Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Books Read in 2006

Hello bibliophiles,

After I posted the list of books I read in 2005 on this blog last year complete with my mini-reviews I was honored by the interest blog readers expressed in my list including one reader that purchased a book based on my description.

So here is my list of “Books Read in 2006” (actually more books than I read in 2005 which is an annual personal objective – NOT a resolution). This blog posting will also be cross-posted on my new blog devoted to books, http://erasmusbookclub.blogspot.com.

May 2007 be a great chapter in your book of life,

Todd

“Rashomon” by Fay and Michael Kanin
-- A relatively short book from Japan that my old book club read coupled with watching the film the night we reviewed this book. The story is a bit slow but it does provide a lesson on “perspective/perception” since the three primary characters each described the story in completely different ways. From my perspective this is not a book worth reading nor would I recommend it to friends given the better choices that follow.

“The Lion’s Game” by Nelson De Mille -- One of the few fiction books I read this year (goal for 2007 is to read more fiction) thanks to my wife who bought it for me. The main character is a completely ruthless, cold-blooded killer but I also noticed the very selfish qualities he possessed which for me summarized the terrorist mind-set. I really enjoyed the story telling and look forward to reading more De Mille in 2007.

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien – O’Brien is a Minnesota native who served in the Vietnam war (“conflict” – depending on how you were taught) so this book is essentially a collection of “fact-fiction” stories (my own term) based on O’Brien’s experiences there which seemed to symbolize the confusion that was the Vietnam experience for many Americans. The format of the book is rather dis-jointed but worth reading for insights on America’s folly in Vietnam.

“Why Europe will run the 21st Century” by Mark Leonard – this book is focused on explaining how the European Union (EU) uses its “soft power” via diplomacy, foreign aid, and historical colonial ties in contrast to the USA’s “hard power” via military force to guide world events. Having studied/worked in Europe for nearly 4 years of my life I can safely say that the EU will NOT run the 21st Century. Sure, the EU will have influence but they have major problems the book does not address such as major employment problems that exist including one friend of mine – a very intelligent young professional type that the EU needs as a future leader - who was educated at one of the best universities in the United Kingdom who told me that “my country is a complete wreck, I would move to the USA if I had the opportunity………..”
“The Iranians: Persia, Islam, and the Soul of a Nation” by Sandra Mackey – A great overview of the history and culture of Iran which will really help any reader better understand the current nuclear weapons program conflict Iran has with the United Nations.

“Overthrow” by Stephen Kinzer – An excellent historical review of American foreign policy complete with military and economic coups ranging from Hawaii, Iran (see number 5 above), and most of Latin America. I was reminded of the old maxim regarding the USA’s relationships with foreign dictators -- “…….sure he is a bastard but he is our bastard.”

“Water for Sale” by Fredrik Segerfeldt - I know Fredrik from his work at the Swedish free market (no, this is not a typo!!!) think tank, www.timbro.se , TIMBRO. I happened to be in Washington DC when Fredrik was on a panel discussion discussing this book. He advocates for the use of property rights and the sale of water to better allocate this essential resource -- I agree and hope you read this book.

“Greatness – Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders” by Steven F. Hayward – An interesting read but I definitely prefer single subject biographies versus a book format like this one that seeks to draw parallels in the personal histories and styles of these two world leaders.

“One Billion Customers” by James McGregor – I heard Mr. McGregor speak at a lunch event in Minneapolis where each attendee was given a copy of his book which focuses on his years of experience in China coupled with insights on how to do business with the Chinese. McGregor confirms that China is indeed the most exciting economy in the world today – perhaps it is time for the US federal government to take a cue from China by adopting some free market capitalism so Americans can enjoy 10% annual economic growth rates!!!
“Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis” – Without a doubt Mr. Lewis is a great writer but this book’s format is rather disjointed since it is based on a collection talk radio episodes from a program he hosted during World War II where his comments to callers seemed to be overly focused on sex and sports analogies. I much prefer his Narnia books which I read in junior high school -- http://books.narnia.com – which I hope to share with all my godchildren one day.

“Reclaiming Africa” by various authors but edited by James Shikwati - I know James from his think tank work in Kenya so I gladly purchased a copy of this book at James’ book signing event at a conference. Overall I am not a fan of these types of books where several authors write long essays that are edited together as separate chapters within an overall book. But the real value here is that the authors are AFRICANS writing about Africa from their local perspective – they are not United Nations bureaucrats or Greenpeace do-gooders writing from their “white man’s burden” perspective regarding what the continent of Africa needs to improve quality of life.

“Left to Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza – I was fortunate enough to hear this woman from war torn Rwanda speak at a conference hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council ( www.alec.org ). This book explained how she and several other women survived the genocide between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda by hiding in a bathroom for 3 months. Read a story like this and you can’t help but hate the United Nations and former colonial masters (France in this case) who stood by while the genocide progressed – government is bad enough but if governments must exist that must at least maintain law and order since it is the primary function of government.

“Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper – I read this book as a child but re-read it this year since I received a copy as a gift. The book itself provides a great commentary regarding personal character, courage, and friendship but sadly is a rather slow read compared to our modern day story tellers such as Nelson De Mille.

“Step-Parent’s Survival Guide by Hilary Bond – Since the author of this book is British I understood the cultural/societal references since I lived in London for two years so non-British readers might not understand some of the references. Historically I have not read such self-help books but did gain some worthy advice from this book since I am new to being a step father.

“Shadow Divers” by Robert Kurson – If you love scuba diving like I do you will love this book which is focused on New Jersey divers who are trying to identify a German U-boat wreck. A great story that I mailed to a fraternity brother/dive buddy once I finished it.

“Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” by Eric Foner- A history of the Republican Party of the USA prior to the Civil War. Having read this book I have no idea why any black/African American would vote for a Democratic Party candidate. Personally, I would love to see the “Free Soil Party” revived as a modern day party focused on “tax slavery” given our confiscatory income tax rates.

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini- Another one of the few fiction books I read in 2006. This is a great tale focused on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan but beyond this geography the focus is on how power corrupts people making it a great tribute to Lord Acton’s sage observation (“power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”).

“The Eagle and the Raven” by James Michener – Yet another fiction book for 2006 which I happened to purchase after a canoe trip in Ely, Minnesota from a local book shop where the owner told me that the North American Free Trade Agreement was bad for America. I did not stay to educate her especially since I swear I saw her talking to her cats J This story focuses on the battles between General Sam Houston of Texas and General Santa Ana of Mexico. Overall, a fun and quick read.

“The Sea Wolf” by Jack London – Coincidentally I was reading this book as I traveled to a convention held in San Francisco last summer. The coincidence of course is that London set his story in San Francisco so I made certain to visit the earthquake/fire storm museum in San Francisco which included a display of London’s work. As for the book itself if you want to curl up on the couch to do some deep thinking on the nature of a man’s soul and place in this world this is the book to read since the character, Captain Wolf Larson, will force you to think.

“America: The Last Best Hope - Volume I” by Bill Bennett – After years of hearing Mr. Bennett preach about the need for personal responsibility only to have it disclosed that he had/has a gambling addiction I wrote him off as a social policy commentator. But then my wife purchased this book for me which I will say with surprise – “this is the best book I read in 2006” -- I am waiting with great anticipation for Volume II scheduled for publication in 2007. Perhaps another gift for me?

“Dirty Work” by Nigel Cox- While on our honeymoon in New Zealand I purchased this book from The Little Ferret book shop in the Cuba Street pedestrian mall area of Wellington which is a great area to spend some time if you get the chance. Apparently this book (it is fiction) is based on the economic reforms New Zealand implemented which shook up some workers as competition increased. I wanted to read a book by a native New Zealander so I could get their perspective on the world but the “hotel for the down and out” model that Mr. Cox used as the setting for the book is a universal theme since this sub-culture of people seems to exist in most countries I have visited.

“Three Weeks with my Brother” by Nicolas Sparks and Micah Sparks – this is part travel memoir , part human nature observation, and part family history written as a result of a world tour that the Sparks brothers made together. Since I have one brother myself this book really resonated with me on a personal level and the travel involved made me want to dust off my well-worn passport. Sadly this is the first Nicholas Sparks book I have read but I hope to read more of his work. At one point Sparks notes that he “continued reading 100 books per year” which really made me think about my own personal reading. Overall – this is the second best book I read in 2006.

“Golden Memories” by Ray Chistensen with Stew Thornley – Due to my in-laws I have a personally signed copy of this book which tracks Mr. Christensen’s radio personality career which was dominated by Minnesota sports (professional and university) broadcasting. However, the book also covered his experience in the arts community and radio theatre which I found very interesting since I really identified with the author on this aspect. I am the kind of guy who could attend a Minnesota Vikings football game on a Sunday afternoon followed by a black tie reception to see the Minnesota Orchestra -- good living!


QUESTION
- Let me close by asking readers to share any recommended books with me and also to ask all of you (I have at least 4 readers out there I know) – how many books do you read each year??

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, my book reading has been very light as of late, but I have been busy trying to overthrow a government for the last several years! ;>)

As it is, the reading has been incredibly liberal, though I don't naturally run that far left. It has only been in the last few years that I have been pushed further left.

The thing that made me respond though was your inclusion of Nicolas Sparks. I actually do enjoy his work as it is usually a pretty light easy read. I would be very curious to see what your reviews of his other works bring, as my mother is a fan and she is a voracious reader of Danielle Steele! :>) (I seriously just cracked myself up...especially since it is true!)

Holstein Girl

jdsqrd said...

I read about 30 books a year, almost all of them fiction. Just finished "Brother Odd" (not as good as "Odd Thomas") and just began the nonfiction "Villisca: The True Account of the Unsolved 1912 Mass Murder That Stunned the Nation."

hammerswing75 said...

At a guess I read about 25 books this past year. Some ones that come to mind are: The Kite Runner, The Davinci Code, America Alone (Mark Steyn), Modern Times and A History of the American People (Paul Johnson), The Quest for Cosmic Justice (Thomas Sowell), The Case for Democracy (Natan Sharansky), Screwtape Letters, Surprised by Grace (CS Lewis), The Everlasting Man (GK Chesterton), Rumpole of the Bailey.

There were a few others, but I definitely enjoyed and would recommend most of these ones with the possible exception of the Davinci Code which was a page turner when I needed to kill some time.