Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Book Roundup

With 50 years passing since the assassination of President Kennedy, several books about his life are being reviewed. This week, in the LA Times critic David Ulin writes about the books he read in the years after the President's death in a piece titled, "Kennedy assassination books fed an appetite for conspiracy," and the paper also includes brief summaries of several books on Kennedy's life here.

The Washington Post reviews five JFK books: A Cruel and Shocking Act (Henry Holt and Co.) by Philip Shenon (here), End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy (William Morrow) by James Swanson (here), If Kennedy Lived: An Alternate History (Putnam Adult) by Jeff Greenfield (here), Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House (HarperCollins Publishers) by Robert Dallek (here), and The Kennedy Half-Century (Bloomsbury) by Larry J. Sabato (here).

So too does the New York Times take up JFK as the subject of several reviews. Jill Abramson has written a lengthy piece on JFK that spans several books here; and there is a JFK shortlist that includes many of the books already mentioned as well as JFK, Conservative (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Ira Stoll. Lastly, the NY Times also has a JFK Sampler that includes older books like Theodore H. White's The Making of the President 1960 (Atheneum, 1961).

Believe it or not, reviews on other topics were also published this week. One review even talks directly to historians. David Bell tells us "This Is What Happens When Historians Overuse the Idea of the Network," in the Economist. Bell writes,
"Certainly we should not expect from global history the tidiness and narrative drama of a Sherlock Holmes story. (“And so, Watson, the evidence shows indubitably that the culprit is Western imperialism.” “But Holmes, that is what you said last time.”) Yet if it is so difficult to do global history in a satisfying and engaging manner and without doing injustice to the story’s manifold actors, then perhaps historians should not be investing quite so much effort and resources into syntheses such as this volume. Perhaps the “global turn,” for all of its insights and instruction, has hit a point of diminishing returns. The fact that contemporary technology, economics, and politics have made us so acutely aware of global connections in our own day does not mean that past events are always best dealt with by setting them within a similarly vast context. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space,” said Hamlet. Many of the most interesting historical phenomena—think only of the origins of most major world religions—have started with rapid, incredibly intense changes that took place in very small spaces indeed. Perhaps it is time to turn back to them."
If you're looking for "Legal and Constitutional History from Below—Below the Supreme Court, That Is . . .", H-Net adds a review of a volume edited by Paul Finkelman and Roberta Sue Alexander, Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie: A History of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Ohio University Press).

Another H-Net review covers Jill Norgren's Rebels at the Bar: The Fascinating, Forgotten Stories of America's First Women Lawyers (New York University Press).

The Nation reviews Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books) by Gary May.