The Insurgents, by Fred Kaplan
Right after slipping out of the tabloids, General David Petraeus has slipped into hardbacks with Fred Kaplan’s new recountal of Petraeus’ handling of the Iraq and Afghan wars. There is no mention of the extramarital affairs that sent Petraeus into the media spotlight. Instead, Kaplan portrays Petraeus as a pensive, scheming general, comfortable in the shadow of the Commander in Chief and uncomfortable to serve as the head of a group of Pentagon bureaucrats looking to re-imagine America’s approach towards counter-terrorism and nation building . The outcome of this group was Petraeus’ COIN or the “counterinsurgency” method, a set of military values so widely disavowed that even war hawks now blush at them. Kaplan argues that the method was actually an accomplishment given the mediocre military climate predating Bush’s second term. Otherwise, Kaplan’s book serves to remind us of the real consequences Patraeus begot; not the ones that recently made headlines.
Agenda 21, by Glenn Beck & Harriet Parke
Glenn Beck, the Paul Revere of delusional, right wing alarmism, has attached a name and an ideology to a story with which he has no business. Originally the book was the brainchild of Sarah Cypher, a blogger for the website Salon, but Beck slipped his and his lawyers’ cards into the deck, proclaiming him and Harriet Parke the books’ procreators. In fact, Parke wrote the 277 pages that constitute the novel while Beck only wrote the 18 page afterward. Beck’s generous contribution adds the power-closer to a plot that explores a dystopian society called “The Republic” — the consequence of the ratification of the UN’s voluntary action plan for sustainable development (Agenda 21). Although inaction over globalization, inequality and climate change may provide a more dystopian landscape, Parke and Beck seem comfortable citing Agenda 21 as a harbinger of a grave new world and exhausting the Orwellian, Ayn Rand totalitarian plot fixtures to decorate their new, uninventive work of fiction.
Total Frat Move, by W.R. Bolen
While Cornell puts breaks on Greek life’s mobility this semester, Total Frat Move, a collection of outlandish fraternity tales has surged to third on The New York Times Bestseller List. The book takes the “best of” the popular website TotalFratMove.com and reads like a Tucker Max confessional. The stories champion and (half-heartedly) satirize the new, heavy-drinking nihilism of American “Bro” culture while raging through protagonist Townes Prescott’s years in college. W. R. Bolen writes the stories that typify “frat”culture and emphasize macho movement over inhibition.
The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, by Al Gore
If there is a new word to describe a threat facing our globe, Al Gore is most likely to coin it. The Future outlines the major factors contributing to the growing threat of “Global Change,” a phrase that encompasses climate change and its menacing allies (globalization, depletion of natural resources, the digital revolution, etc.). Contributing to them, Gore cites the threats in the corporate takeover of the public sphere, diminution of dissent in the media (a la Paul Goodman/Noam Chomsky) and business propaganda. The Future and Obama’s inaugural address couple to outline a new liberal consciousness of incoming crises, albeit Gore’s 592-page hardcover has more freedom to elaborate and editorialize.
My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court provided a forum for the nation’s attitudes on judicial and affirmative action. During that discussion, many debated her principles, qualifications and sought hints of her politics from her life story. In My Beloved World, you’ll find out all about her life story — minus the politics. Sotomayor’s autobiography explores her rise from neglected child of an absentee mom and alcoholic father in the South Bronx to her initiation into Justice Souter’s old chair. The chapters in-between include commentary on how she grew to “listen carefully and observe until [she] figured things out.” Many have argued that her sensitivity to situations around her reveals that she is incapable of weighing empathy versus the law but no one can argue her impeccable balancing act of ambition and selflessness.