What are you reading? – 18 July 2019

Our regular look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 18, 2019

Howard Segal, professor of history at the University of Maine, is reading Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today (edited by James Banner; New Press, 2019). “As demands grow for impeaching Donald Trump, this book could hardly be more timely. It originated at the request of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 as it contemplated impeaching Richard Nixon. It provided unprecedented historical analysis of the alleged misdeeds of all past presidents (save William Henry Harrison’s month-long term) and their staff and friends. An original contributor, James Banner has now recruited contemporary historians to cover Nixon and his successors. As in 1974, so today, every president has been accused of misconduct, albeit of enormously various types and seriousness. Some of these misdeeds remain familiar: Nixon’s Watergate, Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal and Bill Clinton’s impeachment. But others are largely forgotten: Jimmy Carter’s Bert Lance troubles and Warren G. Harding’s Teapot Dome scandal. Like its predecessor, this updated and expanded edition makes for compelling reading.”

Sharon Wheeler, senior lecturer in journalism and PR at the University of the West of England, is reading Alistair Coleman’s Angry People in Local Newspapers (Michael Joseph, 2018). “If you’re active on Facebook, you might have seen the Angry People in Local Newspapers group and will be familiar with ‘BINNNNS’, ‘FUMMIN!’ and ‘done a poo!’ It finds the best clichéd press photographs (taxi drivers are always ‘FUMMIN!’) and offbeat stories and offers them up to a tittering audience. Sadly, though, the book doesn’t really work, simply because there are no photographs – imagine how much legwork the author and publisher would have to do to get them all cleared. The stories are amusing, Coleman (a journalist himself) has some sharp asides about local papers, but browsing online is where it’s at.”

Lincoln Allison, emeritus professor of politics at the University of Warwick, is reading Nigel Spivey’s Classical Civilization: Greeks & Romans in 10 Chapters (Head of Zeus, 2015). “Some people may recall from their education that Diogenes (‘the cynic’) told Alexander the Great to get lost and Xander, bless him, did. What they didn’t tell you is that Diogenes was notorious for masturbating in public and for arguing that the world would be a better place if other men did the same. Spivey’s work is organised into chapters based on cities, from Troy to Constantinople, as well as one not on the map, ‘Utopia’, taken as the name for the world of ideas. This works, but it can be irritating if, for instance, you actually want to know about Pergamon rather than read about it as a symbol of Graeco-Roman comparisons and relations. But it’s an excellent book to have with you on the shores of the Mediterranean.”

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