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July 30, 2005

Saturday Books

David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise: As mentioned below, I'm really enjoying it.  Yes, I know his examples sometimes don't hold water and his sociological brush is broad enough to use Australia as canvas, but it's still fun, he still has fascinating thougts and ideas, and he still brings a better, more incisive eye towards a certain subset of people than most anyone else writing about them.  Other books of this sort suffer from an unrestrained contempt towards their subjects or a desire to lionize.  Brooks, I think, likes living this life, but is nevertheless a bit ashamed at its inconsistencies and oddities, and the tone that that his conflicted indulgence results in is delightful.  Since I'm a Bobo in good standing, I'm loving the book.

Chris Matthews Kennedy and Nixon:  Yeah, that Chris Matthews.  Before he ran an inconsistent television show, he apparently wrote books.  More surprising yet, they're pretty good.  This one focuses on the troubled relationship between the two presidents when they were rising political stars.  They had an affinity for each other because they were both, basically, bloodthirsty.  Kennedy won Congress using an array of dirty tricks and bribes that make DeLay look like a choirboy.  As for Nixon, his red-baiting was legendary and actually provided the template for McCarthy's later perfection of the form (the Wisconsin Senator actually cribbed whole speeches from Nixon).  He was a nasty, lying campaigner and an absolute workaholic.  The two of them, in the end, were the same sort of folks.  It's just that Kennedy's looks, charm and money allowed him to get away with his tactics, even be admired for them while Nixon went down in disgrace.  In some ways, that's a much more profound judgment on Americans and how we treat criminals from different classes than it is a verdict on either man.

Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity: A sociologist's study of what sort of conversion rate Christianity needed to explode as it did (the answer?  About 40%.) and what sort of conditions allowed it to maintain the growth.  I'm not too far into it, so that's all I know for now.

What's on your nightstand?

July 30, 2005 in Books | Permalink

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» Kennedy and Nixon from Lance Mannion
Ezra Klein has been reading Chris Matthews' book Kennedy and Nixon and he's been struck by one of the more surprising elements of both Presidents' biographies. At one time, Jack Kennedy and Dick Nixon were friends. I think it was more on Nixon's part t... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 1, 2005 12:00:05 PM

Comments

Well, right now I'm cycling through Harry Potter, while I wait for my son to finish Guns, Germs and Steel. Before that was The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, HP 6, and Sophie's World (which, I've decided, you shouldn't read when you're in the throes of PMS - I got down to Marx and Sartre and decided my life was shit). Those are the latest.

Posted by: Ms. Not Together | Jul 30, 2005 6:03:37 PM

Something about the 1st paragraph in this post makes me feel unclean. Really unclean.

Posted by: norbizness | Jul 30, 2005 8:26:35 PM

Rereading The Language Instinct... thinking of doing the same for Kitchen Confidential.

Posted by: TJ | Jul 30, 2005 8:31:03 PM

i hear summer is a good time to get on the dostoevsky train.. NOT!! crime and punishment sits on my nightstand, the bookmark mocking me to restart at page 17.

also have with me the tin drum which i intended to start oh 4 weeks ago. im a failure.. an appalling failure

Posted by: almostinfamous | Jul 30, 2005 9:52:37 PM

also what norbizness said.

Posted by: almostinfamous | Jul 30, 2005 9:53:28 PM

Sometimes doesn't hold water?

Posted by: Sandals | Jul 30, 2005 9:56:28 PM

--A book can work with internal consistency, but it doesn't mean it has much of a relation with reality.

Posted by: Sandals | Jul 30, 2005 9:57:32 PM

Just finished the first book of George Eliot's The Mill on The Floss.

Last book I finished was Crime and Punishment. Almostinfamous, hang in there. It's very good.

Posted by: Joe_Epitome | Jul 30, 2005 10:45:05 PM

I recently finished Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith; Augusten Burroughs Running With Scissors and Dry, and now I'm reading The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which I thought would be light reading, but it's been surprisingly moving so far.

Posted by: maurinsky | Jul 30, 2005 11:31:40 PM

I just finished Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass yesterday morning. I'm about 2/3 the way through The Subtle Knife, and when I finish it tomorrow I'll read Terry Pratchett's The Bromiliad Trilogy until whichever kid is hogging the last book of His Dark Materials trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, gets off his duff and returns it to the library.

Ever since I finished Half-Blood Prince, I've been in a YA Fiction mood.

Posted by: pansauce | Jul 31, 2005 12:48:03 AM

I just was given Crossing The Rubicon by Michael Ruppert, about Peak Oil, and related government crap and hypocrisy. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Posted by: SteveAudio | Jul 31, 2005 3:17:30 AM

The problem with Brooks is he lets is retarded politics interfere with his otherwise interesting descriptions of American life. Plus, the so-called Bobos are far better human beings than he'll ever be. At least they try.

Posted by: Amanda | Jul 31, 2005 5:26:44 AM

On my nightstand? I'm reading Start Making Sense, Alternet's guide for progressives who want to win elections.

Posted by: Amanda | Jul 31, 2005 5:33:59 AM

Just finished Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down. Before that, Joseph Ellis' American Sphinx, his biography of Thomas Jefferson and before that Ellis' biography of George Washington, His Excellency. Now reading The Education of Arnold Hitler.

Yeah, they're all still on my nightstand and I'm having trouble seeing my clock-radio.

Posted by: Ara Rubyan | Jul 31, 2005 8:17:06 AM

Ara -- what'd you think of Hornby? I read through it at a Borders the other day and, while I liked it, it felt more like he had a clever idea for a premise than a book he needed to write.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | Jul 31, 2005 1:04:57 PM

The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner so I can see how history is repeating itself and A Soldier's Embrace by Nadine Gordimer because it was free at the library and I like her short stories.

Posted by: gmoke | Jul 31, 2005 10:24:41 PM

in no particular order:

--work and other sins, charlie leduff.

--the big clock, kenneth fearing.

--will in the world, stephen greenblatt.

--Esquire's big book of great writing, which i got for half price at barnes and noble.

Posted by: harry near indy | Aug 2, 2005 6:30:15 AM

I read that Kennedy and Nixon book by Matthews awhile back. I was most struck by the fact that Matthews was a lot more generous to Nixon than he was to Kennedy. It's a while since I read it, but I don't remember him as characterizing Nixon as bloodthirsty with the negative connotations. MAtthews seemed to have a good bit of tolerance for the backlash conservatism that Nixon was riding. He didn't seem to have a lot of regard for the fawning over Kennedy. A good book though.

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