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Here are a couple of books I read & was greatly edified by; everyone who reads them will better understand the current state of things in the US & how it got that way.
Not an easy read, though not the toughest I’ve encountered; for one thing, you will never again see the words “nurturant” & “nurturance” this many times—about 50 each, I’d say. But it’s worth the effort to understand the main thesis: that Americans use the metaphor of family to relate to political matters—thus conferring upon them an unwarranted moral component—& that they have only two models of the family: Strict Father & Nurturant Parent (conservative & liberal, respectively). It explains how adherents of one paradigm are utterly unable to comprehend the logic or motivations of the other. After a thorough exploration of both sides from just about every possible angle, the conclusion is a well-reasoned case for the humaneness of Nurturance, & therefore liberalism.
It’s from the ’90s, so there are references to Pres. Clinton, Newt Gingrich & so forth; but if anything it’s more relevant now. Also, the approach to the problem is via cognitive science, never applied to this area before.
A fascinating alternate look at North Americans’ viewpoints & behaviors based on their cultural roots in any of 11 founding groups in the US, Mexico & Canada. Some of the “tribes” are: Yankeedom, New Netherlands, Tidewater, Deep South, El Norte, New France, Greater Appalachia, & the Far West. Each has its core beliefs & prejudices, based on religious ethics (Puritans & Quakers), commercial concerns (NY), adoption of local custom (French Canadian), folkways & feuds from the Old Country (Appalachia), & so on. It’s hard to believe that so many attitudes & customs from antique colonial outposts could have survived into the present time, but that is much of what this social & cultural history sets out to demonstrate. It’s an interesting examination of the people of the US & its neighbors—with their many conflicts—from an entirely new direction.By the same author: The Republic of Pirates
I never really understood the fascination of the grotty pirate life ... until I read this book.
Partly by taking bicycle & pedestrian tours of remote areas of France & England, the author finds mounting evidence that the Druids of the ancient Celtic culture plotted the placement of villages, shrines & such along lines leading to the sun’s places on the horizon at the solstices, thereby creating the most accurate map of Europe of its time—not to mention its straightest roads. Along the way we are treated to tantalizing indications—via artwork on pots & metal vessels, Roman writings, surviving ruins, & other sources—of what these poorly understood people were really like, & what role the Druids played in their world, which once stretched from the Near East to the Atlantic. Mesmerizing.
Another pretty tough read, mostly because it’s just really long. It becomes more & more obvious as you go along, though, that the people who criticize this book have never read it. Without knowing anything about the science of heredity—let alone DNA—Darwin lays out an airtight case for the reality of the mechanism of Natural Selection as the primary means of the diversification of life on Earth. It’s almost overkill, really (& the author does manage to crack an occasional joke along the way). Also, people who say he took all the credit for the idea are full o’ fertilizer: he nearly falls over himself linking ideas to their originators, especially in the parallel work of A.R. Wallace, who would have published if Darwin hadn’t. I always knew the current evidence for the theory is overwhelming; I did not know that it was overwhelming in the first place, over 150 years ago. I’m sorry, but one has to be some kind of dolt to be disrespectful & disbelieving of Darwin’s rather obvious conclusions.
Amusingly, Darwin refers to this 500-page work as an abstract, the actual records & tables of data being far too bulky for inclusion.
The reason I, you, & everybody else hated American History in high school is that we can tell when we're being lied to. They should call it American Mythology. It was years before I idly grabbed a paperback about the Russian revolution & got hooked: few studies interest me more now—any history, including American. This indictment of textbooks (not teachers) explores the bad & the ugly that is left out of virtually all high-school texts, even now; racism & genocide top the list. It isn’t America-bashing, just telling the whole story: in fact it’s a history course in itself. For just one example, Helen Keller is routinely touted as a grand success story, without mentioning what she was successful at. The textbooks sidestep this because she was a committed Socialist her entire adult life, & that was what fired her humanitarianism. For more, hey: read it! It’s well worth your time, I promise—certainly more than the time you spent in class. I am currently [Jan. 2016] reading it again.
This is the highly absorbing story of France’s Vietnam War. It covers WWII to 1959, but begins w/ the poignant tale of Ho Chi Minh’s visit to Paris in 1919 to attempt to persuade US President Wilson to acknowledge his country’s petition for independence. Though he was undoubtedly a Commie bastard, it’s hard not to see his side of things as you peruse this sprawling, epic narrative. It’s no idle cliché to say I couldn’t put it down; I verily found it hard to stop reading. I’ve often expressed my impression of real history as a series of accidents punctuated by bad decisions; this book does nothing to change it. The author has great talents for storytelling & penetrating analysis, & this won him a Pulitzer. Freakin’ bra-vo.
Imagine getting away with turning in a 1 paragraph book report. Vive la liberté!