Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Favorites of the Library’s
Nonfiction Book Group

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath told of the Okies who fled the Dust Bowl. Timothy Egan recounts the stories of those who stuck out the hard times, refusing to leave their land. He begins with the history of the settlement of an area one explorer called “a desolate waste of uninhabited solitude.” Real estate speculators enticed settlers to fictitious towns. Settlers came to this area called No Man’s Land for lack of a better place to live, because they had hope and because they believed the soil could never be used up. A combination of natural and man-made disasters - hailstorms, plagues of locusts, severe cold and heat, and worst of all the “moving earth”, the dust storms that blackened the sky—made their lives a day-to-day struggle.

Supercapitalism by Robert Reich
“Of all the nations of the world, America is assumed to best exemplify the idea that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand,” Reich says in the introduction. He also believes that rampant free-market capitalism has become bloated and has weakened our democratic system. Why do consumers expect corporations to be socially responsible, Reich asks, when they purchase the cheapest goods, regardless of where or under what conditions they were produced? Corporations do not exist to be socially responsible; they are in business to increase stockholder profits. Reich’s suggestions for strengthening democracy include the elimination of the corporate income tax and removing corporate cash from politics.

Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World by Margaret Macmillan
In 1972, traveling to China was “like going to the moon.” President Nixon’s decision to go to China posed several risks. Conservative Republicans opposed any diplomatic overtures by Americans to that steadfastly Communist country. Furthermore, Nixon would be humiliated if Mao refused to meet with him. Kissinger was dispatched on a secret advance trip, which even the State Department did not know about, to appraise the receptiveness of the Chinese. This is a fascinating look behind the scenes at the banquets, the competing egos of the Chinese and American officials, and the wrangling over the wording of the final joint communiqué.

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