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The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy

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No other radical historian has reached so many hearts and minds as Howard Zinn. It is rare that a historian of the Left has managed to retain as much credibility while refusing to let his academic mantle change his beautiful writing style from being anything but direct, forthright, and accessible. Whether his subject is war, race, politics, economic justice, or history its No other radical historian has reached so many hearts and minds as Howard Zinn. It is rare that a historian of the Left has managed to retain as much credibility while refusing to let his academic mantle change his beautiful writing style from being anything but direct, forthright, and accessible. Whether his subject is war, race, politics, economic justice, or history itself, each of his works serves as a reminder that to embrace one's subjectivity can mean embracing one's humanity, that heart and mind can speak with one voice. Here, in six sections, is the historian's own choice of his shorter essays on some of the most critical problems facing America throughout its history, and today.


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No other radical historian has reached so many hearts and minds as Howard Zinn. It is rare that a historian of the Left has managed to retain as much credibility while refusing to let his academic mantle change his beautiful writing style from being anything but direct, forthright, and accessible. Whether his subject is war, race, politics, economic justice, or history its No other radical historian has reached so many hearts and minds as Howard Zinn. It is rare that a historian of the Left has managed to retain as much credibility while refusing to let his academic mantle change his beautiful writing style from being anything but direct, forthright, and accessible. Whether his subject is war, race, politics, economic justice, or history itself, each of his works serves as a reminder that to embrace one's subjectivity can mean embracing one's humanity, that heart and mind can speak with one voice. Here, in six sections, is the historian's own choice of his shorter essays on some of the most critical problems facing America throughout its history, and today.

30 review for The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Once you have read A People's History and are interested in more of Zinn's views on the world and politics, this collection of essays from The Nation and The Progressive is a wonderful way of enjoying his wit and intelligence. Once you have read A People's History and are interested in more of Zinn's views on the world and politics, this collection of essays from The Nation and The Progressive is a wonderful way of enjoying his wit and intelligence.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    Wake up and smell the truth.: "A People's History of the United States" forever changed the way I viewed the world and the system I grew up in. Continuing that tradition, "The Zinn Reader..", wakes up a desire in one's soul to rise up and do something about the injustices and hypocrisies that have dominated our past and continued to swallow our present. Professor Zinn write clearly, honestly, and furiously about topics ranging from the distribution of wealth to the ideal uses of scholarship and Wake up and smell the truth.: "A People's History of the United States" forever changed the way I viewed the world and the system I grew up in. Continuing that tradition, "The Zinn Reader..", wakes up a desire in one's soul to rise up and do something about the injustices and hypocrisies that have dominated our past and continued to swallow our present. Professor Zinn write clearly, honestly, and furiously about topics ranging from the distribution of wealth to the ideal uses of scholarship and intellectualism. He lacks no emotion or fury, unlike many other historians. The main challenge Zinn makes it to exercise free thought, and "to be skeptical of someone else's reality." Very few historians, or writers for that matter, dare to look at the world from the perspective of the poor, the disenfranchised, the bombed, the murdered, the jailed, the conquered, the victim, but Zinn does exactly that, and in doing so puts out a masterful collection that not only instructs us in History, but also challenges our humanity and our place in the world.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    The essay that stands out the most to me is the one on how there can be NO just wars. His argument is pretty great: take a war that was widely held to be just (WWII) and show the many ways in which it might not be. It follows, therefore, that if our best candidate for a just war comes up short, it is likely that others will not be just, either. Smart and ballsy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    When I was in college, an acquaintance told me that Howard Zinn had a profound impact on him. I, with a minor interest in American history, made a mental note to check him out. This man is more extreme than I had imagined. He is a self described radical, he sympathizes with anarchists, abominates the notion of a "good war," and thinks capitalism and the prevailing social structure desperately need to be radically altered. From what I understand he thinks wealth is disproportionately distributed b When I was in college, an acquaintance told me that Howard Zinn had a profound impact on him. I, with a minor interest in American history, made a mental note to check him out. This man is more extreme than I had imagined. He is a self described radical, he sympathizes with anarchists, abominates the notion of a "good war," and thinks capitalism and the prevailing social structure desperately need to be radically altered. From what I understand he thinks wealth is disproportionately distributed because of the existing laws and justice system and that people believe in and trust the current system because everything they learn is built upon that ridiculous foundation. The only way to escape this is a radical revolution (violence might be necessary). Keeping in mind how I fundamentally disagree with him on many issues, some of his essays were thought-provoking for me. I enjoyed reading about the equal rights movement sit-ins. It was an episode I hadn't heard much of, and I'm glad I know about it. In his essay explaining that there are no "good wars," he convinced me that the United States may not have fought for good reasons, but he did not convince me that we should not have fought in it at all. He's also given me much to think about concerning civil disobedience. How far can a person go when his own morality demands it? Who should read it? Conservatives comfortable with opposing viewpoints. Who shouldn't read it? Liberals. (Adding fuel to the fire) Everyone else interested in history can learn a little bit, but should tread cautiously lest Dr. Zinn's radicalism ensnares them. What I would recommend: The Sections on Race, War, and (if you want more) Law.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Come on 'round kiddies, let everyone's favorite radical grandpa tell you a story about how things really were...not the way you were taught in school. I adore Howard Zinn. He can relate incredibly complex subjects down to easily digestible stories so that even dipshits like me can comprehend what's going on. Come on 'round kiddies, let everyone's favorite radical grandpa tell you a story about how things really were...not the way you were taught in school. I adore Howard Zinn. He can relate incredibly complex subjects down to easily digestible stories so that even dipshits like me can comprehend what's going on.

  6. 4 out of 5

    drublood Duro

    I miss Howard Zinn so much. I wish he was around to write about history as it's unfolding right now. Readable, unapologetically subjective, and prosaic, Zinn reminds us that history is alive and tangible. This book is a great survey of the breadth of Zinn's own history as historian journalist. From his childhood to his service to his early years of political activism, Zinn takes us on his journey, but focuses on the world around him as he journeys through it. This is definitely going on the readin I miss Howard Zinn so much. I wish he was around to write about history as it's unfolding right now. Readable, unapologetically subjective, and prosaic, Zinn reminds us that history is alive and tangible. This book is a great survey of the breadth of Zinn's own history as historian journalist. From his childhood to his service to his early years of political activism, Zinn takes us on his journey, but focuses on the world around him as he journeys through it. This is definitely going on the reading list for both of my sons' high school history curriculum.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Collection of essays and excerpts. Overall, it's pretty interesting, but the level of intellectual rigor is not exactly consistent. His argument against war, for example, is pretty thin and has never sat with me right. Whenever I think of it, all I see is Mr. Mackey saying, "War is bad because it's bad, m'kay?" That's essentially the level of argument we're dealing with here. Collection of essays and excerpts. Overall, it's pretty interesting, but the level of intellectual rigor is not exactly consistent. His argument against war, for example, is pretty thin and has never sat with me right. Whenever I think of it, all I see is Mr. Mackey saying, "War is bad because it's bad, m'kay?" That's essentially the level of argument we're dealing with here.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    'I can understand pessimism, but I don't believe in it. It's not simply a matter of faith, but of historical evidence. Not overwhelming evidence, just enough to give hope, because for hope we don't need certainty, only posssibility.' 'I can understand pessimism, but I don't believe in it. It's not simply a matter of faith, but of historical evidence. Not overwhelming evidence, just enough to give hope, because for hope we don't need certainty, only posssibility.'

  9. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    The single most important book I've ever read. The single most important book I've ever read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Falso

    Some essays are great, others not for me. Overall though a great read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Very good. An important read on race, civil disobedience, war, power, poverty, etc. A bit dated, but still very relevant!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Joseph

    Couldn't put it down. Couldn't put it down.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ralf Kalmarson

    Just drive on the pavement LMAO

  14. 5 out of 5

    Donny Stiling

    I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’ve read a book with more typos and errors than this one. It’s relentless.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    Howard Zinn is always a good reread and gives me some small measure of hope that history can guide us forward to a better place.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    A book that took a long time, but worth every session I sat down to take it all in. I never thought I could agree so wholeheartedly with a person who collected his “best” work in 750 pages. It’s all there: his experienced pacifism, his civil rights and feminist activism, his deep dive into the underbelly of the history of the US, and more. I did not know that one person in contemporary academia had such a broad reach of passion and word count. I am one of his target audience, for sure.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Byron

    Amazon was pretty much giving this away a while back, but it would be a pretty good deal even at full price. 700 some-odd pages long, this is an anthology of magazine articles, essays, chapters from various books, introductions he wrote to other people's books and what have you. It would make a great compliment to A People's History of the United States, which is required reading for my brothers in the Blame America First community, and truth be told, it's a more entertaining read. You get to lear Amazon was pretty much giving this away a while back, but it would be a pretty good deal even at full price. 700 some-odd pages long, this is an anthology of magazine articles, essays, chapters from various books, introductions he wrote to other people's books and what have you. It would make a great compliment to A People's History of the United States, which is required reading for my brothers in the Blame America First community, and truth be told, it's a more entertaining read. You get to learn way more about about his life growing up in the immigrant slums of Brooklyn, back in the dark ages, his time as a bombardier in World War II, dropping tons of napalm on a town in France that didn't have shit to do with the war, the time he spent as a professor at Spelman College and as an active participant in the civil rights movement, and his opposition to the Vietnam War in the '60s and '70s. Articles span from maybe the 1950s all the way into the Obama administration -- which is weird given that he died in early 2010. The most recent one must not have been written very long before he died.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Adelaide

    It's hard to succinctly explain my feelings about all 700-odd pages of this collection. I came out of it with a great admiration for Howard Zinn as a man of principle who isn't afraid to act. He also isn't afraid to challenge ideals of patriotism or "justice" or law and order. Most of all, I enjoyed the first section on race, his observations from Spelman and from various Southern protest movements. I was most surprised by his overwhelming optimism. The world is unjust and violent and unequal, b It's hard to succinctly explain my feelings about all 700-odd pages of this collection. I came out of it with a great admiration for Howard Zinn as a man of principle who isn't afraid to act. He also isn't afraid to challenge ideals of patriotism or "justice" or law and order. Most of all, I enjoyed the first section on race, his observations from Spelman and from various Southern protest movements. I was most surprised by his overwhelming optimism. The world is unjust and violent and unequal, but Zinn has a great deal of hope in the power of people to recognize truth and change things to fit with it even when governments and powers oppose them. Fittingly, the book ended with a commencement speech he gave at Spelman entitled "Against Discouragement."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This book is essential if you want to be introduced to Zinn. Well, hell. It's just damn essential, even if you don't. You should. Read it is what I'm saying. If there is a better way to trace the common values that inspire civil rights efforts, labor rights efforts and pacifist efforts I have yet to find it. Zinn, over the course of 40 years and prolific essays, links the struggle for human dignity across decades and accurately lays accountability at the feet of the inhabitors of the structures o This book is essential if you want to be introduced to Zinn. Well, hell. It's just damn essential, even if you don't. You should. Read it is what I'm saying. If there is a better way to trace the common values that inspire civil rights efforts, labor rights efforts and pacifist efforts I have yet to find it. Zinn, over the course of 40 years and prolific essays, links the struggle for human dignity across decades and accurately lays accountability at the feet of the inhabitors of the structures of concentrated wealth and power. Clearly composed and astutely explained history that will forever color how you process what you are told by the powered gentry of your day...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sam Motes

    I would suggest anyone wanting to get into the mind of Zinn to read “A People’s History of the United States” and “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train” first and then the “Zinn Reader” as a good review of his writings over the years. This is broken into sections on Race, Class, War, and History that cover much of the same writings that were included in his other collections. A great existential look at the wild ride of the last 40+ years of US history through the eyes of someone with a front I would suggest anyone wanting to get into the mind of Zinn to read “A People’s History of the United States” and “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train” first and then the “Zinn Reader” as a good review of his writings over the years. This is broken into sections on Race, Class, War, and History that cover much of the same writings that were included in his other collections. A great existential look at the wild ride of the last 40+ years of US history through the eyes of someone with a front row seat to the struggles and tribulations of our times. A real gut check of what each of us has and is willing to do with our lives.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

    I expected more of a how to than a regurgitation of Zinn's other works. The same works are anthologized over and over and sold under separate titles, this is to be expected. However Zinn seems to plagerize his own essays at times, using the same situation as a response to several provacative subjects. Sometimes it seems he uses the least appropriate stories. If this is the first and ONLY Zinn reader you read, then it will blow your face off. If not, you will fall asleep and probably not finish i I expected more of a how to than a regurgitation of Zinn's other works. The same works are anthologized over and over and sold under separate titles, this is to be expected. However Zinn seems to plagerize his own essays at times, using the same situation as a response to several provacative subjects. Sometimes it seems he uses the least appropriate stories. If this is the first and ONLY Zinn reader you read, then it will blow your face off. If not, you will fall asleep and probably not finish it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    In school I learned U.S. History. When I read Howard Zinn I learn the history of the United States. Like his Peoples History of America the Zinn Reader was excellent. It is a compilation of 61 essays, articles, writings divided into six themes:Race, Class, War, Law, History, Means & Ends. I would give a 5 to about 1/3 of the book and a 4 to the other 2/3. Overall a 4.5. Recommend to all interested in learning about us.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephen CM

    The book is broken down by sections like History, Race, Class, etc. The collected writings are mostly short and very accessible. This is an awesome intro to some of the radical themes present in American history. (Zinn is not the MOST RADICAL writer, but he's a very fair writer, as well as passionate.) The book is broken down by sections like History, Race, Class, etc. The collected writings are mostly short and very accessible. This is an awesome intro to some of the radical themes present in American history. (Zinn is not the MOST RADICAL writer, but he's a very fair writer, as well as passionate.)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I read this back in the day when I was fist starting out in college, and I recently read it a second time over the summer. It didn't disappoint. If you want to learn about the horrors of actual history that your social studies teachers glossed over in the name of glorifying the infamous, this is for you. I read this back in the day when I was fist starting out in college, and I recently read it a second time over the summer. It didn't disappoint. If you want to learn about the horrors of actual history that your social studies teachers glossed over in the name of glorifying the infamous, this is for you.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tanuja

    One of the very first books I read on civil disobedience. His assertion that you "can't be neutral on a moving train" quieted the doubtful voices in my head that said, "just keep quiet." Zinn is amazing. One of the very first books I read on civil disobedience. His assertion that you "can't be neutral on a moving train" quieted the doubtful voices in my head that said, "just keep quiet." Zinn is amazing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    AJ

    This is a great anthology of Zinn essays from the 1960s to present day. They can get a bit repetitive if you read the whole thing through but still interesting and informative. I like how Zinn gives a little intro to each essay to help put them in context.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Melbie

    This is one of the best collections of Zinn's writings that he published in his lifetime and I highly recommend it. There are now more compilations coming out of more material, but this is the best place to start. This is one of the best collections of Zinn's writings that he published in his lifetime and I highly recommend it. There are now more compilations coming out of more material, but this is the best place to start.

  28. 5 out of 5

    msondo

    A personal look at Zinn and his wisdom on American history & politics.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    Good book but I read a bunch of the essays elsewhere and didn't realize it until I bought the book. Good book but I read a bunch of the essays elsewhere and didn't realize it until I bought the book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Zinn.

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