A few of you have been asking me where I am these days, so I'm going to keep you posted with a blog. I'll start with the first Philippines trip of 2010, and I'll be updating regularly. Life on the road is usually pretty boring - 12 hours of work plus dinner - so don't worry...you won't be reading an hourly journal.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Books Books Books

I've been reading a lot over the past year, and thought I'd jot down some of the books I read, along with a few words about each. I'm not sure if anyone will care, but that's what blogs are for. Here's a partial 2009/2010 book list...

America America - Ethan Canin - Pretty good coming of age novel set during the 1972 presidential election campaign, with one fictional candidate. Some mystery/intrigue, but mostly just a literate, good work.

South of Broad - Pat Conroy - I love Pat Conroy, period. I didn't think this was his best work...for that, read "Prince of Tides"or "Beach Music," but he paints Charleston, SC like no one else.

The Water is Wide - Pat Conroy - An early autobiographical tale of racism, poverty, perseverance, and love. I still love Pat Conroy.

An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser - Extraordinary tome (900 pages) that eloquently describes the not-so-pure ways of the mind that live within all of us.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Easy read. Pithy. It's unbelievable how smart this guy was!

The Help - Kathryn Stockett - Very good novel in the "Upstairs Downstairs" style. Set in the deep South of the 1960s. Huge 2009 bestseller...lots of other reviews out there...

Horse Soldiers - Doug Stanton - This is a great book. True story. After 9/11, a small number of CIA and Special Forces went into Afghanistan to help fight Al Queda and the Taliban. Reads like a Ludlam novel.

Red Planet - Robert Heinlein - An early (1949) book about Mars. He develops here many of the themes that he develops later in "Stranger in a Strange Land." Good background material. But if you have to pick only one, read "Stranger."

Walden - Henry David Thoreau - Now this guy is serious! I didn't get through the whole book, but he really makes a strong case defining our entire materialistic existence as chains that bind us.

The Imperial Cruise - James Bradley - The true (and highly footnoted) account of the largest diplomatic mission in history, which sowed the seeds of WWII. Suffice it to say that Teddy Roosevelt was not necessarily the gallant hero we learned about in school. His commitment to White-supremacy is difficult to read.

Time Enough for Love - Robert Heinlein - One of my favorite fiction reads...this was probably my 4th time through it. A 2,300-year old man and his curmudgeonly wisdom. Funny, smart, wise, and generally terrific.

Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein - Re-read for the first time since high school. Fantastic and amazing read. If you haven't read this, you should.

The Time Traveler's Wife - I am a huge time travel fan, and I thought this was a superbly executed book. I've actually read it twice. From everything I can tell about the movie, though, stay far far far away...

Unencumbered Earth - Jumpha Lahiri - Beautiful writing, author of The Namesake. Not an action book at all, but a wonderful look at universal family issues, as well as the Indian immigration experience. Reminds me a lot of my Jewish grandparents...

The Road - Cormac McCarthy - Great end-of-the-world book. Perfect read for a coast-to-coast airplane trip. Fast, dark, and magnificent writing.

Diary of a Bad Year - J.M. Coetzee - Another fantastic writer. Odd format, but I think it works really well. If you read it, tell me what you think.

Whiteout - Ken Follett - Trash. I enjoyed Pillars of the Earth and Eye of the Needle. But this is just too predictable.

When Things Fall Apart - Pema Chodron - A Buddhist monk's view of the opportunities provided to us by life's upsets. She's a very well-regarded leader in Buddhism and meditation. Highly recommended if you're interested in this stuff.

Leadership and Self Deception - The Arbinger Institute - Another one I've read/listened-to a half-dozen times. Always eye-opening...very easy read...fast-paced management fable. It might change the way you lead.

The Monster of Florence - Douglas Preston - I didn't think this was great. But it was one of those I read over a 2-month period, so I didn't keep up the momentum. Not exciting for me.

Healing Your Aching Back - Jeffrey Katz MD - A Harvard back specialist brings together all of the current information about back pain. If you have pain, you should read this book to educate yourself. If not, then no need.

In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan - I am a *huge* fan of his previous book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. Read that one first. This one is kind of a shortened version that says similar things. But Omnivore is the original masterwork.

Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Foer - A lot of people loved this book. I thought it was good, and certainly an amazing first novel. You have to pay attention, though, and I read this one before bed for a month or two. Didn't work for me.

Passionate Presence - Catherine Ingram - About being in the here and now with yourself. I'm not done with it yet, but it's a nice companion so far.

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