Category Archives: American culture

Late summer reading list, nonfiction edition

A typical summer brings time to read.  This one has brought very few of the nice summer days that would give a person an excuse to spend time outside reading.  As a result, the Bagel is a bit behind in his summer reading, but I’ve got the following list of nonfiction books assembled, in a few thematic groups.  I’d also welcome any suggested additions to my meager list of fiction.

Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, Conrad Black
Nixonland, Rick Perlstein
What’s the matter with Kansas?, by Thomas Frank
A biography of the most emotionally complicated president in modern times, and a look at the political world in which he operated, and which he left behind.

The Pornography of Power, Robert Scheer
Takeover, Charlie Savage
Law and the Long War, Benjamin Wittes
A look at how defense law and policy changed during the Bush administration, from an insider’s point of view (Wittes) and from more jaded ones.

The Unaffordable Nation, Jeffery Jones
Not Keeping Up with Our Parents, Nan Mooney
Not Buying It, Judith Levine
A set of books that ask, What has happened to the American dream of a decent, middle-class life?  If it’s gone forever, we might as well learn to be happy without its excesses of consumption, hence the book by Judith Levine about a year without shopping.

Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam
Better Together, by Robert Putnam
Bobos in Paradise, by David Brooks
On Paradise Drive, David Brooks
Class Matters, collected stories the New York Times series of the same
A series on the state of the American community.  The books by Robert Putnam take a more sociological approach, with figures and data to back up every assertion, while David Brooks psychoanalyzes the upper middle class.  Somehow his broad statements, likely based on his anecdotal experiences in suburban circles of Washington and New York, so often ring true to me.

Fiction
The English American, by Alison Larkin
Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O’Nan
As an Anglophile, I can’t resist the first novel listed.  The second is a slim volume, almost a novella, and was well-reviewed.

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Howard Zinn: maybe American history is not so nice after all…

A colleague sent us a link to a series of videos posted by MIT about American political culture.

Myths About America poster

Myths About America poster

There are four videos of lectures given by Howard Zinn, Alan Wolfe, Eric Foner, and Leo Marx.  Each is about an hour long, followed by Q&A.  We’re making our way through them ourselves and will post reaction/commentary soon!