On the Bookshelf


True Faith and Allegiance: A Story of Service and Sacrifice in War and Peace
Alberto R. Gonzales ’79 (Nelson Books, 2016)

The former U.S. attorney general’s autobiography is both personal and political. Gonzales narrates his journey from working-class roots in Humble, Texas, where he shared a two-bedroom house with his parents and seven siblings, to his education at Rice and Harvard Law School and a career studded by impressive accomplishments — including becoming the first Hispanic to lead the nation’s largest law enforcement agency.

But the book focuses on his role as counsel to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. Gonzales documents the legal and ethical quandaries he helped the president navigate after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including the controversial authorization of military tribunals to try suspected terrorists. Gonzales, who resigned from the post of attorney general in 2007, is a law professor at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.


Honor Bound: How a Cultural Ideal Has Shaped the American Psyche
Ryan P. Brown ’93 (Oxford University Press, 2016)

What does it mean to be an “honor culture”? Brown, a professor of social psychology at the University of Oklahoma, argues that the American South and West are honor cultures, in which honor is prized above other values, affecting everything from the frequency of bar fights to the names parents give their children. Brown writes, “In an honor culture, reputation is everything, so people go to great lengths to defend their reputations … against threats and insults.” Hence a relative increase in bar fights, since, as Brown explains, “‘What did you just call me?’ is … a prelude to potential violence.” (There also are three times as many school shootings in states with an honor culture.) But honor cultures can be a force for good in other ways. For example, there are fewer nursing homes in these areas, since, Brown writes, “people are honor bound to provide care for their aging parents.”


A Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism Reader
Rabbi Daniel M. Horwitz ’73 (The Jewish Publication Society, 2016)

Daniel Horwitz had been a rabbi for more than a decade before he began studying Jewish mysticism, of which Kabbalah is perhaps the best-known form. His book is a primer for others who are just beginning to discover Judaism’s mystical tradition, offering an introduction to the five major schools of Jewish mysticism, along with annotated excerpts of key mystical texts. “All religions deal with a very basic problem: the gap between God and human beings,” he explains in his preface. “This book is a partial record of what Jews have done to bridge that gap.” Horwitz is a rabbi at Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun.