The Common Good

In the Stacks

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 from this week’s books.

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Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left

By Martin Duberman, reviewed by John Tirman

“If these two fabled movements [civil rights and protesting the war in Vietnam] absorbed Zinn and forged his role as an activist and intellectual, it was his writing of “A People’s History of the United States” (1980) that gave his work a long shelf life. It is one of the top-selling American history books ever and one that launched a small industry of spinoffs, including books, school curricula, television specials, celebrity salutes and the like. It reflected his lifelong passion for addressing issues of war, race, class and labor, and was innovatively told from the perspectives of ordinary people rather than princes and presidents.”

The Generals: American Military Command From World War II to Today

By Thomas E. Ricks, reviewed by Max Boot

Today’s Army, Thomas E. Ricks writes, retains manifestly incompetent generals rather than admit to failure.

“How did the Army change so dramatically in the past 60-plus years and what are the consequences for the future of American military power? Those are the questions that Ricks sets out to answer. Readers of his 2006 best seller on the Iraq war, “Fiasco,” and of his blog, The Best Defense, know that he has strong opinions he does not try to hide. He also has a deep wellspring of knowledge about both military policy and military history. That combination of conviction and erudition allows him to deliver an entertaining and enlightening jeremiad that should — but, alas, most likely won’t — cause a rethinking of existing personnel policies.”

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