What Are Martha Craven Nussbaum Top Recommended Books?
One of NPR's Great Reads of 2018An unforgettable portrait of one of the most inspiring historical figures of the twentieth century, published on the centenary of his birth.
Arrested in 1962 as South Africa’s apartheid regime intensified its brutal campaign against political opponents, forty-four-year-old lawyer and African National Congress activist Nelson Mandela had no idea that he would spend the next twenty-seven years in jail. During his 10,052 days of incarceration, the future leader of South Africa wrote a multitude of letters to unyielding prison authorities, fellow activists, government officials, and, most memorably, to his courageous wife, Winnie, and his five children. Now, 255 of these letters, many of which have never been published, provide exceptional insight into how Mandela maintained his inner spirits while living in almost complete isolation, and how he engaged with an outside world that became increasingly outraged by his plight.
Organized chronologically and divided by the four venues in which he was held as a sentenced prisoner, The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela begins in Pretoria Local Prison, where Mandela was held following his 1962 trial. In 1964, Mandela was taken to Robben Island Prison, where a stark existence was lightened only by visits and letters from family. After eighteen years, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, a large complex outside of Cape Town with beds and better food, but where he and four of his comrades were confined to a rooftop cell, apart from the rest of the prison population. Finally, Mandela was taken to Victor Verster Prison in 1988, where he was held until his release on February 11, 1990.
With accompanying facsimiles of some of his actual letters, this landmark volume reveals how Mandela, a lawyer by training, advocated for prisoners’ human rights. It reveals him to be a loving father, who wrote to his daughter, “I sometimes wish science could invent miracles and make my daughter get her missing birthday cards and have the pleasure of knowing that her Pa loves her,” aware that photos and letters he sent had simply disappeared.
More painful still are the letters written in 1969, when Mandela―forbidden from attending the funerals of his mother and his son Thembi―was reduced to consoling family members through correspondence. Yet, what emerges most powerfully is Mandela’s unfaltering optimism: “Honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth even when things seem dark & grim, who try over and & over again, who are never discouraged by insults, humiliation & even defeat.”
Whether providing unwavering support to his also-imprisoned wife or outlining a human-rights philosophy that resonates today, The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela reveals the heroism of a man who refused to compromise his moral values in the face of extraordinary punishment. Ultimately, these letters position Mandela as one of the most inspiring figures of the twentieth century.
From The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela
“A new world will be won not by those who stand at a distance with their arms folded, but by those who are in the arena, whose garments are torn by storms & whose bodies are maimed in the course of contest.”
“I am convinced that floods of personal disaster can never drown a determined revolutionary nor can the cumulus of misery that accompanies tragedy suffocate him.”
“My respect for human beings is based, not on the colour of a man’s skin nor authority he may wield, but purely on merit.”
“A good pen can also remind us of the happiest moments in our lives, bring noble ideas into our dens, our blood & our souls. It can turn tragedy into hope & victory.”2 maps; 37 illustrations; 8 pages of color photographs
Martin Luther King, Jr., may be America’s most revered political figure, commemorated in statues, celebrations, and street names around the world. On the fiftieth anniversary of King’s assassination, the man and his activism are as close to public consciousness as ever. But despite his stature, the significance of King’s writings and political thought remains underappreciated.
In To Shape a New World, Tommie Shelby and Brandon Terry write that the marginalization of King’s ideas reflects a romantic, consensus history that renders the civil rights movement inherently conservative―an effort not at radical reform but at “living up to” enduring ideals laid down by the nation’s founders. On this view, King marshaled lofty rhetoric to help redeem the ideas of universal (white) heroes, but produced little original thought. This failure to engage deeply and honestly with King’s writings allows him to be conscripted into political projects he would not endorse, including the pernicious form of “color blindness” that insists, amid glaring race-based injustice, that racism has been overcome.
Cornel West, Danielle Allen, Martha Nussbaum, Robert Gooding-Williams, and other authors join Shelby and Terry in careful, critical engagement with King’s understudied writings on labor and welfare rights, voting rights, racism, civil disobedience, nonviolence, economic inequality, poverty, love, just-war theory, virtue ethics, political theology, imperialism, nationalism, reparations, and social justice. In King’s exciting and learned work, the authors find an array of compelling challenges to some of the most pressing political dilemmas of our present, and rethink the legacy of this towering figure.
In just over a decade, John Hickenlooper has gone from brew pub entrepreneur to governor of Colorado, hailed by political analysts and media alike as a solid contender to be the next vice president. In The Opposite of Woe, Hickenlooper tells his own story of unlikely success in his singularly sharp and often hilarious voice.
After ten years at Wesleyan, Hickenlooper found himself laid off from his first job as a geologist. So he rented a space in an empty warehouse in an empty pocket of Denver’s downtown to open a brew pub. Honest, likable, practical, Hickenlooper turned out to be a natural at the job; the pub was a huge success. In fifteen years, he blossomed from small business owner into millionaire at the helm of a string of pubs across the western United States. He was so influential in the community that, encouraged by many, he ran for mayor, essentially as a lark. And then he won.
So began his eight years as one of the most creative and successful mayors in the United States. Doubling down in politics, Hickenlooper ran for Colorado governor in 2010, and won again—twice. Tackling a host of volatile issues, from prison reform to fracking, capital punishment to same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, Hickenlooper’s administration has persuaded opposing constituencies of a true battleground state to agree and move forward on a middle path—all while dealing with tragic wildfires, floods, and the assassination of a cabinet member.
On display throughout the book is the rare candidness that has made Hickenlooper not only wildly popular but also remarkably successful. Cowritten with journalist and former speechwriter Maximillian Potter, The Opposite of Woe is a fresh and refreshing angle on our political landscape from one of its brightest rising stars.
For decades Martha C. Nussbaum has been an acclaimed scholar and humanist, earning dozens of honors for her books and essays. In The Monarchy of Fear she turns her attention to the current political crisis that has polarized American since the 2016 election.
Although today’s atmosphere is marked by partisanship, divisive rhetoric, and the inability of two halves of the country to communicate with one another, Nussbaum focuses on what so many pollsters and pundits have overlooked. She sees a simple truth at the heart of the problem: the political is always emotional. Globalization has produced feelings of powerlessness in millions of people in the West. That sense of powerlessness bubbles into resentment and blame. Blame of immigrants. Blame of Muslims. Blame of other races. Blame of cultural elites. While this politics of blame is exemplified by the election of Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit, Nussbaum argues it can be found on all sides of the political spectrum, left or right.
Drawing on a mix of historical and contemporary examples, from classical Athens to the musical Hamilton, The Monarchy of Fear untangles this web of feelings and provides a roadmap of where to go next.