Book Reviews

Boston’s grass roots

Jim Vrabel offers a rich history of community organizing in Boston told through the voices of the activists of the 1960s and 1970s who helped shape the city

A People’s History of the New Boston By Jim Vrabel Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press 288 pages history is replete with the stories of the mighty and powerful. Jim Vrabel’s latest book, A People’s History of the New Boston, tells another story. Vrabel, a former newspaper reporter and longtime community activist who has worked for(...)

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A can-do attitude

A can-do attitude

A recounting of the race to build the nation’s first subway is as much about American bravado as it is about a transformative transportation project.

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America’s First Subway By Doug Most New York: St. Martin’s Press 404 pages once upon a time, before the invention of the internal combustion engine and before Henry Ford perfected the mass production of affordable automobiles, transit was king. It was a brief(...)

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Back to school on the American Dream

Congress needs lessons in bipartisan cooperation to get US higher education policy back on track

Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream By Suzanne Mettler New York: Basic Books 261 pages the american dream is in trouble. As our economy has become more globalized and competitive, it has become harder to achieve what was once available to most Americans—a good job with a good(...)

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Boston’s oracle

Boston’s oracle

As both practitioner and interpreter, Larry DiCara has spent a lifetime steeped in Boston politics.

Turmoil and Transition in Boston: A Political Memoir from the Busing EraBy Lawrence S. DiCara, with Chris BlackLantham, Hamilton Books234 pages Turmoil and Transition in Boston, the title of Larry DiCara’s memoir, is an apt heading for his chronicle of the city’s busing years, which coincide roughly with the 12 years he spent in politics.(...)

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A can-do attitude

A can-do attitude

A recounting of the race to build the nation’s first subway is as much about American bravado as it is about a transformative transportation project.

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America’s First Subway By Doug Most New York: St. Martin’s Press 404 pages once upon a time, before the invention of the internal combustion engine and before Henry Ford perfected the mass production of affordable automobiles, transit was king. It was a brief(...)

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Gateway insights

Gateway insights

Jack Yunits, the former mayor of Brockton, offers his recipes for success, but it would be nice to have more that could be duplicated elsewhere.

Urban Mayor–Making a City WorkBy Jack Yunits with contributions from Lees YunitsBoston, Acanthus Publishing396 pages THE COMMONWEALTH’S GATEWAY CITIES have enormous potential, which explains why state officials, after years of neglect, are making educational and economic development investments in these municipalities to increase job growth beyond Boston. Former MassDevelopment president and CEO Bob Culver liked(...)

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Mixed grade for Obama’s first term

Mixed grade for Obama’s first term

Bold initiatives, but a failure to sell them

BARACK OBAMA’S FIRST TERM was marked by daunting political realities. Upon entering office, he faced an economic crisis un­matched since the Great Depression. The banking system teetered on the verge of collapse. The automobile industry in Detroit was tanking. The nation was hemorrhaging 70,000 jobs each month.Despite all this, some said there were reasons for(...)

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Is character key to student success?

Is character key to student success?

Two books make the case

AS A THOUGHT experiment, imagine you’re magically “shaping” a high school senior. You’re lucky. Her starting point is that she’s at the 80th percentile in both IQ and “character”—a composite measure of traits like grit, tenacity, and optimism. You can increase either variable, but only by lowering the other variable by the same amount. For(...)

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The great divide

The great divide

Charles Murray spotlights an important gap, but goes looking in all the wrong places to explain it

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 – 2010By Charles MurrayNew York, Crown Forum, 407 pages Reviewed by Ralph Whitehead, Jr in the america of 1960, writes Charles Murray in Coming Apart, the lives of white people with a bachelor’s degree or better and the lives of white people with a high school diploma(...)

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The great squeeze

The great squeeze

Income inequality is the economic issue of our time—and the recession has only made a bad situation worse

Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can do About It By Don PeckNew York, Random House, 224 pagesreviewed by Mark Erlich fifteen years ago , I borrowed a visual image from economist Bennett Harrison’s book Lean and Mean for a class I was teaching. Harrison divided the nation’s history(...)

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