This past week has seen a little progress on the ol’ TBR front, as I knocked out three books from the list, including The Network and those below.
First up was E.O. Wilson’s Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City, which proved interesting for the apparent mismatch between the author and the genre. Wilson is a legendary Alabama biologist, known for pioneering work in sociobiology and for his many books on insects. Why We Are Here, though, is not in that genre. The book itself doesn’t fall into any Dewey decimal category with ease; Wilson offers a hometown boy’s appreciation of the city’s culture and history, but his biography and other interests make it something else altogether: an early fascination with insects, even black widow spiders, made him a naturalist, and he offers a review of Mobile’s outstanding natural heritage as well as its human history. Wilson is joined by Alex Hill, a photographer, who smartly contributes full-page prints that show off the delta’s wild beauty and the people and places that have made Mobile over the years. Alabama’s port city is the Alabama metro that interests me most, but which I’ve spent the least time in.
Further south than Mobile, this week I finished reading The Forgotten Continent, a history of Latin America. Reid bases the work off his previous reporting in the region, and focuses mostly on continental Latin America, with the Caribbean receiving only an occasional mention. Reid refers to Latin America as forgotten because aside from Mexico and chatter about migrant caravans, it’s rarely mentioned in American foreign policy: George W. Bush had intended to build on Clinton’s engagement with the region, but was derailed by the middle east, and Obama had the twin foreign policy issues of a booming China and his own mideast garbage fire. Reid begins with the pushes for independence in the 19th century, before tracking the tumultuous histories of Mexico and its southern neighbors. For the casual reader, some areas are easier to follow than others: I felt distinctly in over my head in the many chapters on the Americas’ monetary policy issues, especially where the IMF was concerned. Reid is optimistic that the populist fervor that led to so many dictatorships in the south has burned itself away, and that civil society is rebuilding itself in most places, with exceptions like Venezuela and Cuba. Forgotten Continent is information-dense, and the reader stays submerged: when Reid shifts topics he still stays firmly in the weedy details. As I make steady progress on the TBR and CC-2, I’m hoping to learn more about this area.
Coming attractions: a couple of years ago I donated money to Scott Horton to crowdfund his book-in-progress, which has been released as Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism. A copy of it should materialize in my PO box any day now. Fool’s Errand, his history of the Afghan forever war, was intended to be part of this project but was separated and expanded. Horton is also turning the gist of each chapter into a youtube video, so check out the playlist here. Horton has a radio show and podcast and has interviewed thousands of people since 2003 on geopolitics and American foreign policy.