Since the Club is having a fundraiser at the Village Well bookstore in Culver City this weekend, we asked our members to recommend political books they think their friends and/or fellow members would like. Here they are. We hope to get a good turnout at Village Well this weekend. It’s a great bookstore and they have amazing coffee.
Julie Bernard – “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron (or anything else by Pema Chodron)
She’s an American Buddhist nun (who occasionally swears). With a 21st century application of Buddhist principles, she inspires you to confront your deeper self in order to navigate the chaos of the world and make peace with the groundlessness of life.
Alex Fisch – “Man of Tomorrow: The Relentless Life of Jerry Brown” by Jim Newton
Informed by many interviews, a deep archival dive, and a solid grasp of California history, Newton is an incisive biographer. And, beyond being one of California’s most consequential governors, Jerry Brown is a fascinating subject. The result is an engaging read that reveals as much about California as it does the former seminarian, college trustee, Secretary of State, Governor, California Democratic Party Chair, Mayor, Attorney General, and Governor (again).
Jeff Schwartz – “The Genius of the System” by Thomas Schatz
In the 1960s, French critics promoted the auteur theory: that the director was the author of a movie, and celebrated individual geniuses who developed strong personal voices within the studio system, like John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. Schatz’s history of the studio system makes a case against auteur theory, restoring the essential roles of everyone from writers to studio heads in shaping classic films. Much of this story unfolds in Culver City so, without intending to, Schatz has written one of the essential books on our city’s development.
Leah Pressman and Jeff Schwartz – “Counter Intelligence” by Jonathon Gold
Gold is the only food writer to win a Pulitzer Prize and this is his only book. While restaurant reviews may seem as ephemeral as the meals they describe, gathered together these tell a new story of Los Angeles through food and the people who brought it here. They are also sometimes very funny.
Tad Daley – “Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza” and its sequel “State of the Union” by Kitty Felde
My favorite political books are a pair of mystery novels for middle-school readers. Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza and its sequel State of the Union. Only in small part because they were written by my favorite wife, Kitty Felde! Kitty was a long-time public radio journalist for KPCC, KCRW, and NPR, and was named three times by her peers as “Los Angeles Radio Journalist of the Year.” Now her great passion is kid literacy and civics education. Fina is the ten-year-old daughter of Arturo Mendoza, a Democratic congressman from Southern California. She roams around the secret passageways of the U.S. Capitol, solves riddles various, and teaches middle-school readers all about government and politics and the U.S. Constitution along the way. The books (and accompanying podcast) have received high praise and blurbs from Republican members of Congress David Dreier and Buck McKeon, Democratic members of Congress Linda Sanchez and Adam Schiff, and many others. You can read all about it at www.kittyfelde.com, and our own Village Well bookstore should have copies. If they’re out please ask them to order them for you!
Jeanne Black – “We Are Not One: A History of America’s Fight Over Israel,” by Eric Alterman
I bought this book in January 2023, after reading a brief review in the December 26, 2022 New Yorker. The author is a journalist and CUNY Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College; he earned a PhD in American history with a minor in Jewish studies from Stanford. His book is a deeply researched history of the debate about Israel within the United States; it is not about Israel or the Palestinians, per se. How did the U.S., whose Jews comprised less than 4% of the population in the 1940s, and which was increasingly dependent on Middle Eastern oil, become the first country to recognize Israel as an independent state? How did AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) come to support the election of dozens of Republican Congressional candidates in 2022 who denied President Biden’s election victory? Why do older American Jews, including Democrats, equate anti-Zionism with antisemitism, while younger Jews recognize that Amnesty International has documented Israel as an apartheid state in its treatment of Palestinians? Is Israel an actual place to American Jews and Christians, or is it a myth and their support an expression of identity politics? Alterman ends his book by reflecting on Joan Didion’s 2002 comment that Americans seem incapable of discussing the U.S. relationship with Israel with any intellectual subtlety. He writes “I have tried to tell the story of why that is, and why it matters, not just for Israel and for American Jews, but for the sake of civil discourse upon which all hopes for democracy must finally rest.” After October 7, 2023, we need this understanding more than ever.
Haifaa Al-Moammar – “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes” by Amin Maalouf
This book explains the nontrust issue between the current Arab Muslim world and the West. Given the current war in Gaza and the occupation of Palestine by what is considered a West proxy, aka, Israel this book hopefully will bring some understanding to current issues in the Western Mediterranean Arab world. Maalouf emphasizes the periods of relative tolerance and coexistence between different religious and cultural groups in the Middle Ages. I especially enjoy the author’s writing style: simple, rich in narrative, a man
Haifaa Al-Moammar – “Circe” by Madeline Miller
This novel is a page-turner- and a well-crafted novel that breathes new life into Greek mythology. Circe is depicted as a feminist and independent figure. It explains her myth from her point of view. I highly recommend getting the audible copy, the narration was sublime.
Haifaa Al-Moammar – “America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier” by Robert Vitalis
Explores the historical relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, with a particular focus on the American oil industry’s presence in the Arabian Peninsula.
This book challenges simplistic views and offers a more intricate understanding of the dynamics at play in the Middle East. It explains the socio-political dynamics within Saudi Arabia, clarifying the internal power struggles and the impact of American involvement on the local population. It analyzes the role of American oil companies in shaping the economic and political landscape of Saudi Arabia. He discusses how corporate interests influenced policy decisions on both sides.
There is much more to this important book and my summary is not doing it much justice.
Haifaa Al-Moammar – “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez
The novel is set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when cholera outbreaks were a real threat. The cholera outbreak in the novel disrupts social norms and structures, creating a backdrop for the characters’ personal struggles. The Covid pandemic has similarly disrupted social structures, challenging traditional ways of life and prompting a reevaluation of society’s priorities. The cholera threat reflects the constant presence of mortality, influencing the characters’ decisions and perspectives on life. The Covid pandemic has prompted a global reflection on mortality, with individuals and societies confronting the fragility of life and the importance of meaningful connections.