Here is my list of recommended reading. With regard to books, you should at least read the description on Amazon and memorize the author’s name before your next cocktail party. You won’t go home alone, though I offer no guarantees beyond that.

The Remains of the Day
Remains of the DayOf the few Man Booker winners I have read, this one instilled my faith in the prize. As in most things, critics are divided by rather strong opinions for and against Kazuo Ishiguru’s love story about an aristocratic butler, Stevens, and his quest to discover his true self in a world that has left him behind. It is a fast, easy read and the skill with which the author builds his characters is graceful and convincing. The metaphors abound yet are not overbearing, revealing clearly through Stevens the pre-war and post-war transition of England itself from a society ruled by aristocrats to one of an empowered if uneducated middle-class. Dignity is a major theme in the work as Stevens struggles to maintain his own dying brand of restrained, professional English dignity as the younger generation of the outside world embraces individualism and the right to emotional expression as a modern path to dignity. The movie was equally wonderful and anyone who loves Downton Abby should read this classic.


Currently Reading:
Title: Makers
Author: Cory Doctorow (writing on the web)
Genre: dark comedy techno thriller fiction
Start/Finish: Jan 2/…
Final Grade: pending
Makers is a near-future techno-thriller that is building slowly but has me hooked finally after about 20 quick pages. The story revolves around an embedded journalist following two engineers as they take part in a new tech-business model that creates micro-networks of inventors and investors in order to link disconnected resources to create the next big gadget. Pretty innocuous until an evil Disney executive deems one particular creation a threat and decides to sabotage it all. I haven’t gotten to the thriller part of the tale, yet, but the insight into a growing subculture of entrepreneurship based on the hacker ethic and open-source ideology has already changed my view of the economy. The writing is uncluttered and direct without being overly dry. Character development is satisfying and I see potential for some really interesting things here. It is not the cheap-thrills non-stop page-turner of a Dan Brown and neither is it the intellect-twister of a Paul Auster, but so far it falls satisfyingly somewhere in between. I am only a third of the way through, so I will have a completed review later. In two years or so, apparently.


On the web:
Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq
Former National Intelligence officer and current Georgetown University professor in Security Studies, Paul Pillar serves up an insightful, if somewhat scathing, review of the Bush administration’s manipulation of intelligence in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. A must-read for anyone interested in foreign policy affairs.


On the web:
Exceptionalism from the Foreign Policy Encyclopedia.
An excellent quick overview of the historical significance and development of America’s moral-based sense of destiny to alter the world in her own image that foments a thinly-veiled and dangerous nationalistic fervor underpinning foreign policy decisions.


Currently Reading:
cobra-iiCobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor – Considered the definitive work on the second Iraq war, the authors had access to highly classified documents, meetings, correspondence, and other important sources of information and use it to explain the failure of US intelligence that led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It deals not just with US-Iraq relations, but the intimate relationships between many other nations in the world that played a part in this situation. I have just begun this book and will have more on it soon. What I have read so far has been exceptionally well-written and detailed.

Currently Reading:
faustian-foreign-policy1A Faustian Foreign Policy: From Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush – Dreams of Perfectibility – I’m currently reading this one and by the time I’d finished chapter 1, my self-identity as an American had been altered considerably. It is a fascinating look at American exceptionalism, the idea that the US holds a uniqueness in the world, sprung from manifest destiny, that empowers it to unilaterally decide the fate of the rest of the world. Many of my previously held ideas about what it means to be an American and how my nation relates to other nations have been influenced by the mythical revisionary history imposed upon me by unsuspecting high-school social studies teachers more than I realized. As with Zinn’s A People’s History, this book is helping me to reevaluate who I am and what my nation is.


zinnA People’s History of the United StatesHoward Zinn challenges traditional views of American history with this seminal work that shows America’s early development from the perspective of the vanquished rather than the victors. Beginning with Columbus’ arrival in the Bahamas and his self-documented observation that the welcoming indigenous people already residing there will make great slaves, Zinn begins his deconstruction of traditional American heroes. As an example, he reveals the Founding Fathers to be as imperially minded as the English monarchs and how they use jingoistic yet empty slogans of “freedom” and “liberty” to divert colonial rage against the upper classes and refocus that rage toward a war for independence against the crown. Such manipulation of America’s undereducated sets the stage for the path that has resulted in tremendous class divisions and global enmity for the empire that once had the greatest potential for good of any nation in history.


gaiaThe Revenge of GaiaDr. James Lovelock‘s groundbreaking theory, The Gaia Principle, states that the earth is a holistic organism wherein a human impact in a seemingly isolated part of the world creates biological and ecological responses throughout the world. Dismissed by most scientists when first proposed several decades ago, the theory became a focal point for grass-roots thinkers and hippies until it finally found mainstream acceptance. Today, it is usually referred to as “Earth System Science.” Fascinating and scary stuff.

ggscollapseJared Diamond‘s principles of social evolutionary theory – I have always been interested in human interaction and the development of society. Diamond’s books, especially Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, are amazing studies of human development. These belong on the bookshelf of anyone who considers himself interested in the how today’s world came to be.

powerofmythJoseph Campbell‘s theories on the development of religion and mythology – Few things in human society have had such potential to unite humanity in the pursuit of good as has the evolution of religious thought. Yet few developments have caused more suffering and destruction than the divergence of spiritual ideologies. This man’s research has brought to light understanding of the religious-based mythology behind modern life’s mundane tasks in a way that is accessible to the typical thinker. Read The Power of Myth to get started. You’ll get hooked, trust me.

(Other books on my shelf that I have read or will read…someday)

Arnonld J. Toynbee, A Study of History (Abridged single volume)

Art Spiegelman, Maus

Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations

Misha Glenny, The Balkans

Dada Maheshvarananda, After Capitalism

Hew Strachan, The First World War

Stephen Ambrose, D-Day

Martin Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem

Georgia Harkness and Charles Kraft, Biblical Backgrounds of the Middle East Conflict

Richard Griffiths, Fascism

Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism

Antony Beevor, Berlin

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Marjane Satrape, Persepolis

Milton Friedman, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat

Michael Perelman, Railroading Economics; The Creation of the Free Market Mythology

J.M. Gustave Le Clézio, Wandering Star

John Updike, Rabbit at Rest

Yan Martel, Life of Pi

Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

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