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text 2018-06-22 22:56
Book Recs Solicited: Freedom and Future Library
On Liberty and The Subjection of Women (Penguin Classics) - John Stuart Mill
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002 - Salman Rushdie
The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives - Aleksandar Hemon,Marina Lewycka,Ariel Dorfman,Viet Thanh Nguyen,Fatima Bhutto,David Bezmozgis,Porochista Khakpour,Vu Tran,Joseph Kertes,Kao Kalia Yang,Dina Nayeri,Maaza Mengiste,Reyna Grande,Novuyo Rosa Tshuma,Lev Golinkin,Joseph Azam,Thi Bui,Meron Hader
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff
A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
Giovanni's Room - James Baldwin
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States - Thomas Jefferson,James Madison,Founding Fathers

You'd have to be living under a rock buried somewhere halfway down to the center of the earth in order not to be aware that in recent years our beautiful world has been shaken up by a number of crises the likes of which I, at least, have not experienced in my entire lifetime -- I can't remember any other time when I have so consistently felt the urge to put on blinders and wrap myself in a giant comfort blanket approximately 10 seconds after opening a newspaper (or its online edition), or 10 seconds into listening to the news.  Obviously playing ostrich has never done anybody any good, but God knows, it's getting hard not to succumb to the temptation. 


So what does a book lover do in order to keep her sanity, equip herself to separate fact from fiction (in news reporting, politics, and plenty of other places) and deal with rat catchers and fire mongers?  She turns to books, of course.


I've decided to build a "Freedom and Future" personal library, which will contain books which (1) have either deeply impacted my personal thinking or that I expect will come to do so in the future, or which (2) provide valuable food for thought in today's social and political debate, both nationally and internationally; be it based on a profound analysis of the issues at stake (as a matter of principle or long term), or because even though they may not be of lasting significance, they contain a thought-provoking contribution to the current debate (even if they were not written with that express purpose in mind -- e.g., books about historic persons or events or books by long-dead authors).  I'm not expecting to binge-read the books added to this library, but I'm looking to add them to the mix with a bit more focus than I've been doing of late.


In the past couple of days, I've trawled my own bookshelves for books to add to the library, but this is one area where, even more than anywhere else, I'm looking for suggestions -- I can already see that I'm at risk of falling back on my old standbys, and that's the last thing I want to do here.


So, tell me: What books have recently made you sit up -- or which are the books that you've come to turn to and trust for guidance and inspiration?


These can be fiction or nonfiction, and books from any or all types of genres (I only draw the line at splatter punk).  As the first part of my new library's title indicates, liberty and freedom rights are a focus, but I'm really looking for food for thought on all the issues that I think are going to determine the path human society will be taking (hence the "future" part); including, in no particular order:


* Liberty and freedom(s) (of opinion and press, movement, association, worship, the arts, etc.),

* Equal access to justice and judicial independence and impartiality,

* Equality and empowerment (gender / sexuality, race, etc.), and the plurality of society;

* Poverty / the increasing gap in the distribution of wealth,

* Education (general, political, etc.);

* Funding and freedom of research and science,

* Protection of the environment,

* Democratic institutions and processes and how to safeguard them,

* Xenophobia, war(mongering) and the preservation / restoration of peace,

* Persecution, migration, and internal displacement,

* Free trade and globalization,

* Technological advances,

* Ethics -- in all of the above areas.


I'm adding a few books to this post to give you a rough idea of what sort of things I've so far added to this library -- please take them as very approximate guidance only, though.  It can be something totally different ... really anything that's jogged your brain or made you reevaluate your perspective on any of the above issues.


Thanks in advance!


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text 2018-04-18 17:27
Will the real Thomas Jefferson please stand up?
Burr - Gore Vidal
America's First Daughter: A Novel - Stephanie Dray,Laura Croghan Kamoie

Jefferson according to Burr. Jefferson according to his daughter. These are fun to read at the same time!

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review 2017-12-31 16:04
The formation of the American judicial system
The Jeffersonian Crisis: Courts and Politics in the Young Republic - Richard E. Ellis

When the American colonists broke away from Britain in the 1770s, one of the first challenges they faced was constructing new governments for their states and their nation. Though the details differed, three common factors defined the parameters of what they produced: their British constitutional heritage, the recent experience fighting against British "tyranny," and the need to develop these governments while simultaneously fighting a war for independence. The result was governments in which power was concentrated in the legislature, with the other branches of government placed under considerable constraints. Yet this soon proved only the start of a decades-long effort to develop a workable governing balance, one that extended well into the 19th century.


Richard E. Ellis's book addresses one of the most overlooked aspects of that effort. Using the Jeffersonian Republicans' confrontation with the Federalist-dominated federal judiciary after 1801 as his starting point, he investigates how Americans viewed the role of the judiciary within their new republic. Like the executive, the judiciary suffered from the association with royal control, as most judges during the colonial era were the appointees of the royal or proprietary governors and more responsive to royal interests than those of the colonials. With independence many radicals sought to establish systems in which conflicts were resolved through arbitration by lay citizenry rather than a judicial system dominated by legal technicians. While these views were in the minority, the prevalence of such sentiments often led to the creation of judiciaries more responsive to popular or legislative control.


The ratification of the Constitution paved the way for the creation of a new judiciary, one in which judges held lifetime appointments. For the first twelve years, the appointees to the federal bench were all Federalists, reflecting the party politics that coalesced during the 1790s. With the election of Thomas Jefferson as president in 1800, as well as a Congress controlled by his Republican Party, the lame-duck Federalists created a host of new Federalist judicial appointments with the Judicial Act of 1801 in an effort to turn the branch into a bulwark against Republican radicalism. Yet Jefferson's rhetoric soon proved far more radical than his governance, and without the unifying force of opposition to a Federalist administration, the Jeffersonian Republicans soon fractured into moderate and radical wings. Though they succeeded in repealing the Judiciary Act of 1801, efforts by the radicals to purge the bench through impeachment came to a quick end, as moderate Republicans sided with Federalists in cementing the principle of an independent, non/bi-partisan judiciary that supported a uniform system of common law and aided the growth of a commercial economy.


Ellis's book is a valuable study of an often ignored yet vitally important aspect of the development of the early American government. His integration of debates at the state level with those in national politics is a particular strength, as it demonstrates how the issues were not ones of partisan politics but part of a larger effort to determine the role of judiciary in governance. It makes for a book that should be read by anybody interested in the history of the constitution, the history of the early republic, or simply anybody curious to know why we have the legal system we do today. For as Ellis demonstrates, the debates over the judiciary that took place in the 1790s and early 1800s are ones that echo down to the present day.


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review 2017-11-21 16:01
Review of Friends Divided by Gordon Wood
Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - Gordon S. Wood

This dual biography of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was a comparative look at the intellectual history of both great men.  It followed their political lives but the focus was really on their differing opinions on the events and theories of government throughout their lifetimes.  Parts of the book dragged a bit, and I would not recommend this to someone looking for a David McCullough type of story, but I did enjoy the deeper look into two brilliant minds.

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text 2016-10-01 19:16
2016 Reading Challenge- End of September Update
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope - William Kamkwamba,Bryan Mealer
The Fifth Elephant (Discworld, #24) - Terry Pratchett
Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain's Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War - Ben Macintyre
The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets - As Illustrated in the Lives of Holy Men of Old - Ellen G. White
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels - Thomas Cahill
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power - Jon Meacham
Well September turned out to be a really good reading month for me.  In the calendar month alone I started and completed five books as well as completed two books I had started at the end of August or earlier in the year.  This month I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge by achieving and surpassing 30 never-before read books for the year.  My overall total so far is 39 and by this time next week I will have finished The Book of Mormon completing my challenge.
October is probably going to be pretty silent from me on reviews, The Book of Mormon not withstanding, because my next book is The Count of Monte Cristo which is 1256 pages.  So I might be doing some miscellaneous posts that I have been wanting to write for my WordPress blog and sharing them here as well. 
1) Revolutionary Heart by Diane Eickoff [LibraryThing Early Reviewers]
2) The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume II by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
-> The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
3) A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich
4) Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
5) A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin- REREAD
-> The Separation of Church and State edited by Forrest Church
6) The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf
7) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
8) Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
-> Before the Storm by Rick Perlstein- REREAD
-> We the People by Juan Williams [LibraryThing Early Reviewers]
9) Nixonland by Rick Perlstein- REREAD
-> Blood Stain (Volume One) by Linda Sejic
10) The Invisible Bridge by Rick Perlstein
--> Oddly Normal Book 3 by Otis Frampton
11) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
12) Jingo by Terry Pratchett
--> Jefferson's America by Julie M. Fenster [LibraryThing Early Reviewers]
13) The Sworn Sword: The Graphic Novel by George R.R. Martin, Mike S. Miller, & Ben Avery
14) Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King edited by Robert Silverberg- REREAD of The Sworn Sword
15) Marlborough: His Life and Times Book One by Winston Churchill
16) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
17) The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett
18) How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill- REREAD
19) Marlborough: His Life and Times Book Two by Winston Churchill
--> The Poetry of Robert Frost
--> Seventh-day Adventists Believe by General Conference of SDA
20) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
21) Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
22) A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin- REREAD
23) The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
24) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
--> Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre [LibraryThing Early Reviewers]
--> Patriarchs and Prophets by Ellen G. White
25) The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
26) The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill- REREAD
27) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
28) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
29) The Truth by Terry Pratchett
30) Warriors I edited by George R.R. Martin- REREAD of The Mystery Knight
31) The Black Count by Tom Reiss
32) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
33) Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
34) Desire of the Everlasting Hills by Thomas Cahill- REREAD
35) The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1 by Edward Gibbon
36) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavendra
37) The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett
38) A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin- REREAD
39) The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2 by Edward Gibbon
40) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Also reading:
The Book of Mormon (86%)
The Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot (24%)
Prophets and Kings (16%)
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