Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Great Books for Summer . . . reviewed by Suzanne

Here are two excellent and satisfyingly chunky books. They are available in paperback editions you can take with you whether you read at the beach, in Paris, or in your backyard.

PART TWO: Nonfiction

Gandhi and Churchill
by Arthur Herman

This fascinating history made me painfully aware of my almost total ignorance about India’s history. Herman has written an excellent revisionist account of the lives of these two mythic individuals. Reading this, they became considerably less mythic. Gandhi was a racist (while in South Africa he tried to convince the British to give Indians the same status as whites, but he considered black Africans not their equals), and Churchill had a giant ego and refused to acknowledge his mistakes (including the disastrous Gallipolli campaign of WWI). Don’t let the length of the book dismay you. It’s well worth the investment in time it takes to read.
Read the Commentary Magazine review.

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer
Unless you are a fan of Dick Cheney, this book will raise your hackles. If you are a Cheney devotee, you might want to skip it, since he does not come off very well in this account of the methods used to pursue the “war on terror”. I learned that there was much more to the horrors and abuses of "enhanced interrogation" at Guantanamo and the "black sites" overseas than the news accounts covered. This is a tragic book; it made me very sad to learn the extent to which individuals in the government, military and CIA lied and covered up to subvert the constitution. There's so much evil in the story; however it was heartening to learn about the heroic efforts of some lawyers, military people, and FBI agents who protested the use of torture and tried to get it stopped. This is a superb choice for anyone interested in politics.
Read the New York Times review.

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