I and some of Dissident Voice's contributing writers offer here our book recommendations for the holiday season. Originally I asked the writers to list faves that were published within the last couple of years. Naturally, being dissidents, few actually followed that rule (bless them all), nevertheless almost all the books listed here are currently in print or available used.
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I know some of you are saying, "why the hell is DV asking folks to buy from a big corporate megalith like Amazon?" The short answer is DV needs the help. We want to continue to provide a FREE resource people can access to escape the bullshit and blather of state/corporate propaganda, and get a more realistic picture of what's happening in the world. This is one of the few ways in our unfortunate system where we can make money to pay the bills. In each edition of DV, you get hard-hitting, thought provoking news and commentaries from voices you will rarely, if ever, find on the evening news or in mainstream print media. And we want to continue providing this valuable resource.
I personally prefer to support
my local independent bookstore. And I would definitely encourage you to do
just that if you have that option. Many folks, however, live in places where
there are either no independent bookstores nearby. Most cities only have big
chain book stores like Borders and Crown, etc. So, if you buy through our
Amazon page, even though you're helping another big corporation, at least
some of that money trickles down to us, which helps keep us afloat. The
choice is yours. Support your local independent bookstores if you can, or
help us out by buying through our special pages at Amazon if there are none
in your neighborhood, or just because you want
to help keep DV strong.
Sunil Sharma's Selections
While books by extreme right wing apologists and cheerleaders of the Empire, like Bill O'Reilly and Anne Ku-Klux Coulter, litter the literary landscape, the last couple of years has especially seen an abundance of great books put out by leading alternative publishing houses like The New Press, Monthly Review Press, Common Courage, South End, Verso (whose cover artwork has been especially wonderful), AK Press, Seven Stories, and others. Here are some picks that I heartily recommend.
Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: The Politics of Nature by Jeffrey St. Clair
Jeff is co-editor of CounterPunch, one of DV's biggest inspirations. St. Clair is far-and-away the most keen observer of environmental politics, and one of the most gifted writers on the planet. Brown So Long is a work of startling beauty and passion that will piss you off, but is at the same time an inspiring call to action rooted in an optimism informed by St. Clair's portraits of heroic activist struggles. The late Edward Abbey and David Brower would truly be proud of this important collection of essays. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book, but more importantly, use it in struggle against the bipartisan, corporate plunderers that are threatening Life itself. (Read our extended review)
An especially important read as we head towards the national election. In our degraded political climate, many look back with nostalgia at the state of the US economy during the Clinton years. Pollin blows away many illusions about the Clinton years by detailing in depth how Slick Willie's neo-liberal economic policies were in essence a continuation of the Reagan revolution. The rich got much richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class got stuck on a treadmill going nowhere fast. This book will illuminate why a candidate like Howard Dean doesn't truly offer an alternative to business as usual. Pollin, however, doesn't just criticize, he offers a workable egalitarian policy agenda for both the US and the developing nations. Pollin has the rare ability to present complex economic issues in an easily understandable manner. No "dismal science" drudgery here. (read our earlier review)
Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton
From Publishers Weekly: As government officials and observers battle over whether or not the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence reports of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify war, there should be a ready audience for this new book by the authors of Trust Us, We're Experts! Professional debunkers of media manipulation, Rampton and Stauber unmask the impact of "information warriors and perception managers" (as one PR consultant described himself) on Bush's attempt to turn public opinion in favor of war on Iraq. The authors deconstruct the PR campaign to promote the U.S. in the wake of September 11: the State Department's hiring of ad exec Charlotte Beers ("the queen of Madison Avenue") to direct the campaign; how PR execs and lobbyists helped construct the government's anti-Iraq message; the administration's alleged misinformation and distortion of facts and reliance on rumor to influence public opinion. Anyone skeptical of the reasons for the war against Iraq will find their suspicions enhanced here.
War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges
A powerful book on the seduction and culture of war from the NY Times correspondent who has visited some of the worst hells on earth: Bosnia, the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Rwanda, Central America, among others. Hedges explores the dangerous romanticizing of war as glorious and noble from the literary and media depictions of the ancient Greeks to the present. This work is especially important to read in an era when most Americans' only understanding of war is an absurd video-game caricature that anaesthetizes us from the real pain and horror war wreaks on the lives of "others"; a time when we seem to be most disconnected from the suffering of others; a time when events like 9/11 and the greater potential for similar acts -- as a result of our empire building crusade -- should dispel the notion that our ignorance of the suffering we inflict around the world doesn't entail terrible consequences for ourselves. Hedges shows us the true, terrible face of war.
From Publishers Weekly: Hass, a Jewish Israeli journalist for the newspaper Ha'aretz, has chosen to live on the West Bank-and her intimate knowledge of the plight of the Palestinians illuminates this book. Culled from her dispatches during the past five years, these pieces offer a three-dimensional portrait of the daily experiences of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation. The early pieces, written while serious peace talks were being conducted in the late '90s, shows the roots of the current violence: most notably, Palestinians' frustration that the Oslo peace accords hadn't produced many tangible results. As Hass presciently wrote: "The distance from here to private and collective acts of despair is not great." As the book wends its way through the outbreak of violence in September 2000, that despair is increasingly on display. Her pieces illustrate how Palestinian frustration-over detentions, house demolitions, a life so riddled with restrictions that "hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are criminals or potential criminals"-erupted into suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism. But what distinguishes this book is its emphasis on the personal-and how the conflict has created a logic that has driven both sides to violence. In an in-depth interview, an Israeli sharpshooter discusses the rules of when to open fire ("Every day, the regulations... change"). Members of Palestinian society discuss the difficulty of keeping children healthy and educated under the pressures of violence and occupation. Members of Palestinian terrorist groups discuss what drove them to their acts and the internal rivalries among competing factions. Anyone who wants an in-depth, humanizing portrait of the Palestinians should look no further.
From The Village Voice: Pity Nathan Glazer and his ilk. Not long after the neoconservative concedes that We Are All Multiculturalists Now, Vijay Prashad arrives to demolish multiculturalism as a complacent theme park of self-enclosed heritages. Instead, Prashad suggests polyculturalism, the recognition of "our mulatto histories." This slim book spans five centuries to plumb Afro-Asian affairs, from the pre-capitalist mix of the Indian Ocean cosmos to the multinational travels (and fan base) of Bruce Lee. Whether locating both Ho Chi Minh and Elijah Muhammad in Marcus Garvey's audiences or ruminating on the Asian roots of Rastafarianism, Kung Fu is a treasury of hidden histories and startling solidarities. But Prashad is not simply celebratory: He also takes on the "primordialism" of Afrocentrists and Asian nationalists in a book that is both unapologetically radical and alive to paradox.
As an editor of a radical political website and a struggling musician dedicated to the art , yet having to waste time working an unrelated day job to put a meal on the table and a roof over my head, DV contributing writer Mickey Z.'s book especially resonates with me. Mickey sent out a questionnaire to many activists asking how they managed to be active and true to their causes while surviving in our corporate dominated landscape. This book comprises their many humorous, not-so humorous, strange, and moving tales. For struggling activists and artists, the book provides solace and inspiration in knowing you're not alone, and perhaps even important lessons in finding the path to living our lives as we truly desire, rather than passing or wasting our short time on earth.
Hegemony or Survival?: America's Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
The Noamster is my biggest influence and having read every political book he's written, it's difficult picking out a couple rather than make this list much too long by listing most of them. Hegemony is his latest -- as usual -- brilliant and devastatingly documented critique of American foreign and domestic policy, from the end of WWII to the present. Among the many insights one gains from reading Chomsky, to me the most important in reading Hegemony pertains to the 2004 election. Chomsky illuminates how America's imperialistic proclivities have been more-or-less consistent under Democratic and Republican administrations, with the current gang of terrorists being a more unusually virulent variety of species in a very narrow political framework. While the Bush II regime's open declaration of a policy of unilateralist, preventive war (a war crime, as opposed to the much referred to "pre-emptive" war) is novel, it hardly is new in actual American practice over many decades. Whether or not one agrees with Chomsky's conclusions, the wealth of facts and documentation he assembles is indeed valuable, and one truly courts ignorance by ignoring Chomsky.
All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer
From the Inside Flap: Half a century ago, the United States overthrew a Middle Eastern government for the first time. The victim was Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran. Although the coup seemed a success at first, today it serves as a chilling lesson about the dangers of foreign intervention. In this book, veteran New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer gives the first full account of this fateful operation. His account is centered around an hour-by-hour reconstruction of the events of August 1953, and concludes with an assessment of the coup’s "haunting and terrible legacy." Operation Ajax, as the plot was code-named, reshaped the history of Iran, the Middle East, and the world. It restored Mohammad Reza Shah to the Peacock Throne, allowing him to impose a tyranny that ultimately sparked the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The Islamic Revolution, in turn, inspired fundamentalists throughout the Muslim world, including the Taliban and terrorists who thrived under its protection. "It is not far-fetched," Kinzer asserts in this book, "to draw a line from Operation Ajax through the Shah’s repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York." . . .Brimming with insights into Middle Eastern history and American foreign policy, this book is an eye-opening look at an event whose unintended consequences--Islamic revolution and violent anti-Americanism--have shaped the modern world. As the United States assumes an ever-widening role in the Middle East, it is essential reading.
Boob Jubilee: The Mad Cultural Politics of the New Economy: Salvos from the Baffler edited by Thomas Frank and David Mulcahey
Thomas Frank is author of the highly recommended One Market Under God and Commodify Your Dissent, and editor of The Baffler, an indispensable and entertaining journal that focuses on the nation's consumer and business culture. Boob Jubilee is a compilation of essays from the pages of the Baffler, many of them previously unavailable after a fire destroyed their old office in Chicago and along with it many back issues. Many of these essays have been revised and updated. The Baffler's essays are the most provocative, damning, and just damned funny barbs at American corporate culture and the "New Economy" anywhere.
The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror by Christian Parenti
Book Description: From the popular historian and journalist Christian
Parenti, a vivid and chilling history of surveillance in American life-from
the antebellum South to the computerized landscape of the futuristic
present. The Soft Cage is the first book to detail the continuum of
surveillance in the making of the United States-from the slave pass to the
Social Security number all the way to the many forms of computerized
monitoring now shaping the post-9/11 world. The Soft Cage explores
not just the history but also the politics of everyday surveillance, and
explains to readers why the question of who is watching and listening is of
utmost importance today. Parenti details how seemingly benign
technologies-E-ZPass, GPS systems in rental cars, and iris scans at
airports-present opportunities for a reconfiguration of the balance of power
between the individual and the state. Under the aegis of security and
convenience, Parenti argues, corporations and the U.S. government, often
working together, have, without any oversight, substantially eroded civil
liberties-including the right to privacy -that Americans have long taken for
Born in what
is now Pakistan, New Left Review contributing editor Tariq Ali has, since
the 1960s, been one of the world's leading and most eloquent
anti-imperialist voice. In his latest masterpiece, Ali looks at the US
invasion of Iraq, the machinations of the Bush junta, the likely fallout of
the war, a brief but thorough overview of relevant Middle East history, and
the forces of resistance to US domination. His chapter presenting the work
of leading Arab and Muslim poets belies the popular belief that the Arab and
Islamic world is bereft of self-critical thinkers and activists.
Mina Hamilton's Selections
Mina is a writer based in New York City. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question,
edited by Edward W. Said and Christopher Hitchens (Don't worry this book
was edited before Hitchens took his dive to the Right. Verso, Updated
Strangers in the House: Coming of Age in Occupied Palestine by
Refugees in our Own Land: Chronicles from a Palestinian Refugee Camp in
Bethlehem, by Muna Hamzeh
Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada
by Wendy Pearlman
Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin
Blindness by Jose Saramago
The Best Money Democracy Can Buy by Greg Palast
The World is
Not for Sale: Farmers Against Junk Food
by Jose Bove and Francois Dufour
Why Do People Hate America? by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davis
What to give the person who asks, 'Why do they hate us?' - a political primer for that novice on your list - a valuable and resourceful tool for any library, really. In fact, no one should leave home (or the country) without it.
Therapy Culture by Frank Furedi
How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not a Novel by Alain de Botton
An erudite piss-take on the Self-Help genre.
Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave by Deanne Stillman
The violent, rootless society of military culture is put on the autopsy block along with the two savagely murdered women. Gulf War One sends one of its homicidal heroes home to a bloody welcoming in the Mojave Desert.
Old but utterly essential:
The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
Few works of political and cultural theory have been as enduringly provocative as Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle. From its publication amid the social upheavals of the 1960s up to the present, the volatile theses of this book have decisively transformed debates on the shape of modernity, capitalism and everyday life in the late twentieth cenlury. Now finally available in a superb English translation approved by the author, Debord's text remains as crucial as ever for understanding the contemporary effects of power, which are increasingly inseparable from the new virtual worlds of our rapidly changing image/information culture.
"In all that has happened
in the last twenty years, the most important change lies in the very
continuity of the spectacle. Quite simply, the spectacle's domination has
succeeded in raising a whole generation moulded to its laws. The
extraordinary new conditions in which this entire generation has lived
constitute a comprehensive summary of all that, henceforth, the spectacle
will forbid; and also all that it will permit." --Guy Debord (1988)
Japan's leading Mystery writer subverts the genre with an unflinching
at the underbelly of the Japan's 'economic miracle'. Feminism with a
violently erotic bent.
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
A People’s History of the Unites States: 1492-Present by Howard Zinn
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert
Understanding Power: The Indispensible Chomsky, eds. Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower by William Blum
You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn
Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit by Vandana Shiva
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Cultural Revolution by Pawl Hawken
The Ralph Nader Reader by Ralph Nader
A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive by Dave Pelzer
No Logo by Naomi Klein
The Case Against the Global Economy: And For a Turn Toward the Local by Jerry Mander et al.
Five Days the Shook the World by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
The Umbrella of US Power by Noam Chomsky
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Geek Love by Katerine Dunn
Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Indian Creek Chronicles by Pete Fromm
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Fool's Crow by James Welch
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Years by Virginia Woolf
Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements by Francesca Polletta
Yo Mama's Disfunktional by Robin D.G. Kelley
The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics
by Cathy J .Cohen
In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio by Phillipe Bourgois
The War Against the Poor: The Underclass and Antipoverty Policy by Herbert J. Gans
The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
This is the best book yet on the downfall of Enron. McLean, a Fortune magazine journalist who is credited with writing one of the first skeptical pieces on Enron’s finances, and Elkind took their time in putting this book together, and the time was well-spent. The writing is clear, the editing is superb, and the insight into the transformation of Enron from a natural gas pipeline company into an "asset-lite" commodity trading behemoth is unmatched. If you want to read the definitive book on the Enron debacle, this is it (at least, so far).
North Korea: Another Country by Bruce Cumings
In this slender volume, Cumings adds texture to the one-dimensional portrait of North Korea presented to the outside world by the press, politicians and academics. Suffering no misconceptions about the suffocating form of government practiced by the North Korean dictatorship, the long-time Korea scholar provides much-needed context to our understanding of U.S.-Korean relations. Furthermore, New Press books are always a treat to read for their graceful style of writing and wonderful editing. Thank you, Andre Schiffrin, for launching this gem of a publishing house.
Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire by Chalmers Johnson
Blowback has become an instant classic and must be read by anyone who wishes to obtain a full understanding of U.S. Empire in the 21st century. It is accessible and scholarly. It is brilliant and depressing. Given Johnson’s expertise on Japan, Blowback’s analysis of U.S. involvement in Japan since World War II is especially informative.
Fools’ Crusade by Diana Johnstone
Until this thought-provoking book came to my attention, Johnstone had slipped from my radar since her days as an international correspondent for In These Times. As I said in my review that ran earlier this year in Dissident Voice, Fools’ Crusade magnifies the propaganda that emanated from the Yugoslavia wars of the 1990s and explains how the same misinformation is being used by the U.S. and its allies in the worldwide “war on terrorism.”
The Man Who Knew Too Much by Dick Russell
Spy thriller in November 2003 with plenty of updated material to coincide with the 40th anniversary of JFK’s murder. The book, my favorite on the Kennedy murder, is an enormously engrossing story about the life of Richard Case Nagell, who Russell describes as the man hired to kill Oswald and prevent the murder of JFK.
50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know by Russ Kick
On the Justice of Roosting Chickens by Ward Churchill
Capital Vol. 1 by Karl Marx
The Wages Of Whiteness by David R. Roediger
Towards The Abolition Of Whiteness by David R. Roediger
How The Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev
Blues For America by Doug Dowd
Red Dirt-Growing Up Okie, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
The Invention Of Capitalism by Michael Perelman
Fascism And Big Business by Daniel Guerin
Christ In Concrete by Pietro di Donato
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
500 Years Of Revolution: European Radicals Form Hus To Lenin by Charles H. George
The Age Of Imperialism by Harry Magdoff
The Origin Of The Family, Private Property, And The State by Frederick Engels
One-Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse
Fanshen: A Documentary Of Revolution In A Chinese Village by William Hinton
Black Reconstruction In America by W. E. B. Du Bois
Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides
by Christian G. Appy
The Last Days of Publishing: A Novel
by Tom Engelhardt
The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a
Generation (1995/1998) by
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
by Jonathan Schell
Revolution for the Hell of It by Abbie Hoffman
A classic! Even if you've already read it, get a copy, read it again and then give it away to a comrade or someone with a mind in need of enlightenment.
A Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor.
Queen Noor, was born and educated in the United States. She married King Hussein of Jordan in 1978 at the age of 26. This is an intelligent and literate love story that offers very human view of the Arab world from a westerner. It would make a great educational gift for someone who is only mildly interested in the state of the world or who is not politically inclined. The seed of my own interest in many historical or political events have been planted by novels or movies. This is an easy read that debunks some of the common myths in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian as well as providing first hand insight into the dynamics of governments at very high levels.
Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird (children's)
This is an excellent book which illustrates the realities that Palestinians face every day under Israeli occupation. The real-life stories that are glossed over by the mass media are brought to life and finally, Palestinians are realistically portrayed as ordinary human beings living under horrific conditions. Readers of any age starting from about 9 years, will learn the true meaning of "curfew" and "settlement". The author is a renowned British author of children's books. This book is especially worth buying because it has been the target of a Zionist boycott. A search on Amazon.com (US) came up blank but it does come up on Amazon.ca (Canada) at $16 Canadian - a definite bargain for anyone spending US$.
Elizabeth and Leicester by Elizabeth Jenkins
sidelights on the great author, things left out of his major
biography by Norman Sherry.
The Dutch Republic by Jonathan Israel
The Dutch Republic was a miracle. Its spirit in fighting for freedom is a lesson to all. Its existence as an early republic, well before the U.S., provides insights to Americans who think they invented these concepts. Its art is thrilling.
Napolean in Russia by Alan Palmer
A wonderful little book full of interesting anecdotes.
The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution
by Conor Cruise O'Brien
Constructores by Ramon Amaya Amador
A novel about workers in the construction trade, set in Tegucigalpa during the 1940s - a good complement and antidote to more melodramatic novels in English like Robert Tressell's Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
Le Mare au Diable,
François le Champi and
La Petite Fadette by George Sand
The Memory of Resistance by Martin Evans
A sobering and occasionally inspiring book detailing reflections and reminiscences of French people who resisted their own government, helping the FLN in the Algerian War. It raises many questions about the nature and morality of legitimate political resistance and terrorism. When your government is run by fascist colonialists how far do you support the victims of its aggression?
A collection of Russier's letters prior to her death - was a salutary reminder of systemic hatred and fear of women, an issue currently in the news in France as a result of the high profile assault of his partner by a leading French musician - easily forgotten once the headlines fade. The appalling failure to protect women maquila workers, victims of serial murders in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, illustrates more urgently how deep seated the systemic repression of women remains. Gabrielle Russier's case shows in a paradigmatic way the limits of patriarchal tolerance of women's autonomy.
The Poverty of Theory by E.P.Thompson