A Nineteenth Century Donald Trump

Historian Joanne Freeman has a great op-ed in the New York Times today about early 19th century political grandstanding.

“…the swaggering threat, the mocking taunt, the over-the-top insult” – This sounds like Donald Trump, but she’s actually describing Congressman Henry A. Wise – who benefited from his outrageousness and served six terms from 1833 and 1844. Six!

“Then as now, raising hackles before the eyes of the press was a play for power; politicians who displayed their fighting-man spunk were strutting their suitability as leaders,” writes Freeman. So if you think election politics are worse than ever…take heart. It’s an American tradition.

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Summer Reading

I have several books on my list to read this summer.

I love books. If I go into a bookstore, I’m going to leave with at least two books, even if I had just planned to “look”. I have a Kindle, and, while it has its benefits – especially while traveling, I’m still buying books. I hoard them and am very reluctant to give them away even if I don’t plan on reading them again. There is something about having a thick book in my hands. If I’m in the middle of a particularly good book, I take a minute to flip through the unread pages like a deck of cards with a sense of excitement for what’s ahead. As for genres, I love biographies, historical fiction, historical nonfiction, general nonfiction about the quirks of the world.

Anyway… here is what I am looking forward to reading this summer. In hard copy.

The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and A World On Fire

By Neil Irwin (Nonfiction)

This could be billed as the sequel to The Lords of Finance. I just started The Alchemists a few weeks ago and read The Lords of Finance earlier this year. I keep thinking about how similar the two books are. Like Ahamed, Irwin describes a financial through the lens of key central bankers. This time, the focus is the financial crisis that began in 2007, and he describes how they worked together to attempt to stem the panic and stabilize the global financial system. The personal details of the book are what really remind me of The Lords of Finance, and create a compelling story. I’m enjoying it so far and hope to have a full review up on the blog later this summer.

Life After Life

By Kate Atkinson (Fiction)

I’ve already started nearly finished this book. I’ve been talking about it non-stop to everyone I know. Without giving anything away, it takes place primarily in the UK and the story begins in 1910 and winds its way through the World Wars. It has some fascinating insights to everyday life during the wars, particularly World War II. But the best part is, every once in a while the author hits rewind, and the story starts again and goes in a different direction. If you are a history fan, the way this author grapples with the “what-ifs” is just fascinating. I have already decided that I have to read this one again.

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

By Denise Kiernan (Nonfiction)

I have a feeling I’ll be talking about this book to everyone I know, too. Working women, World War II, with some secrets to boot. Definitely my type of story. The author interviewed several women who unknowingly worked on enriching uranium  in a small Tennessee town and pieced together this story detailing a little known part of the Manhattan Project’s history.   The fact that these women had no idea what they were collectively working on – each one worked on their own small part of the process under sworn secrecy – just astounds me. I can’t wait to read it. The Daily Show had a great interview with the author – you can check it out here.

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

By Michael Lewis (Nonfiction)

I read Lewis’ book, The Big Short, a few years ago and I think it was the only thing that managed to describe the implosion of the subprime mortgage market  in a format that was readable and interesting, not just jargon.  Boomerang came out in 2011, and I have been wanting to read it ever since, but somehow I am just getting around to it. Boomerang is based on articles Lewis wrote for Vanity Fair and looks at the global credit crisis of the 2000s. I loved Lewis’ Vanity Fair pieces and recommend this one on Greece if you don’t want to read the whole book.

Hard Times

By Charles Dickens (Fiction)

I’m a big fan of Dickens. The image of Miss Havisham and that creepy uneaten wedding cake has stuck with me since I first read Great Expectations in the 8th grade. I’m looking forward to reading Hard Times with a close eye on Dickens’ critique of the Victorian society and the problems that came with the rise of industrialism. Dickens was known to be very outspoken on economic and political issues of the time, and this book, published in 1854, is another example of the link between literature and economics – one which I can’t wait to start. I’m hoping to do a post on the economic symbolism of the book later this summer.

So there it is.  I expect a few more books might pop in here and there throughout the summer, but this is a good start. You can follow me on Goodreads to see my progress and check out short book reviews.

What are you reading this summer? Any books I need to add to my list?

Downton Abbey: Rigid Class Divide a Century Later

Another Downton post coming tomorrow, but for the moment, check out this thoughtful piece in The New York Times on class issues, then and now.

“But shocking though it is for a chauffeur to marry into a post-Edwardian estate, can you imagine an American cab driver tying the knot with a Hilton, a Rockefeller or a hedge fund manager’s daughter?”

Timothy Egan provides thoughtful analysis linking Downton to the current class divide in the US and advocates education as a way to combat class stagnation today.

Definitely worth thinking over.

For more on the rigid social structure and social mobility trends in the Downton era, check out my earlier post.

Great Planet Money Episode

I loved this latest Planet Money episode: Why Coke Cost A Nickel for 70 Years.

We listened to it while making dinner and then kept listening to it while eating because it was just so interesting. And I hate having things on during dinner.

Some reasons why the price stayed the same were obvious- others were not.  Also, it was reminder to really read contracts before you sign them.

Intrigued? Check it out!