A More Perfect Union

“The Engagement,” by Sasha Issenberg, recounts the complex and chaotic chain reaction that thrust same-sex marriage from the realm of conservative conjecture to the top of the gay political agenda and, eventually, to the halls of the Supreme Court. On this week’s podcast, Issenberg talks about the deeply researched book, which covers 25 years of legal and cultural history.

“What they have done, ultimately,” he says of those who won the victory, “is helped to enshrine, both in the legal process and in American culture, a sense that marriage is a unique institution. And the language they used to talk about it — about love and commitment — is so particular, I think, to the dynamic between two people that in a certain respect marriage is a more central institution in American life now than it was 30 years ago, because we went through this political fight over it.”

J. Hoberman visits the podcast to discuss his piece about 10 books that, taken together, tell the story of Hollywood. He talks, among other subjects, about why the only celebrity memoir on his list is “Lulu in Hollywood,” by Louise Brooks, who acted in the 1920s and ’30s and published her memoir much later in life.

“She was a remarkably cleareyed observer of what was going on,” Hoberman says, “and embarked on the whole star-making thing with a healthy degree of ambivalence. So she’s able to write about herself and about the conditions under which movies were made and the people she met in Hollywood and so on, in a way that’s both personal and detached. There aren’t too many other memoirs like this.”

Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; and Elisabeth Egan and Andrew LaVallee talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

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

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.


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