"The book doesn’t bring us particularly close to Marshall-the-man, but it includes a larger narrative that satisfies. This is the story of how a nation in the grip of the Vietnam War and explosive questions about race was able to move past widespread racism and accomplish what many Southern senators were absolutely opposed to — appointing a black man as a Supreme Court justice."Also in the LA Review of Books is a review of Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (And Winning) by Marion Nestle (Oxford University Press).
Salon interviews David Pilgrim, who has new book, Understanding Jim Crow: Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice (PM Press).
Dan Jones's Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty (Viking) is reviewed in The New York Times.
"The snag with that uplifting tale is that, historically speaking, almost all of it is either myth or half-truth, as Dan Jones’s lively and excellent “Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty” makes clear. A best-selling historian with a popular touch — he has written and hosted TV mini-series based on his books — Jones skirts political legend and sticks largely to what is known. He’s frank about unfilled documentary gaps and unsettled disputes of interpretation. Celebrants have made of Magna Carta a modern dawn, while deflationists have shrunk it to a passing incident. Jones avoids both extremes, aware that the story of this document has its own merits."Jed Rakoff reviews Justice Stephen Breyer's The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities (Knopf) for the New York Review of Books.
The New Rambler posts this review of Stephen Hopgood's The Endtimes of Human Rights (Cornell University Press).
Law and Politics Book Review has posted a review from their May issue of Battleground New Jersey: Vanderbilt, Hague, and their Fight for Justice (Rutgers University Press).
"Seldom does the adoption of a new state constitution emerge from a clash of titans; but that is the story told in Nelson Johnson’s examination of the personal and political forces that cleansed New Jersey’s court system of its ancient rules and “Dickensian absurdity” (p. 5). The titans of New Jersey politics during this period were Arthur Vanderbilt—“The warrior lawyer”-- a Republican WASP from Newark; and Frank Hague, --“Celtic chieftain” – an Irish Catholic Democrat from Jersey City. Their political differences and personal hatred of one another would end with the adoption in 1947 of a new state constitution whose centerpiece, a modernized a judiciary, has been a model for judicial reformers to this day."From H-Net is a review of Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration edited by Geoffrey Adelsberg, Lisa Guenther, and Scott Zeman (Fordham University Press).
Walter Johnson's River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Harvard University Press) has also been reviewed on H-Net this week.
And a third review from H-Net is of Suk-Young Kim's DMZ Crossing: Performing Emotional Citizenship along the Korean Border (Columbia University Press).
Sarah Vowell's Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (Riverhead) is reviewed in the New York Times.
"And then we have Vowell, who is an ambling historian. In her latest, “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States,” Vowell wanders through the history of the American Revolution and its immediate aftermath, using Lafayette’s involvement in the war as a map, and bringing us all along in her perambulations — with occasional side trips to such modern phenomena as Colonial Williamsburg, the many protesters who have flocked to Lafayette Square across from the White House and Vowell’s curious fascination with, and fascinated curiosity about, Quaker historians. She encounters one of the breed while visiting the Brandywine Valley, where Lafayette once served with distinction even after having been wounded, and Vowell uses the episode to give a shrewd précis of what she’s about generally."Eric Rauchway's The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace (Basic Books) is reviewed in the NYT.
More economic history is found in a double review of Chicagonomics: The Evolution of Chicago Free Market Economics by Lanny Ebenstein (St. Martin's Press) and Economic Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science by Dani Rodrik (Norton & Co.).
These United States: A Nation in the Making, 1890-Present by Glenda Gilmore and Thomas Sugrue (Norton & Co) also gets reviewed by David Kennedy in the NYT.
"“These United States” ably documents the scope of those shifts. But disappointingly, for all its freshness of view and impatience with inherited pieties, it fails to explicate the precise causes that have driven the Republic to its current sorry state. But its rich documentation does compel a chilling reconsideration of both the past and the future: “The 20th-century history of the United States,” the authors suggest, “raises the question of whether the American dream of an expanding middle class was a historical accident.” It doesn’t get much more disturbingly revisionist than that."Jon Meecham's Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (Random House) is reviewed by the New York Times.
New Books in History interviews Kelly Duke Bryant, who discusses her research in Education as Politics: Colonia Schooling and Political Debate in Senegal, 1850s-1914 (University of Wisconsin Press).
It's not even December yet and Best Book Lists are already emerging. Here's one from The Washington Post: "Notable Nonfiction of 2015." Making the list are...
- Melvin Urofsky's Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court's History and the Nation's Constitutional Dialogue (Pantheon),
- Ari Berman's Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America (Farrar Straus Giroux),
- Will Haywood's Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America (Knopf),
- Linda Horseman's Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (Harper),
- and Kristen Green's Something Must be Done about Prince Edward County: A Family, a VIrigina Town, and Civil Rights Battle (Harper).
Readers might also be interested in a review of Kevin Carey's The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere (Riverhead Books) in the LA Review of Books, and a review of John Walton's The Legendary Detective: The Private Eye in Fact and Fiction (University of Chicago Press)in The Washington Independent Review of Books.