The Common Good

In the Stacks, May 16, 2012

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.

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

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

Private Empire

By Steve Coll, Reviewed by Moisés Naím

How ExxonMobil bent Washington to its will.

“Private Empire” is a big book about big oil, big money and big government. It chronicles how ExxonMobil — the energy behemoth that recently displaced Wal-Mart atop the Fortune 500 list, with more than $450 billion in revenue — operates in failed states, keeping the oil flowing when no one else can, and how it handles hapless bureaucrats charged with regulating it, scientists challenging it, rival companies trying to outsmart it and activists bent on changing it.

The Spanish Holocaust

By Paul Preston, Reviewed by Adam Hochschild

In Paul Preston’s history of the Spanish Civil War, the atrocities under Franco mirror those in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

With Hitler and Mussolini supplying arms to Franco, and the Soviet Union to the embattled Spanish Republic, the death toll of the 1936-39 war was enormous. Some 200,000 soldiers died in battle, and a further large but unknown number of civilians were killed by Franco’s bombing of Spanish cities and of vast columns of refugees in flight. But Preston’s subject is something else: the approximately 200,000 men and women deliberately executed during the war, the 20,000 supporters of the Republic shot after it ended, and the additional tens of thousands of civilians and refugees who died in concentration camps and prisons.

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Adviser for Sojourners.

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