edited by Nicholas Lemann ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 6, 2020
A solid, left-leaning collection of pieces by thought leaders of yesteryear on how democracy works—or doesn’t.
The New Yorker staff writer and journalism professor gathers historical texts he hopes will “serve as a spur to political reflection and action” on enduring problems of American democracy.
Lemann argues that democracy isn’t an outcome but a process—and one that was contentious from the beginning—so it makes more sense to refine it than to pine for a lost halcyon era. Toward that end, his anthology rounds up 21 texts produced over more than 200 years and divided thematically into five sections on “citizenship, equality, governance, money in politics, and protest,” each of which deals with an issue that remains pertinent, such as racial injustice, immigration reform, or nuclear proliferation. Most contributors are well-known historical figures who represent diverse perspectives on democracy: Jane Addams, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Henry Cabot Lodge, James Madison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alexis de Tocqueville, and George Washington. The book as a whole, however, is slanted toward the liberal end of the spectrum. Lemann offers an excerpt from Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent in the Citizens United case without the counterweight of a concurring opinion from a more conservative jurist, and he makes his anti-Trump stance clear on the first page, which faults the president for “spending money without congressional approval, selectively enforcing immigration laws, undermining the independence of federal agencies and unilaterally ordering assassinations overseas, even of American citizens.” That uneasy mix of ageless texts and pointed topical commentary makes it difficult to envision a broad readership for this anthology. The book should find a natural home in lower-level college courses on American democracy, but the 2020 presidential election could make some of the material sound dated. Oddly enough, Lemann leaves the impression that he would love to have to revise parts of his work before the metaphorical ink has dried on the first edition.A solid, left-leaning collection of pieces by thought leaders of yesteryear on how democracy works—or doesn’t.
Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020
Page Count: 300
Publisher: Library of America
Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020
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by David Grann ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2017
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Finalist
Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.
During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Pub Date: April 18, 2017
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017
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by Thomas Sowell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 19, 2023
For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.
The noted conservative economist delivers arguments both fiscal and political against social justice initiatives such as welfare and a federal minimum wage.
A Black scholar who has lived through many civil rights struggles, Sowell is also a follower of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that free market solutions are available for every social problem. This short book begins with what amounts to an impatient declaration that life isn’t fair. Some nations are wealthy because of geographical advantages, and some people are wealthy because they’re smarter than others. “Some social justice advocates may implicitly assume that various groups have similar developed capabilities, so that different outcomes appear puzzling,” he writes. In doing so, he argues, they fail to distinguish between equal opportunity and equal capability. Sowell is dismissive of claims that Black Americans and other minorities are systematically denied a level playing field: Put non-white kids in charter schools, he urges, and presto, their math scores will zoom northward as compared to those in public schools. “These are huge disparities within the same groups, so that neither race nor racism can account for these huge differences,” he writes, clearly at pains to distance himself from the faintest suggestion that race has anything to do with success or failure in America. At the same time, he isn’t exactly comfortable with the idea that economic inequalities exist, and he tries to finesse definitions to suit his convictions: “The terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are misleading in another and more fundamental sense. These terms apply to people’s stock of wealth, not their flows of income.” As for crime? Give criminals more rights, he asserts, as with Miranda v. Arizona, and crime rates go up—an assertion that overlooks numerous other variables but fits Sowell’s ideological slant.For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.
Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Basic Books
Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023
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