July 2, 2005

Doprah's Book Club

As I haven't devoted enough time to get my side Book Club blog set up properly, I'll resort to mentioning a few books here.

I've read a few books in the past couple of weeks, each of which I can recommend.

1. "Don't Think of an Elephant" - George Lakoff
Lakoff's ideas for how Democrats and progressives need to frame their arguments has become a must-read for all strategists and people who want to know how to counter the right-wing noise machine. It's become a New York Times bestseller. He offers many revelations about how people perceive each party, as well as the tricks Republicans use to seize control of the language used in discussing issues and how it serves their ulterior motives. (For instance, always using the term "tax relief", rather than what they are, tax breaks or tax cuts. By using the term "relief", it suggests that taxes are inherantly bad and something we need to be saveed from. And every time a Dem uses this term, he's only reinforcing the right's propaganda)

The book is short, and it gives you a framework for recognizing the manipulation going on from the right and how to refuse to participate and to frame the issues on our own terms. If you're interested in the art of the message, this book is great.

2. "Attack Poodles, and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror" - James Wolcott

This book is a gem. It's like chicken soup for the long-suffering progressive who is driven nuts by what passes for news these days's soul. Wolcott slices and dices these blow-hards so effectively you almost feel sorry for them. Well, not really. Wolcott is funny and observant. This is a book where you end up being alternately enraged and amused. My favorite kind.
From Publisher's Weekly's review: Wolcott finds examples of the specimen in Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Chris Matthews, Dennis Miller and Bob Novak. Beneath Wolcott's humor and catchy prose, however, lurk some dark revelations, such as a Fox news staffer's claim that he and his colleagues are instructed to seek out stories that "cater to angry, middle-aged white men who listen to talk-radio and yell at their televisions." That strategy quickly took Fox News to the top of the heap and has left the other networks in a dizzying game of catchup that has set what Wolcott sees as a dismal, fractious tone for our national discourse. Intelligent, amusing and insightful.
Wolcott is simply a brilliant writer and he's a joy to read. Highly recommended.

3. "House of Bush, House of Saud, The Secret Relationship Between The World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties" - Craig Unger
And excellent and chilling account by an unimpeachable reporter. After reading it you see things in an entirely different light, and things which didn't make sense before make sense now. There is a very extensive and long-standing relationship between the Bushes and Saudi princes and kings, including the Bin Laden family. Saudi's propped up W's failing businesses and they've long had a cozy relationship where they trade the wealth of each other's respective countries among themselves. Were the facts in this book more widely known, there is no chance in hell that Bush would have even been in the postition to steal his way into the presidency. Go to the books website for excerpts and more information.

4. "Who Let The Dogs In?" - Molly Ivins
I like Molly Ivins. Her stuff is insightful, intelligent, and witty. This is a compilation of her columns dealing with various political figures stretching from Reagan to The Chimp and all points in between. If you enjoy Ivins, you'll enjoy this.

And on non-political subjects...

5. "Never a City So Real" - Alex Kotlowitz
This is a great glimpse into the real lives of select Chicagoans which is intended to grant the reader an insight into the city itself. The 8 stories within the book are each very fascinating and well written. I particularly found the map of all 198 neighborhoods in Chicago on the inner covers to be very interesting. A great read and worth picking up.

6. "Courtroom 302, A Year Behind the Scenes in a American Criminal Courthouse" - Steve Bogira
This book I loved, but then again, I'm totally fascinated by the workings of the legal system, in particular in places where it's practiced on such a wholesale scale as Chicago. This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys insights into the often shocking way our "justice" system works in real life. The author spent a year hanging around the Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California on Chicago's south side, the biggest and busiest felony courthouse in the nation.
If this sort of thing is of any interest to you, and even if it's not, I think you'd greatly enjoy this book, and it would give you an insight into an aspect of society that most people don't see, don't want to see, and never think about. It's an important book.

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