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Book Bonanza

Monday, December 28th, 2015

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

My usual yuletide haul of books received and purchased….





The Last of the President’s Men by Bob Woodward
Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum
Avoiding Armageddon: From the Great War to the Fall of France 1918-1940 by Jeremy Black
Roots of Strategy Book 3
Rule of the Clan by Mark Weiner
Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes
Democracy in Retreat by Joshua Kurlantzick
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
The Middle-East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years by Bernard Lewis
Patton: A Genius for War by Carlo D’Este
Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith by D.K.R. Crosswell
The Libertarian Mind by David Boaz
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
A Dance of Dragons by George R.R. Martin 

If anyone has read these titles and wishes to fire away about them, or their authors in the comment section, feel free. Not sure how many will be featured in future reviews.

The Nixon books were first brought to my attention on, if I recall, the Facebook page of historian Maarja Krusten of NixonNARA, the expert’s expert in matters relating to the presidential records, documents, court cases and tapes of Richard Nixon. When Maarja opines on Nixon topics, I listen with care. I look forward to reading these, even though my opinion of  Bob Woodward is that he often has to be treated cautiously, Alexander Butterfield’s cooperation and contribution was obviously central to the book (not unlike the far longer cooperation between George Kennan and his biographer,  historian John Lewis Gaddis). Evan Thomas’ theme just offhand strongly reminds me of Richard Reeves’ excellent President Nixon: Alone in the White House; I’m curious if this will be a rehashing or if Thomas can bring something new to the table about America’s 37th President.

I am also excited about Rule of the Clan, which should be of interest to anyone thinking about insurgency, irregular warfare, unconventional warfare and terrorism intersecting with tribal or quasi-tribal societies. My friends Michael Lotus and James Bennett who wrote the excellent America 3.0 and drew on the family structure ideas of British anthropologist Alan Macfarlane and French scholar Emanuel Todd, would also be interested.

The fiction was picked up for a simpler reason. I need a change of pace and never read the last, most recent book in the Game of Thrones series.

What are you reading these days?

Monday, July 16th, 2007


Dr. Maarja Krusten, the fomer archivist for the Nixon tapes collection at The National Archives and Federal historian, has an excellent article up at HNN, “How Hard Is the Job of Nixon Archivists? You Decide.“. Her article is worth reading for two reasons:

First, Krusten explains the dilemna faced by archivists trying to do their job when faced with political pressure from influential public figures:

“Former U.S. Archivist Robert Warner once told me that “The Archives faces enormous political pressure but never admits that it does.” Whether they deal with stand-up guys or bullies, archivists face them alone.

To the reported dismay of NARA’s Inspector General (IG), Archives officials did not turn to him or call the FBI after an apparent theft in 2003. Instead, they tried themselves to retrieve records removed by Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger.

It was not the only recent loss of a file. As the Senate prepared to hold hearings on the nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice, White House lawyers in 2005 screened files at NARA’s Reagan Presidential Library. They were left alone with documents at the Library because, as Berger also had said, they needed privacy while making phone calls. Soon, thereafter, archivists discovered that a Roberts file about affirmative action was missing. The IG was unable to establish whether the affirmative action file had been removed from the Library or merely misfiled by NARA staff.”

Secondly, she offers a test to readers to try to correctly classify a memo that is, I can attest, vintage Richard Nixon:

“How would you classify the December 4, 1970 memo? (If you wish, you first may look at a couple of paragraphs about NARA’s statutes and regulations in a brief description here.)

Here are your voting options.

1) document is purely personal or solely political and has no connection to a President’s constitutional or statutory duties. It should be returned to him or his family. It then legally may be destroyed by them, filed away or deeded back to NARA, as personal property.

(2) document offers some personal observations and mentions politics and voters but relates to Presidential duties and is inherently governmental. It should be retained in NARA custody. You may consider restricting all or some portions for privacy, either the President’s or that of third parties, while the people still are alive;

(3) document is governmental, relates to Presidential duties, and should be released during the President’s lifetime.”

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007


I hope to have a number of posts of my own up later today but here are two on history and historians that caught my eye:

When Archivists Deal with Power Players” by Dr. Maarja Krusten

I “know” Maarja from our interaction on H-Diplo and at HNN and she brings a wealth of knowledge to the table regarding the politics of the National Archives ( interestingly enough, she had, if I recall, doubts about Bush’s appointment of Cold War scholar Allen Weinstein to head the National Archives, something I strongly supported; I’m betting her opinion of Weinstein is more favorable today). The piece will also interest those readers, like Lexington Green, who have an interest in Richard Nixon.

Training the Next Generation of Historians ” by Kevlvn

A great post at ProgressiveHistorians on the future of the historical profession and the relationship that universities and professional historians could have in improving the education of K-12 students in history and their own teaching of undergraduates (the quality level of which, to put it kindly, is uneven). A commendable post and one that touches on the larger question of the mission of the American university in the 21st century.

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