If history serves me correctly, I received this book as part of some sort of socially-conscious award in high school (but now the memory's getting fuz...moreIf history serves me correctly, I received this book as part of some sort of socially-conscious award in high school (but now the memory's getting fuzzy; I may have used a B&N gift certificate from another award to purchase this book...) Anyway, it had been sitting on my shelves for 10 years, and now with a lot of time on my hands, I finally got to it. The timing of this decision is particularly off, since the book was published in 1997 and a whole lot more has gone down with torture since then (perhaps an additional chapter is needed in an updated version, if there's a market for it; I know that after closing the cover I went straight to the computer to get updates on the major individual and organizational players).
Basically, the book is an interesting read if you're interested in the above-mentioned subjects, but it's a bit too sweeping. I understand that the author tries to meld a biography of an individual--the ever-determined Helen Bamber--with the biography of the horrors of the 20th century, but because she is the main focus, the weight is much more heavy on the Holocaust (the first 175 pages or so), with relatively short and rushed shrift given to the horrors that follow (almost pop-up chapters/sections on Latin America, Iran, North Ireland, and Uganda, plus the requisite look at Israel and the Palestinian territories and the moral quandary of the elderly Jewish woman encountering unsavory interrogation methods in her people's country of refuge and all the baggage surrounding her testimony on behalf of Palestinian prisoners). Being a literary man (he was a Granta editor), Belton is wont to throw in pithy quotes from epic poetry and other sources, making for dense and circuitous reading; it's overkill, along with his relentless foreshadowing of what's to come next (all that is foreshadowed is at last revealed in the last chapter, but not to great literary effect.) Even with the mapped out narrative (or maybe because of it), Belton can't avoid repetition, indicating the absence of a strong editor behind the editor-writer (whose lack of fluency with the tenets of social science shines through). Yet, despite the book's structural flaws, it is a decent meditation on torture and one woman's lifelong quest to bring healing to its victims. Its thesis is a great argument starter, as I discovered last night at dinner (though I suspect many learned dinner tables around the country have been squabbling for some time now and about torture...)(less)
Disappointing pop science. I learned about Snow's mapping of London's cholera epidemic in my graduate stats class and hoped this book would delve deep...moreDisappointing pop science. I learned about Snow's mapping of London's cholera epidemic in my graduate stats class and hoped this book would delve deeper into the process of its creation and lasting impact on public health and statistics (and help in my quest to better understand math and science, after brushing both (especially the latter) aside in favor of the humanities and social sciences). Unfortunately, the book dragged out over 200-plus pages the initial article I had read in class. It was notable that the tale focused on not only the celebrated Snow, but the until recently obscured local pastor, Whitehead, who really did the fieldwork that backed up Snow's waterborne theory. Only recommended to those who've never encountered this story in another format (and who won't wince at detailed descriptions of cholera symptoms). (less)
I really, really enjoyed this book; it's probably the only thing I've read about early American history that made me want to find more material about...moreI really, really enjoyed this book; it's probably the only thing I've read about early American history that made me want to find more material about this period (yes, I know this sounds pathetic for someone who claims to be as well-read and into history as I do; I'll blame my educators). It is an especially good read given our current economic climate and the privileging of the creditor class throughout American history. Also, the parallels between Hamilton (yuck and ick) and Cheney are mindboggling. And Bob Morris is a name you must learn if you have any interest in how the American financial system was shaped. Truly fascinating. (less)
This book provides fantastic insight into the plight of Italian Jews during the Holocaust. I found it especially poignant to read while living in Ital...moreThis book provides fantastic insight into the plight of Italian Jews during the Holocaust. I found it especially poignant to read while living in Italy, so close to many of the events. The fate of Jews during this period was not cut and dry and neither was the response on the part of the Italian government. I was most impressed to learn the pivotal role played by the Catholic leadership in Genoa (where we currently reside), who worked alongside the Jewish underground to rescue thousands of Jews.
Although it's a harrowing subject, the book is a breezy read (lest for some overlap/repetition that should have been edited away). Highly recommended to anyone interested in Italian and/or Jewish history. (less)
This book is absolutely incredible and a must-read for anyone interested in American foreign policy--particularly as it relates to humanitarian interv...moreThis book is absolutely incredible and a must-read for anyone interested in American foreign policy--particularly as it relates to humanitarian intervention. Power's thesis is strong, cynical, and ultimately true; published in 2002, I'm sure she's not surprised, given our past and fairly firm stance towards intervention, that she could now, sadly, add a chapter on Darfur.
Power's sourcing is amazing; the footnotes alone must have taken years to complete and the bibliography is extensive for those who want to learn more about a specific moment in history. As an added bonus for students of government (and really any type of management), the book provides a close study of organizational change and stagnation and informal case studies on how to insert (or divert) your own values while working in a huge bureaucracy; I think that I've picked up a bunch of lessons for my own professional future (though I probably won't have to apply them to life or death situations such as these officials did). (less)
Over ten years old, so a little out of date, though great summations by three eminent scholars. Many of the themes still ring true, sadly, as we deal...moreOver ten years old, so a little out of date, though great summations by three eminent scholars. Many of the themes still ring true, sadly, as we deal with many of the same issues in the current Congress. I just hope 2010 isn't 1994 all over again. Though if so, the authors might want to consider an update...(less)
I never had a chance to take Foner's course in college, so I wanted to be sure, with all this time on my hands, to tackle his tome on Reconstruction....moreI never had a chance to take Foner's course in college, so I wanted to be sure, with all this time on my hands, to tackle his tome on Reconstruction. Dense and depressing (especially the fact that so much of what was wrong with the country's politics then is still a problem today), but definitely worthwhile. (less)