Archive for the ‘Politics/Current Affairs’ Category

Staff Review: American Savage – Dan Savage

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Dan Savage: Bane of the Hypocrites

Reviewed by Steven

Two thoughts kept running through my mind as I was reading Dan Savage’s book of essays called American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. They were: ‘Preaching to the choir!’ and ‘God, am I glad that I do not live in America.’ Savage does an excellent job of poking holes in the rhetoric of right-wing, hypocritical and generally religious zealots (of which there seem to be a lot in the US) with regards to social issues. This seems like a frustrating and thankless job to me, as they are not the kind of people to come up with rational arguments based on impartial research. Instead, they excel at circular, emotive reasoning and pointing at Holy Books, insisting that some sections should be followed to the letter by all – even by non-believers – while ignoring parts of the text that are inconvenient to them and parts that are obviously morally reprehensible by current standards. A detailed and reasonable counter-argument likely won’t yield more reaction than them putting their fingers in their ears and the continued insistence that everyone blindly live by their hand-picked moral absolutes. Even if they themselves don’t actually adhere to them. Reality be damned!

I admire Savage because he actually takes the time and effort to fight stupidity. Even though he is unlikely to get through to the enemy, it’s good for the left-wing to see their opinions clearly verbalized. Savage’s rallying of liberal troops and pushing people into action is necessary. Zealots have more righteous fight in them than moderates, and are better at wrangling their followers, putting them into action. People need to keep pushing back, to expose hypocritical, immoral extremists for what they are and to keep them from fooling the sometimes sheepish mainstream. I have to non-religiously confess that I am someone who believes in an absolute separation of church and state. So I ironically count my blessings that I live in the relatively relaxed Netherlands, where people generally believe what they want and don’t try to impose their religious beliefs on others by law.

As always, Savage’s writing is funny and smooth, the flow only broken by a few overly long footnotes. The topics and opinions will be familiar to anyone who reads his columns and/or listens to his podcasts. He does indeed cover faith, sex, love and politics – as the subtitle of the book suggests – and talks about gun control, healthcare and euthanasia, among other things. There is a touching piece about the death of his mother and a sneak peek behind the curtain of a debate he had with a zealot he invited over to his house for dinner (a long and entertaining story). A lot of the specifics for these essays are very America-centric, as the title already suggests. If you don’t care about American politics, you may not care about some of the content. But if you do care even a little bit about the messy ways in which politics and religion are colliding in the US of A, it is a fascinating and entertaining read. Though it may leave you angry.

Steven is one of the Espresso Book Machine operators in Amsterdam, and a large part of our Special Order department there, too.  He is the author of Gay and Happy: The International Guide for Gay Men.  More of Steven’s reviews can be found on his blog, PopCultJunk.

ABC’s Gift Ideas: History/Politics, Horror, Humor, Local Interest/Living Abroad

Monday, November 11th, 2013

The gift-giving season is upon us – hooray!

The ABC Staff has rummaged through their sections and order lists, and come up with another year’s worth of wonderful gift ideas for you: from fiction to history to cookbooks to children’s books to travel to non-books and onwards.

In a series of blog posts and recommendation lists throughout the coming month, you will find what we think will make great gifts, whether you celebrate Sinterklaas, Christmas or just like giving books to people. And since we’re a bookstore, these posts will be alphabetical by subject. :-)

Today you’ll find gift ideas for History/Politics, Horror, Humor and Local Interest/Living Abroad as picked out by section buyers Maarten, Barry, Ester, Luke, Martijn, Tom and Agnes. Bear in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg – come to either one of our stores to browse many, many more titles in any of these subjects.

We are ready as ever to be your personal shoppers again this year, and hope you will find our selections useful and inspiring!

You can find our gift ideas from previous years here (scroll down a bit pas 2013), and be sure to have a look at our ABC Favorites, too.


You Review: The Last Vote: The Threats to Western Democracy – Philip Coggan

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Reviewed by David Young

Any right-thinking person who has been following the smoke-filled room machinations of the Dutch government recently cannot have failed to wonder about the legitimacy of the democratic process. In The Last Vote: The Threats to Western Democracy, Philip Coggan, a financial journalist for the Financial Times and Economist, purports to examine the current state of democracy and propose some solutions to its problems.

Unfortunately there are some drawbacks in his analysis. Firstly he fails to clearly define what he means by “democracy” – indeed we have to wait till page 221 for “Defining the problem,” which I would have thought should be a starting point.

He writes from an entirely British perspective in which anything other than first-past-the-post electoral systems is an aberration – I quote: “Voters need to have a representative who is responsible for their particular area…….this rules out any system based on party lists.” This would come as news to many European politicians.

His background means we are treated to lengthy rehearsals of the current financial crisis, analysis of the role of the IMF and WTO etc., etc., which seem totally irrelevant to the topic. As a journalist he is also prone to remarkable generalisations – one of my favourites is: “Switzerland….is rather better run than California” – a statement which would have any self-respecting academic tearing his hair out.

The author is obviously a smart and well-informed guy who has researched his topic very deeply and widely. He fails to come up with any proposals for improving the current situation, ending with a rather feeble plea to all of us to use our vote. There is a book (maybe several) which urgently needs to be written on this subject – unfortunately this isn’t it.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Ebooks available for The Last Vote, Paper Promises, The Money Machine and The Economist Guide to Hedge Funds.

This Just In: Military History

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Five Recently-Arrived Titles from the Military History Section:

Please be sure to contact our stores for an exact stock check!

EBooks available for China’s War with Japan: 1937-1945 and The Sleepwalkers.


Win FREE tickets to Lincoln!

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

In 1865, as the American Civil War winds inexorably toward conclusion, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln endeavors to achieve passage of the landmark constitutional amendment which will forever ban slavery from the United States. However, his task is a race against time, for peace may come at any time, and if it comes before the amendment is passed, the returning southern states will stop it before it can become law. Lincoln must, by almost any means possible, obtain enough votes from a recalcitrant Congress before peace arrives and it is too late. Yet the president is torn, as an early peace would save thousands of lives. As the nation confronts its conscience over the freedom of its entire population, Lincoln faces his own crisis of conscience — end slavery or end the war.

Lincoln is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals.

See it for FREE with ABC!

In cooperation with Warner Netherlands and IMAX Pathé, we will be giving away 3 pairs of tickets to Lincoln, with Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role.

What do you need to do?  Answer the 2 questions below:

1. Which US President credited Team of Rivals as a major source of inspiration for his administration?

2. What is your favorite history book?

Mail both your answers to by Wednesday, February 6th, and be sure to put ‘Lincoln’ in the subject header. On February 7th the winners will be announced on this blog.

Please note that the answer to question 2 can’t be right or wrong. We’re simply curious, love to hear about your favorites, and will pass the titles you mention on to our History buyers! :-)