A Gentleman in Moscow (A. Towles) A Christmas gift from my sister in law Alice who always recommends great books, this is a novel about Russia just after the revolution and an aristocrat who manages to survive execution. I've only just started, but the writing is excellent and I'm looking forward to getting into this NY Times best-seller.
Understanding the Quantum World (E. W. Carlson) This subject has always been utterly weird to me, yet I keep trying to understand its principles. This is my latest attempt.
The Science of Happiness (Several) Not really a book at all, but a special publication of Time Magazine. Pop science, heavy on graphs, lists of things to try, and common sense recommendations. They never came up with even a working definition of "happiness". Still, there were some interesting insights about things like the role of gratitude, mindfulness and money.
The Age of Hirohito (D. Irokawa) This is a history / biography of Emperor Hirohito of Japan and his times. Born in 1903, Hirohito officially became emperor in 1926 (he was actually performing most of the duties from several years before) and held the position until his death in 1989. How much power did he have was much of the focus of the book. This was the third time I started it, but this time it seemed much more interesting. Good insights into Japanese culture, past and present.
Golf in the Kingdom (M. Murphy) I haven't played much golf over the last three years, yet this book is a wonderful mix of sport and mysticism. Hard to describe. It was loaned to me by my writing coach Susan. Highly recommended for golfers, others may not understand but at the same time might enjoy the writing.
Law School for Everyone - Legislation and Regulation (P. J. Smith) This is worthwhile, a good presentation, and a reminder of why I hated my college business law class. A good refresher about literalists, interpreters of legislative intent and applying law to situations the legislators couldn't have imagined. So frustrating.
Law School for Everyone - Constitutional Law (E. Berger) This topic is very frustrating to me. Fascinating but frustrating. Well researched, organized, and presented, I still feel ignorant. Relative to the other sets, it's short, 12 half-hour lectures. But this is actually the same format of the previous "Law School for Everyone" DVD set, simply packaged as one topic, not four.
A History of Eastern Europe (V. G. Liulevicius) This has been a decent look at the region of the world between Russia, Germany and the old Ottoman Empire. Talk about precarious! This DVD set is heavily oriented toward recent history (post WWII). Good set!
Mass Incarceration On Trial (J. Simon) Back to serious stuff, prison conditions. Mentioned in a church sermon, this book was different than I was expecting. It dealt with the court decisions that said the mega-prisons were unconstitutional and in California, needed to come down to "only" 137% maximum capacity. Still, an eye-opener.
Lanterns & Lances (J. Thurber) I got tired of politics and history and all that serious stuff. I'd started reading another history of the making of the Constitution focusing more on the arguments against it, but just couldn't get into it. So I started on this collection of essays by one of America's favorite humorists. Good fun and a welcome relief.
Rutherford B. Hayes (H. L. Trefousse) I always felt I shortchanged this entry in my efforts to read a biography of each President. The only work I found on Hayes was about the election of 1876 so that had to do. Not long ago, this short (137 pages) came out as part of the American Presidents series. Not particularly satisfying, much like having an appetizer for dinner, but informative.
Becoming (M. Obama) A Christmas gift from my sister in law Alice. A welcome relief from the last two brain breakers, our former FLOTUS is an excellent writer and her story is compelling.
Law School for Everyone (Various) This DVD set is broken into four sections, twelve half hour presentations each. I truly detested business law in college. The prof was great, but the subject was depressing. These were all well presented and the cases thought provoking. Well worth my time, but law is still weird.
The Federalist Papers (A. Hamilton, J. Madison, J. Jay) What did our Founding Fathers intend? This is how three of the great political thinkers of their day "sold" The Constitution principally to the State of New York. The language is that of the 1700s and thus takes some getting used to. This was very difficult reading. Some insights. Some scholars have attempted to narrow the 85 articles down to a few of the most important, but I couldn't find such a list. Might have saved me time. I think the authors are turning over in their graves.
I worked on both Federalist Papers and Law School for everyone but both are quite involved.
The Conservative Sensibility (G. Will) I was looking forward to noted conservative to come out with a summary of his views. A real plod in a brilliant kind of way. He could have organized it better, but it's nice to see him rip into Trump and Scalia with the same relish as Woodrow Wilson and FDR. I don't agree with him on many things, but I sure respect him. It was worth it!
Shin the Scholar - 2019
Last update: January 2, 2020
Books, DVDs and Other Scholarly Pursuits
Main Street Vegan (V. Moran) This book is less focused than the Starter Kit book, but lots of good information. The approach is that we don't have to be perfect or convert all at once. Comforting!
Turning Points in American History (E. O'Donnell) Another "Great Course" DVD, this explores 48 pivotal points in our history. Very concise but thorough, this was well worth the time.
The Vegan Starter Kit (N. Barnard, M.D.) If curious about veganism, this is GREAT! Recommended by a local Barnes and Noble staffer, the guts of the book is a mere 100 pages. After that, it has several recipes, a list of websites and various foods the novice may not be familiar with. The focus is on health.
Paul McCartney (P. Norman) After the epic Cronkite book, I'm reading the almost as epic (800 page) bio of the ex-Beatle, ex-Wings etc. singer, songwriter, musician who so influenced my musical life. Yeah, he could be a jerk, but he's a talented jerk. And now he's got ME doing the vegan thing! (Thanks Wesley!)
Cronkite (D. Brinkley) A biography of the famed newscaster. The author is, to my knowledge, no relation to David Brinkley, another famed newscaster. Two-thirds of a thousand pages, I'm heading into the home stretch now! A great review of the historical events of my life, as well as the news industry and Cronkite himself. (Thanks Brian!)
Great Presidents (A. Lichtman) My latest of the Teaching Company's "Great Courses" DVD sets, this one detailing the lives and presidencies of 12 of our chief executives. It's an interesting list, based on the nation going through a pivotal time and the incumbent expanding the presidency. 24 hours of material.
Wolfwalker (T. K. Harper) A fun sci-fi read given as a Christmas present from niece Linda. I needed it after "Fear"! (Thanks Linda!)
Fear (R. Woodward) Why do I want to know more about the Trump White House? Must be masochism. Still, Bob Woodward is a good and thoughtful writer. This is a scary book but very informative. Why ANYONE would want to work in this administration is beyond me.
A Year in Provence (P. Mayle) A month-by-month account of an English couple who move to southeast France, and their adjusting to the climate, social norms, and everyday activities of the region. A Christmas gift from my sister-in-law, Alice has given me several books that I'd have never got for myself and this is one!
Putting the Vice in Vice President (A. Naldrett) My old college roomie and longtime friend has come out with his 15th (I think) book, this one a series of short biographies of each of our Vice Presidents. Not as centered on dirty dealings as the title would suggest, but it's still fun stuff.
The Passions of Artemisia (S. Vreeland) A recommendation from my Wednesday lunch group, a story set in 17th century Italy, about a woman whose passion is painting. A wonderful view of being a woman with aspirations in this venue. About two-thirds the way through, I found that Artemisia was indeed a real artist! Though the conversations and many specifics are fiction, the underlying story is quite factual.