Saturday, September 8, 2007

Five best: books with political trials

Bruce Watson, author of the recently published Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, selected a five best list of books with "riveting" political trials for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson
Equal parts political fight, religious battle and media circus, the Scopes Trial in 1925 was labeled "the trial of the century" even before John Scopes was dragged into a Tennessee courtroom for teaching his high-school students about evolution. In Edward J. Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Summer for the Gods," the author brings a novelist's eye to depicting each telling moment: civic leaders deciding that a headline trial might put Dayton, Tenn., on the tourist map; lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan sparring over the Bible; the jury returning a guilty verdict, and the judge handing down a wrist-slapping fine. But the trial fills only a third of the book. In the section titled "Before," Larson explores the converging histories of religious fundamentalism and evolution. "After" shows how the Scopes Trial, by mocking fundamentalists, fueled a fight for respect and influence in public schools that carries on to this day.

Read about the other books on Watson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue