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The Best Books of 2002

By Steven Martinovich
web posted January 6, 2003

Conservatives had a lot of good reading material in 2002 and ESR was lucky enough to spotlight many of the best books last year. Here, in no particular order are the books that ESR's book editor thought were at the head of the class

A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
By Atul Gawande
Metropolitan Books, 288 pgs.
As Atul Gawande points out, although medicine is a science it is also a discipline practiced by human beings on other human beings. The pronouncements of doctors have long-been given God-like status by their patients but behind that stoic mask is a person who often relies on "habit, intuition, and sometimes plain old guessing." It is with that in mind that Gawande explores the surgeon's profession in Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, a series of interconnected essays that touch on the performance of doctors, treatments and new technologies.
Read the rest of our review here.

Warrior PoliticsWarrior Politics
Why leadership demands a pagan ethos
By Robert D. Kaplan
Random House, 224 pgs.
Since the terrorist attacks last year there has been a serious evaluation of what leadership means especially its implications during war. Every age thinks that their world and time is somehow unique. Robert Kaplan makes the case in his latest book Warrior Politics that leaders from the past could successfully operate in 2002. Kaplan has made a career out of doom and gloom. His dire warnings in the pages of The Atlantic Monthly such as his groundbreaking 1994 essay "The Coming Anarchy" and his eight previous books on travel, international affairs and the future of the planet have become a major part of international relations thinking.
Read the rest of our review here.

Our Posthuman Future Our Posthuman Future
Consequences of the biotechnology revolution
By Francis Fukuyama
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 256 pgs.
It would appear that history has not, in fact, ground to a halt. Back in 1989, social philosopher Francis Fukuyama made the extraordinary claim that because "the major alternatives to liberal democracy had exhausted themselves," history had effectively come to an end. Ten years later, he backpedaled by announcing that history wasn't at an end because science continued to make progress. Fukuyama picks up that thread in Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution with a compellingly argued new thesis.
Read the rest of our review here.

Against the Dead Hand Against the Dead Hand
The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism
By Brink Lindsey
John Wiley & Sons, 368 pgs.
In Against the Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism, Brink Lindsey argues that far from being a dangerous force, globalization - or perhaps more accurately, global capitalism - promises to usher in an era of unparalleled prosperity. In fact, he says at several points, we are only in a transition period between an era of collectivism - the dead hand that the book's title refers to - and a future of unrestrained trade.

Read the rest of our review here.

The Death Penalty
An American History
By Stuart Banner
Harvard University Press, 408 pgs.
For as long as there has been an America, there has been death penalty. As Washington University law professor Stuart Banner aptly illustrates in The Death Penalty: An American History, like the nation, the death penalty has changed in both form and how it has been carried out. Along with being the ultimate punishment that a society can levy for breaking its laws, the death penalty also serves as a window to attitudes on everything from religion to race.

Read the rest of our review here.

The Sweetest Dream: A Novel The Sweetest Dream: A Novel
By Doris Lessing
HarperCollins, 496 pgs.
The most insightful critics of social and political movements may be those who were once in their vanguard. Novelist Doris Lessing would certainly qualify as an expert in counterculture movements. A communist in her youth who abandoned three children when she moved to Africa, Lessing has long been considered one of the preeminent voices of her peers. Among Lessing's most recent projects was a three-part autobiography. As her author's notes indicate, The Sweetest Dream: A Novel will take the place of that third installment, one that will not be written in order to avoid hurting those still alive to be hurt. Read the rest of our review here.

The Pirate HunterThe Pirate Hunter
The True Story of Captain Kidd
By Richard Zacks
Hyperion, 400 pgs.
Few names in naval history bring as much imagery to mind as the infamous Captain William Kidd. In the centuries since his hanging in London for the crimes of murder and piracy, Kidd's name has been ranked alongside with that of Blackbeard for ruthlessness and avarice. Depictions of Kidd follow the standard Hollywood formula of a colorfully dressed scoundrel who could kill as easily as hoist a mug of rum. Attempting to turn aside centuries of lore, author Richard Zacks argues in The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd that Kidd was far from a pirate.
Read the rest of our review here.

Medal of Honor Medal of Honor
Profiles of America's Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present
By Allen Mikaelian
Hyperion Books, 320 pgs.
Although statistically speaking the Congressional Medal of Honor is not the rarest military award that has been earned by soldiers - that distinction goes to Britain's Victoria Cross - it has nonetheless gained a deserved reputation as the ultimate symbol of courage in battle. Since its inception in 1861, fewer than 3 500 soldiers have been awarded for, as Allen Mikaelian writes, distinguishing themselves "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." Read the rest of our review here.

Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life
By Carlo D'Este
Henry Holt & Company, 824 pgs.
It took the Second World War to rescue the careers of both Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill, two of the most famous personalities of that conflict. Like Churchill, who had desired the ultimate prize of leadership but could never quite reach it, Eisenhower's career before the war was languishing. Sitting at the rank of lieutenant colonel at the age of 50, Eisenhower's military career, it seemed, would be a solid but uneventful journey. The outbreak of war changed all of that. Less than three and a half years after America's entry into the war, Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe and held the rank of five star general. Read the rest of our review here.

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