Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Books for a tough time

A couple of weeks ago, staff writer Emma Green offered in the Atlantic:

A Reading Guide for Those in Despair About American Politics
... Books may seem like small comfort. But in a time like this, when it’s hard to understand how American culture became so hate-filled, reading is probably the best possible option—to get off the internet, pick up a book, and think about how the country has gotten here.

She asked a dozen people who struggle with our culture's parameters and possibilities for three recommendations. I am well acquainted with one of them, and aware of most of the others. Their recommendations are worth perusing.

And just because I can, I'll offer my own three suggestions for reading for the season, one of which duplicates one that Green also received.

1. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward Baptist. Here's the raw story of how we became the white supremacist society we are. Just about everyone benefited, except the slaves who mostly were worked to death. No wonder the survivors are so tough. My discussion here.

2. Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes. On first sight, this might seem a book about the follies and crimes of the U.S. in Afghanistan. It is that, but that is not all. It is a deep examination of how sustainable social arrangements function and it is profoundly suggestive about the condition of our own polity. My discussion here.

3. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is a lawyer to the damned -- and much more. He demonstrates what a civil rights lawyer can accomplish, patiently building a case for more just application of law to the lives of his poor, largely Black, clients. And he is an institution builder, growing a law firm from nothing that is changing outcomes in the U.S. south and beyond. These days, he is building a National Lynching Memorial. If you want to meditate on actually doing something against hate, read this book.

1 comment:

DJan said...

I always read your posts, Jan, and I rarely comment. But I just wanted to say that just this week I started "Just Mercy." It's incredibly absorbing, and yes it makes me aware of how much difference just one person can make. Thank you for the other recommendations. I'll check them out when I'm done with this one.

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