I didn’t get around to making a big library trip before everything shut down. I can’t complain; I still have more books than I can read and I don’t mind reading electronically. My library has fantastic free electronic material. So I’m more amused than anything else by the three unexpectedly long term boarders I’ve taken on from the BPL. (Alas, the Museum of Fine Arts doesn’t seem to be lending out paintings to be appreciated during this time of closures and distancing.)
The only one I’ve actually read is Hitler’s First Victims, by Timothy Ryback. I said I was amused, but as luck would have it, none of these books is anything you would call light! This is a quick, gripping read though, and might help one begin to understand the sorts of struggles that were actually involved in the Nazi takeover. It’s a nonfiction account of the investigation of four murders that took place in what was becoming Dachau concentration camp in Bavaria. In 1933, the SS had taken over an old factory being used as a camp for political prisoners, but the Bavarian state still exercised its authority to investigate deaths that took place there. Germany, and Bavaria in particular, had essentially undergone civil war after the first world war, and was still far from united. A prosecutor named Josef Hartinger came very close to indicting and arresting the Nazi officer in charge of the camp for the very thinly disguised murders of four Jews. However, at the same time that Hartinger was risking his neck to investigate Dachau, the president of Bavaria, Heinrich Held, was being forced from office, almost literally, by stormtroopers. Hartinger’s evidence would later reappear at Nuremberg.
I ran across Hitler’s First Victims in the law section (K in Library of Congress classification). It’s an interesting and sometimes neglected portion of the public library, I think. You find a weird mix of things that resemble big test prep books for people who might be divorcing or selling a house, and forlorn looking attempts to write popular accounts of particular points of constitutional theory and legal history. It deserves digging into. I believe that on the night of my last visit I was looking for, of all things, justice Antonin Scalia’s book Making Your Case, which is a little manual of writing and rhetoric I’d seen somewhere and gotten intrigued by.
Instead, the next book I ended up with was one I’d taken out before and still haven’t read: Must We Defend Nazis? by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. A while ago I got in a heated debate with a friend over the first amendment. Presumably this book is taking up a similar position to my friend, arguing against what Oliver Wendell Holmes famously described as “freedom for the thought that we hate”, at least in extreme cases like hate speech. I guess I think that attempting to completely clamp down on that kind of thing, to the point of, I imagine, breaking presses and confiscating books, is a terrifying prospect, both highly apt to abuse and fundamentally the wrong way to fight against wrong ideas. I still haven’t read this book, but if I’ve learned anything since this argument, it’s that first amendment law is broad and remedies for insidious thoughts more nuanced than one is likely to appreciate in a spur of the moment argument. Now that I think about it, the first book might make you wonder how it is that law matters at all.
The third book I’m keeping is Organized Money: How Progressives can Leverage the Financial System to Work for Them, not Against Them, by Keith Mestrich and Mark Pinsky. I don’t have much to say about it, but perhaps my long struggle to get through Piketty attests to a standing concern with big financial questions. All I can think of to say about this book is that my friends who look confused and skeptical when I talk about leaving Bank of America and joining a credit union are clearly missing out on some of the puzzle pieces. I found it in the new arrivals section. Its classification is HG, finance; H, social sciences, is another interesting section, where I find myself prone to skulking, particularly HV (social pathology, so called) and HX (communism).
I could probably write a post on what I like about every letter of the LOC system. Should that be next? Or maybe a post on the books I have actually managed to read lately?