The book to read if you want to know about how and why corporate media consolidation happened, and what deleterious effects this process has had on de...moreThe book to read if you want to know about how and why corporate media consolidation happened, and what deleterious effects this process has had on democracy and public discourse here and abroad. This is solid left-centrist scholarship with no radical Chomsky-esque tendendtiousness or axes to grind.(less)
A good start towards an encyclopedia of human folly and suggestibility. Also, kind of an interesting exploration of a lot of the dead ends we explored...moreA good start towards an encyclopedia of human folly and suggestibility. Also, kind of an interesting exploration of a lot of the dead ends we explored before we came upon the more stable systems of modern science, economics, politics, etc. Very entertaining too, in a schadenfreudenous sort of way.(less)
I picked this up because I knew almost nothing about the Reformation, and I felt like I should at least have the basic history straight for events whi...moreI picked this up because I knew almost nothing about the Reformation, and I felt like I should at least have the basic history straight for events which were so vital to the shaping of the modern world.
And, it mostly covered me for that. He did an excellent job of putting you inside the very alien worldviews and socio-cultural arrangements of the time, and illustrating just how revolutionary and sudden a change the Reformation really was. He gave engaging and detailed sketches of most of the main actors involved in the religious, political, and cultural arenas. He covered enough of the intricate theological problems which developed and were fought out, but not so much as to make my eyes glaze over. And he did an excellent job of taking you down to the level of everyday people and looking at how and why they embraced such a sudden change in such a vital part of their existence, and what the consequences were for their way of life going forward.
Where he fell down just a bit was in connecting the ground-level with the elite, and the religious with the political and especially the military. He did a good job on the elites insofar as they related to religion, but the political history was pretty thin. He also certainly covered all of the major conflicts of the time, but they always seemed like something that happened in the background and only flashed into full view at a few crisis points. I came in with a vague idea of how and why the French Wars of Religion, the English Civil War, and the 30 Years’ War were fought, and left with a not much clearer one.
Of course, any one of those conflicts can and has merited many an extensive history of its own, but I think he could have done a better job of fully describing them and linking them more thoroughly and organically with the political, social, cultural and religious turmoil that caused and sustained them. The 30 Years’ War especially seemed to be elided over. Constraints of space were probably a big concern, as the book still came in at over 700 pages, but I would have rather read another 100 or so and been left with a more complete picture.
Still, pretty minor quibbles for a book that taught me lot about a subject I came in with little background on, and that had plenty of major strengths to outweigh that one notable weakness. Definitely read if you want a solid social, cultural, religious, and basic political history of the Reformation from a modern point of view. If you’re more interested in the military history or in any of the specific conflicts, pick up a more specialized history of the case in question.(less)
This wasn’t too terribly hard of a read, really. As soon as I dropped notions of trying to figure out what’s going on right away and just let it sort...moreThis wasn’t too terribly hard of a read, really. As soon as I dropped notions of trying to figure out what’s going on right away and just let it sort wash over me, everything went fairly smoothly. It seems like it’s more about evoking a mood than telling a story anyway. Like atmospheric music almost. I think it’s given me more of a sense of what the cold, relentless terror of living through years of WWII in Europe must have been like than anything else I’ve read to date. It’s really entropic and obfuscatory, but the wordplay, and the interspersed hilarious bits and passages of stark clarity made it more than worth the slog through the hazier parts. Definitely didn’t get even close to everything out of it that I could have, but I got through it ok, and will probably re-read it some day with a guide to see what else is there.(less)
Whenever someone asks me why I bother to care so much about the Big Picture, when all it does is upset me and there’s little that I can really do to c...moreWhenever someone asks me why I bother to care so much about the Big Picture, when all it does is upset me and there’s little that I can really do to change it, I never seem to have a good answer for them. I just do, I just have to.
Well, this book is shaping up to be that answer, or at least as close to one that I can get. It’s about the moral individual and modernity and what one person can hope to accomplish against the tide of history. It’s also about media both as a narcotic agent against those anxieties, and as a possible tool to wield against them. Plus, it’s a deeply moving story of a quirky family set against the backdrop of 50 years of US history.(less)
This book looks into the political and intellectual battles that decided what the New Testament canon would turn out to be, and in particular, focuses...moreThis book looks into the political and intellectual battles that decided what the New Testament canon would turn out to be, and in particular, focuses on the might-have-beens had the more egalitarian and individualistic views expressed in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas been used as the foundation of Christian thought instead of the more authoritarian and mystical approach of John.(less)