 2.0 platform, which allows you to do so many more creative ways to personalize the website.
I generally don’t believe in censorship or in refusing to sell books. I think there is only one book I withdrew from sale on the old site, and I can’t even remember what book it was. But this allows me to have the book available for sale, but also to add to the description and mock the book and its author. I’ve been considering doubling the list price of such books to discourage people from ordering them from me.
Even though the page itself isn’t live, the link above is the actual URL, so you can visit the page as I work on it. And the two books already have the descriptions visible to anyone who happens to browse them.
Here’s a screenshot of my addition to the Ted Cruz book description:
The text says:
WHAT THE LITERATE LIZARD THINKS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Ted ‘Cancun’ Cruz thinks he’s burnishing his political reputation by jumping on the anti-Woke bandwagon, but he’s really just highlighting his cluelessness and ineffectiveness. The woke bandwagon has already past, with voters rolling their eyes at politicians spouting the nonsense Cruz bleats in this waste of paper and ink, and then voting against them.
Why would anyone care what Ted Cruz thinks? He’s the guy who blocked a bipartisan Senate resolution commemorating Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death. The guy who was recorded making jokes about Biden the night before the funeral of Biden’s son Beau. The guy who sucked up to Donald Trump after Trump on national television called his wife ugly and his father a Kennedy assassination co-conspirator. The man who tried to sneak off to a Cancun vacation when frigid temperatures broke the Texas power grid and left millions of his constituents without power. If that represents the behavior of idiots like Cruz who squawk about how terrible ‘wokeness’ is, I’ll stay awake, thank you. Hey Ted, if you hate wokeness so much, why don’t you just go back to bed, and leave the work of making the world a better place to those who care enough to actually do the work.
Hey, we’re all for reading the important documents of United States history, but we most decidedly do NOT want to read them interspersed by commentary from the likes of Gregg Jarrett. Jarret has called the Grand Jury system an “undemocratic farce.” I guess he missed the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which establishes the Grand Jury system. Why does Jarrett think Grand Juries are undemocratic? Because sometimes they dare to indict for criminal behavior people he likes, which is about as undemocratic an attitude as you can get. He has called the FBI “America’s secret police,” again, because they dare to investigate criminal behavior by people he supports. He has claimed that there is nothing wrong with colluding with a foreign government in an election, while actual Constitutional and legal scholars have cited at least four laws which such behavior breaks.
The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire, by Tim Schwab. Through his vaunted philanthropy, Bill Gates transformed himself from a tech villain into one of the most admired people on the planet. But as Tim Schwab shows in this fearless investigation, Gates is still exactly who he was at Microsoft: a bully and monopolist, convinced of his own righteousness and intent on imposing his ideas, his solutions, and his leadership on everyone else. “Tim Schwab follows the money to expose what happens when one man—however intelligent or well-intentioned—amasses so much wealth and so much power, he can literally dictate to governments around the world. With great skill—and given the range of Bill Gates’s influence, considerable courage—Schwab pulls back the curtain to deliver a classic of muckraking journalism.” —D. D. Guttenplan, editor, The Nation. “Tim Schwab has written the definitive critique of Bill Gates as bully-philanthropist. Schwab uses the case of Gates to tell a compelling and carefully researched story that raises disturbing questions about the lack of accountability of power-philanthropy.” —Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor, The American Prospect
America’s Black Capital: How African Americans Remade Atlanta in the Shadow of the Confederacy, by Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar. The remarkable story of how African Americans transformed Atlanta, the former heart of the Confederacy, into today’s Black mecca. “Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar’s America’s Black Capital is a towering achievement. It powerfully captures the dynamism of Black politics in Atlanta—in great depth and sheer brilliance. This remarkable book is an inspiring work of history in which Black people take center stage as the key architects of their own destiny.” —Keisha N. Blain
Equality: The History of an Elusive Idea, by Darrin M. McMahon. “McMahon’s Equality is a magisterial and path-breaking history of the dialectic of equality and inequality, which has always been and remains today indispensable to understand the history of humanity. The author’s fine-tuned analysis demonstrates that equality-thoughts are always ambiguous and polysemic. Concepts of equality can be deployed to enlarge the community of equals but also to exclude categories of people from equality. McMahon’s history of equality runs from the palaeolithic hunter-gatherers to the present time, taking in the interaction of status, class, gender, and race. The concluding essay, fittingly named ‘The Crisis of Equality,’ discusses the struggles for and against equality in our time.”—Siep Stuurman
We Are Your Soldiers: How Gamal Abdel Nasser Remade the Arab World, by Alex Rowell. Gamal Abdel Nasser, the larger-than-life Egyptian president who ruled for eighteen years between the coup d’état he led in 1952 and his death in 1970, is best known for wresting the Suez Canal from the British and French empires and befriending such iconic revolutionaries as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Yet there is a darker side to Nasser’s regime. He was a brutal authoritarian, whose legacy, Alex Rowell argues, lies at the heart of the violent and repressive order that still prevails throughout the Arab world today. Drawing on a deep reading of Arabic sources, extensive interviews, and material never before published in English, Rowell offers a necessary reexamination of Nasser’s rule and a new understanding of the politics of the Middle East.
The Handover: How We Gave Control of Our Lives to Corporations, States and AIs, by David Runciman. Countless books, news reports, and opinion pieces have announced the impending arrival of artificial intelligence, with most claiming that it will upend our world, revolutionizing not just work but society overall. Yet according to political philosopher and historian David Runciman, we’ve actually been living with a version of AI for 300 years because states and corporations are can be considered a form of robots, too. From the United States and the United Kingdom to the East India Company, Standard Oil, Facebook, and Alibaba, states and corporations have gradually, and then much more rapidly, taken over the planet. They have helped to conquer poverty and eliminate disease, but also unleashed global wars and environmental degradation. As Runciman demonstrates, states and corporations are the ultimate decision-making machines, defined by their ability to make their own choices and, crucially, to sustain the consequences of what has been chosen.
Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy, by Brian Stelter. Trump couldn’t have convinced millions of Americans of the Big Lie without Fox News. From the moment Joe Biden became president-elect in 2020, Fox hosts fueled a fire of misinformation and violence by spreading Trump’s tales of election fraud and suppressing the truth. Now the 2020 lies are at the center of numerous indictments and his reelection campaign, but Trump is not the only one under fire. The once-untouchable Rupert Murdoch has been held accountable. Dominion’s legal war, chronicled in-depth for the first time here, revealed that the ninety-two-year-old Fox chairman knew Trump’s lies were dangerous but he allowed the lies to fill Fox’s airwaves because, as his “pain sponge” Suzanne Scott admitted, telling the truth was “bad for business.” Network of Lies goes inside the chat rooms, board rooms, and court rooms where the pro-Trump media’s greed and selfishness were exposed.
Einstein in Time and Space: A Life in 99 Particles, by Samuel Graydon. Einstein’s name is synonymous with “genius” and his likeness is often used as a shorthand for all scientists, appearing everywhere from cartoons to textbooks. He has become more myth than man. That being the case, how best to capture his essence?
In Einstein in Time and Space, talented young science journalist Samuel Graydon answers that question with an illuminating mosaic—99 intriguingly different particles that cumulatively reveal Einstein’s contradictory and multitudinous nature. Glimpsed among these shards: a slacker who failed every subject but math, a job seeker who couldn’t get hired, a lothario who courted many women, and a charmer who was the life of the party. As brilliant as he was inconsistent, Einstein was simultaneously an avid supporter of the NAACP and the fight for civil rights and someone capable of great prejudice. Graydon reveals every corner of Einstein’s world: the false reporting that rocketed Einstein to fame nearly overnight, his effect on people he met merely in passing, even the remarkable posthumous journey of the famed physicist’s brain.
American Confidential: Uncovering the Bizarre Story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his Mother, by Deanne Stillman. American Confidential is a mother-son noir tale that plays out across the Wild West of mid-twentieth century America, delving into Oswald’s nomadic boyhood, and the world of his restless and disillusioned mother, who passed along a legacy of class resentment and a clamorous need to matter. In this new and surprising investigation into the short, troubled life of the ordinary man who would take down an American king, Deanne Stillman also presents a fascinating portrait of Oswald as a predecessor of the many violent young men and boys of America today, who take selfies with their rifles, and have come to define a new era of brutality.
After Eden: A Short History of the World, by John Charles Chasteen. A concise history of the world, in which the author explores the origins and persistence of the timeless phenomena of humanity’s inhumanity to itself. Where did it come from? Why has it been so prevalent throughout our history? And, most importantly, can we overcome it? Chasteen argues that to do so, we must understand our shared past. While much of that past is violent, we can look for inspiration from major periods when we strived to live more cooperatively, such as our early foraging periods, to the creation of universal religions and ethical systems, the birth of the ideas of individual liberty and freedom, the rise of socialism in response to the massive excesses of global capitalism, the civil rights and decolonization movements of the twentieth century, to the environmental and social justice movements of today. Once we understand who and what we are as a species and a people, we will be in the best position to figure out how to work together to tackle the greatest challenges we face today.
Choices: A Post-Roe Abortion Rights Manifesto, by Merle Hoffman. Amidst the aftermath of the Dobbs Decision, Hoffman has carefully compiled her decades of analysis, research, and experience into a tour de force manifesto that sheds light on the catastrophic repercussions of overturning Roe, and what we must do moving forward to ensure the safety and legality of abortion nationally.
In Choices, Hoffman expresses her views on where we are and what lies ahead. She covers topics ranging from: revamping the healthcare system to support women’s rights; combatting rising authoritarianism; the weaponization of religion; fighting the antis; practicing courage; sabotage from within the movement; and activating the next generation in the fight for reproductive justice.
Drawing on years of research with activists around the world, sociologist Naomi Braine describes the strategies, politics, and tactics of direct action feminists bringing abortion pills, information, and support to people seeking to end unwanted pregnancies. From combatting the legal strictures of Bolsonaro’s Brazil, to navigating the NGO-dominated landscape of Kenya and Nigeria, feminist activists are making safe, accessible abortion care available against the odds.
Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art. by Lauren Elkin. In this dazzlingly original reassessment of women’s stories, bodies, and art, Lauren Elkin explores the ways in which feminist artists have taken up the challenge of their work and how they not only react against the patriarchy but redefine their own aesthetic aims. How do we tell the truth about our experiences as bodies? What is the language, what are the materials, that we need to transcribe them? And what are the unique questions facing those engaged with female bodies, queer bodies, sick bodies, racialized bodies? Encompassing with a rich genealogy of work across the literary and artistic landscape, Elkin makes daring links between disparate points of reference— among them Julia Margaret Cameron’s photography, Kara Walker’s silhouettes, Vanessa Bell’s portraits, Eva Hesse’s rope sculptures, Carolee Schneemann’s body art, abs Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s trilingual masterpieceDICTEE.
Eyeliner: A Cultural History, by Zahra Hankir. A dazzling exploration of the intersections of beauty and power around the globe, told through the lens of an iconic cosmetic. From the distant past to the present, with fingers and felt-tipped pens, metallic powders and gel pots, humans have been drawn to lining their eyes. Eyeliner is one of our most enduring cosmetic tools; ancient royals and Gen Z beauty influencers alike would attest to its uniquely transformative power. It is undeniably fun—yet it is also far from frivolous. Seen through Zahra Hankir’s (kohl-lined) eyes, this ubiquitous but seldom-examined product becomes a portal to history, proof both of the stunning variety among cultures across time and space and of our shared humanity. Through intimate reporting and conversations—with nomads in Chad, geishas in Japan, dancers in India, drag queens in New York, and more—Eyelinerembraces the rich history and significance of its namesake, especially among communities of color.
Gator Country: Deception, Danger, and Alligators in the Everglades, by Rebecca Renner. To catch a Florida Man, you have to become one, and that’s what Officer Jeff Babauta did. As his ponytailed, whiskey-soaked alter ego, he established Sunshine Alligator Farm. His goal? Infiltrate the shady world of illegal poachers in the Florida Everglades in order to protect the natural world. A head-spinning adventure soon unfolds. Jeff deals with glow-in-the-dark alligators and high-speed airboat rides, but quickly learns that not all poachers are villains. They’re simply people trying to survive, fighting against the poverty and greed holding them down. Jeff wants to solve the mystery of alligator poachers, and in doing so he must venture deeper into a strange ecosystem where right is wrong, and justice comes at the cost of those who’ve welcomed him into their world.
Ghosts of Honolulu: A Japanese Spy, a Japanese American Spy Hunter, and the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, by Mark Harmon, with Leon Carroll. After 18 years of playing Agent Jethro Gibbs on the TV show NCIS, Harmon teams up with a real-life NCIS agent for this look at espionage at Pearl Harbor. Hawaii, 1941. War clouds with Japan are gathering and the islands of Hawaii have become battlegrounds of spies, intelligence agents, and military officials – with the island’s residents caught between them. Toiling in the shadows are Douglas Wada, the only Japanese American agent in naval intelligence, and Takeo Yoshikawa, a Japanese spy sent to Pearl Harbor to gather information on the U.S. fleet. Douglas Wada’s experiences in his native Honolulu include posing undercover as a newspaper reporter, translating wiretaps on the Japanese Consulate, and interrogating America’s first captured POW of World War II, a submarine officer found on the beach. Takeo Yoshikawa is a Japanese spy operating as a junior diplomat with the consulate who is collecting vital information that goes straight to Admiral Yamamoto. Their dueling stories anchorGhosts of Honolulu’sgripping depiction of the world-changing cat and mouse games played between Japanese and US military intelligence agents (and a mercenary Nazi) in Hawaii before the outbreak of the second world war.
The Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film, by David Thomson. This is not a standard history or survey of war films, although Thomson turns his typically piercing eye to many favorites—from All Quiet on the Western Front to The Bridge on the River Kwai to Saving Private Ryan. But The Fatal Alliance does much more, exploring how war and cinema in the twentieth century became inextricably linked. Movies had only begun to exist by the beginning of World War I, yet in less than a century, had transformed civilian experience of war—and history itself—for millions around the globe. This reality is the moral conundrum at the heart of Thomson’s book. War movies bring both prestige and are so often box office blockbusters; but is there something problematic at how much moviegoers enjoy depictions of violence on a grand scale, such as Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down,or even Star Wars? And what does this truth say about us, our culture, and our changing sense of warfare and the past?
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Revised and Expanded Edition. The original collection was published in 1981. In this revised and expanded edition, it has been possible to go back to the editors’ original typescripts and notes, restoring more than 150 letters that were excised purely to achieve what was then deemed a “publishable length.” and present the book as originally intended. Enthusiasts for his writings will find much that is new, for the letters not only include fresh information about Middle-earth, such as Tolkien’s own plot summary of the entirety of The Lord of the Rings and a vision for publishing his “Tales of the Three Ages,” but also many insights into the man and his world. In addition, this new selection will entertain anyone who appreciates the art of letter-writing, of which J.R.R. Tolkien was a master.
The Manuscripts Club: The People Behind a Thousand Years of Medieval Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel. This book tells of twelve men and women, from the eleventh century to the twentieth, who all share an overwhelming obsession with illuminated manuscripts. The saint, the patron, the bookseller, the artist, the antiquary, the collector, the rabbi, the savant, the librarian, the editor, the forger, and the curator had very different reasons for their passion, but manuscripts animated the lives of them all. Christopher de Hamel takes us into in their homes and workplaces, from the monasteries and synagogues of Normandy and Moravia to the universities of Germany and the museums of America, to chart a kinship of minds and to peer into these extraordinary lives among manuscripts. In the pages of his book, remarkable manuscripts tumble through the centuries, connecting a French prince and a Greek peasant and a Black curator.
60 Songs That Explain the ’90s, by Rob Harvilla. Not my generation, but the book sounds fun. A companion to the #1 music podcast on Spotify, this book takes readers through the greatest hits that define a weirdly undefinable decade. Harvilla reimagines all the earwormy, iconic hits Gen Xers pine for with vivid historical storytelling, sharp critical analysis, rampant loopiness, and wryly personal ruminations on the most bizarre, joyous, and inescapable songs from a decade we both regret entirely and miss desperately.
All book links in this diary are to my online bookstoreThe Literate Lizard. If you already have a favorite indie bookstore, please keep supporting them, but If you’re able to throw a little business my way, that would be truly appreciated. I would love to be considered ‘The Official Bookstore of Daily Kos.’ Use the coupon code DAILYKOS for 15% off your order, in gratitude for your support (an ever-changing smattering of new releases are already discounted 20% each week). I’m busily adding new content every day, and will have lots more dedicated subject pages and curated booklists as it grows. I want it to be full of book-lined rabbit holes to lose yourself in (and maybe throw some of those books into a shopping cart as well.)
We also partnerLibro.fm for audiobooks. Libro.fm is similar to Amazon’s Audible, with a la carte audiobooks, or a $14.99 monthly membership which includes the audiobook of your choice and 20% off subsequent purchases during the month. Note that the DAILYKOS coupon code is only for the bookstore, not for the audiobook affiliate.
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