December 10, 2007

My Grandfather's Son: A MemoirBy Clarence Thomas(Harper, 289 pp., $26.95)Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence ThomasBy Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher(Doubleday, 422 pp., $26.95)A society overwhelmed by the culture of celebrity will not suffer from a surfeit of reverence for authority. Authority, after all, requires a mystique, even and perhaps especially in a democracy, where the leveling impulse that is a feature of egalitarian politics can spill over into something ugly, into a cynical, envious, or voyeuristic appetite for the degradation of leaders.

December 10, 2007

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary Translated by Robert Alter (W.W. Norton, 518 pp., $35) "Whatever David says in his book pertains to himself, to all Israel, and to all times," declares Midrash Tehillim, the early rabbinic commentary on the Book of Psalms. If the rabbis erred, it was not on the side of exaggeration. It is not just Israel that placed the Book of Psalms, traditionally but falsely ascribed to King David, at the center of its spiritual vocabulary.

Nice Genes
December 03, 2007

The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origin of GoodnessBy Lee Alan Dugatkin(Princeton University Press, 188 pp., $24.95)I.The saga of man's quest to crack the mystery of altruism is a weird, uplifting, and sometimes tragic affair.

Get Serious
November 29, 2007

Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Against Global TerrorBy Ian Shapiro(Princeton University Press, 208 pp., $24.95)The effects of the Iraq war upon the discussion of American foreign policy have come in waves. The first wave was all about competence. In book after book, in article after article, the bungling of the war by the Bush administration has been made outrageously clear.

Health Care Special Issue: The Questions Cure
November 12, 2007

is a professor of social medicine at Columbia and president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. He is also associate director of the Prescription Project, working to strengthen conflict-of-interest policies at academic medical centers. How Doctors Think By Jerome Groopman(Houghton Mifflin, 320 pp., $26) Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance By Atul Gawande (Metropolitan Books, 273 pp., $24) Medicine today is both a wonder and a disaster.

Get Serious
November 12, 2007

was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, and was world affairs commentator for Sky News for the last two years. Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Against Global Terror By Ian Shapiro (Princeton University Press, 208 pp.,$24.95) The effects of the Iraq war upon the discussion of American foreign policy have come in waves.

The Most Mysterious Right
November 12, 2007

Out of RangeBy Mark V. Tushnet(Oxford University Press, 156 pp., $19.95)In 1991, Warren E.

Postmarked (Ars Poetica)
November 12, 2007

Shouting silently in the operating theatre, I become multiple, as all pandemonium's angels arose from one idea. Later at Mount Pleasant, neither mountain nor, I hover over slicing letters, parcels tumbling between destinations. I discern my own estranged members, more than parings if less than limbs. A dungeon's devices are indistinguishable from early surgical tools. I am coming home, I am leaving for good with no expectation of rest. At last the day is sorted. Whether growths or creations, my chattels jostle in their sacks and renounce me. By Carrie Etter

Counsel, Legal and Illegal
November 09, 2007

The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush AdministrationBy Jack L. Goldsmith(W.W. Norton, 256 pp., $25.95)Jack Goldsmith's book is quite possibly the first sober account of the pressures that a post-9/11 president faces in the attempt to respond under the rule of law to the security threats facing this country.

Jihadi Murat
November 07, 2007

For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central AsiaBy Robert D. Crews(Harvard University Press, 463 pp., $29.95)Russia's Islamic ThreatBy Gordon M. Hahn(Yale University Press, 349 pp., $35)I.Poskrebi russikogo i naydyosh tatarina: scratch a Russian and you will find a Tatar. The origin of this quip is uncertain (attributed to Napoleon, it is found in Michelet, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Marx, and Lenin); but its accuracy has made it into something of a Russian proverb.