Author: Lydia Cacho
Date Finished: January 9
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Review: Some books are such that we do not love them so much as we need to read them. This is one of those books. Here Lydia Cacho presents some sobering truths about the global sex slave trade with specific emphasis on how our governments and many corporations are complicit in this modern day tragedy. She begins like David Batstone does in Not For Sale by moving place to place weaving heart rending stories with regional statistics and trends. In si chapters she covers Turkey, Israel, Japan, Cambodia, Burma, and then Argentina/Mexico pulling you in with heart breaking personal stories and then knocking you out by revealing how this story is repeated tens if not hundreds of thousands of times and how local and international governments are complicit in allowing (or even aiding) its perpetuation over and over again. She then turns in the next portion of the book to show how specific groups or organizations serve to continue this crime. She talks about the clients, the pimps, and the mafia’s involvement but also the banks and the militaries (with specific focus on American, Japanese, and Thai forces)
What I loved in this book most is how she would often highlight specific groups that are on the ground fighting the herculean effort against this human tragedy. What I did not like is that throughout the book there was very little of how we, the reader, can help where we are at right now. She does have a portion of her appendix cover some practical things but even then most of the ideas are no more than common sense. I appreciate this appendix but I would have loved to see the same things weaved into her narrative as well.
Also, there are no footnotes and there is no bibliography. While most of the individual stories and interviews are her own and I understand the desire to protect those people’s privacy, I would have loved to be able to do further research into many of the numbers and statistics she also uses or to read deeper into some of the geopolitical problems she highlights.
Author: Edward Burger and Michael Starbird
Date Finished: January 25
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Review: Burger and Starbird co write an excellent book on what I view as an essential lack in modern contemporary society. More and more of our society, including many supposedly well educated individuals do not seem to have even the most basic ability to think well. Rather than harp on this problem as I would, they use natural elements as touch points to set down what they view as key view as the way towards more effective thinking. Those are:
Earth – Embrace a deeper understanding of the most basic concepts.
Fire – Fail, and learn from your mistakes.
Air – Ask challenging questions.
Water – Watch the flow of ideas.
The fifth element is that the only unchanging fact of the universe is that it is always changing.
Each of these concepts is broken down into smaller elements with plenty of illustrations and practical application steps. All of these are great but my only complaint is that I seem to keep seeing the same illustrations popping up in similar type of books. For example, both Edison’s light bulb and Newton’s apples are used to show that “aha” moments are never truly that. The Accidental Creative, another book that I read a couple years back, used the same two examples to say the exact thing. The creation of Post It was used here and also in Made To Stick, or was it the Tipping Point, either way I heard it before. They are all great illustrations but it seems all these self help gurus tend to dip from the same well.
Author: Jennifer Michael Hecht
Date Finished: January 28
Rating: 1 of 5 stars (if that)
Review: This book is a lie.
When I first pulled it off my (virtual) shelf and started to read it, I was expecting to read an Armstrong or MacCulloch like history of Doubt. I was expecting to read of great thinkers who challenged the way those around them viewed their world and in the process brought about change and innovation. I don’t know why I would expect this… maybe the title? What a red herring. Honestly I don’t remember if she gave a definition of doubt at the beginning. It doesn’t matter, because throughout she equates doubt with atheism and the more anti religious a person was (or rather, as she could twist them into seeming), the greater of a doubter they were.
At first things didn’t seem all that bad. She opened up with working her way through the Greek philosophers and she showed how each rejected the beliefs of those a generation before. It did seem a bit inconsistent because she was praising people for rejecting the very beliefs she was praising others for just a few pages back. This intellectual inconsistency became even more glaring when she moved on to the Romans. She spends a large chunk of her time focusing on two individuals: Cicero and Lucretius. She goes to great lengths to show how great Cicero was for bashing Epicureanism and then in the very next moment she lauds Lucretius to the heavens for composing an epic poem delineating the “doubting” world view of Epicurus. Huh?
Things get even worse when she moves from the Greco-Roman past into the Judeo Christian one. Most of her time on early Jewish thought is spent cherry picking her way through the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. To be fair, this is probably exactly where I would have zeroed in too, but she willfully ignores the main thrust of each of these books. In Job she doesn’t even once mention the fact that he is doubting the justice of God, not God Himself. In Ecclesiastes she doesn’t bother to recognize that the entire book is structured to record the writings of the “teacher” who works his way through his doubts to find faith. Her propagandist dishonesty continues into the beginnings of the church era where she goes to great lengths to “doubt” the veracity of the gospels because they were written decades after the events they describe and then turns right around and relates the martyrdom of Hypatia (a pagan supposedly killed by Christians). She describes the story as is without “doubting” it one bit even though it was written more than five centuries after the event it purports to describe.
Once Hecht moves into the early Medieval Era she equates doubt directly with the Greek philosophy she praised Cicero for criticizing and yet doesn’t even to bother to share the fact that it is the lowly “believing” monks she cannot bring herself to say one good thing about who are faithfully preserving and copying these very same writings so that they are not lost to history and we can enjoy them today.
In moving eastward, she gives a description of the early Muslim intellectual movement and especially the Mutazilites and Falsafah that is vastly different from what I read of them in The Closing of the Muslim Mind. I am not read enough yet to critique it beyond that except to comment on what she says of al-Ghazzali. He is probably the most influential Muslim thinker outside Muhammad himself and is the greatest reason why Islamic fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism is so prevalent to this day. He started out as a Falsafah (a skeptic or rationalist) but left that to become the first true fundamentalist and author of The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Without any giving cause to defend her stance Hecht blames his sudden conversion on a nervous breakdown. It couldn’t possibly be because he began to doubt his earlier atheism, now could it.
I could go on and on working my way through this “history book” pointing out all her logical inconsistencies, intentional misdirections, and the like but already this review is going long. Instead I will look back to an illustration she herself brought forth. She credits Cicero with claiming that the Stoics of his day have reinterpreted the early Greek poets so that, to the poets surprise, they have all become stoics. Well, Jennifer Hecht, you have done one better. You have reinterpreted hundreds of great men down through history so that, to their own surprise, they are now all atheists. I can honestly say I haven’t read propaganda this dim since reading Hitchen’s short work trying to paint Mother Teresa as a devil. Good job.
Other Books Read in January:
Islam and the Son of God – Daniel Shayesteh
Seven Days That Divide the World – John Lennox
From Eternity to Here – Sean Carroll
For reviews of these or any other books I have read in 2017 check out my goodreads page.