Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why


Sady Doyle - 2016
     She’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, “crack is whack,” and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself. From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to “behave.” Where did these women come from? What are their crimes? And what does it mean for the rest of us? For an age when any form of self-expression can be the one that ends you, Sady Doyle’s book is as fierce and intelligent as it is funny and compassionate—an essential, timely, feminist anatomy of the female trainwreck.

This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality


Peter Pomerantsev - 2019
    In this surreal atmosphere created to disorient us and undermine our sense of truth, we've lost not only our grip on peace and democracy -- but our very notion of what those words even mean.Peter Pomerantsev takes us to the front lines of the disinformation age, where he meets Twitter revolutionaries and pop-up populists, "behavioral change" salesmen, Jihadi fanboys, Identitarians, truth cops, and many others. Forty years after his dissident parents were pursued by the KGB, Pomerantsev finds the Kremlin re-emerging as a great propaganda power. His research takes him back to Russia -- but the answers he finds there are not what he expected.Blending reportage, family history, and intellectual adventure, This Is Not Propaganda explores how we can reimagine our politics and ourselves when reality seems to be coming apart.

The Shadow University: The Betrayal Of Liberty On America's Campuses


Alan Charles Kors - 1998
    Today, sadly, this ideal of the university is being quietly betrayed from within. Universities still set themselves apart from American society, but now they do so by enforcing their own politically correct worldview through censorship, double standards and a judicial system without due process. Faculty and students who threaten the prevailing norms may be forced to undergo "thought reform."In a surreptitious about-face, universities have become the enemy of a free society, and the time has come to hold these institutions to account.The Shadow University is a stinging indictment of the covert system of justice on college campuses, exposing the widespread reliance of n kangaroo courts and arbitrary punishment to coerce students and faculty into conformity. Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate, staunch civil libertarians and active defenders of free inquiry on campus, lay bare the totalitarian mindset that undergirds speech codes, conduct codes, and "campus life" bureaucracies, through which a cadre of deans and counselors indoctrinate students and faculty in an ideology that favors group rights over individual rights, sacrificing free speech and academic freedom to spare the sensitivities of currently favored groups.From Maine to California, at public and private universities alike, liberty and fairness are the first casualties as teachers and students find themselves in the dock, presumed guilty until proven innocent and often forbidden to cross-examine their accusers. Kors and Silverglate introduce us to many of those who have firsthand experience of The Shadow University, including:The student at the center of the 1993 "Water Buffalo" case at the University of Pennsylvania who was brought up on charges of racial harassment after calling a group of rowdy students "water buffalo" -- even though the terms has no racial connotations.The Catholic residence adviser who was fired for refusing, on the grounds of religious conscience, to wear a symbol of lesbian and gay causesThe professor who was investigated for sexual harassment when he disagreed with campus feminists about curriculum issuesThe student who was punished for laughing at a statement deemed offensive to others and who was ordered to undergo "sensitivity training" as a result.The Shadow University unmasks a chilling reality for parent who entrust their sons and daughters to the authority of such institutions, for thinking people who recognize that vigorous debate is the only sure path to truth, and for all Americans who realize that when even one citizen is deprived of liberty, we are all diminished.

Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment


Anthony Lewis - 2007
    The media can air the secrets of the White House, the boardroom, or the bedroom with little fear of punishment or penalty. The reason for this extraordinary freedom is not a superior culture of tolerance, but just fourteen words in our most fundamental legal document: the free expression clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution. In Lewis's telling, the story of how the right of free expression evolved along with our nation makes a compelling case for the adaptability of our constitution. Although Americans have gleefully and sometimes outrageously exercised their right to free speech since before the nation's founding, the Supreme Court did not begin to recognize this right until 1919. Freedom of speech and the press as we know it today is surprisingly recent. Anthony Lewis tells us how these rights were created, revealing a story of hard choices, heroic (and some less heroic) judges, and fascinating and eccentric defendants who forced the legal system to come face-to-face with one of America's great founding ideas.

Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq


Patrick Cockburn - 2008
    Fate in Iraq." Paul Bremer denounced him as a "Bolshevik Islamist" and ordered that he be captured "dead or alive." Who is Muqtada al-Sadr, and why is he so vital to the future of Iraq and, arguably, the entire Middle East? In this compellingly readable account, prize-winning journalist Patrick Cockburn tells the story of Muqtada's rise to become the leader of Iraq's poor Shi'ites and the resistance to the occupation. Cockburn looks at the killings by Saddam's executioners and hit men of the young cleric's father, two brothers, and father-in-law; his leadership of the seventy-thousand-strong Mehdi Army; the fierce rivalries between him and other Shia religious leaders; his complex relationship with the Iraqi government; and his frequent confrontations with the American military, including battles that took place in Najaf in 2004. The portrait that emerges is of a complex man and a sophisticated politician, who engages with religious and nationalist aspirations in a manner unlike any other Iraqi leader.Cockburn, who was among the very few Western journalists to remain in Baghdad during the Gulf War and has been an intrepid reporter of Iraq ever since, draws on his extensive firsthand experience in the country to produce a book that is richly interwoven with the voices of Iraqis themselves. His personal encounters with the Mehdi Army include a tense occasion when he was nearly killed at a roadblock outside the city of Kufa.Though it often reads like an adventure story, "Muqtada" is also a work of painstaking research and measured analysis that leads to a deeper understanding both of one of the most critical conflicts in the world today and of the man who may well be a decisive voice in determining the future of Iraq when the Americans eventually leave.

Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam


Asra Q. Nomani - 2005
    Mecca is Islam's most sacred city and strictly off limits to non-Muslims. On a journey perilous enough for any American reporter, Nomani is determined to take along her infant son, Shibli -- living proof that she, an unmarried Muslim woman, is guilty of zina, or "illegal sex." If she is found out, the puritanical Islamic law of the Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia may mete out terrifying punishment. But Nomani discovers she is not alone. She is following in the four-thousand-year-old footsteps of another single mother, Hajar (known in the West as Hagar), the original pilgrim to Mecca and mother of the Islamic nation.Each day of her hajj evokes for Nomani the history of a different Muslim matriarch: Eve, from whom she learns about sin and redemption; Hajar, the single mother abandoned in the desert who teaches her about courage; Khadijah, the first benefactor of Islam and trailblazer for a Muslim woman's right to self-determination; and Aisha, the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam's first female theologian. Inspired by these heroic Muslim women, Nomani returns to America to confront the sexism and intolerance in her local mosque and to fight for the rights of modern Muslim women who are tired of standing alone against the repressive rules and regulations imposed by reactionary fundamentalists.Nomani shows how many of the freedoms enjoyed centuries ago have been erased by the conservative brand of Islam practiced today, giving the West a false image of Muslim women as veiled and isolated from the world. Standing Alone in Mecca is a personal narrative, relating the modern-day lives of the author and other Muslim women to the lives of those who came before, bringing the changing face of women in Islam into focus through the unique lens of the hajj. Interweaving reportage, political analysis, cultural history, and spiritual travelogue, this is a modern woman's jihad, offering for Westerners a never-before-seen look inside the heart of Islam and the emerging role of Muslim women.

Our 50-State Border Crisis: How the Mexican Border Fuels the Drug Epidemic Across America


Howard G. Buffett - 2018
     Howard G. Buffett has seen first-hand the devastating impact of cheap Mexican heroin and other opiate cocktails across America. Fueled by failing border policies and lawlessness in Mexico and Central America, drugs are pouring over the nation's southern border in record quantities, turning Americans into addicts and migrants into drug mules -- and killing us in record numbers. Politicians talk about a border crisis and an opioid crisis as separate issues. To Buffett, a landowner on the U.S. border with Mexico and now a sheriff in Illinois, these are intimately connected. Ineffective border policies not only put residents in border states like Texas and Arizona in harm's way, they put American lives in states like Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Vermont at risk. Mexican cartels have grown astonishingly powerful by exploiting both the gaps in our border security strategy and the desperation of migrants -- all while profiting enormously off America's growing addiction to drugs. The solution isn't a wall. In this groundbreaking book, Buffett outlines a realistic, effective, and bi-partisan approach to fighting cartels, strengthening our national security, and tackling the roots of the chaos below the border.

Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America


John McWhorter - 2005
    Winning the Race examines the roots of the serious problems facing black Americans today—poverty, drugs, and high incarceration rates—and contends that none of the commonly accepted reasons can explain the decline of black communities since the end of segregation in the 1960s. Instead, McWhorter posits that a sense of victimhood and alienation that came to the fore during the civil rights era has persisted to the present day in black culture, even though most blacks today have never experienced the racism of the segregation era.McWhorter traces the effects of this disempowering conception of black identity, from the validation of living permanently on welfare to gansta rap’s glorification of irresponsibility and violence as a means of “protest.” He discusses particularly specious claims of racism, attacks the destructive posturing of black leaders and the “hip-hop academics,” and laments that a successful black person must be faced with charges of “acting white.” While acknowledging that racism still exists in America today, McWhorter argues that both blacks and whites must move past blaming racism for every challenge blacks face, and outlines the steps necessary for improving the future of black America.

The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City


Jennifer Toth - 1993
    This book is about them, the so-called "mole people" living alone and in communities, in the frescoed waiting rooms of long-forgotten subway tunnels and in pick-axed compartments below busway platforms. It is about how and why people move underground, who they are, and what they have to say about their lives and the treacherous "topside" world they've left behind. There are even the voices of young children taken down to the tunnels by parents who are determined to keep their families together, although as one tunnel dweller explains, "once you go down there, you can't be a child anymore." Though they maintain an existence hidden from the world aboveground, tunnel dwellers form a large and growing sector of the homeless population. They are a diverse group, and they choose to live underground for many reasonssome rejecting society and its values, others reaffirming those values in what they view as purer terms, and still others seeking shelter from the harsh conditions on the streets. Their enemies include government agencies and homeless organizations as well as wandering crack addicts and marauding gangs. In communities underground, however, many homeless people find not only a place but also an identity. On these pages Jennifer Toth visits underground New York with various straight-talking guides, from outreach workers and transit police to vetern tunnel dwellers, graffiti artists, and even the "mayor" of a large, highly structured community several levels down. In addition to chilling and poignant firsthand accounts of tunnel life, she describes the fascinating and labryrinthine physical world beneath the city and discusses the literary allusions and historical points of view that prejudice our culture against those who "go underground". Toth has gained unprecedented access to a strange and frightening world, but The Mole People is not a daredevil jo

Legal Systems Very Different From Ours


David D. Friedman - 2016
    

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs


Johann Hari - 2015
    On the eve of this centenary, journalist Johann Hari set off on an epic three-year, thirty-thousand-mile journey into the war on drugs. What he found is that more and more people all over the world have begun to recognize three startling truths: Drugs are not what we think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. And the drug war has very different motives to the ones we have seen on our TV screens for so long.In Chasing the Scream, Hari reveals his discoveries entirely through the stories of people across the world whose lives have been transformed by this war. They range from a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn searching for her mother, to a teenage hit-man in Mexico searching for a way out. It begins with Hari's discovery that at the birth of the drug war, Billie Holiday was stalked and killed by the man who launched this crusade--and it ends with the story of a brave doctor who has led his country to decriminalize every drug, from cannabis to crack, with remarkable results.Chasing the Scream lays bare what we really have been chasing in our century of drug war--in our hunger for drugs, and in our attempt to destroy them. This book will challenge and change how you think about one of the most controversial--and consequential--questions of our time.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging


Sebastian Junger - 2016
    These are the very same behaviors that typify good soldiering and foster a sense of belonging among troops, whether they’re fighting on the front lines or engaged in non-combat activities away from the action. Drawing from history, psychology, and anthropology, bestselling author Sebastian Junger shows us just how at odds the structure of modern society is with our tribal instincts, arguing that the difficulties many veterans face upon returning home from war do not stem entirely from the trauma they’ve suffered, but also from the individualist societies they must reintegrate into.A 2011 study by the Canadian Forces and Statistics Canada reveals that 78 percent of military suicides from 1972 to the end of 2006 involved veterans. Though these numbers present an implicit call to action, the government is only just taking steps now to address the problems veterans face when they return home. But can the government ever truly eliminate the challenges faced by returning veterans? Or is the problem deeper, woven into the very fabric of our modern existence? Perhaps our circumstances are not so bleak, and simply understanding that beneath our modern guises we all belong to one tribe or another would help us face not just the problems of our nation but of our individual lives as well.Well-researched and compellingly written, this timely look at how veterans react to coming home will reconceive our approach to veteran’s affairs and help us to repair our current social dynamic.

The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity


Sally Kohn - 2018
    Divisive political speech, online trolling, and hate crimes are escalating, and in our current political climate so many of us are seething at “the other side.” As a progressive commentator on Fox News and now CNN, Sally Kohn has made a career out of bridging intractable political differences and remaining good-natured in the face of intense provocation. But these days even Kohn has found herself wanting to breathe fire at her enemies. It was time, she decided, to look into the subject. In The Opposite of Hate, Kohn talks to leading scientists and researchers, investigating the evolutionary and cultural roots of hate and how simple incivility might lead to more dangerous acts. She travels to Rwanda, the Middle East, and across the United States, introducing us to former terrorists, former white supremacists, and even some of her own reformed Twitter trolls, drawing surprising lessons from some of the most dramatic examples of leaving hate behind. As Kohn boldly confronts her own shameful moments, whether it’s the girl she bullied in school or her own contribution to her daughter’s negative attitudes, she points the way toward change. Her hopeful message: While we all have the potential to hate, we also all have the capacity to combat it. It turns out that the opposite of hate is not love. It’s the understanding of how hate operates, how it’s fostered, and how easily we fall into its grip. The Opposite of Hate offers the tools to move forward together.

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia


Masha Gessen - 2017
    Award-winning journalist Masha Gessen’s understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled. In The Future Is History, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own–as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all, and against the war it waged on understanding itself, which ensured the unobstructed reemergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today’s terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state. Powerful and urgent, The Future Is History is a cautionary tale for our time and for all time.

The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine


Ben Ehrenreich - 2016
    Along the way he has written major stories for American outlets, including a remarkable New York Times Magazine cover story. Now comes the powerful new work that has always been his ultimate goal, The Way to the Spring.We are familiar with brave journalists who travel to bleak or war-torn places on a mission to listen and understand, to gather the stories of people suffering from extremes of oppression and want: Katherine Boo, Ryszard Kapuściński, Ted Conover, and Philip Gourevitch among them. Palestine is, by any measure, whatever one's politics, one such place. Ruled by the Israeli military, set upon and harassed constantly by Israeli settlers who admit unapologetically to wanting to drive them from the land, forced to negotiate an ever more elaborate and more suffocating series of fences, checkpoints, and barriers that have sundered home from field, home from home, this is a population whose living conditions are unique, and indeed hard to imagine. In a great act of bravery, empathy and understanding, Ben Ehrenreich, by placing us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians and telling their story with surpassing literary power and grace, makes it impossible for us to turn away.