Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Book Review Roundup

Happy Earth Day, all!  I've always thought that the perfect antidote to a Saturday spent in the great outdoors is a Sunday inside with some legal history.  Enjoy these book reviews and have a great weekend.

The Guardian has a short review of Catherine Merridale’s Lenin on the Train, the story of Lenin’s 1917 trip from Swiss exile to Petrograd's Finland Station, “a journey that changed the world.” (The Guardian’s longer review is here).




The Nation’s Brenda Wineapple covers Man's Better Angels: Romantic Reformers and the Coming of the Civil War, by Philip F. Gura. According to Wineapple, Gura reviews seven reformers who “were representative of a broader self-help culture of reform that spread across the United States in the years before the Civil War,” who “each scrambled after various panaceas—some of them pretty weird—to revive the country from its economic stagnation.” These reformers looked to transcendentalism, Unitarianism, and utopian farming communities. All of them “avoided any scrupulous confrontation with systemic economic or social problems,” and focused instead on “self culture.”


Paul Starobin’s Madness Rules the Hour is not about current American politics, but about “Charleston, 1860 and the Mania for War.” According to the Times, the book is a “finely drawn portrait” of the city’s elite in the years before secession, extending from John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859 to the fateful Secession Convention in late December 1860 that took South Carolina out of the Union. The same publication covers A Rabble of Dead Money, The Great Crash and the Global Depression: 1929-1939, Charles R. Morris’s “popular but rigorous” economic history of the Great Depression. Kahlil Gibran Muhammad also reviews two books about race and the criminal justice system: James Forman Jr.’s Locking Up our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, “a masterly account of how a generation of black elected officials wrestled with recurring crises of violence and drug use in the nation’s capital,” and Chris Hayes’s A Colony in a Nation, which grows from Hayes’s coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in Ferguson.

In the NYRB, Christopher R. Browning reviews Volker Ullrich’s Hitler: Ascent 1889–1939, which addresses Hitler’s young adulthood and his relationship with the conservative elites who, hoping for a level of control over populist power, helped him to power in the 1930s. Browning also embarks on an expected--but fairly nuanced--comparison of Hitler and Trump: “Both men defied old norms and invented unprecedented ways of waging their political campaigns. Both men developed a charismatic relationship with their “base” that centered on large rallies. Both emphasized their “outsider” status and railed against the establishment, privileged elites, and corrupt special interests.”  In the same publication, Jeremy Waldron reviews Akhil Reed Amar’s The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era, which argues that the “Constitution has to be both timeless and timely.”

In the Times Literary Supplement, one can read about Philip Roessler and Harry Verhoeven’s Why Comrades go to War: Liberation politics and the outbreak of Africa’s deadliest conflict, which covers Congo’s history of “mass violence, protracted wars, chronic misrule and endless plunder.”

Robert K. Landers reviewsRichard Nixon: The Life” by John A. Farrell, which begins with a take on judicial supremacy: “Obeying the courts, Nixon desegregated public schools. He got little credit for it—and didn’t want any. He wanted Southerners’ votes.” One can also read about Nina Sankovitch’s The Lowells of Massachusetts, a “stirring saga of a New England family whose fortunes steadily progressed with that of the Bay Colony from its early settlement to modern times.”

You can find some legal history titles in the Federal Lawyer, where Elizabeth Kelley reviews Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, by Heather Ann Thompson.


On New Books Network, listen to coverage of Susanna Blumenthal’s Law and the Modern Mind: Consciousness and Responsibility in American Legal Culture, which offers a “historical examination of the jurisprudence of insanity, legal capacity, and accountability from post-revolutionary America through the nineteenth century.” You can also listen to interviews with Mark P. Bradley, whose The World Reimagined: Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century describes “‘human rights talk’ entered American political and diplomatic culture, and the direction it’s headed,” and James Q. Whitman’s Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, which probes the relationship between Jim Crow laws and the Nuremberg Laws. Want more? The Network plays some golden oldies as well: listen to an interview with Lizbeth Cohen about Making A New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939 was originally published in 1990.

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