Bret Baier chose a title that points us to the very last three days of Ike’s 45 years of service to his country. Far from the dithering, detached duffBret Baier chose a title that points us to the very last three days of Ike’s 45 years of service to his country. Far from the dithering, detached duffer portrayed by his detractors, Eisenhower was thinking several moves ahead as the chess game of 1950s politics and geopolitics unfolded. These last three days were a time to execute an important mission for all mankind: to influence the hawkish John F. Kennedy’s incoming administration. Beyond this, Baier shows how, for eight years, Eisenhower put on a clinic in reaching across the aisle in a bi-partisan, “America first” (as opposed to Dems first, GOP first, or Me first) statesmanship. For full review, go to my Amazon review.
Thomas Sowell is an iconoclastic student of history and sociology. His incisiveness on issues of race may befuddle those who champion the progressiveThomas Sowell is an iconoclastic student of history and sociology. His incisiveness on issues of race may befuddle those who champion the progressive and liberal viewpoints that have dominated U.S. Government policy-making in pursuit of “fairness toward all” since the 1960s.
Sowell argues mightily against using history as a platform for social and political agendas. His final chapter is a plea for historians and “social engineers” to stick to the facts, rather than to read one’s own preferences into one’s research. He faults policymakers for trying to right past wrongs, instead advocating a realpolitik that concentrates on making people’s lives better today.
The expression “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is often used to describe successful organizations, whether business enterprises or spThe expression “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is often used to describe successful organizations, whether business enterprises or sports teams. Phil Jackson has embedded his recipe for leading that kind of success into “Eleven Rings.”
NBA fans will appreciate Jackson’s insight on the men he has coached. Jordan and Pippen; Kobe and Shaq; Rodman and Metta World Peace. Jackson does not shy away from addressing the controversies – whether the Bulls or Lakers. He is at his best when discussing the web of team relationships; Jackson and co-author Hugh Delehanty make us feel like they’re catching us up on family news. Older readers will also appreciate Jackson’s unique perspective on the dramatic 1970 NBA Finals against the Lakers, as an injured member of the Knicks.
Jackson is popularly known as a “Zen master.” You will learn much about what this means, and whether there is anything in his toolkit that you can adopt for your own situation. He wants us to know how he encouraged strong personalities who had conflicting ideas about what it would take to succeed, to function together at a magnificent level.
The book drags in places; many of the basketball stories read like straight history text; the authors could have spent more time polishing or even cutting them. There are lots of good books on leadership available that get the same ideas across with fewer words. But by writing as he has, Jackson has given himself an opportunity to reach people who might not necessarily pick up another leadership book. And it is important to hear about it from Jackson because his results cannot be questioned. So in the end, he’s done well. ‘Eleven Rings” is a generous scoop of who these teams were and how Jackson led them to the top of their profession....more
I have been fond of saying that in warfare, there are no true winners. Philip Caputo's "A Rumor of War" reinforced that sentiment in me. Eugene (Red)I have been fond of saying that in warfare, there are no true winners. Philip Caputo's "A Rumor of War" reinforced that sentiment in me. Eugene (Red) McDaniel's "Scars and Stripes" jars me to re-examine it.
McDaniel and Caputo, U.S. officers who served in Vietnam, have shared soul-shaking accounts of the horrors and inhumanities that define war. Both have earned a place in my bookshelf of Vietnam war history and memoir. I regard both as "men among men."
In some sense, the two books provide opposite bookends of my collection. Caputo courageously admits in "A Rumor of War" the loss of faith that constant dealing with violence and corpses brought to him. McDaniel though, attributes the indestructible piece of himself that withstood nearly six years of imprisonment as a downed A-6 pilot flying missions deep into enemy territory, to an eternal source.
"Scars and Stripes" is McDaniel's memoir of hellish days, from May, 1967 through February, 1973 when he and other captured Americans underwent a magnitude of calculated cruelty and pain at the hands of their captors that will overwhelm the mind of most. In these pages, McDaniel depicts the utter tragedy of war with a matter-of-fact poignancy. It is a quick, powerful read.
The book will reward those who can force themselves, with the aid of McDaniel's stark words, to enter the various buildings of the infamous Hanoi Hilton that McDaniel brings back to life: The Zoo and Zoo Annex, the Chicken Coop, the Quiz Room. You'll witness bloody and systematic brutality that was designed to break the strongest man's will to cling to those principles he holds most dear.
Perhaps miraculously, so many men did not break. The signing of the Paris Peace Accords in early 1973 ended a macabre endurance contest that renders all other contests insignificant by comparison. Historians will long argue the morality of that controversial war which now, as veterans on both sides go on to meet their Maker, continues its slow retreat from worldwide discussion topic to the annals of more distant history.
Just weeks before this review, General Vo Nguyen Giap, supreme commander of the North Vietnamese Army during the height of the U.S. involvement in the conflict, passed away at age 100. Those familiar with Giap's personal story, most especially his later years, may want to read "Scars and Stripes" with Giap, Hal Moore (of "We Were Soldiers" fame) and the many hundreds of Vietnamese and American former combatants who eventually have reunited to exchange peaceful embraces, in mind. McDaniel's story has a place in the patchwork quilt of evidence that men on both sides who refused at any cost to abandon their highest principles - and the greatest of these is love - were the war's biggest winners....more
Tommy James' no-holds-barred story of how he was caught up in the intestines of the pop music industry from the mid-1960s through early 1970s is serveTommy James' no-holds-barred story of how he was caught up in the intestines of the pop music industry from the mid-1960s through early 1970s is served with a side order of his perspective on the rest of the world from his smelly, churning vantage point. This is a first-person history through the wide eyes of a Midwestern kid who goes to New York to seek his fortune and who is almost immediately snatched into a recording syndicate with clear ties to the notorious Genovese underworld family; and then toward the end, through wiser eyes.
The opening chapter or two are magically literary. Then, as certain as the progression from childhood to adolescence, the tone changes. As a privileged rock star whose chart-toppers would be the envy of most in the business, his vantage point is unique. He can count both mobsters and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, as benefactors. If you're a student of U.S. history, this is no textbook but it could be an enlightening side resource. If you're serious about the history of popular music, this is an important read. The list of artists whose lives were touched by the musical arm of the Genovese clan may surprise you. But this is not a "tell all" story a la Jose Canseco or Jim Bouton "outing" their peers. Tommy James comes off respectfully toward all.
The secondary plot of James' story is his relationship with Morris Abel, the "Godfather" of the popular music business in New York from the 1950s through the 1970s. The love-hate dynamic between the two men is both compelling and repulsive. The book's lighter counterpoint: The backstory behind all the biggest hits, which fans of Tommy James and the Shondells will find delightful.
James does not reveal much of his soul in this book. He does leaves us breadcrumbs that give us insight into his regrets over his failed marriages, his lost opportunities toward his son, and a connection to God that endured all the stereotypical excesses of the rock star lifestyle. His decision to not tell us more of his spiritual journey may be the book's biggest lost opportunity; but in fairness, that is not his intent. James wants to take us on "one hell of a ride" and in that, he has succeeded....more
Having read in 1988 Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers," whose front cover featured an American flag about to fall off a precipice,Having read in 1988 Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers," whose front cover featured an American flag about to fall off a precipice, I was fascinated to see Kagan's title 15 years after Kennedy's book was published. In '87, when Kennedy hit the shelves, the ascendency of Japan to the throne of first among nations was widely-accepted conventional wisdom.
Of course, it didn't happen (or hasn't happened yet) the way Kennedy had predicted. Japan has been mired in economic and social messes of its own, and the U.S. economy, for all its problems, has retained its position of dominance. Kagan argues, while allowing for scenarios under which the current situation could change, that no other nation, including China, is yet in a position to seriously challenge U.S. military dominance and global thought leadership.
Kagan survives as a somewhat conservative fellow at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, which should tell you something of the man's stature as a top-rank analyst. He writes with Kennedy in mind; interacting openly with Kennedy's 1980's thesis that America, like all the great powers before it, had bankrupted itself due to projecting its power beyond what could be sustained.
Kagan provides his evidence that since the end of WWII, global geopolitics has been operating in a "Pax Americana" (though he does not use that term) that continues to this day, but that will require continued committment, hard work, and yes - sometimes even a compromising of values in selected cases - in order to be sustained.
Through it all, Kagan maintains a very respectful tone toward those who see the world differently from him. People who are sick and tired of the bombast of radio talk-show hosts will appreciate the calm manner with which he states his case. You get the sense that if Bob Kagan lived in your neighborhood, you wouldn't mind sitting in the corner tavern with him over a beer and letting him talk shop.
The book sometimes falls short with providing enough hard evidence that supports Kagan's thesis. This is more of a conversational book that happens to be written by a scholar, than a scholarly book written to refute other scholarly positions. In fairness to Kagan, his goal (or his publisher's goal) may have been to keep the book to a readable length (they've succeeded) and to engage a more casual readership than just the serious student of geopolitics (again, success). Still, there were perhaps half a dozen occasions where I wanted more evidence from Kagan to support his arguments.
But in the final analysis, Kagan has, I think, written an important book that any American - indeed, any world citizen - who likes to think about history and the "march of nations" ought to read. You may not agree with him, but his suggestions about how the national core values of today's leading nations interact to create the peace or conflict we experience, are worthy to consider. ...more
Baseball lovers should have this book as part of their reference library. Paul Dickson shows how Bill Veeck's life touched so many others, including sBaseball lovers should have this book as part of their reference library. Paul Dickson shows how Bill Veeck's life touched so many others, including some of the biggest luminaries who played, managed, and ran the game over nearly five decades. If a maverick is a principled person who is unafraid to stand by their principles even when it means standing well outside conventional or even accepted thought, then Bill Veeck was certainly one of baseball's greatest mavericks over the years. Dickson treats the "Veeckian legacy" from a largely sympathetic point of view, sometimes lapsing into a voice of near-worship. To his credit, though, he's not afraid to show how Veeck's failure to change with the times helped contribute to somewhat tarnish his contribution to the game he so loved in his later years.
Though I read the book from cover-to-cover, I suspect many will want to skim and focus on the highlights and lowlights of Veeck's sporting career: Eddie Gaedel, number 1/8 of the St. Louis Browns; Larry Doby and Satchel Paige; the penant-winning White Sox of '59; and the ill-fated Disco Demolition night 20 years later. Fueds with owners and commissioners; love affairs with players and fans. It's rather slow reading at times, but those who plow thorugh all of this will emerge with a comprehensive perspective on the life and times of one of the most controversial - and important - men in the history of American sports....more
Pavarti K. Tyler writes well. I had no doubt, as I read this meaty morality play with a superhero demiglaze, that I was reading an insider's exposè ofPavarti K. Tyler writes well. I had no doubt, as I read this meaty morality play with a superhero demiglaze, that I was reading an insider's exposè of how the local authorities who enforce Sharia law in large parts of the Muslim world use some of what is found in Muslim holy writings to oppress anyone who gets in their way, especially (but not exclusively) women. It shocked me to learn in the Q&A found at the end of the Kindle version, that Tyler is neither Muslim nor Turkish (this reviewer lived in Turkey for a year and has post-grad credits in Islamic studies; the book contains enough truth about Turkey and Islam that I was fooled).
Tyler has produced a moving story that helps us to understand the frustration and sometimes, the sheer terror that comes with being an oppressed minority. If Judaism (personified by the old, wise and somewhat difficult Hasan) is Tyler's Exhibit B, the oppression of women in the Muslim world is her Exhibit A. But Tyler has treated Islam fairly, showing that hijabs and burqas can be safe havens for the women who are used to wearing them. The narrator's mention of Islam's prophet always includes the corollary blessing required by Muslim piety. Tyler is concerned for the individual liberty of both women and men, whether Jewish or Mulsim, Sunni or Shi'a; she's not out to bash religion. She has made a loud, clear statement with literature that is thoughtful, nuanced, and well-researched. "Shadow" merits our attention whatever and whomever the object of our faith.
My main criticism of "Shadow" is a common one in this day of the literary series: The end comes abruptly, with too many loose ends to call it a masterpiece. Secondarily, the introduction of supernatural elements into Tyler's brutally-honest realism may also disorient and disappoint some readers. That said, those who go on to read Tyler's Q&A will understand the final scene in her last chapter as a Bruce Wayne/Peter Parker moment of reckoning. The epilogue may clue us to the future of Darya, a beauty whose character has parallels to Elphaba in the musical "Wicked" and whose ambition and cunning infuses the novel with latent sexual energy. Is she victim, perpetrator, or both? Has she hardened beyond redemption? These are questions, I think, that Tyler wants us to contemplate long after we're finished reading "Shadow." Perhaps she'll unfold it for us in the next book of what has the potential to be a spellbinding series with specific relevance for 21st-century humanity. ...more
I will never think of Willie Horton as just another baseball player after having read Tim Wendel's account of the 1968 major league baseball season. TI will never think of Willie Horton as just another baseball player after having read Tim Wendel's account of the 1968 major league baseball season. The author makes an admirable attempt to show the connection between events that took place on the ball diamonds of America, and the social/political upheaval that characterized 1968.
Older baseball fans will remember 1968 as "the year of the pitcher," a year when Bob Gibson's St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Detroit Tigers of 31-game winner Denny McLain in a memorable 7-game World Series that saw McLain's clubhouse rival Mickey Lolich steal the show. But in some ways it is the city of Detroit itself that takes center stage in Wendel's book. Ravaged by racial violence in the summer of 1967, citizens of the Motor City needed something that could unite and heal their community. Wendel presents the '68 Tigers, the racial harmony on the team itself, and their championship success, as an important soothing ointment to the city.
In so doing, Wendel raises an important question: What is the value of sports as a model to culture as a whole? These days, it's easy to be cynical - even our biggest sports heros are being discovered as steroid-injecting, blood-doping cheaters. Entire leagues (the NBA) and sports (pro boxing) are under strong suspicion of fixing outcomes in the name of money. It is easy to forget that sports can also provide legitimate models of principle and courage. This is precisely where Wendel's book is at its most valuable. Consider the story of Detroit's hometown hero Willie Horton.
Horton showed up in the neighborhood of his youth in full Tigers uniform, climbed atop a car in the midst of a riot, and at great risk to his own safety, begged people to stop burning and looting. Consider also Wendel's treatment of Curt Flood, an unbelievably gifted St. Louis outfielder who sacrified virtually the remainder of his professional career - while still in his prime - to fight a perceived injustice not only on his behalf, but on behalf of all professional ballplayers everywhere (and in so doing, paved the way for many dollars to land in the pockets of players ever since). Those old enough to remember what happened will appreciate the research and insight with which Wendel brings these events back to life. Younger readers will learn, perhaps for the first time, about Horton, Flood, McLain and Lolich, Tiant, Gibson, and a host of other baseball notables from 1968 whose backstories are worth hearing.
Overall, despite success on some levels, Wendel's book falls short of greatness. I believe he's missed opportunities to translate his wonderful research and his genius idea about baseball's connectedness with the bigger history of 1968 into a tight, well-argued treatise. He has shared lots of interesting evidence to make his case: for instance, the musings of major league ballplayers looking down from their hotel windows to watch the famous 1968 Chicago disturbances outside the Democratic National Convention was interesting in itself, but Wendel did not successfully incorporate it into any overarching theme. I also felt distracted at times by Wendel's tendency to repeat a fact or an observation. In the end, he's provided us with a treasure trove of good stories and insights about the key personalities of the '68 baseball season, along with some helpful observations that suggest how culture affected sports in 1968, and vice versa. Had it been written more carefully and with perhaps a bit more depth and daring in the cultural observations it did make, it could have been a lot more. ...more
Many of my college friends (that was back in the 1970s) cited this book as very influential in creating their "worldview." I have heard many people taMany of my college friends (that was back in the 1970s) cited this book as very influential in creating their "worldview." I have heard many people talk about "The Plague," and how it embodies Camus as the hopeful face of the 20th-century philosophy called existentialism, that was systematized by Camus' friend, J.P. Sartre. I never read the book until a week ago. The reason I picked it up was to write about existential ethics and heroism for a post-graduate ethics class.
It's a tough read. This is not to discourage anyone, but be prepared to read about characters who have no choice to look death and human suffering in the eye. These are, after all, the two evils man constantly stuggles against according to existentialists. Camus' heros don't face the kind of evil that is exciting to read about. There are no car chases or flashy bad guys who are as seductive as they are dangerous; there is only a city on the north coast of Africa, a bunch of dying rats who point toward the coming disaster but are ignored by the people; and a cast of half-a-dozen or so central characters whose actions and reactions in response to the ever-worsening plague, are what Camus wants us to focus our attention on and to ponder.
If you're looking for a serious inquiry into human nature and how tragedy can bring out the best in at least some people, The Plague may be your cup of tea. It will interest philosophy students, particularly those familiar with Heidegger and Sartre. Camus' biographers have researched his notebooks and found that he was ver intentional about writing a novel that put his characters in an unescapable "existential dilemma," and as a philosophical allegory, The Plague is a brilliant piece of work. But to be honest, this isn't the kind of book I'd have read if I wasn't doing it as part of my academic studies. Besides, though I think Sartre, Camus and their existentialist brethren have made some important contributions to thought and literature, my own point of view is much different from theirs!...more
Enter into "Letting Go," a collection of eight short stories by British author Victoria Watson, with this gentle caution: These stories are likely toEnter into "Letting Go," a collection of eight short stories by British author Victoria Watson, with this gentle caution: These stories are likely to grab you by the brain and shake your peace, but just a bit.
These stories provide us with a chance to tour the dark corners of our own hearts without needing to stay there too long, or to get in too deep. Part of Ms. Watson's genius is that she's infused these stories with an ironic humor which, I think, forces readers to admit with a wry smile that we're made of the same stuff as Ms. Watson's baddies. For instance, we can work up a healthy lather against Steve, the villainous husband of "Cry Baby," but his inner dialog may elicit an acknowledgement that we have more in common with him than we'd admit in polite company.
Ms. Watson is not out to impress the world with erudition or prim vocabulary, nor are her characters about to win awards for citizenship or congeniality. She's giving it to us straight about people whose messiness of external circumstance is only matched by their inner confusion. The heroes in her stories, if there are heroes, are admirable not so much for what they do or for the goodness in their hearts, but for the way they hold a mirror up for readers. In them, we may see our unadorned selves.
Ms. Watson's style is elemental, but not sparse. She writes in the first person, striking a balance between her characters' local slang and themes of life-and-death importance that I think, result in literature that can speak powerfully to all kinds of people. This author is not one to embellish or to over-describe her settings; yet I could see and hear the drug stores, stairwells, and rain-swept streets where the action was taking place. A little feel of Steinbeck, set in working-class England. If that sounds appealing, you should get acquainted with "Letting Go." ...more