2012 Book List

I read like a mad man preparing for and during our trip to South Africa this past summer. But at the end of the year I definitely faded out. I was even less diligent blogging as I read. Nevertheless I did meet my goal of 12 books last year.

Page descriptions and links are to Amazon and may reflect the hardcopy version when I read the Kindle version or vice versa,

Photographer’s Guide to the Canon PowerShot S100

  • Author: Alexander White
  • Publisher: White Knight Press
  • Copyright: 2011
  • Pages: 283
  • Date Finished: January 2012
  • Rating: ***
  • Quick thoughts

A great book covering the intriacies of the Canon S100. I think it will really help me get more out of my “walk around” camera

Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired

  • Author: Benson Bobrick
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • Pages: 392
  • Copyright: 2002
  • Date Finished: January/February 2012
  • Rating: ****
  • Quick thoughts

A great history of the translation of the bible into English, long before the King James version. Two people were especially important in the translation. John Wyclif in the 15th century and William Tyndale in the 16th.
I appreciated how this book showed the impact of the bible translation into local languages influenced, even drove, the Reformation.

30 Days with Google Docs

  • Author: Tony Bradley
  • Publisher: PC World
  • Pages: 146 (I read the e-book with no pages; pages taken from Amazon description)
  • Copyright: 2011
  • Date Finished: February 29, 2012
  • Rating: **
  • Quick thoughts

Tony Bradley summarizes his 30 day experiment to go cold turkey from Microsoft Office products and use Google Docs. I didn’t learn much from this. I got more help from talking with Andrew (my youngest son) about how he uses it at school.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  • Author: Steig Larsson
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • Pages: 672
  • Copyright: 2008 (Translation copyright)
  • Date Finished: March 30, 2012
  • Rating: ***
  • Quick thoughts

First 100 pages: boring. That much detail about financial transactions are just not needed to move the plot along. The story gets much more interesting when it focuses on the heroine. Nice thrilling finish. I liked it enough to download the next book in the series: The Girl Who Played with Fire

Nicholas and Alexandra

  • Author: Robert K. Massie
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Pages: 608
  • Copyright: 1972
  • Date Finished: April 13, 2012
  • Rating: ***
  • Quick thoughts

A good biography of Nicholas and Alexandra; the last Tsars of Russia. Also a good layout of the problems of their son sufferng from hemophilia and an excellent description of Rasputin, and the part he played. The biggest weakness is that there isn’t much description about what was going on in Russia to foment the revolution. There was a big disconnect between the events of the day and the royal family. We see a great portrait of the royal family but not connections. I was hoping for something along the lines of a David Halberstam or David Kennedy linking together history and biography. but then again, this is primarily a biography.

Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff

  • Author: Calvin Trillin
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Pages: 340
  • Copyright: 2011
  • Date Finished: May 5, 2012
  • Rating: ***
  • Quick thoughts

I really enjoy reading Calvin Trillin; a bit at a time it turns out. Reading piece after piece gets to be repetitious. I have another compendium of his 3 books on food and eating which I’m reading much more slowly.

I really like Alice’s Law of Compensatory Cashflow “that holds that not buying some luxury item you can’t afford is the equivalent of windfall income. So that she might say, ‘Well, of course we can to to the Caribbean, now that we have the money we saved by not buying that expensive sound system'”(page 109)

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. How the American Constitutionals System Collided wit the New Politics of Extremism

  • Authors: Thomas E. Mann & Norman J Ornstien
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Pages: 201
  • Date Finished: May 20, 2012
  • Rating: ****
  • Quick thoughts

Our political system is broken. Mann and Normstein show how the Republican party has becomd an extreme outlier using parlimentary methods to stop all progress. They have put party politics above problem solving

“The Republican Party has become an inusurgetn oulier-ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of copromise; unpresuaded by conventional undersanding of facts, evidence, and science” [Kindle location 129]”

“The real cost of Republican’s fixation on ideology purity is that it distracts them from their real problems, and the nation’s”. [Page 188; Kindle location 2838]

They have a few ideas for fixing things. I like the idea of re-working the rules of the Senate to put the pressure back on the minority party when filibustering. Adjusting rules of cloture would meant that the filibustering group would have to keep their members in the house to maintain the filibuster rather than just having one, requiring the majority group to be present and maintain a quroum.

The other suggestion is to not let the press get away with pretending their are equal sides. When the Republicans are crazy, point it out with fact checking. “Stoop lending legitimacy to Sentate filibusters…Do not say or write that Congress or the Senate killed a bill or stopped a nomination if a majority in both houses voted for the bill or the individual – say or write the truth, that the bill or person was blocked desoite majority support, by the use of a filibuster.” [Page 195 Kindle location 2939].  “A balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon is a distorition of reality and a disservice to your consumers” [Page 194. Kindle Location 2925].

The Best and the Brightest

  • Author: David Halberstam
  • Publisher: Modern Library
  • Pages: 831
  • Copyright: 1969
  • Date Finished: Juy 28, 2012
  • Rating: ***
  • Quick thoughts

Excellent book on the personalities behind the build up in Vietnam from the Eisenhower years through Kennedy and Johnson, with just a little of the Nixon years at the end.
Fascinating analysis of the failed leadership style of the people in power. They (especially McNamara) were more intent on proving they’re assumptions were right than in being right. They’d dismiss anyone who tried to tell the truth. Army officers who told the truth about the corruption of the South Vietnamese government and popularity of the Viet Cong were removed. The result of ignoring reality and using available facts to bolster a big lie is an urgent warning to power.

Contrast this method of war leadership with George Marshall who always wanted to know what the truth was, not just selected facts. It’s no small wonder that Marshall is a hero and a patriot while McNamara is dismissed as a failure.

General of the Army: George C. Marshal, Soldier and Statesman

  • Author: Ed Cray
  • Publisher: Cooper Square Press
  • Pages: 735
  • Date Finished: September 1, 2012
  • Rating: *****
  • Quick thoughts

Excellent book of a true American hero. George Catlett Marshall was the organizer of victory of World War II. As the chief of the army he saw the coming war and worked to reorganize the army through changing from 4 division army groups to 3 division groups making them more mobile. He also forced the teaching of new mobile tactics based on his experience serving under Black Jack Pershing in WWI. Marshall saw what was happening in Europe in the 30’s and built up the Army to meet the threat in spite of the isolationist feelings in the US.

Once the war broke out he master-minded the winning strategy of Europe first. He had many epic arguments with Churchill and the British army staff who had no stomach for an invasion of Europe through France (based on their experience in WWI). He constantly had to fend off alternate strategies; Churchill never let the issue lie. Churchill wanted to attack in Italy and the Balkans; areas that are not good for armored divisions.

By all rights he was the one to lead SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) but FDR told him he could not sleep at night without Marshall in the country. Marshall was simply too important for the entire world war effort to be confined to 1 theater. That is why Eisenhower go the job (and the bulk of the glory).

Following WWII Marshall tried to broker a peace in China, then became Secretary of State where he formulated the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, and was the instigator of NATO.

The book is excellently written giving a good balance between Marshall the man and the history of the times. It is on a par with David Kennedy’s “Freedom From Fear”.

Contrast Marshall’s approach to leadership where he welcomed the hard truth rather than surrounding himself with “yes” men, with Robert McNamara’s leadership in the Vietnam War where he ignored the big truth of the problem and punished those who disagreed with him.

An outstanding, outstanding book.

Joy in the Morning

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Publisher: W.W Norton & Co.
  • Pages: 263
  • Copyright: 1946
  • Date Finished: September 6, 2012
  • Rating: ****
  • Quick thoughts

Awesome as usual. Right in the wheelhouse of Jeeves and Wooster novels. This one is interesting because it has Bertie talking normally with Uncle Percy (Aunt Agatha’s husband).

If you’ve never read a P.G. Wodehouse novel, do yourself a favor and read this or Right Ho, Jeeves

Crossing to Safety

  • Author: Wallace Stegner
  • Publisher: Modern Library Classics
  • Pages: 326
  • Copyright: 2969
  • Date Finished: September 22, 2012
  • Rating: *****
  • Quick thoughts

I’ve found another favorite author, ranking up with Larry McMurtry (who studied under Wallace Stegner) and Richard Russo.


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