Current Read

The Passions of Aretmisia (S. Vreeland) A recommendation from my Wednesday lunch group, a novel set in 17th century Italy, about a woman whose passion is painting. A wonderful view of being a woman with aspirations in this venue.


Heirs of the Founders (H. W. Brands) Some time ago, having read biographies of all the presidents (through H. W. Bush, too soon for the rest!) I decided that other historical near-greats would be fun. Three of them, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Calhoun, were contemporaries in post-revolutionary America, all presidential wannabes. Most excellent!


Red (J. C. Harvey) Not political at all! It's about the history of red haired people, starting with genetics and anthropology, then into art and literature, I was so looking forward to this. I couldn't get into it at all, finding it scattered and hard to follow. I didn't finish.

The Red and the Blue (S. Kornacki) The MSNBC commentator takes a surprisingly evenhanded look at how the US became so polarized, focusing on the 1990s and the rise of Newt Gingrich. This was an excellent, I hope he writes more.

Hubert Humphrey (A. Offner) Another subject I wanted to delve into, this book came out earlier this year. Well-written, perhaps a bit too pro-Humphrey, but was well worth the read.



Nothing finished! Almost done with Humphrey.


The Continental Congress (Charles River Editors) I found this book, apparently written by committee, somewhat poorly written, but its content was something for which I'd been looking for years, the workings of the First and Second Conitnental Congresses. Short (81 pages) but well worth my time, warts and all.

Kissinger (W. Isaacson) This is my third Isaacson bio, the others being on Steve Jobs and Leonardo DaVinci. This one will take awhile, as it's well over 800 pages (before the index and other such stuff.) Always controversial, Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State under Nixon. Love him or hate him, this is fascinating stuff.


The Kissinger book has taken forever. Dang!


Just Ride (G. Peterson) This is a highly practical guide to bicycle selection, use and maintenance. Peterson owns a bicycle store in the East Bay (Rivendell Bicycle Works) and has an interesting viewpoint: most people try too hard to emulate racers in both clothing and bicycle selection. He encourages the casual rider to just have fun! I'd have preferred a glossary and a few more illustrations, but this was well written and worth my time.

Kensington Past and Present (L. Thal, M. H. Snyder, Editors) Everything I wanted to know about my home town! If you don't live here, don't bother. If you do it's a must read, since it covers a wide range of how our unincorporated town is organized. Lots of history.


The Growth Delusion (D. Pilling) I thought this would be a diatribe against the notion that growth is good. It actually said that GDP isn't a bad thing to track but that other measures are needed to tell us how we are doing as a nation. It answered a long standing question I had - there IS a measure of the skew of distribution of wealth, GINI. Look it up. And yes it's increasing. I wish the book was a bit more detailed, it's too short (a little over 200 pages.)


Memoirs (D. Rockefeller) I got this book as a Christmas present in 2016, from my brother. I smiled, said thank you, and put it aside. I didn't have anything after The Quartet, so I picked it up. David is one of the grandsons of John D. who ran the oil industry, and brother of the Vice President. It's a fascinating perspective of the family and fortune. AND, he's a good writer.Thanks bro'!


The Quartet (J. J. Ellis) Addresses some of the early American history I wanted, what went wrong with the Articles of Confederation that we had to replace it? The quartet was John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and George Washington who between them made the new Constitution happen. Short but well done.

Strangers In Their Own Land (A.R. Hochschild) A die-hard liberal UCBerkeley Sociology professor goes to southwest Louisiana, a hotbed of Tea Party support to find out why they seemingly vote against their own self-interest. Her results are worth considering. And by the way, the book is well-written. Thanks!


The Age of Genius (A.C. Grayling) A bit of a companion piece to the Newton book, it covers the intellectual advancements of the 17th century, which was Newton's. Grayling starts with a somewhat confusing account of the 30 Years War (probably just the nature of the beast) but has gone on to discuss religion, communication, occultism, and various luminaries and it's all getting good!


Isaak Newton (J. Gleick) Brilliant people are fascinating. This guy gave us calculus and gravity and all kinds of useful stuff. This book is a bit shorter than Newton deserves, but still gives good insights on his life and the remarkable progress of science in his times.


Foreigner (C.J. Cherryh) For Christmas, I asked that people recommend favorite books. Niece Linda got me this sci-fi novel, first in a series about a colony of humans on another world. I stumbled a bit on the writing style, but found the themes very well handled and the characters compelling. I may want to try another! Thanks Linda.

Shin the Scholar - 2018

Last update: January 1, 2019


Note: Unless otherwise indicates, these are DVD sets published by "The Teaching Company" collectively titled "The Great Courses."  They're generally 24 - 36 half-hour lectures by noted university professors. I'd like higher production values, but it's still generally good stuff.

Dec Always a slow month for such things. Finishing T. Roosevelt.

Nov In Great Presidents, just finished Polk, next up: Lincoln.

Oct Finished Founding Fathers and started Great Presidents. Just into Washington. Andrew Jackson should be interesting!

Sep Took awhile, but I'm well into the Founding Fathers DVD's. I also (finally) saw a genuine "spaghetti western," A Fistful of Dollars. Now I know. 

Aug Got some early American History DVD sets but haven't yet started them. The first will be America's Founding Fathers, put out jointly by the Teaching Company and the Smithsonian.

Jul Nada

Jun Nada again.

May Nada.

Apr Finished GoT, but haven't found a decent scholarly DVD set.

Mar Not doing anything since my DVD player is occupied with Game of Thrones.

Feb Finished the Spain DVDs. Good stuff. Ready to see a DVD of spaghetti western "A Fistful of Dollars" just to see what makes a spaghetti western unique. Also, started a major Game of Thrones binge. Not scholarly, but when the last season airs in 2019, I'll be ready!

Jan Still doing the History of Spain DVD set. It's made me want to go there!




Nothin' special, although as of March I started studying piano and in late November got into alto sax. Does that count?


Dec Nothin' special.

Nov Nothin' special.

Oct Nothin' special.

Sep Nothin' special.


Aug Nothin' special.

Jul Nothin' special.

Jun Nothin' special.

May Nothin' special.

Apr Nothin' special.

Mar Nothin' special.

Feb Nothin' special.

JaNothin' special.