New Books Network

J. E. Lendon, “Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins” (Basic, 2010)
Reading J. E. Lendon’s writerly Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins (Basic Books, 2010) took me back to the eventful days of my youth at Price Elementary School, or rather to the large yardon which we had recess. We called it a “playground.” But we did not play on... Read More
Virginia Scharff, “The Women Jefferson Loved” (HarperCollins, 2010)
Most Americans could tell you who George Washington’s wife was. (Martha, right?) Most Americans probably couldn’t tell you who Thomas Jefferson’s wife was. (It was also Martha, but a different one of course). They might be able to tell you, however, who Thomas Jefferson’s alleged concubine was, as she has... Read More
Joyce Appleby, “The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism” (Norton, 2010)
Today everybody wants to be a capitalist, even Chinese communists. It would be easy to think, then, that capitalism is “natural,” that there is a little profit-seeker in each one of us just waiting to pop out. There is some truth to this notion: humans are the most cooperative species... Read More
Catherine Epstein, “Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland” (Oxford UP, 2010)
The term “totalitarian” is useful as it well describes the aspirations of polities such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (at least under Stalin). Yet it can also be misleading, for it suggests that totalitarian ambitions were in fact achieved. But they were not, as we can see in... Read More
Joyce Salisbury, “The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages” (Routledge, 2011)
I have three cats. They have names (Fatty, Mini, and Koshka). They live in my house. I feed them, take them to the vet, and love them. When they die, I’ll be really sad. After having read Joyce Salisbury’s eye-opening The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages (Routledge, 2011),... Read More
Nell Irvin Painter, “The History of White People” (Norton, 2010)
We in the West tend to classify people by the color of their skin, or what we casually call “race.” But, as Nell Irvin Painter shows in her fascinating new book The History of White People (Norton, 2010), it wasn’t always so. The Greeks didn’t do it, at least very... Read More
Ian Sample, “Massive: The Missing Particle that Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science” (Basic Books, 2010)
You’ve probably read about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It’s the largest (17 miles around!), most expensive (9 billion dollars!) scientific instrument in history. What’s it do? It accelerates beams of tiny particles (protons) to nearly the speed of light and then smashes them into one another. That’s cool, you... Read More