Another decade of books from late 2012, spanning the period October 14 through November 22, 2012.
Title: Lancaster Against York: The Wars of the Roses and the Foundation of Modern Britain, by Trevor Royle
Completed: October 14, 2012 (#71)
A creditable survey of a convoluted period. For those wishing to check “Learn how the Wars of the Roses got started” off the old bucket list:
Seen from the distance of the modern period, the Wars of the Roses seem inchoate and barely fathomable as even their antecedents were spread over several lifetimes. At the heart of the conflict was the dynastic dispute that divided the Royal House of Plantagenet, England’s ruling family since 1154, the year of the accession of its founder King Henry II, the eldest son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. By the reign of Richard II, who succeeded to the throne in 1377 while still a boy, the Plantagenet succession was in trouble as the king struggled to keep his nobles in check and found himself under threat from his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, eldest son of John of Gaunt, King Edward III’s third son. In 1399, having failed to exert himself and having thoroughly alarmed the nobles with his weakness and vacillation, Richard was forced to abdicate in favor of Bolingbroke, who promptly had him imprisoned at Pontefract—where he died—to cement the claims of the House of Lancaster. It was not the first time in history that the English throne had been disputed or that kings had been forced to fight for their crowns. Richard’s great-grandfather, Edward II, was an inadequate ruler who antagonized the nobility and was deposed by his wife Isabella and murdered in 1327. Further back, Henry II’s son John plunged the country into an unnecessary war with his barons in 1215. What made the struggle for the Plantagenet succession so awkward and so bruising was that it brought two rival and powerful families and their supporters—the House of Lancaster, represented by Henry Bolingbroke’s line, and the claims of his kinsman Richard, Duke of York—into direct confrontation. Both lines were descended from King Edward III, and by the early part of the fifteenth century, when Bolingbroke’s ineffective grandson Henry VI was on the throne, the scene was set for a tumultuous power struggle only one house could win.
* * *
Title: Mugged: Racial Demogoguery from the Seventies to Obama, by Ann Coulter
Date: October 18, 2012 (#72)
“The better part of / valor is discretion; in the which better part I / have saved my life.”
I read this on audiobook whilst on an international flight and hereby register the fact for posterity.
* * *
Title: The Lions of Lucerne, by Brad Thor
Date: October 23, 2012 (#73)
A spy potboiler requiring somewhat more suspension of disbelief than the average Hollywood thriller and somewhat less than the collected œuvre of Dan Brown.
* * *
Title: The Price of Politics, by Bob Woodward
Date: October 27, 2012 (#74)
Another installment in Mr. Woodward’s chronicles in high-level access. In the news once again due to its insights into the origin of the Great Sequester of 2013. Readers will not regret reading the book, pace White House press flacks.
* * *
Title: I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism, by Charles R. Kesler
Date: October 28, 2012 (#75)
What is the opposite of hagiography?
Prof. Kesler’s offering is a more erudite contribution to the swelling stack of books on the ur-history of President Obama’s political philosophy.
For a taste, this passage passes for relatively charitable in this genre:
Still, the President is not a self-proclaimed socialist—nor like Wallace, a self-deceived fellow traveler or worse. Obama never went so far, so openly—whether out of inertia, political calculation, or good sense—and therefore never had to make a public apostasy. As a result, we know less about his evolving views than we might like, though probably more than he would like. He calls himself a progressive or liberal, and we should take him at his word, at least until we encounter a fatal contradiction. That’s only reasonable and fair; and it avoids the desperate shortcut, gratifying as it may be, of unmasking him as—take your pick—a third-world daddy’s boy, Alinskyist agitator, deep-cover Muslim, or undocumented alien. Conservatives, of all people, should know to beware instant gratification, especially when it comes wrapped in a conspiracy theory. In any case, hypocrisy, as Rochefoucauld wrote, is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, and Obama seems to think it would be a virtuous thing to have been a lifelong liberal, even if he wasn’t. And so the question arises: what does it mean anymore to be a liberal?
* * *
Title: The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Date: November 7, 2012 (#76)
Needless to introduce this great twentieth century classic. However, our Readers may not be familiar with the superb audiobook version featuring Rob Inglis. Mr. Inglis’s performance is a tour de force, replete with dozens of individuated character voices and received Elvish pronunciation. He even sings Tolkien’s poetry, some of which was set to music by the author himself. The audiobooks are available quite cheaply via Audible.com.
* * *
Title: The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform–Why We Need It and What It Will Take, by Bruce Bartlett
Date: November 8, 2012 (#77)
A cri de cœur from a supply-side foot soldier of the Reagan Revolution, disillusioned by the irrational fiscal policies of subsequent administrations. Mr. Bartlett deviates dramatically from today’s conservative orthodoxy, on balance arguing that solutions to the national debt crisis lie more on the revenue than the spending side of the ledger:
The problem we have today is that there has been a serious divergence between the size of government that people want and what they are willing to pay for. The idea that deficits are an irresponsible passing on of debt to future generations is no longer sufficient to support a tax system capable of raising adequate revenue to finance current spending. Nor is there the political will to cut spending to the level people are willing to pay. At the same time, no one believes this trend is sustainable.
* * *
Title: Most Wanted, by John Sedgwick and Thomas J. Foley
Date: November 11, 2012 (#78)
A memoir of Thomas J. Foley, the man who more than any other pursued the notorious Boston racketeer and gangster, Whitey Bulger. A fair bit of “inside baseball” from a former state trooper, with plenty of turf battles with FBI G-men.
* * *
Title: The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Date: November 19, 2012 (#79)
Another tremendous audiobook performance by Rob Inglis. See supra.
* * *
Title: The Higher Education Bubble, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
Date: November 22, 2012 (#80)
From the Encounter Broadsides series, the brainchild of Roger Kimball of New Criterion fame. Each volume in the series is designed to be readable on the shuttle flight from New York to Washington. Having read a few now, I find the series quite engaging and just the right length for a cogent political argument. A welcome addition to our political discourse.