The Common Good

In the Stacks: Required Reading with Duane Shank

Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com.
Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com.

One of my must reads is the Sunday New York Times Book Review. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written.

Last Sunday, the Review ran an essay on how books affect Washington policy makers. Lawrence Summers, former director of the National Economic Council, says that a good review can often summarize what’s necessary for a policy maker to learn. He was quoted as saying, “If you tell me that the policy makers are reading the reviews, not the books, I don’t take that as evidence that the books aren’t influential.”

While I don’t fancy myself as a policy maker, the sentiment is also true for the rest of us.

Here are two such new titles that may have an impact on public policy:

Revolution 2.0.: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power: A Memoir. 
By Wael Ghonim, Reviewed by Jose Antonio Vargas.

How an Egyptian Google executive’s Facebook page helped spark a movement.

“Ghonim’s memoir is a welcome and cleareyed addition to a growing list of volumes that have aimed (but often failed) to meaningfully analyze social media’s impact. It’s a book about social media for people who don’t think they care about social media. It will also serve as a touchstone for future testimonials about a strengthening borderless digital movement that is set to continually disrupt powerful institutions, be they corporate enterprises or political regimes.”

Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream. 
By Gregg Jones, Reviewed by Candice Millard.

At the turn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt set out to transform the United States into a major world power.

“What is striking about “Honor in the Dust,” Gregg Jones’s fascinating new book about the Philippine-American War, is not how much war has changed in more than a century, but how little. On nearly every page, there is a scene that feels as if it could have taken place during the Bush and Obama administrations rather than those of McKinley and Roosevelt. American troops are greeted on foreign soil as saviors and then quickly despised as occupiers. The United States triumphantly declares a victorious end to the war, even as bitter fighting continues. Allegations of torture fill the newspapers, horrifying and transfixing the country.”

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners. Follow Duane on Twitter @DShankDC.

(Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com.)

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