5 Most Popular Posts: August 2021
- September 2, 2021
We here at the Independent love every piece we run. There are no winners or losers. But all kidding aside, here are August’s winners.
- Larry Matthews’ review of The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War by Craig Whitlock (Simon & Schuster). “Whitlock takes us through the fiasco at Tora Bora and Osama bin Laden’s escape to Pakistan, the duplicity of the Pakistani intelligence service, and our misunderstanding of who the Taliban are. Into this mix of ignorance and poor planning came the idea of ‘nation building’ in a place that has never been a ‘nation’ in the classic sense. Afghanistan has never had a strong central government, an effective national army, or anything else that might provide a base for tying the place together. For a thousand years, it’s been a collection of tribal areas, warlords, double-dealers, and lots of people living a 13th-century life even today.”
- James A. Percoco’s review of Grant’s Tomb: The Epic Death of Ulysses S. Grant and the Making of an American Pantheon by Louis L. Picone (Arcade). “Once completed and opened to the public, Grant’s Tomb quickly became New York City’s biggest tourist attraction. In 1906 alone, 607,584 people visited the site to pay homage to Grant and Julia, who’d been laid to rest beside her husband in 1902. The site also became a location for the country’s nascent movie industry; early filmmakers, Thomas Edison among them, used the tomb as a backdrop in several silent movies. Yet as the 20th century marched on and firsthand recollections of the Civil War faded, Grant’s Tomb fell out of favor, as did the man himself. Picone maintains that history has slighted Grant, whom he sees as a champion of Reconstruction Era reforms aimed at helping newly freed enslaved persons, and a proponent of legislation taking on the Ku Klux Klan.”
- Gretchen Lida’s review of The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren (Vintage). “We might combat climate crises by leaving copies of Hope Jahren’s The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here in strategic public places: on those display racks by the drink coolers in corner stores; near checkout counters at Tractor Supply; in every DMV line in America. If there’s one book all of us should read about the state of the environment, it’s this one. Sure, that might seem a little overzealous. One book isn’t going to solve the slow-motion catastrophe of a warming planet. It will, however, help readers understand the problem without making them run to the bunkers of fear, shame, denial, and tribalism.”
- Lawrence de Maria’s review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Ballantine Books). “Project Hail Mary is not everyone’s cup of Tau. (That’s not a misprint; you’ll have to read the book — which I hope you do — to get the pun.) In fact, its author, Andy Weir, has many detractors who point out that his writing style leaves much to be desired, his humor is borderline juvenile, and he can be politically preachy. All of this is somewhat true, but it’s beside the point. As he proved in his breakout novel, The Martian, Weir can spin a yarn and make a reader think.”
- Chris Rutledge’s review of Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy (Flatiron Books). “Charlotte McConaghy’s Once There Were Wolves pits biologists seeking to reintroduce the titular animals into the Scottish Highlands against a society that has intentionally moved on from the creatures. Like her previous novel, 2020’s bestselling Migrations, Once There Were Wolves explores the interplay between humanity and nature, and the author ably uses that battle as a mirror of our all-too-human conflicts between ourselves and those we love.”