Neighbors. The Crime and the Silence; Massacre… Poland.

The Crime and the Silence; Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne by Anna Bikont and Alissa Valles, trans. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016.

Neighbors; The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan Gross. Penguin, 2016 paper.

Anna Bikont is a journalist who writes for the Gazeta Wyborcza, Warsaw’s leading newspaper. The Crime and the Silence was first published in Polish in 2004. It is a record of her discoveries as an investigative reporter looking into the events of July 1941.  She began work on the story in the spring of 2001 and finished three years later, after trips to Israel, New York City, and Buenos Aires to visit their expatriate Polish-Jewish communities.

Jan Gross’s Neighbors; The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland was published by Princeton University Press in 2001 and was a National Book Award finalist. Both were available in Poland at about the same time.

In the 1960s a commemorative monument was placed in Jedwabne town square with the inscription: “Site of the Suffering of the Jewish Population. The Gestapo and the Nazi gendarmerie Burned Alive 1600 People on 10 July 1941.” (The monument has since been defaced with a swastika and other graffiti.)

There are several ‘misrepresentations’ of that day in the inscription. The number killed was more likely between 200 and 340. The 1600 figure would, however, be a rough estimate of the total number of Jews killed on the day of the atrocity and several days before and after. Or that larger number might also be countig Jews from surrounding towns that were herded into the Jedwabne square.

Also both Bikont and Gross reject the implication that the Nazi Gestapo and various German paramilitary groups were responsible. There were Germans present on that day, and perhaps they urged the Poles to put to death their “Jewish neighbors.” But the killing was done by Poles, often by Poles that the Jewish victims knew, hence ‘neighbors.’ They were killed with axes and scythes, weapons available to the Poles. To expedite the killing, Jews were forced into a nearby barn, which was then set on fire.

At the same time, many Poles were hiding Jews from the Germans and from those Polish ‘neighbors.’ This was dangerous business. If a Polish household were found to be hiding Jews, the Jews and the entire Polish family would be immediately shot by the Germans.  A recent film “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” based on a novel by Diane Ackerman, is a good portrayal of the risk involved and the bravery on the part of many Poles.

Poland had been divided into two occupation zones after the Russian and German joint invasion of Poland in September 1939. Most of the two districts involved in this account were occupied and administered by the Russians. Under Russian communism both the land and the economy were nationalized. Poles supported Russian-style social reforms were appointed to the new administrative offices. Jews had been excluded from public office under the older Polish regime and now took advantage of the new situation to obtain appointments. Hence the Jewish “collaboration” with the Russians.

In June 1941 German armies invaded Russia through Poland. They were welcomed in Poland as liberators. The Jewish involvement with the Russians was added to a highly combustible anti-Semitism. The Jews were said to have fingered Poles who had been friendly with the Russians. Thus a burning barn and public killing of these collaborating Jews. And then all Jews.

Both authors give details of the slaughter and the brutality involved. Just one story, perhaps a composite. A Jewish man and his young daughter had not been found until after most of the Jews in the square were forced inside the barn and it was set afire. His throat was cut in front of his daughter, and while he was still alive to witness it, his daughter was thrown into the fire.

After World War II, there were numerous investigations – hearings – where evidence was collected of Polish complicity. But Poland was now subject to another Russian occupation and another version of the slaughter to add to the Jewish, Polish, and German. It is no wonder that “truth” was given the silent treatment. And the Poles were not required to confront the enormity of their crimes. Poles are still reluctant to tell stories that they heard from their mothers and grandmothers.

Often if pressed, the locals will admit that household goods were stolen from vacant Jewish property. Jews, largely traders and shopkeepers, were wealthier than the Polish peasants and tradesmen they lived amongst. Hence acquiring some of those possessions would have been a motive for the murder of their owners.

There is no good answer to the question: Why certain Poles and certain communities murdered their Jewish neighbors and others did not? Bikont is inclined to think that there was a strong correlation between these anti-Semitic Poles and families of men who had participated in the Home Army, particularly in the districts occupied by the Russians.

What surprised Bikont was the lingering Anti-Semitism she continued to confront when she did her interviewing of the locals in the early 2000s. Some potential interviews would literally slam the door in her face. “That doesn’t concern me.” Or “Gross has written a pack of lies.” Amongst German allies in World War II, Poland lags in its restitution payments.

Many Jedwabne Jews did escape, either by migration to Palestine, or Argentina, or to New York. Immigrants in the US from Jedwabne built a synagogue in the Lower East Side on Henry Street, now the Congregation Anshe Yedwabne.

Urban Forests; A Natural History of Trees and People

Urban Forests; A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape by Jill Jonnes. Viking 2016.

Americans are moving into urban areas in increasing numbers, leaving our wooded environments behind, forest dwellers turned urbanites. And so have many of our tree species.  Jill Jonnes salutes the many “tree huggers” whose concern is helping to preserve these urban forests.

Because of the parallel growth of trade and a world economy, we have been importing wood from abroad mostly for furniture making and wooden crates. No one paid much attention, however, to the various insects and other plagues that accompanied those imports.

The American chestnut (Castanea dentate) is a native of the Appalachian forests. It was devastated by the chestnut blight, a fungal disease, which probably arrived from China. Over three million chestnut trees were destroyed in the first half of the twentieth century. They were once the keystone species of the Appalachia. We roasted the nuts on an open fire. The chestnut was an important food source for white-tailed deer, black bear, and wild turkey.  Its disappearance also was costly to bird populations. Though never an important species in the urban forests, its demise left a huge gap in the upper canopy of our woods.

The American ash (Faxinus americana) was also once an important component tree in the eastern hardwood forests, from Nova Scotia to Minnesota and south to north Florida and across the South to eastern Texas. Favored for furniture and flooring, the ash was widely planted as an urban street tree.

Elms were perhaps the most important tree species in the urban forest prior to their demise in the 1960s. Their loss was deeply felt by many of us who grew up under the shade of a stately elm. They died of Dutch elm disease imported from Holland. Elm burl logs, intended for use as veneer for furniture, contained the Elm bark beetle which hitched a ride. It carried with it fungus spores that quickly found the enormous elms that were so commonly used as street trees. The fungus clogged up the elm’s water-carrying vessels. The beetles moved quickly to the top of the tree where the wind could scatter the beetle to nearby trees.

It should be noticed in all of these cases, the tree species were introduced as a monolythic species. When the disease hit one individual tree, the avenue trees would soon be lost.

There are some happy stories. Cherry trees were imported from Japan, to decorate the Washington Mall. They were the project of Eliza Scidmore, a journalist, world traveler, and tree enthusiast. After a two-year campaign from 1904 to 1906 she got President Theodore Roosevelt to agree to the project. Off and on, plant enthusiasts have gotten assistance from American Presidents. George H.W. Bush urged us all to leave our home, neighborhood, and town better than we had found and suggested our attention to urban trees. Several first ladies also found urban forests to be one of their causes.

Exotics are not, however, a good idea. The Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) a tree that grew in Brooklyn — and elsewhere — was a highly praised species from China when it arrived via Europe. It was commonly used as a street tree in the nineteenth century because it grows fast and has a considerable spring blooming season. But it is no longer praised for that quality and is, in fact, considered invasive.

The favored sugar maples of Vermont are no longer as spectacular with their fall colors as they once were. That is because the manufacture of maple sugar no longer depends upon clear cutting all other tree species to fuel the process. As those elms, chestnuts, and other trees grow up among the sugar maples, they gradually dilute those wonderful fall colors.

Jonnes argues that if we were to calculate the dollar benefits of trees and particularly urban trees, we might be more willing to trade trees for the endless layers of asphalt and black top that are filling our cities with heat-absorbing, impermeable surfaces. That asphalt with which we lather a good portion of our unbuilt spaces, has the company of our utilities on poles. Utility poles provide neither the shade nor return nutrients to the soil!

Jill Jonnes speaks eloquently of the many ordinary citizens who tend the urban forest. She is equally complementary of the work of professionals from the early plant explorers, to arborists to urban foresters, to botanists, to nurserymen. They continue to remind us that urban forests are an essential element in a city’s infrastructure.



Black Flags; The Rise of ISIS

Black Flags; The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick. Anchor, 2016 paper.

This is the complicated story of the rise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, to a leadership position within ISIS, a radical Islamic organization which he claims to have founded. Zarqawi is known for his cruelty and ultimately that brought him down.

Joby Warrick is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He works for The Washington Post.

The black flags referred to in the title of the book are associated with the Caliphate, the tradition that a “steward” would arise to unite the fractured world of Islam. The Caliphs would more-or-less anoint themselves as a supreme religious and political leader. The institution of the Caliph dates back to the seventh century, most recently it was claimed by the Ottoman Empire. Calling for the reestablishment of a Caliphate provides opportunity for acquiring reputation. Warrick argues that the civil wars in Syria and Jordan and our responses have actually created a set of opportunists.

Zarqawi was a Jordanian, imprisoned in 1992 and released in 1999 from a Jordanian prison under a royal amnesty. He became a “terrorist star” after he planned the bombing of three western-owned hotels in Amman, Jordan in 2005.  But there were many Jordanians who were appalled at the loss of life and particularly the fact that one of the hotels had a wedding party going on. Witnesses had to face stacked bodies of young girls in their pretty white dresses.

Jordan’s intelligence community was not sufficiently informed to stop the bombing of the three hotels, though they did arrest Zarqawi and other terrorists. But then what is to be done with these terrorists. Mix these men together and you have what Warrick calls a “jihad university.”

Warrick argues that the Central Intelligence Agency, Colin Powell’s Defense Department, and Jordan’s intelligence service gave Zarqawi a career. Their response to his minor role in the terrorist movement made him his reputation.

Zarqawi’s terrorism intended to intensify existing divisions within the Arab world. The targets of his insurgent bombs were selected so as to divide Shiites and Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites, Moslems and secularists. The bombing of the Imam Ali Mosque (Najaf) in 2003 or the Al-Askari Mosque( Samarra) in 2006, for example, involved picking sites that would maximize internal conflict at that point and then later as scores were settle.

In 2004 an American, Nicholas Berg, had gone to Iraq to look for opportunities in an American secured country. He was taken hostage by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi took this opportunity to gain a needed notoriety for brutality in order to make an impression on other terrorists. As the video cameras rolled Zarqawi cut Berg’s throat, then cut off his head, and lifted his head for all to see. He could depend upon the Internet to provide him with international attention. It also got him the “promotion” within the terrorist community that he sought. Zarqawi was eventually assassinated by an American-Jordanian air strike on one of his hiding places.

The author argues that George W. Bush’s Gulf War was not thought out well. Who would govern Iraq after the invasion in 2003? The decision to dissolve the Iraqi army’s officer class and ban anyone with membership in Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Party from positions of authority in the new government failed to take into account the fact that anyone with any management experience in Iraq would have to have joined the Party. For example all applicants for University positions had been forced to join. Hence there was no pool of government officials from which to draw once Hussein was out of the way, leaving leadership positions open to many new “entrepreneurs.” Like Zarqawi.

Not enough has been said about the continuing presence of outsiders in the Middle East and elsewhere who are often using terrorists as proxies for acquiring stakes in this oil-rich Islamic world. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian monarch, has been able to survive despite his chemical warfare and other outrages because he manages to balance himself between Russia, Iran, and Syria vs. the US, Europe, and Jordan.

Thus Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is one of many ambitious terrorists and al-Qaeda and ISIS are two of several organizations in which he had acquired leadership positions. We took care of him, but how completely should we involve ourselves in these deadly squabbles. John McCain and others have urged strongly for us to keep our distance.


The War That Ended Peace; The Road to 1914

The War That Ended Peace; The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan. Random House, 2013, paper.

            Margaret MacMillan describes in detail the complicated great-power diplomacy that led up to World War I. There was, she argues, no inevitability in the series of diplomatic and military events in the decades before the War. She believes that war could have been avoided and looks to the failure of diplomats and the ruling classes to take the threat of war seriously.

            She is critical of the European royal families, many of them related. They were playing with a new set of strategies and weaponry which encouraged a rapid mobilization of armies and on planned short, but decisive, military campaigns. These ‘shielding strategies’ were, however, quick on the trigger. Strike before your rival was capable of doing so.

            These new strategies required the great powers – Germany, Austria-Hungary, Britain, Russia, and France – to have well-formulated plans for mobilization and attack. The Schlieffen Plan is a good example. Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen was Chief of the German General Staff, Imperial Army. The plan that bears his name was worked out by the General Staff between 1906 and 1914. The strategy avoided crossing through the Netherlands, which had declared its neutrality, instead invading France through Belgium and Luxembourg on 4 August 1914

            MacMillan’s focus on the importance of European royalty and social elites, but ignores the fact that most of the military and civil leaders of the time were drawn from a rising middle class. They had made their money during the prosperous nineteenth century, and service to their country was now expected of them. They were imbued with the nationalism they had picked up in their education and at the public spectacles of the decades before the war.

            Oddly MacMillan begins her story with the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900. It was the world’s fair of that year with pavilions dedicated to harmony and peace. But in the midst of the Boer War (1899 -1902)! The British fought an alliance of the small Dutch-speaking republics in the Cape of South Africa. Although they won the War, Britain’s armies performed badly and much of Europe had cheered for the Boers.

            Russia also looked unprepared, even weak, after their defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). The Russians needed a year-round warm-water port and Vladivostok wouldn’t do. But they took on a formidable opponent, Japan, and their supply lines were stretched over the length of the Trans-Siberian railroad. There were demonstrations and strikes in St. Petersburg in 1905 and the Imperial Guard fired on the marchers approaching the Winter Palace. Bloody Sunday, it was called.

            It was feared that military defeat would lead to revolution within the belligerent country. Defeat would also complicated efforts to establish a system of alliances and alignments like the international structure that had kept the peace during the Bismarck era. For example, was a defeated Russia a dependable partner for France, given the revolutionary activity that had convulsed St. Petersburg?

 And France had its own weaknesses as an alliance partner.  The French public was distracted by the Dreyfus Affair, 1894 to 1906. Alfred Dreyfus, a young artillery officer from Alsace and of Jewish descent, was convicted of treason on a trumped up charge in 1894 and again in a second trial in 1899. He was eventually acquitted, but this and other public controversies made France a somewhat doubtful alliance partner.

Thus neither France nor Russia appeared to have the domestic stability to make them an easy choice for the British. And Great Britain was having its own “troubles,” conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. Sir Edward Grey was serving as Foreign Secretary in Herbert Asquith’s Liberal British cabinet from 1905 to 1916. He is often treated as a clairvoyant by historians because of his famous statement to a friend, as he looked out over a courtyard in the Foreign Office as it was being lighted, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.” But he was less successful as a peace-keeper.

Grey was uncertain about how to proceed – join up with Russia and France or pursue an understanding with Germany. Germany and Britain had been engaged in an armaments race for several years – constructing battleships. Just when Britain seemed to be winning, the battleship count was complicated by the opening of the Kiel Canal across the isthmus between the Baltic and North Seas in 1895. Now the two German fleets could serve on either Sea during a war.

The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a young Serbian nationalist while being driven through the streets of Sarajevo was but one of several violent events that are considered to be “The Road to 1914.” But the “peace of Europe” was crumbling step-by-step as diplomacy no longer settled anything.

NEW BOOKS: Politics. Economics.

A Century of Wealth in America by Edward Wolff. Harvard University Press, 2017. Wealth: who has it, how was it acquired, and then held on to it? What are the consequences of these patterns to the country’s well-being?

Democracy in Chains; The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean. Viking, 2017. The late political economist, James Buchanan (1919 to 2013), and his conservative allies have become what MacLean calls “paloecapitalists.”

The Ordinary Virtues; Moral Order in a Divided World by Michael Ignatieff. Harvard University Press, 2017. Given our global economy, it is important to ascertain what values humans hold in common. Are these values converging or diverging?

The Know-It-Alls; The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball by Noam Cohen. The New Press, 2017. Silicon Valley as a political and intellectual force in American life.

Vanguard of the Revolution; The Global Idea of the Communist Party by A. James McAdams. Princeton University Press, 2017. The author reminds us of the importance of communism in the last century and then the causes and consequences of its fall.

October; The Story of the Russian Revolution by Cina Miéville. Verso 2017 paper. The months between the February revolution and Lenin’s October triumph.

Lenin; The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror by Victor Sebestyen. Pantheon, 2017. A revisionary history of the Bolshevik revolution and Vladimir Lenin’s role in the upheaval.

A Foreign Policy for the Left by Michael Walzer. Yale University Press, 2018. Foreign relations can no longer be based on the old leftist shibboleths. Nor modern-day anti-imperialism. Nor a straight-forward advocacy of centrally planned economies.

From Fascism to Populism in History by Federico Finchelstein. University of California Press, 2017. Their connections in history and theory and how we might correctly apply the concepts in thinking about our current views of the post-war world.

NEW BOOKS: Politics. Economics. continued.

The Death of Homo Economicus; Work, Debt, and the Myth of Endless Accumulation by Peter Fleming. Pluto Press, 2017 paper. Homo Economicus have not quite lived up to their reputation as a workaholic and money-saver.

Secrecy World; Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Jake Berstein. Henry Holt, 2017. A hidden circulatory system flows beneath the surface of the global economy, moving trillions of dollars from drug trafficking, tax evasion, bribery, and other illegal enterprises.

A History of the United States in Five Crashes; Stock Market Meltdowns That Defined a Nation by Scott Nations. The Panic of 1907, Black Tuesday (1929), Black Monday (1987), the Great Recession (2008), and the Flash Crash (2010).

Making Sense of the Alt-Right by Robert Hawley. Columbia University Press, 2017. “Alt-right” is short for alternative right, a new term to enter the political lexicon. A white-nationalist movement, youthful and tech-savvy, it has been given credit for energizing President Trump’s presidential bid.

Alt-America; The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump by David Neiwert. Verso, 2107. The far-right has been growing steadily in the US since the 1990s following 9/11.

How the Right Lost Its Mind by Charles Sykes. St. Martin’s, 2017. A former Wisconsin conservative radio talk-show host describes the implosion of the Republican Party and the wider conservative movement.

The Islamaphobia Industry; How the Right Manufactures Hatred of Moslems by Nathan Lean. Pluto Press, 2017 paper. A rising tide of Islamaphobia is sweeping across the US and Europe. Check out the conservative bloggers, right-wing talk show hosts, and evangelical preachers.

And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe’s Crisis and America’s Economic Future by Yanis Varoufakis. Nation Books, 2017. A former Greek finance minister explains his country’s position on the Eurozone’s austerity response to its financial difficulties.

Under Surveillance; Being Watched in Modern America by Randolph Lewis. University of Texas Press, 2017. The emotional, ethical, and aesthetic challenges of living in a surveillance regime.

Open Season; Legalized Genocide of People of Color by Benjamin Crump.  Amistad, 2017. A prominent lawyer reflects on landmark cases he has fought, which, sadly, have too often resulted in an injustice to the African Americans he represented.

Overload; Finding the Truth in Today’s Deluge of News by Bob Schieffer & H. Andrew Schwartz. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. Two television journalists give advice on how to sort through the deluge of news that comes our way daily.

NEW BOOKS: Politics. Economics. continued.

The Unlikely Trust; Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Improbable Partnership That Remade American Business by Gerard Helferich. Lyons Press, 2017. An odd association; one was a trust buster and the other a trust builder.

Energy Democracy; Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions by Denise Fairchild, et alii Island Press, 2017 paper. We have not begun to think clearly about the issue of distributive justice as we introduce and become more dependent upon alternative energy sources.

Ramp Hollow; The Ordeal of Appalachia by Steven Stoll. Hill & Wang 2017. Settled by hardy homesteaders, who got jobs in the coal mines, that depended upon an industrial economy elsewhere. Employed! But unfortunately there wasn’t much of a paycheck involved. Hence poverty.

Loaded; A Disarming History of the Second Amendment by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. City Lights, 2017 paper. A “people’s history” of the right to bear arms.

What Unites Us by Dan Rather. Algonquin, 2017. Rather seeks to inspire a badly-needed conversation around our common values.

Steam Titans; Cunard, Collins, and the Epic Battle for Commerce on the North Atlantic by William Fowler, Jr. Bloomsbury, 2017. The rivalry between British and US steamship companies in the emerging globalized economy in the early last century.

NEW BOOKS: American studies.

Bible Nation; The United States of Hobby Lobby by Candida Moss & Joel Baden. Princeton University Press, 2017. How the billionaire owners of this chain are spending millions of dollars to influence our social and political thinking.

Rival Power; Russia’s Influence in Southeast Europe by Dimitar Bechey. Yale University Press, 2017. Russia’s continued interest in the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey and the responses of that region to its attention.

Blind Injustice; A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions by Mark Godsey. University of California Press, 2017. How psychological flaws such as faulty memory, “group think” mindsets and a “tough on crime” political environment can lead to the conviction of innocent people.

Inside Private Prisons; An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration by Lauren-Brooke Eisen. Columbia University Press, 2017. Our previous tough-on-crime politics resulted in overcrowded state prisons and encouraged private companies to enter the business. There is now a private sector with a vested interest in supporting a revived tough-on-crime politics.

The Pentagon’s Wars; The Military’s Undeclared War Against America’s Presidents by Mark Perry. Basic, 2017. The internal civilian-military animus that has long shaped American foreign policy.

Chocolate Cities; The Black Map of American Life by Marcus Hunter & Zandria Robinson. University of California Press, 2017 paper. Locates the ebb and flow of the Black American experience on illustrative maps.

Democracy’s Schools; The Rise of Public Education in America by Johann Neem. Johns Hopkins, 2017 paper. The story of how ordinary Americans built a nation-wide public school system in the decades between the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Reinventing America’s Schools; Creating a Twenty-First-Century Education System by David Osborn. Bloomsbury 2017. A close look at charter schools and their answer to revitalizing US education.

Unbelievable; My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Kary Tur. MIT Press, 2017.  His claim may be a bit of a stretch; we have had many a crazy presidential campaign.

2016 Election; The Log Cabin; An Illustrated History by Andrew Belonsky. Countryman Press, 2017. When times get tough, we head for the shelter (metaphor- log cabin) for our security.

Identity Crisis; The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America by John Sides, et alii Princeton University Press, 2018. Perhaps by February of 2018 we’ll have changed our minds several times about last November’s unexpected results.

Impeachment; A Citizen’s Guide by Cass Sunstein. Harvard University Press, 2017. An essential tool of self-government; just in case.

NEW BOOKS: American Studies. continued.

Schlesinger; The Imperial Historian by Richard Aldous. W.W. Norton, 2017. Mostly known for his involvement with the Kennedy White House, Arthur Schlesinger (1917-2007) had an interesting life in his own right.

Playing with Fire; The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics by Lawrence O’Donnell. Penguin, 2017. Seen as an argument between (1) the Kennedy machine after two assassinations, and (2) the traditional Democratic Party.

The Naughty Nineties; The Triumph of the American Libido by David Friend. Twelve, 2017. A sexual history of the 1990s when the Baby Boomers took over Washington, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue. A look at the captains of its cultural wars.

Ali; A Life by Jonathan Eig. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. “The Best” or so he claimed. But Muhammad Ali was many things at different times of his life. And much eulogized since his death in 2016.

Uncommon People; The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars by David Hepworth. Henry Holt, 2017. Perhaps the age of the rock star is passing; what images have they left. Good hair? Expensive shoes? What had we wanted of them? For them to be larger than life but also like us.

Border Odyssey; Travels along the US/Mexico Divide by Charles Thompson, Jr. University of Texas, 2017 paper. How US border policy has affected those who live in the region, from migrant workers to border patrol agents.

The Long Haul; A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy. Norton, 2016. The major means of transport and their operators.

Drunks; An American History by Christopher Finan. Beacon Press, 2017. The nation’s entanglement with alcohol and its search for sobriety.

The Golden Elixir of the West; Whiskey and the Shaping of America by Sherry Monahan & Jane Perkins, Revised Edition. TwoDot, 2017. This iconic drink and its role in shaping the American west. Distilleries were the microbreweries of their day, cropping up all over the west.

NEW BOOKS: American Studies. continued.

The Kelloggs; The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek by Howard Markiel. Pantheon, 2017. John, founded the Battle Creek Sanitarium; his brother Will, experimented with wheat and corn meal to produce what he called corn flakes, shredded wheat, bran flakes, etc.

Terror in the City of Champions; Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-Era Detroit by Tom Standon. Lyons Press, 2017 paper. Mid-1930s, racist mobs, and clandestine groups planning more havoc in a baseball city.

Dawn of Detroit; A Chronicle of Bondage and Freedom in the City of the Straits by Tiya Miles. New Press, 2017. Slavery was an important part of the economic success of this northern city in the early Republic.

Fins; Harley Earl, the Rise of General Motors, and the Glory Days of Detroit by William Knoedelseder. Harper, 2018. He is given credit for introducing style – and, therefore, the annual style changes – into General Motors’ automobiles.

Texas Blood; Seven Generations Among the Outlaws, Ranchers, Indians, Missionaries, Soldiers, and Smugglers of the Borderlands by Roger Hodge. Knopf, 2017. Fuses memoir and history to tell the story of the Texas borderlands. Seven generations of the author’s ranching family.

Bunk; The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young. Graywolf Press, 2017. Young starts with P.T. Barnum’s “humbug” and ends with an all-too familiar post-factual world.

The Myths of Tet; The Most Misunderstood Event of the Vietnam War by Edwin Moise. University Press of Kansas, 2017. The Tet Offensive was no great victory for the North Vietnamese, but it was a defeat for the US because it undermined support for the War.

The Odyssey of Echo Company; The 1968 Tet Offensive and the Epic Battle to Survive the Vietnam War by Dough Stanton. Scribners, 2017. On 31 January 1968 some one hundred thousand North Vietnamese soldiers moved south. Echo Company, a reconnaissance platoon, was overrun.

Armed in America; A History of Gun Rights From Colonial Militias to Concealed Carry by Patrick Charles. The right to bear arms, how it figures in our Bill of Rights and how it has changed since its first appearance in 1689.