Sunday, September 28, 2008

Two Recommendations and One Endorsement

First, I recommend that people read The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 that describes people, activities, and events in the Bush Administration regarding the Iraq War. The book is well written, well researched and lays out a sad but interesting story on how foreign affairs was conducted the past two years. If you are a Bush supporter or an avid neo-con, you might want to pass on this book as it may destroy what remaining delusions you have about this Presidency, the Administration's competence and the conduct of foreign affairs.

I am very impressed by Woodward's ability to locate sources , get the sources to open up and then develop a fascinating narrative based on the information provided.

Second, I recommend that any few remaining Americans who believe that Sarah Palin is competent to be Vice President much less President of the U.S. read Kathleen Parker's article published last week. Kathleen Parker is a conservative Republican and early supporter of Mrs. Palin until....

She saw what a disaster Palin was in several low key and no pressure interviews.

Mrs. Parker's view of Mrs. Palin's performances, "If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself. " Ouch!

Third, realistically there is no choice who to vote for in the Presidential election. If you voted 90% of the time in agreement with the disastrous policies of the current Administration, you are automatically disqualified for being the next President. John McCain, this nation owes you thanks for your great sacrifice for this country....But....

You're out of touch. You can't be trusted. It's time for new energy, new good ideas and new leadership....

Obama for President 2008!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reading at Midlife

The older I get, the harder it is for me to find a good book, particularly those that are business or career related. At 56, most of the fitness books aren't right for me either. They are geared to a younger generation, who still have the stamina, energy and motivation to perform exercises that would put me into an emergency ward or traction.

Self help books are hard to find for midlife men. There seems to be plenty of books for midlife women to survive menopause, or the loss of their youth and looks.

Readers my age can find a large number of books that offer advice on retirement and financial management for senior citizens.

I think there is a market for books, particularly novels, to readers with some gray in their hair and a lot of candles on their birthday cakes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Block" Party

A Lawrence Block party in fact....

I just read two of Block's "Keller's Greatest Hit" series, Hit Parade and Hit and Run. I don't recall reading any books by Block before. The main character is Keller. Keller is a hit man, evidently a very good one as he is constantly sought for contracts on various people. Keller is aided (at least administratively) by Dot, his girl Friday. Based on my initial reads, Keller's penchant for completing his stamp collection represents his financial incentive for his type of work.

I prefer the John Rain series by Barry Eisler if you're looking for a lot of action, violence and machismo. In a battle of hit men, I think Rain would win out. Keller's hits are more run of the mill and pedestrian.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Off The Deep End by W. Hodding Carter

As someone in midlife, I was looking for a book that was inspirational in terms of getting fit or being athletically competitive. Subtitled "The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Midlife Crisis-And Qualify For The Olympics," I did not get motivated from reading Carter's pursuit. Maybe it was because this book was primarily about swimming....

The most interesting part of the book was about Mark Spitz and his failed attempt to qualify for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

If Dina Torres (US. Silver Medalist in swimming) writes a book, that might motivate me....

Monday, September 1, 2008

Blue Blood and Mutiny by Patricia Beard

This book ranks with Barbarians at the Gate as one of my favorite business books that provides an inside account of the events and people surrounding turmoil within a company. Since most of the people covered are CEOs, Directors and Senior Executives, it's instructive how fallible, vain and gullible they can be.

Beard's book starts off a bit slowly as she provides a brief history of Morgan Stanley before she gets into the main story. Subtitled The Fight for the Soul of Morgan Stanley, Beard entertainingly describes the tenure and turmoil behind the management of CEO Phillip Purcell. As someone whose company is involved in a merger, I identified a few similarities of experience with those described in the book.

This book describes a merger gone bad. You'll read about dirty corporate politics, duplicity, greed, very bad business decisions and poor leadership.

Beard does a great job of capturing the personalities and mindsets of the major characters. This book flows like an excellent business novel.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis

I have been searching for a copy of this book for a long time. You can't find it in the bookstores and I don't think any more editions have been published. Fortunately my good friend Mr. Caldwell had a yellowing paperback copy that he lent me.

Colonel Sun is a James Bond (007) novel that was published in 1968, shortly after Ian Fleming's death. Amis wrote very closely in the style of Fleming and captured the James Bond character very well.

Colonel Sun is a villain who captures M (Bond's boss) with the goal of killing high level Soviet officials and making it look like a British Secret Service operation.

The story moves a bit slowly at times but incorporates the usual Bond themes: a beautiful damsel in distress, violence, a dangerous and seemingly invincible thug that Bond must overcome, exotic locales and sex.

This was the only Bond novel by Amis. Seems a shame as he would have been a fitting successor to Fleming.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Wish I Followed This Bit of Business Advice....

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi doesn't offer anything that you have not hear from most successful businesspeople and self help authors.

What is a bit different is that Ferrazzi offers some strategies, tips and stories to help you along. It's easy to be told that you should network and build up a group of collegaues and business associates. Ferrazzi provides some direction and motivation in doing so.

I wish I did a better job of following Ferrazzi's advice. Today there are countless and painless ways of networking (Facebook, Linked-In).

Easy read. I skimmed much of the book as this is a good book for those just starting out in the business world or are looking to start a business.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What I Talk About When I Haruki Murakawi

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by an author who is a runner, er maybe a runner who is an author. I had read some decent reviews and since the author is about my age I was seeking some motivation for running in my mid 50s.

This short book will not make you a better runner or a better writer. My takeaway from this book is Murakawi's discipline when training and racing. He describes a marathon run through Greece that was part of a publicity piece about him. Murakawi felt duty bound to run the entire 26.2 grueling miles.

It's a decent book to offer as a gift to any long distance runners that you may know. They'll be able to appreciate the stories and dedication as told by Murakawi.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Every NJ Voter Should Read This Book

I highly recommend The Soprano State: New Jersey's Culture of Corruption by Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure.

If you have been a resident of New Jersey for any period of time, there is not a lot in this book that will surprise you. Our taxes are too high. Our schools are performing poorly. The state government is really run by a number of county bosses. The state unions are out of control. Politicians do not only double dip, but triple and quadruple dip. Too many state workers earn pensions and benefits with very little work or time on the job.

The authors do a great job at describing some of the lamest people and the lamest things done to "help" The City of Camden.

You'll read about a number of very dumb ideas for legislation. You'll gasp about the performance (or lack of) by various politicians. The coverage of the rise and fall of Jim McGreevey alone is reason to read this book. This book skewers both Democrats and Republicans.

This is a very well written book that does not pull many punches. If you're a New Jersey resident, read this book with a strong drink in your hand.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Newspapers: Dying on Write Support

I can remember when it took me a half hour or so to read the local papers like the Philadelphia Inquirer or Courier Post. Each paper used to be four or five columnists that I always wanted to read. Not anymore! I’m not sure I can name more than one or two columnists in either paper.

And geez, the sports coverage is so anemic...

The content has thinned out considerably, like Valerie Bertinelli on Jenny Craig. There’s no heft even in Sunday editions!

The New York Times, Wall St Journal and the Washington Post still publish decent newspapers though I read their content almost exclusively online. I can’t remember the last time I bought a USA Today.

Newspapers have lost the battle with cable news shows, online news websites and blogs for subscribers and viewers. Newspapers present stale news. Cable shows and the Internet promote immediate access and continual updates.

Newspapers used to do a very good job of investigative reporting but with limited staff, resources and will, haven’t done much of that lately.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Literacy Debate: Online RU Really Reading

Very interesting and thought provoking New York Times article by Motoko Rich.

There is a generational divide on how we get information and read for knowledge and pleasure. Is the Internet responsible for declining literacy?

As an avid book and web reader, I never differentiated that content from books constituted reading and from the web represented something less. I spend much more time reading from websites and blogs than I do from books, magazines or newspapers. I think I'm discriminating enough to know what content is crap and what represents useful content on the Internet.

“What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation,” he wrote, confessing that he now found it difficult to read long books."

The above quote came from Nicholas Carr, an author. I never gave that idea much thought before regarding my reading habits but it may be true. I have less patience in struggling with long books or complicated content. I had attributed my lack of patience with my age and declining intellectual and mental stamina if a book did not grab me.

However internet content is ideal for skimming. It may even be fast food for the brain...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria

There are a lot of books and articles that argue that the United States has lost its superpower roles in the world economy, political sphere and cultural influence. This book is more tempered and reasoned in its presentation.

The Post American World described by Zakaria indicates that our role is changing. China, Russia and India, for example, are growing influences in the world economy. However the United States is still a power to be reckoned with and possesses enormous competitive resources. Zakaria is not a doomsayer.

This book provides the reader with a much broader view and perspective of events taking place today. It is very well written, researched and reasoned. Readers in the U.S. are so focused on events locally and within the country that we do not notice what's happening in the rest of the world.

The Post American World addresses our parochialism. I enjoyed the lessons and perspectives.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Have Elections in September to Jump Start Economy

The following article published in the Camden Courier Post today is:
  • interesting
  • provocative
  • entertaining
  • literate
  • convincing

And written by me:)

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown by Charles R. Morris

Read this book if you want to find out why:

      • Banks are failing
      • Foreclosures were up over 50% last month
      • Mortgage companies are closing
      • The Dow is barely over 11,000 and dropping quickly
      • There are no silver financial or business linings in sight
        If you are a poor student of economics like me, you'll appreciate Morris's talent in simplifying the history of the past 40 years to show how we got to the economic mess that we are in now.

        Read this and weep....

          Tuesday, July 1, 2008

          Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black

          I'm not a big fan of Lewis Black. I've seen him on The Daily Show and doing his stand-up routines at various times. He's OK but he's not Chris Rock or Bill Maher in my book.

          However I enjoyed his book Me of Little Faith. He takes on religion, lambasting all types of faith and beliefs. As a non-practicing Catholic, I chuckled at and acknowledged many of his critical comments about the Pope and Church practices.

          If the reader is sensitive about religion, he or she might choose to pass on this book. Like Black's stand-up act, he takes no prisoners and speaks his mind, bluntly.

          My favorite chapter in this book is A Prayer from George Bush. It's hilarious. George threatens to tell the nation that God is behind the Iraq mess and other national maladies.

          The chapters are short and this book is an easy (and very funny) read.

          Sunday, June 22, 2008

          A Champions Mind by Pete Sampras

          Pete Sampras the tennis player was great. Pete Sampras, the author of A Champions Mind is OK.

          If you watched a Pete Sampras tennis match, you would be watching a performance that was workmanlike, not fancy, few frills, no histrionics, and very competent. Sampras wasn’t a complainer, screamer or showman.

          Sampras’s book was just like his tennis, largely straightforward. In large part, it read like a war history. He outlined some of his more major tennis battles and his strategies whether he won or lost.

          There’s nothing in the book that should generate any controversy. He doesn’t back stab any opponents though he does offer some instances where players (by word or deed) pissed him off.

          Sampras doesn’t offer any tennis tips to make you a better player. There is no special workout regimen or diet that will make you as US Open or Wimbledon winner.

          Sampras comes off as a modest and decent guy who is very proud of his tennis accomplishments. He would put himself in the Top 5 Greatest Tennis Players of all Time (with Laver, Federer, Lendl and Borg).

          Sunday, June 15, 2008

          116 Ways to Improve Your PC and Technology Skills

          I’m always on the hunt for good ideas on being more productive and using technology wisely. Gina Trapani’s Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better fits the bill. She offers 116 useful Hacks (workarounds or shortcuts) including:

          * Empty Your Inbox and Keep it Empty
          * Craft Effective Messages (E-mail)
          * Organize Your Documents Folder
          * Organize Your Digital Photos
          * Build Your Personal Wikipedia

          Trapani’s book is generally user-friendly though certain sections left me lost. The book can be used for both PC and MAC users. Trapani references a number of websites and software programs to enhance and improve your computer experience.

          Ultimately the book will make you a more organized and productive employee, manager or businessperson.

          Saturday, June 7, 2008


          Bond is back! Better than ever? Hmmm, maybe…

          I was very anxious to buy Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks. It’s been a long time since I read a James Bond novel. The last one I read was authored by Raymond Benson. I had previously read all the Bond novels by Ian Fleming and John Gardner.

          This Bond adventure was very good. It is great escapist fun for any man. There is action, violence, beautiful women, travel, sex, evil villains and a decent plot. I read some criticism that the book started slow and I agree it did. But Bond is such a fascinating character, that the descriptions of what he eats, how he dresses and what he does to stay in shape is very interesting.

          Bond faces off against Dr. Julius Gortner, an egomaniac in the legacy of Dr. No and Goldfinger. Bond first engages Dr. Gortner in a tennis game that may remind readers of Bond’s golf challenge against Goldfinger.

          The Bond girl in the novel is Scarlet Papava, who provides a number of interesting twists in the story. Keep in mind that the novel takes place in the late 1960’s, about the time of Ian Fleming’s last Bond adventure.

          Bond appears a bit more vulnerable in this adventure. He’s even mulling retirement. He’s a shade slower and more reflective.

          As for me, I hope James Bond never retires. I hope it’s not another 10 years between Bond novels. I enjoyed this book and look forward to more from Faulks.

          Sunday, June 1, 2008

          Reading: It Does a Mind Good

          Reading is to the mind what eating is to the body. For the benefit to both body and mind, it’s important to maintain a good and healthy diet. When feeding the body and mind, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet and not rely on “junk.”

          Good eating habits foster good health and energy. Good reading habits foster knowledge, ideas and truth.

          When it comes to books, a main staple of the mental diet, one should seek balance. I read books on various non-fiction subjects including politics, current events, business, philosophy, sports, religion and psychology. I also add a touch of fiction and literature to my plate.

          There are some people who may feel they need to read only one book. For them, this book holds all the answers they need for life. I prefer to indulge in different tastes or perspectives. One needs to try different recipes (or perspectives).

          Just as some foods need to be savored slowly for enjoyment, so do some books. However one will often find books that are like fast food, temporarily satisfying but not really good for you.

          Ultimately, we need to avoid poison in our physical or mental diet. Poison is branded on the box or container. We know to avoid it. However there are books that are poison to the mind. Based on lies and deceit, they may create prejudice, hate and lead those who buy into it to poor decisions.

          Saturday, May 24, 2008

          Sudden Mischief by Robert B. Parker

          In the time it would have taken me to watch two TV episodes of Spenser For Hire, I polished off Sudden Mischief by Robert B. Parker. This was a mid 80's published Spenser book.

          Spenser's squeeze, Susan asks him to help out her ex-husband who is involved in a sexual harassment suit. The usual Spenser fare: great repartee, short chapters, easy reading and the good guys win.

          Tuesday, May 20, 2008

          The Affairs of Men: The Trouble with Sex and Marriage

          Interesting New Yorker Magazine article by Philip Weiss. He offers an explanation (not a defense) for Eliot Spitzer's (and other men's) infidelity. Guys will understand and appreciate Weiss's contentions. Most women, particularly wives won't.

          With all the various published affairs by politicians, athletes and celebrities, does this topic really raise an eyebrow anymore? I can't think of many other topics that generate such hypocrisy.

          This article offers a different perspective from most of the others written on the Spitzer infidelity.

          Sunday, May 18, 2008

          The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam

          I just finished Roam's book and coincidentally happened across this review of it in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The review pretty much sums up my feeling about the book and the business ideas presented. I have found very favorable reviews of Roam's book in blogs and other business periodicals.

          My job requires a great deal of communications, often to simplify complex ideas and concepts to simple ones. I have experienced first hand how effective flowcharts, images and graphics are in employee communications. So Roam is preaching to the choir on how effective visual communications can be.

          This is an excellent book for those responsible for business communications including technical writers, marketing managers, corporate communications personnel and trainers.

          Saturday, May 10, 2008

          Three Good, Not Great Books for One's Reading Pleasure

          I have been reading more as there is nothing that keeps my attention on television. I have quickly gone through three books (two fiction and one non-fiction). All three shared the same characteristics: they were relatively short, did not require too much attention and easy to digest.

          The two fiction books were:

          1. The Ghost by Robert Harris.

          This book received 41 generally favorable reviews from Amazon readers. I concur. This was (to my best recollection) the first time that I read one of his books. It combined a number of elements to keep me entertained, including politics, sex, scandal and mystery. The story follows a professional ghostwriter hired to finish the memoirs of an ex-British Prime Minister. The ghostwriter becomes more like James Bond as he tries to unravel the mystery behind the drowning death of the ghostwriter hired before him and a messy political scandal involving war crimes circling the ex Prime Minister. Entertaining story with a neat swerve at the end that I did not see coming.

          2. Taming a Sea-Horse by Robert Parker.

          This was one of the early Spenser series book (published 1986). Spenser talks a great game and backs it up by kicking ass when he investigates the death of a hooker and seeks to protect another young woman struggling in the oldest profession. I knocked this book off in two nights. An easy read instead of watching the late night news...

          I also skimmed through True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo. What I got out of the book is this: There are a large number of people who will hold on to their misguided beliefs and opinions despite being shown evidence to the contrary. We just don't argue or differ on opinions but what constitutes fact. Manjoo illustrates his arguments from examples from 9-11 and the Swift Boat allegations against John Kerry in 2004.

          This is not a book that most Conservatives or avid Fox News viewers will enjoy as the slant from the author is from the Left.

          Thursday, May 8, 2008

          Esquire's 75 Skills Every Man Should Master

          Esquire has listed 75 skills that a man should know how to do. Here's a partial list, some of which I can do:

          1. Give advice that matters in one sentence.
          5. Name a book that matters.
          7. Cook meat somewhere else other than the grill. (I can microwave but I guess I'd be cheating with that answer).
          14. Chop down a tree.
          16. Tie a bow tie
          27. Play gin with an old guy.
          38. Tell a joke.
          46. Tell a woman's dress size

          Maybe, just maybe I have (or had) about half the skills the Esquire article lists.

          Sunday, May 4, 2008

          The Accidental Investment Banker by Jonathan A. Knee

          Knee's book is part history, part expose, and part primer on what investment banking is all about. I liked the book but will admit that I skimmed through the parts of it that dealt with the mechanics of how deals are structured and completed.

          I was more interested in reading about the personalities, culture and politics at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley in the 90's and turn of the 21st century. I was particularly interested in reading about Knee's comments about current NJ Governor, Jon Corzine, who served as Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.

          (Knee also shared two entertaining and separate stories about Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher who made presentations to the bankers.)

          I'd recommend this book highly to any college or MBA graduate considering investment banking as a career. This book may help them reconsider....

          Friday, April 25, 2008

          Do You Believe? by Antonio Monda

          The subtitle of this book is Conversations on God and Religion.

          I viewed it more as a poll on whether those interviewed believed in God, the afterlife and religion. Now those polled included a number of heavy hitters in literature and culture including Saul Bellow, Richard Ford, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Jane Fonda and Martin Scorsese.

          “Deeply moving, Do You Believe? is a truly compelling book, bound to become a classic.”— Commonweal

          I skimmed through a lot of the book. Some of the respondents provided interesting answers and perspectives. Some of the respondents were not so interesting. The chapters were relatively short (between 7-10 pages). The respondents were divided between believers and non-believers.

          It's not a classic for me. I would have preferred picking this book up at my library for free if they had it compared to buying it at Barnes and Noble as I did.

          Monday, April 21, 2008

          Two Books for Baby Boomers

          I read two books aimed at baby boomers approaching or over the age of 50.

          The non-fiction book, Leap! What Will We Do With The Rest of Our Lives by Sara Davidson provides stories of various people (some celebrities) in how they overcame health, career, relationship and financial issues after 50. Davidson offers the advice and life lessons from Carly Simon, Tom Hayden, Ram Dass and Jane Fonda to name a few. This reader's circle of friends and acquaintances does not carry the same cachet. Frankly a number of these people are certainly well off financially and are not going to have the same challenges and issues that I (and most other people) may face.

          However it was interesting to see how Davidson faced her own issues (relationship, career etc.) and that will be very instructive to many readers (particularly women). Davidson's book does offer some good insights and advice for baby boomers in this phase of life.

          I also read Eureka: A Novel by Jim Lehrer. This book is great for us old guys over 50. The main character, Otis Halstead, is a 59 year old husband, father and corporate executive who goes through a dramatic (and entertaining) midlife crisis. Halstead tries to recapture things and moments from his youth that he missed, much to the consternation of his wife, family and friends.

          Is Halstead crazy after purchasing an antique toy fire truck, BB gun and red 1952 Cushman Pacemaker motor scooter? Or is he more sane than the psychologists assigned to treat him for his crazy behavior?

          I loved the story and finished the book in one day.

          Sunday, April 20, 2008

          A Catholic's Take on the Pope's Trip

          I found this Time's article by Tim Padgett, a Catholic writing on the Pope's visit to the United States to be very wise.

          He points out that many Catholics believe that you do not have to follow the rules from Rome and other teachings to be a good Catholic. You accept what is good from the religion and ignore what is bad or not reasonable.

          Padgett's conclusion:

          "Still, the love most U.S. Catholics have for their church may never again be unconditional. It has to be earned, and simply wearing a collar or a habit won't do the trick anymore. Pope Benedict XVI took some positive steps toward earning it last week. But he needs to realize that his American flock, as good Catholics like Boccaccio did before us, follows a religion more than it follows a church."

          Tuesday, April 8, 2008

          Brain Rules by John Medina

          If all my science texts were like Medina’s book when I was in school, I’d learn a whole lot more than I did and with a lot more interest.

          I really enjoyed Brain Rules, the book and the accompanying DVD. The DVD was a great idea. It summarized the book in an entertaining and engaging way. Medina employed the “visual” to support what he wrote in the book.

          Medina’s book was very user-friendly in describing the parts and functions of the brain. If you had no interest in how the brain works, Medina offered a number of practical takeaways to improve your thinking with chapters on:
          *Sleep and Rest
          *Improving Memory
          *Reducing Stress
          *Paying attention (We don't pay attention to boring things)

          I enjoyed reading the book. Very user-friendly for those with or without a scientific bent.

          Monday, March 31, 2008

          Oldies but Goodies

          While I'm reading Retribution: The Battle for Japan 1944-45 by Max Hastings, some past books I liked and I include some mini reviews.

          Serpent on the Rock by Kurt Eichenwald
          Covered the 80’s and early 90’s scandal at Prudential Securities. What fascinates me is how a large number of employees allowed themselves to be bullied and blackmailed into condoning and even promoting fraud on investors, mainly elderly.

          Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four by John Feinstein
          Feinstein had a number of great anecdotes, particularly about the coaches from the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

          The Church That Forgot Christ by Jimmy Breslin.
          Breslin a lifelong and devout Catholic writes a diatribe against the Catholic institution in its handling of the sexual abuse allegations against priests.

          Wednesday, March 19, 2008

          The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead by David Shields

          To tell the truth, the book title is one big hook.

          Shields writes about our physical progress and regress from conception to death. It’s a tale of what happens to our body and mind as we get older. He also intersperses anecdotes from his life and those of his father, who is slowing just a bit in his 90’s and provides quotes from a variety of people on aging and death.

          As a 55 year old man, I got to wax nostalgic about what I experienced (or missed) from my “youth.” I also got to read what I can expect to experience as I get older. (My hearing, sight, sense of taste and touch will change for the worse.)

          Normally I find books like these boring and to be honest, quite depressing. However I enjoyed reading the book from cover to cover. It made me more meditative than melancholy.

          "Older" readers may appreciate the information and wisdom found in the book a bit more than younger readers.

          Saturday, March 15, 2008

          Best Blog Reading of the Week

          There have been countless stories about the events surrounding the "scandal" around New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer. So much analysis, so much moralizing....

          Bill Maher sums up Spitzer's behavior in his own unique and funny way....

          Sunday, March 9, 2008

          Coming Attractions

          I was pleased to hear that a new James Bond book, titled Devil May Care will be published shortly. The author is Sebastian Faulkes with whom I am not acquainted. After Ian Fleming died, I had read a James Bond series written by Raymond Benson. Benson's Bond was a pale copy of Fleming's. I have not seen a new Benson book about Bond in many years.

          I am a big fan of the Bond series, including the books and the movies...

          I was also pleased to read that Max Hastings is writing a book about the end of the Second World War in Japan titled Retribution The Battle for Japan 1944-45. I read through most of Hastings' book Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45, that I heartily recommend. It's a very readable and interesting book for history buffs of WWII.

          Two books to look forward to read....

          Wednesday, March 5, 2008

          Why I Read (and Everyone Should Too)

          Over the years, I’ve been asked why I read so much and why I focus on topics like politics, history, religion, philosophy and current events. I read for various reasons including entertainment, to satisfy my curiosity and to improve my skills and talents. I also read to seek knowledge and hopefully truth.

          Though I read a lot, I would not classify myself in any way as an ‘intellectual.” I basically collect information. An intellectual collects information also but uses it to generate ideas, inventions, opinions, theories, and philosophies.

          I’ve read a variety of polls indicating that many Americans do not read books. Given the slow death of various publishers, many aren’t reading newspapers or magazines either. If you spend a half-hour listening to any talk show, you wonder where and how people form their opinions. (I’m not just talking about callers but the hosts and “expert” guests.)

          Many people are also dreadful when it comes to the source of their information. One has to exercise reason and judgment to filter out lies, bias, spin, superstitions, gossip and drivel. Many people don't let facts, science, experience and evidence get in the way when they develop an opinion.

          All this leads me to recommending The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby. Jacoby writes about the dumbing down of the American culture and its disastrous national consequences. Jacoby identifies the sources of anti-intellectualism and focuses on the history of the intellectual fight between religion vs. science.

          Jacoby is right on target as she describes our greatest failure as voters and citizens...

          “The real problem is that we, as a people, have become too lazy to learn what we
          need to know to make sound public decisions.”

          How many ditto heads have ceded their thinking to Rush, Sean, Bill O' and Ann Coulter?

          This is an excellent book whether you are a practicing intellectual or just a seeker of the truth.

          Monday, March 3, 2008

          Books on Professional Wrestling

          It may be hard for some people who see the types of books I read and the subjects that interest me to figure out why I enjoyed professional wrestling. Simply it's soap opera (with violence) for men. Professional wrestling often displays the best acting, choreography and athletics that one can view.

          I read Hardcore History: The Extremely Unauthorized Story of ECW by Scott E. Williams. I haven't read a lot of books on professional wrestling but this was a well written and researched one.

          ECW was primarily a promotion based in Philadelphia that offered more hardcore and extreme wrestling. Wrestlers would be put through tables, hit with chairs and contest within barbed wire.

          Unless you are a die hard ECW fan, this book isn't for you. For the ECW fan, it is a very good history with plenty of anecdotes and inside stories.

          Friday, February 29, 2008

          WFB RIP

          William F. Buckley was an interesting man. I did not particularly care for many of his political views but I enjoyed his wide vocabulary and debate skills. I used to watch Firing Line, a political discussion show, when I could and enjoyed watching him in debate. He was extremely fast on his feet and flashed wit and humor when the occasion arose.

          He was one of our modern day Renaissance men. He was a prolific writer, in fiction and in politics. He was a political philosopher promoting conservatism. He started a political magazine, The National Review and was an accomplished speaker. In addition, he was a musician (piano?) and yachtsman.

          While I was not a customer or frequent reader of National Review, I would occasionally view his political articles on the Internet. I was not a fan of his Blackford Oates, spy series books. (I tried it. I did not like it). Too dark, not enough action...

          I did read and enjoy many of his books and essays on politics and on his life. I enjoyed two in particular Miles Gone By and Overdrive: A Personal Documentary.

          I'd recommend reading his articles and books just to improve one's vocabulary and use of the English language.

          Tuesday, February 26, 2008

          The Speed of Trust by Steven M. Covey

          I think anyone who is in business or is studying for a business degree should read Covey's book. I'm essentially at the tail end of my corporate career and I found the book very useful. I am planning to start my own business shortly and I think Covey offers an invaluable strategy on how to gain and keep customers.

          This is a very practical and extremely useful book. From my own business experience, I can attest to the importance of trust. No trust= no productivity= no results.

          What dooms most managers and business executives is the lost trust they have with customers, employees and their investors.

          Easy to read, Covey offers a series of practical advice to further one's career and business interests. I recommend this book highly as it is one of the best business books I have read in the past year.

          Tuesday, February 19, 2008

          Hit and Misses

          I was on a 12 day cruise that finished last Friday. I took along a few books including Stoner that I reviewed earlier.

          One of my greatest pleasures is to read a good book while laying in a chair by the pool....


          The Last Assassin by Barry Eisler. This was an entertaining book to read on the cruise. Rain, along with Dox and his past squeeze, Delilah, attempt to eliminate a long bitter enemy of Rain who is threatening his infant son. Rain also has to balance his feelings for Midori, the mother of his son and Delilah. Plenty of action. Great dialogue. I really enjoy this series. Each book is better than the previous one.


          The Sack of Rome by Alexander Stille. Stille covers the rise of Silvio Berlusconi, a media magnate and political power in Italy.

          The Way of the Small by Michael Gellert. This book was not persuasive or fascinating to me as some of those promoting it claimed.

          Sunday, February 17, 2008

          Stoner....A Great Read !!!!!!

          I have a tendency when I get bored with a book to page forward to see what's coming up. It's not unlike what I do with a remote as I watch television.

          I enjoyed Stoner by John Williams from page 1 through the end on page 278. It is a great book, probably the best piece of fiction that I have read in a long time.

          Stoner should be on the reading list for all college and high school students. It's a great piece of literature that offers instructive life lessons on riding the rocky waves that come at us.

          The book tells the life story of William Stoner, an unexceptional "everyman" born at the end of the 1800's, who overcomes a variety of obstacles in his life. Coming from very humble beginnings and a poor and hardworking family, Stoner is immediately sympathetic.

          His greatest challenge is a loveless marriage from a cold and manipulative wife. Stoically he also endures what life and academia (Stoner is a literature professor) throw at him.

          Stoner is at his most vulnerable when he finds and loses the true love of his life. This isn't a "feel-good" book. It's how one man handles a lot of hard knocks...

          Sunday, January 27, 2008

          Double Cross by James Patterson

          Alex Cross does double duty. He has to capture two diabotical killers causing murder and mayhem.

          It's been awhile since I read an Alex Cross novel but the villians seem far more interesting characters in this book.

          If this was summer, I'd say it's a good beach read. Short chapters. Plot moves quickly. The reader doesn't have to pay a lot of attention to plot, characters etc. I knocked this book off in two days.

          Not a bad book for a guy who wants to pass on TV for the weekend and read something more entertaining than the Sunday papers.

          Tuesday, January 22, 2008

          Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

          Weiner describes the history of the Central Intelligence Agency from its start during World War II to 9/11/2001. While it may not be as entertaining as an Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum spy novel, it nonetheless is an interesting read.

          What strikes this reader throughout the book is how poorly the roles and responsibilities of the CIA are. It is no wonder that the results of the Agency are mixed, at best.

          Weiner describes, in detail, a number of different operations the CIA has been involved. Those stories make compelling reading, particularly the descriptions and actions of the characters involved.

          It's not a short read (over 448 pages). If you are into our history of "spooks and spies," you will enjoy this book.

          Sunday, January 13, 2008

          Promised Land by Robert B. Parker

          This is an early Spenser mystery book published in 1976. There were references to a "leisure suit" and another to David Frye. I doubt if anyone born after 1980 could identify the references. (David Frye was an impressionist in the 70's. He was particularly good at imitating former President Nixon.)

          I was looking for an easy book to read and I knocked this off in a few hours.

          This book was somewhat interesting as it described Spenser's and Hawk's early uneasy friendship and business relationship. Susan is only a high school guidance counselor, not the psychologist she is in the more current books.

          If you're looking for easy reading, some mystery and very good dialogue, check out the Spenser mystery series.

          Thursday, January 10, 2008

          Brief Bytes of Book Reviews

          Rules for Renegades by Christine Comaford-Lynch

          Very interesting business, personal and career advice from a very smart, ambitious and talented lady. Comaford-Lynch offers a lot of unique perspectives. She was a model, a monk, an entrepreneur, a Bill Gates date and has mingled with some high level business and political personalities. (Read her encounter with former President Bill Clinton and how she handled it.) She offers a number of ideas and strategies that you will not read in other business self help and management books. Great story teller!

          The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille

          I read the first six chapters and quickly leafed to the end of the book to see if I wanted to invest the time to read 634 pages. I didn't.

          Tuesday, January 1, 2008

          Day of Reckoning by Patrick J. Buchanan

          I found the subtitle of his book (How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed are Tearing America Apart) intriguing and bought it. This book is part of the pile on George W's administration and Presidency.

          However Buchanan was preaching to the choir (me, the reader) for the most part. I agree that our country has been "Balkanized" in terms of divisions of race, religion, income and education.

          I prefer Buchanan's rants on The McLaughlin Group or MSNBC to his books or articles.

          If you've been hiding under a rock the past 10 years or haven't read a book or newspaper, then you may find Buchanan's book and arguments enlightening.

          Borrow it from your public library if you get the chance or just watch Pat on TV.