Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Bonne connaissance!
Almost all experts agree that the Jesus of the Bible is a composite of myth, legend, and some historical evidence. So what can we know about the real Jesus? Proving History (Prometheus Books, 2012) by historian Richard C. Carrier proposes Bayes’s theorem as a solution to the problem of establishing reliable historical criteria in this in-depth discussion of New Testament scholarship and the challenges of history as a whole. Read Chapter 1, “The Problem."
During the frenzied days of early emigration and expansion in the West, running out of water was rarely a concern, and a dam-building fever filled empty spaces with cities and farms. Today metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and Denver are desperate with thirst. Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future (Globe Pequot Press, 2012) by Stephen Grace tells the story from the beginning when Western water law was formed through the era of technological mastery and taming wild rivers to today when ongoing legal and moral battles over water consume the West. Read the introduction.
San Francisco was the cradle of the ‘60s, but also its coffin, giving rise to Charles Manson and his Family, the bloody Altamont rock festival, the freakish terrorism of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the shocking Zodiac and Zebra murder sprees, the Jim Jones cult and the biggest mass suicide in American history, the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, a wave of anti-gay violence, fiery riots, and a terrifying sexual epidemic. Few cities have endured so many calamities in such a short span. And yet San Francisco not only rose from this decade of wreckage, but gave birth in the process to a set of social values that have become the keystones of liberal America. Season of the Witch (Free Press, 2012) by David Talbot tells the gripping story of San Francisco history between 1967 and 1982. Read the book’s introduction.