home > archive > 2003 > this article

The Best Books of 2002


Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam
By Gilles Kepel, Anthony Roberts (Translator)
Harvard University Press, 416 pgs
A veritable deluge of books have appeared in bookstores after September 11, 2001 purporting to lay bare the background of militant Islam but perhaps the most definitive is Gilles Kepel's Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. Kepel is well placed to tell its story given his extensive travels in the very places where militant Islam was born and nurtured and he's used that experience to craft a compelling account of the movements that make it up. Although the Wahabbi faction of Islam of which Osama bin Laden belongs to is centuries old, militant Islam's birth really took place in the 20th century with the writings of men like Sayyid Qutb and Mawlana Mawdudi. Read the rest of our review here.

The Iron RoadThe Iron Road
A Stand for Truth and Democracy in Burma
By James Mawdsley
North Point Press, 400 pgs.

It's doubtless tempting for some to dismiss James Mawdsley as a dilettante activist until they learn a little about his recent past. Mawdsley, a crusader for democracy in Burma, spent much of the last few years as a guest of the country's military dictatorship in its dismal jails. Unlike the thousands of activists who are content to write letters of protest or demonstrate in front of Burmese embassies around the world, Mawdsley felt it was his - some might say foolhardy - duty to confront the regime on its own turf. That story is detailed in The Iron Road: A Stand for Truth and Democracy in Burma. Read the rest of our review here.

America's Founding SecretAmerica's Founding Secret
What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers
By Robert W. Galvin
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 120 pgs.
Very rarely in human history has a nexus been formed that has had such a remarkable impact on the world as the Scottish Enlightenment. The words and theories that emerged from the minds of men like David Hume, Adam Smith and Francis Hutcheson - few of them familiar to the average reader - had their greatest impact not in Europe, but in the United States. In America's Founding Secret: What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers, Robert W. Galvin argues that those Scottish thinkers are directly responsible for the form that the United States took. Read the rest of our review here.

Defying Hitler: A Memoir Defying Hitler: A Memoir
By Sebastian Haffner
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 272 pgs.

Germany was a nation where the state legalized crime, said Adolph Eichmann during his 1961 trial in Israel for crimes against humanity. Although Eichmann was right, that statement fails to explain in any meaningful way how the brutal political cult of Nazism managed to become the state religion of Germany. It's almost impossible to conceive in the cocoons of our western dedication to individualism how the thugs of Adolph Hitler managed to take over a modern nation in only a few short years. Much ink has been spilled since the end of the Second World War in an effort to explain the short history of Nazi Germany. Read the rest of our review here.

Blue LatitudesBlue Latitudes
Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
By Tony Horwitz
Henry Holt & Company, 416 pgs.
The judgment of history has not been kind to Captain James Cook, a remarkable explorer whose impact on the world is still felt today. It's fashionable these days to excoriate historical figures like Cook for being the early agents of colonialism and globalization regardless of what their true motivations were. With an eye to redeeming when necessary the son of a Yorkshire day laborer, Tony Horwitz has put together a remarkable travelogue-cum-history of Cook's pioneering travels in the Pacific.
Read the rest of our review here.

An Army at DawnAn Army at Dawn
The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (The Liberation Trilogy, Volume 1)
By Rick Atkinson
Henry Holt & Company, Inc., 672 pgs.
Although it's difficult to believe today with the power it wields, the American army that ventured into North Africa in 1942 to join the battle against the Axis powers was a poorly equipped and ill-trained group of men who were more citizen than soldier. Despite a poor beginning it can be plausibly argued that the foundation for the modern American army was laid in the early days of that campaign. And it was a poor beginning.
Read the rest of our review here.

Brotherhood of the Bomb

Brotherhood of the Bomb
The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller
By Gregg Herken Henry Holt & Company, Inc., 462 pgs.
The atom bomb not only destroyed two Japanese cities, it also indirectly damaged or destroyed the lives of several men who helped bring about its creation, as Gregg Herken's Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller aptly illustrates. Eschewing a formal history of America's atomic weapons program, Herken instead delves into the equally fascinating and interlocking stories of three of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.
Read the rest of our review here.

Think Big: Adventures in Life and DemocracyThink Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy
By Preston Manning
McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 452 pgs.
Political memoirs typically are exercises in self-justification, an attempt to turn mistakes into victories and failures into noble campaigns. They usually fall into either one of two categories: they either engage in revisionism, perhaps best personified by The Memoirs of Richard M. Nixon, or more rarely they reveal the warts as well as the glories of a politician's career. Preston Manning's Think Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy is a member of that later club. Where most would engage in a hagiographic exercise, Manning has authored a frank and compelling account of his years in politics.
Read the rest of our review here.

Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan
By Mary Anne Weaver
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 320 pgs.
It is perhaps impossible to underestimate the importance of Pakistan, a nuclear armed state in what seems a perpetual war dance with India and which also serves as the primary gateway to Afghanistan. It is at once one of America's closest allies in the war against terrorism and yet also home to many of the same groups U.S. President George W. Bush has pledged to destroy. To add to that boiling pot, Pakistan's future as a cohesive state is being tested by several religious, ethnic and tribal conflicts. It literally has the potential of making war-torn Rwanda look like a dry-run for the real thing.
Read the rest of our review here.

The Face of the TigerThe Face of the Tiger
By Mark Steyn
Stockade Books, 352 pgs.
The Face of the Tiger proves just how underappreciated columnist Mark Steyn really is. One part William F. Buckley Jr. (without the grandiose language) and one part P.J. O'Rourke (without the sarcasm), Steyn takes the best of both men by being a both a humourist and insightful. Yet despite that he's not as well known as either man, something that The Face of the Tiger will hopefully begin to remedy. The book collects his columns from September 11, 2001 to precisely one year later and primarily deals with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. You can find him in the pages of The National Post and The Jerusalem Post as well as several other newspapers.
Read the rest of our review here.

1 | 2

Send a link to this page!
Send a link to this story

Send a link to this page!

Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!



1996-2018, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.