This is the golden age of muckraking books and documentaries but some of them may have escaped your attention because reviews and promotions cannot keep up with the sheer volume of material.
Here are my recommendations for your Holiday and later reading time:
1. Achieving the Impossible by Lois Marie Gibbs; Published by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (www.chej.org) is an inspiring collection of short stories about how ordinary people have risen to meet the challenges of toxic pollution confronting their families and communities. The author herself rose from the Love Canal controversy in Niagara Falls, New York to lead a grand national grass roots organization.
2. Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope In An Insecure Age by Steven Hill (University of California Press, 2010.) His thesis is that Western Europe treats its people better in many ways than the United States does its people, and not just in social insurance and services. Read, wonder and galvanize!
3. Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in A Two-Party Tyranny by Theresa Amato (New Press, 2009.) My former campaign manager weighs in with an indictment of the two-party barriers to a competitive electoral system, candidate ballot access and voter choice. Partly personal memoir of her battles in 2000 and 2004, part history about the decades long ago when third parties could get on the ballot easier and make a difference and part a series of reforms that only an outraged public can make happen.
4. Priceless Money: Banking Time for Changing Times by Edgar S. Cahn is a revolutionary elevation of traditional assets in how time can become a currency—a means of exchange that is beyond price—that does not allow market price to define value. It is a limited edition booklet you’ll never forget, free. Send two first class stamps to TimeBanksUSA, 5500 39th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20015.
5. Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges (Nation Books, 2009) The Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent turned prolific author and lecturer, Mr. Hedges goes to the core of a culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. He “exposes the mechanisms used to divert us from confronting the economic, political and moral collapse around us.” In gripping, memorable concrete prose that resonates the moment we let ourselves think.
6. The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Will Cause the Next Great Credit Crisis by Josh Kosman (Portfolio Hardcover, 2009.) Think it is all about the brand names of a corrupt, reckless Wall Street? Try the entirely unregulated private equity firms that acquire and strip mine them under the guise of saving them, then leave behind debt time bombs and mass layoffs as the value of these leveraged buyouts is sucked out by the corporate bunccaneers. Kosman predicts a coming private equity-caused big bubble crisis.
7. Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary: The Story of Ed and Joyce Koupal and the Initiative Process by Dwayne Hunn and Doris Ober. This husband-wife team “just ordinary people,” in their words, started out powerless and in over a decade, largely in the seventies, built Initiative power to qualify reforms on the California ballot for the popular vote. A story for the ages that strips away excuses steeped in a sense of powerlessness. This small but invigorating paperback can be obtained from The People’s Lobby (peopleslobby.hypermart.net) for $15, including shipping. California St., Unit 201, San Francisco, CA 94109.
8. Getting Away With Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law by Christopher H. Pyle (Potomac Books, 2009) A former captain in army intelligence and Congressional staffer, now teaching constitutional law at Mount Holyoke College, Mr. Pyle shatters our belief in the rule of law before the unconstitutional government of Bush and Cheney in waging war crimes and torture, while seeking Congressional amnesty to those responsible for implementing their rogue, secret regime. Veteran constitutional law specialist, Louis Fisher asserts these practices have “left American weaker politically, economically, morally, and legally.”
9. It Takes A Pillage by Nomi Prins (Wiley, 2009.) A former managing director of Goldman Sachs, who quit Wall Street, and now is dedicated to educating and mobilizing the American people so that they press for reforms to prevent myopic greed from bringing down our economy again and to hold the speculators and crooks accountable. She “gets inside how the banks looted the Treasury, stole the bailout, and continued with business as usual,” in the words of one reviewer.
10. Censored 2010: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-09 edited by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff with Project Censored (Seven Stories Press, 2009.) This book contains investigative pieces on important topics too often neglected by the mainstream news organizations. Read this book, it will make you angry and then it will energize you to take on a significant societal problem in the New Year.
RALPH NADER is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.