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Selected Book Reviews

Welcome! These selected book reviews are listed chronologically. Another interesting way to browse book reviews is to take a look at an archive of selected book reviews.



February 19, 2009

Soul of a Citizen, by Paul Rogat Loeb

Book reviewed on February 19, 2009

Though written ten years ago, here's a source of inspiration and integrity tailor-made for our times. Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time is an antidote to the twin scourges of modern life - powerlessness and cynicism. In his evocative style, reminiscent of Thomas Moore and M.Scott Peck, Paul Loeb tells moving stories of ordinary Americans who have found unexpected fulfillment in social involvement. Through their example and Loeb's own wise and powerful lessons, we are compelled to move from passivity to participation. The reward of our action, we learn, is nothing less than a sense of connection and purpose not found in a purely personal life.

"Rich, engaging, clearly written. An essential book for anyone who wants to work for change." - Howard Zinn
How do we challenge our culture's pervasive cynicism? Paul Loeb presents an alternative vision of hope and courage in his book, Soul of a Citizen. Based on thirty years studying the psychology of social involvement, Loeb describes how ordinary citizens can make their voices heard and their actions count in a time when we're often told neither matter. This book explores what leads some people to get involved in larger community issues while others feel overwhelmed or uncertain; what it takes to maintain commitment for the long haul; and how community involvement and citizen activism can give back a sense of connection and purpose rare in purely personal life.

Read More ...

October 11, 2008

The New Paradigm for Financial Markets, by George Soros

Book reviewed on October 11, 2008

In explaining why we had the tremendous rise in housing prices and then the plummeting of housing prices, George Soros, the respected economist, puts the responsibility on the financial industry for the bubble, both the rise and fall of prices. He explains, "Banks give you credit based on the value of the houses. But they don't seem to somehow understand that the value of the houses can be affected by the amount of credit they are willing to give."

George doesn't believe that economies will self-adjust. Nor does he think the financial industry should police itself. He points out that "...this belief that everybody pursuing his self-interests will maximize the common interests or will take care of the common interests is a false idea. It's a suitable idea for those who are rich, who are successful, who are powerful. It suits them to justify you know, enjoying the fruits without paying taxes."

Most commentators agree that the freezing of credit, tied to a lack of confidence in the economy — among banks, investors and consumers alike — are key problems threatening to push the world into a recession. The near-daily, sweeping interventions improvised by governments in the United States and across the globe are attempts to halt the break-down of the financial system and restore the faith needed for credit to start moving again.

In this book, George Soros explains the credit crisis through the lens of his conception of financial markets and human affairs.

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February 2, 2008

Immigrants and Boomers, by Dowell Myers

Book reviewed on February 2, 2008

In this compelling, optimistic book, Myers calls for a new social contract between the older and younger generations, based on their mutual interests and the moral responsibility of each generation to provide for children and the elderly.

Combining a rich scholarly perspective with keen insight into contemporary political dilemmas, Immigrants and Boomers creates a new framework for understanding the demographic challenges facing America and forging a national consensus to address them.

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January 1, 2008

A Testament of Hope, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Book reviewed on January 1, 2008

"We've got some difficult days ahead," civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., told a crowd gathered at Memphis's Clayborn Temple on April 3, 1968.

"But it really doesn't matter to me now because I've been to the mountaintop... And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."

These prophetic words, uttered the day before his assassination, challenged those he left behind to see that his "promised land" of racial equality became a reality; a reality to which King devoted the last twelve years of his life.

Kings own words are commemorated here in the only major one-volume collection of this seminal twentieth-century American prophet's writings, speeches, interviews, and autobiographical reflections. A Testament of Hope contains Martin Luther King, Jr.'s essential thoughts on nonviolence, social policy, integration, black nationalism, the ethics of love and hope, and more.

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Everything Must Change, by Brian McLaren

Book reviewed on January 1, 2008

Acclaimed author and Emergent church leader Brian McLaren states, "More and more Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who have recently dropped out of church, Christianity is a failed religion. Why? Because it has specialized in dealing with 'spiritual needs' to the exclusion of physical and social needs. It has focused on 'me' and 'my eternal destiny,' but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, poverty, and dysfunction."

McLaren asks, "Shouldn't a message purporting to be the best news in the world be doing better than this?" What he sets forth in this provocative, unsettling work is a "form of Christian faith that is holistic, integral, balanced, that offers good news for both the living and the dying, that speaks of God's grace at work both in this life and the life to come, both to individuals and to societies and the planet as a whole."

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November 1, 2007

The End of America, by Naomi Wolf

Book reviewed on November 1, 2007

An impassioned call to action to Americans from all walks of life to restore the checks and balances and our time-honored protections against abuses of power outlined by our Founding Fathers. Our country's founders believed that the proper goal of the State was to make men and women free to develop their faculties and to pursue virtue and wisdom. Our Constitution was built around these principles, protecting civil liberties and developing a careful system of checks and balances which protected our freedom from tyranny.

Naomi Wolf's latest work, The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot exposes how the escalation of Executive Power has eroded these core values and systems, limiting our Congress to make laws, and our courts to interpret them - a scenario that our Founding Fathers foresaw and warned against. Wolf outlines in this citizen call to action, reminiscent of Thomas Paine's revered Common Sense, the real threats that exist to our civil liberties and explains how working together we can solve the growing threat.

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The Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Krugman

Book reviewed on November 1, 2007

This wholly original new work by the best-selling author of The Great Unraveling challenges America to reclaim the values that made it great.

With this major new volume, Paul Krugman, "the heir apparent to Galbraith" (Alan Blinder) and, today's most widely read economist, studies the past eighty years of American history, from the reforms that tamed the harsh inequality of the Gilded Age to the unraveling of that achievement and the reemergence of immense economic and political inequality since the 1970s.

Seeking to understand both what happened to middle-class America and what it will take to achieve a "new New Deal," Krugman has created his finest book to date, a work that weaves together a nuanced account of three generations of history with sharp political, social, and economic analysis.

This book, written with Krugman's trademark ability to explain complex issues simply, will transform the debate about American social policy in much the same way as did John Kenneth Galbraith's deeply influential book The Affluent Society.

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Talking Past Each Other, by Kusnet, Mishel, and Teixeira

Book reviewed on November 1, 2007

In a series of focus groups in 2005 and 2006, EPI asked middle-class Americans to discuss their economic insecurities. The discussions revealed not only a profound ambivalence about the economy, but also a widening gap between the ways that everyday Americans and influential elites talk about the economy. Co-authored by David Kusnet, Lawrence Mishel, and Ruy Teixeira, this book discusses that gap and how to bridge it, allowing for changing economic, social, and political conditions. The study includes a special section that offers 12 suggestions for how to 'speak American' when talking about economics.

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This I Believe, by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman

Book reviewed on November 1, 2007

"At a time when the tide runs toward a sure conformity, when dissent is often confused with subversion, when a man's belief may be subject to investigation as well as his actions..." (Studs Terkel)

Those words of Terkel have the ring of a modern day mayday call of distress, yet they were written in 1952. Ed Murrow, introducing an assemblage of voices in 2006 in the volume This I Believe, sounded a claxon. It is an old story yet ever-contemporary. In 1791, Tom Paine, the most eloquent visionary of the American Revolution, sounded off:

Freedom has been hunted around the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear made man afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth is that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing... In such a situation, man becomes what he ought to be. He sees his species not with the inhuman idea of a natural enemy, but as kindred... (Thomas Paine)

It is the pursuit of this truth that appears to be the common tenor of all the voices you hear in this book. Albert Einstein once observed that westerners have a feeling the individual loses his freedom if he joins, say, a union or any group. Precisely the opposite is the case. Once you join others, even though at first your mission fails, you become a different person, a much stronger one. You feel that you really count, you discover your strength as an individual because you have along the way discovered others share in what you believe, you are not alone; and thus a community is formed.

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All Together Now, by Jared Bernstein

Book reviewed on November 1, 2007

Americans face prodigious economic and social challenges today, yet nothing unifies the various strategies and causes that attempt to meet these challenges.

Economist Jared Bernstein believes that frames such as "the ownership society" stress an ever-shrinking role for government and an ever-increasing risk for individuals, clearly implying: "You're on your own."

Arguing that this shift toward extreme individualism needlessly reduces the country's economic security and the living standards of most families, he describes the political and economic forces that pushed the country away from collective action and exposes the significant societal costs associated with the shift.

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Giving, by Bill Clinton

Book reviewed on November 1, 2007

Here, from Bill Clinton, is a call to action. Giving is an inspiring look at how each of us can change the world. First, it reveals the extraordinary and innovative efforts now being made by companies and organizations - and by individuals - to solve problems and save lives both "down the street and around the world." Then it urges us to seek out what each of us, "regardless of income, available time, age, and skills," can do to help, to give people a chance to live out their dreams.

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October 1, 2007

The State of Working America, 2006 / 2007, by Mishel, Bernstein and Allegretto

Book reviewed on October 1, 2007

Prepared biennially since 1988, this respected publication sums up the problems and challenges facing American working families, presenting a wide variety of data on family incomes, taxes, wages, unemployment, wealth, and poverty -- data that enables the book's authors to closely examine the impact of the economy on the living standards of the American people.

The State of Working America 2006/2007 is an exhaustive reference work that will be welcomed by anyone eager for a comprehensive portrait of the economic well-being of the nation.

The State of Working America remains unrivaled as the most-trusted source for a comprehensive understanding of how working Americans and their families are faring in today's economy. - Robert B. Reich

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Baghdad Burning II: Girl Blog From Iraq, by Riverbend

Book reviewed on October 1, 2007

Riverbend, the Iraqi blogger who received the Ulysses Prize for literary reportage, continues her dispatches from her native Baghdad. Embedded journalism at its most compelling, her blog recounts the major events of the occupation and the insurgency since October 2004, as well as her and her family's daily struggles.

In this hard-hitting journal, she describes the day-to-day realities of life in post-war Iraq, which for her family and neighbors means regular power-cuts, bombings, kidnappings and night-time raids by US soldiers. Including diary entries covering the release of the torture pictures of Abu Ghraib and Bush's State of the Union Speech as well as a more critical analysis of key players during the war and in its aftermath, Baghdad Burning offers a highly personal narrative on life since the US occupation that is at once disturbing and insightful.

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Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog From Iraq, by Riverbend

Book reviewed on October 1, 2007

In her riveting weblog, a remarkable young Iraqi woman gives a human face to war and occupation.

In August 2003, the world gained access to a remarkable new voice: a blog written by a 25-year-old Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, whose identity remained concealed for her own protection. Calling herself Riverbend, she offered searing eyewitness accounts of the everyday realities on the ground, punctuated by astute analysis on the politics behind these events.

Riverbend recounts stories of life in an occupied city - of neighbors whose home are raided by U.S. troops, whose relatives disappear into prisons, and whose children are kidnapped by money-hungry militias.

The only Iraqi blogger writing from a woman's perspective, she also describes a once-secular city where women are now afraid to leave their homes without head covering and a male escort.

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Colonize This! by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman

Book reviewed on October 1, 2007

It has been decades since women of color first turned feminism upside down, exposing the '70s feminist movement as exclusive, white, and unaware of the concerns and issues of women of color from around the globe. Now a new generation of brilliant, outspoken women of color is speaking to the concerns of a new feminism, and to their place in it.

Daisy Hernandez of Ms. Magazine and poet Bushra Rehman have collected a diverse, lively group of emerging writers who speak to their experience - to the strength and rigidity of community and religion, to borders and divisions, both internal and external - and address issues that take feminism into the twenty-first century.

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Other Lands Have Dreams, by Kathy Kelly

Book reviewed on October 1, 2007

"On reading these accounts of death and cruelty, we might well lose hope, but we are saved by the other stories, often less told, which Kathy records in her book. Stories of the courage and resilience of the ordinary Iraqi men, women and children, who continue to maintain their human dignity and in spite of everything, yes, even in the midst of war, show kindness and hospitality to the strangers in their midst.

"These stories of Kathy Kelly's life and work, touch our soul and renew our hope and belief in humanity. They inspire and challenge us to work for justice." - Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1976

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September 1, 2007

Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor, by John Bowe

Book reviewed on September 1, 2007

Most Americans would be shocked to discover that slavery still exists in the United States. Yet most of us buy goods made by people who aren't paid for their labor - people who are trapped financially, and often physically. In Nobodies, award-winning journalist John Bowe exposes the outsourcing, corporate chicanery, immigration fraud, and sleights of hand that allow forced labor to continue in the United States while the rest of us notice nothing but the everyday low price at the checkout counter.

Nobodies is a vivid and powerful work of investigative reporting, but it is also a lively examination of the eternal struggle for power between free people and unfree people. Against the American landscape of shopping mall, outlet stores, and Happy Meals, Bowe reveals how humankind's darker urges remain alive and well, lingering in the background of every transaction and how understanding them may lead to overcoming them.

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Black Farmers in America, by John Ficara and Juan Williams

Book reviewed on September 1, 2007

blackfarmers1.jpgThrough essays and photographs, the author reflects on an America that many hope and others assume is in the past.

Old, tangled roots tie black Americans to the nation's farmland. Black labor on Southern plantations formed the backbone of the nation's first economy, an agricultural economy. Slave labor provided the cheap cotton that set in motion the textile factories at the beginning of the industrial age and the rise of the American economy to the best in the world.

With the end of slavery, freed blacks began a struggle of biblical proportions to gain land and enjoy the same economic rewards as whites. At the heart of that gospel lay the failed promise of "Forty Acres and a Mule," which had its genesis in General William T. Sherman's Special Field Order Number 15, issued on January 16, 1865. The general's command allowed former slaves to begin farming on land abandoned by fleeing Confederate soldiers. In March of that year, the Congress authorized General Sherman to rent out the land and supply as many plow mules as possible to the new farmers.

Here are John Ficara's masterful images of a modern version of "twilight's last gleaming" -- what is left of America's heritage of strong black farmers. These photographs are taken with the care required to preserve a precious American heritage. American history is on view here. These are deeply felt memories. There is much sweetness in these pictures but also a trace of bitterness. Today, all that remains of the nation's black farmers is a few older folks working the same rich, dark southern soil as their forefathers.

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The Age of Turbulence, by Alan Greenspan

Book reviewed on September 1, 2007

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, levels unusually harsh criticism at President George Bush and the Republican Party. Greenspan argues that Bush and the Republican Congress abandoned the central conservative principle of fiscal restraint.

Greenspan paints a picture of George Bush as a man driven more by ideology and one that is incurious about the effects of his economic policy. The book implies that the Bush administration is one incapable of executing economic policy.

The former Fed Chairman says that while he served under Bush, "I was soon to see my old friends veer off in unexpected directions."

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News for a Change: An Advocate's Guide, by Wallack, Woodruff, Dorfman and Diaz

Book reviewed on September 1, 2007

News for a Change provides step-by-step instructions for working with the media to promote social change. The authors are seasoned activists in the use of media advocacy - the strategic use of news media, advertising and community organizing to change public policy.

In this media-driven age, strategic media approaches are vital to achieving visibility, gathering support, and challenging those in positions of power.

The authors here designed this book around 10 key rules that should shape your media efforts. Throughout each chapter, they provide "Advocacy in Action" examples - stories of groups who have used media successfully to advance their policy goals, as well as checklists, pointers, and exercises to help you apply the lessons of media advocacy to your work. Worksheets and additional resources are collected in appendices at the end of the book.

Read More ...

Other book reviews

The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein, Sep 1, 2007
Supercapitalism, by Robert Reich, Aug 1, 2007
You Have No Rights, by Matthew Rothschild, Aug 1, 2007
No Turning Back, by Estelle Freeman, Aug 1, 2007
The Missing Class, by Newman and Chen, Jul 1, 2007
The Last Days of Democracy, by Elliot Cohen and Bruce Fraser, Jul 1, 2007
Steeplejacking, by Sheldon Culver and John Dorhauer, Jul 1, 2007
Deer Hunting with Jesus, by Joe Bageant, Jul 1, 2007
City Adrift, by Bergal, Hiles, et al, Jul 1, 2007
Interventions, by Noam Chomsky, Jul 1, 2007
Richistan, by Robert Frank, Jul 1, 2007
House of War, by James Carroll, Jul 1, 2007
Tempting Faith, by David Kuo, Jun 1, 2007
The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore, Jun 1, 2007
Big Coal, by Jeff Goodell, Jun 1, 2007
The Price of Motherhood, by Ann Crittenden, Jun 1, 2007
Flat Broke with Children, by Sharon Hays, Jun 1, 2007
The Shame of the Nation, by Jonathan Kozol, Jun 1, 2007
Without a Net, by Michelle Tea, Jun 1, 2007
Hope Dies Last, by Studs Terkel, Jun 1, 2007
The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jun 1, 2007
Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, by Michael Yates, Jun 1, 2007
Screwed, by Thom Hartmann, Jun 1, 2007
Night Draws Near, by Anthony Shadid, Jun 1, 2007
deMOCKracy, by Mike Maggio, Jun 1, 2007
State of Denial, by Bob Woodward, Jun 1, 2007
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure, by Thomas Ricks, May 1, 2007
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini, May 1, 2007
Hostile Takeover, by David Sirota, May 1, 2007
The Greatest Story Ever Sold, by Frank Rich, May 1, 2007
American Fascists, by Chris Hedges, May 1, 2007
The Bush Agenda, by Antonio Juhasz, May 1, 2007
Going Public, by Michael Gecan, May 1, 2007
The Quotable Rebel, by Teishan Latner, May 1, 2007
Organizing for Social Change, by Bobo, Kendall and Max, May 1, 2007
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, by Howard Zinn, May 1, 2007
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe, May 1, 2007
American Furies, by Sasha Abramsky, May 1, 2007
Kingdom Coming, by Michelle Goldberg, May 1, 2007
Breaking The News, by James Fallows, May 1, 2007
Falling Behind, by Robert Frank, May 1, 2007
The Uses of Haiti, by Paul Farmer, May 1, 2007
The Covenant with Black America, by Tavis Smiley, May 1, 2007
Strapped, by Tamara Draut, May 1, 2007
Hubris: The Inside Story, by Isikoff & Corn, May 1, 2007
Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, May 1, 2007
Slut! by Leora Tanenbaum, May 1, 2007
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, by Jimmy Carter, May 1, 2007
The One-Hour Activist, by Christopher Kush, May 1, 2007
Democracy Matters, by Cornel West, May 1, 2007

Want to browse more books? We have many more! One interesting way to browse book reviews is to visit the book archives here. We also have an alphabetical listing of books that you may wish to try.


Browse the Blogs!

Books You Might Like!

More Book Reviews:

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, by Ronald Sider

Jesus for President, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (Part 2)

Jesus for President, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (Part 1)

Conscience and Courage, by Eva Fogelman

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver

Mis-Education of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

Immigrants and Boomers, by Dowell Myers

A Testament of Hope, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Everything Must Change, by Brian McLaren

The End of America, by Naomi Wolf

The Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Krugman

Talking Past Each Other, by Kusnet, Mishel, and Teixeira

This I Believe, by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman

All Together Now, by Jared Bernstein

Giving, by Bill Clinton

The State of Working America, 2006 / 2007, by Mishel, Bernstein and Allegretto

Baghdad Burning II: Girl Blog From Iraq, by Riverbend

Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog From Iraq, by Riverbend

Colonize This! by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman

Other Lands Have Dreams, by Kathy Kelly

Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor, by John Bowe

Black Farmers in America, by John Ficara and Juan Williams

The Age of Turbulence, by Alan Greenspan

News for a Change: An Advocate's Guide, by Wallack, Woodruff, Dorfman and Diaz

The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein

Supercapitalism, by Robert Reich

You Have No Rights, by Matthew Rothschild

No Turning Back, by Estelle Freeman

The Missing Class, by Newman and Chen

The Last Days of Democracy, by Elliot Cohen and Bruce Fraser

Steeplejacking, by Sheldon Culver and John Dorhauer

Deer Hunting with Jesus, by Joe Bageant

City Adrift, by Bergal, Hiles, et al

Interventions, by Noam Chomsky

Richistan, by Robert Frank

House of War, by James Carroll

Tempting Faith, by David Kuo

The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore

Big Coal, by Jeff Goodell

The Price of Motherhood, by Ann Crittenden

Flat Broke with Children, by Sharon Hays

The Shame of the Nation, by Jonathan Kozol

Without a Net, by Michelle Tea

Hope Dies Last, by Studs Terkel

The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, by Michael Yates

Screwed, by Thom Hartmann

Night Draws Near, by Anthony Shadid

deMOCKracy, by Mike Maggio

Click here to browse all our book reviews >>

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