Author: Rebecca Solnit
Title: A Paradise Built in Hell
Publication Info: Viking Adult (2009)
Previously Read by the Same Author: Wanderlust
Summary/Review: Solnit’s book is built on the hypothesis that times of disasters bring out the best in humanity as people band together to help one another to survive. It’s an optimistic view that runs counter to the usual narrative of self-interest and mob violence but one Solnit illustrates with examples from history including the San Francisco Earthquake, the explosion in Halifax harbor, the London Blitz, the Mexico City earthquake and Hurricane Katrina. In all of these cases ordinary people responded to help one another and build community. The response of governments and authorities in these scenarios is depicted as at best too slow to mobilize to respond to the immediate needs of communities in distress and at worse too ready to treat citizens as criminals through policies such shooting “looters.” Solnit introduces the interesting concept of “elite panic” where the wealthy and power expect chaos and anarchy and thus respond with force where none is needed. Solnit details how this negative view of human nature misinforms public policy in response to disaster and leads to greater suffering. Hurricane Katrina is a particularly horrifying account as authorities were ready to arrest and imprison people rather than offer rescue and relief. Armed white people were able to get away with slaughtering poor black people because of the belief that they were criminals rather than survivors in need of compassion. This book is a must read to gain a better understanding of human nature in both its best and worst elements.
Recommended books: The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Jamaica Plain continued welcoming in the spring with Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum. We took some time to pedal our bikes and sniff the petals. Here are a few photos.
Author: Robert Spector
Title: The mom & pop store : how the unsung heroes of the American economy are surviving and thriving
Publication Info: New York : Walker Pub. Co., c2009.
This Library Thing Early Reviewers free advance review book is a tribute to independent business. Through historical discussion – including the business of the author’s own family – and through case studies of independent shops around the country the author tells the story of the success and importance of “mom & pop stores.” Spector’s writing is an unabashed booster but despite his unbiased approach it remains convincing. Spector also isn’t the best writer, but many of the stories of the individuals, families, and groups who go into business on their own are inspiring.
Recommended books: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008) by Clay Shirky is yet another book about the effect of social networking on the internet. And a pretty good one at that, kind of like Groundswell without the business management emphasis. Shirky’s main point is not so much that new technologies are changing the world, but that they are allowing people to collaborate in ways that weren’t possible before so that they can change societal and cultural norms (and by extension the world). It’s a good and highly-readable summary of what’s going on in the world today.
I found in a Library Thing review this great webibliography of resources related to the book: http://mymindonbooks.com/?page_id=562.
Here comes everybody : the power of organizing without organizations / Clay Shirky.
New York : Penguin Press, 2008.
Following up on Ric Burns’ New York, I read New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (2007) edited by one of the stars of that series Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.
This collection of essays looks back with some nostalgia and some disgust at the City in the 70s, 80s, & 90s. For most of the authors, New York once was full of crime, sex, and drugs, yet the rents were low and the City maintained its own character. Today they sneer that interlopers have moved in, built luxury lofts, priced out everything that made New York unique and replaced it with typical American suburbia. Most of the essayists to some extent sink into insufferable self-importance which makes this book hard to read at times.
There’s a lot of hyperbole, but there’s truth mixed in. And there’s still a lot to love about New York. Each borough gets its own tribute, with the one on Staten Island being the most illuminating since I know little about that area. There are also great stories on graffiti, civil rights, art, rock music, and ethnic foods. If you love New York, this book is worth checking out. If you hate New York, this book isn’t going to change your mind.
New York calling : from blackout to Bloomberg / edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.
Publication Info. London : Reaktion, 2007.
Description 368 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.