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The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia
David E. Hoffman
The Master and Margarita
Mikhail Bulgakov, Diana Burgin, Katherine Tiernan O'Connor
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Arun Gandhi, Marshall B. Rosenberg
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Eric Metaxas, Timothy Keller
Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63
Taylor Branch
The Path to Power
Robert A. Caro
The Nature of Nebraska: Ecology and Biodiversity
Paul A. Johnsgard
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
Robin D.G. Kelley
Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese
Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance - Noam Chomsky

In case you're not familiar, this is the book that Hugo Chavez cited at the UN, the day he was railing against the US and calling Dubya the devil and whatever else. A group here in town was doing kind of an impromptu book-group reading of it, so I thought I'd join in. I knew that few of them had read Chomsky before, and being liberals I wondered what they'd think. Personally, I'm a little ways left of liberal, but I'm not the world's biggest Chomsky fan. Before this one I had read some short stuff from him, seen/heard a few interviews, and read about 2/3 of Manufacturing Consent. That last one, especially, I'm not a fan of. It's propaganda, if you ask me. This is part of my reason for wanting to be in this group, was so that there would be at least one critical voice there.

I was surprised how little the book bothered me, though. It does have those propagandist moments. One of his favorite rhetorical tools, for example, is to choose "just a sample" of world events that illustrate his point on something. But it's so transparent; you can find a set of world events to prove virtually any thesis. Some of his "samples" seem pretty well representative, and others seem to be just the cherries that were ripe enough to serve.

The other thing you always expect from Chomsky, of course, is that he'll thoroughly depress you. Which he did—maybe not "thoroughly," I guess, but there's certainly plenty here to be depressed about. In spite of the page and a half at the end of the book where he says, "But things aren't so bad, because people always try to make the world a better place. The end." There are things to build some hope on, though. He makes an observation early on, for example, about the level of criticism of the war in Iraq. People often compare it to Vietnam, with desperate questions as to why the American public aren't getting as worked up this time around. But the fact is that by the time we were this deep in Vietnam, the public was still hardly taking any notice at all. Lots more people had died on both sides before there was a real public backlash in that case. This time around, there were protests even before the initial invasion.

Still, if you're not already inclined to believe the "positives" to which he appeals and/or alludes, you're going to think the world is going straight to Hell. He does an exhaustive job of detailing the ways. I'm not sure where I am in that regard, so I did find it slightly depressing. But still quite good.