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We Read It So You Don’t Have To

A talking-points guide to the summer’s more politically odious offerings—and suggestions for better uses of your time.

BY In These Times Staff

Is Think Like a Freak a transparent ploy to capitalize on the popularity of the authors' earlier books? Sure, but that's Freakonomics for you.

The Book: The American Boomerang, by Nick Adams (WND Books)

The Gist: The Australian author to whom Rick Perry awarded Honorary Texan citizenship pens an encomium to America's greatness and bemoans the 'leftist poison' supposedly tearing it apart. 

Representative Quote: “The Muslim mind is inferior to the Christian mind because of Muslim ideas.” 

The Takeaway: Adams' dogmatic obsession with America amounts to little more than a failed attempt to rebirth a dialogue on conservative exceptionalism. 

Read this instead: The Myth of American Exceptionalism, by Godfrey Hodgson (Yale University Press)

A British journalist with years of experience covering the United States offers a thoroughly researched rejoinder to right-wing jingoism and the cult of American supremacy. 

 

The Book: Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, by Timothy F. Geithner (Crown)

The Gist: In 500 pages, ormer U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner explains why the financial crisis would have been a lot worse if it weren't for the saving grace of a few noble high-ranking officials. 

Representative Quote: “It wasn't easy to fix the financial rules…but…a mostly Democratic coalition rose to the occassion.”

The Takeaway: Geithner's celebration of the government's handling of the Great Recession is based solely on the fact that it wasn't as bad as the Great Depression. Whoop-de-doo.

Read this instead: Bailout: An Inside Accountof How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, by Neil Barofsky (Free Press)

Through countless insider tales of despotism and special interest, former U.S. Treasury Department Inspector General Neil Barofsky makes it very clear who the feds were really trying to save. 

 

The Book: Think Like A Freak, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (William Morrow)

The Gist: The authors of the faux-iconoclastic Freakonomics series impart their “wisdom” to curious readers, proving that anyone can “think” like a Freak.

Representative Quote: “How powerful are the right incentives? Within four days, a little girl went from potty-challenged to having the most finely tuned bladder in history.” 

Is it a transparent ploy to capitalize on the popularity of the authors' earlier books? Sure, but that's Freakonomics for you.

Read this instead: Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom, by bell hooks (Routledge) 

Instead of learning to think like a thoroughly discredited “Freak,” let hooks teach you to question systems of domination and oppression. 

 

The Book: James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, by Lynne Cheney (Viking Adult)

The Gist: Historian Lynne Cheney, a fellow at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute (and spouse of Dick Cheney), mythologizes the driest Founding Father.

Representative Quote: “But not even nature's spectacle could keep politics long from his mind.”

The Takeaway: Soldiering through Cheney's 576-page tome is the mental equivalent of cotton mouth. 

Read this instead: The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, by Gerald Horne (NYU Press)

Historian Horne makes the case that the War for Independence was in fact a conservative counter-revolution that sought to preserve slavery in North America. 

 

The Book: The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority, by Patrick J. Buchanan (Crown Forum) 

The Gist: An insider's account of Tricky Dick's path to the White House from the great white paleo-con (and one-time Nixon aide) Pat Buchanan.

Representative Quote: “[Nixon's] enemies, repudiated and humiliated after the Democratic debacle of 1972, but still dominant in both houses of Congress, the bureaucracy, and the media, used the residual power of the capital to effect the first successful coup d'etat in U.S. history.”

The Takeaway: Historical whitewash. 

Read this instead: The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, by Rick Perlstein (Simon & Schuster)

What goes up must come down. Perlstein's volume examines the struggles of the Republican Party from Nixon's resignation to the stagflation of the late 1970s. And speaking of Perlstein…

—Contributors: Carlos Ballesteros, Ethan Corey, Maddy Crowell, Alec Hudson, Dan Staggs

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