For 2 bucks I got two hardcovers from my local library: Tom Paine, the Greatest Exile by David Powell and America at 1750 by Richard Hofstadter. These have duly been added to my growing pile of "To Be Read" books.
I was browsing Barnes and Noble today, and because I had been primed by reading this post at Orcinus about Dave Neiwert getting a regular Monday gig at Rick Perlstein's blog The Big Con, I noticed Jonathan Chait's recently released and similarly titled (that would be 'almost exactly similarly titled') book The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked from by Crackpot Economics. The author argues that over the course of the last 30 years economic extremists have managed to transform (with the help of a lax media) what was formerly considered crazy fiscal policy into near conventional wisdom in Washington.
The book's first chapter is available here at the New York Times. Given that the book's premise compliments a theme that I've been trying to develop for an eventual essay, this is now on my "To Be Read" list (to be distinguished from my "To Be Read" pile.)
Finally, in the Oct/Nov 07 edition of Free Inquiry, there are two reviews that you might find of interest. One is Ed Doerr giving an extremely positive review of The Assault on Reason by Al Gore and the other is Jennifer Michael Hecht - author of The Daily Doubter 2005 Book of the Year - reviewing God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everthing by Christopher Hitchens.
While Hecht enjoyed much of the book, she found other sections extremely frustrating because Hitchens has a tendency to dilute his argument by playing loose with the facts and his knowledge of religious history is somewhat shaky in spots. For example, she points out that Hitchens attempts to turn Albert Einstein into an atheist, despite his actual religious views being more properly understood as a kind pantheism. Also, Hitchens seems to bash religious figures like Ghandi and MLK for the sake of bashing religious figures, according to Hecht. If my brief summary of Hecht's review is off slightly, it's due to me having only skimmed/speed read the article shamefully in the bookstore.
Strongmen and Fragile Democracies
3 hours ago