Friday, June 30, 2006

Michael `Slave' Jordan, Old German Plot, Guantanamo: July Books

Michael `Slave' Jordan, Old German Plot, Guantanamo: July Books

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Are black professional athletes merely ``forty million dollar slaves''? Does the world need another Bible-sized biography of LBJ? Are kids born to wealth bound to be unhappy? These are some of the questions raised by new July nonfiction books.

``The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More'' by Chris Anderson (Hyperion). In one of the most talked about business books this year, Wired magazine editor Anderson argues that the relationship between seller and buyer has changed: Only companies that can offer a surfeit of choice and cater to niche markets will survive.

``Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete'' by William C. Rhoden (Crown). This New York Times journalist says professional sports are like a pre-Civil War plantation, where the white owners reap the benefit of black labor. He then lambastes the athletes for spineless acquiescence.

``The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice'' by Chad Millman (Little, Brown): The nearly unbelievable account of how German saboteurs set off an explosion in New York Harbor that destroyed a chunk of lower Manhattan and Jersey City during WWI.

``Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq'' by Thomas E. Ricks (Penguin). The Washington Post's Pentagon correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner describes the disenfranchisement of many military officers who are infuriated with the Bush administration for mismanaging the invasion of Iraq.

``The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq'' by Fouad Ajami (Free Press). In a surprisingly optimistic book, Johns Hopkins professor and author of ``The Dream Palace of the Arabs'' offers a lucid assessment of Iraqi history, how the current chaos may not be as dire as it appears, and why the future holds promise for the now unstable nation.

``The President's Counselor: The Rise to Power of Alberto Gonzales'' by Bill Minutaglio (Rayo). A biography of the controversial U.S. attorney general whose support of his friend George W. extends even to the torture of suspected foreign terrorists.

``Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power'' by Joseph Margulies (Simon & Schuster). Margulies, the attorney who won the privilege of judicial review for some of the roughly 800 prisoners who have been held by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, looks at the history of U.S. prisoner detention and offers evidence that the Guantanamo project has been a human-rights debacle from the very start.

``Friendship: An Expose'' by Joseph Epstein (Houghton Mifflin). One of the finest essayists in the U.S. turns his pen to the topic of friendship, examining his own friendships and how they have been irrevocably altered by changing social mores.

``LBJ: Architect of American Ambition'' by Randall Woods (Free Press). Another worthy and whopping -- this one is 1,024 pages -- biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson hits the groaning shelves, saying, among other things, that the drawling Texas rancher-turned-president was motivated as much by idealism as by a Machiavellian will to power.

``Conservatives Without Conscience'' by John Dean (Viking). The former Nixon White House lawyer vents his ire at neoconservative and far-right Republicans who have maligned the party by demonstrating no regard for anyone but themselves and not living up to their holier-than-thou platitudes.

``The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Deeply Unhappy Kids'' by Madeline Levine (HarperCollins). This psychologist, trying to explain what's wrong with doing everything right, says that by giving your child every material advantage, you may be creating a time bomb of emotional trauma and setting yourself up for some unpleasant Thanksgiving dinners.

``Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke'' by Dean Kuipers (Bloomsbury). The forgotten story of a pair of homosexual hippies who built a pot-friendly paradise in southern Michigan. After being arrested in 2001, they torched their plants rather than forfeit them to authorities and, after a five-day standoff, were shot to death by FBI agents days before 9/11.

``Grayson'' by Lynne Cox (Knopf). This short, sweet memoir by the world-champion distance swimmer recalls the life-changing moment when, just 17 years old, she encountered a lost baby gray whale while training off the California coast.

(Edward Nawotka is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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