Books!

Have you read a book lately that you think other visitors to this blog would enjoy?  If you have, leave a comment here with information about the book.  It can be as little as the book’s name, and as much as a whole book review.

86 Responses

  1. BIOGRAPHY

    “Enjoy” isn’t the word for this book, but I just finished A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. It’s his story of being a child soldier in Sierra Leone in the 90s, and it’s heartbreaking and inspiring. I have nothing to complain about in my life after reading of his and his country’s suffering.

  2. RELIGION, HISTORY

    Well, the best non-fiction book I’ve read recently was Max I. Dimont’s Jews, God, and History.

    For a long time, I had been in search of a history of the Jews that started at the beginning, used the Bible as well as other historical references, and was geared for someone who was interested in the mid-level detail. (Many Jewish history books appear to be written for those with more academic-level interests.)

    This book did not disappoint. Dimont avoids the downfall of history books – you know, the ones that give you the horrible sense that you are trudging through the centuries at the same pace as those who actually lived the events. His book is organized by the ideas that shaped the time periods so although the book moves in chronological order, each chapter starts by “backing up” a couple of centuries because of course, the forces that shape new ideas come into play long before the idea is in full bloom.

    I particularly appreciated the attention Dimont paid to the Nazi’s anti-Christian ideas. I do not know much about Nazi history and was therefore surprised at the extent to which they also persecuted Christians.

    In short, this is one of the books that I plan on reading again in order to absorb more of the material. Which is not to say that it is a difficult read – it isn’t. It is just that there is a lot of enjoyable material.

    Deana

  3. GENERAL FICTION

    On another note: I love all books so all recommendations are great but I’m particularly interested if someone has a really good fiction read out there. Something in the vein of Love in the Time of Cholera or historical fiction or even an epic – something you can get lost in.

    I’ll be most thankful!

  4. GENERAL NON-FICTION, GENERAL FICTION, PHILOSOPHY, HISTORY

    Deana

    It’s hard to know where to start, but being a male I’m naturally drawn to masculine writers and themes such as Hemmingway’s. Thinking of books with cross gender appeal I would recommend the 4 book series starting with “The Clan of the Cave Bear” or any of James Michener’s books except for “Texas” and “Iberia”. Lately, I have been working on the classics such as “The Brothers Karamazov”, “Rob Roy”, Plato’s “Republic”, Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. The non-fiction “Lenin’s Tomb” was very good.

  5. GENERAL FICTION, GENERAL NON-FICTION

    One of my law school alums, Michael Lee Weems wrote “The Ghosts of Varner Creek,” an outstanding book from all accounts I’m privy to.

    I’ve been reading de Tocqueville off and on for a couple years now; he’s not bad, either.

    Additionally, I would recommend just about anything from David L. Robbins, but one needs to start with War of the Rats, an historic fiction about Vassily Zaitsev far superior to the film Enemy at the Gates.

  6. HISTORY

    The Making of the Atomic Bomb” by Richard Rhodes.

    A fascinating book about the people, policies, and history associated with atomic research which culminated in the bomb.

    This book is also about a dark time for humanity. From the purges of Jews from universities and research centers in Germany to survivors accounts from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  7. HISTORIC FICTION

    If you want an historical fiction to get lost in, I highly recommend The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman.

    It’s about the War of the Roses and a perfect read (900+ pages) if you are snowed in with a bottle of brandy and a raging fire.

  8. Ellie –

    I DID read The Sunne in Splendor last year and yes, it was fantastic! Armageddon could have been raging at my front door and I would have been oblivious. She is a wonderful, wonderful writer.

    Ivan –

    Don’t worry about suggesting masculine themes. My taste in reading material leans toward the masculine from time to time. That, along with my politics, makes me super popular with my girlfriends. (Hee-hee-hee!)

    Wonderful suggestions, everyone! I hope people will add to this list as they discover new books.

  9. HISTORIC FICTION, GENERAL FICTION

    Deana, if you want a really good fiction read, get into Lawrence Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet.” Four volumes (“quartet” – duh…) which may well be the finest exercise in English literature of the twentieth century. A very broad statement, I know, but one with which much of the world seems to agree: since publication of the last volume in 1958, even in this mostly-illiterate country they have never for as much as one minute been out of print. You’ll find them at your neighborhood Borders, B & N, Walden, or B. Dalton.

    Right behind Durrell, and maybe with more humor, is Robertson Davies’ “The Deptford Trilogy,” or his “The Salterton Trilogy,” also exercises in sustained brilliance.

    Durrell and Davies are extraordinary artists, and will effortlessly move you from your world to theirs. They will also occupy you for the rest of your life, as re-reading the quartet and both trilogies is something you can do on an annual basis: you’ll find something new every time you re-read them!

  10. HISTORY, POLITICS

    Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. by Steve Coll.

    Great book. Truly informative and revealing. Everyone should read this book to understand some of the background of what we are dealing with today. This one is an eye opener.

  11. HISTORIC FICTION, GENERAL FICTION

    Fiction, hands down Neal Stephensen’s the Baroque Cycle. It’s a 3 volume set. In order, “Quicksilver” “The Confusion” and “The System of the World

    The characters in these books are rich. They also include historical figures made real such as Newton, Liebniz, Hooke, and others. These books at times had me exploding with laughter.

    Follow up with Stephensen’s “Cryptonomicon” there will be some surprises for you.

    • Cryptonomicon was loaned to me by an engineer / math major friend. It was a surprisingly good read and presented a different perspective on WWII and the aftermath.

  12. I’m going to try to post what I got, Book. It probably won’t get through the spam filters given that it has many links.

  13. If anyone is interested in my book recommendations, you can see my comment at my blog, through my name-link.

    This is for if my comment hasn’t already shown up here of course.

  14. ROMANCE, HISTORY, SCIENCE

    To the list of books I’d recommend, I’ll add a quick three:

    Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and Swans by Jane Green, which is a slightly tart, knowing romance.
    Sovereign Ladies: Sex. Sacrifice and Power–The Six Reigning Queens of England, by Maureen Waller, a beautifully written history of the English queens, which fleshes out lesser known queens such as Mary and Anne.
    Napoleon’s Glands and Other Ventures in Biohistory, by Arno Karlen, a delightful look at history through the eyes of bacteria, virus and other bio phenomena.

  15. PHILOSOPHY

    I’ll second the recommendation for the Stephenson trilogy.

    I recently read C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, a very useful and interesting series of lectures on science, human nature, and ethics. I recommend it especially to other atheists.

  16. GENERAL FICTION

    Trimegistus,

    That’s funny. I’m reading The Abolition of Man right now :)

    Howdy Bookworm,

    For a fun insightful read, I’d recommend GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. This is a wonderful book that speaks more to our time, I think, than when it was written.

  17. SCIENCE, GENERAL FICTION, MYSTERY, GENERAL NON-FICTION

    I am reading “Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend” by Barbara Oakley, which posits a genetic link to evil behavior. I do like reading about personality disorders.

    And I just started “Mystic River” by Dennis Lehane. He is doing a marvelous job of portraying the hum-drumminess of life before one of the main character’s lives is completely devastated by another’s actions (maybe). I feel sure I will be reading more of his books.

    I have also been racing through several mysteries by Anna Salter, a forensic psychologist. She knows whereof she speaks about the evil in her books. She wrote a non-fiction book too, called “Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders : Who They Are, How They Operate, and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children” which was hugely informative and I would recommend to anyone, especially parents.

  18. GENERAL FICTION, HISTORIC FICTION, MYSTERY

    For those who like Elmore Leonard type reading, I suggest any of Irish writer Ken Bruen’s police procedural novels. Bernard Cornwell wrote a lovely offbeat novel called “Gallow’s Thief” about capital punishment in 1820′s London. I’m almost done with Ian Rankin’s “Witch Hunt“. Also, there’s a wonderful new series of mystery-crime-noir anthologies by Akashic Books, each with the title of a world city like Havana Noir, New York Noir etc.

  19. I mostly added a few selling points to many of Baen’s freely available books in addition to some other science fiction favorites of mine.

    More Books at Bookworm Room

  20. HISTORIC FICTION, HISTORY

    Why not try Benning’s War a novel of the American Revolution?

    I’m reading Paul Johnson’s “A History of the American People”. Very good stuff!

  21. GENERAL FICTION

    I also just finished The Man Who Was Thursday and was spellbound – I swear I was in that snowstorm.

    Also recommend The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, a story of an intellectually bright but behaviorally dumb, narcissistic couple and the bohemian life they force on their family as they keep one step ahead of the bill collectors. It is the matter-of-fact, unselfconscious telling of the story, through the eyes of a daughter who loved them, that is so captivating.

  22. GENERAL NON-FICTION, HORSES

    I really like this idea of book suggestions. My reading queue is stacked up, thanks everyone. I’ll file this one in the how to section.

    For riders, instructors, parents whose kids want to learn to ride horses this one is great. I just finished re-reading most of this.

    Basic Horsemanship English and Western by Eleanor F. Prince and Gaydell M. Collier.

    If you’re a parent who’s children wants to take riding lessons I highly recommend reading this. Especially if you are not that sure, or have little knowledge on the subject. Though I might not train a horse or a student in exactly the same manner I find nothing the least bit objectional in the methods they espouse.

  23. GENERAL NON-FICTION, FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION

    Freakonomics! I loved that.

    Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t

    the Lord of the Rings books.

    Ender’s Game.

    Sun Tsu’s Art of War (it’s a cliche to recommend it but, why not?) :)

  24. I have a $20 Amazon gift certificate burning a hole in my email inbox — and now I’ve got way too many choices for using it!

  25. Do you remember the publication that O propounded so vigorously? Right. The Economist. It was, as I recall, one of the few ways to become truly informed.

    Well, I got a severe case of the giggles when I read about their newest contributor. Angelina Jolie is going to be a regular there now. :D

    http://media.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MzJkNDUwYzQ5NDQ1YmU5MmZkZDAzOTEzMjc3NzUzYTg=

  26. HISTORY, WORLD WAR II

    The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz is the best survivor book ever. I reread it every few years and still enjoy it.

  27. BIOGRAPHY, WORLD WAR II

    I just finished a good one. I’ll preface this with an experience of mine. i went to a promotion ceremony for a cousin. She was being promoted to Colonel, since promotions are done by superior officers a one star general did hers. I was introduced to him by my cousin, he eyes my uniform and decorations, and I do the same to him. We immediately started making snide comments to each other about the others unit.

    My cousin said to me later since when does a Sergeant talk like that to a General? I explained I wasn’t talking to a general I was talking to a brother. He was 101st and I was 82nd. Having said that.

    Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters by Major Dick Withers with Col. Cole C. Kingseed.

    Truly astounding story by the commander of Easy Company 506th PIR

  28. CHINA, GENERAL NON-FICTION

    I recently finished China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford. It’s a fascinating snapshot of Mainland China today, and among other things forecast by implication the problems we’re having with Chinese exports today.
    Al

  29. I came across this by accident. A short story written in the 30′s to try to get America’s attention — then solidly isolationist — turned to what was happening in Germany. It’s written as a morality play.

    Two friends and business partners live in San Francisco, one Jew one Gentile, both Germans. The Gentile decides to return to Germany because his wife is homesick. The story concerns their correspondence.

    Address Unknown by Katherine Kressmann Taylor.

  30. SCIENCE FICTION

    The Shiva Option was a pretty good space opera in my opinion.

    It is the last book in the series but given that it wraps things up, I recommend reading it. If you like it, you can always read what went on before. That is actually what I did.

  31. HISTORY, POLITICS

    Patrick, the Paragraph Farmer, left this comment at another post (about Nazis and Marxism), but I wanted to copy it over here, since it sounds like a book that belongs in this list of reader recommendations:

    “I haven’t read widely in this area, but from what I’ve seen, the man who made this point best was Erik von Kuehneldt-Leddihn in his masterful book, “Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot.” Erik was a classical European liberal in the old sense of those words; it’s a shame his work is not better known.”

  32. BIOGRAPHY, LITERARY CRITIQUES

    Van Wyck Brooks was a Pulitzer winner 60 or 70 years ago. His literary/cultural histories are inspired with a vital beauty & joy that is just a delight to bathe in. He is new to my uneducated mind and I really am enjoying his:
    1) The Life of Emerson; 2) The Flowering of New England, 1815-1865 and 3) New England: Indian Summer, 1865-1914.
    There were many more titles by him, but this is where I am now.

  33. RELIGION, GENERAL NON-FICTION, POLITICS, ROMANCE, GENERAL FICTION

    I’m delighted with the book recommendations here. I’ve got a few books swirling around my house, all of which I’m reading more or less simultaneously. In no particular order:

    1. Robert Spencer’s The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, the title of which is self-explanatory.

    2. Bernard Goldberg’s Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right: How One Side Lost Its Mind and the Other Lost Its Nerve, which is basically a rant, alternately amused and angry, by a guy who is not so much a neo-con, as a neo-libertarian (although I don’t think he’ll be supporting Ron Paul anytime soon).

    3. Jay Winik’s The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800, which examines the effect the American Revolution had in America, France and Russia. It’s a fascinating book, delightfully written.

    4. Trisha Ashley’s Every Woman for Herself, which is a very sweet British chick-lit book. I’ve discovered that the ones that take place in London tend to involve rather pathetic, sordid women who nevertheless find love with the cool guy. However the ones that take place in the countryside, as this one does, tend to have a wholesomeness that I find pleasant. It’s still a little difficult to figure out why the heroine would be attractive to the hero, but the whole ambiance is so charming, I forgive the inconsistencies.

    5. And, as always, anything by Helen MacInnes, an author I enjoy reading when I just don’t feel like reading anything else.

  34. HISTORIC FICTION

    For years I never got around to reading the series of Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brian about British naval life during the Napoleonic wars. Spending so much time in the car driving my son, I found the answer: listening to them. The reader, Patrick Tull, is the best I have ever heard. It’s a long term project that will take months, and I will be sad when it is over.

  35. HISTORIC FICTION, GENERAL FICTION

    The Widow of the South“, a novel based on a true character from the Civil War. A wonderful and sad book.,. by Robert Hicks.

    In a totally different direction, for those of us old enough to remember those days, Bill Bryson’s “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” is hilarious and heartwarming.

  36. HISTORIC FICTION, POLITICS, GENERAL NON-FICTION, GENERAL FICTION, ROMANCE

    Ivan, I was a huge James A. Michener fan too; most of his books I read only once, but The Source I can read over and over again. (Tells the fictional history of a town in what became Israel, from prehistoric days to the modern.) I’d highly recommend “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell, quick read and enjoyable. For more political reading, try The Ten Things You Can’t Say In America (Larry Elder); for relatives who need a dose of common sense, give ‘em Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know is Wrong (John Stossel, and just fabulous). And for anyone who likes romance but not “romance novels,” try The Time Traveler’s Wife; just a wonderful, wonderfully written book.

  37. MYSTERY

    Dorothy Sayers’ wonderful mysteries, which are as much literature as mystery.

  38. PHYSICS

    This one might sound a bit odd, but if you want a glimpse into a great scientific mind it’s well worth it. I often enjoy re-reading books because I gain new insights as time passes, and I just re-read this one.

    Relativity : The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein.

    He was actually quite an elegant writer, he uses analogy well, and has a nice turn of phrase. The mathematic content is small and can be followed quite readily by most. The ideas are another matter, and require introspection and scrupulous attention. The book is quite a bit shorter than you might think for such a profound idea.

    • You may want to add Margaret Wheatley’s book Leadership and the New Science for a perspective on theoretical physics, fractals, and religion.

  39. FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION

    Fantasy Genre:

    Tigana – Too complicated to explain here. Suffice it to say that this is a political fantasy with strong characterization, an interesting magic system and a beautiful plot. You will laugh, and (possibly) cry, and the ending is wonderful in a “he’s not writing a sequel? Awww…” way.

    The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel – You hate the cliches too, don’t you? Then read this encyclopedia, where we learn why Horses never have to rest, where to buy your Sword (and pitfalls to avoid), who your Companions will be, and your Ultimate Destiny as Saviour of the Human Race / Hero of the Universe / Discoverer of the Secret Quest Object / All-Around Awesome Guy.

    The Silmarillon – Um. Read it if you liked LoTR, otherwise ignore it. (It’s far easier to read, in my opinon, than LoTR.)

    The Golden Compass (actually, the second and third books are far better than the first) – Why are all the adults talking in whispers about Dust? And why are Lyra’s friends hearing rumors about Gobblers, strange folk who kidnap street children to separate them from their souls? Eventually, Lyra gets involved in a quest to find out.

    Sabriel – “One in the line that wears the Crown, Two in the ones who keep the Dead down…” Not all is well beyond the Wall, for Abhorsen, the leader whose job it is to ensure that the Dead stay that way, has been killed by a powerfully evil wizard bent on immortality. Now it’s up to Sabriel, the old Abhorsen’s daughter, to take up the task.

    Sci-Fi / Speculative Fiction Genre

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – When the gov’t pursues policies that will result in mass starvation, a political activist, a retired professor and a computer technician become the head of a revolutionary movement.

    Starship Troopers – ignore the movie. This is a book about the footsoldiers fighting against an alien species that would love to colonize Earth the way they’ve colonized so many other planets. Dratted humans, however, are refusing to lay down and die …

    Ender’s Shadow (and the whole series) – The first in a series about Bean, one of Ender’s soldiers. Yes, Bean really is as much a genius as we thought before.

    Lucifer’s Hammer – “First the odds of the comet hitting Earth were one in a million. Then one in a thousand. Then one in a hundred. And then …”

    Time Traveler’s Strictly Cash – any and all of the Callahan series by Spider Robinson will have you roaring with laughter, although they become more improbable as the series goes on.

  40. Apologies, I couldn’t figure out how to do links.
    Also, oops: “Time Travelers Strictly Cash”

  41. HISTORIC FICTION, GENERAL FICTION

    Susan Shepard,

    I read Lucifer’s Hammer many years ago and was completely captured! I haven’t talked to or heard of anyone else who ever read it, but strongly second your suggestion to anyone looking for an apocolyptic science fiction kind of read…very exciting!

    For more intelligent material, I recommend these by Mark Helprin, now a resident scholar at the Claremont Institute: “Winter’s Tale” and “A Soldier of the Great War“, both in a sort of magical realism mode, but extremely well done.

    Don De Lillo’s “Underworld” is one of the best novels I’ve ever read; the first chapter alone is worth the price of admission. It is about the end of America’s innocence, following a thread from Booby Thompson’s 1953 World Series home run to the advent of the internet, with a short riff on Catholic liberal education in the middle that is absolutely profound. I know he’s kind of gone to seed as a writer and thinker, but this book shows him in top form. I would love to build a college course on 20th century American life and thought using this book as a launching point.

  42. SCIENCE FICTION, SCIENCE, GENERAL FICTION

    Susan S and pacificus – hurrah for Lucifer’s Hammer! I still have it in paperback and I re-read it every few years just for fun!

    Let me add my contribution: “Rendezvous with Rama” by AC Clarke. The best “hard” sci-fi I have ever read. The last line of the book still gives me the willies every time I re-read it. I won’t spill the beans here though.

    There were follow-ons, and I think I may have read the first one, “Rama II”, but I don’t remember much about it, and the rest I haven’t bothered with.

    It might also interest people here to read a very interesting early non-fiction book by Neville Shute, author of “On the Beach” (a damn good movie), when he was younger and writing under his real name, Neville Shute Norway. Mr. Norway was a junior designer of the 1920′s British airship R100, and it is the story of that effort, including the techno-political infighting between his team and the government-sponsored team designing the R-101, and the tragic consequences.

    Oh, you want the name of the book? Well, I probably didn’t want to mention it up front, because it is utterly dorky – “Slide Rule“. The title is relevant, but unfortunate in that it doesn’t tell you anything about what the book is about. Not a masterpiece – but a fascinating look at early 20th-century technology, including what “computers” actually were prior to the invention of the programmable computing machine in the 40′s.

    (It’s me, Bookworm, tagging on to Sherlock’s recommendations saying that if you like great stories and dry, clear prose, you can’t do better than Neville Shute. My particular favorites are A Town Like Alice, a story set during and after the Japanese occupation of British Malaya, and Pastoral, a story of a man and maid, in the English countryside, during WWII.)

  43. Thanks, Bookworm – I did not know that N.S. wrote “A Town Like Alice”, and I had not heard of Pastoral! I will try to pick up one or both for my reading during my upcoming Christmas sojourn in La Paz, Mexico, where we have built a holiday home. Luckily my line of work allows me to work remotely via computer, so I can afford to stay down there for a month. Hopefully I’ll have some time away from the keyboard for non-technical reading.

  44. HISTORIC FICTION

    I highly recommend Gates of Fire, the novel recommended by LTC Kurilla in Michael Yon’s article, Book.

    It is an epic and heroic tale of Thermopylae, told from the perspective of the king and soldiers that fought in it.

    I tried reading Lucifer’s Hammer, but I think I couldn’t get through the prose. If the author was Ben Bova, that is, and it was one of those 1,000 paged hardbacks.

    If you haven’t read Gates of Fire, Book, then you’re missing out on a lot of Marine type heroics and death defying philosophical discussions. It deals with the true nature of courage as well as the support of the spouses of the soldiers.

    I found an article, while doing research, that explains the critical factors of Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire issues that those interested in the military would find important.

    I only know how to get it from galileo, though. I am going to have to post an excerpt.

    In order for warriors to survive combat morally, mentally, and physically, they must possess the virtue of courage in all its forms, from the courage needed to stand fast when the enemy attacks to the courage it takes to remain true to a code of conduct under the harshest duress. Pressfield’s Spartan warriors and their allies certainly recognize the importance of courage. Pressfield weaves through the novel a continuing debate about the meaning and source of courage. The characters try to agree on a definition of courage, and settle for a time on ‘the opposite of fear’ (264). This does not satisfy the warrior/philosopher Dienekes, however, and he presses them to flesh out what the opposite of fear really is: To call it aphobia , fearlessness, is without meaning. This is just a name, thesis expressed as antithesis. . . . How does one conquer fear of death, that most primordial of terrors, which resides in our very blood, as in all life, beasts as
    well as men? (265). Finally, a slave named Suicide who fights with the Spartans strikes upon the answer that Dienekes sought:

    What can be more noble than to slay oneself? Not literally. Not with a blade in the guts. But to extinguish the selfish self within, that part which looks only to its own preservation, to save its own skin. . . .When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime (378/379).

    After hearing Suicide’s description of the bonds of absolute trust that form among warriors, giving them the strength to overcome their basic instincts of
    self-preservation, ‘The opposite of fear’, Dienekes said, ‘is love’ (P. 380). The conclusion to which Pressfield brings his fictional Spartans is the same
    that has been reached by innumerable real-life warriors throughout history: the warrior’s courage comes from the love he feels for his fellow warriors. It is this truth that makes sense of the persisting practice of retrieving the corpses of fallen comrades, even when doing so puts more lives as risk. To leave men behind is to break faith with them or with their memories, and that faith in each other is in fact essential to the warriors’ survival. Another enduring form of courage Pressfield examines in Gates of Fire is the courage of those who stay behind and send their loved ones off to war. In a wrenching description of the warriors’ departure from Sparta, Pressfield has his King Leonidas pay tribute to the courage of the women who must remain in the city, aware that they are not likely to see their loved ones ever again: ‘Death stands close upon us now’, the king spoke. ‘Can you feel him, brothers? I do. I am human and I fear him. My eyes cast about for a sight to fortify the heart for that moment when I come to look him in the face. . . . Shall I tell you where I find this strength, friends? . . . My heart finds courage from these, our women, who watch in tearless silence as we go. . . . Men’s pain is lightly borne and swiftly over. Our wounds are of the flesh, which is nothing; women’s is of the heart / sorrow unending, far more bitter to bear (240/241).

  45. I was reading Fel’s website at Sennadar, picked up on the news that Vernor Vinge released his Rainbow’s End for free.

    You can read about it from boing boing actually.

    Link

    Vernor Vinge has put the entire text of his magnificent, prescient, mind-alteringly good novel Rainbows End online as a free download. This was one of the best books of 2006, a book that practically defines what “post-cyberpunk” really means: stories about what happens when the world (and not the street) finds its own use for technology. The tech touches — massive, augmented reality ARGs; adaptive full-body user-interfaces; destructive book-scanners — are half-predictive, half-allegorical, and entirely provocative. What a treat!

    Btw, BOok has got to be crazy to be putting in links for all these books. Even though it is amazon, I would literally go crazy if I tried to do something like what she did and is still doing.

    There are two reasons you should read Rainbow’s End, which is a science fiction set in the near future, dealing only with human terrorism and problems. Could call it a sci fi thriller really.

    First reason is one word, narcissism.

    Second reason is the amazing story between a man that grew up in the past without tech and now has to deal with a world that has accelerated beyond the beyond.

    Good for young and old, really.

    Btw, if you have ever read Kathy’s blog about narcissists like greg and found that you were fascinated with the behavior of these blood sucking constructs, then you got to read Rainbow’s End. There’s even a happy ending.

  46. BIOGRAPHY, AMERICAN HISTORY

    Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin : An American Life.

    Ben Franklin, our first blogger. This one’s great.

  47. This group has nothing but conservative books, many obscure, but important ones:

    http://www.isi.org/books/subjects.aspx

  48. Forgot about my latest prize – To Set the Record Straight by Swett & Ziegler. This can only be found, so far, on this site: http://tosettherecordstraight.com/index.php

    As the subtitle says “How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media defeated John Kerry.”

    Much unknown (to me anyway) history about the effective, deliberate bias of the old media against the Vietnam war & warriors.

  49. One of my favorites to re-read every few years is Shogun by James Clavell. It has so many great stories rolled into one, conflicts in religion, conflicts in Japanese politics, a great love story.

    And the other one, which I can pick up anywhere because I have it half-memorized, is Gone With The Wind. You have to maintain your historical perspective while reading it and remember that Margaret Mitchell was half grown before she even knew the south lost the Civil War. Florence King once said this book contains the best example of “showing, not telling” in American literature in the scene when Scarlett is trying to figure out what to wear to the barbecue at Twelve Oaks. It’s a great story with wonderful writing and has been a favorite since childhood.

    You should contrast this with Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation, which can be found online here: http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/KemPlan.html . Fanny Kemble was an English actress who married an American who owned a plantation in Georgia. Fanny Kemble turned out to be an abolitionist who was absolutely appalled by the conditions in which the slaves were forced to live and her in-laws were appalled by her sympathy for the slaves. I think she divorced the plantation owner.

  50. This looks like an excellent title; see the review in the University Bookman online, Spring 2007 issue.

    The Triumph of the Therapeutic by Philip Rieff

  51. SCIENCE

    This one has taken me a year to read and ponder, and run a few programs to help me comprehend it.

    A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram.

    I really don’t know how to begin to describe this work. I can only say that it gave me some profound new insights.

  52. You can read all or portions of Wolfram’s book online at his website.

    http://www.wolframscience.com/

    Sorry about that.

  53. VIDEO OF A CLASSIC NOVEL

    I know this is a books, not a video, site, but I just had to recommend the 1995 Pride & Prejudice, which is, in my estimation, one of the best recreations of a novel ever. And that’s saying a lot, because I firmly believe that Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is one of the most perfect books ever written, and one that I reread every couple of years for the sheer pleasure of her prose and wit.

  54. IRAQ, WAR, MARINES

    I just read Charlie Battery: A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq – what a great book this is!

    Written by the father of a young Marine deploying to Iraq in January 2003, the book follows one young Marine and his gun battery as they sail off to Kuwait, train in some awful camps, and then fight (and win) at An-Nasiriyah.

    The author blends the stories of the young Marines with the feeling and reactions of their parents, wives, and girlfriends in a very smooth and telling manner.

    Andrw Lubin (the author) is a great story-teller, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way he told the story of the Marines and their families.

  55. 2004 ELECTION, SWIFT BOATERS, JOHN KERRY, MEDIA

    I just finished “To Set the Record Straight.”

    http://www.tosettherecordstraight.com/index.php

    What I found most chilling was the totalitarian tactics of the so-called free press. Their strategy was to ignore (the charges) and if that failed, deny and if that failed make ad hominem attacks on the witnesses.

    Somehow the concept of “answer” or “refute” the vets didn’t come up. Logic must not be a popular elective for reporters or commentators. “Liars!!” was about as eloquent or persuasive as they ever got.

    The coalition of Vietnam Vets that came together to reveal the Kerry they knew deserve the Medal of Honor. (The MSM was sentenced to a well-deserved death penalty. RIP Dan Rather.)

    A testament to the power of a few committed men to change the world… And to the power of Al Gore’s most famous invention to gather in like minded people.

  56. FANTASY

    I read the first two books of the Prydain Chronicles, Book. They had a nice mix of character development, humor, action, and series jokes. I didn’t like how the stories began though, given that each of the 3 novels start off without adopting the character changes of the previous novels.

    The heroin, of course, is indeed a funny talker. I can just imagine her as an anime character that keeps on talking and making the male protagonist go crazy.

  57. Like Ellie, I finished “To Set the Record Straight tonight.” Kerry is not only a traitor & a phoney sailor, who should have been in a military prison, but he covered up his dishonorable discharge. How? The same way he became Senator & almost President – by lying, distorting and relying on powerful, prominent enemies of this nation – not all of which are overseas.
    This election of 2008 will have the same totalitarian old media, using the same tactics; but perhaps this time their M.O. will not be as effective, since many millions now see through them.

  58. WRITING

    In connection with a comment about good grammar, I suggested the following books to someone:

    I can recommend a couple of books to make you feel more confident about your writing skills. First, although I’ve never been a big fan, most people swear by Strunk’s & White’s The Elements of Style. The other big that I love, even though it’s written for lawyers, is Bryan Garner’s The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts, which offers the best ideas I’ve ever seen for writing lucidly. Even though it’s examples often take place in the legal context, anyone wishing to learn more about good writing can benefit from reading Garner’s book.

    The other thing, of course, is to read, read, read. A lot of books, nowadays, use grammar that I consider incorrect (split infinitives, misused words, mixed-up pronouns, dangling and misplaced modifiers), but they’re still right more often than not. Additionally, certain classic books will ensure that you write like a pro. One of the best semi-modern stylists is Dorothy Sayers, who wrote the wonderful Peter Wimsey murder mysteries. My favorite stylist is Jane Austen, whose prose, although a little antiquated, is always impeccable.

  59. NOVEL

    i have just read The Choice of nicholas sparks. have to say this is the best one so far. its about taking chances and making choices.. this is the only book that made me feel a million other feelings. really. plus.. it made my heart beat faster. i wont spoil it for you, find out why!

  60. SPANISH CIVIL WAR, BEHAVIOR, SOCIOLOGY, RAILROADS

    Just discovered this blog, via The Anchoress. Some books I like and have reviewed include:

    Forging a Rebel, by Arturo Barea…a participant’s memoir of the Spanish Civil War, but not a conventional military or political history. The writing is so rich, dense, and vivid that reading it is like finding yourself inside someone else’s dream.

    The Logic of Failure, by Dietrich Doerner. The thought processes that lead to failure, based on research by a professor at a German university.

    On the Rails: A Woman’s Journey. Linda Niemann got a PhD in English and then went to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad. One reviewer commented that this book is about railroading in the same way that Moby Dick is about whaling.

  61. NOVELS

    To Deana:

    For one of those great, large, all-surround-feeling novels (a la Love in the Time of Colera) I would like to recommend:

    The Dissertation by R.M. Koster

    Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess

    Dalva by Jim Harrison

    Poor Things by Alasdair Gray

  62. HOLOCAUST, WORLD WAR II

    Dex –

    Thank you for the recommendations! I’ve added them to my (now growing) list of things to read. Anything remotely similar in feel and scope to Love in the Time of Cholera would be a find.

    Right now I’m reading The Lost : A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn. The author relates his search for the fate of his grandfather’s brother and his family who were trapped in Poland during WWII. Although the author uses a frustrating writing style at times (200 word sentences with 17 commas), his story is fascinating and really drives home what it must have been like for family members who survived the Nazis but were forced to live with the knowledge that they were unable to help their loved ones when they needed it most. It really is a book that celebrates the beauty of life and love in spite of crushing sorrow.

    Deana

  63. WORLD WAR II, HISTORY, HISTORIC NOVELS

    Some more books:

    1. Marie Vassiltchikov’s Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945. Vassiltchikov was a White Russian princess whose family escaped the Bolsheviks. She ended up in Berlin during the Nazi era. This book — as the title says — is the diary she kept during the war years. It’s absolutely fascinating. She was an aristocrat and an anti-Nazi. The diary tells not only of day-to-day events in the lives of Berliners during the war, but also tells of the plot to kill Hitler, in which her friends were involved. Great book.

    2. Dorothy Dunnett’s Niccolo series, which starts with Niccolo Rising. Set in Europe beginning in the 1460s, the Niccolo books chronicle the adventures and machinations of a young man who starts off as a dyer’s apprentice in Bruges, and rises to become a power broker in most of the major European events of the era. Dunnett’s writing style can be oblique and elliptical — which is not something I’ll usually tolerate in a book — but her stories are so fascinating and her characters are so interesting, I stick with the books in spite of myself. Dunnett also wrote the Lymond Chronicles, which take place in Scotland and Europe a century later. Again, difficult, but fascinating.

  64. NOVEL

    Several people have mentioned various end-of-the-world novels. The best book of this genre, IMNSHO, is Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, which deserves to be considered as a serious philosophical novel.

  65. SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY:

    Our whole family reads Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series- the first book is “Wizard’s First Rule.” It’s exciting enough to keep my teens (boys and girl) clamoring for the next book and yet full of social commentary, politics, and philosophy that relate to our world which stimulates thought and conversation.

    Got my reluctant reader hooked on books, and my husband hooked on the series, too!

    Without spoiling anything, Wizard’s First Rule is: “People are stupid and will believe almost anything”. Sound familiar?

  66. Every year, dozens of books are published on business strategy. Most of them are eminently forgettable. “The Innovator’s Solution,” by Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor, is an exception. It should be read by everyone who has responsibility for establishing a business strategy (or aspires to such a position), and should also be useful for those involved in running non-profit organizations, specifically including universities. It will also be of value to investors, who (except for those who are pure short-term traders) should be making conscious judgments about the strategies of the companies in which they invest.

    In this book, the authors develop four major themes, which are amplified using examples ranging from semiconductors to automobiles to milkshakes:

    1) Disruptive innovations–those destined to change the structure of an industry–tend to attack from below. They usually first appear in a form that is in some ways inferior to the existing dominant technologies, and hence are unlikely to get the attention or respect of industry incumbents.

    2)In a venture dedicated to the introduction of a disruptive technology–whether a start-up business or a division of a larger company–early profitability is more important than early rapid growth. (This is a *very* contrarian opinion in some quarters.)

    review continues here.

  67. I was going through the library and I found a book I didn’t even know I had. My wife used to get me books, all of them she could find, of an author I became interested in.

    James Ellroy, he has a number of books including, L.A. Confidential, White Jazz, and The Black Dhalia. All quite good but edgy and dark.

    The one I found: My Dark Places. It’s an autbiography and a murder mystery, about his mother. The only word I can come up with is mesmerizing. This is his Heart of Darkness.

  68. HISTORY, AFGHANISTAN, CHINA, NON-FICTION

    If you want to know about the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, you need to read “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” by Les Grau and the companion book “The Other Side of the Mountain” by Les Grau and Ali Jalili. These books contain vignettes and after action reports from Soviet and Afghani troops involved in the Afghanistan conflict; the vignettes are taken directly from battle reports and filtered through the Frunze Academy and the U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office to distill the lessons and underlying truths of the conflict. The books are required reading for U.S. military commanders of all grades deploying to Afghanistan and all soldiers going to that theater of operations are encouraged to read them. Les has a forthcoming book on the U.S./NATO experience in Afghanistan – he has been commissioned by the USMC and Army to cover the war in the same unwavering and blunt style as the first books, exposing error and brilliance so that the first can be reduced and the latter expanded.

    Also worth reading is Tim Thomas’ “Dragon Bytes” on Chinese information warfare in the modern era.

    Both books are available on the open market and originate from the Foreign Military Studies Office, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

    Best wishes and good reading,
    SGT Dave
    “And men would proudly claim – yes, I worked alongside giants and was humbled by their presence.”

  69. Becoming Charlemagne, by Jeff Sypeck.

    The reign of Charlemagne is remembered as a brief flash of light in the midst of the Dark Ages: a time of revived respect for learning, of physical improvements, codification of laws, and relatively-enlightened and centralized administration. In this book, Jeff Sypeck tries to get beyond a thousand years of myths and portray the reality of the man and his time.

    His real name wasn’t Charlemagne, of course: he was Karl, son of a Frankish king. Charlemagne–Karolus Magnus, Charles the Great, is an appellation bestowed upon him by scholars and keepers of legends.

    review continues here.

  70. Sgt Dave..you might enjoy Flames of Heaven, by Ralph Peters, written at near the end of the Cold War from a Soviet viewpoint. Characters include an idealistic Red Army officer, a variety of cynical opportunists, and a crippled young woman, an artist, who is hopelessly in love with the protagonist.

    I understand that the book has been translated into Russian and published there.

  71. This one is a wow. John Grisham’s first foray into non-fiction. Yet, it reads like a novel. It really makes you think about the death penalty.

    The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

  72. AMERICAN HISTORY

    Just finished Hampton Sides’ “Blood & Thunder”, a breathtaking history of the conquest of the American Southwest and, in particular, Kit Carson (whose nickname graces the book’s title). It’s an absolutely riveting book that brings to life one of the bloodiest and most romantic chapters in our history. What I liked in particular is that there are no angels and there are no demons.

    Believe that the Indians were simply victims of white oppression? This book will set you straight. Kit Carson himself is revealed to be a man capable of both incredible viciousness and incredible decency. In this the book provides great insight into our human nature.

    Upon reading this book, I now see my beloved Southwest with a renewed awe for the giants that strode its dessicated earth before me and shaped its bloody history.

  73. Did you read the Rivers of War 1812 by Eric Flint, danny?

  74. I read Robert Ferrigno’s “Prayers for the Assassin” in 2006, and the sequel is coming out next month. “Prayers” was great, so I hope that the sequel is likewise!

    BHG

  75. Now available on Amazon!

    The liberal advocacy of the media & the real face of liberal politics are made crystal in this new history:

    To Set The Record Straight: How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media Defeated John Kerry

  76. A book I read about a year ago, when about one third of the way through prompted me to order 3 more of this author’s books. Ivan Doig’s “The Whistling Season” is about a widower raising three small boys in Montana at the turn of the 20th century. The book is funny, funny, funny with beautiful prose and a mystery all in one. I can’t recommend it enough.

  77. I got this book “How To Play Chess Like an Animal” for my son and he beat me in 5 moves!

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