Ever since I posted my list of book recommendations yesterday I've been thinking of books I should have included.
Citzen Cohn: The Life and Times of Roy Cohn, by Nicholas von Hoffman --- Man is this a good read. Nick von Hoffman was a hero of mine when I was a kiddy watching him make mincemeat of James J. Kilpatrick every week on "60 Minutes" in its Point/Counterpoint feature. Pre-Shana Alexander.
Roy Cohn was, for me, a living embodiment of the evil in this world.
Von Hoffman dishes, and digs deep. It's hard to understand America, from the McCarthy era to the Reagan era, without understanding a bit of how Roy Cohn became, for a time, one of its most powerful figures. Von Hoffman's final picture isn't pretty, but it's nuanced, complex and, I suspect, true to its subject. It's also kinder than one might expect.
The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, by Todd Gitlin --- Gitlin has written a "biography" of his own times. He was a participant in the rise the New Left. He's now a professor. Both attributes serve him well in this detailed socio-political history book. He attains detachment in most cases, provides first-hand witness in others, and manages not to put you to sleep in a book with 22 pages of endnotes.
Inside: A Public and Private Life, by Joseph Califano --- Not only has Califano been an eyewitness and actor in history, he's led a varied and interesting life. The politics fascinate a wonk like me, but the intertwined story of his personal life, including his understanding of and wrestling with his Catholic faith, were an unexpected education.
Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, by John D'Emilio --- The fact that you do not recognize Rustin's name is the tragedy of his life. Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial would never have happened if Bayard Rustin hadn't organized the March on Washington.
He was the foremost American teacher and practitioner of non-violent resistance. That's not me talking, that was Gandhi's assessment. Yes, that Gandhi.
His homosexuality condemned him to the sidelines far more than his imprisonment as a draft resister during World War II ever did.
And his intellectual honesty and vision meant he was practically absent from the Viet Nam war resistance organized by the foolish, arrogant, jejune young whipper-snappers of the "New Left." These are characteristics of that benighted cadre that Todd Gitlin chronicles in The Sixties just as well as John D'Emilio does here.
On a related note, Monkeyboy in DC has been tolerating my monopolization of the computer long enough that he feels he's entitled to make a book recommendation too. He recommends any of the Judy Blume books that feature a boy called Fudge.