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Mishell's Book Blog

Trying to read 50 books in 2017.  Will blog about the ones I like.

Currently reading

Waypoint Kangaroo: A Novel
Curtis C. Chen

First book of 2017: A Doozy.

The Origins of Totalitarianism - Hannah Arendt

This book should be required reading for any citizen of the United States in 2017.  


Unless you're used to plowing through college-level texts at high speed, it could prove a bit challenging, but even if you only understand about 25% of what you're reading, that will still put you well ahead of the curve in following what's happening in the U.S. right now and understanding why.


In particular, the third section, Totalitarianism, is relevant to current events (to the point that I ended up highlighting nearly the entire section), but the section on Antisemitism was intriguing - particularly my own reaction to it.  It made me very uncomfortable to see Arendt treat the history of her people in such an even-handed, almost callous way; my intense emotion regarding the horrors endured by the Jews during Hitler's regime makes it uncomfortable for me to read a historical account that assigns them even the slimmest portion of responsibility for the many misconceptions held by Europeans about them.


At first all my "victim-blaming" sirens went off during this section, but as I continued reading it became clear that Arendt was doing quite the opposite.  She gives the long history of Jews in Europe careful consideration, and shows that the larger picture of the changing role of Jews in European history is actually crucial to understanding not only why so many in the 20th century felt hostile toward them (this had mystified me my entire life), but how that hostility was based in ideas that could not have been any farther from reality, despite the chain of events and societal changes that made the idea of a "secret Jewish cabal" seem plausible to the layperson.  Utterly fascinating.


This may be a book that some of you have to chip away at in small doses, or even skip sections of, but be sure you read the Totalitarianism section in its entirety.  If, prior to reading this book, you've found recent U.S. events utterly baffling and surreal, a great deal will suddenly become clear to you.