Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Book Review Roundup

The NY Times Book Review covers a series of books about African Americans after the Great Migration. In addition to works of philosophy and economics, the Times includes historian Robyn C. Spencer’s “The Revolution has Come,” a “detailed organizational history" of the Black Panther party. Jeremy Waldron also reviews Waging War, Judge David Barron's “fine and detailed history” of the standoff between Congress and the President over the war powers, starting from the earliest days of the Republic to the War on Terror. Barron, Waldron says, explains what is at stake for the President, but doesn’t totally investigate Congress’s motivations. Paul Finkelman reviews Barron's book in the LARB.

Its not often that a Times reporter provides live coverage of a history conference, but Jennifer Schuessler of the NY Times Book Review covers a small conference conference at Princeton entitled “The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment.” The historians at the conference--including Gary Gerstle, Julian Zelizer, Meg Jacobs and Jonathan Zimmerman--will publish a collection of essays on the topic next year.

Why have American courts become increasingly inaccessible, even as we despair about being a “litigious society”? In the NYRB Judge Jed Rakoff reviews theories and statistics about the increasing inaccessibility of courts. In the same publication, Peter Nabokov reviews two books about Native American enslavement: The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, by Andrés Reséndez and An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873by Benjamin Madley.

In the Wall St. Journal, Amity Shales reviews two new histories about Herbert Hoover and gives him some credit--or blame--for the New Deal.  (However it began, the age of handouts has ended: this article is behind a paywall).

In the LA Times, Mickey Edwards reviews Heather Hendershot’s “Open to Debate: How William F. Buckley Put Liberal America on the Firing Line (Warning: “Page after page is filled with those transcripts and frankly, after a bit, I found that boring; one can relive the dialogues of the past only so much.”) In the Boston Review, Robert Chase covers Heather Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.

James Livingston’s humorous takedown of former Economist editor Marc Levinson’s An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy in the New Republic also offers a short history of Hayek’s legacy and mid-century economic thought.

On the New Books Network you can listen to Coll Thrush on his Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire (which “recasts five centuries of London’s history through the lived experiences of native visitors from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia”), Matthew Pauly on Breaking the Tongue: Language, Education, and Power in Soviet Ukraine, 1923-1934 (“a detailed investigation of the language policy–officially termed Ukrainization–that was introduced in Ukraine during the formative years of the Soviet Union”); Bryan Roby on The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion: Israel’s Forgotten Civil Rights Struggle, 1948-1966, and Marc Steinberg on England’s Great Transformation: Law, Labor, and the Industrial Revolution (which is centered around three case studies of “employers using draconian master-servant laws to control the labor force”).

Finally, this year’s National Book Awards engage with American history from a variety of disciplines. Awards went to Robert Caro, March, the three-volume graphic novel about John Lewis’s life and civil rights work, Colson Whitehead’s novel Underground Railroad, and Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by historian Ibram X. Kendi. The Awards made a “powerful statement,” according to the the Atlantic’s Arnav Adhikari. Maybe, just maybe, Americans are thinking about race right now?