Sunday, November 18, 2007

Interesting New Books

I have a bunch of reviews to write, but first, here are a couple of new books I found on AlterNet that I haven't read yet.
  • The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs - The mostly agnostic author (he's Jewish "in the same way that the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant") writes down every law he can find in the Old Testament and tries to live by them in modern times. This is relevant because a huge percentage of Americans claim to do just that (except Christians use the comparatively lax New Testament instead of the Old). Although the book is written and classified as humor (a detail lost on some Amazon reviewers), Jacobs learns a lot about spirituality along the way. In the end, he finds virtue in sacredness, regardless of whether there is a God. See this AlterNet article for more.
  • Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves by Andrew Szasz - This book looks at the green consumer phenomenon and suggests that we are feeling a false sense of goodness from buying organic and such. His argument is that buying green products is a self-centered act that has little impact on the environmental destruction that made those products viable in the first place. In other words, just because my veggies are free of chemicals doesn't stop farmers from dumping chemicals on crops for everyone else, and buying bottled water doesn't keep polluters from spewing toxins into Lake Michigan. I suppose it's "the American way" to turn activism into just another flavor of consumerism. Reviewer Erin Wiegand is quick to point out that shoppers shouldn't think buying green is meaningless, just that we should realize that it is only a small part of solving our environmental problems.

I'll probably put The Year of Living Biblically on my Christmas list. I expect it to be entertaining along the lines of Joe Queenan's My Goodness. On the other hand, although I agree with the premise of Shopping Our Way to Safety, I don't feel a need to read about it in depth.

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