The Common Good

In the Stacks, August 7, 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:

‘Einstein’s Jewish Science’

By Steven Gimbel, Reviewed by George Johnson

 “Jewish physics.” With Einstein’s theories now at the bedrock of modern science, the Nazi’s words have been justly forgotten. It seems almost perverse that Steven Gimbel, the chairman of the philosophy department at Gettysburg College, would want to bring back the old epithet and give it another spin. In his original new book, “Einstein’s Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion,” he considers the possibility that the Nazis were on to something. If you can look past the anti-Semitism, he proposes, “maybe relativity is‘Jewish science’ after all.” What he means is that there might have been elements of Jewish thinking that gave rise to what is now recognized as one of the deepest insights of all time. … What gives Einstein’s work a Jewish flavor, Gimbel believes, is an approach to the universe that reminds him of the way a Talmudic scholar seeks to understand God’s truth. It comes only in glimpses.”

‘The Price of Inequality’

By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Reviewed by Thomas B. Edsall

“Joseph E. Stiglitz’s new book, “The Price of Inequality,” is the single most comprehensive counter­argument to both Democratic neoliberalism and Republican laissez-faire theories. While credible economists running the gamut from center right to center left describe our bleak present as the result of seemingly unstoppable developments — globalization and automation, a self-­replicating establishment built on “meritocratic” competition, the debt-driven collapse of 2008 — Stiglitz stands apart in his defiant rejection of such notions of inevitability. He seeks to shift the terms of the debate.”

Elusive Victories: The American Presidency at War

by Andrew J. Polsky, Reviewed by Russell L. Riley

“In Polsky’s telling, presidents ought to beware of war despite its typical rally-around-the-flag popularity at the outset because war more often leads to presidential failure than to success. Using the examples of the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Polsky documents the hardships and frustrations presidents have encountered in exercising their war powers. The book is a sobering counterpoint to heroic narratives celebrating martial presidencies and to the scholarly emphasis on how presidential power has expanded with war.”

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