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Weekend Reading: Bastille Day, Notorious RBG, and More

Storming of the Bastille, by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel / Image © Wikimedia

Editor's Note:

This weekend, learn the history of Bastille Day, admire Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her candor, and prepare for a change in ceremonial leadership in Japan.

Napoleon: France celebrates its independence day today. Bastille Day, which commemorates the General Napoleon Bonaparte–led uprising against the French monarchy, was celebrated on the Champs-Élysées today. Military displays included France’s own, along with New Zealand’s Maori soldiers in traditional dress marching in tribute to their country’s role in World War I’s Battle of the Somme.

Historian Andrew Roberts examines Bonaparte’s life in Napoleon: A Life. Roberts bases his take on thirty-three thousand letters the General wrote, and follows in Napoleon’s footsteps by traveling to most of his sixty battle sites. Roberts recasts France’s most well-known leader as not just a military man, but also a politician and soldier-statesmen comparable to Julius Caesar and George Washington.

Notorious RBG: After publicly criticizing presidential candidate Donald Trump this week, including in interviews with the Associated Press and the New York Times, Justice Ruth Ginsburg apologized, an act Supreme Court members are known for not doing. “Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect,” she said.

Her lifelong outspokenness is celebrated in Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Iris Camon and Shana Knizhnik, based on their Tumblr of the same name. For the book, Camon and Knizhnik spoke with Ginsburg along with her family members and colleagues, then included the Justice’s famous dissents and rare photographs, illustrations and documents for a fitting look at this unusual woman’s life.

The World of the Shining Prince: Japan’s Emperor Akihito, who holds a largely ceremonial role in Japanese government but is a venerated figure in the country’s cultural life, has announced he may step down soon. At 82, his job has become difficult for him to perform. His abdication would make him the first Japanese monarch to step down in more than two centuries, and leave his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, in his place instead.

For a look at Japan’s monarchy in a very different context, there’s Japan scholar Ivan Morris’s The World of the Shining Prince on Japan’s court in ancient times. Re-creating those days through though works such as The Tale of Genji from Japan’s Heian period, Morris shines a light on the women-led culture of those times. His stories of courtiers, their elaborate beauty rituals, and the complex relations between Heian men and women were written 50 years ago, and still stand today as the definitive guide to the days of Japan’s famous ancient court.

From the Web:

I Hired a Driver to Take Me Pokémon Hunting: Writer Molly Fitzpatrick spends the day hunting for Pokémon by car.

The Meaning of Serena Williams: Number one–ranked Williams won Wimbledon last week. Claudia Rankine writes about all the things that means.

Why is Legendary Luddite Werner Herzog Diving Into Streaming Video and Online Film Schools? Adam Popescu talks to director Herzog about Netflix, virtual reality, and his new role in the Master Class, an online film school.