Get smarter, faster about America’s 247th birthday

Bidenomics, a modern classic and oodles of history

Welcome to the fourth instalment of This Week, Those Books, your rundown on books new and old that resonate with the week’s news and developments. The few minutes you take to read this newsletter will make you smarter, faster…guaranteed. Here, you will find a deep dive on fiction and non-fiction about the week’s big story and/or perfect watercooler convo and dinner party small talk. (The first post on ‘dictator chic’ is here. The second post on ecocide and the late, great Cormac McCarthy is here. The third post on what to know about Russia, revolts and 1917 is here.)

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We’re a day early — normally, the newsletter goes out Wednesdays — but it’s America’s 247th birthday and there are many compelling reasons to focus this week’s book selections on the Fourth of July. First, for me, is that July 4 is my daughter’s birthday!

But in broader, less personal terms, American declinism continues to be, as TIME magazine’s publisher Henry Luce once said, both cottage industry and big business. At various points since the mid-1950s, when the US became the world’s dominant power, American declinism has been a passionate subject of debate. So it is today. This is not just because America is deeply polarised in political and cultural terms and a mindset of mistrust — of government, the media, police, the scientific establishment, the highest court in the land — is flourishing. As some Republican state legislatures challenge green policies and an activist conservative Supreme Court hands down controversial decisions that will set off a new slew of wars for and against “woke” policies, the narrative of an America in decline is strong.

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Is this justified? Or is America in the throes of a course correction? “Bidenomics”, a term formally launched by Joe Biden’s White House just days ago, is doing rather well, sparking hope that this longer-term reset of economic policy will start a whole new cycle of sustainable growth for the US. With massive investment rolling into manufacturing, infrastructure and green innovation and serious efforts underway to shore up key supply chains, old America is in surprisingly good nick despite the dirge of declinism.

Read on to find out what to read for background and context as we address the state of America 247 years after its founding document, the Declaration of Independence, was adopted on July 4, 1776.

Dear Reader, this week reminds me of those books

Read on at