New Year's Miscellany (Resolutions, Books, etc.)

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    About 7 years ago, I made a NY resolution to stop making NY resolutions. I stuck with it for once, and thus feel better about myself. But you “normal” people can share yours if you like.

    It’s also winter, and with NFL action winding down…you kids really should read more. I have been voraciously reading Scandanavian suspense fiction. I have read all of Jo Nesbo’s books (highly, highly recommended – gives you some nice insights into what alcoholism feels like, too), and am about two-thirds through Henning Mankell’s “Inspector Wallander” series. This is also very good. If you are new to Scandanavian stuff, I recommend starting with the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series.

    Also looking for recommends on the best Winston Churchill biography. As reference, I like biographies that are neither fawning not overly critical. Historical greats and notables are much like the rest of us – an interesting mix of strengths and weaknesses. Neither end of the spectrum should be glossed over. That is a BIG problem when reading about Jefferson, for example. Perhaps the most complex of all American historical figures, and very hard to find anything that isn’t 99.9% positive or negative. “American Sphinx” is the best I’ve found.

    Robert Caro’s treatment of LBJ is perhaps the best example of biography done right.


    I’m generally not a NY’s resolution type either. This year though, I might try to kick my glue sniffing habit. And maybe not be such a jerk.

    But I’m not optimistic on either front.


    Read The Terror by Dan Simmons not long ago. I thought it was very good.

    I have only read the Clancy novels that were made into movies. Any suggestions on the others?


    A few non-fiction recommendations for the history buffs who are fascinated by the frontier and Manifest Destiny periods:

    The Last Gunfight (Jeff Guinn); centered around the buildup to the famous shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, its main focus is the socioeconomics and character of the frontier.

    War Lovers (Evan Thomas); nationalism and political maneuvering by Teddy Roosevelt — and the first mainstream sensational use of the media as a business by Hearst — to become a global power in the buildup to the Spanish-American War.

    Flyboys (James Bradley); centers around the cannibalism of Navy pilots shot down over Chichi Jima in WWII, but it also explores the broader history of U.S.-Japan relations that led to such a brutal war in the Pacific, as well as the advancement of naval doctrine to use aircraft carriers — not battleships — to project power.


    The best Clancy novels are his older ones. The ones that became movies barely resembled the books (the books were very good); Without Remorse and the Cardinal and the Kremlin were his two best. The main problem is his best books are very dated now, because they were written 25-30 years ago.

    He apparently wasn’t even writing the Jack Ryan universe ones after The Bear and the Dragon. His last one was a near scene-for-scene storyboard for most of the movie Act of Valor.


    I typically find straight biographies boring, so I try to find the ones that generate a biography as a peripheral to the main story (such as the two I listed above, which offer a fine bio of Earp & Holliday, and TR, respectively).

    I read Morris’ bio of Teddy R., and like BJD noted, there were times where it seemed like Morris was using speculation as a “critical analysis” just to make a point about his motivations in later life.


    I can’t remember who wrote the three-part TR series that I read (and enjoyed), it was very good. “Nixonland” was a very surprisingly balanced book with fairly sympathic view of Richard Nixon (who was psychologically VERY similar to LBJ), given it was written by an avowed liberal.

    It seems like TR was probably the closest American history came to a Churchillian figure. Oh, if he only had WWI or WWII to tackle during his Presidency. He positively broiled with frustration over Woodrow Wilson.


    To me, Teddy R. is one of the most fascinating character studies in American history. He is responsible for many of the original occupational and food safety laws and conservation of natural resources. And whether you like the outcome or not, an argument can be made that TR was primarily responsible for the U.S. becoming the global power that was eventually capable of ending two world wars, while the globe for the British, French, Spanish and Dutch contracted.

    TR had a very hostile, poor opinion of Wilson. Most scholars agree that WWII was an extension of WWI, so it’s plausible, based on TR’s harsh foreign policies towards Germany (he was often cited favoring war with Germany before his presidency), that had TR been president during WWI, he wouldn’t have allowed the 1918 armistice, but would have continued the war until the Germans’ unconditional surrender, which may have prevented WWII in Europe (the Pacific War was inevitable). It’s an interesting alternative history to ponder.


    A few suggestions: “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg is a very good book as is “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis : The untold story of Barack Obama’s mentor” by Paul Kengor, Ph.D. I’m currently reading “The Great Deformation” by David A. Stockman which is quite interesting.


    Just finished reading The Aviators by Winston Groom (of Forest Gump fame); great insight into the development of aviation technology through the lives of Eddie Rickenbacker,Charles Lindbergh, and Jimmy Doolittle. Rickenbacker was a WWI ace later becoming President of Eastern Airlines,Lindbergh secretly flew missions in the Pacific Theater while helping re-engineer some of our best fighter planes in addition to his trans-Atlantic achievement in 1927, and Doolittle retired as an Air Force General and Medal of Honor recipient in part because of his 1942 raid to whack the Japanese homeland and get in their heads concerning their ‘invincibility’. Very good read that examines the politics of the US and our adversaries during the time of ‘The Greatest Generation’.


    Great, a literary thread! Now let’s celebrate my lack of comprehension…

    -bought ‘Moby Dick’ awhile back and made it through the first 50 pages.
    -took a loud and angry crap on Faulkner’s writings. I’ve been more entertained by an obituary.
    -Oliver Twist was dry and raw, not unlike his antagonist ‘Master Bater’

    Is it just me, or have I been selecting a bunch of garbage? Any suggestions?

    Alpha Wolf

    I was thinking of sending over my copy of this to BJD. FWIW, it’s the fastest-selling non-fiction book ever:


    If you like Clancy or the Bourne series, try The Thirty-Nine Steps (Buchan). It was written in 1915 and may be the first of the spy-thriller genre. Pretty cool read.


    Wufpacker, are you sure this is the season for you to quit your glue-sniffing? You might want to wait until football or basketball are on more sure footing.

    I love reading. And I am a slooooow reader. One gripe with college and post- was there was so much reading, I couldn’t read it all and get anything out of it. I like to take my time and really soak it in. Over the past several years, I’ve tried to go back and read some of the classics. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Leatherstocking Tales, having gotten through Deerslayer, Last of the Mohicans, and Pathfinder. A lot of people over here have read them and count them as some of their favorite childhood books. Something also inspired me to read A Tale of Two Cities. The only Dickens I had read before was my annual reading of A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations in high school that I barely remember. What a fantastic author, though. He rarely says anything direct, rather giving such great description as to allow you to see everything happening both internally and externally in relation to the characters. I think I’d rather read Dickens describe paint drying than some other stuff that’s out there.

    With that, I also don’t really do NY resolutions, but last year I made a goal to read 15 books a year. Probably a pretty light goal for most, but as I said, I am a slooooow reader. My problem was organizing when to read what. I wanted to read more entertaining things (fiction) as well as things that would help stimulate me intellectually (I enjoy things about philosophy and faith). Plus I had a magazine subscription I enjoyed reading. So, I created a reading plan: alternate reading my magazine and the “intellectual” books at breakfast. Before bed and on Saturday breakfast, read the more entertaining book. It’s really helped me be productive in my reading. Just a suggestion for anyone who wants to read, but is undisciplined like me.

    Alpha Wolf

    Nothing wrong with being a slow reader, especially if it is for pleasure. Each to their own.


    @Alpha – Ewwwwww, kill it! Kill it WITH FIRE!!!!!

    @canine – I kept trying Moby Dick my junior year of HS (after all, we had “silent reading” days in class and whatnot), but I could never get my brain wrapped around it (and I can read and enjoy Cormac McCarthy). Finally gave up and Cliffs Notes’d it. So not just you.

    Speaking of CM, if you want to stay up for 72 hours pondering the hopelessness of life…read “The Road.”


    My father was the fastest reader I ever met. It was a family challenge to find something for Christmas that he wouldn’t finish the same day he unwrapped it. On the other hand, I am pretty slow as well, especially when starting a book.

    Plus, being slow is better. Don’t have to rush to find something else to have on hand (I feel fairly naked without a book around that I can read if the modd and/or my old man colon strikes).


    I love reading and generally devour books fairly fast. But you people are too high-brow for me. The large, large majority of my reading is for entertainment only. But in anticipation of the conspiracy loons coming out for the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, I read two different books on the shooting, the investigations, and the conspiracy claims.

    Case Closed by Gerald Posner
    Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi (At 1600 pages, it doubles as a cheap exercise routine.)

    I may read The Kennedy Detail written by Secret Service agents…especially since I can check it out from my local library.


    One of my favorite authors is PT Deutermann. Action/Suspense. I highly recommend “Scorpion in the Sea” and “Train Man” for some really good potential terrorism scenarios. The Cam Richter series is based in western NC, so that’s pretty cool, too.

    David Poyer writes some good nautical and naval fiction.

    Kevin Duffuss’ “War Zone: World War II off North Carolina’s Outer Banks” is really interesting for you OBX folks.

    James Hornfischer’s “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” and “Neptunes Inferno” are both great reads. Fascinating and terrifying at the same time.

    I am Navy (retired now), so I read a lot of military stuff.


    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Michael Crichton. I’ve read just about everything he has done from Andromeda Strain to Next. In HS I remember finding a hardback copy of Jurassic Park my step-mother had recently finished. I never read for leisure in HS, but this book got me hooked on Crichton. If I was going to recommend just one of his books it would be State of Fear.


    I’ve read all of Crichton, too (hey, I do have an engineering degree). IMHO, the two best were Andromeda Strain and Congo. Don’t be fooled by the movies (other than Jurassic Park) sucking, his books are fantastic with great technical detail.


    I have gone to all Audio Books in the since 2009. No music for my workouts, just books. Also, as I sit out by my firepit at night with a good cigar and scotch, it is very relaxing to listen to a good reader tell the tale. I read so much techical literature at work that my escape lit is Historical Fiction, Military SciFi and some Fantasy. I have listened to over 100 novels over the past 4 years and finished all 5 of the Game of Thrones novels in the last four months. I know it sounds a little lazy, but a good book read by a good narrator is just the ticket to ease the end of a stressful day.

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