Book Reviews Number 58 – 66

Following are the books I have been reading since I last posted to the list:

58)  How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy – Mehrsa Baradaran

The central theme of this book is that nearly half of the American population has been deprived of access to financial services at a fair price because of deregulation of the banking industry. The author presents the case that commercial banks have abandoned the poor and working classes. Their banking needs, which  are mostly for small loans and simple financial services, have been left to loan sharks; those institutions with little banking competition can and do charge exorbitant interest rates, often at annual rates of a few thousand percent. The author promotes the idea of reinstitution of postal banking in the US.

59)  At the Existentialist Cafe – Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails – Sarah Bakewell

The author explores existentialism and phenomenalism through the eyes of Simone de Beauvior, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty ,and other philosophers from the 1920s through the ‘70s. She presents these individuals’ philosophical thinking and influences as well as inconsistencies within the context of their personal lives and relationships with each other.

60)  Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism – Anne Case & Angus Deaton

The authors raise the alarm about a decline in life expectance among white Americans and contrast that with the rates in people of color as well as the experience of other developed countries. They demonstrate through statistical analysis that alcohol, drugs, and suicide are a major source of the declining life expectancy among white Americans between 45 and 54. While loss of jobs security seems to be a key part of the problem the authors present the broader US version of capitalism as a major culprit. The US healthcare system, especially, appears to exacerbate a sense of hopelessness many white Americans feel toward their lives, economic stability, and future.

61)  This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality – Peter Pomerantsev

The author explores the disinformation age and how autocrats have learned to manipulate the electorate; through social media they have become expert at blurring factuality and creating alternate realities. Such behavior confuses and misleads people into believing conspiracy theories and engage in destructive political activities. If you are confident that truth and democracy will ultimately win over lies and dictatorship this book is not for you. 

62)  This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom – Martin Hagglund

In the first part of his book the author conducts a comprehensive philosophical discussion of the concept of a finite secular life versus religious ideas of eternal life; he endorses and his arguments support the secular view as the only realistic one. In the second part he advances a strong philosophical argument that a capitalist economic model is exploitative of the people and undemocratic; he promotes “Democratic Socialism” as a superior model of economic fairness, freedom, and justice.

63)  Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World – Lesley M.M. Blume

The author discusses the US military’s unanticipated severity of radiation poisoning from use of the atomic bomb on the Japanese citizens of Hiroshima and its effort to cover up the truth. The central theme is how a journalist, John Hersey, was able to get the facts, publish the results, and change Americans’ attitude about the bomb.

64)  Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power – Brooke Baldwin

The author was until the end of April a senior news anchor at CNN. She resigned her position to promote women’s equality and empowerment full time. The central theme of her new book is how women can and are making progress in “a man’s world” when they support each other and work together rather than compete with each other. This should be required reading for every woman who wants more from life than to be a stay-at-home housewife. Of course that’s from a dad whose kids are mostly girls.

65)  Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop – Lee Drutman

The author makes the case for how a two party political system with clear and strong ideological differences is not compatible with the structure of America’s constitutional democracy. He argues with convincing statistical evidence how throughout most of our political history until the 1990s the US effectively had four parties: Conservative Republicans, Liberal Republicans, Conservative Democrats, and Liberal Democrats. Mr. Drutman shows that starting in the ‘90s the liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats effectively disappeared, leaving extreme ideological partisanship with an associated breakdown in governance.

66)  How to Avoid a Climate Disaster – Bill Gates

The author provides an educational and persuasive tome on the reality of the dangers to humanity of climate change caused by carbon pollution. He identifies what the major sources of carbon pollution are and what is needed to combat them. He also indicates what tools we already have to fight that pollution and what breakthroughs we need to push if we want to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.


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