Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder

True story about the search for a ship that sank somewhere off the East Coast in 1857 with 21 tons(!) of gold on board. It's about an entrepreneur/scientist who puts together the venture for this search (including inventing all sorts of new technology, private funding, building his team, etc.) and how they found the ship in 1989. Fascinating story, well written. I couldn't put it down.

Monday, December 30, 2002

The Making of Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

Excellent pulitzer prize-winning book. Heavy stuff (figuratively and literally; it’s 800 pages!), but an amazing story about extraordinary people. Well-written, and remarkably easy to read.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Personal History by Katherine Graham

Graham's Pulitzer prize winning autobiography - First third is pretty boring - socialite girl, growing up and getting married. Then her husband commits suicide and she takes over running the Washington Post. Great story.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Genome by Matt Ridley

Fascinating, easy-to-read story about the human genome and the impact of mutations.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille

Entertaining airplane/beach book. I read all the rest of DeMille’s prior books and enjoyed them. His more recent books have been lackluster.

Angle of Repose & Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

My favorite writer. Great stories, beautifully written.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

Short stories about Einstein day-dreaming about different concepts of time. Incredibly creative book. Also read a book of his essays Dance for Two, which I enjoyed, and his second novel, Good Benito, which I didn’t like much.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Cleopatra's Nose by Daniel Boorstin

Boorstin is a historian and was librarian of congress for years. He has written prolifically and I've enjoyed everything of his I've read (also see The Discoverers). This is a series of essays subtitled Essays on the Unexpected, in which he “uncovers the elements of accident, improvisation and contradiction at the core of American institutions and beliefs.”

Monday, December 23, 2002

The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin

I re-read this recently, and - like the first time I read it - it was great. Essentially a history of science, but in classic Boorstin fashion, it's not a boring time-line of what happened when. He takes the time to go into detail about people and discoveries that he thinks are particularly interesting or important. And he asks (and answers) interesting questions - particularly the questions about why things didn't happen a different way.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman

Friedman was pulitzer-prize winning NYT correspondent in Beirut and then Jerusalem beween 1979 & 1989. Excellent book on the dynamics of that part of the world.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Friday, December 20, 2002

Absolute Power by David Baldacci

I think this is the best of his novels. Though his earlier books are also good airplane reading.

Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis

Pulitzer prize winner. Excellent, very well written book that confirms how incredibly precarious the US was at the time it was founded. In the intro, Ellis describes the founding as "an improvisational affair in which sheer chance, pure luck - both good and bad - and specific decisions made in the crucible of specific military and political crises determined the outcome." And how the framework for our political institutions that was "built in a sudden spasm of enforced inspiration and makeshift construction."

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Shogun by James Clavell

Fantastic book. A "must read." (I took a class at college on feudal Japan because of this book.) The rest of that series are also good, but not as good.

Setting the World Ablaze by John Ferling

A comparative biography of three key players in the American Revolution – Washington, Adams and Jefferson.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford

Great story of Amundsen and Scott’s race to the South Pole. The contrast between the very practical Amundsen (who won the race and survived the trip) and the arrogant Scott (who did neither) is amazing.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

With Malice Toward None by Stephen Oates

Good, easy to read biography of Lincoln. Oates also wrote a really good, easy to read biography of Martin Luther King (Let the Trumpet Sound) that I read several years ago.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman

Very entertaining autobiographical anecdotes by the Nobel-prize-winning physicist who has a fantastic sense of humor and a child’s sense of playfulness. I also enjoyed What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy

My favorite of Conroy's – about a kid at military school. I also really enjoyed Prince of Tides. The Water is Wide is another great Conroy story – about a year he spent teaching on an impoverished island off the coast of S. Carolina. It’s scary that there are parts of the country seemingly living in a different time - but it’s a good story and well-written. I didn’t like Beach Music much.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Laugh-out-loud-funny book about hiking the Appalachian Trail. His book about Australia (In a Sunburned Country) is also good, but not as good.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

America Afire by Bernard Weisberger

About the contested (and nasty) election of 1800 between Jefferson & Adams. Was particularly interesting in light of the election of 2000.

Friday, December 13, 2002

All too Human by George Stephanopolous

Interesting insider's view of the Clinton White House. Well-written and it came across as pretty honest.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

One of my all-time favorites. I first read Atlas when I was 12 or 13 and then reread it every few years into my twenties. In a 1991 Library of Congress survey, a majority of Americans named it second only to the Bible as the book that had most influenced their lives. I also enjoyed the The Fountainhead.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz

About the space program by one of the earliest mission control flight directors (Gene Kranz was played by Ed Harris in the Apollo 13 movie... He was the guy who wore a white vest in mission control.) Not very well written, nor particularly insightful, and I would've liked more detail in several places (but I'm a space junkie, so I'm not representative of the broader audience this was obviously written for.) Nonetheless, interesting reading about very young, very smart guys, who carried enormous responsibilities while constantly working on the bleeding edge of technology...and obviously performed amazing feats. Imagine NASA as a start-up.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Fourth Procedure by Stanley Pottinger

medical thriller with a great plot twist. excellent beach reading. This was his first book. The second one - titled something like Slow Burning wasn't nearly as good.

Eyewitness to Power by David Gergen

Gergen has been a Washington insider for decades, during which he’s worked closely with 4 presidents (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Clinton). In this book, he offers his assessment and insights on the leadership qualities of these 4 men.

Monday, December 09, 2002

An American Life by Ronald Reagan

A folksy, engaging autobiography – that also demonstrated there was more below the surface than most people gave him credit for.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Dream West by David Nevin

Historical novel about Charles Fremont (explorer and first (? or at least very early) governor of California. Also read Eagle's Cry, Nevin's novel about the Louisiana Purchase but didn't like it as much. Maybe because of personal interest rather than the content of the book, though.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

The Eight by Katherine Neville

Smart, entertaining book about 2 women in different centuries; story revolves around a chess set. Entertaining novel. Very clever. Her second and third novels, A Calculated Risk and The Magic Circle, were bad and worse.

Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks

Insightful, easy to read, and often funny commentary on today’s cultural elite (the bourgeois bohemians) which is based on brainpower and personal accomplishment rather than family lines.

Friday, December 06, 2002

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Applies epidemiology to social change. Very easy read and fascinating. Also, check out Gladwell’s web site (www.gladwell.com) for the random, interesting articles he’s written for the New Yorker. (A few of these articles were the foundation for Tipping Point.)

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner

great book about water policy in the western US, which I read while backpacking in the desert of SE Utah. Fascinating read.

Playing for Keeps by David Halberstam

Excellent book about Michael Jordon and the NBA.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

How the Mind Works by Stephen Pinker

Explains the complexity of the mind and why it's so incredibly hard to make a computer do what your mind does.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Clever, well-written mystery. It's a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Godel, Escher, Bach. And if you know anything about art/art history (which I don't), you'll probably like it even more, since the art world is the backdrop. I’ve subsequently read the rest of his books – all of which were disappointing.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Sphere by Michael Crighton

Very engaging novel about a spherical space ship lying on the floor of the ocean. Great beach reading.

Great Books by David Denby

Denby is a 40-something movie critic who returns to Columbia Univ. to take the Humanities Literature and Western Civ classes that all students are required to take. The book is about his thoughts on the books, the class discussions, the profs and the students as he takes these classes again 25 yrs after he took them as a freshman - and obviously with a perspective including 25 more years of "life experience".

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer is an experienced climber and writer for Outside Magazine who joined a 1996 Mt Everest expedition to write about the commercialization of the mountain. This is his first-hand account of the disasterous expedition on which 8 people died. Krakauer’s Into the Wild was also ok in a bizarre, 'rubbernecking at a car-wreck' type of way.