A Man of Letters [Hardcover]

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A Man of Letters traces the life, career, and commentaries on controversial issues of Thomas Sowell over a period of more than four decades through his letters to and from family, friends, and public figures ranging from Milton Friedman to Clarence Thomas, David Riesman, Arthur Ashe, William Proxmire, Vernon Jordan, Charles Murray, Shelby Steele, and Condoleezza Rice. These letters begin with Sowell as a graduate student at the University of Chicago in 1960 and conclude with a reflective letter to his fellow economist and longtime friend Walter Williams in 2005. Much of the social history of the United States during one of its most rapidly changing eras is covered in letters written as that history was unfolding. The beginnings of the civil rights movement, changes and crises on academic campuses in the 1960s, the controversies over race and IQ, and the effects of minimum wage laws are just some of the issues dealt with in these very candid and sometimes pungent letters. Personal development, political controversies, and personal and family crises are also part of the story told in these letters, which go from the humorous to the poignant, sometimes spiced with anger. Reading A Man of Letters is a way to see the history of the country and the history of one of its controversial scholars at the same time, both told in plain but compelling words.

Item Specifications...

Pages   359
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 6" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.55 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2007
Publisher   Encounter Books
ISBN  1594031967  
EAN  9781594031960  

Availability  0 units.

More About Thomas Sowell
Thomas  Sowell Thomas Sowell was born in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem. As with many others in his neighborhood, Thomas Sowell left home early and did not finish high school. The next few years were difficult ones, but eventually he joined the Marine Corps and became a photographer in the Korean War. After leaving the service, Thomas Sowell entered Harvard University, worked a part-time job as a photographer and studied the science that would become his passion and profession: economics. Thomas Sowell graduated from Harvard University, received his Master's in Economics from Columbia University and his Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago. In the early '60s, Sowell held jobs as an economist with the Department of Labor and AT&T. But his real interest was in teaching. Sowell began the first of many professorships at Cornell University, and his other teaching assignments include Rutgers University, Amherst College, Brandeis University and the UCLA, where he taught in the early '70s and '80s. Thomas Sowell has a large volume of writing including a dozen books, and numerous articles and essays; covering a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to civil rights and judicial activism, even choosing the right college. Much of his ground-breaking writing will outlive the great majority of scholarship done today! Though Thomas Sowell had been a regular contributor to newspapers in the late '70s and early '80s, he did not begin his career as a newspaper columnist until 1984. In 1990, he won the prestigious Francis Boyer Award, presented by The American Enterprise Institute.
"George F. Will's writing," says Sowell, "...proved to him that someone could say something of substance in so short a space (750 words). And besides, writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing."
Sowell's very timely book,The Housing Boom and Bust: Revised Edition attempts to determine whether what is being done to deal with America's 2009-2010 housing boom and bust problem is more likely to make things better or worse. His examination of racism and Liberalism in Black Rednecks and White Liberals is a classic from a daring perspective rarely heard in the Black Community. Nowhere else will you read about the co-dependent relationship between "..black rednecks.. and white liberals.." Currently Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, Calif.

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A view behind the scenes of an influential thinker's work  Sep 7, 2008
John McCarthy is credited with saying that "He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense." This suggests a corollary that is abundantly evident in reading the letters of Thomas Sowell.
As a trained economist, Sowell began his career dealing with the history of economic thought. A Man of Letters follows his correspondence through that five decades of that career and the life of which it is a part.

Sowell can be scathing.

"You may think that you have seen Kilson at his silliest and most pompous, but I can assure you from experience that you have not."

He can be unsparing in his judgment, as he was in a critique of a student's presentation. Ultimately, however, he is doing what a good educator does: challenges the student, allowing no room for ambiguity about whether the student is in fact demonstrating proficiency in the topic at hand.

"More profoundly disturbing than the lack of analytic thinking in your presentation was an apparent unawareness of any distinction between analysis and cursory conclusions. Even after analytic points were spelled out to you, your response was 'but didn't I just say the same things?' No. You did not say the same thing. Many people noted that apples fell off of tress long before Newton, but they did not say 'the same thing' as Newton. It is precisely the systematic development of whys and wherefores that constitutes physics--or economics.

"System, structure, logic, and definition are not mere traditions, like etiquette. They are the very guts of what reasoning is all about. They are what enable you to distinguish between some words that have a good ring to the ear and an idea that makes sense. That distinction is more than formalistic. It has a been mater of life and death in such places as Jonestown and Nazi Germany, and California abounds with little groups that prey on those who cannot make such distinctions."

He can be witty. I spent a fair bit of time chuckling as I read passages. For example, after he joined the Center for Advanced Study right near Stanford University, he wrote to a friend:

"The people at Stanford think that all we do is play volleyball at the Center, but I tell them it is 'gruelling' work: 'Nothing but profound thoughts all day long.'"

Another passage I found amusing was in a letter to an old friend of Sowell's from the Wharton School in Philadelphia. The excerpt concludes:

"The vigor of your disagreement with Walter [Williams], and the courtesy and friendship that went with it, were priceless (if a Chicago economist may use that word)."

Thomas Sowell is a powerful thinker, whose analytic talent and determined pursuit of answers to meaningful questions has done much to help us understand the world around us--often in ways that economists were not necessarily imagined to be most helpful. He is consequently a prolific author. A Man of Letters gives us a glimpse into his thinking behind the scenes. It's an easy read, one that Sowell fans will find rewarding.
Sowell at his best  Dec 24, 2007
Thomas Sowell is one of the best writers of modern day condition that I have read. From his columns in the local paper on occasion to his books, which I have all of his publications.... I just cannot get enough of this man's wisdom.

To have a full education in economics and the greater understanding of what potential we have Dr. Sowell is number one on my reading list.
Sowell fan  Jul 18, 2007
I am a long time T Sowell fan. My rating would no doubt be prejudiced. This book shows him to be a regular guy. His letters are straight forward. No big words, everything easy to grasp
A way with words!  Jul 5, 2007
Thomas Sowell is a really great writer. This "auto-biography" told by his correspondence over the years was most enjoyable.
A treasure from a treasure  Jul 3, 2007
Dr. Sowell continues his personal revelations through a series of letters sent and received. Because of Dr. Sowell's clear thinking and uncompromising honesty plus his sense of the ridiculous, these letters are a joy to read. However, they also offer a view of the evolvement of parts of society (i.e. the academic life) seldom examined so closely. Read this book! It will lead you to his other works which you will want to read. My favorites are "Conflict of Visions" and "Black Rednecks and White Liberals". I encourage everyone to read this book. It will awaken young people to new views and reassure the over 50 crowd that what they suspected was true.

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