The Daily Heller: Three Books Not To Read on Christmas Morning

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Since most people probably don’t read anything other than instruction manuals for the confounding gadgets their get as gifts on Christmas morning, this headline is moot. But the fact is, theses are three of tons of great books available this season and will definitely turn your collective heads around. I urge you to put the following on your Xmas wish list or in your Amazon check-out basket.

If you’ve seen and were even moderately unnerved by the terribly flawed Netflix film “Leave The World Behind”, an exaggerated cyber-horror psychological thriller about virulent unknown hackers who wreak apocalyptic havoc on Long Island’s gold coast (and presumably the United States too), you’ll be completely consumed with terror by the specter of real cyberattacks in “This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends” by Nicole Perlroth. This former cyber security reporter for the New York Times has incredible and heretofore, unbelievable, skinny on the entire dark world of cyber and crypto bugs, viruses, nefarious intelligence — artificial and human — designed and engineered to spy, disrupt, devastate and otherwise make benign science fiction into evil science fact. This is a book that exposes the cyberarms industry so vividly you’ll be convinced there’s nowhere to hide — and you’d be right. We’ve let them into our homes to control our entertainment and fill out our tax returns and they’ve become an army of digital weaponry aimed at our existential cores. Perlroth is an awesome reporter and this book is more than you’ll ever want to contemplate lest your sanity be forever compromised. But what’s more incredible is the probability that since this book was first published in 2021 the reality has exponentially risen along with the existential danger we faced back then. How can it get any worse? Just read this and let your nightmares do the rest.

Rachel Maddow has a particularly sarcastic demeanor on TV but she’s a top-notch journalist and commentator. I’ve read many (perhaps obsessively too many) books about ultra-right, radical Christian, neo-fascist and other un-American patriotic militia insurgencies against this nation (and my kind), but this takes the prize. It is the “Plot Against America”, Philip Roth’s fictional account of the United States’ homegrown Nazi takeover, on steroids. In fact, it is fully documented and worse than I had ever thought it was,, during the two decades leading up to World War II. “Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism” explores the deep-seeded anti-Semitism that has existed in the hearts and heads of millions of apple-pie Americans since the founding. Filled with a cast heretofore forgotten leading armed revolutionaries, from every walk of public, private and religious life, paid by and working for Hitler’s regime, the notion that one-time isolationist America wanted neutrality is a myth. The fact that inclusion and diversity was never intended to become an American reality is explored in depth. Maddow’s occasional skeptic tone adds a smidgen of comic relief, but nonetheless this book not a late show monologue, it is the horrific prequel to what are living through now.

Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” was my bedtime storybook as a late teenager. I’m not sure why, But no wonder I was terrified most of the daytime and couldn’t sleep nights. This thin volume reignites those nascent fears; “On Lying and Politics” confronts the unvarnished truth that politics and falsehood are forever conjoined. Arendt asks how long a society can accept and survive deceit before it ravages the civic soul. As resilient as we are to forces of obfuscation and lying, a nation’s people can only take so much before they collapse and crushed by the dead weight of its concentrated vastness.

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