Service of Book Reviews

November 10th, 2014

Categories: Uncategorized

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By reading a great review I usually learn more than whether or not I want to order a book. I wasn’t disappointed by Louise Richardson’s, “In Security,” about James Risen’s book “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War,” [Houghton Mifflin].

Richardson points out that the author is a prize winning reporter for the paper in which the review appeared: The New York Times. She wrote that Risen’s “focus is not on the ravages of war wrought in the countries invaded by the United States and its allies, but on the United States itself. This is a story of war proliferating, personal ambition, bureaucratic turf wars, absence of accountability and, always, secrecy.”

Examples:

  • “$20 billion was sent to Iraq with little or no oversight and without any clear direction on how it should be spent.”
  • “Pallets of cash were distributed at will. Today $11.7 billion remains unaccounted for. Much of it made its way into private bank accounts; apparently $2 billion is hidden in Lebanon.”wasting money 3
  • “A Pentagon report found that in the decade after 9/11, the Defense Department gave more than $400 billion to contractors who had been sanctioned in actions involving $1million or more in fraud.” One swindler fooled the CIA into believing it could decode messages from Al Quaeda which the organization denied once he was exposed and the “Pentagon kept working with him and the Justice Department tried to prevent any information about the scheme from becoming public.”secrecy

 

Richardson also points out the book’s weaknesses. For one, she felt that sources of information and statistics weren’t always credited. For another, she felt that Risen blamed a company that received $1.8 billion in government contracts when it was the government that was responsible–it ordered the service–and last, that he didn’t identify some members of the press who stir “up public anxiety for private gain,” though he identifies “self-appointed terrorism experts” who do. [She made clear that she counts neither Risen nor his employer among this group .]

She recommends policy makers should read “this important and powerful book,” as should anyone, she feels, who wants to evaluate where we are today terrorism threat wise [since 9/11]. It should be a pleasure  as earlier in the review she describes “Risen’s fast-paced, accessible prose and his finely drawn detail make the book read like an implausible thriller.” [She laments that it all appears to be true.]

Are you shocked by:

  • The amount of unaccounted for money in these examples?
  • The gullibility of the CIA and the fact that the Pentagon kept working with a conman all of which was dusted under the rug by the Justice Department?

Are you angry that your tax money is being spent this way and that nobody was looking in spite of our incredible debt? What should we do about this?  Do you enjoy reading a good book review?

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8 Responses to “Service of Book Reviews”

  1. Frank Paine Said:

    Hi, Jeanne.

    Shocked and angry, but not surprised. It’s not news that government is out of control–we’ve seen other examples of that for decades. I do like reading good book reviews for the reason that you mentioned. In this case, I won’t buy the book. As I said, it’s not a new story, and the book won’t add to my knowledge–and my reading backlog is too long to indulge myself in re-reading stories I already know. For others, especially younger people who haven’t heard this before, it’s probably a worthwhile read.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Frank,

    We all may suspect this kind of hemorrhage but reading the extent of the cover-up and examples that illustrate the fact that nobody learns lessons from mistakes is scary. I am grateful to the book reviewer for sharing these highlights and hope that the book does well. Investigative newspaper reporters are increasingly rare because their prospective employers are firing them in horrifying numbers.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Shameless squandering of taxpayer money is common knowledge as long I can remember. Can’t say if everyone is crooked, but enough of those in power are, and the bleeding will continue unless some drastic changes are made. It appears as if there are too many sheep and too few war horses to make this come about for a good long time, if ever.

    I know what I like to read, and need no assistance from book reviewers.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    As I noted in my response to Frank Paine above, I was astounded by the extent and breadth of the bad news in Risen’s book.

    I have come to like great book reviews. Similar to well written obituaries, I learn a lot from them and appreciate the knowledge of a good reviewer. In addition, I might discover a topic I would otherwise not know about.

    I also recognize the hours that go into a book review–the thought makes my knees weak. Many have read many if not all of the books of the author and have not only to read the newest one, but refresh their memory about the others before one of their fingers hits a keyboard. A labor of love for sure.

  5. JPM Said:

    We tend to forget that our country, and our government, are a mix of the first and third world. As such, “sloppy” accounting must be expected to be the price one pays for the privilege of democracy.

    Am I surprised or angry about this? I used to be. Now, I’m fatalistic.

    I do enjoy reading book reviews, especially ones which discuss histories and biographies such as can be found in the Wall Street Journal. These tend to be exceptionally well written and perceptive.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    JPM,

    I, too, love the Wall Street Journal book reviews but also some in the Sunday New York Times review section, as this one was.

    I dislike feeling helpless. It’s so easy for government to ask the public for more money to pay its bills, and we have nothing to do but pay taxes or end up in jail and/or without fuel for cars and home heating and so forth. We don’t hold anyone accountable for the misuse of public funds and so it will continue–but it can’t! There are limits. When do we reach them?

  7. Judy Schuster Said:

    I’ve read so many examples of government waste that this doesn’t even shock me. I think it has probably gone on for years, but we are more aware of it today. I won’t be reading the book. I read for pleasure and this would just make me mad.

    As for book reviews, I’m an avid reader of them. That’s often how I decide what to reserve from the library. I used to write them for the Sunday Star-Tribune while I was home taking care of kids. They would send me a bag of mysteries and I could pick out what I wanted to read, then I’d review them for a column called Crime Corner. It was a fun way to earn a few dollars. The pay wasn’t great but the reading was.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Judy,

    You are a very fast reader and writer–and a good writer, too–all of which is required of a reviewer. What a great name for a column!

    I’m with you: I order books from the library that sound interesting and often I buy gifts of a book based on a review when it strikes me as something that would be perfect for my husband or sister who devour books.

    The book review was enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure. It should be on the list of college kids, though. They must know what’s going on as I suspect that they must be the ones to turn things around but they must know that something’s wrong in the first place.

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