A well-argued book geared toward those with an interest in the intersection of law and religion.

THE RELIGION CLAUSES

THE CASE FOR SEPARATING CHURCH AND STATE

A dispassionate exposition in favor of the separation of church and state.

Noting that the current structure of the Supreme Court is tilted toward an accommodationist view of the First Amendment, which tends to side with conservatives and religious majorities, legal experts Chemerinsky and Gillman take the initiative to offer a differing view. “Our thesis,” they write, “is that the Constitution meant to create, and should be interpreted as creating, a secular republic, meaning that the government has no role in ad­vancing religion and that religious belief and practice should be a pri­vate matter.” The authors begin with an examination of how the framers of the Constitution viewed the relationship between church and state. Despite traditions to the contrary, they write, “the framers resisted strong pressure to declare that the American republic would formally be associated with Christianity. There is no doubt that they intended to create a government that was formally secular.” Though declaring themselves not to be “originalists,” the authors work from the assumption that the founders sought specifically to create a secular government and that such a government has served America best through time. They work systematically, first through the Establishment Clause and then the Free Exercise Clause, explaining the background to each clause and various court cases that have shaped the public understanding of them, before then examining their own separationist views regarding each. Chemerinsky and Gillman end with a counter to the argument that separation of church and state is often a guise for hostility to religion; instead, they write, separation is a means of protecting all religions. Written in what can best be described as a relaxed legal style, the book is largely accessible but will appeal most to attorneys and those intrigued by the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

A well-argued book geared toward those with an interest in the intersection of law and religion.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-069973-4

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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