January 23, 2012







January 22, 2012


Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, with a foreword by Carl Jung (New York: Grove Press, 1964) ("Taking it all in all, Zen is emphatically a matter of personal experience; if anything can be called radically empirical, it is Zen. No amount of reading, no amount of teaching, no amount of contemplation will ever make one a Zen master. Life itself must be grasped in the midst of its flow; to stop it for examination and analysis is to kill it, leaving its cold corpse to be embraced. . . . " Id. at 102.).

Thich Nhat Nanh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2010).


Joseph M. Siry, Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2011).


Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War (New York: Random House, 2011) (Selected a one of "The 10 Best Books of 2011" by the NYT.).




Robert Polidori, After the Flood (Gottingen: Steidl, 2006) (exceedingly powerful, yet stunningly beautiful photography of the devastation of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina).


Richard Thompson Ford, Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) ("Civil rights activism today suffers from a debilitating combination of nostalgia, narcissism and false solidarity. Nostalgia leads civil rights activists to analyze and attack contemporary racial problems--of which there are many--with the tactics of the past. But today's most severe racial problems are different from those of the past, even if they are continuous with historical injustices. . . . Without a discrete and conspicuous target, much of today's civil rights protest comes off as both shrill and aimless, in stark contrast to the heroic struggles of the mid-twentieth century, where civil rights activism was resolute and focused." "Narcissism poisons civil rights activism by elevating drama and spectacle over practical results. Many of the solutions to today's social injustices will require wonkish policy intervention, frustrating compromises, and tedious negotiations with government, businesses, and other orgnanizations. Instead of the high drama of the Freedom Summers . . . , we face a long, slow winter of institutional reform. The real legatees of the civil rights movement will learn to wield power rather than fight it; cooperate with businesses more often than boycott or sue them; run for office rather than march on the capital. Sustained institutional change offers few resounding victories and fewer opportunities for conspicuous heroism. One must be satisfied with the steady accumulation of modest improvements." "False solidarity obscures the real stakes of social conflicts and allows opportunists with weak moral claims to ride the coattails of the truly deserving. Racists may not make fine distinctions within racial groups, but many of the most debilitating racial disadvantages do. The acculturated and the privileged can avoid much of the toxic legacy of past discrimination. The racial disadvantaged faced by the privileged is different in kind--not just in degree--from that faced by the poor, who must struggle against social isolation, dysfunctional public institutions, counterproductive socialization, high crime, and the resulting psychological despair. . . . The false solidarity that fixates on an imagined common enemy even as actual menaces become more and more diverse has preempted genuine solidarity based o a shared history and humane compassion. True solidarity requires empathy, not identification, Not coincidentally we need a similar empathy among citizens, regardless of race, in order to address our most persistent social injustices." Id. at 206-207. This book is nontechnical and addressed to a educated (but not necessarily in law) readers. I am not sure the arguments are tight, but the dots are more or less loosely connected. Note: On black solidarity, see my post date 10/29/2011. Also see Jeffrey Rosen, "Defining 'Equal'," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/13/11.).


Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined(New York: Viking, 2011) (This is a wonderful, truly wonderful book. I give you my favorite passage:

"The human capacity for compassion is not a reflex that is triggered automatically by the presence of another living thing.[T]hough people in all cultures can react sympathetically to kin, friends, and babies, they tend to hold back when it comes to larger circles of neighbors, strangers, foreigners, and other sentient beings. In his book The Expanding Circle, the philosopher Peter Singer has argued that over the course of history, people have enlarged the range of beings whose interests they value as they value their own. An interesting question is what inflated the empathy circle. And a good candidate is the expansion of literacy.

"Reading is a technology for perspective-taking. When someone else's thoughts are in your head, you are observing the world from that person's vantage point. Not only are you taking in sights and sounds that you could not experience firsthand, but you have stepped inside that person's mind and are temporarily sharing his or her attitudes and reactions. As we shall see, 'empathy' in the sense of adopting someone's viewpoint is not the same as 'empathy' in the sense of feeling compassion toward the person, but the first can lead to the second by a natural route. Stepping into someone else's vantage points reminds you that the other fellow has a first-person, present-tense, ongoing stream of consciousness that is very much like your own but not the same as your own. It's not a big leap to suppose that the habit of reading other people's words could put one in the habit of entering other people's minds, including their pleasures and pains. Slipping even for a moment into the perspective of someone who is turning black in a pillory or desperately pushing burning faggots aways from her body or convulsing under the two hundredth stroke of the lash may give a person second thoughts as to whether these cruelties should ever be visited upon anyone.

"Adopting other people's vantage points can alter one's convictions in other ways. Exposure to worlds that can be seen only through the eyes of a foreigner, an explorer, or a historian can turn an unquestioned norm ('That's the way it's done') into an explicit observation ('That's what our tribe happens to do now'). This self-consciousness is the first step toward asking whether the practice could be done in some in other way. Also, learning that over the course of history the first can become the last and the last can become first may instill the habit of mind that reminds us, 'There but for fortune go I.' "

Id. at 175. There another passage, one I will not provide here, which ends with a great, and telling, punchline regarding our less than rational fears and ability to calculate risks. "The writer Warwick Cairns calculated that if you wanted your child to be kidnapped and held overnight be a stranger, you'd have to leave the child outside and unattended for 750,000 years." Id. at 446.).

If you have not read, might I also suggest the following books by Steven Pinker?

Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2002) (From the bookjacket: "Our conceptions of human nature affects every aspect of our lives, from the way we raise our children to the political involvements we embrace. Yet just as science is bringing us into a golden age of understanding human nature, many people are hostile to the very idea. They fear that discoveries about innate patterns of thinking and feeling may be used to justify inequality, to subvert social change, to dissolve personal responsibility, and to strip life of meaning." " In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker . . . explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. He shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature by embracing three linked dogmas: the Blank State (the mind has no innate traits), the Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society), and the Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology). Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them." "Pinker injects calm and rationality into these debates by showing that equality, progress, responsibility, and purpose have nothing to fear from discoveries about a rich human nature. He disarms even the most menacing threats with clear thinking, common sense, and pertinent facts from science and history. Despite its popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, he argues, the doctrine of the Blank Slate may have done more harm than good. It denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces hardheaded analyses of social problems with fee-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of government, violence, parenting, and the arts.").

Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language New York: Morrow, 1994).

Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2007) (From the bookjacket: "[Pinker] argues that human thought--from political positions and religious beliefs to advertising gimmicks and comic strips--are built around certain core ideas like space, force, dominance, kinship, and contamination. Look around, and you'll realize that the metaphors we use every day reach back to these primal concepts. Pinker asks how we develop these categories as children, how we apply them to the world around us, and what happens when we apply them in inappropriate ways." ).

Steven Pinker, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language(New York: Basic Books, 1999).


Matthew White, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities (New York: Norton, 2011) ("Some historians say that the Crusades drove a wedge between Christianity and Islam that still exists to this day, but let's be realistic. Neither of these religions gets along with anybody. It would be difficult to find any time in history when their followers weren't killing each other--and even if you could, that would only be because they were resting up and getting ready for another round." "However, by putting huge numbers of western European aristocrats in close contact with the sophisticated Orient, the Crusades were able to jump-start Western Civilization--in a happy history book that would be the main legacy of the Crusades. For our purposes, however, the main legacy was a harshening of the Christian religion. For the next five hundred years--until the Enlightenment tamed it--western Christianity had an unfortunate tendency to direct violence against unbelievers." "We shall see other religious wars in this book, but those will be wars about people--people trying to impose their beliefs, people wanting to be left alone, people being punished, people being rescued. The Crusades were about a place: the Holy Land." "While fighting over land is quite common, the land in dispute usually provides practical resources--minerals, crops, harbors, farms, strategic location, exploitable labor, or sheer size. Palestine has none of these. The sole resource of the Holy Land is heritage. There's no gold, no oil, very little fertile land, and few natives, noting but sacred sites, so in essence, the Crusades killed 3 million people in a fight to control the tourist trade." Id. at 106. "There is a tendency to dismiss a lot of uncomfortable history as hearsay, but when you get down to it, all history is hearsay. We owe it to the victims to not doubt too readily." Id. at 42.).


Robert Levine, Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back (New York: Doubleday, 2011) (In the final analysis, there is no such thing as a 'free ride'. Someone, perhaps not the actual rider, is always paying the price. Ultimately it is not just the culture business that is paying for others' so-called 'free ride.' Ultimately, it is the culture that suffers . . . and declines. If the creator of cultural content cannot make a living creating culture, then they will trying to create culture. And that leave our culture where? In the long term, we will get that for which we pay. And, as a result, be culturally poorer for it. From the bookjacket: "In an incisive chronicle of media's collision with the Internet, journalist Robert Levine narrates how the culture business succumbed to the siren song of 'free.' Fearless in its reporting and analysis, Free Ride is an epic tale of value destruction and the business history of the decade." "It has become conventional wisdom that on the Internet, 'information wants to be free.' This memorable phrase helped shape the online business model, but it is now driving the media companies on which the digital industry depends to close their doors. In the first comprehensive business history of a decade of perilous change, Robert Levine uncovers how the United States built an information economy only to find that information worthless." "Levine reveals how technology companies build businesses on content that belongs to others, and spend millions to undercut copyright protection, often through public-advocacy groups that don't make the sources of their funding clear. As crucial decisions are made about the future of the Internet, he reminds us that the online world was shaped by laws and that the battleground of the Net has never been 'neutral.' Also, see Jeffrey Rosen, "Inconspicuous Consumption," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).


Michael Ondaatje, The Cat's Table: A Novel (New York: Knopf, 2011) (just a good read).


Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (New York: Random House, 2011) (See Kathryn Harrison, "The Empress of All the Russias," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/20/2011.).


Max Hastings, Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 (New York: Knopf, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "From one of our finest military historians, a monumental work that shows us at once the truly global reach of World War II and its deeply personal consequences." "World War II involved tens of millions of soldiers and cost sixty million lives--an average of twenty-seven thousand a day. . . . [F]or the first time,[Hastings] gives us a magnificent, single-volume history of the entire war." "Through his strikingly detailed stories of everyday people--of soldiers, sailors and airmen; British housewives and Indian peasants; S S killers and the citizens of Leningrad, some of whom resorted to cannibalism during the two-year siege; Japanese suicide pilots and American carrier crews--Hastings provides a singularly intimate portrait of the world at war. He simultaneously traces the major developments . . . and put them in a real human context." "Hastings also illuminates some of the darker and less explored regions under the war's penumbra, including the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland, during which the Finns fiercely and surprisingly resisted Stalin's invading Red Army; and the Bengal famine of 1943 and 1944, when at least one million people died in what turned out to be, in Nehru's words, 'the final epitaph of British rule' in India." "Remarkably informed and wide-ranging, Inferno is both elegantly written and cogently argued. Above all, it is a new and essential understanding of one of the greatest and bloodiest events of the twentieth century." Also, see Richard J. Evans, "Theater of War," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/20/2011.).


John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011) ("[Kennan] was now approaching Acheson's view that every thing was at risk: the danger, though, was not from rotten apples but from cultural despair. The first barbarians to sack Rome had not held it; nevertheless the blow had begun the end of the roman empire. There was no reason to assume that Europe, 'as we know it--and as we need it--would ever recover from . . . even a brief period of Russian control.' Floodwaters always receded, but was that a good reason not to build dikes? To abandon Europe would be to sever the roots of culture and tradition, leaving the United States with fewer safeguards against tyranny than one might think: 'The fact of the matter is that there is a little bit of totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and every one of us. It is only the cheerful light of confidence and security which keeps evil genius down at the usual helpless and invisible depth. If confidence and security were to disappear, don't think that he would not be waiting to take their place.' Retaining their freedoms in a hostile world would require Americans, therefore, 'to whistle loudly in the dark.' That might not be enough to save them." Id. at 263. The debacle of the 2000 Presidential election, the events of September 11, 2001, the two failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the assaults on civil liberties in the aftermath of 9/11, the bursting of the real estate bubble and the Great Recession of 2007-2008 and its slow and weak recovery (if it is a recovery), have all shaken the American confidence and security. Is a totalitarian waiting in the wings? Would Americans willing embrace their own dictator-saviour? There is a totalitarian in all of us, or at least the desire for the totalitarians solutions to our cultural, political. and economic problems. "The danger for Americans lay less in another Pearl Harbor [or another September 11?] than in what they might do to themselves because they feared one. For confronting totalitarians [terror?] required, in many respects, emulating them. The leader who would attempt this 'must learn to regiment his people, to husband his resources, to guard against hostile agents in his midst, to maintain formidable armed forces in peacetime, to preserve secrecy about governmental decisions, to wield the weapons of bluff and surprise, to wage war in peacetime--and peace in wartime, can these things be done without the selling out the national soul?" Id. at 416. For "Kennan's National War College Lecture on December 21, 1949, . . . [h]is topic that day was a question: 'Where Do We Stand?' The answer, Kennan told the students, depended on where 'you think we have come from, and where you think we are going.' Finding it required to remedying an inattention to history--the tendency to view all problems 'as though the world, like ourselves, had been born only yesterday.' " Id. at at 371. Also see, Henry A. Kissinger, "Mr. X," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/13/11.).


Robert N. Bellah, Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2011) (From the bookjacket' "Religion in Human Evolution is a work of extraordinary ambition--a wide-ranging, nuanced probing of our biological past to discover the kinds of lives that human beings have most often imagined were worth living. It offers what is frequently seen as a forbidden theory of the origins of religion that goes deep into evolution, especially but not exclusively cultural evolution." "How did our early ancestors transcend the quotidian demands of everyday existence to embrace an alternative reality that called into question the very meaning of their daily struggle? Robert Bellah . . . identifies a range of cultural capacities, such as communal dancing, storytelling, and theorizing, whose emergence made this religious development possible. Deploying the latest findings in biology, he traces the expansion of this cultural capacities from the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (roughly, the fist millennium BCE), when individuals and groups in the Old World challenged the norms and beliefs of class societies ruled by kings and aristocracies. These religious prophets and renouncers never succeeded in founding their alternative utopias, but they left a heritage of criticism that would not be quenched." "Bellah's treatment of the four great civilizations of the Axial Age--in ancient Israel, Greece, China and India--shows how all existing religions, both prophetic and mystic, to be rooted in the evolutionary story he tells. Religion in Human Evolution answers the call for a critical history of religion grounded in the full range of human constraints and possibilities.").


Julia Lovell, The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China (London: Picador, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "In October 1839 . . . a Cabinet meeting in Windsor voted to fight Britain's first Opium War (1839-42) with China, The conflict turned out to be rich in tragicomedy; in bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past hundred and seventy years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding myth of modern Chinese nationalism: the start of China's heroic struggle against a Western conspiracy to destroy the county with opium and gunboat diplomacy." "Beginning withe dramas of the war itself, Julia Lovell explores its background, causes and consequences: Qing China's expansive interactions with the world beyond its borders; the mutual incomprehension that pushed both sides towards war; the hypocrisy of the British; the terrible bloodshed resulting from the Britain's technical superiority. She then traces out the construction of the Opium War myth in both China and the West, via China's intensifying sense of guochi (national humiliation) and the West's fear of Yellow Peril retribution, ending in the Chinese Communist Party's ongoing efforts to harness historical memory. Through this larger narrative, she weaves the curious stories of opium's promoters and attackers--of smugglers turned gentleman; of self-loathing Chinese nationalist; of doctors who tried to detox smokers with arsenic, heroin and cocaine; of twentieth-century China's two great dictators, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong (both sworn pubic enemies of opium both bankrolled by drug-trade profits.)." The Opium War is both the story of modern china--starting form this first conflict with the West--and an analysis of the country's contemporary self-image. It explores how China's national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present, and how delusion and prejudice on both sides have bedevilled its relationship withe he modern West." Although Lovell mentions it, she does not develop the fact that all of this was triggered in an imbalance in trade between China and the West, mainly Britain. Gold was leaving Britain to may for the British appetite for Chinese goods, while the Chinese were not buying British goods. It is a reminder that the choice is not between peace and war, but rather between trade and war.).


Joan Didion, Blue Nights (New York: Knopf, 2011) ("When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children." Id. at 54.).


Michael W. Klein, Something for Nothing: A Novel (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: MIT Press, 2011) ("Is economics useful for everyday life? Scarcity is the central economic challenge. The most common scarce resource is time since absolutely nobody feels as if they have enough of it. Economic theory has something to say about this, about how to allocate scarce hours. If the long-run benefit to your career of an additional hour spent working preparing for class, then, by all means, get that data set in order. If you have more fun (the common name for what economists call 'utility') watching one more movie than reading one more book, go buy that ticket and a box of popcorn, too. A well-trained economist like David Fox knows about these calculations and should be able to draw on this theory to make his life better. But there's a big difference between knowing what you should do and actually doing it.' Id. at 53.).


Russell Banks, Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel (New York: Ecco. 2011) ("He doesn't know which story to believe. . . . His mind is bouncing off competing versions of reality as if he is living inside a video game and it's making him feel dizzy and nauseated. He wonders if the Writer's harsh theory about knowledge --that you can't ever know the truth about anything-- is true after all. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. But the Kid can't even know that: he's stuck between believing the Writer's theory and not believing it." Id. at 410. And so are we all!).

Roberto Bolano, The Third Reich, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) (See Michael Wood, "Playing With History," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 12/25/2011.).

Don DeLillo, The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories (New York: Scribner, 2011) See Liesl Schillinger, "Unnamed Sources," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/20/2011.).

Anita Desai, The Artist of Disapearance: Three Novella (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) (See Randy Boyagoda, "Hidden in Plain Sight," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 12/11/2011.).

Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery: A Novel, translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "Nineteenth-century Europe--from Turin to Paris--abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian republicans strangle priest with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate Black Masses at night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. Conspiracies rule history. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all these conspiracies, both real and imagined, lay one one man? What if that evil genius created the world's most infamous document?" "Umberto Eco takes his readers on a remarkable journey through the underbelly of world-shattering events. . . .").

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot: A Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives." Also see Michael Greenberg, "The Mania of Love," NYRB, November 24, 2011).).

Eleanor Henderson, Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel(New York: Ecco, 2011) (selected as one of "The 10 Books of 2011" by the NYT).

Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem: A Novel (New York: Pantheon, 2001) (From the bookjacket: "In 1937, with the Japanese poised to invade Nanjing, Minnie Vautrin--an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women's College--decides to remain at the school, convinced that her American citizenship will help her safeguard the welfare of the Chinese men and women who work there. She is painfully mistaken. In the aftermath of the invasion, the school becomes a refuge camp for more than ten thousand homeless women and children, and Vautrin must struggle, day after day, to intercede on behalf of the hapless victims. Even when order and civility are eventually restored, Vautrin remains deeply embattled, and she is haunted by the lives she could not save." Also, see Isabel Hilton, "In Harm's Way," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/23/2011.).

Denis Johnson, Train Dreams: A Novella (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011).

Stephen King, 11/22/63: A Novel (New York: Scribner, 2011) (Selected as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2011" by the NYT. Also, see Errol Morris, "'Save Kennedy'," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/13/2011.).

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84: A Novel, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin & Philip Gabriel (New York: Knopf, 2011) ("What kind of world will be there tomorrow? 'No one knows the answer to that,' Fuka-Eri said." Id. at 499. "Back when he was a lawyer it was the same. He couldn't remember having done anything that helped society. His biggest clients ran small and medium-sized financial firms and had ties to organized crime. Ushikawa created the most efficient ways to disperse their profits and made all the arrangements. Basically, it was money laundering. he was also involved in land sharking" When investors had their eyes on an area, he helped drive out longtime residents so they could knock down their houses and sell the remaining large lots to condo builders. Hugh amounts of money rolled in. The same type of people were involved in this as well. He also specialized in defending people brought up on tax evasion-charges. Most of the clients were suspicious characters that an ordinary lawyer would hesitate to have anything to do with. But as long as a client wanted him to represent him--and as long as a certain amount of money changed hands--Ushikawa never hesitated He was a skilled lawyer, with a decent track record, so he never hurt for business. . . ." "If he had followed the path that ordinary lawyers take, Ushikawa would probably have found it hard to earn a living. He had passed the bar exam not long after he left college, and h had become a lawyer, but he had no connections or influential backers. With his looks, no prestigious law firm would ever had hire him, so if he had stayed on a straight and narrow path he would have had very few clients. There can't be many people in the world who would go out of their way to hire a lawyer who looked as unappealing as Ushikawa, plus pay the high fees involved. The blame might lie with TV drama, which have conditioned people to expect lawyers to be both bright and attractive." Id. at 764-765. Also, see Kathryn Schulz, "Escape Route," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/6/2011.).

Peter Nadas, Parallel Stories: A Novel, translated from the Hungarian by Imre Goldstein (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "In 1989, the year The Wall came down, a university student in Berlin on his morning run finds a corpse on a park bench and alert the authorities. This scene opens a novel of extraordinary scope and depth, a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans--Hungarians, Jews, German, Gypsies--across the treacherous years o the mid-twentieth century." "Three unusual men are at the heart of Parallel Stories: Hans von Wolkenstein, whose German mother is linked to secrets of fascist-Nazi collaboration during the 1940s; Agost Lippay Lehr, whose influential father has served Hungary's different political regimes for decades;and Andras Rott, who has his own dark record of mysterious activities abroad. The web of extended and interconnected dramas reaches from 1989 back to the Spring of 1939, when Europe trembled on the edge of war, and extends to the bestial times of 1944-45, when Budapest was besieged, the Final Solution devastated Hungary's Jews, and the war came to an end, and on to the cataclysmic Hungarian Revolution of October 1956. We follow these men from Berlin and Moscow to Switzerland and Holland, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, and of course, from village to city in Hungary. The social and political circumstances of their lives may vary greatly, their sexual and spiritual longings may seem to each of them entirely unique, yet Peter Nadas's magnificent tapestry unveils uncanny reverberating parallels that link them across time and space." Also, see Benjamin Moser, "Kingdom of Shadows," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).

Edna O'Brien, Saints and Sinners: Stories (New York: Nay Bay Books, 2011).

Tea Obreht, The Tiger's Wife: A Novel (New York: Random House, 2011) (selected as one of "The Ten Best Books of 2011," by the NYT).

Steve Sem-Sandberg, The Emperor of Lies: A Novel, translated from the Swedish by Sara Death (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "In February 1940, the Nazis established what would become the second-largest Jewish ghetto, in the Polish city of Lodz. The leader they appointed was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman and orphanage director who would become the elusive, authoritarian power sustaining the ghetto's very existence." " A haunting, profoundly moving novel, The Emperor of Lies chronicles Rumkowski's monarchical rule over a quarter-million Jews for the next four and a half years. Driven by a titanic ambition, he sought to transform the ghetto into a productive industrial complex and strove to make it--and himself--indispensable to the Nazi regime. These compromises would have extraordinary consequences not only for Rumkowski but for everyone living in the ghetto." "Drawing on detailed records of life in Lodz, Steve- Sem-Sandberg, in a masterful feat of literary and moral imagination, captures the full panorama of human resilience and probes deeply into the nature of evil. Through the dramatic narrative, he asks the most difficult questions: Was Rumkowski a ruthless opportunist, an accessory to the Nazi regime motivated by a lust for power? Or was he a pragmatist who managed to save Jewish lives through his collaborationist policies? How did the inhabitants of the ghetto survive in such extreme circumstances?").


Alan Wolfe, The Future of Liberalism (New York: Knopf, 2009) ("The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries . . . were a time of intellectual as well as political intensity, producing one of the greatest collections of thinks and artists ever assembled in one twenty-five year period: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Tom Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Edmund Burke, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Jeremy Bentham, Benjamin Constant, Carl von Clausewitz, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant, and G. W. . Hegel--and those in just four countries. It is as if a century's worth of political, social, and intellectual transformation was compressed into the experience of one generation. We are more likely to recognize ourselves--our ideals, our dilemmas, our solutions--at the end of this brief period of political and intellectual ferment than at the beginning." "Today, we lack the genius of those who dominated those years, and our era, while exciting in its own right, also lacks the other's drama. But like defenders of the Enlightenment influenced by Voltaire ad Denis Diderot, we continue to debate whether reason and revelation are in conflict." Id. at 24. " Liberalism emerged as a response to events that were as destabilizing to established ways of thinking as they were exciting anticipations of new ways of living. Born in an era of flux, liberalism tell us not so much what to think but more about how to think. It is not a software program that can spit out the answers to whatever questions we may have, nor is it a set of abstract principles or an inchoate bundles of well-meaning platitudes. Liberalism rather, is best treated in its pre-political form. It is characterized by a set of dispositions toward the world that defines what kinds of creatures we are, establishing goals for us to reach, and lays down guidelines for the fairest ways to reach them. Seven such dispositions . . . strike me as especially important to the world in which we live. . . ." "A disposition to grow. . . ." "A sympathy for equality. . . . " "A preference for realism. . . ." "An inclination to deliberate. . . ." "A commitment to tolerance, even for those who do not tolerate you. . . ." "An appreciation of openness. . . ." "A taste for governance. . . ." Id. at 24-27. "Liberalism . . . does not have to pretend to stand on the side of democracy because, with the exception of its occasional flirtations with elitism, it has backed movements to extend suffrage and to increase racial and gender equality. It does not have to become enthusiastic for war because it views war as a failure in the quest for peace. It can stand up for freedom of speech and association because it really believes in them. It defends the concept of an open society because it truly detests those that are closed. It need not venerate an ugly past because it has a decided confidence about the future. It distrusts otherworldliness because it is grounded in this world. Liberalism does not proclaim that government is evil because it knows that it has been a force for good. It takes modernity as a fact of life, recognizing its gains, accepting its terms, and seeking to improve upon it." 'That is what liberalism does. What liberals do is another matter. All too often, liberal politicians lack the courage of liberalism. Especially in the United States, but elsewhere as well, liberals act as if conservatives are the natural governing party of the contemporary world and that they, the liberals, only get to take over when the right goes on a temporary leave of absence. Liberals read the books written by . . . conservative populists and conclude that they are more right than wrong. Yes, we really are too elitist, they say to themselves, To win people to our side we ought to pander to how people feel rather than appeal to what they think. Our greatest enemy really is ourselves; our ideas are too nuanced, our policies too demanding, our approach to politics too intellectual to win the majorities we need.. Far better to appear more conservative, more nationalistic, and even more romantic than we really are than to stand for what we have long been. Liberalism is honest about itself. Liberals, all too often, are not." "The challenge facing liberalism in the future, then, is not to beat out its rivals; because of modernity, it has already done that. Its biggest challenge is to get liberals to once against believe in liberalism. . . ." Id. at 287.).

Alan Wolfe, Marginalized in the Middle (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 1996).

Alan Wolfe, Return to Greatness: How America Lost Its Sense of Purpose and What It Needs to Do to Recover It (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2005).


Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work? (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2006) ("Information matters. . . . Political scientists such as Martin Gillens and Larry Bartels have gone to great length to demonstrate that lack of information does result in people having views they would not have if they were fully informed. Voting is inevitably cheapened when people do not know for what or for whom they are voting. It may be reassuring to realize that 40 percent of Americans can be induced to offer an opinion on whether the Public Affairs Act of 1975 should be repealed, but it raises serious questions about the existence of an informed public when we learn that there is not, and never was, such a thing as the Public Affairs Act of 1975." Id. at 29. "International norms of social justice, unlike domestic ones, never achieved anything like consensus in the United States, even in the years in which they were formulated. In January 1949 the president of the American Bar Association denounced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it would 'promote state socialism, if not communism, throughout the world.' That kind of language became a staple of the isolationists and anticommunist sentiment that gripped the United States in the decades after World War II. Standing in the way of an American commitment to international norms of social justice, was the force of American nationalism. As Anatol Lieven has argued, Americans and Europeans came away learning different lessons from the catastrophe known as World War II. Europeans understood their twentieth-century as proof of the dangers into which nationalism could lead and wanted to see created a world order that would allow for international cooperation. Americans, by contrast, adopted the very nationalism that Europe was abandoning. In the wake of the twentieth century's experiences with totalitarianism, the United States could no longer afford isolationism. But its involvement with the world borrowed from the isolationist tradition the conviction that the world outside America's borders was hostile and corrupt. The United States can and should involve itself with foreign countries, this form of nationalism acknowledged, but only if the process was under American control." "When it comes to foreign policy, populism is nationalism's first cousin. The enemies of the American nation, populists tirelessly assert, are the elitists of the East Coast establishment. Whether they are depicted as wealthy Wall Street lawyers or dedicated communists hardly matters; they are what the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly call the 'super sophisticates,' the cultured, semiaristocratic, globalists who love Europe more than they admire the United States. From a populistic perspective, human rights, global social justice, and humanitarian aid are exactly the kinds of issues that preoccupy elites; ordinary people themselves know that the only sure way to defend the country is by spending considerable sums on weapons and showing a willingness to use them. Such views are not always accurate; Americans actually responded positively to President Jimmy Carter's efforts to emphasize human rights, and they have been particularly interested in the fate of Christians in non-Christian countries and noncommunists in communist ones. According to the reputable Chicago Council of Foreign Affairs polls, moreover, Americans support even such controversial human rights measures as the International Criminal Courts. Id. at 154-155. Does American Still Work is a lengthy essay, both synthesis and analysis, on the ills of early twentieth-century-American democracy. From the bookjacket: "The past few decades have brought a shift on the nature of American democracy--an alarming shift that threatens such liberal democratic values as respect for pluralism, acceptance of the separation of powers, and recognition of the rights of opposition parties. . . . Alan Wolfe identifies the current political conditions that endanger the quality of our democracy. He describes how politics has changed, and he calls for a democracy protection movement designed to preserve our political traditions not unlike the environmental protection movement's efforts to safeguard the natural world." "Voters who know little about issues, leaders who bend rules with little fear of reprisal, and political parties that are losing the ability to mobilize citizens have all contributed to a worrisome new politics of democracy. . . [Wolfe] offers a brilliant analysis of how religion and morality have replaced political and economic self-interest as guiding principles, and how a dangerous populism promotes a radical form of elitism. Without laying blame on one party or ideology and without claiming that matters will improve with one party or the other in office, Wolfe instead suggests that Americans need to understand the danger their own indifference posses and take political matters more seriously." Occupy America!).


Rafia Zafar, ed., Harlem Renaissance: Five Novels of the 1920s (New York: Library of America, 2011) (includes Jean Toomer, Cane; Claude McKay, Home to Harlem; Nella Larsen, Quicksand; Jessie Redmon Fauset, Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral; and Wallace Thurman, The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life).

Rafia Zafar, ed., Harlem Renaissance: Four Novels of the 19300s (New York: Library of America, 2011) (includes Langston Hughes, Not Without Laughter; George Schuyler, Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, A.D. 1933-1940; Rudolph Fisher, The Conjure-Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem; and Arna Bontemps, Black Thunder).


Karl Marlantes, What It Is Like to Go to War (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011) ("It is bad enough that we send our youth off to fight our wars ill prepared for the spiritual and psychological consequences of entering combat. Add to this the fact that combat is becoming increasingly intermingled with the ordinary civilian world. With cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, air travel, and remote-control weaponry, the battlefield is less clearly defined and the bloody consequences of what modern weapons do can be completely masked. Consider the bomber crews that fly from the United States and back to bomb Iraq or Libya, telling their spouses and kids they'll be gone a little longer than usual that day; or the young woman pushing a button to launch a cruise missile from a naval vessel on a serene sea hundreds of miles from the 'target,' known to his mother as Alim; or the pilots doing nine-to-five jobs at computers consoles in Nevada killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan with drones and commuting to and from their homes like any other commuters. Imagine the psychic split that must ensue from bringing in death and destruction from the sky on a group of terrorists--young men who have mothers and a misplace idealism that has led them into horrible criminal acts, but nevertheless young and brave men--and then driving home from the base to dinner with the spouse and kids. 'Have a nice day at the office, hon?' " Id. at 18-19. Remember, if the line between a "warrior's" being at war or in combat is blurred, then the line between a "civilian's" being at peace and not in combat is also blurred. Civilian targets and military targets are blurred. We are all plausibly legitimate military targets. Are we not?).


David Cay Johnston, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You With the Bill (New York: Portfolio, 2007) ("Three principles can help guide us to make wise decisions about our economic policies. They epitomize the fact that rules define a civilization: "[1] A society that does not embrace a common purpose for its existence has no standard against which to judge itself, making it vulnerable to the corruptions of men who chafe at the limits of law. [2] A society that does not address the needs of its members, especially the vulnerable, weakens itself from within while wasting its most valuable resources, the minds and talents of all its citizens. [3] A society that takes from the many to give to the few undermines its moral basis and must in the end collapse." Id. at 287. From the bookjacket: "How does a strong and growing economy lend itself to job uncertainty, debt, bankruptcy, and economic fear for a vast number of Americans? Free Lunch provides answers to this great economic mystery of our time, revealing how today's government policies and spending reach deep into the wallets of the many for the benefit of the wealthy few." "Johnston cuts through the official version of events and shows how under the guise of deregulation, a whole new set of regulations quietly went into effect--regulations that thwart competition, depress wages, and reward misconduct. From how George W. Bush got rich off a tax increases to a $100 million taxpayer gift to Warren Buffett, Johnston puts a face on all of the dirty little tricks that business and government pull. A lot of people appear to be getting free lunches--but of course there;s no such thing as a free lunch, and someone (you, the taxpayer) is picking up the bill. . . " "Free Lunch shows how the lobbyists and lawyers representing the most powerful 0.1 percent of Americans manipulated our government at the expense of the 99.9 percent." Occupy America!).

David Cay Johnston, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else (New York: Portfolio, 2003).


Denis Lacorne, Religion in America: A Political History, translated from the French by George Holoch, with a Foreword by Tony Judt (New York: Columbia U. Press, 2011) ("There is general agreement that the United States is the most religious of advanced Western democracies. The level of religious observance in the country is unusually high and political language is imbued with religious values and religious references. . . . And yet this reality is the source of major misunderstandings, cliches, and misperceptions between the United States and other Western nations regarding the proper role of religion in a modern democracy." "Nowhere is this more evident than in France, where contemporary writers . . . are particularly disturbed by what they see on the American political scene: the proliferation of religious slogans and allegories; the frequency of worship services prayer meetings, and thanksgiving celebrations organized by public authorities, the inordinate use of a Manichean rhetoric opposing of Good tot he forces of Evil. Such belief that the United States is an aggressively and apologetically Christian nation, Its political creed, it is argued, has remained fundamentally Anglo-Protestant, despite an increasing influx of Asian and Latino immigrants whose cultural values are by definition outside the ambit of Anglo-Protestantism." Based on these assumptions, numerous French observers have concluded that there is no escape form religion in American politics and that, despite its well-established republican framework, American democracy is less advanced because it has not completed its process of secularization, The French, they argue, are more authentically 'republican' than the Americans, because they have enshrined a secular ideal in the first article of their constitution and have established a long-lasting separation between church and state." "Against the background of these widely accepted continental cliches, I have attempted to do two things in this book. The first is to trace the broad outlines of the rile of religion in the formation of a distinct American national identity. The second is toe examine against this background, how key French thinkers, from Voltaire and Tocqueville to Sartre and Bernard-Henri levy, have tried to explain the place and significance of religion in American politics." Id. at xv-xvi. Perhaps. if American wants to be a moral and political leader, rather than a mere military or economic leader, on the global stage, American needs to get past religion and become more secular. "By 'secularism,' I do not simply mean the absence of religious belief, which is fairly rare in America. I refer to a larger phenomenon, a gradual 'disenchantment of the world' in Weber's sense--that is, a gradual rationalization of public life, accompanied by a noticeable disentanglement of religious and lay natters. In that respect, American secularism preceded the French process of laicization and served as a model." Id. at 147. Unfortunately, there is an a competing American tradition that causes us to backslide away from our secular, and more enlightened, tradition.).


Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) ("We have all heard such stories of expert intuition: the chess master who walks past a street game and announces 'White mates in three' without stopping, or the physician who makes a complex diagnosis after a single glance at a patient. Expert intuition strikes us as magical, but it is not. Indeed, each of us performs feats of intuitive expertise many times each day. Most of us are pitch-perfect in detecting anger in the first word of a telephone call, recognize as we enter a room that we were the subject of the conversation, and quickly react to subtle signs that the driver of the car in the next lane is dangerous. Our everyday intuitive abilities are no less marvelous than the striking insights of an experience firefighter or physician--only more common." "The psychology if accurate intuition involves no magic. Perhaps the best short statement of it is by the great Herbert Simon, who studied chess masters and showed that after thousands of hours of practice they come to see the pieces on the board differently from the rest of us. You can feel Simon's impatience with the mythologizing of expert intuition when he write: 'The situation has provided a cue; this cue has given the expert access to information stored in memory, and the information provides the answer. Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition.' " Id. at 11. From the book jacket: "Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities--and also the faults and biases--of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation--each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions." Whenever I am in a meeting of more than three people, (for example, law faculty meetings), I always find myself wishing that the meeting was conducted under Robert's Rules of Order, or at least some modified version thereof, because of the inefficiency, disorder, and waste of time that occurs. Just people able to rule as 'out of order' the raising of matters not related to the issue under discussion would be a blessing. That will not happening because, I have come to realize, such meetings are not about conducting business, not about deciding anything, and not really about providing substantive information. Rather the meetings are about making believe that the members of the meeting are, individually and collectively, doing something important. It is all drama, and usually melodrama. That said, after reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, I now wish that there were a different sort of parliamentarian at meetings, one who, instead of policing the rules of order, policed biases of intuitions. I think this would result in better meetings or, better yet, fewer, shorter, or no meetings. If participants at meetings could be routinely called out on their biases of intuition, they would be less inclined to speak without first thinking. And, more important, I suspect that they would be more inclined to think slow before speaking rather than think fast before speaking. Also see Jim Holt, "Two Brains Running," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).


George Eliot, Adam Bede (1859) ("Adam, you perceive, was by no means a marvellous man, nor, properly speaking a genius, yet I will not pretend that his was an ordinary character among the workmen; and it would not be at all a safe conclusion that the next best man you may happen to see with a basket of tools over his shoulder ad a paper cap on his head has the strong conscience and the strong sense, the blended susceptibility and self-command, of our friend Adam. He was not an average man. Yet such men as he are reared here and there in every generation of our peasant artisans--with an inheritance of affections nurtured by a simple family life of common need and common industry, and an inheritance of faculties trained in skilful courageous labour; they make their way upward, rarely as geniuses, most commonly as painstaking honest men, with the skill and conscience to do well the tasks that lie before them. Their lives have no discernible echo beyond the neighborhood where they dwelt, but you are almost sure to find there some good piece of road, some building, some application of mineral produce, some improvement in farming practice, some reform of parish abuses, with which their names are associated by one or two generations after them. Their employers were richer for them, the work of their hands has worn well, and the work of their brains has guided well the hands of other men. They went about in their youth in flannel or paper caps, in coats black with coal-dust or streaked with lime and red paint; in old age their white hairs are seen in a place of honour at church and at market, and they tell their well-dressed sons and daughters, seated round the bright hearth on winter evenings, how pleased they were when they first earned their twopence a day. Others there are who die poor, and never put off the workman's coat on week-days: they have not had the art of getting rich; but they are men of trust, and when they die before the work is all out of them, it is as if some main screw had got loose in a machine; the master who employed them says, 'Where shall I find their like?' " Id. at 204.).

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860) ("[Mr. Tulliver] was about to get down, and lead his horse through the damp dirt of the hollow farmyard, shadowed drearily by the large half-timbered buildings, up to the long line of tumble-down dwelling-house standing on a raised causeway, but the timely appearance of a cowboy saved him that frustration of a plan he had determined on--namely, not to get down from his horse during this visit. If a man means to be hard, let him keep in his saddle and with the command of a distant horizon. . . ." Id. at 82.).

George Eliot, Silas Marner (1867).


Eli Sagan, At the Dawn of Tyranny: The Origins of Individuals, Political Oppression, and the State (New York: Knopf, 1985) ("Tyranny is an abuse of hierarchy. . . . Social action in a society of any degree of complexity requires leadership positions, which are hierarchical by nature. There is nothing in the nature of hierarchy that inevitably causes it to degenerate into tyranny, although hat has overwhelmingly been the case in all societies since the primitive." "Political oppression is easier when there is a racial or cultural distinction between the masters and the oppressed. Tyranny will be harsher in a state established through conquest of one people by another than in a state where all share the same language, culture, and history. But such differences are not necessary for tyranny. . . . " "The forms of tyranny, once established, have remained remarkably unvaried over thousands of years. Capitalist enterprise, with landless free workers laboring in productive units not owned by themselves, was the first radically new form of tyranny since complex society. With that exception it was all there from the beginning." Id. at 277-278. "All martyrs give the sense of having bee betrayed. They act as if they were somehow promised justice but received instead a violation of their rights, as if somewhere they were promised love and received death. They are intent on converting those who hold power not only into something evil but into betrayers: those who promise benevolence and delivery tyranny. " Id. at 47 "Terrorists are not ordinary criminals, although they do most of the things criminal do, because they claim to act in the interest of an ideal. And the rhetoric of their idealism speaks often of great love for others. If the stated goal of terrorist activity is the independence of a homeland or the establishment of an egalitarian society, the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood with large numbers of people is a proclaimed ideal. . . . And yet the terrorist cannot live without killing others, or, at least, thinking about killing others. The rage is enormous. And for many terrorists, the terrorist life becomes a means to suicide: through prison or execution or mishap with their own bombs or causalities caused by armed attack. Very few live to be old." Id. at 47-48. "We have reached the end of one the the world's greatest eras of individuals. What was at its beginning a progressive force has ceased to serve human kind. We cry out for the restoration of the sense of community. We long to live, once again, in a society that consciously moral people could love. We have grown lonely and frightened out there all by ourselves. Our task is to insist that the next turn will keep us ascending: that individuation, and the freedom it carries with it, are not to be rejected, but negated in a dialectical sense--incorporated and carried with us to enhance the restoration of the communal ideal." Id. at 276. From the bookjacket: "In this book . . . Eli Sagan looks for the origins of political tyranny that has haunted human society through the centuries. He does this by exploring three societies--Hawaii, Tahiti, and Buganda--whose ancient customs and institutions still prevailed when they were first encountered by Western travelers and missionaries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a phenomenon that enables us to see at close hand the world of our own ancient past.").


Samuel Beckett, The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume II: 1941-1956, edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn & Lois More Overbeck (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2011) (See Denis Donoghue, "Midgame," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/30/2011.).

Harold Bloom, The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2011) ("For those to whom the KJM is the Truth, rock of their faith, a literary appreciation is redundant. I write however for the common reader, who can be moved by the Bible's eloquence and beauty. Originally the culmination of one strand of Renaissance English culture, the KJB became a basic source of American literature: Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson are its children, and so are William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy. The KJM and Shakespeare fuse into a style of language that enabled the emergence of Leaves of Grass, Moby-Dick, As I Lay Dying, Blood Meridian. Whitman's verse and Hemingway's prose alike stem from the KJB." "It should in time seem odd to speak of 'the Bible as literature' as to say 'Shakespeare as literature.' Shakespeare is literature, as are the Bible, Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Montaigne, Milton, Proust, Joyce. Literature, in this high sense, is the Blessing: it represents the fullness of life and can give more life If you read the KJB as revelation then no one can gainsay you. I myself address the common reader who quests for more life." Id. at 23.).

Ian Brown, The Boy in the Moon (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011) (selected by the editors of NYT Book Review as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2011).

Sarah Foot, AEthelstan: The First King of England (Yale English Monarchs) (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2011) ("Collectively, his later law codes suggest that AEthelstan had clear ideas about what he wanted to achieve for the better governance of his realm through legislation, specifically which social problems he sought to ameliorate. In these texts, we see the King tackling directly issues that arose from the recent unification of heterogeneous peoples and devising strategies to repair the ills left in parts of the country following decades of warfare. AEthelstan may well have had the councils of Charlemagne and his successors in mind as models. To the kings mind, theft constituted the greatest single problem and represented the most significant manifestation of social breakdown across the realm. He legislated repeatedly--even disproportionately--in his law codes for the prevention of thievery, making this topic one of the most striking feature so his legal pronouncements: together, his codes contain one third of all the occurrences of the noun peof (thief) in the entire corpus of Anglo-Saxon law." Id. at 140.).

Christopher Hitchens, Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (New York: Twelve, 2011) (selected by the editors of NYT Book Review as one of "The 10 Best Books of 2011).

Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital: A Commentary on Volume One (London & New York: Verso, 2011).

Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfiction, Etc. (New York: Doubleday, 2011) (See Robert Christgau, "Enthusiasms," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/20011.).

Gail Levin, Lee Krasner: A Biography (New York: Morrow, 2011).

David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (New York: Harper, 2007) (In the 1960s, "[a]s doubt and distrust crept into people's lives, Schulz's plain commentaries on the comics pages and in Determined Productions' small, square hardcovers set him up for a role he never intended or wanted. 'I'm not a philosopher.' he insisted, sometimes adding, 'I'm not that well-educated.' But the country had just reached the end of an era in which it considered itself the land that boasted the world's most distinguished philosophers. For thirty years, every high school principal read professor John Dewey, or thought he ought to, and every college president salted his speeches with the aphorisms of George Santayana. ("Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it') and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. ('Taxes are what we pay for civilized society'). But the era of Professor Santayana, Justice Holmes, and Dr. Dewey was closing, and middlebrow culture reassigned the role of philosopher. Henceforth, the general public would take philosophy in capsule form through novelists (Hemingway, Vonnegut), journalists (Kempton, Baker), social scientists (McLuhan, Galbraith), and cartoonists (Capp, Kelly, Schulz), although Al Capp and Walt Kelly were drawing allegory that tartly commented on politics and society, and Schulz was creating the kind of myth in which everyone could find his or her own story: 'Myths and fables of deep American ordinariness,' as the writer Samuel Hynes construed Peanuts." Id. at 394. From the bookjacket: "It is the most American of stories: How a barber's son grew up from modest beginnings to realize his dream of creating a newspaper comic strip. How he daringly chose themes never before attempted in mainstream cartoons--loneliness, isolation, melancholy, the unending search for love--always lightening the darker side with laughter and mingling the old-fashioned sweetness of childhood with a very adult and modern awareness of the bitterness of life. And, how using a lightheaded, loving touch, a crow-quill pen dipped in ink, and a cast of memorable characters, he portrayed the struggles that come with being awkward, imperfect, human.").

Czeslaw Milosz, To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays, edited and with an introduction by Bogdana Carpenter & Madeline G. Levine (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2001).

Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1989).

Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith, Van Gogh: The Life (New York: Random House, 2011) (See Deborah Solomon, "Splendor in the Stars," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).

Stanislao G. Pugliese, Bitter Spting: A Life of Ignazio Silone (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009).

Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2011) ("Since the nineteenth century, it has been the task of the left to hold up to liberal civilization a mirror of its highest values and to say, 'You do not look like this.' You claim to believe in the rights of man, but it is only the rights of property you uphold. You claim to stand for freedom, but it is only the freedom of the strong to dominate the weak. If you wish to live up to your principles, you must give way to their demiurge. Allow the dispossessed to assume power, and the ideal will be made real, the metaphor will be made material." Id. at 95).

Charles J. Shields, And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (New York: Henry Holt, 2011) (See Christopher Buckley, "How It Went," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 11/27/2011.).

John Updike, Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism (New York: Knopf, 2011) (From 'In Defense of the Amateur Reader: Remarks upon Accepting the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, for Hugging the Shore, in January 1984.': "A man who reads a book for no particular profit becomes, while he reads, a gentleman, a man of leisure, a dandy of a sort, one would hate to see this dandyman entirely squelched, whether by the analytical mills of the universities or by the scarcely less grim purveying of animated information and automated thrills reflected by the best-seller lists. An occasional sport, a White Hotel or Name of the Rose, does show up in these lists to remind us that a certain whimsy, an ineluctable hankering for the elegant and unclassifiable, does persist in the soul of that rough beast, the book-buying public; but in general the list is all to predictable, and the industry as a whole is all too dependent upon the list, This potentially mirthless situation we self-appointed critics--and who will appoint us if not ourselves?--can ameliorate by being, within measure, self-amusing, by indulging our own tastes and pursuing our own educations, by seeking out the underpublished wallflower on the edge of the dance floor and giving here a twirl, by reminding ourselves that literary delights are rarefied delights, that today's blockbuster is tomorrow's insulation, that books are at best beacon in the darkness but at second best a holiday that lasts and lasts." Id. at 423-424.).

John Updike, More Matter: Essays and Criticism (New York: Knopf, 1999).

Christa Wolf, The Author's Dimension: Selected Essays, edited by Alexander Stephan, translated from the German by Jan Van Heurck, and with an introduction by Grace Paley (New York; Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993) (From "Contribution to the Second Bitterfeld Conference": "I believe that a trapeze artist has to work with a rope, a safety belt, and a net. But a writer, in whatever field, cannot work with net. He simply has to accept a little risk, tempered by responsibility." Id. at 3, 10. I think this is why so much writing by legal academics leaves me cold. So much of it is written with too much caution, not wanting to risk offending the hierarchy. And, written with a failure to take responsibility in the take of advancing ideas. From "The Shadow of a Dream: A Sketch of Karoline von Gunderrode": "Gunderrode's generation, like all who live in transitional periods, had to create new patterns which later generations would use as models, stencils, warning slogans, in literature as in life. These people who were young in 1800 were made an example from which others might learn, or fail to learn. For them, the existing examples did not apply. . . . " "They were few in number. Their forerunners, the ideologists and protagonists of the French Revolution, took as their models the ancient Romans, used-up, misinterpreted attitudes: they deceived themselves so as to be able to act. The later generation shed their togas along with their sense of mission, their heroes' roles along with their self-deception. In the mirror they met their own faces, un-made-up and unasked-for. These who were young in 1800 could not arrange to be born a later year, nor could they think the thoughts or live the lives of an older generation. They could not deny the particular features which determined them, the grueling features The bourgeois society which i the end spread to the German side o the Rhine without need of revolution admittedly gave rise to no starkly new economic and social order, but did bring a pervasive petit-bourgeois morality based on the suppression of everything uncompromising and original. It was an unequal struggle. A small group if intellectuals with no backup force (as happened so often in German history form the Peasants' War onward)---supporting an out-of-favor ideal with a sensibility attuned to nuances and a headstrong desire to put their newly developed skills to use--ran head-on into the narrowness of an underdeveloped class characterized by subservience instead of self-esteem, and which had absorbed nothing of the bourgeois catechism except the commandment: Get rich! This petit-bourgeois class tried to harmonize the boundless instinct for profit with the Lutheran-Calvinist virtue of industry, thrift, and discipline; the poverty of their lives blinded them to their real needs, while making them hypersensitive to those who would not or could not be made to keep silent. Thus the little group of intellectuals became strangers in their own land, forerunners whom no one followed, enthusiasts who evoked no response, callers without an echo. And those among them who could not make the timely compromise became victims." "Don't think they did not know it. . . . " Id. at 131, 133-134.).


Thubten Chodron, Buddhism for Beginners (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2001) ("How can we pursue a career without attachment to reputation and wealth? How can we do business and also be ethical?" "If we deeply contemplate the transient and unpredictable nature of wealth, reputation, and worldly success, the belief that they'll bring us lasting happiness will fade. Then we can start to change our motivation for working. We can look at our work as service to society and as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves by interacting with others. Our work will thus become an occasion to practice the teachings that we mediate on. In this way, patience and cherishing others will not be traits we cultivate, but qualities we develop in daily life." "If we diminish our attachment, living ethically will be easier. As our priorities change, we will be fair in our business dealings and will not backbite to climb the corporate ladder. . . ." Id. at 88-89. Is what law schools and the legal profession defined as "being a successful lawyer" really meaningful? Is it a successful life? Might you want to consider what is the better path for you as a lawyer, and not let law schools and the legal profession define for you what a successful life as a lawyer is?).


Robert M. Pallitto, ed., Torture and State Violence in the United States: A Short Documentary History (Baltimore; Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2011) ("Judith Shklar believed that for, for liberals, 'cruelty is the worst thing we do.' Yet state-enacted cruelty appears all too often in the record of U.S. history. If torture stands as the most extreme form of cruelty and torture is documented throughout the nation's history, we may well question the status of the liberal commitment to avoid cruelty. This book examines the relationship--indeed contradiction--between the liberal-democratic vision enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the state's support and use of torture and other state violence in the name of national security and freedom. To explore this subject, I draw on historical examples and documents far older than the 'war on terror' and even the Cold War, including some that date back to the early years of the republic, and trace the attitudes about the treatment of the actual bodies of torture victims that have developed against the background of a purportedly liberal political order." Id. at 1. "The documents reproduced in this book show that torture and associated practices of state violence have continued uninterrupted in the United States from colonial times through the present. Any claim that torture has decreased during a given period is true, at most, in relative terms. To be sure, slavery, 'settlement' of the frontier, and world war, among other events, provided increased opportunities for torture, but there is always one or more segments of the population facing such treatment no mater what large-scale conflicts are occurring. Thus, commentators . . . , who see liberal principles guiding U.S. political development throughout the nation's history, must explain the co-presence of liberal ideas and striking illiberal practices. . . . Id. at 255.).


Jose, Saramago, Cain: A Novel, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) ("The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstanding with god, for he doesn't understand us, and we don't understand him." Id. at 78. Also, see, Robert Pinsky, "Adam's Son," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/23/2011.).


Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: Mr. Lincoln's Army (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1951) ("The point that is so easy to overlook nowadays is that the men of the 1860s were living in the center of a fiery furnace. It was not a tidy, clear-cut war against some foreign nation that was being waged. It was a civil war, a war not between men of two nations but between men of two beliefs, two philosophies, two ways of considering human society and its structure and purpose. The opposing beliefs were not sharply defined and clear so that no man could mistake which camp he belonged in. On the contrary, there were a dozen gradations of belief leading from one to the other, and a man might belong to one camp on one issue and in the other camp on another; and the very word 'loyalty' might mean loyalty to a flag, to a cause, or to a belief in some particular social and political theory, and 'treason' might mean disloyalty to any of these. Indeed, the war was peculiarly and very bitterly a war of the tragically modern kind, in which loyalties and disloyalties do not follow the old patterns even though those patterns may be the only ones men can use when they try to formulate their loyalty. And so that generation was deprived of the one element that is essential to the operation of a free society--the ability to assume, in the absence of good proof to the contrary, that men in public life are generally decent, honorable, and loyal. Because that element was lacking, the wisest man could be reasonable with only part of his mind; a certain area had to be given over to the emotions which were all the more mad and overpowering because he shared them with everyone else." "Hence the Civil War was fought and directed in an air of outright melodrama. . . ." Id. at 97-98.).

Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1952) ("And here in the middle of it all was the 24th Michigan, with a county judge for a colonel and a county sheriff for lieutenant colonel and all the line officers carrying presentation swords; the regiment that had once been ostracized because its valor was unproven. Since Fredericksburg the regiment had been accepted, but in the unfathomable economics of army life the men seen to have felt that they stilled owed the rest of the brigade something, and here on Seminary Ridge the bill had come up for payment. Three times Colonel Morrow sent back word that the position was untenable, and each time General Wadsworth grimly ordered him to hold on anyway. Some of the survivors remembered forming line of battle six times that hot afternoon, with the rank battle fog lying low under the trees and unappeasable enemies coming in from all directions at once. Four color-bearers were killed, and the regiment sagged toward the rear, and Colonel Morrow ordered the fifth color-bearer to jab the flagstaff in the ground and stand aside it for a rally. The man was killed before he could obey, Morrow himself took up the flag and waved it, a private ran up and took it away form him, muttering that it wasn't up to the colonel to carry the colors, and then this private was killed and another man took up the staff. Then he too was shot, and Morrow got the flag after all, after which a bullet creased his skull and he himself went down." Id. at 279-280.).

Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: A Stillness at Appomattox (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1953) ("Yet the casualty lists did not tell the hole story, which indeed was a good deal more complex than most of the participants were able to understand." "Since May 4 [1864] everything that had happened had been part of one continuous battle, a battle three months long, with advance and retreat and triumph and disaster all taking place together, so that words like victory and defeat had lost their meaning. All that had gone before was no more than prelude. The nation itself had been heated to an unimaginable pitch by three years of war and now it had been put on the anvil and the hammer was remorselessly coming down, stroke after clanging stroke, beating a glowing metal into a different shape." "There would be change and the war was bringing it, even though it might be that the war could not bring victory. The war had taken on a new magnitude, and perhaps it was no longer the kind of struggle anybody could win. But it was moving inexorably toward its end, and when it ended many things would end with it, in the South and in the North as well. Some of these were things that ought to end because they shackled men to the past, and some of them were fit to be laid away in the shadowland of dreams that are remembered forever, but in any case they were being brought to an end. After that there could be a new beginning." Id. at 253.).