[star]The American Mind[star]

December 31, 2004

2004 TAM Book Awards

  1. The Pentagon's New Map by Thomas Barnett

    Foreign policy wonks are using the terms "Core" and "Gap" when refering to fighting global terrorism. They were coined by Barnett while studying a map of where U.S. troops have operated in the past 10+ years. His thesis is that global stability, i.e. U.S. national security, requires a shrinking of the Gap, those disconnected economically and technologically, by the Core. His analysis is profound though a touch too Hegelian. His solution is also thought provoking. He envisions a "system administration" branch of the military that would rebuild and reform an area of the Core after the big guns of the military finish dropping their bombs. I'm skeptical. His sys admin branch sounds like a Peace Corps with guns. There's plenty to argue with in PNM. However, you must appreciate that Barnett is asking the most important foreign policy questions of our times.

  2. September 11 Commission Report

    I never would have expected a government-produced document to make it onto my list of best books of the year. But I also never expected a horrific event like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. There is plenty to critize about the the Sept. 11 Commission. There was a big confict of interest with one of the commissioners as well as the partisanship that ran roughshod over the public hearings. Those aspects will be forgotten. What will stand is their report. It's detailed, comprehensive, and most importantly readable. While not perfect (no work could be) it's the place to begin to understand that awful day.

  3. A Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World by Wesley Smith

    With the explosion in new biotech possibilities humanity is on the verge of entering a new age. Smith thinks we're headed toward Aldous Huxley's distopia if we're not careful. This brief argument assails those in favor of unlimited human cloning and embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. He explains the technologies then delves into the moral questions surrounding the quasi-totalitarianism of designer babies and genetic engineering. His tract isn't all negative. Smith offers evidence that adult stem cells is offering more medical hope than ESC. One problem with this book is Smith's refusal to link embryonic stem cell research to the abortion debate. Since both cause the death of human life they are deeply connected. Biotech is the most important moral debate of our time. Smith's book has the ability to bring non-tech people into the conversation.

  4. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

    For U.S. history buffs we are living in a great time. A few years ago, David McCullough graced us with a fine biography of John Adams. Last year, Walter Issacson gave us Benjamin Franklin. This year, Ron Chernow offered a 700+ tome to Alexander Hamilton. In it the reader will realize he was the second most important of the Founding Fathers, behind George Washington. Hamilton was an important aide to Washington during the Revolutionary War. He helped write the constitution. Through the brilliant Federalist Papers (along with James Madison and John Jay) he defended the document and gave us one of the most important documents on politics in world history. As the United States' first treasury secretary he put the nation's finances on a sound footing while creating an government that has lasted for 200+ years. With a biography of such length we see Hamilton as a whole warts and all. While being an amazing thinker and workaholic we see his greatest weakness, personal pride leading to his infamous duel with Aaron Burr.

  5. The Call of the Mall by Paco Underhill

    This is the first time in the history of the TAM Book Awards where a business book made the list. Underhill deserves it by writing a study of mall shopping that could be described as sociological. He carefully watched how shoppers behaved and transformed those observations into a great story.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Books at 10:43 PM | Comments (1)