Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Book Review Roundup

Some reviews for a late summer weekend:

In the New York Times, Gordon Wood reviews Alan Taylor’s American Revolutions. A Continental History, 1750-1804. Taylor’s “prodigious” text, he says, aims to “desacralize” the American Revolution by engaging with the sordid and bloody" context in which it existed.
In this way, Taylor how the Revolution related to the slave rebellion in Saint-Dominigue or conflicts with American Indians in the trans-Appalachian west, but occasionally “compresses and flattens” the narrative. Taylor’s book is also reviewed on Slate (which gives Taylor “unqualified praise for vividly capturing … the contradictory impulses that triggered the Revolution”). The NY Times Book Review’s podcast contains an interview with Heather Ann Thompson about her history of the Attica prison uprising, which was reviewed by James Forman Jr. in the Times several weeks ago. Thompson also spoke about her book with Democracy Now and The Atlantic.

The Times also features a review of A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe, which shows how the Great Depression facilitated the growth of home economists (“the mostly female corps of domestic scientists, recipe testers, efficiency experts and nutritionists who sought to educate America’s housewives,” who advocated, among other things, “watery soup and prune pudding”).  Also in the Times--a review of Anthony Gottlieb’s The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy, which may be of interest to legal historians or fans of Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz and Hume. Gottleib’s book was also reviewed in the New Yorker and the NYRB.

In the NYRB, David Luban reviews Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World by Timothy Garton Ash. Fintan O'Toole reviews a series of books about the Easter Rising (including, for my transnational readers, Robert Shmuhl on the American reception of the uprising, and Michael Silvestri on how Bengali militants referred to the Irish experience as they challenged both British authorities and non-violent Indian nationalists).

After fifteen years, it’s clear that the attacks on September 11, as well as the war that followed, have become historical. Jed Rakoff reviews Owen Fiss’s A War Like No Other: The Constitution in a Time of Terror and Michael Ignatieff reviews Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War by Mark Danner.

In the LA Times, Nicholas Goldberg reviews Zionism: The Birth
and Transformation of an Ideal, a “smart, analytical, engaging history” of Israel by Milton Viorst, a former Middle East correspondent for the New Yorker. The New Republic just published a review of Patrick Iber’s Neither Peace nor Freedom, which tracks the efforts of the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) and the “cultural Cold War” in Latin America. The paper also excerpts Nicole Hemmer’s Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, which describes the roots of conservative media projects like Human Events, Regnery Publishing and the National Review.

On the New Books Network, one can hear more about Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and listen to Greg Eghigian on his The Corrigible and the Incorrigible: Science, Medicine, and the Convict in Twentieth-Century Germany (... and Foucault!) as well as a discussion of Your Friend Forever, A. Lincoln: The Enduring Friendship of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed by historian and psychoanalyst Charles Strozier.

Finally, what do Hillary Clinton, Victoria Woodhull, Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisholm have in common? (Long bathroom breaks? “Odd facial expressions?” Ovaries?) Find out in a conversation about Ellen Fitzpatrick’s The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency.

Last but not least, legal historians might enjoy Geoffrey Robertson QC’s review of Philippe Sands’ East West Street in History Today, if they can stomach the first line: “Legal history can be the dullest of subjects.”