by Unknown | 7/30/2008 03:43:00 PM
An anonymous commenter on Ralph's post raises an interesting question: what one book would you have Barack Obama read, if you could ask him to read any one book in existence?

So let's have a go of it. I'll start: I'd ask Obama to read The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, by Thomas Sugrue. I'd like Obama to feel the same sense of urgency I felt when I read that book -- an understanding that words and compromises alone aren't going to solve the serious cultural crisis that our economic situation places us in.

Second choice would be a book he's probably already read: The Idea That Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World, by Anne-Marie Slaughter. It's easily the most truly Wilsonian book written in the last twenty years. And as regular readers know, I'm a Wilsonian on foreign policy through and through.

Now, gentle reader, it's your turn. What one book would you ask Barack Obama to read?

If you're supporting, or thinking of supporting, McCain, you can offer a book for him instead of Obama.

[Update] Thanks to Aaron Schutz of Education Policy Blog for picking this up. Great suggestions are to be had in comments there as well.




Blogger elle on 7/30/2008 8:57 PM:

This is the best question I've seen in a while... and of course I have no answer right off. It'd be easier to make a list, but just one?



Blogger iampunha on 7/30/2008 10:54 PM:

I'd recommend the same book every high school student, every student of history and every storyteller should read: The Ultra Secret.

It details reasonably thoroughly the effect that breaking the German military codes (the German Navy had its own, and it was far harder to crack) had on intel and strategy in World War II.

Intel, especially in a country still struggling to right itself on that front following the "We found a guy who will tell us what we want to pretend is true" policies of the Bush administration, will have to gain prominence in Barack Obama's policy decisions.


Blogger iampunha on 7/30/2008 11:00 PM:

Something I forgot to note, but which will be of interest to trivia gatherers:

Postwar Detroit is, one of those comments indicates, the period from the 1930s to the 1960s.

The first significant study of Ebonics came out in 1969. It was published by Dr. Walt Wolfram, and it examined linguistic patterns in black people living in Detroit.

Ebonics is far older than this, mind (evidence of it dates back to at least 1850, and I know that without even being much of a scholar of it), but inequality and dialect have a very long and very unproud history, going back to before Old English. (One might argue that inequality and language are bedfellows.)

An example of using linguistics for power appears in tomorrow's edition of Today in History. Fascinating stuff.


Blogger Unknown on 7/30/2008 11:47 PM:

Great stuff, iampunha! I'll make sure Strandsofpearl sees your column tomorrow -- she's a graduate student in linguistics, and will probably be very interested in it.