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In The New York Times Book Review, Aaron Retica reviews Tim Marshall’s “A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols.” Retica writes:


Some books are not meant to be read straight through, but maybe that shouldn’t be held against them. Even if we learn nothing profound from them, we may get something out of plowing in. “A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols,” by Tim Marshall, a longtime diplomatic and foreign correspondent for Sky News and the BBC, is just such a book. It takes us on a lightning tour of the world of flags, with extra space for the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack, but touching down on nearly every continent and in dozens of countries. . . .

One thing Marshall has taken away from his many years reporting abroad is that no matter how cosmopolitan they might seem, nations are essentially “tribes with flags,” as the diplomat Tahseen Bashir famously put it while extolling the nationhood of his native Egypt. Marshall is especially good on how flags encode the history of the violence that brought the nations they represent into being and how quickly they can become emblems of racial and ethnic bigotry.

On this week’s podcast, Retica talks about “A Flag Worth Dying For”; Jill Eisenstadt talks about her new novel, “Swell”; Alexandra Alter and Concepción de León have news from the literary world; and Gregory Cowles, Parul Sehgal and John Williams on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books mentioned in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

“The Age of Insight” by Eric Kandel

“The Driftless Area” by Tom Drury

“The Hyphenated Family” by Hermann Hagedorn

“The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins

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