~ Books ~


Bag Man (R. Maddow, M. Yarvitz) My favorite administration to read about in Nixon and his first VP, Spiro Agnew. This book chronicles Agnew's from his days as a somewhat small-time crook in Maryland to a big-time crook as VP and one of the most tragic plea bargains in history.

The War on Normal People (A. Yang) This is the presidential candidate Andrew Yang's statement of the need for a universal guaranteed income. In his campaign he said $1,000 per month to everyone. He paints a very grim prognosis of future employment for the masses. Sadly, he gives fees specifics of impacts and the new tax structure to pay for it. Pity, I think it's a great idea.


The Great Gatsby (F. S. Fitzgerald) I felt like reading a classic. Rodney Dangerfield (as Thornton Mellon in "Back to School") said of Gatsby "He was great!" I never got through it in high school. This time I did. Great? If Fitzgerald had called it "The Pretty Good Gatsby" it probably wouldn't have sold very well.

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World (F. Zakaria) The author got involved in a plagiarism scandal which is too bad. He's a very astute observer of our complex world and conveys his thoughts with wonderful clarity. So glad I found it.


Radicalized (C. Doctorow) I've read several books by this sci-fi writer who doubles as a technology writer. This is actually four stories covering about 200 pages, the third one titled "Radicalized." All four were thought provoking glimpses at contemporary issues. Racism, income disparity, health care and the pandemic. SO worth the read! 


Memoirs and Misinformation (J. Carrey & D. Vachon) Yes, this is Jim Carrey the movie star. I don't know Dana Vachon but the two wrote a silly fake biography of Carrey that should have been just what I needed, but it wasn't. After 40 pages I gave up on it.

The Spy and the Traitor (B. MacIntyre) A cool spy story my writing coach recommended. Good call. It's the story of a Soviet KGB agent who becomes a double agent, spying for MI6, the British spy agency James Bond worked for! It wasn't until I was well into it that I realized it wasn't a novel at all, but a true account. A great story, very well written. My two favorite books so far this year are about Russians (see A Gentleman in Moscow.)


Running Against the Devil (R. Wilson) The author is a member of The Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who abandoned Trump early on and are working to thwart his reelection. Good practical advice for the one election, but he doesn't speak to down-ticket races. He's not interested in Democrats doing anything but beating the incumbent.

How to Relax (T. N. Hanh) Very light Buddhist-oriented reading. Good perspective for me in these trying times.


The 10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make (A. Freeman & R. DeWolf) I was in the mood for some psychobabble and got it. A self-help book someone was giving away, so I picked it up. At least they refer to their readers as "smart". I hate books that call me a dummy.

The End of Policing (A. Vitale) Vitale lays out the case for moving funds and responsibilities from policing. It's not a particularly well written book, but states the case for "de-funding" reasonably well. Despite the title, he simply envisions a more focused, less confrontational role.

Shin the Scholar - 2020

Last update: January 22, 2021

Books, DVDs and Other Scholarly Pursuits

~ DVDs & Other ~


Class: Spiritual Care Training for Congregational Leaders (UU Institute) This is an online course I took as training for my church responsibilities. An in-depth look at how do deal with people dealing with personal issues. For me, this had value far beyond the church.

Mar - Apr

DVD - Understanding the Quantum World (E. W. Carlson) I got lost and gave up. I want to try again, but this time be more active, reading the book before viewing a chapter. I swear, I'm smart enough.

~ Mo' Books ~

May - Jun

Obama - An Intimate Portrait (P. Souza) Souza was the official White House photographer during the Obama administration, and this is a collection of his work. Damn, I miss Obama. The book was a gift from a couple of Christmases ago that I hadn't gotten around to going into. VERY nice!

The Big Over Easy (J. Fforde) No, I spelled that name right. The book is even stranger than the spelling of the author's name. It's the tale of Humpty Dumpty's death after falling off a wall, as investigated by the Nursery Crimes Division of the Police Department. Inspired lunacy, and much needed for my psyche.

Mar - Apr

The Honor of the Queen (D. Weber) I went into a funk when the whole corona thing went down and found "The Real Population Bomb" to be exactly what I didn't want. I turned to this second book in the series I'd started (see below). More escapist fun. Thanks again, Linda.

The Real Population Bomb (P. H. Lotta & J. F. Miskel) I've always wanted to read the original Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich to see where he went wrong (or was he just jumping the gun?) This looked like a similar doom and gloom, but I found it much different and going in a direction I didn't want to go. I stopped rather than punish myself.

Jan - Feb

Mobituaries (M. Rocca) I saw an interview of author Mo Rocca plugging this book and it sounded fascinating. It was even better than I was hoping for. It's both humorous and very educational. Rocca writes obituaries (short bios) of many people I never heard of but should have, new takes on people whose names I knew, and even concepts, trends, etc. that have long since died (disco!) Strongly recommended.


On Basilisk Station (D. Weber) The first in a series of sci-fi adventures about a ship set up for failure on a mission set up for failure and the captain who through strength of will makes a success of it all. Given to me for Christmas by niece Linda Lots of fun! (Thanks again, Linda.)

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.