Summer Reading List

Meaningful Books for Your Summer Reading

In lieu of a summer series of "Meaningful Movies," HSP recommends these four "Meaningful Books" for parishioners' summer reading. There will be a Book Café in early September to discuss these books -- one table for each. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  Romans 12:2

Here is the list of suggested "Meaningful Books" for your summer reading:

Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, by Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, published in 2009, available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Roger Thurow has reported from more than 60 countries--two dozen in Africa--for the Wall Street Journal for over 20 years. And Scott Kilman has covered agriculture at the Journal for 2 decades. In 2005, they were honored by the United Nations for their reporting on humanitarian and development issues. "For more than thirty years, humankind has known how to grow enough food to end chronic hunger worldwide. Yet in Africa, more than 9 million people every year die of hunger, malnutrition, and related diseases every year--most of them children." In this powerful investigative narrative, Kilman and Thurow show exactly how, in the past few decades, Western policies conspired to keep Africa hungry and unable to feed itself.  Enough is essential reading on a humanitarian issue of utmost urgency." (Amazon) 

This is an extremely interesting, informative book about world poverty and hunger, as well as a history of American responses to the problem. What's hopeful is how the book shows us how famine is the result of bad policies, not just natural disaster or corrupt leaders, policies that can be changed. "Through vivid human stories Thurow and Kilman show how the agricultural revolutions that transformed Asia and Latin America stopped short in Africa. And our sometimes-well-intentioned strategies have alternated with ignorance and neglect to keep the world's poorest people hungry and unable to feed themselves." (book jacket)

 

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, by Nancy Isenberg, published in 2017, available in paperback and Kindle editions.

In her groundbreaking bestselling history of the class system in America, Nancy Isenberg upends history as we know it by taking on our comforting myths about equality and uncovering the crucial legacy of the ever-present, always embarrassing--if occasionally entertaining--poor white trash.

The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement to today's hillbillies. They were alternately known as “waste people,” “offals,” “rubbish,” “lazy lubbers,” and “crackers.” By the 1850s, the downtrodden included so-called “clay eaters” and “sandhillers,” known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.

Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society––where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility.  Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early nineteenth century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery.  Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics–-a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ’s Great Society.  Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been at or near the center of major political debates over the character of the American identity.  We acknowledge racial injustice as an ugly stain on our nation’s history.  With Isenberg’s landmark book, we will have to face the truth about the enduring, malevolent nature of class as well.

 

Dark Money, by Jane Mayer, published in 2016, available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?  The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement.  But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally control the American political system. The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet whose core beliefs—that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom--advance their personal and corporate interests.  Many of their companies have run afoul of federal pollution, worker safety, securities, and tax laws.

When libertarian ideas proved decidedly unpopular with voters, the Koch brothers and their allies chose another path. They pooled their vast resources to fund an interlocking array of organizations that worked in tandem to influence and ultimately control academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and the presidency.  These organizations were given innocuous names such as Americans for Prosperity. Funding sources were hidden whenever possible. This process reached its apotheosis with the allegedly populist Tea Party movement, abetted mightily by the Citizens United decision—a case conceived of by legal advocates funded by the network.

The political operatives the network employs are disciplined, smart, and at times ruthless. Mayer documents instances in which people affiliated with these groups hired private detectives to impugn whistle-blowers, journalists, and even government investigators.  And their efforts have been remarkably successful.  Libertarian views on taxes and regulation, once far outside the mainstream and still rejected by most Americans, are ascendant in the majority of state governments, the Supreme Court, and Congress.  Meaningful environmental, labor, finance, and tax reforms have been stymied.

Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews--including with several sources within the network--and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book.  In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.

 

Rising Out of Hatred:  The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, by Eli Saslow, published in 2018, available in new and used hardcover and Kindle editions.

From a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind.  Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the Internet.  His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard.  By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show--already regarded as the "the leading light" of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. "We can infiltrate," Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. "We can take the country back." Then he went to college. Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs.  At New College of Florida, he started to question the science, history and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done.

Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white-supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek's story can tell us about America's increasingly divided nature.