Marcia Bookstein’s Bookshelf Jan’19


Marcia Bookstein’s Bookshelf

So, the first book is Lost Connections, by Johann Hari.

I heard him on TED radio, and he has a TED talk, worth listening to if only for his adorable British accent. As you read the book you’ll hear his voice in your head, and it will become that much more enjoyable.
He talks about what we used to think and what we now know about depression and anxiety. What peaked my interest at first was the fact that we had both been on Paxil for thirteen years, and then went off. It’s a powerful drug, but doesn’t solve any problems. The problems, he posits, are caused by how our society is organized–the perceived positives of having “things”, the lack of community, the lack of purpose, or a meaningful job. So the book starts off as a sort of self-help book and ends up being thoroughly political.  
Tiny side note here: When the Mariinsky orchestra played with us, the San Diego Symphony, I found someone fluent in English and asked him to translate so I could chat with another of his colleagues.  
“What will life be like when we become a colony of Russia’s?”
“You won’t have things.”

This book is a fun romp through the deceits of the pharmaceutical industry, many countries visited and experts interviewed, and one man’s purposeful and sometimes accidental adventures. Highly recommended.  

Another: Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi.

A friend of mine is from Persia, or, Iran. She gave me a book and told me, “This was my life.” The book is Persepolis, and her pronunciation is accented first syllable, and no second syllable. A movie was made from this graphic novel, but the book continues into Marjane’s young adulthood in Paris. Once you get to know her life and her family, her changing situations, her adventures and thoughts, you no longer think that war against Iran is a good idea. There are lovely people who live there! Just like you and me.  With the same desires and emotions, the same kinds of bodies, the same wish for a better life and more compassionate country. My friend’s father-in-law is 106, still voting, still going to work. People sit in traffic, go shopping, visit with friends. This book is a peek into a beautiful woman’s life as a little girl, the politics and how it affected her and her family, the brave souls who went to prison or were murdered. The author did the drawings, and they are honest, and wonderful. This book is not to be missed.

Speaking of war: Chris Hedges is one of my favorite authors. Beautiful writing, but, boy, what a downer: War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges

He describes his experience covering the war in Croatia, looking under the blankets covering the dead, the politics, life before, during and after, and our  involvement.  It gives you an understanding of the attraction and benefits of war as loved ones are dying all around you: War creates a cohesiveness, a tight-knit group of like-minded people, helping each other–against the enemy. Who is the enemy? It doesn’t seem to matter. Anyone who isn’t “us”. And the “us” forgets the internecine differences for a moment because we have better and more important things to do. This book is a powerful warning to all of us to examine our motivations before pulling the trigger.  

These three books together make the idea of invading and punishing other countries extremely horrific, if not anathema.

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December’18 Books

The Long Honduran Night
Resistance , Terror, and the United States in the Aftermath of the Coup by Dana Frank

A story of resistance, repression, and US policy in Honduras in the aftermath of a violent military coup.
This powerful narrative recounts the dramatic years in Honduras following the June 2009 military coup that deposed President Manuel Zelaya, told in part through first-person experiences, layered into deeper political analysis. It weaves together two broad pictures: first, the repressive regime that was launched with the coup, and the ways in which U.S. policy has continued to support that regime; and second, the brave and evolving Honduran resistance movement, with aid from a new solidarity movement in the United States.
Although it is full of terrible things, this is not a horror story: the book directly counters mainstream media coverage that portrays Honduras as a pit of unrelenting awfulness, in which powerless people sob in the face of unexplained violence. Rather, it’s about sobering challenges with roots in political processes, and the inspiring collective strength with which people face them.

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Marcia Bookstein’s Bookshelf November’18


Marcia Bookstein’s Bookshelf

The most important book I’ve read so far is:
War Is A Racket, by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler
Yes, his first name is  a bit unfortunate, but he is, as far as I know, the most decorated war hero in our history. 
He started out in the Marines, believing that he was fighting for freedom and democracy. Towards the end of  his 33  years in the military he came to understand that he was fighting for the wealthy capitalists. It’s an eye-opener, and makes you want to make illegal all wars fought on other people’s lands.
Make sure to read the introduction. There you will find some obscure but important military history, and the plot to assassinate the President and take over the country–by the multinational corporations. It’s fascinating and shocking, and, yes, we should have our eyes uncovered.

There are two other books, not directly political but essential reading. First, an introduction: One of my neighbors died and I offered to play for his memorial gathering at his widow’s home. Before playing I mentioned that I would rather play for people while they are alive, as they would enjoy it more. After playing, his granddaughter asked if I would play for her wedding. After we discussed repertoire she asked what my fee was. “A book that changed your life.”

Bonus! There were two books, and I want to share them with you:

Solar Storms, by Linda Hogan, Hogan herself is a Chickasaw Indian, but she writes a hero’s journey of four Cree Indian women. I have never witnessed nature described so lovingly and beautifully, as if it were another character in their adventures. And the story weaves in their characters with the abuse the Native Americans and their beloved land received by both the US and Canadian governments.

At Home On the Street, by Wasserman and Claire, two sociology professors who camp out with the homeless in Birmingham, Alabama, over the space of one or two years. I’m still reading this book, as the language is pretty academic. (I was a music major in college). But it destroys your preconceived ideas of why people are homeless. When they were first talking of “social structure”, and “economic structure” I had no idea what they were talking about. Reading further I figured it out. Capitalism creates the top, and, necessarily, there is a bottom. I’d skipped to the end and got weepy when the profs were saying their goodbyes and their homeless peeps gave them gifts from their stash of nothing. In this book they cover every conceivable aspect of homelessness, with plenty of footnotes and references after each chapter.  

Happy Reading!

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October’18 Books


America: The Farewell Tour – by Chris Hedges, Simon & Schuster (August 21, 2018)
Chris Hedges’s profound and provocative examination of America in crisis is “an exceedingly…provocative book, certain to arouse controversy, but offering a point of view that needs to be heard” (Booklist), about how bitter hopelessness and malaise have resulted in a culture of sadism and hate. More


Curing Exceptionalism: What’s Wrong with How We Think about the United States? What Can We Do about It? – by David Swanson, David Swanson
(March 26, 2018)
U.S. exceptionalism, the idea that the United States of America is superior to other nations, is no more fact-based and no less harmful than racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry.
The purpose of this book is to persuade you of that statement.
This book examines how the United States actually compares with other countries, how people think about the comparison, what damage that thinking does, and what changes we might want to consider making. More

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Sept’18 Books

climate leviathan

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future – by Joel Wainwright & Geoff Mann, Verso, (February 13, 2018)

How climate change will affect our political theory—for better and worse

Despite the science and the summits, leading capitalist states have not achieved anything close to an adequate level of carbon mitigation. There is now simply no way to prevent the planet breaching the threshold of two degrees Celsius set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What are the likely political and economic outcomes of this? Where is the overheating world heading?

To further the struggle for climate justice, we need to have some idea how the existing global order is likely to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. Climate Leviathan provides a radical way of thinking about the intensifying challenges to the global order. Drawing on a wide range of political thought, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann argue that rapid climate change will transform the world’s political economy and the fundamental political arrangements most people take for granted. The result will be a capitalist planetary sovereignty, a terrifying eventuality that makes the construction of viable, radical alternatives truly imperative.

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Marcia Bookstein’s Bookshelf August’18

Marcia Bookstein’s Bookshelf

Here are three highly recommended books.

1. The first is “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. Beautifully written, it gives you the history of what’s not written in the history books from high school. From the murderous rampages and trickery of Christopher Columbus’ people to the trajectory-changing election of 2000, Zinn takes us on a fascinating journey through our history. Not pretty, but you just can’t look away. In order to change the present in the future, you need to know where you come from. This book will tell you everything you need to know and more. A long but engrossing read.

2. At present I’m just finishing “Reporter,” by Seymour Hersh. I love this book. What a brave and energetic person. He follows a lead and will not let go until he finds his man or woman. (For the My Lai story it’s men he’s after.) When he finds him he’ll knock on the door at two a.m. and someone will answer and want to talk to him! I wouldn’t answer the door at two a.m. The reason they want to talk is because he’s done his research beforehand and knows enough to make the other person want to spill as many beans as possible. What’s fascinating is the reaction of the executive editor at The New York Times. How reluctant he was to put some of this stuff in print. Often Hersh would have to get another entity to publish first. It’s incredible the lengths Hersh would go through to get to the truth, and amazing how, if it wasn’t what was thought to be the truth in the general public, the reluctance to print would be nearly insurmountable. Makes me look at that “newspaper of note” with different eyes. This is a super story and not to be missed. One thing: he sounds like a reporter! This might be a turn-off for some. But this book is a must-read.

3. I’ve read 119 pages of Thomas Piketty’s book, “Capital in the 21st Century.” I started to read this book to help with my insomnia. Economics! What could be more boring, using up lots of brain glucose and putting me into a delicious slumber? Wrong. It’s fascinating, and kept me up way past my bedtime. Difficult for me, for sure. (At UCLA I took Econ 101. After one class and not understanding a single word except for “the” and “and” I gave up. Flash forward a bit more than thirty years and I’m thinking, “I’m not giving up on myself!” I started with The Worldly Philosophers.) OK, full disclosure: I’m still not sure what alpha equals r times beta means. Did I get that correct? Piketty looks at every aspect of wealth and income, private and public, mostly comparing the US, France and Britain, and this is why his book is over 500 pages long and I’ll be reading it into 2020. But what an important book! Now I know how wealth inequality happens (it’s math!) and how potentially devastating it is for a society. He adds in wealth in literature, and the picture is complete. If you can understand it. Apparently this is in the top ten of the most bought, started, and never finished books. But it is super-important to try to understand what we’ll be fighting against for a very long time. And the fight against the super-wealthy is essential. I will tell you why next time in a fabulous and short book by the most decorated war hero this country has ever seen.

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Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age
By Dan Zak, Blue Rider Press, (July 12, 2016)

ON A TRANQUIL SUMMER NIGHT in July 2012, a trio of peace activists infiltrated the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Nicknamed the “Fort Knox of Uranium,” Y-12 was supposedly one of the most secure sites in the world, a bastion of warhead parts and hundreds of tons of highly enriched uranium—enough to power thousands of nuclear bombs. The three activists—a house painter, a Vietnam War veteran, and an 82-year-old Catholic nun—penetrated the complex’s exterior with alarming ease; their strongest tools were two pairs of bolt cutters and three hammers. Once inside, these pacifists hung protest banners, spray-painted biblical messages, and streaked the walls with human blood. Then they waited to be arrested. More

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June’18 Books

This Summer’s Book Recommendations

Breakpoint, Reckoning with America’s Environmental Crisis – by Jeremy B. C. Jackson and Steve Chapple, Yale University Press (April 17, 2018)

An insightful look at the American environmental crisis and emerging solutions from the heartland to the coasts in the era of global climate change

Eminent ecologist Jeremy B. C. Jackson and award-winning journalist Steve Chapple traveled the length of the Mississippi River interviewing farmers, fishermen, scientists, and policymakers to better understand the mounting environmental problems ravaging the United States. Along their journey, which quickly expands to California, Florida, and New York, the pair uncovered surprising and profound connections between ecological systems and environmental crises across the country. More


The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America – by Timothy Snyder, Tim Duggan Books (April 3, 2018)
With the end of the Cold War, the victory of liberal democracy was thought to be absolute. Observers declared the end of history, confident in a peaceful, globalized future. But we now know this to be premature. Authoritarianism first returned in Russia, as Putin developed a political system dedicated solely to the consolidation and exercise of power. In the last six years, it has creeped from east to west as nationalism inflames Europe, abetted by Russian propaganda and cyberwarfare. More


Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World-and Why Things Are Better Than You Think – by Hans Rosling, Flatiron Books (April 3, 2018)
“Factfulness throws down a gauntlet to doom-and-gloomers in global health by challenging preconceptions and misconceptions [and] is a fabulous read, succinct and lively… This magnificent book ends with a plea for a factual world view. Rosling was optimistic that this outlook will spread, because it is a useful navigational tool in a complex world, and a genuine antidote to negativity and hopelessness. A just tribute to this book and the man would be a global day of celebration for facts about our world. Perhaps Trump should lead the charge on that.” ―Nature More

last days

Last Days in Ocean Beach – by Jim Miller, San Diego City Works Pr (April 4, 2018)
Last Days in Ocean Beach is the story of William, a scientist working at the Center for Extinction Studies, a think tank at the College of the Sun funded by a green billionaire. William lives “on the border between dread and wonder” as he desperately works to raise the alarm about climate change and its dire consequences to an apathetic public, learns to live with grief, and hold on to love. More

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May’18 Books

Fascism: A Warning 
by Madeleine Albright  – Harper (April 10, 2018)
A Fascist, observes Madeleine Albright, “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.” 
The twentieth century was defined by the clash between democracy and Fascism, a struggle that created uncertainty about the survival of human freedom and left millions dead. Given the horrors of that experience, one might expect the world to reject the spiritual successors to Hitler and Mussolini should they arise in our era. In Fascism: A Warning, Madeleine Albright draws on her experiences as a child in war-torn Europe and her distinguished career as a diplomat to question that assumption.
Fascism, as she shows, not only endured through the twentieth century but now presents a more virulent threat to peace and justice than at any time since the end of World War II.  The momentum toward democracy that swept the world when the Berlin Wall fell has gone into reverse.  The United States, which historically championed the free world, is led by a president who exacerbates division and heaps scorn on democratic institutions.  In many countries, economic, technological, and cultural factors are weakening the political center and empowering the extremes of right and left.  Contemporary leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are employing many of the tactics used by Fascists in the 1920s and 30s.
Fascism: A Warning is a book for our times that is relevant to all times.  Written  by someone who has not only studied history but helped to shape it, this call to arms teaches us the lessons we must understand and the questions we must answer if we are to save ourselves from repeating the tragic errors of the past.

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April’18 Books

This Month’s Book Recommendation

necessary trouble

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt  – by Sarah Jaffe
Nation Books (August 23, 2016)

Necessary Trouble is the definitive book on the movements that are poised to permanently remake American politics. We are witnessing a moment of unprecedented political turmoil and social activism. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the growth of the Tea Party, a twenty-first-century black freedom struggle with BlackLivesMatter, Occupy Wall Street, and the grassroots networks supporting presidential candidates in defiance of the traditional party elites.

Sarah Jaffe leads readers into the heart of these movements, explaining what has made ordinary Americans become activists. As Jaffe argues, the financial crisis in 2008 was the spark, the moment that crystallized that something was wrong. For years, Jaffe crisscrossed the country, asking people what they were angry about, and what they were doing to take power back. She attended a people’s assembly in a church gymnasium in Ferguson, Missouri; walked a picket line at an Atlanta Burger King; rode a bus from New York to Ohio with student organizers; and went door-to-door in Queens days after Hurricane Sandy. More

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