In a former life, I was a book critic. I always hated that term. I've often felt that it's better to be known by what we praise and celebrate than what we review and critique. That said, here's a collection of my book columns and reviews from the early 1990s to the present.

 

From Eclectica Magazine: "Scott London's book reviews specialize in books dealing with the media and politics. Here, the writing is immediate, professional and very often sparkling. This site proves the point that good review writing is an art form in itself. You won't find any goose fat here. It's all relevant, captivating, to the point and thought provoking. While The Barcelona's book review section tends to be murky and convoluted, Scott London's book review site is intellectual sunshine."

Recent Book Reviews

 

The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted — Fredrik Heffermehl

Fredrik Heffermehl on the Nobel Peace PrizeIn this hot-tempered polemic, Norwegian lawyer and activist Fredrik Heffermehl charges that the Nobel Peace Prize is “increasingly grandiose, pompous, and remote from its original purpose.” He raises some valid concerns, but his argument is plagued by inaccuracies and misinterpretations. The Nobel committee is hardly beyond reproach, but to say that it has "ruinously corrupted" the prize is both far-fetched and off-the-mark. Full review...

Forces For Good — Leslie Crutchfield & Heather McLeod Grant

Forces For GoodLeslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant spent four years studying successful nonprofits that have managed, often in the face of tight budgets, limited marketing, and imperfect leadership structures, to demonstrate remarkable levels of social impact. What they learned flies in the face of traditional management theory. Becoming a high-impact nonprofit was not simply a matter of building a successful organization and then scaling it up site by site. Rather, it was by working with and through organizations and individuals outside themselves that they were able to achieve real impact. Creating change and lasting impact could not be done just by focusing within, in other words. To have real impact, organizations had to turn outward. Full review...

Community: The Structure of Belonging — Peter Block

Peter Block - CommunityIn his much-discussed new book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block makes a point of not trying to define a healthy and well-functioning community. The idea isn’t to create a visionary ideal for people to try to live up to, he says. Rather, it’s to encourage a shift in our way of thinking about community so we can bring about the qualities of an authentic sense of belonging. That, after all, is what community is really about. Full review...

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness — Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein

NudgenWith its snappy one-word title, this book calls to mind recent releases like Blink, Sway, and Flip. And in the spirit of bestsellers like The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, books that purport to reveal the "hidden dimensions" of this or that, this work is targeted at a broad general audience. But unlike so many books in the genre, this one tries to do more than just inform and entertain. It takes a serious academic subject and makes a strong case for more enlightened social and economic policies. Full review...

The Global Brain: The Awakening Earth in a New Century — Peter Russell

Peter Russell's Global BrainExpanding on the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, visionary physicist Peter Russell makes the case that humanity has advanced to the point in its evolutionary journey where it is poised to make the "next evolutionary leap" — the critical shift from personal to global consciousness. "The spearhead of evolution is now self-reflective consciousness. If evolution is indeed to push on to yet higher levels of integration, the most crucial changes will take place in the realm of human consciousness. In effect the evolution process has now become internalized within each of us." Full review...

Intellectuals and the Flag —Todd Gitlin

NudgenWhat Todd Gitlin sets out to do in these essays is to lay the foundation for a recovery of the American left, to point the way to a renewed sense of patriotism — not the patriotism of symbolic display and empty ritual, but of self-sacrifice, tough-minded criticism, vigorous ideas, and an active engagement with the difficult issues of our time. But he offers little in the way of a roadmap. He does try to resuscitate some of the ideals that gave impetus to the movements of the 1960s, but his gaze seems more focused on the past than on the road ahead. This is exemplified by his fondness for nostalgic terminology like "intellectuals," "the left," and even "patriotism" (a phrase that has been all but co-opted by the right in recent years). It's not so much that these phrases have lost their meaning. Rather they lack the sort of resonance that is likely to galvanize a new generation of activists. Full review...

Better Together: Restoring the American Community — Robert Putnam & Lewis Feldstein

Better TogetherBetter Together brings together a dozen case studies of successful community-building efforts in the United States. The stories represent exceptional cases, Putnam and Feldstein write, "in which creative social entrepreneurs are moving against the nationwide tide and creating vibrant new forms of social connectedness." As they see it, these success stories may be the harbingers of a broader revival of social capital in this country. Full review...

 

 

Popular Reviews

 

The Culture of Education — Jerome Bruner

Better TogetherThe Culture of Education brings together nine stimulating and elegantly argued essays on the subject of cultural psychology and its implications for education. Cultural psychology deals with how individuals make sense of the world, how they engage with established systems of shared meaning, with the beliefs, values, and symbols of the culture at large. It concentrates on how individuals construct "realities" based on common cultural narratives and symbols, and how reality is "intersubjective" — cultivated through social interaction — rather than "external" or "objective." Full review...

One Taste: The Journal of Ken Wilber

Better TogetherOne Taste is billed on the fly-leaf as "a diary of a year in the life of Ken Wilber" and an "unprecedented entree into his private world." What Wilber sets out to do, in effect, is offer a guided tour of his thoughts, ideas, and major works on the one hand, and to describe his day-to-day life on the other. The result is a curious melange — not quite a spiritual diary, not quite an annotated reader, not quite a philosophical journal, but something of all three. Full review...

Democracy Derailed: Initiative Campaigns and the Power of Money — David Broder

Democracy DerailedDemocracy Derailed is a fascinating and disturbing look at the rise of initiatives in American politics, a system of direct legislation that is increasingly popular with voters and is now used in 25 states and hundreds of municipalities across the nation. David Broder, the veteran Washington Post reporter, describes the initiative as a new form of government, one that takes much of its energy from the American public's disdain of politics and distrust of politicians. Full review...

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions — Thomas S. Kuhn

Thomas S. KuhnIt’s been almost a half-century since the publication of Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a slim little book that introduced the word "paradigm" into common parlance and shattered our conventional way of looking at change. Fifty years on, it still represents perhaps the best thinking on how transformation happens, who drives it, why it’s so vehemently resisted, and what it really asks of people. The book explores the psychology of belief that governs the acceptance of new concepts and innovations in science. Kuhn showed that the history of science is not one of linear, rational progress moving toward ever more accurate and complete knowledge of an objective reality. Rather, it’s one of radical shifts of vision in which a multitude of nonrational and nonempirical factors come into play. Full review...

 

 

Complete List of Book Revews