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Book recommendations thread

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  • #2


    Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History (Kurt Andersen).

    Fantasyland is Kurt Andersen's thesis that Americans are naturally more susceptible to fantasies of various forms and have been throughout their history. He tracks America from it's origins as a haven for European religious fanatics and English fortune seekers who never let something as small as a complete lack of gold blunt their enthusiasm. The book examines various fads and fantasies that have permeated and spread through US culture over the centuries as well as a selection of individuals who peddle such fantasies either sincerely or duplicitously such as homeopthy, pentecostalism, anti-vaxxers, climate change skeptics, gun enthusiasts, Mormonism, live action roleplayers (LARPers), P.T. Barnum, Ronald Reagan, Joseph Smith, Davy Crockett, Walt Disney &, yes, Donald Trump.

    It's important to note that this is a book focused on America's cultural history. I expected to see a bit more politics but if you want to read about the far right in the US, the GOP, the situation regarding firearms or anything like that, a book with a narrower scope might be a better fit for you. I'm not sure that I buy into the entirety of the author's theory, for example the part about the suburbs comprising a part of what Andersen terms "the Fantasy-Industrial complex". However, he does make a compelling case for why various fads, religions, scams and branches of anti-scientific thought seem to find more fertile soil in America than in Europe. The result is a fascinating though somewhat depressing read.


  • #2


    Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics (Tim Marshall).

    Prisoners of Geography is Tim Marshall's attempt to explain the rationale of various leaders throughout history. Marshall devotes a chapter to a different region of the world, sometimes encompassing a whole continent like Europe or just one or two countries like the Koreas and Japan. I hadn't really appreciated the role that Geography plays in the motives of world leaders and in shaping the history of the world. Marshall highlights examples like England's rich forests providing an abundance of timber with which to build a navy or Europe's temperate climate and easily navigable rivers. The author employs Geography to explain the annexation of Crimea by Putin as well as Xi Jinping's Belt & Road initiative.

    Like Fantasyland, Prisoners has a broad scope and so is therefore lacking in a fair bit of detail. It does, however make for a superb primer to world affairs.


  • #2


    Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics (Tim Marshall).

    Prisoners of Geography is Tim Marshall's attempt to explain the rationale of various leaders throughout history. Marshall devotes a chapter to a different region of the world, sometimes encompassing a whole continent like Europe or just one or two countries like the Koreas and Japan. I hadn't really appreciated the role that Geography plays in the motives of world leaders and in shaping the history of the world. Marshall highlights examples like England's rich forests providing an abundance of timber with which to build a navy or Europe's temperate climate and easily navigable rivers. The author employs Geography to explain the annexation of Crimea by Putin as well as Xi Jinping's Belt & Road initiative.

    Like Fantasyland, Prisoners has a broad scope and so is therefore lacking in a fair bit of detail. It does, however make for a superb primer to world affairs.

    Read that a few years ago. It's very good.


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