Summer Reading

Summer time is reading time. Here are ten suggested new books:

1. Toxic Talk (Thomas Dunne Books) by Bill Press, the liberal talk show host, unloads in his words, on “how the radical right has poisoned America’s airwaves.” The five major syndicates are dominated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Bill O’Reilly. Using their own statements, Press applies indignation, satire and humor to demonstrate the bigotry, the falsehoods and the propaganda that sustain the concentrated power of corporate oligarchs who fan far right-wing flames with advertising revenues.

2. Stop Getting Ripped Off (Ballantine Books) by Bob Sullivan. MSNBC’s penetrating consumer reporter gets very specific about how you are being fleeced and how you can often get a fair deal. If you have credit cards, mortgages, life insurance, cell phones, cable tv, are shopping for a new car or worried about preserving your retirement, this is the personal budget protector and aggravation-reliever for you.

3. Unequal Protection (second edition, expanded, Berrett-Koehler Publishers) by Thom Hartman. The growing debate against corporations having the same constitutional rights as human beings flows in part from this brainy author and talk show host’s documentation of the portentous drive since the notorious 1886 Supreme Court decision to establish corporate supremacy over the sovereignty of the people. He writes with dramatic historical accuracy, using primary sources, to wake Americans up to this incremental judicially-decreed coup d’etat.

4. Saved by the Sea: A Love Story with Fish by David Helvarg (Thomas Dunne Books-St. Martin’s) is an enthralling bedtime or beachtime read. Helvarg combines knowing how to write with knowing the ocean, reefs and surfs. His touching, tragic story of the love of his life and of aquatic nature is beyond unique.

5. In the Shadow of Power by Kike Arnal. This is a book, with my introduction, of haunting photographs of the “other Washington” which is off the beaten track of the twenty million tourists who visit our nation’s capital every year. Regaled by critics such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Henry Allen, Kike walked the poor and affluent neighborhoods to capture the tale of the “two cities” for months looking for the telling, unposed picture that speaks volumes. A native Venezuelan, he cannot qualify for the Pulitzer Prize in photography, which is reserved for U.S. citizens—the primary obstacle to deserving such an honor.

6. The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health—and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard (Free Press). Can anyone make the pile of production and consumption waste interesting? Try Annie Leonard, who has scoured the world for the stories that tell the cumulative story of where our throwaway economy and unawareness are leading us. Her twenty minute video that inspired this book has received over ten million visits. Annie knows how to connect with the reader.

7. “This Time We Went Too Far” by Norman G. Finkelstein (O/R Books) is the author’s report on what he calls “the Gaza massacre” of late to early 2008-2009 by the all-powerful, U.S.-supplied Israeli military. The title comes from an Israeli official, signifying the slaughter of utterly defenseless civilians, including nearly 300 children and the destruction of schools, clinics, homes, public works, mosques, even fields growing crops, UN property and an American school, was off the charts. Finkelstein places this bloodbath in the context of U.S. foreign policy, human rights law and shifts in American and European public opinion.

8. North Star: A Memoir by Peter Camejo (Haymarket Books) is a story of radical American and Pan American politics of the latter 20th century as practiced and experienced by this great and wise American. The late Peter Camejo, in the fulsome tradition of Eugene Debs, was a full-spectrum fighter for justice in the political, civic, electoral and international arenas. In this highly personal book, you might find a more perceptive understanding of our times.

9. Senseless Panic by William M. Isaac (Wiley) compares the preventable Wall Street collapse of 2008-2009 with how he, as head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and other federal banking regulators handled the smaller but still devastating financial crisis in the early 1980s. Isaac claims the current global financial crisis-managers have not learned the lessons from the earlier meltdown of the S&L industry and other banks, during which interest rates hit 21 percent and there was 11 percent unemployment. When a leading member of the former banking establishment takes on the banking establishment, now in charge in Washington and Wall Street, it makes for jarring, no holds barred reading that is a rare experience in these times of high-level self-censorship and hubris.

10. The Energy Reader by Laura Nader, editor (Wiley-Blackwell). From the Seventies to the present, my sister, Laura Nader, professor of Anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, has been observing and teaching about our country’s ossified energy policies and practices and why available technical, social and economic solutions have been kept on the shelf.

From her cohesive introduction to the contributions of many thoughtful and experienced participants in, and scholars of, our nation’s energy power structure and the potential for an efficient and renewable energy future, this forthright, empirical book needs to be read by our members of Congress, executive branch policy-makers and all citizens who are fed up with the vested interests and ideologies that have so damaged our environment, economy and public health.

May your savorings of the above offerings affect your routines!





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Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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