tl;dr some book recommendations since the last time I did this.

I’m downstream of and benefit from a lot of good book recommendations. Passing some of them along here. (As always, I welcome book suggestions and recommendations!)

There has to be something better than Medium. Recommendations welcome in comments.

Just flat out good, clean, well-written joy

I’m late to the party. As the article describes it, Caro’s favorite theme is “the acquisition and use of power.”

Reading reminded me of the joy in watching House or BBC’s Sherlock or frankly anything where there’s one fantastically competent human being. Caro’s writing is just so well-written and well-edited. This book is “Caro’s selection of observations…on the arts of researching, interviewing and writing.”

It was a great warm-up that made fly by. I’d never thought about Texas hill country or LBJ a whole lot. Answering “how did LBJ amass the power needed to somehow both (1) pass the Voting Rights Act and (2) escalate the US role in the Vietnamese Civil War” starts with this book.

Fiction

I mentioned the Caro book to a friend, who told me that the assigned reading in the one Political Science class he took in college started with (Puzo) — so I read it. The assignment makes a lot of sense.

I recommended (Eban) to a friend. Her response was “Why didn’t you tell me it’s such a cool detective story?!” I’d described it as “I never really thought about generic pharmaceuticals before, and all my feelings about our healthcare system just got worse.” Her description is better.

(Liu) really is a great read. I don’t know what took me so long to get to it.

In the spirit of fun novels: I can’t remember who to thank for telling me about (First in the Rivers of London series, by Aaronovitch) but that was fun too. While in this neighborhood, I read and a few in that series. I needed escape. This was good escape.

On the “books everyone was talking about” front, (Ishiguro) and Weir’s were both fun. I’m glad I read (Lockwood); it did a great job capturing just how hectic and scattered life today (esp with social media) is. I hesitate to call it fun because dissociating isn’t (for me) fun.

(Katsu) came my way via a former colleague with friends in the intelligence community — a fun spy thriller.

On the darker front: (Anders et al). Collection of contemporary dystopian short stories. Some readers will say it’s too much, others will say that news has already outstripped it. (Anders) was also dark. Glad I read it.

(Zevin) was dark in much more mainstream, every day, hey look at that human condition, in a small town, with people struggling, and… a bookstore! I recommened it… and look at reviews and decide for yourself.

I need to finish (Jiles). It was great, and I just got overwhelemed.

Non-fiction

(Junger) really surprised me. It landed well for me and made sense. A world of pain, and quiet, and, well, you keep walking because that’s all there is to do. To me it was a book about where your brain goes when you just keep going. It reminded me, a little, of Kerouac’s On the Road; the difference is that Junger’s book had a point, some sympathetic characters, etc.

Just when you thought you’re done with the US healthcare system, along comes a book like (Alexander). Small community in that part of the country that coastal elites fly over… shrinking tax base, factories closing down, drugs endemic… how does a community hospital survive? So many victims, some heroes, and the villains aren’t doing that great either.

(Bennett, Zirin) Yeah, worth reading. This book made reading (Williamson) just that much weirder.

(Gottlieb). I listened to this book on a long drive. I remember the moment I shouted an expletive directed to the narrator and turned it off for some quiet drive time. There’s a lot going on here. There are a couple of threads through this book that are so well-done and worth reading.

(Brooks) Law school professor decides to become part time police officer in DC. I was fascinated.

I’m not a big military history person — enough really smart people I respect mentioned “The Toll Pacific Trilogy” that I went ahead and started it. is super approachable and readable. Because we know how it ended, it’s hard to really get how tenuous and awful the first year in the Pacific Theater was. Toll made it interesting. As a warm-up, I read his about, basically, the founding of the US Navy. It starts before the Revolutionary War and persists through the arguments about just paying off pirates in North Africa or going to war. Spoiler: a bunch of those guys from Hamilton ended up making some out of character decisions once they got in power.

I read (Gookin). It was a good overview of what’s involved.

And ending on a positive note: I make room every year to read something NASA related. This year it was (Leopold).

The Right Stuff portrays Gus Grissom as a bad guy. This book’s version is much more consistent with other first-person accounts of NASA and offers a very different take on what happened. Strong recommend esp for even the mildly geeky.

Book recommendations always welcome 🙏. Happy New Year!

Dean

Listening Learning & Writing at