What Are You Reading? Non-Fiction

Use this thread to share non-fiction books you're reading, or that you'd recommend.

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  • My October ritual has commenced.

  • AnmeBonneyAnmeBonney Citizen
    edited October 2020

    A guilty read cause it's so gossipy...
    Melania and Me

  • AnmeBonneyAnmeBonney Citizen
    edited October 2020

    And Bob Woodward's Rage

  • Well hello there ^ and welcome! 😎

    Do you like that guilty-pleasure book?

  • I do. It's kind of like reading Globe Magazine in the checkout line. 😁

  • Desiderius Erasmus-Praise of Folly

  • I read a little bit of a biography of Babe Ruth.

    And a little bit about Chaucer and his 14th century times.

  • Erasmus and St. Thomas More has a great correspondence.

  • Prometheus81Prometheus81 Citizen, Member

    Niall Ferguson's biography of Henry Kissinger.

    I can't post an image or links, but an excellently researched book.

  • Prometheus81Prometheus81 Citizen, Member

    www DOT goodreads DOT com/book/show/24611910-kissinger

  • A People's Tragedy by Orlando Bloom https://www.amazon.co.uk/Peoples-Tragedy-Revolution-centenary-introduction/dp/1847924514/ref=sr_1_4?crid=SZVV1GEU043J&dchild=1&keywords=the+russian+revolution&qid=1606068574&sprefix=the+rushian+rev,aps,191&sr=8-4 my cover is different. It covers a broader time than just the revolution which I'm finding very helpful.
    There's a tragic humour to the Tsarina Alexandra responce to her grandmothers advice.

  • The last nonfiction that I finished was How Not to Write a Novel, great fun for any writer 🙂

  • I'm reading volume 1 of Bill Clinton's autobiography, My Life.

  • I read a biography of Babe Ruth.

  • A Vindication of the Rights of Men, Mary Wollstonecraft (1790)

  • I picked up bios/autobios on Ronald Reagan, Michelle Obama, and AOC at the library.

  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor

    All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot.

  • Interesting choice. I've been reading a lot lately about recent past US presidents, at least those who have been around since my lifetime in the 1980s, so I haven't gotten to Nixon yet as he was a little before my time. Consensus seems to be that Nixon was among the worst presidents because of Watergate, etc.

  • Prometheus81Prometheus81 Citizen, Member
    edited December 2020

    @ting1984 said:

    Interesting choice. I've been reading a lot lately about recent past US presidents, at least those who have been around since my lifetime in the 1980s, so I haven't gotten to Nixon yet as he was a little before my time. Consensus seems to be that Nixon was among the worst presidents because of Watergate, etc.

    I'm not normally so low brow as to be swayed by a film, but watching Nixon (1995) and doing subsequent research made me completely reconsider him. He is remembered for Watergate, but he was only caught because he made the idiotic mistake of taping his own conversations. If every other president since 1969 had taped his conversations, many others would have been caught in the act of malfeasance. Of course, Clinton was also impeached but got off scot-free because he had the right surname and went to the right university. The lifelong theme in Nixon's life was his painfully strong sense of moral duty, inherited from his Quaker mother, and resentment that he was scorned and dismissed by the political elite precisely because of his virtues. He had embarrassing falls-from-grace (Watergate was only the most egregious), and yet he paid so much more dearly for them than he deserved to. Nixon was the closest thing America has had in living memory to a "people's president", to use a hackneyed phrase. Frankly, for all his flaws, I consider him the only post-war president who was also a good person.

  • Clinton was sleazy, yes...but he was the last President to bring us a balanced budget. He was very skillful when it came to navigating the mechanisms of government.

    Nixon was an intelligent man. And competent as a President.

    But he was a paranoid man—and that he was his undoing. That was his “tragic flaw.”

    He had the 1972 election in the bag—he didn’t NEED to spy on the Democrats, and participate in that Watergate stuff. He would have won even if he didn’t do any political thing, whatsoever.

  • @kraftiekortie said:
    Clinton was sleazy, yes...but he was the last President to bring us a balanced budget. He was very skillful when it came to navigating the mechanisms of government.

    Nixon was an intelligent man. And competent as a President.

    But he was a paranoid man—and that he was his undoing. That was his “tragic flaw.”

    He had the 1972 election in the bag—he didn’t NEED to spy on the Democrats, and participate in that Watergate stuff. He would have won even if he didn’t do any political thing, whatsoever.

    I was thinking today how B. Clinton was something of the inverse of J. Carter -- low ethics, but a rather successful presidency, on a number of fronts. Carter, on the other hand, was an admirable man, but a bad president, with a limited number of successes. I marvel at how those things sometimes work out, in the lives of "high-ranked" and "important" individuals. One of life's many complexities and mysteries, to be sure.

    Nixon, from what little I know, was indeed perplexing. Your summary seems accurate, again from what little I know.

    I doubt we see anyone remotely like him as a leader again, of any type of nation. He was anomalous even in the age of pre-social media.

    Anyway, today I read mainly from the Michelle Obama autobio. I'm at the point where she recollects her time at Princeton; this is before she met Barack. Though conservative, I'm like my late mom in that I nonetheless respect Michelle much more than most conservatives do, who are often quite rude and caricature her without seeing any of her good points. I certainly wish she could have put her penchant for organizational logic to other ends -- but her work ethic, intellect, and "executive functioning" are nonetheless admirable, and something to respect, regardless of one's opinions about her and her husband's "politics."

  • Prometheus81Prometheus81 Citizen, Member

    Nixon's time in office was not a failure. Here is a brief, copy-pasted summary of all the things other than Watergate he did which one never hears about:

    """"Nixon ended American involvement in Vietnam in 1973, ending the military draft that same year. Nixon's visit to China in 1972 eventually led to diplomatic relations between the two nations, and he gained the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union the same year. His administration generally transferred power from federal control to state control. He imposed wage and price controls for 90 days, enforced desegregation of Southern schools, established the Environmental Protection Agency, and began the War on Cancer. He also presided over the Apollo 11 moon landing, which signaled the end of the Space Race. He was re-elected in one of the largest electoral landslides in American history in 1972 when he defeated George McGovern."""""

  • Prometheus81Prometheus81 Citizen, Member

    @ting1984 said:

    @kraftiekortie said:
    Clinton was sleazy, yes...but he was the last President to bring us a balanced budget. He was very skillful when it came to navigating the mechanisms of government.

    Nixon was an intelligent man. And competent as a President.

    But he was a paranoid man—and that he was his undoing. That was his “tragic flaw.”

    He had the 1972 election in the bag—he didn’t NEED to spy on the Democrats, and participate in that Watergate stuff. He would have won even if he didn’t do any political thing, whatsoever.

    I was thinking today how B. Clinton was something of the inverse of J. Carter -- low ethics, but a rather successful presidency, on a number of fronts. Carter, on the other hand, was an admirable man, but a bad president, with a limited number of successes. I marvel at how those things sometimes work out, in the lives of "high-ranked" and "important" individuals. One of life's many complexities and mysteries, to be sure.

    Nixon, from what little I know, was indeed perplexing. Your summary seems accurate, again from what little I know.

    I doubt we see anyone remotely like him as a leader again, of any type of nation. He was anomalous even in the age of pre-social media.

    Anyway, today I read mainly from the Michelle Obama autobio. I'm at the point where she recollects her time at Princeton; this is before she met Barack. Though conservative, I'm like my late mom in that I nonetheless respect Michelle much more than most conservatives do, who are often quite rude and caricature her without seeing any of her good points. I certainly wish she could have put her penchant for organizational logic to other ends -- but her work ethic, intellect, and "executive functioning" are nonetheless admirable, and something to respect, regardless of one's opinions about her and her husband's "politics."

    Although face-to-face encounters with Nixon were almost invariably unpleasant, he was quite competent at memorising lines and faking a smile. This made him more palatable to the general public than to those in Washington who actually knew him. Of course, it's also where he got his reputation for dishonesty from, but one has to understand that he was a shy, awkward, neurotic man in a world made for the opposite type. He made an infamous mess of the presidential debates with JFK in 1960, but otherwise, his public performances were generally at least passable.

    The Obamas are complete frauds of the worst kind. I was also full of hope after eight years of Bush that Obama might bring America in the right direction, but the fact is that he carried on the repression of domestic civil liberties at home and the war crimes abroad that characterised the Bush years. The adulation that's heaped on him seems to be a combination of the fact that he's black and that he delivers stirring speeches (ghostwritten, but that doesn't seem to matter). I'm certainly glad that we're living in an era when a black man can become president, but that doesn't make up for all his other abject failures. Ask most on the left what policies Obama had that they like, and other than mumbling something about Obamacare (a failure on its own terms), they won't know what to say.

  • kraftiekortiekraftiekortie Citizen
    edited December 2020

    Obamacare did have its rather severe flaws. But to say that Obama “repressed civil liberties” is sheer hyperbole.

    I do NOT idolize Obama. He was a politician’s politician. But, at the very least, one could be glad that he WASN’T Trump. Trump would have been a disaster during the Great Recession. His self-absorbed narcissism has come even more to the fore since the election. Like I always say, one should separate conservatism from Trump.

    Now...back to the subject at hand. I would recommend reading the Bible, since it evokes insights into the history of its times (which did span, for the most part, about 500-1000 years or so).

  • Prometheus81Prometheus81 Citizen, Member

    @kraftiekortie said:
    Obamacare did have its rather severe flaws. But to say that Obama “repressed civil liberties” is sheer hyperbole.

    I do NOT idolize Obama. He was a politician’s politician. But, at the very least, one could be glad that he WASN’T Trump. Trump would have been a disaster during the Great Recession. His self-absorbed narcissism has come even more to the fore since the election. Like I always say, one should separate conservatism from Trump.

    Now...back to the subject at hand. I would recommend reading the Bible, since it evokes insights into the history of its times (which did span, for the most part, about 500-1000 years or so).

    The right to protest, free speech and other rights considered essential by the Constitution took a beating during the Obama years. He also failed to repeal the unconstitutional Patriot Act, and expanded government surveillance powers massively.

    I agree that Trump is probably the worst president America has ever had (certainly in living memory), and yet if the only good thing that can be said about Obama is that he wasn't Trump, that's not much of a recommendation.

    I love the Bible, or at least the Authorised Version (modern, bureaucrat-ese translations are painful to hear or read), and would agree that aside from its literary value, it's of some value as a record of its times. My point was only that there are many parts of it that one would most definitely NOT want to see taken up as a system of morality. Even the nicer, New Testament still has many faults, and as a moral code is second to what the Buddha had to say, in my opinion.

  • Prometheus81Prometheus81 Citizen, Member

    https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Trials-of-the-State-by-Jonathan-Sumption-author/9781788163729

    """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

    In the past few decades, legislatures throughout the world have suffered from gridlock. In democracies, laws and policies are just as soon unpicked as made. It seems that Congress and Parliaments cannot forge progress or consensus. Moreover, courts often overturn decisions made by elected representatives. In the absence of effective politicians, many turn to the courts to solve political and moral questions. Rulings from the Supreme Courts in the United States and United Kingdom, or the European court in Strasbourg may seem to end the debate but the division and debate does not subside. In fact, the absence of democratic accountability leads to radicalisation. Judicial overreach cannot make up for the shortcomings of politicians. This is especially acute in the field of human rights. For instance, who should decide on abortion or prisoners' rights to vote, elected politicians or appointed judges? Expanding on arguments first laid out in the 2019 Reith Lectures, Jonathan Sumption argues that the time has come to return some problems to the politicians.
    """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

    I read this in two sittings yesterday. I was motivated to buy it by the fact of Lord Sumption's being one of the few voices of reason during the COVID mass hysteria. While I don't agree with everything he says, he makes a compelling case for the urgency of keeping law out of politics, informed by an erudition almost unmatched by comparable figures in Britain today.

  • ^ Did you hear his Reith Lectures a few years back? Sounds like the book is a continuation of his theme from those. I thought he made some good points about the dangers of using the Judiciary as a substitute for the Legislature, and the politicisation of the role of judge that follows from that.

    Somewhere of YouTube there’s a debate between Lord Sumption and Dr Vernon Bogdanor on the subject of whether or not to codify the British constitutional system: I can hunt it down and post a link somewhere appropriate if you haven’t seen it and are interested.


    Currently reading Conquest by Juliet Barker: was in a box of unwanted books from a customers house, bit more popular than I would ideally like... and publishing a one volume history of the Hundred Years’ War that starts with the French succession crisis is, to my mind at least, a peculiar decision.

    Does have interesting detail that goes beyond big man power politics to give a sense of both the context & consequences in terms of ordinary peoples lives to a limited degree though, and is well written and enjoyable.

    She does keep referring to the Plantagenet court as “the English”, which bugs me: I get that it’s necessary to do so for joe everyman’s comprehension... but it doesn’t seem wholly accurate to the time period or nature of feudal power structures to use national terminology. Just my hang-up though. 😜

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