BOOKS

What Karl's reading

After three years preparing The Triumph of William McKinley by reading very little but books, letters, articles and newspapers from the Gilded Age, I’m trying to get back into my regular routine, which I’ll chronicle here with an occasional review of what I’ve read.

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A disappointment.  After an odd nine-page preface that opens with a Robert F. Kennedy 1968 speech about the notion of GDP, there are 121 herky-jerky pages on how an Italian monk and Venetian merchants used Arabic numerals and Greek math to construct the rudiments of modern accounting.  One hundred and twenty-two pages follow on how accounting has contributed to the decline of the planet and the growth of rapacious capitalism, while hiding the fact that the true cost of a Big Mac is $200.  No kidding.  I’ll look for a better volume on the same topic and report later.

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This is a wonderful, brisk exploration by a talented historian of the Civil War’s first year.  Adam Goodheart tells the story of America’s descent into conflict through sketches of memorable characters who may be unfamiliar now, but who were very well known to the country then.  These include the commandant of Fort Sumner, the young military officer whose tragic death plunged President Abraham Lincoln into despair, and the three slaves whose escape to freedom helped alter public opinion in the North and seal the fate of the South’s “peculiar institution.”  This is a great read.    

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Horowitz and Laskin have penned a sharply worded, deeply informed expose of the powerful, very wealthy network of liberal foundations that's spending hundreds of millions to reshape America's politics, culture and economic structure.

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I don't read much fiction but the stories, tales and essays of the Argentinan fabulist, Jorge Luis Borges, are worth reading and re-reading, as I did when I picked up a new collection of his work EVERYTHING AND NOTHING (NEW DIRECTIONS PEARLS), with stories drawn mostly from FICCIONES (English Translation).


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