Read Recently — February 2015 — Nonfiction

Somebody Scream! rap music’s rise to power in the aftershock of black power by Marcus Reeves

Reeves looks at the rise of Rap music in the black community (and, eventually, the white community) in what he calls the “post-black=power generation”, the people born after the fall of the Black Panthers and the loss of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Each chapter looks mainly at a particular performer or group, from Run-DMC to Eminem, but he uses each one to look at society at that time and doesn’t ignore other performers who were important at the same time.

Well-written, and combines entertainment and politics in a useful way. Recommended.

The God Argument: the Case against religion and for humanism by A. C. Grayling

The first half of the book is Grayling’s arguments against religion, much of which you have read before, though this is well-written. The second-half, the strongest part of the book, is defining and making a case for the use of secular humanism as your personal philosophy.

In his consideration of religion, Grayling does cast his net a little wider than most, looking at least briefly at some Asian religions (he decides that Buddhism and Confucianism are philosophies, rather than religions (I’ll give him Confucianism; I’m not so sure about Buddhism. He says nothing about Shinto or Taoism. Why does everyone ignore Shinto?)) before going back to attacking the people of the book (though, to be fair, no Shintoist has ever told me how I was supposed to live my life).

Though the book is well-written overall (easy to read and intelligent), half of it is familiar stuff you could get anywhere. The stuff on Humanism, though, is good, and I believe that the book’s current organisation is necessary to make it work.

Mildly recommended.

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