The Common Good

In the Stacks, January 23, 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. Here are my picks from this week’s books.

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Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

My Beloved World

By Sonia Sotomayor, reviewed by Emily Bazelon

Sonia Sotomayor recalls her early life and the road toward the court.

"This is not a confessional memoir. Sotomayor discloses little about her marriage, in her 20s, to her high school sweetheart, or about their divorce. She is coy about how her years as a student at Yale Law School, in the late 1970s, may have shaped her legal views. The book ends as Sotomayor reaches the bench as a federal district judge in New York, so she offers no juicy bits, or even bland ones, about her nomination to the Supreme Court, or its work or her colleagues. That can be the sequel.

"Meanwhile, this book delivers on its promise of intimacy in its depictions of Sotomayor’s family, the corner of Puerto Rican immigrant New York where she was raised and the link she feels to the island where she spent childhood summers eating her fill of mangoes (always keeping an eye on her blood sugar level). This is a woman who knows where she comes from and has the force to bring you there." 

Rethinking the Unthinkable

Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons, by Ward Wilson

The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics, by Paul Bracken

Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State, by David Patrikarakos

Reviewed by Bill Keller

"One of the striking features of our long coexistence with nuclear weapons is how the fear of them has receded. In the 1950s and ’60s, when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vivid memories, these novel and monstrous weapons loomed over our politics and penetrated our popular culture. …

"Fear of nuclear weapons spiked for a time after 9/11, when we confronted the possibility of fissile material in the hands of stateless enemies, and you can find a reservoir of existential fear today in Israel, as it contemplates a nuclear Iran. The nuclear weapons of fragile Pakistan and inscrutable North Korea preoccupy large sectors of our intelligence community. But for most of us anxiety has given way to a kind of complacency. The longer we have gone without seeing nuclear weapons used, the more we assume they will not be used. Three new books challenge that complacency, from three different directions."

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