Tuesday, October 6, 2009

By the Easy Chair

Every once in a while you hear someone ask the question, "If you were trapped on a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?" And my response would be that I've always been told one should not answer hypothetical questions.

Instead, I thought I'd do a quick review of the books next to my easy chair on this random autumn day.

Fashionable Nonsense, by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont
This is a fascinating read that skewers a lot of pseudo-intellectual babble excreted by postmodernists. The subtitle is Postmodern Intellectuals's Abuse of Science. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) says of it, "A thoroughly hilarious romp through the postmodern academy." Sokal and Bricmont state in the intro, "Our book is not against political radicalism, it is against intellectual confusion."

The Russian Revolution, by Leon Trotsky
I picked this up at the last library sale here in Duluth (I love libraries) for fifty cents. I think it is only the second time nearly all the books were sold and so when I went on the last day (when they sell bags of books for a couple bucks) there was little left to pick from. Of the three or four books on the history shelf, this classic was amongst them. I did a report on Trotsky in junior high school, choosing him from a list because his first name was Leon, as is my own. I am currently on page 69 and plan to write more on this book in the next week or two.

Mexifornia by Victor Davis Hanson
During the year we lived in Mexico (1980-81), working at an orphanage, I had a chance to travel some and stayed several weeks in some of the poorest parts of Mexico City. On one occasion I saw a map of Mexico on the wall. There were three cities on the map: Mexico City, San Antonio, and Los Angeles. This I found interesting. Of migrant workers we also knew a little. The town of San Miguel de Allende, which was a short ways south of Monterrey, had a population of 60,000 or 20,000 depending on the season due to the high percentage of migrant workers. I purchased this book in an attempt to understand some of the problems California has experienced pertaining to immigration.

Milestones by Sayyid Qutb
Supposedly the content of this book was the fuel that fired Osama bin Laden's passions, motivating him to attack the West. I purchased the book used from Amazon.com in an effort to better understand where the terrorists were coming from. Mentioned by Dinesh D'Souza in one of his books or lectures.

What Went Wrong by Bernard Lewis
Many have forgotten, or have not known, that at its zenith the Ottoman Turks ruled large portions of three continents. The Amazon.com review calls Lewis' book "a concise and timely survey of how Islamic civilization fell from worldwide leadership in almost every frontier of human knowledge five or six centuries ago to a 'poor, weak, and ignorant' backwater that is today dominated by 'shabby tyrannies ... modern only in their apparatus of repression and terror.'" I have not yet gone beyond the intro but it is in the pile.

The Mimic Men by V.S. Naipaul
I got this one used at last year's library sale. Naipaul, who won the Nobel Prize for literature, is from Trinidad but with Indian roots. (not to be confused with Native American) I had read, and was moved by, his very powerful A Bend in the River, so I picked this one up for a quarter. I do not know if I will ever get to it because, alas, there are so many books and so little time.

Ideaspotting by Sam Harrison
I picked up this one for Christmas last year, read three-fourths of it in a piecemeal fashion, and continue to pick it up for a few pages every now and then. Stimulating thoughts, but especially interesting layout and design. The book is as interesting to read as it is to look at.

Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky
Chomsky is both reasoned and controversial. D'Souza cites Chomsky as one of the liberal voices that is damaging to America. The book is a bit more dense than Lilienthal's The Zionist Connection. Both are Jewish voices expressing concern about current behavior of Israeli leadership and its treatment of Palestinians.

I may never get through the whole stack because I keep adding to it, but I'm making progress and just finished two books which are now shelved. It's mentally stimulating if nothing else.

If you're reading a good book, tell us about it. I just might slip it into my pile.


Christella said...

I'm reading Kennedy's new book and it was a gift. Also reading a sample of Homer and Langley by Doctorow on my Kindle to see if I want to buy it. I like the Kindle because you can get a sample and buy it if you like. Just finished Wicked Prey by John Sandford.

ENNYMAN said...

Some really good stuff there... I like the idea of using Kindle to read samples. I prefer paper and print, but can see how that would have real value.

My dad recommended John Sandford to me a number of years ago, and one of Doctorow's books is on my short list of favorites. He is a very good writer.

thanks for the visit and recommendations.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

I'm reading Dickens' "Great Expectations," "Enough" by Rev. Adam Hamilton, "Introduction to Bheavioral Economics," by Nick Wilkinson, "Reason, Faith and Revolution," By Terry Eagleton, and two books on journalism, "Telling True Stories" (Mark Kramer and Wendy McCall) and "The New New Journalism," by Robert S. Boynton. I'm also dipping into Calvin's "Institutes" and a writing book, "Style," by Joe Williams.

Some of these books I've been 'reading' for a couple of years now, and have finished many others in the meantime.

ENNYMAN said...

There sure are a lot of books titled Enough! Glad you included the author, but they all look good. The concept of Hamilton's book is something we buy into and have striven to practice.
Eagleton's background reminds me a little of T.S. Eliot. You can read my blog post on that here http://bit.ly/3X985
Have you heard any of D'Souza's debates with Hitchens?
I love the way Amazon recommends other books when you look up books... Eagleton has some interesting titles.
I read large sections of Calvin's Institutes about 30 years ago... that seems an unusual selection these days. What do you think?
And the journalism books look quite compelling. Durn... too many books, too little time.

ENNYMAN said...

Oh, and during my commute I just started Benazir Bhutto's Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West. What an amazing woman, and powerful book...