Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best Non-Fiction Reading of 2012

It turns out I have two favorite books for five different categories...

Big Picture (Life and Death)

Winter Journal
By Paul Auster
I loved this book! I am four years older than the author so I understood all his ruminations, regrets and sorrows as he reviewed his life. I have not led half of an interesting life as Auster but I identified with so much of his childhood and adolescent experiences.

By Christopher Hitchens
An author describing the end of his life usually makes for a very depressing book. However Hitchens faced his death with courage and perspective. A book that very few, if any authors, could easily write.

Current Events
End This Depression Now
By Paul Krugman
Generally I find books about economics very daunting to read. However you won't need a MBA from Wharton to understand this book. Krugman explains, in plain language, what happened during the economic meltdown and his ideas on how to resolve unemployment and improve the U.S. economy.

Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent
By Edward Luce
Sobering view of the economic, education, government and culture status of the United States. In many ways, a depressing book as our leaders and ourselves have done a very poor job in addressing crushing problems now and more coming in the future.

Economic Meltdown
The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual-The Biggest Bank Failure in American History
By Kirsten Grind
Excellent storytelling and research around the demise of Washington Mutual. The demise can be laid to the housing crisis, subprime lending, poor management and inadequate risk management. Maybe the best business book I read this year.

A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers
By Lawrence McDonald
Excellent inside story of the fall of Lehman Brothers. Anyone who is involved in Risk Management should read this book as a cautionary tale.

Inferno The World War: 1939-1945
By Max Hastings
Best book about the events, people and horrors of World War II that I have read! Many fascinating personal stories!

500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars
By Kurt Eichenwald
Excellently researched and written. Gripping personal stories of people involved in national security events after 9-11. But a very depressing story about the missteps and failures of the Bush Administration after 9-11, particularly as it related to Iraq and our handling of potential terrorists.

One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game
By John Feinstein
Feinstein is a great storyteller. He describes his experiences and feelings about various sports luminaries like Bobby Knight, Dean Smith, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and more.

Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever By Jack McCallum
Inside story about the selection and play of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team that is being called as the Greatest Basketball Team ever assembled. McCallum covered the team closely and saw its strengths and warts. He also provides details about the intrasquad game between the team headed by Michael Jordan vs. team headed by Magic Johnson

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Excerpts:Revenge of the Reality-Based Community | The American Conservative

"All during the summer of that year, an expansion of Medicare to pay for prescription drugs for seniors was under discussion. I thought this was a dreadful idea since Medicare was already broke, but I understood that it was very popular politically. I talked myself into believing that Karl Rove was so smart that he had concocted an extremely clever plan—Bush would endorse the new benefit but do nothing to bring competing House and Senate versions of the legislation together. That way he could get credit for supporting a popular new spending program, but it would never actually be enacted.
I was shocked beyond belief when it turned out that Bush really wanted a massive, budget-busting new entitlement program after all, apparently to buy himself re-election in 2004." It’s worth remembering that Paul Ryan, among other so-called fiscal hawks, voted for this irresponsible, unfunded expansion of government.

"As we know, McCain took a sharp right turn after Obama won the Democratic nomination. The Arizona senator abandoned any pretense of being a moderate or “maverick” and spent the campaign pandering to the Republican Party’s lowest common denominator. His decision to put the grossly unqualified Sarah Palin on his ticket was nothing short of irresponsible. Perhaps more importantly, it didn’t work, and Obama won easily."

"The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right."

"The economy continues to conform to textbook Keynesianism. We still need more aggregate demand, and the Republican idea that tax cuts for the rich will save us becomes more ridiculous by the day. People will long remember Mitt Romney’s politically tone-deaf attack on half the nation’s population for being losers, leeches, and moochers because he accurately articulated the right-wing worldview."

Monday, September 3, 2012

End This Depression Now by Paul Krugman *****

I don't usually read economic books because I have a hard time understanding charts and statistics that get thrown in. However this book is presented simply and is an easy read. Krugman explains the causes of our financial distress and offers ideas on how to get out of it.

Some Krugman takeaways below:

  • In April 2011, as it happens, McDonald's announced 50,000 new job openings. Roughly a million people applied.
  • There are now four job seekers for every job opening, which means that workers who lose one job find it very hard to get another.
  • The causes of long-term unemployment clearly lie with macroeconomic events and policy failures that are beyond any individual's control, yet it does not save the victims from bearing a stigma. Does being unemployed for a long time really erode work skills, and make you a poor hire?
  • The Obama stimulus didn't fail, it simply fell short of what was required ago offset the huge private sector pullback that was already under way before the stimulus kicked in.
  • For the past several years, we have been subjected to a series of dire warnings about the dangers of inflation. Yet it was clear, to those who understood the nature of the depression were in, that these warnings were all wrong and sure enough, the great inflation surge keeps not happening.
  • It's not clear, however, whether Romney believes any of the things he is currently saying. His two chief economic advisers are committed Republicans but also quite Keynesian in their views about macroeconomics.
  • All that is blocking recovery is a lack of intellectual clarity and political will. And it's the job of everyone who can make a difference, from professional economists, to politicians, to concerned citizens, to do whatever he or she can to remedy that lack.
  • The evidence is stronger than it as ever been that fiscal policies matter ----that fiscal stimulus helps the economy add jobs, and that reducing the budget deficit lowers growth at least in the near term. And yet, this evidence does not seem to be getting through to the legislative process. That's what we need to change.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Winter Journal by Paul Auster *****

I was drawn to this book and author by the rave reviews I read in various quarters. This is an excellent, thought provoking and well written book.

I identified with the author's ruminations as he is only four years older than I. So this is an excellent book for older guys looking back to examine their lives and how to move forward with the time and energy we have left.

5 star, a great book...

"You think it will never happen to you, that it cannot happen to you, that you are the only person in the world to whom none of these things will ever happen, and then, one by one, they all begin to happen to you, in the same way they happen to everyone else."

"Speak now before it is too late, and then hope to go on speaking until there is nothing more to be said. Time is running out, after all."

"Your bare feet on the cold floor as you climb out of bed and walk to the window. You are sixty-four years old. Outside, the air is gray, almost white, with no sun visible. You ask yourself: How many mornings are left?"

"One must die lovable (if one can).

"But what to do when it is the middle of the night, when you have woken up sometime between two and four in the morning, have stretched out on the sofa in the library, and are unable to sleep. It is too late to read, too late to turn on the television, too late to watch a film and so you lie in the dark and ruminate, letting your thoughts go wherever they choose to go. Sometimes you get lucky....but more often you will discover yourself thinking about the past, and in your experience, whenever your thoughts turn to the past at three o'clock in the morning, these thoughts tend to be dark."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

This Book Will Make You Smarter

Takeaways from the book  This Book Will Make You Smarter; New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking edited by John Brockman. There were a number of scientists and learned people contributing articles. However I understood about 20% of the book. I guess I need to be smarter.
The mediocrity principle simply states that you are special. The universe does not revolve around you; this planet is not privileged in any unique way; your country is not the perfect product of divine destiny; your existence isn't the product of directed, intentional fate; and that tuna sandwich you have for lunch was not plotting to give you indigestion.
Why do you half of all Americans believe in ghosts, three quarters believe in angels, 1/3 believe in astrology, three quarters believe in hell? Why do a quarter of all Americans believe that the president of United States was born outside the country and is therefore ineligible to be president?
In the United States, recent polls show that 39% consider astrology scientific and 40% believe that our human species is less than 10,000 years old. If everyone understood the concept of scientific concepts, these percentages would be zero. Moreover, the world would be a better place, since people with a scientific lifestyle, basing their decisions on correct information, maximize their chances of success.
For youngsters, learning a foreign language and typing should trump long division and writing cursive.
Economists, forecasters, and professional portfolio managers typically do no better than chance, yet command immense salaries for their services.
Although we are pretty good at storing information in our brains, we are pretty poor  at retrieving it. We can recognize photos from our high school yearbooks decades later, yet find it impossible to remember what we had for breakfast yesterday. When we need to remember something in a situation other than the one in which it was stored, the memory is often hard to retrieve. 
Information has importance in proportion to its relevance and meaning. Its ultimate value is how we use it to make decisions and put it in a framework of knowledge.
We live, after all, in the age of information, which makes the ability to focus on the important information incredibly important. Herbert Simon said it best: "a wealth of information creates a property of attention." 
Making good decisions requires concentrated mental effort, and if we overdo it, we run the risk of being counterproductive through increased stress and wasted time. So it's best to balance, and play, and take healthy risk, as the greatest risk is that we'll get to the end of our lives having never risked  them on anything.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Alan Watts Words of Wisdom

Words of wisdom from The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts...

If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will of the wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death.
Where belief in the eternal because impossible, and there is only the poor substitute of belief in believing, men seek their happiness in the joys of time.
As far as we can judge, every animal is so busy with what he is doing at the moment that it never answers his head to ask whether life has a meeting or a future.
We fall in love with people and possessions only to be tortured by anxiety for them.
So long as the mind is split, life is perpetual conflict, tension, frustration, and disillusion. 
But the best pleasures are those for which we do not plan, and the worst part of pain is expecting it and trying to get away from it when it has come. You cannot plan to be happy. You can plan to exist, but in themselves existence and nonexistence are neither pleasurable nor painful.
The Christian mind has always been haunted by the feeling that the sins of the Saints are worse than the sins of the sinners, in some mysterious way the one who is struggling for salvation is nearer to hell and to the heart is evil than the unashamed harlot or thief.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Good Self, Bad Self by Judy Smith

Takeaways from a crisis management expert...

  • "Everything you worked for can disappear in the blink of an eye." (e.g. Congressman Weiner)
  • "People with massive ego tend to protect and defend it all costs."
  • If you are prone to overreaction it may be from the desire to be important.
  • The earlier you recognize and own a mistake the smaller your crisis will be.
  • It's important to have people around you who offer honest opinions even if they tell you something you don't want to hear.
  • Being perceived as selfish, inflexible and non-accommodating can leave you dangerously isolated and without allies.
  • People who overly accommodate at work rarely get the opportunity to stand out. Being too accommodating doesn't guarantee a promotion or raise for being a team player; more than likely it just ensures future crappy assignments.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Republicans' Really Really Big Lie

Excellent Philadelphia Inquirer article by Dick Polman today. I know I will reference this article when I argue with my conservative and Republican friends.

"Ever since Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the law, writing that the noncompliance penalty was akin to a tax and that such taxes are constitutional, the GOP and its allies have been scaling new heights of hyperbole. The conservative Koch brothers bankrolled an ad calling it "one of the largest tax increases in American history." A Florida congressman upped the ante, calling it "the largest tax on the American people in history." Rush Limbaugh went further, calling it "the largest tax increase in the history of the world."

But the GOP's new tax claim is in another league. So let's bridge the chasm between the lie and the truth:
Obama's supposedly sweeping tax — his penalty for noncompliance — will be levied on a grand total of 1.2 percent of the American people.

So says the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in its projections for 2016. This means that 98.8 percent will not pay a cent, because virtually all Americans (a) will already have health coverage, (b) will have obtained coverage for the first time, thanks to federal subsidies and tax credits, or (c) will be exempt from the penalty, because of economic hardship or religious beliefs. The penalized 1.2 percent will be those Americans who can well afford coverage but simply refuse to buy it.

In an ideal world, the GOP would pay a political price for peddling its phony charge, but that's not how the game works. A huge share of the American public is still in the dark about the details of health reform, and is hence open to all manner of disinformation. The old Mark Twain line, about how a lie can circle the Earth before truth can lace its shoes, is apt in this circumstance.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

Takeaways from The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter and Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds.

  • "In the past decade, a growing number of studies gave shown that static stretching not only does not prepare muscles for activity; it almost certainly does the reverse. ... For runners and other endurance athletes, the utility of being limber at all is in question. "
  • "To a large degree, flexibility is genetic, ... you've been born stretchy or not."
  • A "warm-up should be a prelude to exertion, not the exertion itself."
  • "Plenty of people still believe that eight glasses (of water) a day nonsense...The lesson is to drink what you need but no more and no less....If you're thirsty, drink. If you're not, you probably are hydrated."
  • For the most bang from your workout, in terms of weight loss, intensity is the way to go."
  • To better approximate running over ground, set your treadmill to a !% grade.
  • Weight training may be more effective against diabetes than endurance exercise. Weight trainers had better sugar control.
  • Weight training appears to be the best remedy against loss of joint flexibility; more effective than stretching.
  • Pickle juice is effective against cramping.
  • Exercise speeds the brain's production of serotonin. Abnormally low levels of serotonin have been associated with anxiety and depression.
  • Exercise at the molecular level has a strong anti-aging effect.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Read This Book Before Voting in November

Edward Luce has written an excellent book Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent. Unless you have been living under a rock or all your information comes from Fox News, Luce presents a pretty convincing and sobering appraisal of the economic, political and cultural circumstances that Americans find themselves now.

In many ways it is a depressing book. How could the United States lose its many competitive advantages? How can we get back on track? It won't be easy if it's even possible.

I have provided some excerpts below to give you a flavor of Luce's research and analysis.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

9 Things No One Wants to Regret When They’re Older

You can find a number of blogs that offer great advice. As someone nearing 60, I could not agree more with the advice in this post. I think many people neglect  #s 3 and 7 on the list below and suffer much regret because of them.

  1. Not spending enough time smiling with the people you love.
  2. Holding a grudge and never forgiving someone you care about. 
  3. Fulfilling everyone else’s dreams, instead of your own. 
  4. Not being honest about how you feel. 
  5. Being foolish and irresponsible with your finances. 
  6. Getting caught up in needless drama and negativity. 
  7. Never making your own happiness a priority. 
  8. Never making a difference in the lives of others.
  9. Failing because you were scared to fail.

Kindle Kaper

$19.99 for a Kindle book? Really? When the hardcover price is about the same?

Frankly from a reading experience, I'd rather read from a hardcover or paperback. Given that no hard copy has to be produced, I expect a much better price if I order through Kindle.

Monday, May 14, 2012

When it comes to the workplace, is 70 really the new 50?

A. Hardly. In today's business environment 50 is the old 70. Ask any 50 year old looking for work, how hard it is to get interviews and hired for new jobs.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Study Suggests that You Are What You Read

From MSNBC...
Researchers have found that when you lose yourself in a work of fiction, your behavior and thoughts can metamorphose to match those of your favorite character, according to the study published early online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In that case, I'd like to have the humor and bravado of Spenser from the Robert Parker series. Maybe the adventure and cunning of James Bond from the 007 Ian Fleming series. The stoicism and unflappability of Everett Hitch from the Robert Parker series on Westerns.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve

Great book. Written by Dr. Steve Perry who is on the front lines of education. Some snippets below...

  • We the employees of public schools, have the best work calendar of all full time professionals. Most of us work no more than 187 days a year vs. a typical 250 days for the rest of the economy. Our workday is 6 1/2 hrs. vs. 8 hours or 32 1/2 hrs a week.
  • According to the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 data, the mean teacher's salary nationally is $55,900 compared to the national mean of $44,410 for full time employees.
  • Teachers' unions have made it virtually impossible to extend the school year.
  • In my first year as principal of Capital Prep---for almost the full school year, in fact---I fought to remove a teacher whom I observed openly sleeping in class. Not once but twice...I fought with the Hartford Federation of teachers every damn day for an entire year trying to get this guy off the job. Remember this wasn't a case of hearsay, I personally saw him asleep in a class full of children. They tried to make me assign him a mentor. A freaking mentor? For sleeping?
  • As the world races to explore the new frontier of man made energy, our kids intelligence is being measured by standardized tests requiring regurgitation of a facts and figures from outdated textbooks.
  • As beautiful , thoughtful new political discourse is blogged every minute, our kids are are weighted brown with book bags bulging with George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) and Charles Dickens's Great Expectations (1861). They're great novels, sure, but not exactly fresh. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Smart Financial Advice

Great financial advice from Harry Gross:
Through many years of teaching, writing and lecturing, I have come across or invented many aphorisms that apply to financial situations. Here’s an abbreviated list. Enjoy.
  • The only way to get ahead financially is to live beneath your means.
  • If it sounds too good too be true, IT IS too good to be true.
  • Don’t put all your money in one basket, no matter how good the basket.
  • The man who passes on without life insurance does not die. He absconds.
  • Disability insurance is the most undersold product in the insurance industry.
  • Never use a credit card unless you can pay the balance in full during the grace period.
  • If the whole world goes to pot, gold will open doors.
  • Don’t give it all away during your lifetime.
  • When a parent gives money to a child, both smile. When a child gives money to a parent, both cry.
  • You cannot die without a will. If you don’t prepare one, the state does it for you.
  • Never name a child as trustee for your spouse.
  • Why does anyone need more than two credit cards?
  • Tax-protester seminars are good for only the presenter.
  • Watch out for the guy who has an ax to grind.
  • When acting as trustees, banks have their own agenda.
  • NEVER buy from someone you don’t know.
  • Never buy on the telephone unless you initiated the call.
  • There is no evidence that load funds perform better than no load funds.
  • Is he trying to sell you that because it’s good for him or good for you?
  • Leave a letter of instructions for your heirs.
  • The education of your children is the world’s best investment.
  • Don’t rust out; wear out.
  • Cities and authorities may go down the tubes, but nothing will happen to any state.
  • A flat income tax will only benefit the very rich
  • Renting is often a better option than buying a home.
  • Most market-timers perform poorly.
  • An oral agreement is not worth the paper it’s not written on.
  • Failure to return telephone calls is the most frequent complaint about lawyers.
  • Very often, people buy a school district, not a home.
  • The only person who can cheat you is a person you trust.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How Creativity Works and Groucho: Two Books on Two Favorite Subjects

I read two books on some of my favorite subjects: creativity and Groucho Marx. I guess there is a connection there as Groucho was one of the most spontaneous and creative funny men in comedy. Even as I get older, I still look for ways to become more creative.

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer offers science, stories and practical tips on the creativity process. I've listed some take-aways below:

  • Creativity doesn't increase with experience. It tends to peak after a few years of work and then go into a long slow decline.
  • One needs to think like a young person, willing to embrace radical new ideas and new challenges.
  • To be creative, one needs to be willing to risk embarrassment, ask silly questions and leave behind the safety of one's expertise. One must escape the shackles of familiar thought.
  • Brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.
I also read Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho's House by Steven Stoliar that essentially covers the last years of Groucho Marx. In many ways this is a very sad book as Groucho battled old age, poor health and family squabbles around control of his wealth and affairs. Stoliar was a Groucho fan who as a young college student worked for Marx as a secretary and archivist. 

Even while battling strokes and poor health, Groucho still evidenced his quick wit and humor that Stoliar was able to capture. Stoliar also shared stories about various celebrities that he came in contact while working with Marx including Mae West, Steve Allen, Bob Hope (who did not come off well in this book at all), Jack Lemmon, George Jessel, Marvin Hamlisch and many others.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Book I Wish People Who Were My Managers and Friends Read So They Would Understand Me Better

As a self described introvert, I found Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain comforting and supportive. So it's OK to be quiet, reflective and avoid back slapping and meaningless chatter with strangers. Good book, good insights and very good stories.

Listed below are some notes I took from the book that struck me as insightful..

Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves.
Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. They’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame.
Introverts prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.
Extroverted leaders enhance group performance when employees are passive, but that introverted leaders are more effective with proactive employees.
Extroverts, on the other hand, can be so intent on putting their own stamp on events that they risk losing others’ good ideas along the way and allowing workers to lapse into passivity.
The simple act of being interrupted is one of the biggest barriers to productivity. Even multitasking, that prized feat of modern-day office warriors, turns out to be a myth. Scientists now know that the brain is incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time. What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent.
Introverts enjoy shutting the doors to their offices and plunging into their work, because for them this sort of quiet intellectual activity is optimally stimulating,
Another study, of sixty-four traders at an investment bank, found that the highest-performing traders tended to be emotionally stable introverts.
Introverts also seem to be better than extroverts at delaying gratification, a crucial life skill associated with everything from higher SAT scores and income to lower body mass index.
Extroverts get better grades than introverts during elementary school, but introverts outperform extroverts in high school and college. At the university level, introversion predicts academic performance better than cognitive ability.
Introverts outperform extroverts on the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal test, an assessment of critical thinking widely used by businesses for hiring and promotion. They’ve been shown to excel at something psychologists call “insightful problem solving.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting "Stoned"

I just finished two Jesse Stone series books by Robert Parker, Night Passage and Sea Change. I had seen the movies based on the books and decided to read them. I also needed a change of pace from reading pages of policy, business presentations and work related documents. Jesse Stone is the Chief of a very small beach town police force. Stone is portrayed in his mid 30s in the books while Selleck is a few decades older than that.

The stories don't seem to matter to me as much as the dialogue and character development. Night Passage is the first of the Jesse Stone series and provides you an idea of Stone's demons, alcohol and his ex-wife, who never leaves his mind.

Of the three series that I have read of Parker's characters, Stone is my third favorite. I would rate the Western series (Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch) and Spencer series higher. Stone is a man of very few words, not unlike Virgil Cole. Spenser is more witty.

I have read that new authors will begin to publish the Stone and Spenser series. I'll be curious how they stack up to what Parker has done.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Suicide of a Superpower by Pat Buchanan

Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025 by Pat Buchanan ★★

Buchanan offers his views that America will not survive primarily because our identity has changed from a Western Christian republic to something much more diverse and coarse. He agonizes over the "death of white America" and yearns for the days when Eisenhower was President.

Reputedly Pat Buchanan got fired from his job at MSNBC for this book and other critical comments he supposedly made. I'm not a Buchanan fan but he is at least civil in his criticisms. I enjoy hearing his views on the McLaughlin Group. I skimmed through much of the book and while I did not agree with most of Buchanan's conclusions, I did not see anything that was out of line as far as political discourse.

I would guess that Buchanan actually wrote this book. I wonder how many so called political analysts actually sit by a computer and write their books.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two Sports Books: One a Home Run, the Other, a Double.

I just finished two sports books, one of which is a great read. I heartily recommend One on One; Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game by John Feinstein. Feinstein described sports figures who were part of his varied sports books. You will get his honest opinions and experiences with Bobby Knight, John McEnroe, Tiger Woods (Feinstein is not a fan), Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski and many others.

The chapter on the players and coaches around his book on the Army-Navy game is worth the price of the book on its own.

I also skimmed through Rafa by John Carlin and Rafael Nadal about the current #2 or #3 tennis player in the world. It's a bit early to judge Rafa's eventual place in the tennis world. The book's tone and content mirrors Rafa's tennis, workmanlike and very professional. There is very little gossip or inside stories about other tennis players. The book covers Rafa's support team, regimen and rituals around his game. The book also focuses on Rafa's first Wimbledon victory over Roger Federer his closest rival at that time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One Man's List of Creditable and Influential Political Columnists

I skimmed through Christopher Hitchens last book titled Arguably. The book covers a series of essays on politics, people, culture and religion. I admire Hitchens' intellect and his way with the English language. I also admire (maybe more) his speaking skills and ability to think quickly and with wit on his feet.

In addition to Hitchens, I also enjoy the thoughts and columns of these columnists who write about current affairs, politics and culture. I don't list them in any particular order but I admit that Maureen Dowd is my favorite columnist and writer. She is great at exposing hypocrisy and weak arguments. You can find her articles in the New York Times.

  1. Maureen Dowd

  1. Frank Rich

  1. David Brooks

  1. Andrew Sullivan

  1. EJ Dionne

  1. Kathleen Parker

  1. Thomas Friedman

  1. Dana Milbank

  1. George Will

  1. Michael Smerconish

  1. Joe Klein

  1. Juan Williams

  1. Gail Collins

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best Book to Understand the History and Horror of World War II

Max Hastings has written an excellent book on the Second World War, Inferno, The World at War 1939-1945.  He recounts the war years not just from the prospectives of the leaders of the warring countries and soldiers who fought it but also from the civilians and innocents caught in the middle. It's a long book (651 pages) but a compelling (if not depressing ) read.

There are hundreds of stories about the depravities of war, including cannibalism, rape, executions and senseless violence. You'll read about the best of men under horrible circumstances and the worst possible behavior that can be exhibited by soldiers of all countries.

Hastings writes fairly. He cites the brilliance and stupidity of Generals and political leaders whether they were part of the Axis or the Allies.

This book is gritty and very honest. I've read a number of other World War II histories (including some earlier Hastings books). This is the best.