Annotated Great Books Bibliography (N = 160)

Suggested Citation: Jung, B.C. (1999 - 2023). Annotated Great Books Bibliography.
Web document:

Abramson, J. (2005). Overdo$ed America. The Broken Promise of American Medicine NY: Harper Collins. A family practice physician takes a year off from practicing medicine to write this book about where he thinks U.S. healthcare is heading. And, you should listen to what he has to say. Here is an insightful commentary of the disturbing trends in health care today, from the commercialization of health information to the loss of research objectivity by peer-reviewed journals. Sad to say, I agree with him all the way. A true eye-opener of how the pharmaceutical industry has slowly insinuated itself into the fabric of medical care, manipulating medical knowledge, and brainwashing the American public into believing that whatever ails us (and, that's everything) can be taken care with a drug. Abramson's muckracking takes him to where he must re-evaluate the medical knowledge he was taught to hold sacred, and re-analyze the results of biomedical research. He shows how the highest selling drugs today became that way, and how we, health consumers, are duped continuously into believing that the latest drugs and technology are the best, even though they are way too expensive and not that much better than older, less expensive drugs.

Of course, it's no surprise that of the 569 new drugs approved between 1995 and 2000, only 13% are actually new active ingredients that offer a significant improvement over what is currently available (p. 48), and that increased specialization of medicine hasn't really improved the quality of care provided. Then again, I do find the quote, "You can have the experts involved, or you could have people who are purists and impartial judges, but you don't have the expertise" to be somewhat telling of those involved with developing practice guidelines (p. 147). Finally, I do agree with the author, we definitely need more primary care doctors to take care of the whole person that we all are. Read and understand why healthcare reform is a must if we are to survive the 21st century.

Alford, Henry. (2013). Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners. NY:Twelve. A laugh-out-loud book at modern life where manners don't exist. Numerous howling moments that manage to entertain readers as we collectively bemoan the slow death of civilized behavior that has become unfortunately too common these days. I do agree with Alford wholeheartedly at the excessive misuse of "No Problem" as the appropriate response to a "Thank you." Really? No Problem? No kidding. No problem??? Who taught you that? Really. Laugh yourself to oblivion.

Allan, T. (2005). Land of the Dragon: Chinese Myth NY: Barnes and Noble. A scholarly look at Chinese history through the myths told throughout the centuries. A nice way to learn about the Chinese people from the stories they tell to explain their lives. A lot can be learned about the traditions and beliefs of a culture through its creative renditions of why things happen and who is responsible. Includes many photos of artwork that captures the myths told. Worth reading.

Babbie, E. (1998). The Practice of Social Research. 8th Edition. CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co. THE "BIBLE" OF SOCIAL RESEARCH. Eight editions should tell you it has to be good to last this long. Virtually found on every campus bookstore I've visited (on both coasts and at midwestern universities in-between) for more than one discipline in some universities. Unlike the proliferation of statistics books (different books for different sections in the same university), Babbie provides the philosophical, theoretical and practical bases for conducting social research. If you want to learn about Research, read Babbie. And if you want to conduct research, there is no finer comprehensive text.

Baker, Stephen. (2008). The Numerati NY: First Mariner Books. Here is a book that I consider with an air of prescience in which mathematical algorithms are being used to the make decisions in every area of human endeavor. Here is a Brief Summary of the material he covers in his book.

It is somewhat scary about where we are heading in a world where so much information about us can be found on a variety of storage facilities. Imagine what can be done if someone and/or some machine can pull all these bits of information (data in math-speak) and use it to predict human behavior! Well, it is happening now, and Baker does his best in showing how mathematicians are mining the data that are being relentlessly gathered by a variety of entities. From financial to health information, there are tons of data all over the place.

They are beginning to refer to mountains of electronic data as Big Data, all there for the picking by those who know how. Imagine Big Data managers and analysts? Imagine being manipulated by those who have more information on you than you care to disclose? This is partially driven by young people today who think nothing of sharing everything online, sharing information about themselves indiscriminately. Basically, ethical questions should be asked regarding ownership of these data. If the data are about us, shouldn't we have a say about how the data can and cannot be used? Worth reading.

Barrymore, Drew (2015). Wildflower NY: Dutton. At 40 years old, Barrymore tries to make sense of her life in this collection of essays. It is not your typical autobiography. In many ways I wish it were, but you just have to settle for Barrymore's recollection of her storied life. It is not linear, but each chapter is somewhat self-contained. She does a lot of jumping around, leaving the reader with no point of reference. One chapter she's the kid actor, the next chapter she is in her 40s, then she interjects a chapter as a love letter to one of her young daughters, and then does the same for her other daughter. She makes only superficial references to the movies she has made. She appreciates the friends she has made along the way who helped get her act together.

Sadly, I really looked forward to reading her autobiography, but it was frustrating. I have seen many of her movies, and they have gotten better over time. I was interested in learning how she matured and how that impacted her life and her work. Definitely, she could have used a good editor and some structure. She could have organized her reminiscing into 4 sections, covering one decade in each, in linear fashion. Each section could have provided a summary of her professional life, and then she could provide her reflections after the summary. She could have talked more about her experiences with each movie she has made, which would probably be very insightful.

Then again, her early life was chaotic, with 2 dysfunctional parents that just weren't there when she needed them the most. In many ways she parented herself, and she is determined to be the parent she never had. The chaos is evidence in how she sees life, as vignettes. It's amazing she has come to her own, given the upbringing that she had. Perhaps, someone can do her justice in a good biography of her in the future.

Bauerlein, M. (2009). The Dumbest Generation. How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. NY: Penguin Group. An educator takes a serious look at the misplaced optimism current educators have for the promises of Technology in salvaging our educational system. Bauerlein contends that all these computers have not really enhanced the learning environment for the younger generation but has really diluted the quest for knowledge.

I found this book to be extremely insightful and do agree with the author on many aspects of Education that he advances. For example, Technology's love for niche knowledge (p. 34) has really denigrated the importance that we all should cultivate a reservoir of general knowledge. Like most areas of professional development, the push for specialty-based knowledge silos serves only to exclude those not in the know while at the same time destroy any possibility of communication, which is a travesty of modern society.

His contention that facility in computer usage does not necessarily mean students today are better thinkers, rather they are so unfocused that they have forgotten what it's like to think long and hard as well as linerally on any thought so that "teenagers and 20-year-olds appear at the same time so mentally agile and culturally ignorant." (p. 95).

Perhaps, those technologically-challenged (those older than 25) should stop surrendering to unproven promises of Technology and get back to really educating the next generation to think critically and compassionately about Life. The best message Bauerlein gives is the importance of reading in developing the knowledge with which to learn. Yes, reading a book all the way through can do more for developing the thinking skills necessary to live a productive life than spending all your leisure time playing games and watching videos on your computer. Read this book!

Berendt, John. (2005). The City of Falling Angels. If you have ever been to Venice, then you will like this non-fiction travelogue of Berendt as he lives in Venice, get to the know the locals, attend cultural events and tries to document what happened when the famed Venice opera house, Teatro La Fenice, burned to the ground in 1996, to then be rebuilt and reopened in 2004.

A gifted writer, Berendt interviewed colorful expatriates who have found a home in Venice, people you probably wouldn't get to know if you were just a tourist. He also documents the investigation into the fire and what happened to those who were finally held responsible. And, you will learn about the culture of the Venetians and how they conduct business. Perhaps, the saddest story was the one about Mario Stefani, a local gay poet/journalist whose search for love was one painful journey that can only be captured by a tortured artist. And, if you have never been to Venice, read this, and you will be transported there.

Bing, Stanley. (2000). What Would Machiavelli Do? I haven't decided if this book was written as a satire, or what. I did enjoy reading what I am afraid some would take extremely seriously - that the only way to get ahead is to be one of a select few who have no conscience to speak of. In that case, I am glad I am where I am - at least I can sleep at night. Bing is quite insightful nevertheless.

Black, Riley. (2022). The Last Days of the Dinosaurs. An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World. NY: St. Martin's Press. Dinosaurs continue to be a fascinating topic even though they have gone extinct 66 millions years ago. Riley Black takes us back to what may be considered "The Day the Dinosaurs Died." And, when they did, it was an end of a era for not only dinosaurs but almost all living things up to that point.

Black painstakingly describes what happened when that asteroid hit Earth and basically changed the world that is incomprehensible to us today. But, we can at least now imagine, as he did, what possibly happened to life then, the fast extinction of dinosaurs and the slow process of survival of living things then, followed by a slow renewal of a new world inhabited by new fauna and flora.

Of course, post-66 million years, no one really knows what really happened, yet Black is able to create the scenarios, based on an imperfect fossil record and the behavior of animals today to paint a plausible history of an era that will remain forever gone but live on in your fascination for all things dinosaur. Worth reading.

Bombeck, Erma. (1995). All I Know About Animal Behavior I Learned From Loehmann's Dressing Room. HarperCollins. I've read so many of her books but this is the one I have read most recently from America's great pop humorist. Erma takes insightful stabs at how much we are so like our friends and foes of the animal kingdom without threatening creationists. I can just picture myself spending weeks on end sitting down with her for a cup of coffee and never leaving. Any of her books are worth reading.

Bowers, Scotty with Lionel Friedberg. (2012). Full Service. My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars NY: Grove Press. Ok, the title sounds a bit salacious. And, ok, this is a guilty pleasure kind of book. But, basically, it is the memoirs of Bowers, an average guy who was not too bright but smart enough to make a living among the stars. That is, the stars of the '50s, before AIDS, before the Internet, and after most of the stars referenced are dead and gone. Should you believe him? Probably, because he was never one to capitalize on his connections for money. He just wanted to be part of the action because he was somewhat oversexed. He only decided to write this tell-all because he was afraid he'd die and no one would believe he ever did the things he did. There are a few celebrities who are still alive who vouch for his veracity, and that's good enough for me! He never whitewashes anything, and many of the decisions he made about his own life were never good ones so he struggled to make ends meet. Worth reading for an glimpse of the celebrities of the '50s, when the closeted lives were much more exciting than the so-called lives of the reality stars of today.

Boyd, Pattie. (2007). Wonderful Tonight. NY: Harmony Books. Probably well-known to baby boomers as the woman who was married to two very famous musicians, George Harrison and Eric Clapton, and the muse to both who inspired classics such as "Layla", "Wonderful Tonight" and "Something" among others, I was curious how someone who was so inspirational viewed her life in retrospect.

Her life probably is like the lives of most celebrity wives, forever in the background, enjoying the perks that wealth could offer, but not necessarily enjoying a healthy relationship with their celebrity husbands caught up in the fame game, trying to be all things to all people. Somewhat sad to go from unimaginable riches to almost being left destitute, Boyd has managed to finally find happiness after voicing some regrets about decisions she made. Who hasn't? Though probably of more interest to those now in their 40s to 60s, it's still worthwhile for anyone interested in peeking into the private lives of international celebrities as they try to lead normal lives off-stage while dealing with demons like substance abuse. Good read.

Boylan, Jennifer Finney. (2008). I'm Looking Through You. Growing Up Haunted NY: Broadway Books. Now an esteemed English professor, Boylan grew up as James, married, had a wife and two sons before she had the courage to try and make peace with herself by undergoing a sex change so she could live like the woman she always felt she was. Though it seems like she has been accepted by the communities she is part of, she has an unusual relationship with his former wife, who is now her platonic partner, and is being ostracized by her older sister, which seems to hurt her the most. Though she puts on a brave face, somehow by the book's end I got the sense that she is still haunted by her need to be accepted not so much by others, as by the person who lived a past she could not assimilate into her present life. A good read about the courage few would dare to show.

Brown, Dan. (2000). Angels & Demons. The continuing adventures of John Langdon, a nebbish art history professor of Harvard University who fancies himself as the Indiana Jones of symbolic artifacts (same character in The DaVinci Code), as he takes on the murders supposedly committed by the Illuminati, an eclectic medieval society of scientists. The last third of the book is non-stop suspense, with plot twists and turns that will keep you guessing right to the end of who did what to whom. Despite the religious controversies, Brown does manage to make art history interesting, while having a wonderful way of expounding on little known facts and trivia that spice up what could easily be boring from the pen of a less competent writer. A must-read.

Brown, Dan. (2001). Deception Point. NY: Atria Books. Rachel Sexton, our protagonist, must deal with a father she has never been fond of, and her duty as an intelligence analyst for the White House. Throw in a ground-breaking discovery of extraterrestrial life and you have yourself another Dan Brown can-put-it-down thriller. Other than Sexton, everyone is under suspect of harboring ulterior motives, and there are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing almost to the end of who is doing what, for whatever reason. Another must-read.

Brown, Dan. (1998). Digital Fortress. NY: St. Martin's Press. "First written, last read" has actually turned out to be the best page-turner of them all. Good thing I was on vacation when I started reading this one because it took me only 1 1/2 days to finish it (while soaking in Washington's Sol Duc Hot Springs, no less). This one is for the techies and geeks looking for a suspense thriller that they can relate to. I can see David Becker's character was probably the model for the John Langdon character in Angels and Demons and the DaVinci Code. Susan Fletcher is the smart protagonist who saves the day in this one, and the suspense starts to build early on, unlike his other books, which tests the fitness of your heart to thrills and chills in the second half. A definite must-read. To tell you more would spoil it for you, Dear reader...

Brown, Dan. (2013). Inferno. Brown's latest Langdon adventure takes the reader, once again, on a cultural tour of the world's most famous architectural wonders. That's the nice thing about his books, it's not just fiction, it's a cornucopia of cerebral delights created by artists of all persuasions, and manifested in works of art. Once again, Langdon's expertise takes him to pretty weird places while even touching on the the fringy edges of Public Health. There's even anti-heroine, Sienna Brooks, to taunt the reader's tolerance for the iffy side of life. Brown's solution for overpopulation may not be the solution everyone can swallow, but it is the kind that would reside in the belly of a fictional mad scientist. An enjoyable travelogue that should make a good movie.

Brown, Dan. (2003). The Da Vinci Code . If you love intelligent mysteries that deal with historical references to mystical and religious myths, set in places you wish you had time to visit, and always wondered what possessed Da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa, then you will love this book! Couldn't put this book down. There is one question I have - it's about Remy and the Teacher. Perhaps, someone can enlighten me on a possible plot hole.... Nevertheless. Brown has enough for 12 more books. Can't wait for them in print.

Brown, Dan. (2009). The Lost Symbol. NY: Doubleday. Robert Langdon returns once again as the Harvard expert of all things symbolic who is whisked to Washington, DC as a last-minute speaker for an eclectic convention only to find himself caught up in a web of secrecy involving a brother, his sister and the masons. Go figure. Fast-paced throughout, I found the ending a bit of a letdown because I just found it implausible that one main character can change so much as to be unrecognized at the same time. Still worth the read.

Brown, Dan. (2017). Origin. NY: Doubleday. This time, Robert Langdon gets snagged into the snare of a former student, Edmond Kirsch, who has become a billionaire and has a message for the world. However, before he could broadcast his message, he is killed. Langdon plays detective while touring Barcelona to find out what this message is, who killed Kirsch, and get the message out. As usual of Brown's books, you will be entranced through the duration of your reading. Winston, the AI digital assistant turns out to be my favorite character. However, by the book's end I am not so sure that having such an assistant would be good for my health.

Brown, Daniel James. (2013). The Boys in the Boat. NY: Penguin Books. Rowing was the elite sport in the early 1900s. It was elitist in many ways because it was a British sport first, and then America's Ivy Leagues adopted rowing as the sport of moneyed men. And, so Brown's narrative goes. This only serves as the backdrop to the story of how 9 college men from the University of Washington's rowing team went on to win gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. And, these nine men all came from humble beginnings. It is a celebration of what made America great, that through sheer hard work and perseverance you can excel in what you set out to do. A wonderful book to remind us that regardless of where we come from, we can reach whatever we have set our minds to do. Worth reading. (Soon to be a major motion picture)

Brown, Tina. (2007). The Diana Chronicles. NY: Doubleday. An even-handed look at the life of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales. Though probably naive when she married Prince Charles, Diana made up for all the injustices she felt she was suffering from in the way she manipulated the media to get back at the Royal Family. In many ways, she led a very sad life, looking for love in all the wrong places, to then die at the hands of those who used her for their own purposes. Here was a woman who was able to connect with strangers, but never with those who had to live and work with her, except maybe with her two sons. The marriage could have worked, if it wasn't for that other woman....

Burke, James, Ornstein, Robert. (1995). The Axemakers' Gift. The Double-Edged History of Human Culture. Finally, a history of the world without the dates! Actually, quite a good historical overview of world history, as impacted by technological advances. Helps you to understand that Change has its positive AND negative aspects, and the unintended consequences are usually long-term outcomes nobody ever thinks of when they are lost in the short-term perks.

Burnett, Carol. (2016). In Such Good Company. Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox. NY: Crown/Archetype. During the height of television, between the '50s and '80s, sketch comedy and variety shows ruled network television. One of the more popular sketch comedy and variety show was The Carol Burnett Show, which ran 1967 to 1978. I loved that show and caught it whenever I could. At the time I just didn't appreciate how labor intensive it was to put on such a weekly show with a live audience. Burnett documents what went into her show, and it's a good thing she did. If you are interested in entertainment and television production, this is a definite mandatory read. She also took the time to thank the many people who contributed to the show and reminisced about the best shows, the cast, the guest stars, etc. Her show was one of my favorites, and she managed to make me laugh all the time. Read about a TV legend, and why she was one.

Cahalan, Susannah. (2012). Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. NY: Simon and Schuster. An autobiography written by a New York Post journalistic who suffered from a rare form of an autoimmune brain infection known as anti-NMDA-Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis. This infection left her with residual memory loss of what happened during one month her illness. Interesting reading. This book will help you understand how complex the brain is and how misdiagnosis could have left the author permanently hospitalized in a mental institution.

Caldwell, Ian & Thomason, Dustin. (2004). The Rule of Four. NY: Bantam Press. Two Princeton students get lured into the mysteries of an ancient book, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili that is riddled with riddles and hidden codes that must be solved in order to make any sense of the book. Who would ever guess that plagiarism can be a reason for murder? Those who have attended Princeton will probably enjoy the insider's perspective. A little more academic than The DaVinci Code, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Carr, Nicholas (2011). The Shallows. What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains NY: WW Norton & Company. I bought the softcover edition of this book when it came out in 2011. As I write this, it is January 2, 2017, although I did finish reading this in 2016. It took me 5 1/2 months to read this not because I am a slow reader, but because everything that Carr says about the Internet is sadly true. As much as I wanted to read this book I just didn't find the time to read it for years though I was totally engaged and enmeshed when I did read it, yet, it took me this long because the Internet is the reason why we give into distraction so easily. It is just so simple to find things to stimulate us online.

Carr makes an excellent case for how the Internet is really ruining what is most precious to our well-being, and that's the need to reflect and meditate about our lives. To make sense of what is most important to us. And, this requires focus and hard work on our brain's part. It was hard enough to do this pre-Internet, and it is nearly impossible to do that now. It is just so easy to power up our devices and let those infernal machines take us where they will.

Perhaps, the damage that the Internet is doing to our minds and our lives may not be apparent until we are old and trying to make sense of it all to then only find we no longer know how to do that anymore. Everything is meaningless as are all those thousands of selfies we have on our phones when we won't even remember the time, place or circumstances surrounding when they were taken. Thousands of jpegs representing memories we never really had. If this is frightening to you, then it will be worth your time to see what Carr has to say and show you what research is showing as well. The book may be 6 years old, but it is somewhat prescient, in retrospect, and a harbinger of what we can prevent by recapturing the gift of focus. And, that the fact that I have taken the time to write this means all is not lost, we can if we really want to.

Chabris, Christopher & Simons, Daniel. (2011). The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us. NY: Harmony. A well-written book about how our mind can play tricks on us without us being aware of it. Written by 2 psychologists that reads like it was written by one author (an achievement in itself), the book explores how our mind deludes us into thinking we know what we don't really know.

Their prime example is how something unexpected in what we are looking at can be completely ignored. As a gorilla on a basketball court where students were asked to count the number of passes being made between players. The authors also looked at how such thinking tactics, as not admitting you don't know what the other person is talking about, can cause economic losses. They offer many examples of how if we are not careful and rely on our gut too much can cause us to make awful decisions. I found this book to be extremely insightful and worth reading.

Chang, Alexandra. (2021). Days of Distraction. NY:HarperCollins. This was one of the picks for 2022 Social Justice and Anti-Racism Summer Book Read at SCSU. So, this book supposedly provides an Asian perspective on life and living. This was more a work of fiction than a memoir. Then again, can someone in their 20s write a good memoir? Can anyone live such a complete and fulfilling life to really write a memoir at so young an age?

While it may be partially based on Chang's life experiences, for example, as a technical writer, and being in an interracial relationship, one may view this read as an "inspired by true events" perspective. Though I don't necessarily see her struggles with becoming an independent woman as one of overcoming racial injustices, as it was more of a coming-of-age, tinted with questions of finding oneself while caught between her Asian heritage and her American upbringing.

The struggles she expresses as stemming from being in an interracial relationship has little to do with race as it does with trying to be herself in a romantic relationship that is somewhat lopsided. That's because one may expect a spouse to move out of state to accommodate the career aspirations of one's spouse, but not necessarily for a romantic partner to do the same thing, when there is really no legal commitment involved to do so.

So, she moves for her boyfriend who is in graduate school, just to be with him, but then she is miserable because she feels neglected emotionally and professionally unfulfilled, as her boyfriend is on his way to bigger and better things. Not that her previous work was that fulfilling, being passed over for promotion. In that instance, one can make a case about social justice when gender biases along with possible racial biases make for a toxic workplace.

The book is well-written, and Chang does have a way with words that makes this book an interesting read. Sprinkled with insightful gems as she observes a world that seems to be passing her by, she manages to grab a tidbit of wisdom here and there. In the end you hope she will find a way out of her ennui so she can be somewhat happy because she really does deserve it.

Chang, Iris. (2003). The Chinese in America. A Narrative History. NY: Viking Press. What a wonderful, well-told history of the Chinese in America! For those who are, and for those interested in the Chinese, this is a must-read. Chang, a gifted writer, weaves the histories of both China and the United States into the lives of the Chinese who were continually caught between two cultures over decades of separated families, blatant racism and changing politics. Her well-documented, seriously-researched tome is worth the time you spend reliving the spirit of a people that overcame extreme obstacles just to become a part of America. You will also like Chang's "The Rape of Nanking."

Chang, Iris. (1997). The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. NY: Penguin Group. The historical accounting of one of the most horrific examples of atrocities ever committed by one country (Japan) against another (China). Close to 300,000 Chinese died horrible deaths in the capital of Nanking during 1937-1938. Women were savagely raped and killed with no remorse.

Chang researched this horror in-depth and provides perspectives from the Chinese who suffered, the Japanese who committed the crimes and the foreigners who provided refuge to thousands of Chinese who came to them for help. This book should be required reading for all history courses dealing with World War II, and philosophy courses. Why philosophy courses? Because, even as civilized as we think we are, there is still a savagery inherent in humans that manifests itself in the worst of times. We must learn about why such cruelty was never eliminated in the course of mankind's development and understand what kind of societies breed such evil. Worth your time.

Chen, Pauline W. (2007). Final Exam. A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality NY: Vintage House. A compassionate female surgeon shares the trials and tribulations of being a doctor, along with an inside look at medical school. While explaining why doctors practice in the most scientific of ways, she injects the Art of Medicine into her narrative of a physician's life. It does explain why the arduous medical school regimen breaks the most timid of souls who would seek to heal, and hardens the hearts of many who survive the rigors so they can deal with the most common experience of Life, and the most difficult for many - Death. It explains why some doctors use algorithms to manage the uncertainties of disease processes, and how such rituals save practitioners from the tenuous hold they think they have with exquisite knowledge and skills. No, doctors are not gods, but then, none of us are.

Perhaps, the most beautiful thought to come out of Chen's book is a new perspective of how we should thank Medicine - not for the miracles of prolonging life indefinitely, but just enough so we can get things in order before the evitable - the chance to say good-bye gracefully to Life. What a wonderful book about Medicine and those who strive hard to heal and help us all to face the frailties of the human body!

I found Chen's depiction of what medical students must go through in gross anatomy an eye-opener, and how decades of medical education has managed to dehumanize the study of the human body to spare students of the reality of dealing with what were living human beings. However, Chen does provide updates about the changes made to the medical education curriculum that hopefully will prepare future doctors to become more aware of their role in the lives of their patients and families - it's not just healing, but guiding those in their care through a good death.

There are notes at the end of the book which include many references to how medical students are socialized, for better or worse, into the culture of the medical profession. A must-read.

Clapton, Eric (2007). Clapton: The Autobiography. NY:Broadway. Rock guitar legend Eric Clapton comes clean from an almost wasted life from drugs and alcohol to finally enjoy the fruits of his talents. It is incredible he remembered anything at all, although he was smart enough to keep a diary that helped with placing events his fans would know with the life only he knew. It is hard to imagine that someone so talented almost blew it all because he could not stay away from substance abuse and destructive relationships that ruined the lives of everyone involved. Though I know a few of the songs he was noted for, I read this simply because it came out after Pattie Boyd's autobiography, and I thought it would be interesting to see how the lives of two celebrities that shared a common past remembered that past. I read Clapton's first because he was more well-known. It was worth reading. He did finally mature enough to make sense of his life.

Condon, G. & Condon, J. (1996). Beyond the Grave: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children. Though a newer edition has been published since I read this book, this edition provides all the basic information needed for financial wellness. The authors are a father and son team of lawyers who provide very helpful strategies for leaving behind what you cannot take with you when you die. Of course, to get to this point, people need to realize and accept the fact that they cannot live forever, and at the same time when making decisions about inheritance it is important to think of the consequences of decisions made on the interpersonal dynamics that will result from such decisions. A must-read and the most useful book I have read in years.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity. Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. A great follow-up to his ground breaking, Flow (read that first), which discusses his almost common-sense concept of "Flow" - what you experience when you are at your very best - a loss of time. Of course, he's not talking about the mind numbing and altering existence of bad habits and health-destroying addictions. Rather "how time flies when you're having fun" experience. In this book he tries to find this in a group of people he defines as creative individuals. Not always a "perfect fit" between theory and reality, but nevertheless a fine read. It was interesting how he did manage to find some common threads in terms of traits shared by a bunch, I think, of overachievers (what they would be called by some other theorist). I read this book slowly because I didn't want it to end, okay?

Dettmer, Philipp (2021). Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System that Keeps You Alive. NY: Random House. If you ever wondered how the immune system works in our body, this is the book to read. Written so that anyone who finished high school should be able to understand, Dettmer systematically describes and explains all the different components of this multi-faceted system that protects and keeps us alive. But, when it doesn't, that is when we die.

Using military analogies Dettmer shows how essential each type of cell and protein work in collaboration with one another to protect the human body against bacterial and viral assaults, as well as cancer cells (to a point), with a basic explanation about COVID-19, until vaccines introduced to battle the virus. This is not a technical book but quite interesting to read. After you are done you will have a very good understanding of how the immune system works and why we should be grateful that it works so hard to keep us alive. Worth reading.

Didion, Joan (2005). The Year of Magical Thinking. NY: Alfred A. Knopf. A renown author bares her heart and soul in this heart-wrenching account of what it's like to lose your spouse suddenly from a heart attack. Didion will make you think about the brevity of life, and how everything changes when you least expect it, and then be forced to deal with the aftermath almost in a zombie-like existence because there is no other way to deal with it.

How do you make sense of a reality of life that we, as a society, never talk about, as if not talking about it will make it go away? I suppose it makes "perfect sense" that we would continue to deal with death the same way, after the fact, by wishing away the void left by those we love, through rituals to numb the emptiness and sadness we don't want to deal with. Perhaps, what is most sad is that here is a woman in her late 60s, forced to deal with the death of a husband with whom she has worked so closely with in their lives as writers. We think it is so tragic to lose loved ones who are young and in their prime, but it is no less tragic to lose a loved one after a lifetime shared, and at a later age when death becomes inevitable and the meaning of such an inevitability is meaningless on many levels.

D'Antonio, Michael (2013). Mortal Sins. Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal. NY:Thomas Dunne Books. An excellent, comprehensive look at the sex scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church for centuries. Being a closed community that sees itself as elitist and beyond the law, the Catholic Church was finally forced to face the music in a series of lawsuits filed by adults who were molested when they young, across the world. It was the class action lawsuits in multiple states that forced the Church to revisit their approach to errant priests. Rather than defrock them, most pedophile priests were just periodically moved from parish to parish. The betrayal of trust of parishioners by priests who couldn't keep their hands to themselves is incredible.

The Database of Publicly Accused Priests in the United States and the report that Pope Benedict reportedly defrocked 400 priests in 2 year on January 17, 2014 ( indicate that appropriate actions are finally being taken to protect young children and young adults from a lifetime of anguish. This book is worth reading to understand the extent of this problem and how pervasive it is.

Domscheit-Berg, Daniel (2011). Inside WikiLeaks. My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website. Domscheit-Berg was the spokesperson for WikiLeaks for about 3 years until he was fired by Assange. The book does provide an inside look at how an international organization operates. It does provide tidbits about his relationship with Assange, but it appears to be a rush-job type of publication released to make the most of the afterglow emitted by Assange, even as he was being hunted down for alleged rapes he committed. Details appear sketchy and the incomplete chat room transcripts makes their inclusion almost self-serving. The author comes off as being somewhat idealistic, with good organizational skills, who, by publishing this tell-all, could be seen as justifying Assange's belief in the author's lack of loyalty. As apolitical as WikiLeaks started out, giving a voice to whistleblowers around the world, it just couldn't avoid the political quagmire that highly sensitive documents thrive on, especially when this information was distributed to selected press favorites.

Duhigg, Charles (2012). The Power of Habit. Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. NY: Random House. This is a wonderful book for everyone who is struggling with making a positive change in their lives. As everyone knows, it is really hard to make changes, although many of the bad habits we have were developed without much effort at all. Perhaps, that is the main problem with bad habits, it is so easy to fall into a routine that is built around them. Duhigg goes through great lengths to explain how people develop habits, which can be good if they become ingrained behaviors that are good for our health. Definitely worth reading so we can understand why we do the things we do.

Dunant, Sarah (2004). The Birth of Venus. NY: Random House. Fictional protagonist, Alessandra Cecchi, lived during interesting times in Florence, Italy in the late 1400s. The daughter of a rich merchant father dealing in fabrics, the reader is privy to Alessandra’s life as an adolescent, with a personal maidservant, who had a gift for art, which is not appreciated in times when women should not indulge in such creative pursuits when they were only meant to marry and bear children.

She is married off to an older gay man to spare him of the religious persecution of those who are different, gets involved with a young up and coming painter working on the family chapel’s frescos, has a child, loses her husband in more ways than one and enters the convent.

All these events were meant to paint a wide landscape of the life of Florentines between the Medici eras, the Church’s influence on the life of everyone and women’s lives, which weren’t so glamorous even if they had a lot of money. Dunant has done her research into medieval Florence and has done a fantastic job capturing what it’s like live there then. Worth reading if you like historical fiction.

Epstein, Joseph (2002). Snobbery. The American Version. NY: Houghton Mifflin Company. Confessions of a self-professed intellectual snob in a somewhat sociological commentary of the games that middle class Americans play in the name of social awkwardness. Unlike the rigid social milieu of European society, where everyone has their place and know it, Americans can pretty much, most of the time, find their place in the sun on a variety of levels. Though the those most ambitious strive for upward mobility, the sad fact of the 21st century is the mighty slippery slopes of economic downturns. We all struggle and expose our insecurities by psychologically stepping on others to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Not necessarily the most healthiest, at least we now have a "manual' to identify the worst pretenders. Great read.

Ehrenreich, Barbara (2005). Bait and Switch. NY: Metropolitan Books. A free-lance female writer tries to find a job in corporate America, and finds that it is virtually impossible, while getting fleeced along the way by a new group of charlatans. This tragicomedic look at what happens to professional people who lose their jobs these days, only to discover they have more than enough time to meditate on just how slippery the slope is for those who chase the ever-elusive American Dream. Even getting a college education is no guarantee for lifetime employment, nor is networking what it's cracked up to be. Ehrenreich's cynical eye makes for the perfect spy into the ever-growing mass of the unemployed, people who never thought they ever needed to beg for an opportunity to work. Great read.

Fey, Tina (2011). Bossypants NY: Little, Brown and Company. Here is a down-to-earth inside look at the TV entertainment industry from a very astute female writer. I say female writer, because her perspective is quite enlightening in an industry dominated by men. Despite what could be a hostile environment, Fey has managed to succeed while maintaining her sanity and sense of humor. This book really shows why she has done so well, she has the talent. I can't begin to recount all the numerous pages I couldn't help but laugh out loud, despite who happened to be around. You really get to learn about Fey's childhood and her many quirky friends, while getting some inside tips on how to deal with entertainment types and what it's like to do impromptu comedy. She continues where Erma Bombeck left off, but with a slightly wittier and sardonic bite that is befitting of a modern woman. Hope she writes another book. Don't miss this one.

Finstad, Suzanne (2001). Natasha. The Biography of Natalie Wood NY: Three Rivers Press. A child actress that was mentally and emotionally abused by her mother to support the entire family on the earnings she made working, Natalie Wood is, indeed, a tragic Hollywood heroine. Her teen years were filled with rebellion against her mother while at the same time dealing with trying to continue as an actress as she outgrew her popularity as a child star. Somehow you never got the feeling she was ever happy because she never had a chance to explore who she was besides being the family breadwinner.

Her tragic death by drowning is extensively covered and S. Finstad remains my favorite biographer for her detailed accounts that could only be possibe by the extensive research she conducted to provide a well-rounded account of an incredibly gifted, but insecure actress from a time when Hollywood glamour was more than was we see on the screen. A must read.

Finstad, Suzanne (2005). Warren Beatty: A Private Man. NY: Harmony Books. The most notorious womanizer for 3 decades gets his just due in this well-written biography. Until he married Annette Bening in the early '90s, at the age of 54, Beatty spent most of his time endlessly bedding every women he could while trying to establish himself beyond the shadow of his talented older sister, Shirley MacLaine. Though he paid his dues, he was probably impossible to work with or for because of his perfectionism that probably stemmed from a fundamental insecurity of not really knowing what he wanted out of life.

Reading this book explained why Diane Keaton was totally irritating in Reds (they were breaking up). It is amazing any of the films he starred in ever got completed. While panned for his acting, I really liked his films, like Heaven Can Wait, Shampoo, Bugsy, Parrellax View, Splendor in the Grass, and Bonnie and Clyde. Finstad masterfully captured the complexity of a talented individual who strived for success without necessarily knowing what it was he really wanted. Too bad his relationship with Julie Christie didn't work (she didn't want kids). Imagine how those kids would have turned out!

Fonda, Jane (2005). My Life So Far. NY: Random House. An honest autobiography of probably the most misunderstood celebrity of the last half of the 20th century (this sounds truly awful...). Fonda does make an academic effort to clear her name about a life she was forced to live publicly. Overall, she was quite a whiz with damage control, but her earlier indiscretions continue to plague her to this day.

Not your usual "this is my life, love it or leave it" book, Fonda does put her life into perspective and shares her findings from government files kept on her activities (which was quite interesting) to her amazed findings of how her father really felt about her. Of course, this is probably the saddest part of all, that she had to read the biographies of her famous father, Henry Fonda, to find whatever acceptance he begrudgingly gave to her in writing, but never in person. We all have such regrets.

Probably the biggest mistake Fonda made in those early years was to underestimate her naivete over how powerful celebrity can be when mixed with politics. Her search for her authentic self took her into territories, in a most public way, that most of us will never encounter. She did her best, under the circumstances. Her efforts to share the lessons learned are commendable, and the book does offer a voyeuristic look into the life of a woman who tried so hard to be herself in the face of the unrealistic expectations of her public persona. Read it and understand.

Friedman, Thomas L. (2005). The World is Flat. A Brief History of the 21st Century. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. If Technology could create a world, what kind of world would it create? A flat one, so Friedman argues - and a convincing argument he makes! If you are trying to make sense of what's going on, in 2006, here is the best explanation I have seen so far. The author offers a rational framework that delineates all the major events over the past 2 decades that have resulted in what we are currently living in - a world that has shrunk from its global dimensions to what is now a level playing field. Let's play ball, but, in the eyes of the whole world. Shakespeare was right - all the world's a stage....

Friedman pretty much sees commerce as totally driven by technology, so much so that geography no longer matters, but being part of a global supply chain is. People no longer need to come to America for golden opportunities, not when they can go on the Internet and have the world that's one mouse click away. Always the optimist, Friedman sees this trend as the best of any world, but does offer some caveats and examples of those left behind. His explanation of how the Middle East is falling behind can very well explain why terrorism exists today.

Basically, I see this book as a father's attempt to share his wisdom with his daughters, while praying for their safety in a fast-changing world, full of hope and inspiration, mixed in with some caveats. Parents with college-age kids should read this book and pass it on to their kids. I think this book would make a great textbook for college macro- and micro-economic classes, as well as a great textbook for graduate business schools, to start a dialogue of what we need to do about the cyber-driven world we are living in. Though Friedman does try to put a positive spin to these new business practices, I seriously suspect that the bottom line still rules the day, even though the rheteoric is all win-win....

Galloway, S. (2017). The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, NY: Portfolio/Penguin. Though this is not the kind of book I usually read I thought the title was intriguing enough to give it a read. Galloway offers an overview of the big tech companies of today and how they got to where they are, the markets they control and what made them so big. They all provide services/products we have learned to crave to the point that it is impossible for us to live without them. It's an insidious invasion into our lives that demands we give up our privacy, our personal data, our money to be a part of the universe they have created.

Perhaps the most interesting analogy was how Google has become God to us - like having our prayers answered in the most concrete way. We get answers to everything we ever search/pray for. Our most innermost wish for answers is typed into that simple dialogue box, and wah-la, thousands of answers in just seconds. We ask, and there is no judgment as to why we want to know, but we get the answers we want, and maybe sometimes we get what we truly need. Imagine if someone got a hold of all those questions that reflect our most innermost desires and needs. An absolute goldmine....

While Galloway comes off as someone who tried hard to fit in with the good ole boy's club, but never felt accepted because he just didn't have the kind of pedigree needed to be one of them, his salty language exposes the sort of bravado he seems to feel is necessary to be listened to in the locker room. Unfortunately, that takes away from the insights he does provide.

The most useful part for the reader is Chapter 10, The Four and You, in which he does give good career advice that he has learned from his mistakes in climbing and falling off many career ladders. In the section, "Managing Your Career," - "Don't follow your passion, follow your talent. Determine what you are good at (early), and commit to becoming great at it. You don't have to love it, just don't hate it. If practice takes you from good to great, the recognition and compensation yo will command will make you start to love it." (p. 248)

Gardner, D. (2008). The Science of Fear, How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain NY: Penguin/Plume. A great book that looks how our behavior is driven by the fear messages constantly broadcasted by the media, politicians and anyone who wants to sell you something. It is unfortunate that this tactic is used so often as it takes away our peace of mind and makes us fearful of living. Gardner makes an effort to show how being constantly told to fear risky things leads us to be less trusting and paranoid. He suggests we listen more to our brain than to our gut, as hard as they can be. Worth reading.

Gigerenzer, G. (2002). Calculated Risks. How To Know When Numbers Deceive You NY: Simon & Shuster MacMillan Co. An excellent book that introduces you to a better way of understanding statistics. Yes, it is possible to present statistical information in an easy-to-understand format that can be used for decision-making. The author's premise that presenting risk in natural frequencies is the right way to talk about risk is well-supported by examples and explanation. I think this book would be more useful if he also presented a curriculum with which schools and universities can incorporate his ideas into teaching math and statistics from elementary all the way into professional schools (i.e., medicine, law, etc.). Great promise for improving Public Health risk communication, too. Nothing is worst than people trying to fog you with statistics when they themselves don't even understand what they are saying!!! A must read.

Gilbert, D. (2006). Stumbling on Happiness NY: Vintage Books. While the US constitution guarantees us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what is this happiness we are free to spend our time pursuing? Nobody ever really thinks about what happiness is, but you will after reading this book. Gilbert challenges the reader to really think about how we interact with the world through memories (of the past), perceptions (of the present) and imaginations (of the future).

You will come to realize that hold we thought we had on the past is tenuous at best, and when challenged to remember, we just fill in the blanks with what we want. And, can we really trust our perceptions of the here and now when only we can experience what we have experienced and we would like to believe we are unique in many special ways?

Perhaps the major problem that Gilbert points out, in our pursuit of happiness, is how our imagination of what will be is as faulty as our memories of yesterday and our perceptions of today. What we can't imagine we fill in with what we know, but then can we really know what we think we know?

It may well be true that taking a picture will make the present moment last longer, and, perhaps, whoever said it's never too late to have a happy childhood maybe on to something big. With wit and excellent prose, Gilbert will challenge you to question the value of money being able to buy happiness, and if we can ever be truly happy, and if we're not, well maybe it's not that big of a deal because it is THAT elusive.

While the ending seemed a bit of a letdown without the closure I would have liked, it is nevertheless a worthwhile read because it caused me to think about how we spend our lives chasing after something everyone seems to want, but never knowing what it really is that we want. Gilbert's suggestion that our compatriots in this search for happiness can probably provide us with an eye into what the future is really like, if we can only get beyond our need to see ourselves as so unique we no longer belong to mankind. Finally, notes at the end are worth a peek, and his comment about the ness of E-A-P (p. 270) is worth a chuckle.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2005). Blink. The Power of Thinking without Thinking. NY: Little, Brown and Company. Gladwell does it again! This time he takes on "gut reactions." Gladwell peels apart what we seem to do so instinctively when we size up situations at a moment's notice. However, he does offer some caveats on becoming too dependent on relying totally on first impressions, by encouraging us to think about why we come to those immediate conclusions. I really like the way he writes. It's almost like packing a picnic basket - all the ingredients just seem too disparate by themselves, but somehow they all make sense in the context of the picnic. He'll drop an anecdote here and vignette there, but along the way he does remember to pick them back up, then offers up a bouquet too fragrant to dismiss. Worth your time.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2013). David and Goliath. Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants NY: Little, Brown and Company. This is Gladwell's 5th and most recent book. Unfortunately, of all the books I have read of his, I am the most disappointed with this one. While he starts off with a good premise that emerges from the biblical battle of David and Goliath, and offers a nice set of hypotheses as to why David wins the day, Gladwell seemed to have lost his focus towards the book's end, and meanders through various scenarios that didn't apply too well.

In pulling in broader social phenomena to make his case, he basically got lost in the vastness of his hypotheses. It was probably enough to say that underdogs will fight in any way that will work to survive (it's a dog-eat-dog world out there, you know), and that does not always fit into his hypotheses. Oh well. I still have one more of this books to read, What the Dog Saw, and hope I will regain my admiration for his writings.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. NY: Little, Brown and Company. The third book from Gladwell in which he hypothesizes on why some people are successful while others aren't. Probably the most important ideas he advances are that opportunities and luck can play unappreciated roles in the success of people, and that your time and place in the history of the world can make or break one's chances for success.

I am not sure that I agree with his explanations that cultural legacies can impact the genetic expression that would make one successful or fail. For example, I can see how Korean cultural communication mores may play a role in compromising emergency communications that can result in plane crashes, but I cannot see how centuries of working in the rice paddies of southeast asia would give rise to the mathematical prowess of the progeny of these farmers. Think - if we didn't have computers today, what would all these people who are computer geeks be doing, and would they be happy with their lives anyway?

Gladwell may only be trying to take the pressure off those who show some natural talent from being browbeaten by well-meaning parents who are trying to live through their children. His message that just being good enough is enough to meet the challenges of the day is practical given that those who tested as being intellectually gifted don't necessarily go on to hoard all the Nobel Peace prizes. Then again, "to each his own."

In the end, there will be those who have wasted much of their talents because they could not focus on what they wanted out of life, and those who have exceeded the expectations of others and surprised themselves in the face of being pegged as mediocre by the standards of the day. Who is a success? Most likely those who are happy with themselves. Interesting reading, but not as good as his previous books.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The Tipping Point. NY: Little, Brown and Company. A great book that looks at the social phenomenon of cultural change using the analogy of disease epidemics. Connectors, salesmen and mavens are people who spread, by word-of-mouth, societal change. And, the next time someone brags that s/he knows over 150 people you will be able to call that person a liar. Gladwell's tipping point is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. Perhaps, public health practitioners may benefit from the author's contention that you can bring about behavioral change by using the right people to spread your message. A must-read.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2009). What the Dog Saw. NY: Little, Brown and Company. This is Gladwell's 4th book, which I read after "David and Goliath." I have to say that I liked this one better than his latest offering. This one is a collection of his essays in which he looked at a variety of issues and offers his unique take on things, so this was a pleasure to read. For sure, plagiarism is not his cup of tea, and he makes it known how he annoyed he was about an author doing that to him. A must-read.

Goldberg, Bernard (2001). Bias. A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. WASH DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc. Journalists definitely have a responsibility to objectively reporting on the news of the day. It is unfortunate, however, that journalists end up telling stories rather than reporting the news, and, as we all know, that how we tell our stories are tainted by our personal perspective. In light of the latest debacle of James Frey and his inability to distinguish between what's real and what's a lie about his life, we definitely must be ever vigilant about what we read and hear. In essence, I want to know what's fact and what's opinion.

While Goldberg may have felt he did the right thing to blow the whistle, at the time, this entire book sounds more like a sarcastic rationalization of his actions, a plea for sympathy in the most worst way. It doesn't serve his case well to whine about what he shoulda done and what coulda happen, bla, bla, bla. Maybe he can take some tips from Jane Fonda, who made a better case for the victory of those wrongly persecuted by the press....

Golden, Arthur (1997). Memoirs of a Geisha. NY: Vintage Contemporaries. A fictional autobiographical account of a well-respected geisha from the early to mid-1900s. A poignant look at women who lived such lives with little opportunity for personal happiness. Golden's writing is fluid and magical, making this an enjoyable read. The 12/2005 film based on this book should be interesting. A must-read.

Goleman, Daniel (2006). Social Intelligence. The New Science of Human Relationships NY: Bantam Books. Goleman applies his "emotional intelligence" (you should read that one, too) to social relationships, and expounds on the concept of social neuroscience. Basically, the relationships we have with others have a biological impact that can reconfigure our brains for future interactions. If this is true, then I think the whole controversy over "nature vs. nurture" can be readily resolved. It also does bring up the need for us to take responsibility for our part in relationships - being cognizant of the impact we can make on someone else's psyche, thus, cultivating kindness is something we can do to improve our lives than perpetuate meanness in our interactions. Of course, a middle ground needs to be paved, and we really shouldn't give in to those who emotionally abuse others out of insecurity, nor should we tolerate those who emotionally bully for the same reason. Goleman does a wonderful job in weaving the latest findings from the research in these new areas into a can't-put-down narrative that will be worth all the time you spend reading this great book.

Goodman, Ellen. (1990). Making Sense. NY: Penguin Books. When I had the chance, I would always try to catch Goodman's columns. So, it was a pleasure to grab a copy of this book that compiles her many columns and categorized them by topic. I have to admit that I didn't get around to reading this till 2014. So, it sat in my anti-library till now. However, I truly enjoyed Goodman's insight to the many events she covered in the '80s, and in retrospect, she was on the mark all the time. Yes, all the time. It is quite different to read commentary while events are happening, and to read them as historical documentation of the past. So, if you really want to learn about what it was like to live in the 1980s, then read this book. History could not have more interesting than the way Goodman makes sense of it.

Goolrick, Robert. (2007). The End of the World As We Know It. Scenes from a Life. NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. It is always interesting to see how people "memoirize" their lives in ways that are very distinctive to those who would set their lives in print. Unlike biographies, autobiographies, especially of those who have lived unusually, are the most interesting to read.

Goolrick, a brilliant writer, reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby character, who tried so hard to create a better persona for himself. His storytelling has the charm of Frank McCourt, as he provides vignettes of his life in non-linear flashbacks to better times, or so he wants (us, also) to believe. There were good times, but they seemed scant in the shadow of the overwhelming times of neglect and despair, when no one seemed to care.

As the book progresses, the vignettes become more and more self-revealing until the reader begins to understand how that one monumental episode of child abuse left the author emotionally shattered throughout his childhood into his adulthood. All of a sudden, all the self-destruction seemed to make sense as the only way he knew how to ask for help.

Given the medications he is currently taking, it is amazing he could appear to sound lucid at all. But he does, and with great insight, along with some rationalizing (like the Cowardly Lion's "I do believe, I do believe...) to dull the pain that never seems to go away. Here is a man who has managed to salvage all the good he could find in his life to counterbalance the unmentionable abuse he suffered to provide a cautionary tale of the fragility of the lives of young children. In the end, you will agree with his "If you don't receive love from the ones who are meant to love you, you will never stop looking for it."

Gore, Al (2006). An Inconvenient Truth. The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. PA: Rodale Press. This is probably the only book I have ever read AFTER seeing the film. Full of pictures, graphs and charts, Gore makes an excellent case for the need of people today, in the early part of the 21st century, to think about what is happening to our environment. I should mention, as I write this, July 2006 has turned out to be the most sweltering month, with record heat waves across the nation (like California with a 20+ day heat wave of triple digit temperatures and close to 200 dead from the heat). While his passion for the environment began early in life, this baby boomer is well aware that we can't just have an annual "Earth Day" anymore, but that it must become a part of our daily consciousness, from watching what we buy to what we eat and becoming an activist for Mother Nature, in doing our part to address global warming. Though Gore has probably spread his message more broadly through other media (like film and writing) than through politics, it does seem he misses the political arena, even though he repeatedly says that he can perform public service in many ways. Actually, he probably would make a good president, from a public health standpoint, because his heart and head are really in the same place.

Greenspan, A. (2007). The Age of Turbulence. Adventures in a New World NY: The Penguin Press. Economics would have been much more interesting if it was taught with this tome that summarizes the interesting life of Alan Greenspan, the maven of the U.S. economy for decades until his retirement from the US government in 2006. Though hardly retired from life, he is still actively consulting, and it was great he took the time to write this book.

This book shows the great loss the country is experiencing in these trying times (Summer of 2008) when the mortgage industry is in shambles, millions are unemployed and losing their homes, gas is over $4.00/gallon and lines of people are waiting to withdraw their savings for fear of banks collapsing. This last scene was something I learned about in school about the Great Depression, and that was way before my time, until now.

Greenspan's globetrotting experiences with a variety of economies make for interesting reading, especially when you begin to understand that no country can exist without being part of a global economy, especially in a world when trading goes on 24/7 these days. Once we get through this rough patch, and the business cycle runs its course (as Greenspan alludes to), I am sure that there will be much debate about whether the US government should have intervened in the Bear Stearns debacle, and continue to serve at the safety net for failing businesses, given that Greenspan's stance was one of hands off, while encouraging the hedge fund industry when he was at the Fed. It's never easy to predict the future, so it's always a godsend to hear how someone who has successfully done this for years shared how he spun his magic. Good read, and you will learn something new about Economics.

Hallinan, Joseph T. (2009). Why We Make Mistakes. NY: Broadway Books. An excellent insightful look at all the different kinds of mistakes that are made, which according to Hallinan can be corrected if we would only look at them objectively. An excellent example is how surgical deaths were reduced simply when anesthesiologists became aware that manufacturing differences caused mistakes in how the anesthesia were administered, and that just by standardizing the knobs reduced deaths. The author finds many examples in our daily lives that cause one to wonder why errors are constantly made when they don't have to be. Excellent read about the human foibles that plague us all.

Hammerslough, J. (2001). Dematerializing MA: Perseus Publishing. A book-long essay exploring the motivations behind American spending. Given the economic climate this is the book to read. While people these days have less money to spend, that by virtue will cause people to reflect on why they buy what they buy. Unfortunately, because of the materialistic mentality we have been brainwashed to buy into, this would mean that people will feel deprived and end up feeling denied when short on cash, whereas, we are probably better off without all the things we want but don't necessarily need. This book does help the reader to think about insidiousness of current advertisers that lures us into thinking that we can buy happiness. Good read.

Hammond, J. & Morrison, J. (1996). The Stuff Americans are Made Of. NY: Simon & Shuster MacMillan Co. A credible model of the American Culture that does explain why Americans act the way they do. It also explains why TQM, as a management tool, has failed as miserably as it has succeeded beyond expectations in Japan. For a generalist like myself, this book was a godsend in supporting many of the gut feelings I have developed in the face of daily reality. And, there is such a species called "American" rather than the hyphenated identities we have all been forced to adopt in the PC world of cultural diversity.

Harr, Jonathan. (1995). A Civil Action. A non-fiction can't-put-down courtroom thriller about the games lawyers play and how the legal system failed to fulfill its mission. Plaintiffs are more interested in seeing justice being done, and lawyers in seeing that it's not by translating it into money deals. A great look at how corporations have the money to never admit they've done anything wrong. By the way, this book does support the need for environmental vigilance in a world run by corporations only interested in pleasing stockholders without thinking about the health consequences of trying to save a few bucks.

Hillenbrand, Laura (2010). Unbroken. A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption NY: Random House. This book follows the incredible life story of Louis Zamperini, a man who lived more than his share of trials and tribulations. He was a star athlete with the potential to be an Olympic track star, but WW II intervened and sidetracked his life. During the war he was shot down and survived drifting in a lifeboat for more days than anyone else. This would have made a good book in and of itself, but there is more!

Zamperini ends up in one horrific Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camp, and then another and another. It was amazing he survived at all especially when he ended up being the whipping boy of one particular camp commander who was really out to get him. This is the basic premise, but the book is so well-written that you will immensely enjoy all the time you spend reading it.

I am glad that Hillenbrand wrote this book as a testament to humanity's spirit to survive despite overwhelming odds and extreme adversity. Sadly, it is also a documentation of the horrific behavior of Japanese soldiers in their torture of POWs. Granted, almost all were punished after the war was over, but the trauma experienced by the POWs remained lifelong and forever indelibly affected their lives. Definitely worth reading.

Hong, Cathy Park. (2020). Minor Feelings. An Asian American Reckoning. NY: One World. This was one of the picks for 2021 Social Justice and Anti-Racism Summer Book Read at SCSU. Hong is a Korean-American professor of poetry. Here she shares her life experiences as an Asian woman in America. Her language is somewhat academic and at times quite poignant. However, I am not sure if what she writes is truly reflective of the title. The end of the book is somewhat all over the place. And, then again, does a written expression of mixed emotions make that much sense on paper anyway. Her coverage of Theresa Cha's brutal rape and death was probably the best part of the book.

Howard, P.K. (1994). The Death of Common Sense. How Law is Suffocating America. NY: Random House. A scathing insider's look at the corruption of Justice by man-made attempts to mold it in Man's own image. Or, how laws are doing injustice to the noble concept of Justice. It would take a lawyer to take the law into his own hands... For any public servant who has tried to work within the ever-convoluted limitations of constantly changing statutes and regulations, this book should come as no great revelation that the system does not work - and it's not their fault. Don't even think about health policy...

Indiana, G. (1999). Three Month Fever. The Andrew Cunanan Story. NY:HarperCollins Publishers. Another perspective about Andrew Cunanan. (See Orth's Vulgar Favors review) Indiana attempts to explain the motives of someone no one knew. Makes for interesting reading, and Cunanan comes off as a miscreant. I like Orth's book better.

Isenberg. Nancy. (2016). White Trash. The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America NY: Viking Press. Despite the title, this is an excellent book about the White Experience in America. I think that this should be THE textbook for a required high school American History course. Today much has been made about the diversity that makes up America, but in order to understand America, we should first understand the American experience of White Americans. And, it is not as uniform (vs. diverse) as we have all come to believe.

And, what defines the differences among white Americans is social class. Yes, there are social classes in America, and that is how white Americans interact with one another. It is these class differences that explain the current climate of divisiveness among white Americans today.

Isenberg does an excellent job of showing how the social classes in English society came over with the immigrants from England. Those who were well-off in England continued to be well-off when they got here, maintaining their social class by owning property and land, with lucrative relationships to England. And, then there were the other immigrants that England was more than happy to get rid of. These individuals were never given the opportunities that were promised to them and remained part of the underclass that is alive and well today and referred to as "White Trash." The book is really excellent and a must-read if you want to truly understand why the country is the way it is today in 2019.

Jennings, Ken (2011). Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks. NY: Scribner. If you love maps and geography you will love this book. It is the definitive guide and pays homage to those who enjoy looking and using maps to get around and learn about the world around us. Jennings covers everything, offering a cultural history from how maps played an important role in how countries defined by borders which initiated a quite a few wars along the way, to the nerdy games developed to reward those who can get to a location first and claim their treasure. A really fascinating read. Jennings knows how to share his passion without sounding like a stuffy academic.

Jones, Daniel (2017). The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors NY: Random House. The Templars have shown up in movies and books about the middle ages, but always with very little background. They almost have a mystical allure as they search for religious artifacts that justify their pilgrimages, etc. But, if you really want to know just who the Templars really were, then you have to read this definitive 200+ years historical account of the Knights Templar. Along the way you get to learn a lot about the middle ages, the perennial wars over Jerusalem, the focus of at least 4 different religions and the many groups that constantly warred all across Europe and Asia in the name of some supreme leader or being..

The Templars started as mercenaries who joined the Crusades, pilgrimages that European Christians made to Jerusalem to visit the land where Jesus Christ ministered. These trips were dangerous and pilgrims needed to be protected against the Muslims and other groups that constantly fought over Jerusalem. A monarchy was developed so that the Kings of Jerusalem came from the ruling classes across Europe, and they needed military protection, which was provided by the Templars.

Soldiers/mercenaries had no work when there were no crusades so they decided to develop an identity of being soldiers dedicated to protecting pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem and called themselves the Knights Templar in 1119. Eventually the Catholic Church adopted them as their unofficial military force. Over time they grew in power and money as the well-to-do who died without children left their lands and riches to the Templars. Their mission eventually evolved to managing finances and global banking as they built castles all over Europe and the Middle East to provide protection for people going to Jerusalem. This also provided a great network to protect and transport monies needed for wars, etc.

Sadly, over time they were viewed as a threat to the monarchies that saw them as too independent to be left to themselves. Over time, many were accused of punishable sins which resulted in many of them being burned at stake. An awful ending for such an illustrious military order that lasted for over two centuries. Worth reading. Medieval times were never so exciting as Jones depict in this historical epic.

Kaplan M. & Kaplan, E. (2006). Chances Are... Adventures in Probability. NY: Penguin/Viking Group. An interesting historical and philosophical look at the contributions of probability and statistics to a variety of disciplines, such as Law, Medicine, Public Health, Science, etc. This book shows we really can learn from history! Vignettes such as how Edwin Chadwick in the 1830s standardized the reporting from local municipalities to help him to make a case about the effects of public hygiene on public health probably set the stage for the reporting of vital statistics today.

It was also interesting to read about the probably first recorded effectiveness study done in 1828 by Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis on the effects of bloodletting on pneumonia. His conclusion that it was totally useless spared numerous people from so-called treatments by leech and lancet. The Kaplans also raise important questions for those working the statistics about why ethical decisions should override scientific ones when in comes to designing studies, and that "the less perfect the study, the more likely a positive result." (p. 168).

Though the Kaplans do try to make a case for the role of probability in many facets of our lives, its misuse by those who do not understand its proper role is probably what hinders the appreciation of what probability can help us in the most, and that's to reduce uncertainty when it comes to decision-making. A worthwhile book to read by those with a "renaissance" frame of mind.

Karasyov, C. & Kargman, J. (2004). The Right Address NY: Broadway Books. A scathing fictional look at all those rich people living on the Upper East Side, with full coffers but empty lives. These are the women who don't need to work and don't quite know what they want except to fill their time with mindless shopping and spending, ostentatious in designer clothes, terrified of growing old and fearful of what others of their kind think, creating the illusion of importance with endless gossip. Made for good summer time reading, but tsk tsk on the proof readers who allowed me to find 3 typos and the misuse of taught for taut.

Klaidman, S. (2007). Coronary: A True Story of Medicine Gone Awry. NY: Scribner. Though it reads like a suspenseful murder-mystery, this is actually a true story, which makes it even more scarier. Klaidman does a wonderful job providing the history of a case of medical fraud in Redding, CA, where a cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon performed hundreds of unnecessary cardiac procedures and open heart surgeries that put many in harm's way.

This book paints a scary picture of why for-profit HMOs are not necessarily the best deliverer of health services, and how such a system can result in unncessary care that pays for the bottom line. Incredibly, the author was able to present the federal raid of the Redding Medical Center, and the details of the eventual class action lawsuits in easy-to-understand language that made it easy to follow the events, while at the same time learning about the people who were involved. What is truly incredible is the fact that this went on as long as it did without setting off alarms during a time when quality improvement programs were supposedly in full swing (1990s - 2000s). Worth your time to read.

Koehler,S.A. & Wecht, C.H. (2006). Postmortum, Establishing the Cause of Death. NY: Firefly Books. Not the usual kind of book I read, but I found it at a bookstore while I was reading "Monster of Florence", which dealt with serial murders and how they were investigated. So, I thought a little background reading would be useful for understanding the investigations.

Though not for the faint of heart, it is a revealing look at what happens to your body when you no longer own it. It painstakingly explains how a postmostem is performed, and how foresenic scientists explain unusual causes of deaths that are usually investigated. This knowledge will help you to understand what goes on during a murder investigation, which can be useful if you are a fan of true crime. Includes interesting case studies. After you have read this book, it will make you wonder why so many criminal investigations, especially of well-known people, can get so botched up.

Kohn, H. (1992). From Archetype to Zietgeist. MA: Little, Brown and Co. A dictionary you can enjoy reading! Covers the general ideas and concepts in the major academic disciplinary areas. You will find explanations for such overused terms as deconstruction, stylistics, anachronism, to name a few.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. (2014). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History NY: Henry Holt and Company. The winner of a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Kolbert takes the reader around the world to foreign destinations that depict how biodiversity is in danger of disappearing with various animals that have gone extinct in our lifetime. She talks with scientists of various disciplines to understand why this is happening, but the answers are far from simple. She, however, does make a case that many animals that have gone extinct is the result of human actions, such as poaching, overdevelopment of land that was originally the habitat of various animals that can no longer survive as they are being squeezed out of their natural environments. And interesting read that makes a case for humanity to be more stewards of this world and to leave peacefully with other living creatures.

Krakauer, J. (1997). Into the Wild. NY: Anchor Books. This is a non-fictional account of the life and death of Christopher Johnson McCandless. He was known as Alexander Supertramp (Alex) to the people he ran into during his solo hiking trips across the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Krakauer tried to make sense of a young educated man from a well-to-do family who led a life of a homeless man, living off the land and whatever he could hunt with the barest of weapons, finally succumbing to probably starvation. While this made for an interesting read I couldn't help but think how stupid he was in his insistence to live this way as his family was worried sick about what was happening to him. Yet, there are many people, mostly men, who seemed to choose to live like hermits. No answers here, though you can read this as a cautionary tale.

Lagercrantz, David (2019). The Girl Who Lived Twice NY:Alfred A. Knopf. The 3rd take from Lagercrantz as he continues the Lizbeth Salander saga. Here we learn more about Salander's twin sister, Camilla AKA Kira and the abiding hatred between the two, to the point Kira plots Lizbeth's death. However, it turns out the story is more of a subplot when the book concentrates on Blomkvist's investigation into the mysterious death of a Sherpa named Nima Rita. The plot gets a bit convoluted with too many characters to follow, but still a good read.

Lagercrantz, David (2015). The Girl in the Spider's Web NY:Alfred A. Knopf. Lagercrantz does the honors in continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series, and he does a fantastic job. This book continues the adventures of investigative journalist, Mikael Blomkvist who is about to be let go by the new owners of Millennium magazine. As he gets involved in an intranet data breach and the death of a renown AI academic he once again runs into Lisbeth Salander. If you loved Larsson's trilogy, then you will love this book. I am looking forward to what I hope will be a continuing series of Salander and Blomkvist righting all the injustices of the world.

Lagercrantz, David (2017). The Girl Who Takes An Eye for an Eye NY:Alfred A. Knopf. The second outing for Lagercrantz in the ongoing saga of Lisbeth Salander. Salander continues to make enemies, like Benito, a fellow prisoner who rules the roost by terrorizing other prisoners. Salander takes a protective interest in one prisoner, Faria, who has managed to bring out the worst in Benito. And, you know Salander never lets anything go. There are parallel stories about Faria's past and an unethical twin study in which Salander was part of. Lagercrantz does a better job of trying loose ends and making sense of what's going on by the book's end.

Larsson, Stieg. (2009). The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. NY: Alfred P. Knopf. The last of the Millennium Trilogy series. If you have read the previous two books, then you have to read this one as it bring everything to a satisfying conclusion by tying up all the loose ends. It is one of those books you hate to see end and it is somewhat sad that Larsson is no longer around to enjoy the success of these 3 books. If you like courtroom drama then you will love this book. I have to say that that my favorite character is Annika Giannini, Salander's lawyer. If I ever needed a lawyer, she would be the one! Definitely worth the spend you spend reading this book.

Larsson, Stieg. (2009). The Girl who Played with Fire. NY: Vintage Books. The second book of the Millennium Trilogy which finds Lisbeth Salander is being accused of murder but will not come out in her own defense. Mikael Blomkvist tries to do as much as he can to help her. Telling you more will only ruin it, so you have to read the book, which is worth the time you spend with it.

Larsson, Stieg. (2008). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. NY: Vintage Books. Definitely one of the best murder mystery books to gain mass appeal in recent years. Lisbeth Salander is a gifted hacker who lives by her own rules and not exactly one you would want to tangle with. She is recruited by the journalist Mikael Blomkvist to research the grisly murders that may hold the key to the disappearance of the niece of a rich corporate type who hired him to look into what happened. Definitely a can't-put-down book that is well-written. Some nuances may have been missed by the English translation, but still an enjoyable read nevertheless.

Latus, Janine. (2007). If I am Missing or Dead. A Sister' s Story of Love, Murder and Liberation. NY: Simon and Shuster. A true story about two women, both who were smart, but not when it came to relationships with men, and how one eventually loses her life. An emotionally raw honest portrayal of the tenuous relationship women have with their self-esteem and how far they should go to please the men in their lives and how much they conceal from themselves and others.

Levison, Iain. (2002). A Working Stiff's Manifesto. NY:Random House Trade Paperbacks. An autobiography of a sad case of the American Dream gone awry - an intelligent college grad scraping by in today's economic climate. I am glad he decided to record his horrible work experiences. Even better would be a movie adaptation with Edward Norton playing the lead. You really don't know how good you've got it until you see what Levison had to go through, sometimes for just $9.00 an hour. Read it and weep.

Levitin, Daniel J. (2006). This is Your Brain on Music. NY:PlumeBook. This is more about music theory than the music we llisten to. This is probably the book to read if you really want to know what music appreciation is all about. However, do not despair if you don't understand most of the book thinking you need to understand all this to appreciate music. But, you will come away with an appreciation of just how complex music is. Even though we may not be able to explain why we like one song or one genre more than another, we understand music enough to know the nuance embedded in the music memories we have, and don't anyone mess with those memories! The book is challenging to read and I have only scratched the surface of what it means to really appreciate music.

Levitt, Steven D. & Dubner, Stephen J. (2005). Freakonomics. A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. NY:HarperCollins Publishers. It is actually a statistical look at modern society that no one ever bothered to do up to this point. The authors do try to put social trends into a new perspective that is worth your time to explore, like how names betray the social class of the parents who pick them for their children, an explanation for lower crime rates, and what exactly is a perfect parent. Challenge your thinking and read this book!

Liu, Eric. (1998). The Accidental Asian. NY: Vantage Books. An autobiography of all first generation Americans born on US soil. A presidential speechwriter, Liu extends his craft to the printed page in his eloquent attempt to capture the angst of those who are torn between 2 cultures. While he is ethnically Chinese, he would much prefer to be just an American than a Chinese - or Asian American. Not to be missed, especially his chapter, Fear of a Yellow Planet's section on Glory - absolutely brilliant.

Lowe, Rob (2014). Love Life. NY: Simon and Shuster. Lowe continues to reminisce about his life and times in Hollywood. Of all the members of the Brat Pack, Lowe has managed to survive public life by continuing to work on the small screen. You have to give him credit for managing to keep working in a series of TV shows. What's most amazing is he is smart enough to not tell all or burn any bridges as he spills the beans. Most amazing of all is what a family man he is and what a devoted father.

Lowe, Rob (2011). Stories I Only Tell My Friends. NY: Henry Holt and Company. This is a great memoir of an actor who is sinfully handsome, and pays for it by not being taken too seriously. Lowe, a member of the Brat Pack, gets to share his life in a very readable narrative that does not share too much of the salacious details that he could have. He, however, does do a lot of name dropping, though not to impress the reader but to show he really did travel in the inner circles of Hollywood.

Unfortunately, he got shortchanged along the way because nobody thought he could do anything but look pretty in front of the camera. Actually, he comes off as quite creative and talented and has managed to put his life together so that he has made a decent living and got some well-deserved recognition. However, I thought he was unfairly mistreated during his West Wing years, probably from envy. So far, Lowe's book is the only one that really gives you a feel of what it's like to live the life of a Hollywood star and the trials to stay on top while trying to make sense of it all. Enjoyable reading.

Lubrano, A. (2004). Limbo. Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams NJ: John Wiley and Sons. Here is a first-hand look at what happens to those who chase the American Dream and then reach a semblance of it, thanks to education. Though this phenomenon is not new, Lubrano does add a personal perspective about how class differences affected his relationship with his family, supported by vignettes from others, a fraternity of "straddlers," people who feel uncomfortable with those who molded their childhood and those who make them feel estranged from the middle-class culture in their adulthood. However, I don't really think the lives of straddlers are that much different from those who came as immigrants to establish a new life in the U.S., nor from those who are the children of immigrants who then go on to excel in education. Straddlers are not as isolated as they may feel, but should revel in the fact that what they have become they have worked hard to achieve, and that is something those who were born rich will never understand. Good read.

Macrone, Michael. (1994). Eureka! 81 Key Ideas Explained. Probably everything you should have learned in college but someone on the curriculum committee forgot to mention. Learning them this way (on your own) is really painless and quite entertaining. Macrone really has a gift for explaining some of the most obtruse ideas great minds have thought up in the past few centuries. At least he understands them well enough to explain them to the rest of us. Great read.

Mann, William J. (2009). How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood. NY: Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt. Rather than take a cradle to the grave look at Elizabeth Taylor's life, Mann decided to structure the biography around the tempestuous relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. In the process, you will learn more about how she became a legend in her lifetime simply by not playing by the rules.

Indeed, Elizabeth Taylor probably was the last of the great movie stars who was bigger than life, with a private life that hardly was that but made for good gossip fodder and kept her perpetually in the limelight, for better or worse. Despite whatever missteps she may have taken, she really did live life on her own terms, come hell or high water. She was saavy enough to use whatever notoriety she generated by her lavish lifestyle to advance her career, and gambled that the public loved her, regardless, to justify her demands for the unheard of salary of $1,000.000 per picture.

Mann did a great job of making sense of how Elizabeth lived, with apologies to no one, while amassing jewels from her various husbands just because she expected to receive them. You will learn how Taylor manipulated the Hollywood machine to live the lifestyle she became accustomed to, and simply could not give up. Worth reading.

Mah, Adeline Yen. (1997). Falling Leaves. An autobiography of everyone who has ever felt unwanted and/or unloved, and how such emotional abuse does not have to ruin one's life. Truly a heartbreaking account of a Chinese woman who survived the worst of Chinese society and culture. In this case, fiction can hardly outdo fact. A must-read.

McCarthy, Cormac. (2006). The Road. . NY: Random House. A somewhat depressing post-apocalyptic travelogue of a man and his young son trying to survive as long as they can. A Pulitzer Prize winning novel, but not necessarily for everyone. The lack of quotation marks made it hard at times to follow the dialogue.

McCourt, Frank. (1997). Angela's Ashes. An autobiography of everyone who has lived an impoverished childhood and tried to make sense of it. It is possible to rise above the most adverse of life's circumstances, but it helps to have a little humor.

McCourt, Frank. (1999). 'Tis. A memoir, and follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angela's Ashes." A worthy sequel but not as intense. The ending was a slight letdown, but his recounting of his misadventures with the New York City school system as a totally unappreciated teacher is worth reading.

McCourt, Frank. (2006). Teacher Man. A NY: Scribner. McCourt returns to the writing style that made Angela's Ashes so popular, and goes a little more in-depth about being a teacher for 30 years in the New York City School system. He finally finds his niche in teaching creative writing, but doesn't reach this epiphany until his marriage ends and he is close to 50. Though he seemed to have wasted away much of his life lost in his inability to find meaningfulness in what he did, he is nevertheless inspiring because he knows how to weave a good tale from observing what is happening around him. Teachers and would-be teachers should read this to gain some insight into what it's like to teach in inner-city schools. He was fortunate to have had the support of parents who wanted a better life for their kids.

McDougall, Christopher (2011). Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. This book is basically about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyon, the most natural born runners on the face of the earth. However, the book digresses quite a bit and tries to cover too much territory, just like all the ultrarunners that get ink and numerous pages that are interesting tidbits of personal courage, but takes away from the cohesiveness that would have made this a more readable book. It reads more like a series of magazine articles than a book about what makes Tarahumara Indians run forever. McDougall happens to be a journalist, who is a wannabe ultrarunner, and makes his living writing magazine articles. But writing for magazines is really a horse of a different color, when it comes to book writing. It may explain why the book seems so disjointed. By the end, I still don't know why Tarahumara Indians are such superathletes, and while ultrarunners may be blessed with unending endurance, I still have no inkling of what motivates them to torture their bodies to the extreme. However, I can see this book can have a cult following among extreme athletes who may have found their existence justified in print. Interesting to read, but not enlightening. Since it's about real people, having some photos would have made the book more interesting.

McFarlane, Evelyn & Saywell, James. (1999). How Far Will You Go? This is one of those books you must read. Though it consists of a series of 500 questions, some are the toughest I have ever faced. How would you answer - "What is the single nastiest thing you've ever done to someone?" Answer that honestly, and go to the head of the class. If you want to challenge yourself at all levels, then read this book.

McGreevey, James E. (2006). The Confession. NY: HarperCollins Books. True to his Roman Catholic upbringing, McGreevey, ex-governor of New Jersey, fesses up to everything that has ailed him for over 40 years. But, would his readers offer him the absolution he craves? Perhaps, it's more of a cautionary tale of blind ambition, and how those who are this ambitious eventually get taken down by those who are are just, if not more ambitious, as they are but too insecure to see the bigger picture. The book is worth reading not so much for the tormented gay theme of a closeted life, but for the revealing look at local and state politics, and why some equate politics with the word "dirty." It's also a good look at how self-deception can be used to justify just about everything one would do not to get caught, and how living the "down low" is the most despicable form of existence - hurting those too trusting to suspect the cheating that, by any other name, is still cheating. And, I do have a sneaking suspicion that McGreevey is still campaigning, and his public life is not yet quite over.

McLaughlin, E., & Kraus, N. (2002). The Nanny Diaries. NY: St. Martin's Press. A fictional account of a modern-day governess who slaves for an unappreciative highly unlikable and unsympathetic well-to-do NYC family. Written with much humor and occasional stabs at the rich's sterile existence in which children are true pawns who are left to the care of those who really care.

Moalem, S. & Prince, J. (2007). Survival of the Sickest. A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease. NY: HarperCollins. The author, a researcher and physician, takes the reader on an interesting journey into the brave new world of Genomics. While Genomics is a relatively new area of current scientific interest, the study of genetics has been around for a long time, once scientists were able to study life at the DNA level.

Moalem explores the scientific wonders of how humans adapt to the environment they find themselves in, and how disease has actually made us more adaptive to the life around us, at the same time serving the purposes of these pathogens' need to survive and reproduce. In the vein of symbiotic existence, the reader learns to appreciate that not only do the strong survive, but the most cleverest as well. This is a wonderful book to get you up to speed about all the basic science research that is going on these days and what they have learned about how we continue to evolve and change as we tango with whatever we share our existence with.

Moser-Wellman, A. (2001). The Five Faces of Genius. The Skills to Master Ideas at Work Viking Press. Here is a truly great book that brings together psychology and practical skills to the workplace. The author is definitely an alchemist - one of five creative skill sets of this personality model. Don't miss if you want to learn more about creativity and how to make the most of your strengths and ameliorate the weak areas of your creative thinking!

Mukherjee, Siddhartha. (2010). The Emperor of All Maladies NY: Scribner. The DEFINITIVE history of cancer! Mukherjee, a physician, is a gifted writer who made reading about the most dreaded disease to plague mankind for centuries a must-read. As he provides an historical narrative of how cancer has been around for so long, he also provides a companion narrative of the various treatments for various cancers over time. He offers the hope that we may someday conquer the dreaded disease in its many manifestations because of how our medical knowledge has changed Man's approach to conquering the disease. Reading this book will help you appreciate that cancer cells, like humans, will do anything to survive. We just have to survive longer than they do.

Orth, Maureen. (1999). Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History. NY: Random House. If you are not a fan of True Crime, you will be after reading Orth's great literary odyssey across the emotional, psychological and geographical landscape of a very sick mind. Never one to judge the criminal mind, her compassionate portrayal will leave you almost as sorry about the wasted gifts Cunanan squandered as you would be for the families devastated by the deaths of his victims.

Ozment. Steven. (1996). The Burgermeister's Daughter. Scandal in a Sixteen Century German Town NY: HarperPerennial. This is the amazing true story of Anna Buschler, the oldest daughter of Hermann Buschler, a mayor of the German town of Hall, who gave her father and siblings grief until the day she died. Incredibly, there were strict laws about inheritance in the 1600s but Hermann felt he didn't have to follow the rules and showed favoritism to his son, totally snubbing Anna by disinheriting her. Well, Anna will not have any of the diss and took the matter to court, over and over again. Yes, many different courts, over and over again, until the courts got so tired of her that they decided to do a grand review, bringing 39 witnesses to attest to her character, pro and con.

Thanks to detailed records kept from that time, Ozment did a great job of piecing the records into a coherent and interesting narrative of German life in the 1600s. In the end, Anna never got her what was rightfully hers and part of the problem may have been her combative nature and the penchant for making terrible decisions about relationships. And, the other lesson, parents should never show favoritism to one child over another in such a way that it would cause lifelong dissension among the siblings.

Palov, C.M. (2010). The Templar's Code. NY: Berkly Books. Think Indiana Jones meets National Treasure. Caedmon Aisquith is a ABD British historian who is obsessed with Templars, and his lady love, Edie Miller is his research assistant. They are on a quest to find the Emerald Tablet that would revive his wannabe academic career. Sadly, people are dying left and right as they get closer to this relic. Will they ever find it? An easy read.

Parrish, T. (2013). Fear and what Follows. The Violent Education of a Christian Racist. A Memoir MS: University Press of Mississippi. This book was chosen as the common read for SCSU's 2014 freshmen, so I decided to read it. As a memoir, it was an interesting read. However, it didn't provide too much of a context for evaluating the feelings he shared throughout about how his upbringing affected his life. It is somewhat reminiscent of Frank McCourt's Angela Ashes, in portraying the hardscrabble life of working people and the salvation they find in family, but the prose is not as fluid as McCourt's.

Parrish grew up in the deep South, the youngest of 3 brothers, with parents who worked at minimum wage jobs. He recalls the changes that were brought on by the '60s, and how the civil rights movement caused major changes to his life, neighborhood and schools as integration begins to take hold.

He is an honor student and an athlete, but in many ways he is an underachiever who wanted so badly to fit in that he fell into the wrong crowd. His need to please his father is the driving force that undermines his self-esteem even though it seems like he has never spoken to his father about these expectations. It is only what he thinks his father means that really drives his actions. Or, so Parrish says.

The reader is only privy to his interpretation of events that occurred around him, and they are only his recollections. Perhaps, this is a major weakness of memoirs in general, as we can selectively remember events that we would like to remember in the emotional hues that color them. Our memories are not necessarily photographs of what really happened, but paintings.

For sure, adolescent emotions are powerful, and powerful emotions tend to leave their indelible mark on one's life much more readily than a well-thought out narrative. This is probably one of the reasons why some environmental trigger can bring back the raw emotions we have associated with that particular environmental trigger.

By the book's end, I still get the feeling that Parrish is still grappling with his adolescent emotions because he has still to work through those emotions in a more meaningful way. Writing the book probably helped a lot, and it may help others to verify their own adolescent struggles with what are seen as negative emotions. Emotions, after all, for better or worse, are powerful things.

Petroski, H. (2003). Small Things Considered. NY: Alfred A Knopf. If you can accept the fact that this was written by a civil engineer with the penchant to analyze everything to death, then you can move on, especially after the first 25 pages spent on the imperfections of the water glass. He goes on to talk about all the things we see every day but simply take for granted, like the location of light switches, angle of a tootbrush, etc. The most interesting tidbits include the creation of the rotary-dial telephone by an undertaker who was paranoid about losing business to his competitor, and the differences in numerical sequencing on the cellphone and the calculator. Never noticed that, eh? Petroski makes the case for design in everything we do, from menu planning to remodeling, and while no design is perfect, everything still works and mankind is forever adaptable. However, I suspect that we wouldn't mind if all the remote controls in our lives can simply share the same programming, as the VCR, DVD, TV, blah, blah, blah. Nice reading for the trivia buff.

Peyser, A. (2009). Celebutards: The Hollywood Hacks, Limousine Liberals, and Pandering Politicians Who Are Destroying America. NY: Citadel Press. New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser scathingly skewers all those who think they are making news when all they are doing is producing tabloid fodder. Peyser has definitely done her research and provides accurately biosketches of their public persona, as we commonly know them. She takes on presidents, actors, singers and so-called celebrities and poignantly picks apart their forays into politics and the world arenas that Peyser feels they do not belong. And, she is right. Why should they have any credence at all concerning issues they know nothing about? Why are their efforts to do good in the public be any more important than what the average person does, but without much fanfare? It makes you think about what motives so-called celebutards have for doing what they do. This book is a guilty pleasure for me, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading - it is.

Preston, D. (2007). Blasphemy. NY: Tom Doherty Associates. A dozen renown scientists, along with its charismatic leader, Dr. Hazelius, work to replicate the collision that gave rise to the Big Bang Theory. In the process they couldn't get the supercollider to work properly because they fear it is being hacked, but are not so sure when it appears an intelligence has taken over the machine. Could this be really God? This techno-thriller is a page-turner that raises the question of whether it is possible to merge Religion and Science in the quest for Truth. Good summer reading.

Preston, D. (2005). Tyrannosaur Canyon. Forge Books. A vet who enjoys the big outdoors comes upon a man who's been shot. The dying man makes the vet promise to give a notebook to his daughter, then dies without providing any information as to who he is or where to find his daughter. From here the book stays suspenseful all the way to the end, with some science mixed in with good effect. A good escape novel.

Preston, D. & Spezi, M. (2008). The Monster of Florence: A True Story. NY: Grand Central Publishing. The true story of how the author and an Italian journalist become enmeshed in the ongoing investigation of serial murders that plagued Florence over a twenty year period. At book's end, one is never too sure if the person the authors identified as the serial killer was, in fact, the actual killer. It was unfortunate that the authors were caught up in the political cloud that hung over the investigations, and how this miscarriage of justice could occur even in our day and age.

Rich, F. (2006). The Greatest Story Ever Sold. NY: Penguin Books. Though the book reads like a summary of current events, this book will be a goldmine for future historians when they try to make sense of the U.S. in the early 21st century. This book will help the reader to understand the convoluted politics of the day and the games played by those in power. Rich is a wonderful writer who makes every effort to look for the truth behind the smoke and mirrors. And, coming from someone who has lived the time, Rich is right on the mark.

Rivenbark, Celia. (2004). We're Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle. NY: St. Martin's Press. If you enjoyed Erma Bombeck's take on American culture, then you will enjoy Rivenbark's take on U.S. southern culture. People who live in the southern states sure have their own way of living. I can attest to her take, having lived in the South for a few years. Spot on. Had some good belly laughs, and that's good for the soul.

Rivers, Melissa. (2015). The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation. NY: Crown/Archetype. Joan's daughter is definitely the apple that did not fall too far from the tree. Melissa does justice to the memory of Joan Rivers in the best ways she knew how, through humor. With this book you do get to know Joan Rivers. In fact, you can hear her in the dialogues Melissa writes about. It should have been called "Mommie Dearest," but that title has already been spoken for. Many opportunities to laugh your head off.

Rushkoff, D. (1999). Coercion. Why We Listen to What "They" Say. NY: Riverhead Books. A current updating of Vance Packard's (you may need to look this guy up and check out his other great book, "The Status Seekers") "Hidden Persuaders." It is somewhat frightening to see how parasitic marketers are in preying on the consumer, and how insidious the media has been in trying to influence our thinking. Rushkoff's object lesson can be aptly stated in what Pogo said a long time ago - "We Have Seen the Enemy, and He is Us". I suppose if we "wanted" fewer things, we would not be such ready targets for the pressure to buy, buy, buy. But, then again, who doesn't want to be wanted??? Good read.

Salamon, J. (2008). Hospital. NY: Penguin Press. While this is an inside look, over a year's time, of how Brooklyn, NY's Maimonides Hospital work, it is really a portrait of American hospitals today. Oh, the politics will astound you! It is amazing that medical care is provided at all, but it is, and very well, most of the time, despite the politics. Salamon is a very talented writer who delves into all the players she interview without necessarily probing too hard, but you get a very clear picture of what motivates people, from the cleaning staff to he CEO, to work in the hospital setting. If you want to understand what hospital care is all about, you should read this book!

Sales, Nancy Jo (2016). American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers. NY: Alfred A. Knopf. Journalist Sales interviewed over two hundred girls between thirteen and nineteen from various socioeconomic backgrounds and a variety of demographic locations across the U.S. about their use of social media. Regardless of their circumstances they are rabid and excessive users of social media. This use has affected their growth and development and their relationship with boys in social settings, both online and offline.

A terrifying picture emerges of teen girls developing their self-worth based on how they feel they are perceived on social media. Sadly, it's more about how they want to be perceived, and that is the unending pursuit to gather as many likes as they can from anonymous online users. Sadly, females are viewed as sexual objects because of the prevalent use of porn that portrays women in a hypersexualized way that demeans women on many levels.

The girls Sales interviewed are now attending college. So, (in 2019) I asked my students about some of things I read in the book to see how true the things I read in this book were, and sadly, Sales is right on mark with her description of Generation Z. Yes, getting likes on social media is important. Taking bathroom selfies does happen, etc., etc. Everyone should read this book, especially parents of girls, and girls themselves, For girls/women of all ages, this is a must-read.

Salsburg, D. (2001). The Lady Tasting Tea. How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century. NY: WH Freeman. This humanities-approach look at how Statistics evolved into what it is today is quite insightful. A well-rounded interesting look at the personalities behind the named procedures we use as statisticians. However, I must say that it's incredible that the pettiness of such "great" minds did not undermine the genius each displayed in his own way. I think that increasing accessibility during the 1990s of statistical software programs for the broader audience of numbers crunchers has probably done more to demystify and lessen the anxiety of statistics in our lives, but not necessarily the mathematical theories that seem only to make sense within their own universes. It really wasn't necessary for Salzburg to apologize for not including "everyone" in his Afterword, but it would have been a great benefit if he did summarize all the issues and problems facing Statistics that he identified and mentioned throughout the book. A worthwhile book for those who work as statisticians to discover and appreciate how easy their lives are today as compared to the early 1900s when "computers" and "calculators" were women who spent months tediously doing and redoing the math....

Schiff, Stacy. (2010). Cleopatra. NY: Little, Brown and Company. Here is the definitive biography of Cleopatra VII, the last of the Ptolemies to rule Egypt. Yes, the Cleopatra who had children with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and portrayed on screen by Elizabeth Taylor, and soon by Angelina Jolie. This scholarly approach to telling Cleopatra's story required the author to weave together many disparate narratives from numerous ancient and recent historians into one cohesive story that was fascinating and educational. I learned so much about Roman, Greek and Egyptian history! And, I enjoyed Schiff's asides, which spiced up the narrative.

Since her death over 2000 years ago, Cleopatra continues to generate excitement and mythmaking, which makes it difficult to separate the truth from myth. Since she was a woman, though powerful at the time, very little has been written by her or those close to her. Then again, she did kill off those who were related to her so she wouldn't have any competitors for the throne.

Schiff had to rely on contemporary narratives that were self-serving, and narratives written hundreds of years later that were more artistic than historical to come up with a biography that is about as objective as anyone can hope for. If nothing else, Cleopatra was a survivor who knew the meaning of expediency. This bio is enjoyable and worth reading.

Seckel, A. (2003). Incredible Visual Illusions. London:Arcturus Publishing Limited. Here is something completely different. You do get to read a little, but you will spend most of your time trying to figure out how your eyes are playing tricks on the way you perceive things. Is that really movement in 2D? How can there be so much depth on a flat piece of paper? You will thoroughly enjoy this book, trust me.

See, L. (2014). China Dolls NY: Random House. Want to know how Chinese women interested in show business lived before and during World War II? See uses this time period as the backdrop to tell the story of 3 friends, Grace, Helen and Ruby. They come from different backgrounds, but share the love of the stage and the thrill of applause. Each character gets to say her piece and share her thinking of events occurring in her life and her thoughts and feelings about the other two women.

As you become enmeshed in their inner and outer lives, you become ensnared by the events that no one has control over, and as the book progresses, the secrets lives of these women are revealed, like peeling an onion, and we know what happens with onions. If you are interested in the Chinese-American and Japanese-American experience, as well as the American entertainment landscape during the 1930s to the 1940s, then this book is for you. A great read.

See, L. (1995). Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family. NY: Vintage Books. See tells the story of Chinese in America since 1867, but from a family saga perspective. Weaving an enticing narrative that covers the lives of her great-great-grandfather, Fong See, and his many descendants, both Chinese and non-Chinese, readers get a real taste of what Chinese Americans have had to deal with, from inter-racial marriages that could only take place in Mexico, to how the See family survived the political changes in China.

See is a gifted storyteller who manages to tell the story of every American immigrant experience (only Native Americans are exempt) through the history of her own multi-generational family saga. Her even-handed approach to portraying her ancestors as real people (although they come off as well-developed fictional characters) struggling with personal and family issues make this biographical journey worthy for a reader ride-along.

The fluidity of the narrative made it so easy to follow the passage of time through the experiences of each generation as the See family slowly assimilates into the American landscape while trying to hold on to its Chinese heritage. But, everyone will find at least one of See's ancestors among their own (yeah, I have an uncle like that, etc.)

Perhaps, the greatest gift See offers to the reader is a re-awakening of an appreciation for our own relatives as people with hopes and dreams of their own, many of which are never known to the younger generations simply because we just see them as just relatives who get together on holidays. Once we see our ancestors as flesh and blood beings, with strengths and failings, we become more complete individuals because our connection to the past is no longer just flesh and blood, but a continuation of the collective experiences of people who have come together to share Life that is there, and to make the life better from what is not. Worth your time.

See, L. (2005). Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. NY: Vintage Random House. In this historical novel, See explores the lives of two women in nineteenth-century China. See takes on the role of the narrator, Lily, as she talks about her long life as it relates to her sisterly (laotong) relationship with Snow Flower. Such a relationship was meant to provide an emotional companionship for the two women who are matched from childhood, and meant to last a lifetime. The book is an emotionally satisfying look at what a true friendship can mean for those lucky enough to be in such a relationship.

Over the years they communicated by writing letters to one another on a fan with Nü Shu, a secret phonetic form of 'women's writing. They share their experiences with footbinding, marriage, escaping the Taiping Rebellion, the births and lives of their children and the death of Snow Flower. Throughout the years, Lily is in awe of Snow Flower, a daughter of a prosperous family and emulates her for much of her young life. However, as time goes on, circumstances change beyond their control and they must deal with these changes without destroying their friendship. Having See narrating makes this an intimate look at how we think we know others but really don't and that it's easy to misunderstand others without meaning to when we look at others through our unrealistic perceptions of others. Worth reading.

See, L. (2017). The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. NY: Scribner. The underlying theme? Everyone deserves a little happiness in their lives. See's novel provides an overview of the tea trade in China, from the harvesting of tea leaves to what you drink from a cup, through the lives of tea growers in Yunnan. The time period covers the late 1980s up to the present. Additionally, we get to learn about the Akha people, a minority population living in China that make their living around tea through the experiences of Li-yan, the only daughter of the village's midwife/healer.

Discovered to be intellectually gifted by a teacher, Li-yan is offered the opportunity to continue her education way beyond the years expected for the hill people. Then she goes through adolescence during which much of her dreams are dashed through circumstances dictated by local customs and a love gone wrong. Nevertheless, she perseveres and overcomes many setbacks and given an opportunity to go to higher education to learn about the tea trade. Wonderful ending. This is worth reading.

Sheff. D (2008). Beautiful Boy. NY: Houghton Mifflin Company. A harrowing true account of how a father dealt with a son who became a methamphetamine addict in his mid-teens. While one may question the maturity of a father who would share a joint with a son who has a drug problem, it does paint a realistic of picture of parents who think being their child's buddies is the role they should play. The book is really more about the father who had to grow up himself to deal with his son's problems than it was about the son who got lost in the divorce wars and could not live up to the expectations of others, least of all himself. Sheff does provide some guidance for others who have a family member with a drug problem. His insight into the destructive life of being a codependent is invaluable, as are his experiences with support groups.

Shenk, David. (1997). Data Smog. NY:HarperCollins Publishers. Basically, an eloquent journalist obsessing over the possible implications of a highly technical society for his trade. More seriously, an entertaining book about the curses rather than the blessings of Technology, more specifically, the double-edged sword of Internet access. What Shenk refers to as information is really data, and data are only as useful as our interpretation of them. It will make you think twice about what we take for granted as a wealth of information is really impoverishing our quality of life.

Shenk, David. (2010). The Genius in All of Us. NY: Doubleday. Only half of this book is the text, the rest documents the research Shenk has done to support his premise - that we can all achieve anything we want to achieve, regardless and in spite of genetics. However, most of the research he shares in the second half tend to support the power of genetics, more than anything else. So, he is more of an optimist than a realist when he contends that if we put enough "deliberate practice" (p. 54) into mastering a skill we can do anything.

This runs counter-intuitively against what we know from daily experience. As much as I would like to be a world class marathon runner, and I trained in the "deliberate practice" mode for many months, the best I did was 4 1/2 hours. That's my personal best. Women have yet to run a sub-2, and that really does have to do with genetics.

Perhaps, the important takeaway point from this engaging book is that putting effort into mastering a skill does not go unrewarded. Similarly, we have all known people who were born with a gift that they never bothered to nurture, and thus, wasted that gift. And, this is the saddest story of all. Finally, "children develop only as the environment demands development" (p. 174) calls for an educational environment that challenges children to develop the skills that they will need to adapt and change because that is what's Life is all about.

Skloot, Rebecca (2010). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks NY: Crown Publishers. This is the fascinating story of an African American woman who died from an extremely rare aggressive form of cervical cancer, but her cancer cells continue to live on even today, some 50+ years later. These cells have been used for medical research all these years and have tremendously enhanced Science's understanding of many diseases and phenomena that would not have been possible without the availability of living human cells that can be grown outside the human body.

Skloot has done a wonderful job in raising the reader's awareness of who this woman was and the contributions her cells have made to Science and Medicine. You will also get to learn about her life, her family and what happened to her children and grandchildren. And, you will really want to know all about Henrietta, and how wonderful she was to people who knew her, and how great the loss was when she died, at the age of 30.

You will also develop an appreciation of the lives of African-Americans growing up in the South and the kinds of family relationships they grew up in. And, you will understand why it is so important to communicate clearly what it is you want to say to avoid any misunderstanding. Perhaps, the saddest lesson to come out of this book is how no one in the medical establishment ever bothered to explain to Henrietta's family what happened to her. It took this writer to right the wrong experienced by this family for so many years. If I could request an author to write my biography, I would request Skloot. Great book, not to be missed!

Sotomayor, Sonia (2014). My Beloved World NY: Doubleday. This book was chosen as the common read for SCSU's 2013 freshmen, so I decided to read it, and truly enjoyed it. Sotomayor and I have one thing in common, we both grew up in the Bronx. So, I understand exactly where she was coming from. However, her life is much more colorful than mine, and much more accomplished.

Do not expect to read anything about what she is doing currently as a Supreme Court judge, she is probably saving that juicy story for when she retires, if she ever retires at all. This memoir, however, covers her life, all the way to the Supreme Court steps, and it's a pretty inspiring story. One thing I can tell you is that Sotomayor is relishing every moment she is sitting on the Supreme Court bench and that you can be assured she is doing her best to ensure that justice is done.

Sotomayor is a woman who is undeterred by anything that gets in her way. However, at the same time, she is willing to work through all the barriers in the way, and she will work her hardest. Her dedication to everything she has chosen to do is exemplary. It is probably why she would have a hard time being married, and as you read this, you will see why there is no room in her life for marriage. The life of a Supreme Court justice is more demanding than anything in life has to offer. While she is not without her pet interests, she is honest about them and lets you know where she stands. It is much easier to accept rulings from someone like this than one with a hidden agenda. If you really want to know what it's like to be a lawyer, then her book is really worth reading. It is so nice to know that a person like Sotomayor is sitting on the bench, and she is really not that much different from you or I.

Stossel, John (2006). Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel -- Why Everything You Know is Wrong NY: Hyperion. John Stossel, Consumer Reporter for 20/20 tries to debunk everything he possibly can get his hands on in this book. He does admit that he has changed his stance on some of the issues he grapples with, but it is clear that he believes in "Live and Let Live". Some of the more interesting tidbits gleaned from reading his book is why the press deserves bad press. Stossel minces no words, and is as confrontational as Michael Moore, which makes for interesting reading, though you will probably feel sorry for those he targets. He does put to rest all the bogus beliefs currently circulating, and does try to help the consumer save money by not getting ripped off. Worth reading if you can handle his confrontational style.

Suckling, Nigel. (2000). Year of the Dragon - Legends & Lore. NY:Barnes & Noble. Based on the travelogue from the 1800s, a visitor of China takes a serious approach to the most mythical of creatures - the dragon. Next time, count the number of claws a dragon has. You'll have to read the book to learn why.

Surowiecki, James. (2005). The Wisdom of Crowds. NY:Anchor Books. Groups can be smarter than the smartest people who are part of them, so Surowiecki asserts, in his sociological approach to human behavior. That is why juries work, and why the more diverse the group is, the more powerful they are at addressing problems. The key is diversity, because there is the danger of "groupthink" within small homogenous groups. The author introduces us to "confirmation bias" that causes decision makers to look for the bits of information that confirm their underlying intuitions (p. 178), and the idea that reaching consensus is not necessarily going to result in the best solution, only the least offending one. Thus, the wisdom from crowds is coming up with a better answer than any particular individual, on average, without necessarily guaranteeing the right answer (p. 235). This textbook is useful in helping us to become less reliant on what experts supposedly can provide us - answers we can find ourselves, with a little help from the people around us.

Sykes, Charles J. (1988). ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education. An unvarnished critique of academia and how it has failed to fulfill its mission. Not exactly what we like to learn about how our tuition gets wasted by the politics of education, but you will become a better consumer of educational products nevertheless.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable. NY: Random House. An excellent book about the importance of taking into account all these events that seem to be outliers. After all, no one has seen it all, which means we cannot discount the possibility that it really doesn't exist. Taleb asks the reader to be comfortable enough to accept what is currently unexplained as a potential explanation for some phenomena that we are only beginning to explore. It is a thought-provoking book that you can easily lose yourself in, and that's a good thing. Definitely worth reading.

Tenner, Edward (1996). Why Things Bite Back. Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. NY: Vintage Books. Is a futurist only as good as his predictions realized? A decade after its publication, Tenner's book is still as relevant as ever. Though I didn't mean to "test" his hypotheses, it just took me this long to get to this book, in 2005, and it was worth all the time I could spend with it (among everything else I had to do and read along the way). All the "ghosts in the machines" we nonchalantly refer to when things don't work right may be "spirits" we need to appease, after all!

Tenner posits that while Man has made the most of Technology to improve our lives, our creations have come back to haunt our peace of mind. Unlike God's creations, which are basically self-perpetuating and ecologically appropriate, what Man creates, however, through Technology cannot sustain themselves, but must be nurtured with vigilance. When all we were looking for were time-saving devices to make our lives easier (i.e., washing machines), the broader outcome turns out to be the need to use the time we have saved in doing tedious tasks of daily living to maintaining the systems we thought would take care of themselves (self-correcting, right!).

Tenner sees the development of systems (which is the basic idea behind quality assurance and quality management) as not the blessings we thought they would be, but a way to complicate our need to sustain them by spending more time keeping them running smoothly, or heaven help us all if something should break down. Because Technology is so good at standardizing things, personalization has lost its edge to the point that we no longer own things, but they own us. He is probably right we may never see the paperless office we envisioned when computers and fax machines replaced typewriters, and we will always need the car mechanic (who must now be computer saavy) when the dream machines being developed are electronic systems that cannot be tinkered with by the weekend mechanic. Can "I, Robot" be far behind?

Tenner actually spends several chapters on how Technology has affected Medicine and Public Health (this book covers everything, believe me), and actually provides a very insightful explanation as to why medical errors have become the par for course, when we think that an MRI will reveal everything we will ever need to know about our health. To some extent, this is true, but we will need someone now who knows how to read those MRIs.... As Health Care becomes more reliant on machines to diagnose and treat, we can only suffer from the revenge effects of complicating the whole process of diagnosis and treatment.

Perhaps, Tenner's perspective explains why the fracturing of health services we are seeing today is really a result of our growing and unrealistic expectations of what Medicine should be doing for us - that Technology can surely cure everything that ails us, regardless of how we treat our bodies and minds. And, what about Public Health? The ability to build high smokestacks allowed industries to comply with local clean air standards only to spread their pollution over a broader geographic area...

Tenner is the 21st Century Renaissance Man who will hopefully not meet the fate of Cassandra. His book is a must-read for developing a mindset that will be needed to understand the sometimes self-defeating approaches Civilization takes towards Life. Technology must be understood in order to be harnessed. While Technology's children has brought much joy into our lives, they must be disciplined so they will grow up to be productive adults that will contribute than be a weight on society.

Truss, Lynne (2003). Eats, Shoots & Leaves. NY: Gotham Books. A more appropriate title would probably be "Punctuation Matters" though not so much that it's a book about the proper use of ".,"'()[]{};, etc. but more that punctuation matters. While Truss does provide some pointers on how to properly punctuate any sentence under the sun, the book should really be appreciated for the historical insight she provides about how punctuation came about. Given that the use of punctuation has been somewhat a fluid and an evolving practice to clarify written thought, it does not help that writers perpetually break the rules of grammar as a matter of creative license while mere mortals like ourselves must obey the technical aspects of writing just so we won't look stupid. Great read.

Truss, Lynne (2005). Talk to the Hand #?*! The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. NY: Gotham Books. If you get annoyed at the pervasive rudeness all around you, then this is the book for you. Truss, more confident from her success in championing the bane of high school English teachers around the world, takes on our present society's growing attitude of ignoring the existence of others in public, which is basically reflected in rude behavior. Obviously, rudeness is not just an American malady, but can be found anywhere that you find people too self-absorbed to treat others with any sense of dignity. Just think of all the times on the highway in which you are followed by some idiot, whether in a car or tractor trailer, who simply cannot keep his fingers off the headlights. What is the point, praytell, to furiously flashing your headlights on the person in front of you? Like the road belongs to only you?? Leave your house 5 minutes earlier, buddy. See? You will find many reasons to agree with Truss in her ranting over the insensitive actions of others who don't know the meaning of manners or social graces. You will chuckle at her put-downs, ever so gentle, and you will laugh at her solutions to correcting the problem of the growing population of bores who can improve everyone's day by just staying home. Good read.

Vincent, Norah (2006). Self-Made Man. One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man NY: Penguin Books. The author successfully passes as her alter ego, Ned, living the life of a man in public life, as a member of a men's bowling team, and a men's empowerment group, a door-to-door salesman, then lives in a monastery, go to strip clubs and dates women "he" meets on the Internet, and lives to tell about it all.

This is probably the most interesting book I have read in quite awhile, because she has done what hardly any woman would think of doing and what even few men would experience. Her writing is so insightful and reveals that being a man is not so great as most women think it is and what few men would admit to. It is somewhat sad that she would conclude that men and women can only peacefully co-exist by living parallel lives. However, it is also nice that she came out of this realizing it's great being a woman. A must-read for EVERYONE, for a better understanding of gender roles and how they affect our lives.

Vos Savant, M. (1996). The Power of Logical Thinking. NY: St. Martin's Griffin. A great book about analytical thinking from the woman with an IQ of 200. Just think, it's probably higher when you think the creators probably had IQs <200. Vos Savant makes excellent attempts to simplify the principles of probability. However, let's face it, much of probability is so counter-intuitive that it will probably make no sense to you anyway (especially if you think you can win the lottery).

The most enlightening portions of this book are the scalding comments from PhDs all over the world who are convinced that Vos Savant knows nothing about math (because she doesn't have a PhD AND the fact that she's a woman). Kudos to Vos Savant for not backing down from these academic bullies.

The last part of the book analyzes the statistical misformation that Clinton and Perot forced down everyone's throats during the 1992 presidential campaign. Of course, in retrospect, these sins are hardly sins next to ....

Wagner, R.J. & Eyman, S. (2008). Pieces of My Heart. A Life NY: HarperCollins Publishers. Robert Wagner writes about his long life in entertainment. This is a tepid autobiography which does not address what really happened between him and Natalie Wood on the night she died, which was one of the reasons why I decided to read this. So, this one pales in comparison to Finstad's biography of Natalie Wood. There were a few and far between disses of people he had to work with, kudos to those whom he enjoyed working with and an inkling of the politics involved in getting parts and pictures or shows produced. The last twenty pages were probably the best in which Wagner shares what he has learned from living.

Washburn, K. & Thornton, J.F. (1996). Dumbing Down. Essays on the Strip Mining of American Culture. NY: Norton & Company. By the time I got to read this (2013), I found some essays to be prophetic, in retrospect, while others were still on the mark. In the 22 essays culled from various disciplines which looks at the slow but sure deterioration of American culture, I found 7 I really liked.

D.R. Slavitt looks at how our educational system turned education into a necessity, and then an entitlement so that now teachers can no longer give grades that reflect the effort (or lack of effort) students put into their education. Discrimination between what is good and bad, the point of a university education, is devalued as elitist. A. DeCurtis argues "high art" is exclusively a function of class. J. Epstein sees Art being destroyed by the emphasis on multiculturalization, or the politicization of art, and that maybe we don't really need the NEA to promote Art.

J.B. Twitchell talks about how advertising defines the products it promotes, and that is what we are buying - the meaning behind the products. Most interesting - no ads in books because the young are functionally illiterate. S. Birkerts foresees the mass use of social media as changing those who use it, and mourns the loss of awareness that is so essential to the human experience. A. Williams mourns the trend today of bolstering self-esteem in young people in place of real accomplishments. Finally, N. Waxman sees today's detailed recipe books too much."Perfection may be an outcome of rote performance, but excellence virtually never." (p. 302).

Weir, Andy. (2017). Artemis. A Novel. .NY: Crown Publishers. What would it like be if humans inhabited the Moon? Weir offers a glimpse of what it could be like to live on the Moon. Sadly, living on the Moon doesn't necessarily erases the influence of Earth's way of doing things. So, you have those who work and those who play, and those who make it possible to do these things by making sure everyone gets what need to be happy. Jazz Bashura, a teen smuggler hits the spot by bringing in and selling what people want from Earth, except for drugs and guns. She makes a living, but just barely until she is offered an enormous amount of money to blow-up some mining machinery. In the process she is drawn into a corporate conspiracy that could change life as Moon inhabitants as they know. A great suspenseful read.

Weir, Andy. (2021). Project Hail Mary. NY: Ballantine Publishers. The sun is dimming and no one knows why. This could mean catastrophe to Earth that relies on its rays for everything. However, there is a Tau Ceti star system that has not dimmed and Earth scientists want to know why. This sets the stage for implementing "Project Hail Mary," a scientific space mission to another galaxy to search for answers.

Ryland Grace is a junior high school science teacher who has a PhD. and he is recruited by Eva Stratt to join the team of international scientists to prepare for this mission. Grace ends up on this one-way mission and gets to make first contact with an alien. Together they search for answers that will save both planets with the same problem. Well worth reading. It is the only book I have ever read that made me sob when I finished it. So, it's that good.

Weir, Andy. (2011). The Martian. NY: Crown Publishers. After reading this enjoyable novel about how an astronaut survives living on Mars, it is amazing that Weir had such a hard time getting his book published. Well, a movie based on this book will be coming to the big screen. Basically, it is about an astronaut, Watney, who was accidentally left behind during a mission and has to wait for the next mission to pick him up, which is months away. Meanwhile, he has to survive till then. This book is a testament to the perseverance and optimism of one man to survive with his humor and mind intact. Definitely read this. It will give you hope that even when things look really bad all is not lost.

Wells, Martha (2017). The Murderbot Diaries (1): All Systems Red. NY: Tom Doherty Associates Book. An enjoyable sci-fi novella in which a security robot with organic parts gets to narrate what's going on around it. It is self-aware but is not sure it should be and its relationships with humans are somewhat tenuous. An interesting read.

Wells, Martha (2018). The Murderbot Diaries (2): Artificial Condition. NY: Tom Doherty Associates Book. Murderbot, in this sequel named, Eden, takes a a security job with Tapan, Maro and Rami, 3 scientists in their quest to have their research returned from a former employer. Tlacey, the employer, has no intention of returning the research, and Eden, with the help of ART, a transport robot, protect the scientists from being assassinated by Tlacey.

Eden's primary mission, however, was to find out why he murdered 57 people in a previous contract job, and needed clearance to get to the previous site that having a security job would allow for such clearance.

Once again, this novella is an easy read that could stand-alone without having read the first one.

Wells, Martha (2018). The Murderbot Diaries (3): Rogue Protocol. NY: Tom Doherty Associates Book. The self-aware SecUnit, self-named Rin in this novella, is roaming freely trying to find itself while enjoying endless hours of media feed. It helps out an assessment team that was ambushed by combat-bots at an abandoned terra-forming operation. The best sentence: "If you bother her again I will break every individual bone in your hand and arm. It will take about an hour." (p. 10) Priceless.

Wells, Martha (2018). The Murderbot Diaries (4): Exit Strategy. NY: Tom Doherty Associates Book. The self-aware SecUnit, now going by Jian and Kiran, decides to return to Dr. Mensah, its owner only to find she has been taken by GrayCris corporation for ransom. Another rescue takes up this novella as it somewhat concludes the arc for this series of 4. The ending does leave an opening for potential future adventures, which will be welcomed by fans.

Winchester, S. (2005). A Crack in the Edge of the World. America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 NY: HarperCollins Publishers. A truly fascinating read about an event that happened 100 years ago. It is easy how fast we can forget the catastrophic events that happened to those who lived through it long enough to give eyewitness accounts of such happenings. Winchester is a wonderful writer who manages to make an historical event interesting and suspenseful. He spends the first half of the book providing the various perspectives that will serve as a firm foundation for the reader to appreciate the final description of the actual event.

You get to learn about geology (if Geology was taught this way in the schools, maybe there would be more geologists), the cultural temperature of the 1800s, a mini history lesson of the wild West (if History was taught.....), and a wonderful history of the city of San Francisco itself, and its place in California history and politics. Those interested in Public Health may find this book useful in studying the aftermath of natural disasters, and all the problems that affect the Public Health in such instances.

However, the spirit of this book is a travelogue of a passionate geologist who travels the wonders of the Western U.S., taking in the wondrous sites of places that will eventually succumb to the eventual catastrophic outpouring of the tectonic plates that move under us, most notably the infamous San Andreas Fault. Don't say that you have not been warned.... Excellent read.

Wells, Martha (2020). The Murderbot Diaries (5): Network Effect. NY: Tom Doherty Associates Book. This is a full-length novel follow-up to the previous 4 novellas in which the rogue Murderbot continues to search for purpose and meaning without fearing elimination by the governor module that enforces compliance. Murderbot is on another research mission that runs afoul of another company's project to lay claim to a colony on a planet. Things work out, after much carnage and misunderstandings, leaving room for Murderbot to continue its search for meaning, between watching its favorite soap opera serials.

This series is great for introducing readers to the possibility of AI being able to develop the ability to think meaningfully about its existence. It also provides Wells the chance to offer social commentary about human foibles from perspective of a non-human construct. Great pleasurable reading that pushes the edge of sci-fi into plausible future science that is factually based.

Wells, Martha (2021). The Murderbot Diaries (6): Fugitive Telemetry. NY: Tom Doherty Associates Book. Back to novella length, Murderbot is asked by Dr. Mensa to assist local security with investigating the discovery of a dead human on the premises. Though somewhat feared and disliked by station security personnel, Muderbot does its job as best as it can, given the limitations to its ability to hack systems. This book plays more like a murder mystery than the previous one and makes for a good read. By now you know I will continue to follow its adventures as long as Wells continue to create them.

Winchester, S. (2008). The Man Who Loved China. The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom NY: HarperCollins Publishers. A fascinating biography, based on his diaries and memories of friends and acquaintances, of an eccentric intellectual who devoted his whole life to documenting the glories and accomplishments of China. Joseph Needham, a biochemistry professor at Oxford in the early 1900s became enamored with China after working and falling in love with a graduate assistant, Lu Gwei-djen, while married to his wife, also an academic. Throughout their long lives, the two women managed to ignore the obvious and supported Needham's single-minded quest to writing and compiling the multi-volume Science and Civilization in China. . He was still working on it when he died at 94. Interesting read.

Yates, K. (2020). The Math of Life & Death. 7 Mathematical Principles that Shape Our Lives. NY: Scribner. In 7 chapters, Kit Yates provides an interesting overview of how mathematics is very much a part of our daily lives. And, it doesn't all have to do with calculations. Because of our numerophobia, we tend to gloss over when numbers become a part of the conversation, which is why mathematics is misused and abused in all walks of life.

Because of mathematical errors, like the misplacement of a decimal point, wrong medication dosages can lead to death, as well as a mix-up in different measurements (liters vs. gallons) can result in running out of plane fuel while a country is switching over to the metric system. Yates shows how the misuse of statistics in the courtroom to sway the jury can result in wrongful imprisonment, and how the mistiming of warning alarms resulted in a bombing that could have been prevented.

Throughout the book, Yates offers real-world and interesting examples of how we really can't do with numbers at the same time offering historical gems on how we ended up with clocks having 24 hours, each hour with 60 minutes, and each minute with 60 seconds. His final chapter "Susceptible, Infective, Removed: How to Stop an Epidemic" was my favorite since it covered Public Health. It was too bad this book came out before the pandemic. I am sure Yates would have offered an enlightened look that how bad our record-keeping has been from underreporting cases and deaths to the lack of testing that should have been done to assess the prevalence of COVID-19. Maybe his next book can be devoted entirely to the topic.

Finally, Chapter 6 on the use of algorithms for everything offers a warning of overdependence on its use for everything. Sure, we want things automated, and we want it done in as orderly fashion as possible. Nevertheless, we should not forget that those who write the algorithms are humans, and humans make mistakes.

I have written enough computer programs to know that you really can tell a computer what to do. And, it will do it exactly the way your coding tells it to do. But, the interpretation still has to be done by humans, and they can always misinterpret the numbers. And, the programmer can introduce a bias in what data are to be included or excluded, which, of course, would result in possibly inaccurate data that could be misinterpreted, adding insult to injury.

It's like people today can plug in a set of numbers into a spreadsheet, and wah-la, a beautiful graph will show up that could be totally meaningless. And, "Even if some of the most complex mental tasks can be farmed out to an algorithm, matters of the heart can never be broken down into a simple set of rules. No code or equation will ever imitate the true complexities of the human condition." (p. 242).

I truly enjoyed this book that sought to explain mathematical concepts in a very understandable way. Yates does provide tables with numbers to illustrate his points, but no formulas that you would need to memorize like when you took it in school to understand what he is trying to say. You will come out with an appreciation of why we need numbers in our lives. After all, what would a birthday be without a number?

Zuckoff, Mitchell (2011). Lost in Shangri-la NY: HarperCollins Publishers. Here is the true life story of 3 military personnel, during World War II, who crash landed in the forbidden jungle of New Guinea. Twenty-one people died on what was an excursion to do an aerial tour of a hidden valley dubbed Shangri-la, inhabited by Stone Age cannibals. The 3 survivors, 2 officers and a WAC, managed to survive the crash till military help arrived. Unfortunately, the help that arrived did not come with plans of how all of them would leave the valley, as air transport was treacherous. It took weeks for the military to come up with plans of how to fly them out - very interesting of how they did it. The book chronicles the adventures of these survivors and those who came to rescue them as they made small strides in communicating with the local Dani tribes, battling natural elements, Japanese soldiers and life-threatening wounds suffered from the crash. Enjoy an adventurous trek through time and the mysteries of a lost civilization.


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Published on the Web: September 1, 1999; February 23, 2001
Updated: 12/28/2022 R420

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