Some History and Current Affairs Books I've Especially Appreciated

    Being a slow reader, I have read 2 pages or more from a book on all but 7 days over the past 21 years, according to my reading log.  This is a habit I fell into, without making any point-in-time "decision" to do so that I can now recall.  It is the only way I can get books read.  

    Following are some (mostly) history and current affairs titles, my primary genres, that have had enduring impact on my thinking.  I am grateful to their authors for believing that something they might wish to contribute might be welcomed by others, and for making the effort.  These are in no particular order of significance to me.

    Why Societies Need Dissent, Cass Sunstein
    Wealth and Our Commonwealth, Gates, Sr. and Chuck Collins
    Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth
    ​Owning Our Future, Marjorie Kelly
    A Hope in the Unseen, Ron Suskind
    Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment, Garry Wills (on the topic of self-imposed restraint by elites)
    The Fireside Conversations, Lawrence and Cornelia Levine
    Hitler's 30 Days to Power, Henry Ashby Turner
    When Everything Changed, Gail Collins
    Animal Farm
    Mindset, Carol Dweck
    The Arrogance of Power, Senator J. William Fulbright
    The Fate of the Earth, Jonathan Schell
    Moral Man and Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr
    The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Daniel Bell
    Self-Renewal, John W. Gardner
    Going Down Jericho Road, Michael Honey
    A Different Mirror, Ronald Takaki
    All Together Now, Richard Kahlenberg
    ​The Social Construction of Reality, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann
    A Testament of Hope (MLK words), James Washington, ed.
    The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform, Seymour Sarason
    Walking with the Wind, John Lewis
    Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann
    The Public and Its Problems, John Dewey
    The Wise Men, Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas (on the subject of establishmentarians committed to the public good)
    You Just Don't Understand, Deborah Tannen
    ​Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics, Christopher Eberle
    ​Citizen Soldiers, Stephen Ambrose
    The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
    Age of Fracture, Daniel Rodgers
    The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt 
    Everything for Sale, Robert Kuttner
    Lessons in Disaster, Gordon Goldstein
    Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes
    Words Onscreen, Naomi Baron
    Finnish Lessons, Pasi Sahlberg
    ​What Then Must We Do?, Gar Alperovitz
    Robert F. Kennedy In His Own Words
    RFK: Collected Speeches, RFK and Edwin Guthman
    RFK: A Memoir, Jack Newfield
    Beyond Test Scores, Jack Schneider
    Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler
    The Private Abuse of the Public Interest, Lawrence Brown and Lawrence Jacobs
    The Educator and the Oligarch, Anthony Cody
    The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein
    ​The Best and the Brightest, The Powers That Be, and The Reckoning, David Halberstam
    Decision-Making in the White House, Theodore Sorensen
    The Republic, Plato 

    Some other nonfiction writers not listed above whose works I like: Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Ta Nehisi Coates, Albert Hirschman, John Nichols, Mike Rose (UCLA), Diane Ravitch, Julian Vasquez Heilig (Cloaking Inequity blog)

    Obviously this list of special favorites is both U.S. and modern era-centric.  We will be vacationing as a family in Greece next summer and I plan to use that as an excuse to do some reading on ancient Greece (and also Rome, for current topical reasons).  I have found the life of Robert F. Kennedy a source of continuing fascination, as well as, at times, inspiration.  I think this is partly because I want to believe that adults in high positions of public influence and responsibility can learn, grow and change substantially and for the better.  As women continue to demand and secure more power and authority, I would anticipate that there will be many more female authors assertively voicing opinions on matters of societal consequence and public affairs, the sort of writing to which I tend to gravitate.  If I were living in a different era and composing this list 20 or 40 years from now, I would expect a higher proportion of the authors to be female.   As for the esteemed proprietor of this site, Unreasonable Men is nearing my "on-deck" reading circle. 

    Of course I would be most interested in any titles any of you may wish to mention as having left an impression with you.


    Thank you for your list, American Dreamer.

    I have read a number of them or other works by the same author. Seeing the ones I have not read makes me want to check them out.

    Books that have strongly influenced my view of culture and politics include:

    The Care of the Self, Michel Foucault
    Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen
    Why We Can't Wait, Martin Luther King Jr.
    Tools of Conviviality, Ivan Illich
    The New Industrial State, Kenneth Galbraith
    Ethics (all parts), Benedict de Spinoza
    The Concept of Anxiety, Soren Kierkegaard

    Like many books, these reflect other books not named, just as with your list. I guess I am sort of stuck inside of these volumes, unable to leave them behind or advance past them.

    Thanks, moat, and thanks for your list. I'll be checking out those.  I can't believe I still haven't gotten to Veblen.

    A few that occurred to me after I posted are:

    The Fall, Albert Camus

    The Nuclear Delusion, George Kennan

    Life Itself, Roger Ebert

    The Brethren, Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong

    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn

    Two biographies of women I liked were:

    Kirsten Downie bio of Frances Perkins The Woman Behind the New Deal and the bio of Florence Kelley by Sklar.  I've heard good things about the Megan Marshall bio of the remarkable 19th century adventurer Margaret Fuller.

    Another current writer I really like is Jennifer Rubin.  She writes The Right Turn blog at the WashPost website. She is/was a Republican.  For months she has been ripping Trump, Trump Admin and the GOP Congress multiple new ones, often multiple times daily.  On the Russia stuff she has almost instant analysis of where the next round of questions needs to go in the wake of the latest developments.

    Merry Christmas or happy holiday season as the case may be!


    The Brothers Karamazov

    Merry Christmas

    Thanks, Flavius.  Merry Christmas to you, too!

    AD, I remember from exchanges we've had long ago that you are also a collector of out-of-print and rare, so I thought of you when I saw this obit, pointed out by a friend who is a rare book expert, thought you might like to see it if you hadn't already:

    Fred Bass, Maestro of the Strand @ Daily

    back in the pre-internet days, the Strand was always a fun visit for anyone, even if not a book maniac, all the hubbub was fun, just seeing all the book selling as well as the book buying....and the stacks, oh my....

    Thanks for the link--interesting!  I've never experienced The Strand's market, may check out that scene next time I am in NYC.

    Actually what I strongly recommend instead is that you treat yourself to this when you can:

    they have it twice a year at the beautiful old Armory on Park & 67, next one is March 8-11

    I went last year for the first time and it like save me from despair that the collecting world was no longer for me! I have been really depressed by what the art collecting world and its fairs have become and the move of many sales to the lonely virtual world, but this was like a wondrous breath of a return to the halycon days of everyone in the antiques world being really really nice fun, eccentric and interesting people, every single one of the booths was manned by wonderful people just a joy to visit.

    In case you were thinking: I'd be classed out. Nope. All price ranges! No hoity toity, none of that. Tiny booths because they couldn't afford high fees. It's not for vicious collectors, it's for people that love books and ideas. Just a fun world of really nice people passionately sharing their interests. Everybody happy, seriously! Clearly all the dealers like each other, they are there to share, not to compete, like big party (Yes, it was as if the current art world and the current presidency didn't exist.)

    You could run down to the Strand during your visit, strikes me now how that would be a different world, visiting vicious buy/sell NYC. But the book fair itself, that's like a lovely little Arcadia that descends from heaven. I agree with these promo quotes:

    “The best book fair in the world.” – Andy Rooney

    “It is exciting in a way you probably don't expect when you just hear the word ‘Book Fair.' Well, to me it is just as exciting as sitting in the dark of the theatre and watch a horror film! This experience is not horror. But it's just as exciting!” – Yoko Ono

    It was really busy, too, and the crowds were likewise nice friendly people, willing to engage with others, not like the usual these days with everyone engaging with their devices instead.

    Thanks for the tip--I appreciate it!

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