The Common Good

In The Stacks: Wenesday, March 14

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

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

Here are my picks for this week’s books of interest:

Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times
By Eyal Press, Reviewed by Louisa Thomas

Eyal Press looks at ordinary people who resisted the status quo to follow their own convictions.

Press examines his subjects carefully, alert to the different personalities and circumstances of each individual. He weighs the role of prejudice, idealism and community. He explores the “element of reciprocity” in one case and the “anxiety of responsibility” in another, sees the importance of “mutual support” and discusses the frustrations of being ignored. He reads about oxytocin receptors; he studies David Hume. He makes modest conclusions. I don’t mean that as criticism. If Press made more comprehensive claims, I wouldn’t trust him. It’s no more possible to explain an act of conscience than it is to dissect a dream. … “Conscience” is indefinable. It can be indefensible, too: An act of conscience describes an action motivated by loyalty to a conviction, but it usually requires the defiance of other loyalties. It can mean turning away from your family, or your country, or your job, or even your sense of self.

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family and a Lost Middle East

By Anthony Shadid, Reviewed by Patrick Cockburn

Anthony Shadid rebuilt his ancestors’ house in Lebanon.

In 2006, Shadid visited the abandoned house of his great-grandfather in Marja­youn, a largely Christian town in southern Lebanon that, after a century of wars, was battered and decayed, and was cut off from its natural hinterland by the Israeli and Syrian frontiers. A few months later he returned to find that the upper story of the house had been hit by a half-­exploded Israeli rocket. … The main narrative of “House of Stone” concerns the rebuilding of the house. Interwoven with this is Shadid’s account of his ancestors and their world, which in the modern era would become Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

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

(Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com.)

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