Bookmarked: Jesus, Dams, and Witches

By Staff
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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.

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