9 months ago

Jerry Brown: politician, would-be monk, “man of tomorrow?”

For nearly half a century, Jerry Brown has confounded the people of California with the contradictions rooted so deeply in his personality. We’ve long known that it would be simplistic to pigeonhole him as either liberal or conservative. But the inconsistencies are more profound than that. Throughout his many years in public office, he felt […]

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9 months ago

The best short history of World War II

Thousands of books have been written about World War II—”history’s greatest catastrophe.” Amazon shows more than 70,000 titles. Among them are general histories from the likes of the Smithsonian Institution, the New York Times, and unnumbered others. Although I can’t claim to have read them all, or even more than a handful, the very best […]

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10 months ago

The story of globalization told through biography

Scholars argue about when globalization first took firm hold in the world’s economy. But most agree that the entry of the Old World into the affairs of the New was the pivotal event. Before then, before the voyages of Christopher Columbus and what came to be called the Columbian Exchange, what had come before was […]

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10 months ago

The facts, just the facts, about the world as it really is

In the closing months of his life, as pancreatic cancer worked its painful way through his system, the legendary lecturer Hans Rosling (1948-2017) labored with his son and daughter-in-law to compile the lessons he had spent decades teaching about the state of the world. The result was this compact and entertaining little book that seeks […]

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10 months ago

A critical but admiring biography of Nancy Pelosi

She has one of the most recognizable names in America. Yet far too few Americans have more than the most trivial understanding of who she is and where she comes from. And that ignorance is compounded by a relentless, years-long smear campaign by the Right Wing—a campaign that has only intensified since the 2018 Congressional […]

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10 months ago

Start here to understand Jews in America

Some of the most remarkable figures in the history of the United States during the first half of the twentieth century were first- or second-generation Jews who had emigrated from the Russian Empire. The social historian Stephen Birmingham (1929-2015) told their colorful story in “The Rest of Us” more than forty years ago. But his […]

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11 months ago

The strategic breakthrough that opened the Allies’ way to Berlin

In March 1945, Allied commanders were shocked to discover that a small group of American soldiers had defied orders and engineered a strategic breakthrough that would shorten World War II. This remarkable little book is their story. The strategic breakthrough: the context A vast, largely level plain sprawls westward from Moscow to Paris and beyond. […]

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11 months ago

An intimate view of Winston Churchill in WW2

At the age of sixty-five, Winston Churchill achieved his lifelong dream, becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on May 10, 1940. Less than a year into World War II, Britain was on the brink of defeat: The British public, its military leaders, and Churchill himself lived in fear, day after day, of an imminent […]

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11 months ago

When did globalization begin?

Most historians date the emergence of globalization to the Columbian Exchange, the transfer across the Atlantic of goods, mineral resources, edible plants, slaves, and contagious diseases that began shortly after Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World. Yale history professor Valerie Hansen begs to differ. In The Year 1000, Hansen presents a detailed case for backdating […]

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11 months ago

Reflecting on 100 years of landmark ACLU cases

Anthologies are, inevitably, uneven. No matter how tightly edited, the individual contributions necessarily vary in character and quality. And in an audiobook, the format in which I “read” this collection of essays about the landmark ACLU cases of the past century, the problem is compounded when so many voices enter the mix—not just those of […]

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