Reviews

The Wichita Lineman: Searching in the Sun for the World’s Greatest Unfinished Song

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This book tells you everything you need to know about the background, recording and legacy of The Wichita Lineman, a classic country pop ballad that helped to launch the careers of both singer Glen Campbell and songwriter Jimmy Webb.

As a teenage rock fan I would have rather died than admit to liking anything by anybody as middle of the road as Campbell. He was part of the cultural backlash in the US against the anti-war movement and the counterculture.

Firefighting: The Financial Crisis and its Lessons

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During the Banking Crash of 2008/9, Firefighting’s authors, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and “Hank” Paulson, headed up the US Federal Reserve Board, the NY Federal Reserve Bank and the Whitehouse Treasury Department.

In the face of a constant barrage from the right wing of the Republican Party, these three were central in avoiding catastrophic meltdown of the global banking system. So, Firefighting’s claim to be “authoritative” is strong — if this word has a pejorative sense.

Red Round Globe Hot Burning

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Peter Linebaugh has produced another masterful history “from below”. This author is no respecter of national borders. This is a history of the struggle for commons over the centuries, both intellectually and geographically. It ranges from 18th century Ireland, across the Atlantic Ocean, itself the pathway of the fluid trade in human bodies from which capitalism emerged, to the slave uprising in San Domingue, now Haiti.

You Will Be Safe Here

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You Will Be Safe Here leaps from South Africa in 1901 to South Africa in 2014. The story of the country in 1901 covers the concentration camps that the British set up to imprison South Africans during the Boer War. The story described in 2014 covers the life of “difficult boys” sent to training camps with the ultimate aim of educating them.

Learning from the Germans: Confronting Race and the Memory of Evil

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This is a book about making amends. In particular, it is about the way that modern Germany has come to view, and deal with, the legacy of the Holocaust. The author is a Jewish American, originally from the south, who has lived for a long time in Berlin. The main focus of the work is on how the German example can be used to help the US, and in particular the southern states, to atone for the historical crime of slavery.

Maoism: A Global History

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Author Julia Lovell provides an overview of Maoism in China and all the countries in which it had or still has influence. The book includes a lot of detail on various Maoist movements around the world but offers only a superficial explanation for Mao Zedong’s rise and the spread of his ideas. It includes many entertaining anecdotes but it does not provide sufficient historical context.

The Politics of Operations

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This book starts well with a glib and intriguing introduction. We are invited to imagine a trip across the Argentinian Pampas, a journey that starts dreamily with visions of verdant fields of soya but ends jarringly with the realisation that this product: Intacta RR2 Pro is one of a new selection of transgenic seeds incurring violence and disruption to indigenous humans and plants by Monsanto.

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