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July 15, 2013


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Your public library probably subscribes to some great readers' advisory sources. Try Book Browse if it's available online at your library ( Book Browse delivers a twice-monthly newsletter with reader AND media reviews via email. Bookmarks magazine is another great publication for finding new books ( The Wall Street Journal has an incredible Books section on Saturday.

Matthew Bruckner

I have the same problem, and don't have solutions. I can, however, offer one answer to your question about reviews:

Patrick S. O'Donnell

I realize "great summer reads" usually excludes non-fiction, but since I read little fiction these days, I'll recommend recent books from the former category. You'll probably need more than the rest of summer however to complete them (in the order picked from my piles):

1. Jerome Kagan, The Human Spark: The Science of Human Development (Basic Books, 2013)

2. Isabel Hofmeyr, Gandhi's Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading (Harvard University Press, 2013)

3. Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir, The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2013)

4. Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, The Muslim Brotherhood: Evolution of an Islamist Movement (Princeton University Press, 2013)

5. Jürg Steiner, The Foundations of Deliberative Democracy: Empirical Research and Normative Implications (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

6. Vivek Chibber, Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital (Verso, 2013)

7. B.R. Ambedkar, The Buddha and His Dhamma: A Critical Edition (Edited, introduced and annotated by Aakash Singh Rathore and Ajay Verma) (Oxford University Press, 2011) [I have a bibliography on 'the life, work, and world of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar,' should you be interested.]

8. Alan Wieder, Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War against Apartheid (Monthly Review Press, 2013)

9. Richard D. Wolff and Stephen A. Resnick, Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian (MIT Press, 2012)

10. Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire (Verso, 2012)

11. Penny Lewis, Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory (ILR Press/Cornell University Press, 2013)

12. Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Metropolitan Books, 2013)

13. Hélène Landemore, Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many (Princeton University Press, 2013)

14. Jon Elster, Securities Against Misrule: Juries, Assemblies, Elections (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

15. Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013)

16. Vijay Prashad, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2012)

17. John McMillan, Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Edited volume by Abbe Smith and Monroe Freedman (doyen of legal ethicists) that I'm looking forward to: How Can You Represent Those People? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Scott Gerber

Last year, National Jurist magazine asked me to write a short article about summer reading. My list of legal thriller recommendations is available here:
Best wishes,

Scott Gerber

Here's the correct link:

Jacqueline Lipton

Thanks all for the book recommendations, and Matthew, that's an amazing story. I suspected that kind of thing was going on and it does raise a bunch of ethical issues but none of it is probably illegal (other than maybe breaching reviewer contract terms of use on Amazon). It's such a gray area and one from which readers are definitely not benefiting.

Tamara Piety

J - Yes you can pay people to post positive reviews of your book. But this is true of virtually any on-line reviews - hotels, restaurants, consumer products, etc. and there is almost no way to police this. In addition to services like payperpost which offer explicit payment in exchange for reviews, there is the more insidious practice of signing up customer to be part of your market research team or something like that and then giving perks and small gifts for promotional activities ("get your friends to 'like' us and get ___ (some perk)____"). I have certainly done this for products and services I already like, but it does raise the question of whether we end up with an incentive to like it more because of the perk. Add in PR news releases being run as stories, sponsored research intended to create "doubt" or controversy about some issue which requires scientific expertise and it is hard not to conclude that the information environment has become so corrupted by practices like this that we no longer have trusted sources.

Tamara Piety

For what it is worth: on recommended reads one I am looking forward to reading but have not yet read is Tom McGarity's "Freedom to Harm The Lasting Legacy of the Laissez Faire Revival." Another non-fiction from an author I think is great is "A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves" by Robert Burton. His book, "On Being Certain" was terrific and so is this one. I also very much liked "Pain, Parties and Work" by Elizabeth Winder on Sylvia Plath's year as a Mlle editor. It is a little too mannered sometimes but in most places it is lovely and evocative of a particular time and offers more insight into the poet's life before "The Bell Jar." Not terribly new but incredibly beautiful writing are all of Alexandra Fuller's memoirs "Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness" and "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight." So for those who haven't read either I recommend them. Lastly, again not really new but perhaps unknown to a lot of people is Andrew Scull's "Madhouse: A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine." Sadly I also don't read much fiction these days but all of the above are pretty gripping reading and can easily be a good vacation read. And I'm not being paid to promote any of them. :-)

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