I don't read very much nonfiction. There are too many novels, short fiction and too much poetry out there (I don't read nearly enough poetry anymore either), to keep up with the other half of the bestseller list.
Much non-fiction of the sociopolitical or economic variety seems to exist to advance one or a few central points with a lot of supposition, numbers and ends with a sort of wrap up. It's the kind of thing we all did in collegiate essays. For the sake of argument, I exclude a great swath of historical biography as well as science or travel writing here.
If you read a newspaper or two every day, most of what Christopher Hitchens, Jimmy Carter, Thomas Friedman, Linda McQuaig, or a gasbag like Michael Moore is, I think, largely covered with more brevity and a lot less bombast.
Noam Chomsky, whatever he addresses politically; just tires me out. I could retire tomorrow if I could convince his publisher to tie in a throw pillow for every book sold.
Book reviews for fiction while mostly inadequate other than to serve as plot summaries; still work pretty well for non-fiction of this variety. Often a retelling of a couple main arguments and a simple thumbs up or down, often expressed with a load of the reviewers own biases often covers the road well enough.
But every once in awhile I'm intrigued by something that comes from the shrinking centre of the political spectrum that is smoothly written, wears it's biases openly and softly and doesn't seem to come from a core of sputtering outrage.
Granted, it's a fairly easy target to hit, but still, nicely done Mr. Chait.
Posted by Dave