New Used Books for Summer
Having just last night finished the first of the above books, I decided to return today to the same bookseller to find another read and came away with three, all published in 2012 (not that newness is a good thing in and of itself—in fact, the opposite is usually true).
Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century was the best book of I've read on secessionism since Bill Kauffman's Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America's Political Map. It was well worth its price if only for editor Donald Livingston's excellent essay "American Republicanism and the Forgotten Question of Size," the best short history and defense of republicanism I have yet come across.
Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure jumped out at me, having not long ago visited what was, and what by rights still should be, the Kingdom of Hawaii. I have long been interested in this story for its local angle involving one of my heroes, as mentioned on the dust jacket: "The annexation of Hawaii was extremely controversial; the issue caused heated debates in the Senate and President Cleveland gave a strongly worded speech opposing it." Here's that speech, in which the great Buffalonian denounces "the lawless occupation of Honolulu under false pretexts by the United States forces" — Grover Cleveland Opposes the Annexation of Hawaii. This was long before all this "support the troops" nonsense, when we were still free, and even the president could speak the truth.
The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future was an obvious choice, having ten months ago repatriated from fourteen years south of the DMZ. That the book is authored by Victor Cha, a man who gave his time to the Bush régime is cause for concern, but he seems like a decent enough fellow. Leafing through the book, I feel nostalgic for my favorite ever detective novels, set in North Korea, the Inspector O series by James Church.
Finally, In Search of Japan's Hidden Christians: A Story of Suppression, Secrecy and Survival would be an obvious choice for anyone moved by the story of the Kakure Kirishitan (隠れキリシタン), one of the most fascinating of our religion's two-millennia history. The epicenter (and later hypocenter) of these events and much more is a city which I visited once but left a strong mark, and about which I have written a lot, including several blog posts — Nagasaki and Me, Nagasaki, Mon Amour, Was the A-Bombing of Nagasaki a Deliberate Attack on Catholicism?, Münster and Nagasaki, A Very Different Bomber Mission Over Nagasaki — and two articles — The Holy City of Nagasaki and Japs and A-rabs, Not Fellow Christians.