FCDW Book Club News:
The FCDW book club reads and discusses timely and relevant books. We meet the 4th Thurs of each month at the FC Library. Please feel free to join us even if you haven’t had the opportunity to read the book.
Nov. Book Club is the 5th Thurs (29th) and we will not meet in Dec.
We select books a couple months in advance, and welcome member suggestions. Please let us know your ideas for 2019.
November 2018: The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It
Two core components of liberal democracy—individual rights and the popular will—are increasingly at war with each other. As the role of money in politics soared and important issues were taken out of public contestation, a system of “rights without democracy” took hold. Populists who rail against this say they want to return power to the people. But in practice they create something just as bad: a system of “democracy without rights.” The consequence, as Yascha Mounk shows in this brilliant and timely book, is that trust in politics is dwindling. Citizens are falling out of love with their political system. Democracy is wilting away. Drawing on vivid stories and original research, Mounk identifies three key drivers of voters’ discontent: stagnating living standards, fear of multiethnic democracy, and the rise of social media. To reverse the trend, politicians need to enact radical reforms that benefit the many, not the few.
The People vs. Democracy is the first book to describe both how we got here and what we need to do now. For those unwilling to give up either individual rights or the concept of the popular will, Mounk argues that urgent action is needed, as this may be our last chance to save democracy.
October 2018: The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels
Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day. Painting surprising portraits of Lincoln and other presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and illuminating the courage of such influential citizen activists as Martin Luther King, Jr., early suffragettes Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt, civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and John Lewis, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Army-McCarthy hearings lawyer Joseph N. Welch, Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history.
He writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause; the backlash against immigrants in the First World War and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; the fight for women’s rights; the demagoguery of Huey Long and Father Coughlin and the isolationist work of America First in the years before World War II; the anti-Communist witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy; and Lyndon Johnson’s crusade against Jim Crow. Each of these dramatic hours in our national life have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear—a struggle that continues even now.
September 2018: It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America
Bestselling author and longtime Trump observer David Cay Johnston shines a light on the political termites who have infested our government under the Trump Administration, destroying it from within and compromising our jobs, safety, finances, and more.
No journalist knows Donald Trump better than David Cay Johnston, who has been following him since 1988. It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America goes inside the administration to show how the federal agencies that touch the lives of all Americans are being undermined.
Under Donald Trump conflict of interest is passé. When Trump isn’t in Washington, he stays at one of his properties, where the taxpayers pick up the tab for staffers, Secret Service, and so on, all at full price. And back in Washington, everyone now knows that the Trump International Hotel is the only place to stay if you want to do business with the administration. Meanwhile sons Donald Jr. and Eric run an eyes-wide-open blind trust of Trump holdings to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest—but not the reality.
August 2018 Selection: Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump
The incredible, harrowing account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow as part of a covert operation to influence the U.S. election and help Donald Trump gain the presidency.
RUSSIAN ROULETTE is a story of political skullduggery unprecedented in American history. It weaves together tales of international intrigue, cyber espionage, and superpower rivalry. After U.S.-Russia relations soured, as Vladimir Putin moved to reassert Russian strength on the global stage, Moscow trained its best hackers and trolls on U.S. political targets and exploited WikiLeaks to disseminate information that could affect the 2016 election.
The Russians were wildly successful and the great break-in of 2016 was no “third-rate burglary.” It was far more sophisticated and sinister — a brazen act of political espionage designed to interfere with American democracy. At the end of the day, Trump, the candidate who pursued business deals in Russia, won. And millions of Americans were left wondering, what the hell happened? This story of high-tech spying and multiple political feuds is told against the backdrop of Trump’s strange relationship with Putin and the curious ties between members of his inner circle — including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn — and Russia.
June 2018 Selection: A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership
In his book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.
Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.
April 2018 Selection: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
“This sixty-year campaign to make libertarianism mainstream and eventually take the government itself is at the heart of Democracy in Chains. . . . If you’re worried about what all this means for America’s future, you should be” – NPR
An explosive exposé of the right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and change the Constitution.
Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.
March 2018 Selection: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
With extraordinary access to the West Wing, Michael Wolff reveals what happened behind-the-scenes in the first nine months of the most controversial presidency of our time in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.C
Since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, the country?and the world?has witnessed a stormy, outrageous, and absolutely mesmerizing presidential term that reflects the volatility and fierceness of the man elected Commander-in-Chief.
Feb 2018 Selection: Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream
Dreamers is a movement book for the generation brought to the United States as children—and now fighting to live here legally
Of the approximately twelve million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, as many as two million came as children. They grow up here, going to elementary, middle, and high school, and then the country they call home won’t—in most states—offer financial aid for college and they’re unable to be legally employed. In 2001, US senator Dick Durbin introduced the DREAM Act to Congress, an initiative that would allow these young people to become legal residents if they met certain requirements.
And now, more than ten years later, in the face of congressional inertia and furious opposition from some, the DREAM Act has yet to be passed. But recently, this young generation has begun organizing, and with their rallying cry “Undocumented, Unapologetic, and Unafraid” they are the newest face of the human rights movement. In Dreamers, Eileen Truax illuminates the stories of these men and women who are living proof of a complex and sometimes hidden political reality that calls into question what it truly means to be American.
Jan 2018 Selection: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
Note: Since this book was selected, Sen. Franken has admitted to sexual harassment & this will be a part of our discussion in Jan.
In many ways, Al Franken is the perfect interlocutor for this odd current moment, with its attendant Kathy Griffin press conferences and presidential gripes at Rosie O’Donnell and Onion headlines come true. When it’s hard to distinguish between a real Senate hearing and Saturday Night Live, get you a man who can do both. Franken, a 15-year veteran of the NBC comedy show, and, most recently, a two-term U.S. senator from Minnesota, certainly has some insight into the contemporary era of dysfunction. Or, as he succinctly summarizes it late in Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, his seventh book, “Lately, things have been trending crapshow.”
The most remarkable thing about Giant of the Senate, though, is how neatly (and disconcertingly) it fuses two completely disparate genres: polemical comedy and political memoir.
Nov. 2017 Selection: The Case for Impeachment by Allan J. Lichtman
Professor Allan J. Lichtman, who has correctly forecasted thirty years of presidential outcomes, makes the case for impeaching the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
In the fall of 2016, Distinguished Professor of History at American University Allan Lichtman made headlines when he predicted that Donald J. Trump would defeat the heavily favored Democrat, Hillary Clinton, to win the presidential election.
Now, in clear, nonpartisan terms, Lichtman lays out the reasons Congress could remove Trump from the Oval Office: his ties to Russia before and after the election, the complicated financial conflicts of interest at home and abroad, and his abuse of executive authority.
The Case for Impeachment also offers a fascinating look at presidential impeachments throughout American history, including the often-overlooked story of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, details about Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Bill Clinton’s hearings. Lichtman shows how Trump exhibits many of the flaws (and more) that have doomed past presidents. As the Nixon Administration dismissed the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as “character assassination” and “a vicious abuse of the journalistic process,” Trump has attacked the “dishonest media,” claiming, “the press should be ashamed of themselves.”
Historians, legal scholars, and politicians alike agree: we are in politically uncharted waters—the durability of our institutions is being undermined and the public’s confidence in them is eroding, threatening American democracy itself.
Sept 2017 Selection: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?
In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by a network of some of the richest people on the planet and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.
August 2017 Selection: Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam
A groundbreaking examination of the growing inequality gap from the bestselling author of Bowling Alone: why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility. It’s the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. This is the America we believe in—a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last twenty-five years we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. Now, this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.
June Selection: This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class by Elizabeth Warren.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been at the forefront of progressive politics over the last year. Warren sees Trump’s rise as part of a larger narrative of economic inequality in this country. She argues that the government’s lack of investment in the middle class created the conditions “where Donald Trump could deliver the knockout blow.”
“Are we just going to let Donald Trump and these Republicans in Washington just totally turn our government over to those with money and power?” Warren asks. “The rich and the powerful have been running our government for about 35 years now, and they have really made it work great for those at the top — for everyone else, not so much so. What I argue in this book is it is time for the rest of us to fight back, all of us, and that we can do it, and we can make our voices heard.”
May 2017 selection: An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal
Health care is a trillion-dollar industry in America, but are we getting what we pay for? Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, a medical journalist who formerly worked as a medical doctor, warns that the existing system too often focuses on financial incentives over health or science.
“We’ve trusted a lot of our health care to for-profit businesses and it’s their job, frankly, to make profit,” Rosenthal says. “You can’t expect them to act like Mother Teresas.”
Rosenthal’s new book, An American Sickness, examines the deeply rooted problems of the existing health-care system and also offers suggestions for a way forward. She notes that under the current system, it’s far more lucrative to provide a lifetime of treatments than a cure.