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Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

by Kurt Andersen, pub. 2017, pp. 440

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What I learned from this book

I learned that no matter what your political affiliation, your viewpoint on whether we, as Americans in 2018, are in a good place or a bad one, safe or dangerous – there is in fact a 500-year documented history that we can break down that may assist in explaining it all.  Once we can divide it into smaller, more digestible pieces – perhaps we can then figure out the best way forward.  Only time will tell.

What I liked about this book

I thought the author, Kurt Andersen, was exceptionally honest about his views.  These are volatile topics that Americans have passion about.  They can’t be taken casually “playing it” from both sides.  The good news is Andersen doesn’t try that trick.  He delivers in a forthright, self-deprecating, thorough style while wading through historical explanations of many of America’s “powder keg” topics: religion, race, and, of course, politics.

What I disliked about this book

I pretty much liked everything about this book.  I even found it amazing that the author could discuss 500-year old topics in less than five hundred pages!  This could easily have become a convoluted, wordy “1,000-plusser!”  Fortunately, it did not!

Whom would I recommend to read this book

I would recommend this book to any American citizen who feels befuddled by the current environment in which we are living.  I talk to a lot of people in my daily interactions and I’m amazed at how confused many seem as to “How in the hell did we arrive here?”  I suppose one of the brilliant angles of this book is how the author takes us back to the very beginning of the European-American settlement in the U.S.A. Then, he methodically lays out how and why it took that long to get us to where we are today.  It took a variety of religious beliefs, plenty of economic and political maneuvering, and, yes, of course, heaping amounts of…well, fantasy.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

 

**Sneak Peek: Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism – by Robert Kuttner

Sneak peek: Robert Kuttner pens an outstanding, comprehensive and in-depth examination of the confluence of events that have combined to pose a grave threat to the future of democracy – and with it all of the freedoms we have become accustomed to enjoying in our lives.

Last Words – by George Carlin

Last Words – by George Carlin (with Tony Hendra), 297 pps., 2009

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What I liked about this book

Okay, full disclosure first.  I am a life-long fan of this man.  Although I never had the opportunity to see him LIVE, I did see many of the HBO specials and listened to many albums from childhood into adulthood.  It is no wonder that he and comedians like Richard Pryor were “joined at the hip” during their first days of comedy.

Carlin mastered the English language and had a unique (and overpowering) delivery.  He makes mention of his natural “ability” (understatement) to grab an audience and compound the humor on them.  He had an amazing ability to engage with his audience.

 

What I disliked about this book

It sort of got a little slow in the middle of the book.  Though I’m not against slowing the pace to build on the plot, it almost seemed like there was repetition of the same portions earlier in the book.  Perhaps it was either intentional (as reinforcement) or because this book is derived from his compilation of notes.  Nevertheless, my mind wandered a bit – only to be “rescued” by a strong finish.

 

To whom would I recommend this book

I would definitely limit my readership to 18 and  older.  Repeated discussions on the “7 words you cannot say on television,” along with George’s general delivery of all information would be the reasons.  Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable ride for a mature/ adult audience.  It’s easy to miss this guy.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

After Snowden: Privacy Secrecy and Security in the Information Age

After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy and Security in the Information Age (by Ronald Goldfarb, Edward Wasserman, and David Cole)

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What I found most amazing about this book

I found it equally amazing and disturbing that in our constitution nothing was mentioned on the topic of ‘privacy.’ Not a word, nary a mention…NOTHING.  This is problematic because where there is no mention, there are no rules. Herein lies the premise of this book.   Because there are no rules applying to privacy, there is a tendency of the government to “stretch” the powers of information gathering in the United States and on its citizens.  When every telephone call, email, text message, Facebook post or tweet is subject to interception and interpretation (let alone, occasional misinterpretation), we find ourselves sort of cast at sea without a paddle.  This is causing us to question everything that is going on for the purpose of “security.”  Those who have questioned these policies and practices have done so because they feel it is the most sensible thing to do and that we have the right as citizens to know.  It is a subject that will be debated over for years to come!

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I cannot find much to dislike about this book.  I suppose the only thing I could say is that I wish the people in charge of some of the covert programs that are currently in operation would take a moment to seriously reevaluate the potential long term damage this may be causing to the American people.  I would also like to for them to be more forthright concerning what our rights are turning into during the Information Age.  I imagine that they have some ideas, but are hesitant to share because of the anticipated backlash (or, perhaps they just don’t feel we need to know).  Regardless, I just think it might be better for us all in the long haul. Constant paranoia and pessimism is probably not a healthy state of mind in the nation’s big picture.  I think it’s fair to say that George Orwell (author of 1984 and the ‘big brother’ concept) is probably doing somersaults in his grave.

Whom would I recommend to read this book?

I would certainly encourage anyone and everyone to read this book.  No age is either too young or unsophisticated to realize that most of our ‘technological engagements’ – from smartphone calls, texts, Facebook and Twitter posts, and simple emails ALL may be subject to review and even more.  We may think that we don’t have any “friends” that are under surveillance, but THEY may have second or third degree “friends” who MIGHT BE.  So, if we are all just fine with the likelihood of falling prey to unwanted surveillance – like Edward Snowden, Bradley (a.k.a. “Chelsea”) Manning and others have claimed) – then perhaps we are overreacting.  If we’re not fine with this, then perhaps we’re not overreacting one bit.

Any thoughts?

 

Alexander Hamilton – by Ron Chernow

 

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What I liked most about this book

 I liked the way Ron Chernow laid out the book.  His writing style made it an amazing read and allows the reader to quickly get in the flow to obtain a full understanding of the complicated brilliance of this man (Hamilton) and his amazing contributions to the formation of the U.S.A. in such a brief time – while simultaneously addressing the issues that led him to an early and tragic death.

 What was most challenging about this book

 The biggest challenge of this book was simply keeping it balanced and upright while reading all 730 pages!  My left wrist and fingers took quite a beating from many weeks of twists and turns. However, the pain was well worth it!

 Why and to whom would I recommend this book

 I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning a lot about our country’s start (and probably over the age of 12). There are so many compelling details of which many of us probably are completely unaware. Finally, it is a great way to gain a better understanding of how the United States of America took shape, what the environment was like at the time, and who made the greatest impact.