Monthly Archives: September 2010

Author Response: “The Occult and the Making of American Religion”

OCCULT AMERICA by Mitch Horowitz

by Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation (Bantam hardcover 2009, Bantam trade paperback October 2010).

Discussions about the occult tend to stir passions, which is natural because we’ve been raised to regard occult spirituality as something diabolical or just strange. I argue in Occult America that mystical and supernatural-themed religions are communities of belief and should be understood as a vital part of America’s religious development – indeed we can’t really understand our religious past (and present) without coming to terms with them.  They have exerted a remarkable influence on mainstream life.

To reply to Juan Oskar’s good question about feudalism and the European church, Continue reading

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“Legacy of Bias”


In “Legacy of Bias”, published today on Inside Higher Ed, writer Scott Jaschik  discusses a new book released from the Century Foundation and published by the Brookings Institution Press entitled Affirmative Action for the Rich.  The book concludes that legacy admissions have not only expanded considerably in just the last 20 years but also disproportionality manifest a racial and class component.

The article also discusses the quite prescient book which was the result of a Pulitzer-Prize winning series in the Wall Street Journal: The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges–and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates (Three Rivers Press, 2007).  Written by then Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden (now with Bloomberg News), the book analyzes the data and details the many ways in which legacy admissions are detrimental to the overall health of our educational system and, by extension, our society.

Read an excerpt from The Price of Admission by clicking here.

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The Enough Moment

THE ENOUGH MOMENT by John Prendergast and Don Cheadle

by John Prendergast, co-author of The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa’s Worst Human Rights Crimes  (Three Rivers Press, 2010)

Three of the most horrible scourges facing humanity are genocide (the destruction of people based on their identity), rape as a war weapon (the deliberate destruction of women through targeted sexual violence), and child slavery (children who are forcibly recruited to become killing machines or sex slaves).

All three seem overwhelming and intractable, but the reality is that there are specific and concrete solutions that can be implemented, if only there were the political and popular will to do so.

Help is indeed on the way. In the last five years, Continue reading

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Inside North Korea

NOTHING TO ENVY by Barbara Demick

by Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Random House Trade Paperback, 2010), 2010 Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction

I am delighted to tell you about my book Nothing to Envy because I wrote it with students in mind. I was, at the time, on a fellowship at Princeton University where I also taught an undergraduate journalism course called “Covering Repressive Regimes.” My students were curious about North Korea, a country they knew almost nothing about.

When I started telling them the stories—about a country where televisions and radios were locked on government propaganda, where you couldn’t travel to the next town without a permit, where you were required to wear the portrait of the founder Kim Il Sung at all times on your clothing and that you celebrated the birthdays of the leadership rather than your own—the students were incredulous. It was not that they doubted my word; they were unable to grasp that a state as repressive as this one could persist into the 21st Century.

Born in the mid-1980s, they didn’t remember the Berlin Wall or the Soviet Union. Continue reading

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Free Book Offer

We are happy to send a free copy of one of the books featured on this blog.

Post a comment to any essay and then email us indicating your book request (must be one of the books featured on this blog).  Please be sure to include your full school mailing address.

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Third World America

As a young girl growing up in Greece, I remember walking to school in the city of Athens past a statue of President Truman. The statue was a daily reminder of the magnificent nation responsible for, among other things, the Marshall Plan. Everyone in Greece either had a family member, or, like my family, a friend who’d left to find a better life in America. That was the phrase everyone associated with America: “a better life.” America was a place you could go to work really hard, make a good living. When I came to America in 1980, I knew that there was no other place I’d rather live. Thirty years later, I still feel that way.

But there is no denying that decisions we have made as a country have put us on a very dangerous road, one that threatens to turn America into a Third World nation. It’s a jarring concept, I know, but the evidence is all around us. Continue reading

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Why God Did Not Create the Universe

THE GRAND DESIGN by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, authors of The Grand Design (Bantam, 2010)

According to Viking mythology, eclipses occur when two wolves, Skoll and Hati, catch the sun or moon. At the onset of an eclipse people would make lots of noise, hoping to scare the wolves away. After some time, people must have noticed that the eclipses ended regardless of whether they ran around banging on pots.

Ignorance of nature’s ways led people in ancient times to postulate many myths in an effort to make sense of their world. But eventually, people turned to philosophy, that is, to the use of reason—with a good dose of intuition—to decipher their universe. Today we use reason, mathematics and experimental test—in other words, modern science. Continue reading


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