Recommended Readings for Summer of 2007
By Ralph Nader
1. A Handful of Straw Blowing in the Wind by Thelma Doak (About Times Publishing, 2007). She reached her 104th birthday, remembering her life in the dust bowls of the nineteen thirties, of seeing the Wright brothers and their flying machine at the Oklahoma State Fair in 1912 and much more served with wisdom, humor and the family passions of decency. (Published by About Time Publishing, 2007).
2. FoodFight—The Citizen’s Guide to a Food and Farm Bill by Daniel Imhoff with a Foreword by Michael Pollan (University of California Press, 2007)—This is a beautifully laid out, gripping tutorial of a book about the effects of industrial agriculture, The Farm Bill, about to be rewritten in Congress, and corporate domination of food policy that affects your health, environment, tax dollars, consumer dollars and rural America—plus, much, much more graphically portrayed.
3. Nation of Secrets by Ted Gup (Doubleday, 2007). A former Washington Post reporter shows how our democracy and “the American Way of Life,” is damaged by Government secrecy. His book is alarming but still an understatement, as our nearly 40 year old Freedom of Information Clearinghouse and its many court cases can attest (Please see: http://www.citizen.org/litigation/free_info/). And then there is corporate secrecy—which I hope will be Ted Gup’s next book.
4. Blackwater—The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, by Jeremy Scahill (Nation Books, 2007). Speaking of corporate secrecy, this kind comes with a government cloak and presages the next stage of the corporate state—that worried both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.
5. The Declaration of Independence—A Global History by David Armitage (Harvard University Press, 2007). This Harvard history professor writes about our Declaration of Independence “through the eyes of the rest of the world” in those early and subsequent years. Yale constitutional law professor, Charles Black accorded the Declaration momentous juridical importance prior to and after our Constitution of 1787. This manifesto deserves reading by students and adults alike. The Declaration is greatly under-noticed. Recently, I sent a parchment copy to 25 Eagles Scouts and urged them to place in on their bedroom wall, if possible. Not one of these Scouts bothered to respond with a thank you or a comment or two. Would they have been so indifferent had they received a Simpsons poster?
6. State of the World—2007 (Worldwatch Institute, 2007) draws on the Institute’s global network to confront urban problems with amazing fresh reports of sustainable responses. Did you know that in Rizhao, China, a city of 3 million people, 99 percent of households in the central districts use solar water heaters and more than 60,000 greenhouses are heated by solar panels. This book does describe the terrible poverty and perils of cities around the world but retains for the reader a framework of what is being done and what could be done.
7. Sue the Doctor and Win! By Lewis Laska, J.D., Ph.D. (Farmacon Press, 2007) sounds alarmist until you learn from official and academic studies that nearly 100,000 people die each year from medical malpractice in hospitals, plus hundreds of thousands of casualties, and a huge toll of fatalities and sickness from hospital-induced infections. The vast majority of victims or next of kin file no claims whatsoever. Five percent of physicians account for nearly 40 percent of the harm but only a few are disciplined by the state medical regulatory agencies. This book includes a large amount of information people need to know to achieve deterrence, prevention, as well as compensatory justice for these most helpless and trusting patients.
8. Building Powerful Community Organizations by Michael Jacoby Brown (Long Haul Press, 2007). Is there a more important book given our weakening democratic society bullied by concentrated corporate power and their control of government? This is the book for you whenever you want to go after a persistent injustice or you want to solve a problem and make your community whistle with happiness. Whether on the beach or at a mountain retreat this summer, you will find this book full of organizing truths and detailed advances in practical democratic action.
9. Nanotechnology—Risk, Ethics and Law edited by Geoffrey Hunt and Michael Mehta (Earthscan, 2007). The latest volume, in a series of Science in Society produced by the James Martin Institute at Oxford University, provides an excellent overview for interested citizens—and we better get up to speed on this portentous, unregulated, largely invisible technology—as nanotechnology moves swiftly into consumer and other commercial products and begins what editor Hunt calls “the journey of finding its space within the social imaginary.”
10. Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court by Atty. Ralph Warner (Nolo Press, 2006). Everybody has complaints about being ripped off by some seller, but few know how practical and accessible small claims courts are to win justice from the rascals. This is as clear a roadmap about how you can prepare your case, win in court and collect your money. You don’t need a lawyer. These courts are greatly underused by consumers.