Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Book Roundup

There are many book reviews that might be of interest to readers this weekend. The first is The Men Who Made the Constitution: Lives of the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention by John R. Vile (Scarecrow Press). Also in the most recent edition in of Law and Politics Book Review is a review of The Evangelical Origins of the Living Constitution by John W. Compton (Cambridge) and a review of Bruce Ackerman's We the People Vol. 3: The Civil Rights Revolution (Harvard University Press).

Last weekend we noted that Michael Waldman's The Second Amendment: A Biography (Simon & Schuster) was reviewed in the LA Times. This week The Washington Post has a review:
"The Second Amendment brings out the worst in Americans, intellectuals included. Pro-gun scholars recycle truncated quotations and dubious sources; historian Michael Bellesiles, who questioned the importance of guns in early America, won a Bancroft Prize with evidence later found to be false. Stanford historian Jack Rakove, whose reputation is impeccable, once wrote that “this debate engenders rhetorical excesses that would seem completely out of place in any other realm of scholarship.” 
Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, falls victim to this curse. His rhetorical excesses render a promising idea far less persuasive than it might have been."
 You can listen to Waldman on the Diane Rehm Show here, and read a piece by Waldman in Politico, "How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment."

James Oakes's book, The Scorpion's Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War (WW Norton) has been reviewed in The Washington Post.
"The Scorpion’s Sting refers to the fearsome arthropod that, when in mortal danger — for example, “surrounded by fire” — stings itself to death. Republican politicos believed that this striking image showed how Southern slavery would eventually self-destruct. Southern leaders took note. Sen. Robert Toombs, a leading secessionist, characterized the Republican strategy as “to pen up slavery within its present limits — surround it with a border of free States, and like the scorpion surrounded by fire, they will make it sting itself to death.”"
Salon published an excerpt of Oakes's book, here.

The Los Angeles Review of Books examines "international development's appalling human rights record" in a review of William Easterly's The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor (Basic Books). There's also a review of the book in the latest edition of The New York Review of Books.

Behind a paywall in the NY Review of Books is Jed Rakoff's review of The Mother Court: Tales of Cases That Mattered in America's Greatest Trial Court by James Zirin (ABA).
"Later this year, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York will celebrate its 225th anniversary. Sometimes called the “Mother Court” because it is older than even the US Supreme Court, the Southern District is, with fifty sitting judges, the largest and busiest federal trial court in the country. It has long enjoyed a reputation for excellence that may be almost as great as its judges (of which this writer is one) would like to imagine."

H-Net has posted several reviews of interest:

The H-Net review of Cindy I-Fen Cheng's Citizens of Asian America: Democracy and Race during the Cold War (NYU Press) finds that the book "makes a significant contribution to not only ethnic and Asian American history but also our understandings of race relations, civil rights, and cultural citizenship. This well-researched and thought-provoking work explores the intersections, and the contradictions therein, of race, foreign relations, and Cold War policy in America during the early Cold War years." Readers can find an interview with Cheng from New Books in American Studies, here.

And the review of Walter L. Hixon's American Settler Colonialism: A History (Palgrave Macmillan) observes that "Drawing on the diverse works of Russell F. Weigley, Anne McClintock, Edward W. Said, and many other established scholars, Hixson presents a well-structured and thought-provoking work that conceptualizes American settler colonialism as a “continent-wide and centuries-long” experience that was, and continues to be, an overlooked but integral part of the American experience (p. x)."

Salon offers up still more book reviews and book excerpts. If you're considering reading any true crime this summer, you might be interested in the article, "Sleazy, bloody and surprisingly smart: In defense of true crime."

Four book excerpts are worthy of note: Aviva Chomsky has an excerpt of her book, Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal (Beacon Press) published in Salon this week. In previous book roundups we've noted reviews of Randall Balmer's biography of Jimmy Carter, Redeemer. An excerpt is now available on Salon as well. There is also an excerpt of Edmund Fawcett's Liberalism: The Life of an Idea (Princeton University Press).

And, lastly, there is an excerpt from The Good Lawyer: Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law by Douglas O. Linder and Nancy Levit (Oxford). The authors investigate the law according to Charles Darwin and how "our sense of right and wrong is shaped by culture, experiences--and our evolutionary brain wiring."