Giancarlo Casale, “The Ottoman Age of Exploration” (Oxford UP, 2010)
You’ve probably heard of the “Age of Exploration.” You know, Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Columbus, etc., etc. But actually that was the European Age of Exploration (and really it wasn’t even that, because the people who lived in what we now call “Europe” didn’t think of themselves as... Read More
Kenneth Moss, “Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution” (Harvard UP, 2010)
For us, every “nation” has and has always had a “culture,” meaning a defining set of folkways, customs, and styles that is different from every other. But like the modern understanding of the word “nation,” this idea of “culture” or “a culture” is not very old. According to the OED,... Read More
Lesley Hazleton, “After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split” (Doubleday, 2009)
Sometimes a shallow explanation, the kind you read in newspapers and hear on television, is enough. “The home team was beaten at the buzzer” is probably all you need to know. Sometimes, however, it’s not. The intermittent conflict between the Shias and Sunnis in Iraq (and elsewhere) provides a good... Read More
Kip Kosek, “Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy” (Columbia UP, 2010)
There’s a quip that goes “Christianity is probably a great religion. Someone should really try it.” The implication, of course, is that most people who call themselves Christians aren’t very Christian at all. And, in truth, it’s hard to be a good Christian, what with all that loving your enemies,... Read More
Jerry Muller, “Capitalism and the Jews” (Princeton UP, 2010)
I confess I was attracted to this book by the title: Capitalism and the Jews (Princeton, 2010). Capitalism is a touchy subject; Jews are a touchy subject. But capitalism and the Jews, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. I don’t suggest you try this, but just imagine what would happen... Read More
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