All posts filed under: Books

A Better Theory of the Human Soul

An extract from Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 11, 2018) Sometime in the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century, world politics changed dramatically. The period from the early 1970s through the mid-2000s witnessed what Samuel Huntington labeled the “third wave” of democratization as the number of countries that could be classified as electoral democracies increased from about 35 to more than 110. In this period, liberal democracy became the default form of government for much of the world, at least in aspiration if not in practice. In parallel to this shift in political institutions was a corresponding growth of economic interdependence among nations, or what we call globalization. The latter was underpinned by liberal economic institutions such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its successor, the World Trade Organization. These were supplemented by regional trade agreements such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Throughout this period, the rate of growth in international trade and investment outpaced …

Barefoot Over the Serengeti: A Visit with David Read

“When [the Masai] gave you their word or made a promise, it meant something,” the author David Read (1922-2015) said to me in his last days, during an interview at his home in rural Tanzania. “They were also very generous. If they were laying on a feast and you were around, you were automatically invited. That meant you ate a lot of meat and drank a lot of their beer. In the early days in [the village of] Loliondo, my mother became the local nurse to Masai for miles around. And so, when the depression hit in 1929, no one had any money, my stepfather had to go far away to try his hand at mining. Every day, the Masai delivered milk and some meat for my mother and our family. We were very fortunate, and they kept us alive.” Read’s oeuvre—including Barefoot Over the Serengeti, Another Load of Bull, Beating About the Bush, and his novel about a Masai warrior set in pre-colonial times, The Waters of the Sanjan—evoke the life of an Englishman …

Buy Banned Books

What is lost when we insist that literature be ‘authentic’ and that some portrayals – even journalistic narratives – may only be authored by their real life counterparts? If the latter half of the 20th century witnessed the death of the author, then the social media age hails its return as a mutant zombie. Increasingly, we are living in a time in which the written word not only cannot stand on its own merits, it must not. If this sounds alarmist, consider one of the recent controversies surrounding the question of who should be allowed to write what. While it follows an increasingly familiar and depressing pattern, the incident also represents a Rubicon-crossing moment in social media age censorship. The book in question is an American YA (Young Adult) novel entitled American Heart, and the author is a white, non-Muslim named Laura Moriarty. Released this week, the story portrays a dystopian future America in which Muslims are being rounded up and thrown into detention centres. Within this nightmare is the Huckleberry-esque journey of a 15-year-old white Midwestern …

Books to Read in 2018

Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker “Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases…” Read more at Amazon.     The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt “The generation now coming of age has been taught three Great Untruths: their feelings are always right; they should avoid pain and discomfort; and they should look for faults in others and not themselves.” Read more at Amazon.     Female Bodies and Sexuality in Iran and the Search for Defiance, Nafiseh Sharifi “This book uses storytelling as an analytical tool for following wider social attitude changes towards sex and female sexuality in Iran.” Read more at Amazon.   On Kings, David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins “[K]ings are symbols for more than just sovereignty: indeed, the study of kingship offers a unique window into fundamental dilemmas concerning the very nature of power, meaning, and the human condition.” Read more at Amazon.   The People Versus Democracy, Yascha Mounk “Liberalism and democracy, historically twinned, are splitting …