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Sunday Book Review

gqmartinez's picture

Its that time again. What's on your book shelf and what are you reading?

Real life has kept me silent of late, but I've been enjoying the commentary. There has been some talk about Dems selling out and Obama's right-wing policies. This got me thinking about what it means to be a liberal. What is our philosophical rationale for the policies we wish to pursue? What are some of the books that all liberals should read? Any hard core philosophy books?

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vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"Bloggers on the Bus."

See eRiposte's interview with Boehlert here:

Corrente gets one mention (so far), in a list of "eclectic outcasts" who didn't get on board the Ponyism Express. Also WWTSBQ is cited, though not attributed to Lambert and not identified as snark.

Things get verrry interesting around chapter 8, with lots to say about the blog wars. I'll have more to say about this book soon.....

I definitely recommend it to all Corrente readers.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on


* You can pack a ton of books in a tiny space (I have a second-gen one. The new ones are bigger and have a few new features; I never used the first gen.)
* Can download a book in seconds. Great for impulse shoppers and otherwise impatient types! No charge for the network (other than the content cost), and it's quite reliable and seamless.
* Resizable fonts -- awesome for reading on the treadmill
* Can mail self .PDF files for portable reading
* Excellent battery life
* Can write notes in context without feeling you've defiled a book, and can (as of this week!) read those notes in your web browser
* Infinite bookmarks
* Unlike iTunes, you don't lose your downloaded content if the system craps out, is stolen, etc.
* Search! I forget to use that sometimes, but it's very handy.
* You can read your downloaded books on an iPhone, if'n you have one. Really nice for when you can steal a coupla minutes of reading time but don't have your Kindle with you. Doesn't always keep synched about what your last-read location was, but that's a handy feature when it kicks in. The iPhone Kindle app (free, BTW), doesn't work for your private PDF files, and I think you can't take notes with it. Still, an unexpected benefit that works quite well.

* Expensive, and it would be very easy to lose. I almost have a couple of times.
* No built-in light. The E-ink technology saves on battery and makes for good reading, but it means you need a clip-on, battery-powered light for reading in bed after your significant other has conked out.
* No page numbers or indicators of how many pages are left in the chapter (a big pet peeve -- I always want to know what "milestone" lies ahead). Uses a newfangled "location" # and % progress. Makes it impossible, say in a book review, to reference a specific page.
* Easy to mistakenly jump to next chapter, making it slow to get back to your last place if you hadn't bookmarked it
* Slow refresh and crummy keyboard make note feature less awesome than it might otherwise be
* AFAIK, you can't read the books on your computer
* In some books, the quality control is rather spotty. Seems like someone shoved them into a scanner and didn't proof them. So, you don't know if the book had typos to begin with, and it likely has more in the Kindle edition.
* Many titles I've looked for aren't available yet
* Books aren't as much cheaper (than physical books) as you'd like

Feh (gripes about non-core features):
* Music-playing feature. Worthless -- you can't control the order of songs played, and it doesn't even randomize them. Plays in the same order every time.
* Text-to-speech feature. Very jumpy pacing. Not completely worthless if you follow along with the text, but could be much better. Note: publishers have the right to turn off text-to-speech for their titles (to protect premium-priced spoken editions).
* Web-browsing feature slow and awkward (Kindle's optimized for everything but screen-refresh speed), and downloaded blogs aren't free (though it does mean some revenue for the A-listers whose blogs are provided, I think -- I haven't paid for any such services; if I were a newspaper-readin' man, I might try the subscriptions, but I haven't, so nothing to, um, report there)

All in all, a solid and useful tool with room to improve.

Submitted by lambert on

1. Terry Pratchett's Making Money, and

2. Richard Evan's The Third Reich at War -- which, more than ever, persuades me that the proper scope for Godwin's Law is only on meta threads about dictatorial moderators. Otherwise, we're prevented from discussing the terrible things that humans can do to each other when political systems turn to evil. Those who do not learn from the past. It's an inspiring book because the bad guys really are bad and really do lose. On the other hand, the atrocities are simply listed like any of the other events in the war, and they are not pretty. As Evans states in his introduction, it's work to fight depression at the horror of it. And, shamefully, elites at the heart of our government wished to emulate, and still wish, if behavior is any guide, these horrors. Only man is vile...

Submitted by gob on

Galbraith's The Predator State. If, like me, you can't make sense of the first half, just go on and read the superb second half.

OTOH, if you understand the first half, please explain it to me!

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed. I remember it as one of the best comparisons of communitarian/anarchist and capitalist societies. The mother planet is rich and capitalist. The barely habitable, poor moon requires cooperation for survival. Both have strengths and problems.

The first two volumes of Evans' history of the Third Reich were very good. Guess I need to read the third.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

All Liberals are well versed in Rawls, right? Rawls provides a solid defense and framework for liberalism. Theory and Political Liberalism also provide a rigorous and strong response to conservative's "Fuck you society", I mean "ownership society" and a practical examination of several SCOTUS decisions.

I mention Leviathan because as I see the Dems embracing conservative ideology and policies at the expense of the little guy, I'm not convinced that we are avoiding a Hobbesian all against all situation. I find that troublesome.

mojave_wolf's picture
Submitted by mojave_wolf on

Mostly what I remember from Rawl's Theory of Justice is the idea that societies should be set up from the point of view of "what if you were born into it as one of the least fortunate?", which is certainly not a bad way to go about it.

Haven't read many philosophy/theory books for quite a few years now, most recently probably Krugman's "The Conscience of a Liberal", tho I'd put that into the "good" rather than "must read" category. Al Franken's "The Truth" was good for lots of facts. I *loved* Guns, Germs and Steel and and Collapse by Diamond, too.

Back in the 90's I read a lot of feminist and economic theory, and for whatever reason I remember the feminist books a lot better -- Faludi's Backlash, Dee Graham's Loving to Survive, Susan Mueller Okin's "Is MultiCulturalism Bad For Women?" are three of my favorite.

But most of the books that most speak to my politics and personal philosophy weren't overarching theory, and a lot are fiction -- The Women's Room by Marylin French, The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams; or they are sort of general philosophy that *I* think speaks to liberalism and against modern conservativism, such as Leo Buscaglia's "Love" and Starhawk's "The Earth Path", but others might disagree -- the friend who recommended I read Buscaglia way back in college was (and I gather still is) a deeply conservative Southern Baptist. Dunno what he took out of the book, but clearly we apply it to real life in different ways.

For environmentalism, The Sixth Extinction and Last Flight of The Scarlet Macaw and Why Nuclear Power is Not the Answer, and some books on things like the proliferation of garbage and ocean pollution and overpopulation and the water table that I can't remember the names of . . .

Sure I'm forgetting lots here . . .

And given the murder of George Tiller today, I *have* to close by recommending "This Common Secret", by Susan Wickland, which is a really terrific book.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

I'm not a utilitarian, but I admire Mill's compassion, courage, and strong arguments. If I had to recommend one Mill book/Essay, I'd have to go with "The Subjugation of Women" because it was a strong defense of women's rights when it was uncool to do so.

I think we could use more brave liberals like JS Mill these days.

mojave_wolf's picture
Submitted by mojave_wolf on

Yes to this, all round.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

By Strobe Talbott.

I haven't finished this book yet, but I think its important to try to understand the formation and expansion of societies. On a related note, "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is also necessary reading.

Libertarian folks I talk to seem to think societies formed specifically for monetary reasons. I always found that absurd. When you are struggling to survive, you are thinking more about food, health and shelter. These days you need money for that, but that wasn't always the case. Unfortunately, we have no writings from the earliest small societies. Even recent societies like Native American and African tribal history is largely contaminated by expansionst empires. Though I think an examination of, perhaps, the Papua New Guinea tribes immediately after Western interruption may provide us some of the best clues.

Submitted by lambert on

It bears on Native American pre-Colombian history, tribal and otherwise.

Submitted by jawbone on

and thought provoking. Makes reader rethink many aspects of current thinking, from what life was like prior to Columbus and whether some ecology thinking about managing wild lands is the best way to go about things.

Submitted by jawbone on

entitled The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience.

I tried to think who might be Obama's "moral conscience" and couldn't think of anyone. There may someone, but not anyone with power.