Consilience Productions
Book Picks

On this page, we present to you links to recommended books or other publications, arranged alphabetically by title, that have to do with civics and politics. When you click on a title below, you will be taken to another page that describes the publication in greater detail. From that individual page, we then link you to another web site where you can purchase the book or publication.

If you have any suggestions for other books or publications to be included on this page, please send them in and we will consider including them on this page. Thanks!

American Creation -
From the first shots fired at Lexington to the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, Joseph Ellis guides us through the decisive issues of the nation’s founding, and illuminates the emerging philosophies, shifting alliances, and personal and political foibles of our now iconic leaders -- Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and Adams. He casts an incisive eye on the founders’ achievements, arguing that the American Revolution was, paradoxically, an evolution -- and that part of what made it so extraordinary was the gradual pace at which it occurred. He shows us why the fact that it was brought about by a group, rather than by a single individual, distinguished it from the bloodier revolutions of other countries, and ultimately played a key role in determining its success. He explains how the idea of a strong federal government, championed by Washington, was eventually embraced by the American people, the majority of whom had to be won over, as they feared an absolute power reminiscent of the British Empire. And he details the emergence of the two-party system -- then a political novelty -- which today stands as the founders’ most enduring legacy. ~~

Nickel and Dimed - Author and sociologist Barbara Ehrenreich spent about three months in 1998-2000 in three cities throughout the nation, attempting to "get by" on the salary available to low-paid and unskilled workers. She discovered that her average salary of $7 per hour couldn't even provide the necessities of life (rent, transportation, and food), let alone the luxury of health coverage. Ehrenreich takes on issues and questions posed before and during the experiment, including why these wages are so low, why workers are so accepting of them, and what Washington's refusal to increase the minimum wage to a realistic "living wage" says about both our economy and our culture.

1984 - The Orwell Classic is becoming eerily prescient in this early part of the 21st Century in America, especially under the reign of Bush, Jr.

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
"If you don't go to somebody's funeral, they won't come to yours," Yogi Berra once said, neatly articulating the value of social networks. In this alarming and important study, Robert Putnam, a professor of sociology at Harvard, charts the grievous deterioration over the past two generations of the organized ways in which people relate to one another and partake in civil life in the U.S.
Overthrow - America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq
The recent ouster of Saddam Hussein may have turned "regime change" into a contemporary buzzword, but it's been a tactic of American foreign policy for more than 110 years. Beginning with the ouster of Hawaii's monarchy in 1893, Kinzer runs through the foreign governments the U.S. has had a hand in toppling. Kinzer's argument isn't new, but it's delivered in unusually moderate tones, which may earn him an audience larger than the usual crew of die-hard leftists.

The Choice - Global Domination or Global Leadership - Terrorism is a tactic. To declare war on terrorism is equivalent to Franklin D. Roosevelt's declaring war on blitzkrieg. So goes Zbigniew Brezezinski's foray into this country's great debate about national security.

Citizen's Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials -
The Citizen's Handbook is a practical handbook on how to be a successful citizen-advocate and includes off-the-record comments from Members of Congress and staff on what truly influences legislative outcomes. Author Bradford Fitch's overall theme is summed up in a quote by Thomas Jefferson: "We do not have a government of a majority; we have a government of the majority to participate."

Mr. Fitch believes that a well-informed constituency can be a driving force in swaying elected officials. The book offers advice on how to approach members of Congress, the value of being informed, ways to inform members about the effects of their decisions, and dealing with congressional support staff.

The book also includes several success tips checklists, including ten points to manage a face-to-face meeting, seven hints to get written communications noticed, and six things staffers look for in a phone call. A matrix chart of how legislators rank different issues is one of eight useful appendices.

Watch Brad Fitch discuss the book on C-Span Video, November 26, 2010. He also responds to telephone calls and electronic communications.

View more information on this book at publications page.

Thomas Paine and The Promise of America - Founding Father of the American Left. In 1774, this working-class unknown from London, uneducated and a former corset maker, arrived in Philadelphia. Less than two years later he did what every American journalist since then has dreamed of doing: changing the course of history with a piece of writing. His ''Common Sense'' (1776) galvanized popular opinion around the idea that American independence was not impossible, but indeed inevitable.

Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution
Historian Beeman takes up what the Virginia patriot denounced in 1787: the U.S. Constitution. In a day-by-day narrative, Beeman dramatizes the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, paying particular attention to the characters of the delegates and the moods of their debates.

The Price of Liberty: Paying for America's Wars from the Revolution to the War on Terror -
Continuing the federal government's fiscal incontinence begun by LBJ's refusal to address the cost of the Vietnam War, Afghanistan and Iraq are being financed by deficit spending, hope of economic growth, and sale of debt to foreigners.

The Public Life of the Arts in America - Despite the stunning size, quality, and economic impact of the American arts community, few citizens have an appreciation of the many public policies that influence American arts and culture. U.S. policy does and should continue to support the arts, as they serve a broad, not merely an elite, public.

Debt: The First 5,000 Years - "[A]n engaging book. Part anthropological history and part provocative political argument, it's a useful corrective to what passes for contemporary conversation about debt and the economy." ~~ Boston Globe

Damned Lies and Statistics - Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists. A very important argument in this book on how not to be snowed by statistics is that statistics actually create social problems. Only after someone measures the extent of a predicament and trumpets the findings does society decide it has a problem. Before you believe a statistic you read somewhere, read this very important book!

Don't Know Much About History : Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned. Finally, someone who tells history like it was, without the old textbook gloss that's put so many students into premature nap time and misinformed the few who stayed awake. The author, Kenneth Davis, corrects the myths and misconceptions from Columbus up through the Clinton administration, and shows that truth is more entertaining than propaganda (from "Book Review").

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
"The revolution in favor of universal liberty which has taken place in America is a revolution which opens a new prospect in human affairs and begins a new era in the history of mankind," wrote an English radical - and friend of Ben Franklin's - Richard Price. This new book about the early years of America, written by the masterful historian, Gordon Wood, is a must read by those fascinated with this era.

Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do About It.
In his latest book, Air America host Thom Hartmann shows how the American middle class that was so carefully constructed by our country’s founding fathers has been systematically dismantled over the past quarter-century, and, under the guise of “freeing” the market, replaced by a system designed to line the pockets of the super-rich and corporations.

The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature -
"Despite dealing with some weighty issues, The Science of Liberty isn't a wonky book written by an egghead, but a passionately crafted and articulate exploration of the relationship between science and democracy. Ferris, a first-rate popular-science writer, combines lucid prose with some serious science chops to show how science and democracy working in symbiosis can thrive and--the author suggests, using the antiexamples of Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union--can just as easily die." ~~ Bookmark's Magazine

The Slave Ship - The slave ship was a machine that manufactured modernity. As it moved across the Atlantic, the world changed. It joined Europe, Africa, and the Americas, creating enormous wealth and untold misery, and its hellish voyages continue to cast a shadow over our lives. Marcus Rediker's meticulously researched book uncovers many nuggets of gold in the Slave industry, including the fact that the composer of "Amazing Grace" was once a captain of a slave ship.

The Sorrows of Empire. As of September 2001, the Department of Defense acknowledged that at least 725 military bases exist outside the United States. Actually, there are many more, since some bases exist under informal agreements or disguises of various kinds. In this compelling book, Chalmers Johnson assails both Clinton and "the boy emperor" Bush, and his cronies, with one of the most startling and engrossing accounts of exotic defense capabilities, operations and spending in print.

Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln - "John Stauffer's collective biography of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln stands apart from other biographies by focusing on how each man continually remade himself, with help from women, words, self-education, physical strength, and luck. In the process Stauffer gives us the texture and feel--a "thick description"--of the strange worlds that Douglass and Lincoln inhabited. ~~ Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The Great Unraveling - Losing Our Way in the New Century. This book, by New York Times Columnist and Princeton Economist, Paul Krugman, could easily be placed in our "Money Book Picks" section, since much of his analysis of what's gone wrong in our country since the 2000 elections is shown by methodically parsing the data (demonstrating, for example, how the heartland is not, statistically, more committed to family than people on the coasts). Paul Krugman is not afraid to take on the Bush administration.

What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat - Modern terrorists — whether operating in the United States, Europe or the Middle East — have sought to understand us and the vulnerabilities of our open societies. It is high time we sought to understand them. Louise Richardson, a lecturer at Harvard, has now produced the overdue and essential primer on terrorism and how to tackle it.

Hegemony or Survival - With the striking logic that is his trademark, Noam Chomsky (world-renowned M.I.T linguistics professor & political and intellectual activist) dissects America's quest for global supremacy, tracking the U.S. government's aggressive pursuit of policies intended to achieve "full spectrum dominance" at any cost. He lays out vividly how the various strands of policy - the militarization of space, the ballistic-missile defense program, unilateralism, the dismantling of international agreements, and the response to the Iraqi crisis - cohere in a drive for hegemony that ultimately threatens our survival. In our era, he argues, empire is a recipe for an earthly wasteland.

His Excellency: George Washington - "Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. We see the general who lost more battles than he won and the reluctant president who tried to float above the partisan feuding of his cabinet. His Excellency is a magnificent work, indispensable to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being."

Historical Statistics of the United States, Millennial Edition -
It has been more than 30 years since the Bureau of the Census published an edition of Historical Statistics of the United States. Previous editions were published by the Census Bureau in 1949, 1960, and 1975. The five volumes or parts are arranged by broad topics: Population Work and Welfare, Economic Structure and Performance, Economic Sectors, and Governance and International Relations. At $1,000, it's expensive, but for statistical nerds, how can you live without this?

I) V)
The Journals of Lewis and Clark - As Stephen Ambrose writes in the forward: "These journals are a national literary treasure...It is the ideal selection for the citizen-reader, an American classic in its own right, a book that will read as long as the Republic lasts."

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning - "The communal march against an enemy generates a warm, unfamiliar bond with our neighbors, our community, our nation, wiping out unsettling undercurrents of alienation and dislocation," writes Chris Hedges, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times. Hedges argues not for pacifism but for responsibility and humility on the part of those who wage war. This is a very powerful book, especially in the post-9/11 era in which we find ourselves.

The Will of the People - Barry Friedman's pathbreaking account of the relationship between popular opinion and the Supreme Court -- from the Declaration of Independence to the end of the Rehnquist Court in 2005 --details how the American people came to accept their most controversial institution and, in so doing, shaped the meaning of the Constitution.

The Working Poor - This, from the author, David Shipler, says it all: “Most of the people I write about in this book do not have the luxury of rage. They are caught in exhausting struggles. Their wages do not lift them far enough from poverty to improve their lives, and their lives, in turn, hold them back. The term by which they are usually described, ‘working poor,’ should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works hard should be poor in America.”

K) X)
The Longest War - CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen, revisits the personality and career of Osama bin Laden and his immediate circle, while delving into the conflict between al-Qaeda and associates and the U.S. and its coalition.
The Media Monopoly - Since this classic on corporate control of the media was first published in 1983, the number of corporations dominating our media has shrunk from fifty to merely five. Once called "alarmist", Bagdikian's claims are uncanny and chilling in their accuracy. This much-needed sixth edition follows up on the digital revolution, revealing startling details of a new communications cartel within the United States.

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