Monday, February 2, 2015

Thomas F. Schaller

Thomas Schaller is professor of political science, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He writes a political column for the Baltimore Sun and lives in Washington, DC.

His latest book is The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Schaller's reply:
Right now I’m reading my UMBC colleague, noted historian and good friend Kate Brown’s book, Plutopia, about the atomic communities in America and the USSR. Kate is a great historian, in part because she’s a former journalist and investigates and interviews people with a keen eye and keener ear for human narratives—and then writes in a voice that engages readers.

I recently finished Lawrence Wright’s investigation of Scientology, Going Clear. It’s a fascinating account of Scientologists and their founder, L. Ron Hubbard. I found it a bit disappointing in its failure to explain how a person like Hubbard is capable of transforming himself from a minor figure into a cult leader. This is a fascinating—and frightening—process, one that tells us something about the human condition and how some individuals (not just religious leaders) capitalize upon human frailty. But otherwise, it was a good read.

As a DC'er, I also finally got around to reading Mark Leibovich’s This Town, which is one of those books that everybody inside the Beltway reads, pretends not to or not to have liked it if they do admit to reading it, but on some secret level actually did like. Leibovich provides a new take on an old critique about the self-serving and self-satisfied nature of the political-celebrity culture of the nation’s capital.

And then I always have a series of books I’ve started, put down, picked up and put down another time or two, but plan to finish at some point. At present that list includes works of both fiction (Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding) and non-fiction (Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish). And I confess my shame at having not gotten around yet to reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. They ought to revoke my tenure for that transgression.
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--Marshal Zeringue