The Wrecking Crew

It makes perfect sense to Thomas Frank that George W. Bush would refer to himself as a "dissident in Washington" despite being behind the biggest executive branch power grab this side of Nixon. Conservatives, in what Frank calls a "supremely cynical maneuver," paint themselves as revolutionaries and outsiders even when they're running things; that way, they never have to take responsibility for government's mistakes and can point to those mistakes as proof that government doesn't work. In this nervy, brainy, no-holds-barred book, the liberal commentator argues that the "fantastic misgovernment" we live under -- his examples include the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the administration of Iraq -- is "the consequence of triumph...by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society." With the sharp analysis and scathing wit that characterized his 2004 bestseller, What's the Matter with Kansas?, Frank covers the decimation of the civil service in favor of outsourcing (the current administration actually tried to "contract out the job of supervising contractors"), the demolition of the regulatory state, and the use of deficit spending to paralyze the government. Frank entertains even as he alarms: he describes right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin as having "the appearance of a Bratz doll but the soul of Chucky," and similar gems pop up on nearly every page. But the overall tone is ominous, with Frank warning that even if the Democrats win the White House, it will require "years of hard political work" to return the government to the people.

July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).