The week in books

April 16, 2009

Getting Off Track: How Government Actions and Interventions Caused, Prolonged, and Worsened the Financial Crisis by John B. Taylor, Mary and Robert Raymond professor of economics, Stanford University. Hoover Press, $14.95, ISBN 9780817949716

"Nobody could describe this terse study as exhaustive. Instead, it is a short, sharp statement of what Mr Taylor sees as the principal policy mistake and the errors that flowed from it. Most commentary on the crisis glides by this issue, so intent are most analysts on blaming deregulation and the flaws of Anglo-American capitalism. Taylor is having none of that, and Getting Off Track is a bracing corrective to this tendency."

Clive Crook, Financial Times

Thinking About Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Problems, Prospects by Michael Quinlan, visiting research fellow in politics, University of Oxford, until his death in February 2009. Oxford University Press, £25.00, ISBN 9780199563944

"This book is a primer for those who want to understand the issues of the nuclear peril. His central point might be thought banal, if it were not often ignored by the disarmament lobby: interstate threats of conflict do not derive from possession of armaments, but from rivalries sufficiently impassioned for nations to consider fighting about them. The way to escape nuclear war is to resolve political differences, rather than to pursue disarmament as an end in itself."

Max Hastings, The Sunday Times

Dublin 1916: The Siege of the GPO by Clair Wills, professor of Irish literature, Queen Mary, University of London. Profile Books, £15.99, ISBN 9781846680533

"(Wills') book does not cover the pre-planning of the rising, the extent to which German aid was counted upon, the plans for provincial outbreaks, or the effect of the Dublin cataclysm in entrenching Ulster resistance to any form of Irish nationalism, and destroying the old constitutional-nationalist party of 'Home Rulers'. In confronting the reverberations over the decades, she does not flinch from the maudlin, the opportunist and the kitsch. Above all she interrogates the translation of the everyday into the sacred, and the way that the symbols of the 1916 rebellion project forward into the creation of the Irish state and retain an uncomfortable presence there."

Roy Foster, The Guardian

The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy by Kenan Malik, senior visiting fellow at the Department of Political, International and Policy Studies, University of Surrey. Atlantic Books, £16.99, ISBN 9781843548232

"In tracing the legacy of the Rushdie Affair into our post-9/11 present, Malik marries the attributes of an investigative journalist and a political analyst. He challenges the cultural myths which have grown up during this period and sets out to slay their attendant monsters. Samuel Huntington's 'clash of civilisations' - which lines up liberal, democratic, rationalist and scientific forces on the Western side and on the other an authoritarian pre-medieval Islam, hostile to democracy, scientific rationalism and liberal social relations - is one of these. In Malik's bracing analysis, both of these positions emerge as dubious."

Lisa Appignanesi, The Independent.

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