More books

Have some more book reviews, since I’m putting off what I should be doing today

Tony Judt, Postwar: a history of Europe since 1945. Deserves its near-universally favourable reviews. Yes, it’s big – but honestly, this is the minimum size that could get beyond reciting common knowledge. Not that Judt has particularly unorthodox views; his analysis seems mostly what you’d expect from a centre-left American Europhile. So he becomes most passionate attacking the acceptable targets of French critical theory, although he mixes snark with accounts of how history, economics and politics combined to make it that way. Also – something that matters greatly in this kind of ‘encyclopaedic’ history – the index is excellent.

Douglas Adams, The salmon of doubt Posthumously-published collection of bits and pieces, packed out with a prologue, forword and epilogue. The rest of the text is a jumble of interviews, newspaper articles, and fragments, often repeating the same jokes and ideas in different contexts. Adams is still funny and insightful in places, but the book is mostly tedious.

Jon Ronson, Them: adventures with extremists. Ronson mingles with Klansmen, conspiracy theorists, and extremists, and lets their warped logic speak for itself. Hilarious – but there’s also a lot of excellent reporting here. His portraits of the extremists are amused and often horrified, but also sympathetic and aware that sometimes their most ridiculous ideas turn out to have some basis in fact. Ronsons later book, The men who stare at goats, on occultists in the US military, is even better.

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