To give us hope while we’re here, re-read the progressive classic A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, by Howard Zinn (first issued in 1980; reissued in 2005 with updates through 9/11, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, $18.95). Zinn tells what happened from pre-Columbian times into the Dubya years from the point of view of the rest of us — the ones not in government or making millions, which reminds us, with historical examples, that there is hope for populist movements, though we face an uphill climb.
For soul-food in that quest, seek out spiritualist Deepak Chopra’s quasi-fictional biography BUDDHA: A STORY OF ENLIGHTENMENT (HarperCollins, $24.95), in which the life of the man at the core of one of the world’s major religions is retold, with some embellishment, to wondrous effect. It’s neither as spare nor as brooding as Hesse’s Siddhartha, but Chopra explores Buddha’s interpersonal relations more deeply than Hesse’s introspective tale.
And leave yourself some hope: a book unread but eagerly anticipated: UNRULY AMERICANS AND THE ORIGINS OF THE CONSTITUTION by Woody Holton (Hill and Wang, $27), explaining how the Constitution — surprisingly, for something written by rich white men — can liberate all of us, if we stand up for it, and for ourselves.
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