Books read

No technical books are listed at this time.

This is not complete, just my memories.

The Spiritual Brain - Dr. Beauregarde and Denyse O'Leary

The Discovery of God: Abraham ... - David Klinghofer

Wrong on Race: the Democratic Party's Buried Past - Bruce Bartlett

Who put racisim into law - the Jim Crow laws? The Democrats.

Who fought tooth and nail against anti-lynching laws? Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats.

The Marco Polo Odyssey - Harry Rutstein

An excellent book. Well written and edited. He made it his life-long project to be the first person to follow the path of Marco Polo. And the travel he did in 1975 has not been possible since the 1979 Iran revolution. He crossed the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan in 1981. It took him over 10 years to get permission to cross the high pass into China and travel through western China. He even started a company to import the technology China wanted in the early years of opening - the 1970s and 80s. After finishing the travel it took him 23 years to get the book in print!

Afoot and Afloat North Puget Sound - Marge & Ted Mueller

A thorough guide book for both landlubbers and boaters. It covers Puget Sound north of Seattle, Hood Canal, Straight of Juan de Fuca, the north area we don't have a name for by Bellingham, and the various waterways around Everett, Whidbey Island, Camano Island and Fidalgo Island (Anacortes). But The San Juan Islands are in a separate book. I enjoy arm-chair exploring and on-the-ground exploring even more - when I can walk. Sigh!

War in the Pacific, volume II - Brig. General Jerome T. Hagen

How Would God Vote? - David Klinghofer

Hospital - Julie Salamon

The Edge of Evolution - Michael Behe

He describes in detail how difficult it is to get just two positive changes in an organism's genes. And he gives glorious detail on the complexity of flagellar motor. I haven't finished it yet! It's pretty technical.

The Fatal Voyage - Captain Cook's Last Great Journey - Peter Aughton

Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin

Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet included his three rivals for president. They thought he was an empty suit, always telling corny little stories. But the prairie lawyer outpolicked all of them. Then they all worked together - with some friction.

A Meaningful World: How the arts and sciences reveal the genius of nature - Benjamin Wiker & Jonathan Witt

The Privileged Planet - Alberto Gonzales & Jay Richards

Looks like I didn't finish the "skeptical rejoinder."

The Looming Tower - Lawrence Wright

The rise and threat of Islamic extremism

The Skeptical Environmentalist - Bjorn Lomborg

Illustrated Longitude by Dava Sobel, William J. H. Andrewes

The story of solving the biggest problem in navigation - east and west - required sophisticated clocks. She makes it a very readable story. This is an illustrated edition.

The Progress Paradox - Greg Easterbrook

Everything is better for everyone, by every measure. So why are more people depressed? Excellent research and writing. Easterbrook has a record of telling things straight. But he has one phobia that is so strong that he starts shouting at the thought - SUVs. At times his irrational fear of them colors the themes of his book.

The Children's Blizzard - David Laskin

On a warming day suddenly a fierce blizzard hit with winds that drove fractured snow flakes like a sand blasting. Overnight up to 500 people died on farms, in villages, on trains in the Dakotas, Nebraska and western Minnesota. The storm was so intense that children perished went their home was less than 1/4 mile from their school. This storm was so renowned that it started the end of the prairies being a prime destination for immigrants. Laskin weaves two interesting tales together - the mass immigration from Norway, Sweden and Ukraine; and the weather observing and forecasting in the early days of the use of telegraph.

Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes

Middle-aged, but recently married, two poetry professors in San Francisco fall in love with Tuscany and decide to risk their savings, summers and sanity (not quite) to buy a country home within walking distance of a town that has been derelict for 40 years. The rebuilding is an experience - they discover a fresco under layers of paint, then a workman writes a note on it in indelible ink - outdoor masonry work by a borderline incompetent contractor is saved by 3 hard working Poles.

She goes far into cooking this and that, the unusual vegetables raised in that district, and such, that leave me yawning. It was worth reading half way.

The Boys' Crusade - Paul Fussell

Subtitle: The American infantry in Northwestern Europe, 144-1945.

Looking at the American war effort from the viewpoint of the "grunt." It's an encyclpedic look - by topic. So it gets into interesting areas, but it doesn't read like a story, as when the author focuses on a few people.

The Wild Blue - Stephen Ambrose

Subtitle: the men and boys who flew the B-24s over Germany.

This is a great read vs. Fussell's book. Ambrose focuses on one pilot and his life, training and combat service. And he covers the people he grew up with in North Dakota, those who trained with him and those who were in combat with him. The B-24 was very difficult to fly and had high accident rates. And the pilot had all the responsibility for the aircraft, the mission and his crew of 8 or 10.

Accidents: when practicing flying in formation there were cases where one aircraft touched another and took both down, losing 20 men; even hitting a third and costing 30 men.

The pilot: surprise, the famed anti-war senator George McGovern. Credit to McGovern he took on a difficult, risky job and performed superbly.

Irony: 35 missions were required to complete the tour of duty and go home. McGovern was the young age that he started college then entered training in 1943. He went to Italy in January, 1945 to the 15th Air Force in southern Italy. He first flew copilot with an experienced pilot for 5 missions, which counted. Then with his crew he flew and encountered flack, was injured, had to land at a remote airport, when the aircraft was damaged. They flew mission #35 on May 7, 1945. The next day, May 8, they celebrated and half the world celebrated. That was the day the Germans surrendered!

A Test of Will - Warren MacDonald

The remarkable story of an Australian outdoorsman who was pinned under a huge rock and lost both legs well above the knees. That's the beginning of the story. He was determined to do whatever was possible and has gone places and done things you wouldn't imagine, including ice climbing.

What Went Wrong - Bernard Lewis

Islam was the leading force in culture, military and science in 1000. Around 1600 they started to realize that they had to learn from the uncultured "infidels" in Europe. That started their introspection of what went wrong. Clearly they are still in the process.

Winter's Tale - Mark Helprin

He wrote this in the 1980s. It is interesting fantasy fiction. He is considered one of the best active fiction writers, though I discovered him through policy writing he has done. He has the most interesting background - went to Ivy League college, served in the Israeli Defense Forces and the British Merchant Marine and wrote regularly for New Yorker for 20 some years!

From A Buick 8 - Stephen King

My first King novel. I thought he wrote just mysteries. But this mystery has a large dose of science fiction. Very interesting. I am listening to the audio version on my iPod.

The Darkest Jungle - Todd Balf

The true story of an expedition by Lt. Isaac Strain, US Navy, in 1853 to find a low-level crossing of the Panama Isthmus in an area called Darien.

April 1865 - Jay Winik

The stunning end of the civil war and the death by assasination of Abraham Lincoln. Would the leaders of the Confederacy accept defeat or go underground and continue to fight? Lincoln's goal was to heal the union, so he insisted on benevolence to the defeated. Robert E. Lee was the gentleman and completely surrendered and dismissed his men and gave no aid at all to the generals under other commands who were going underground.

In July, 2004, on my way to see our first granddaughter in Charlottesville, I spent half a day seeing the history in Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States. There are battle sites all over the place - the north armies approached in 1862, then at the end. In my short tour the highlights were

- the Tredegar Iron Works, the largest armaments production operation in the South;
- Monument Avenue. It has a small number of monuments, each for one person. But each is huge. Most are Civil War; one a scientist and, surprise, Arthur Ashe, the tennis star in the 1970s.
- At Tredegar, the statue commemorating Abraham Lincoln's visit to Richmond with his son. It all happened so fast: from the last battle to Lincolns' assassination was less than a month. But during the month he made this visit. The statue is strangely small.

Virginia weather is hard on a native of the wet side of Washington. I dressed like a casual gentleman - cotton slacks and golf shirt. And I always opt to walk whenever possible. At 10:30 in the morning I was hot and sweaty! Whew!

Passport - Bruce Herschenhorn

He captured his 40 years of international service for the US in fiction form. The action focuses on Americans who were in Hong Kong in 1960 and follows them for 40 years. Fascinating.

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology - Lawrence Weschler

The book is a strange mixture of fact and fiction. And the museum it features is real, but it shows a strange mixture of fact and fiction.

Washington's Crossing - David Hackett Fischer

Fascinating story of the American Revolution in its second stage in Autumn and Winter of 1776. The capture of New York City. Poor leadership by Washington. The incredible crossing by Washington of the Hudson unseen. The loss of New Jersey. Despair for the Colonialists. Then the tide turns. Thomas Paine wrote an very inspiring pamphlet. And Washington outgeneraled Britain's and the Hessian's best 3 times in a week.

Very readable. Great book.

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson, 2003

Bill Bryson is a very funny American who lived 22 years in the UK, then the US, now the UK again; I'm confused. He spent 3 years studying up on basic science. I listened to the audio version on CD (15 of them) on my Apple iPod. Very interesting.

A couple of my favorites: I don't know if it's still true, but in the late 19th Centry chemistry was lagging the other sciences and the physicists looked on chemists with complete disdain, according to Bryson. In the early 20th Century a New Zealander transplanted to UK and Canada, Ernest Rutherford, was awarded the Nobel Prize, but in Chemistry! Did he accept it?

- A distinguished physicist - this would be in the last 20 years - was covering the confusing world of subatomic particles - quarks, anti-this-and-that, etc. A student asked him the name of the particle that does such and such. He responded "if I could memorize all these terms I would have been a botanist"! And Bryson reads the professor's response with a British accent.

- The last professional act Albert Einstein did before his death in 1955 was to enthusiastically write the preface for a book that dismissed the theory of plate tectonics with derision. The complete victory of plate tectonics was a very few years away.

The Substance of Style - Virginia Postrel

Virginia is former editor of Reason Magazine and one of the reasonable libertarians. She observes that style - how things look and feel are much more important today. It's interesting, but out of my interest areas. Going slow. I should have bought her book "The Future and its Enemies" instead.

The End of Racism - Dinesh D'Souza, 1993

D'Souza takes on every aspect of race and race relations. He debunks a lot of myths and tears down some towers. Slow reading, but very interesting.

After - Steven Brill

A detailed account of the responses to the September 11 attacks. He looks at 10 or 12 points of view - from a victim's widow, to INS and Customs front-line workers, to the White House. He weaves their stories together. It reads like fiction, but it totally true and taken from first-person interviews. Brill, a Manhattan insider, took heat from his friends by taking non-cool people like Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft seriously. Excellent.

An Ice Axe, A Camera and a Jar of Peanut Butter - Ira Spring, 1998.

Autobiography by master mountain photographer and hike book author. He just died at age 86.

The Hi Line: Profiles of a Montana Land -Daniel N. Viehorek

The far North of Montana from just east of the Rockies to North Dakota along US highway 2 and the Great Northern railroad line is called the Hi-Line. Unfortunately the rail line was taken over by Burlington Northern - a crummy name. My 2003 bicycle ride ended here at Cut Bank. The highlights of Havre, Shelby and lesser places.

Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers are probing Deep Space and guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril - Timothy Ferris, 2002.

He earns the prize for the most heroic title. Very interesting. How amateurs are making substantial contributions to basic research on the stars and planets.

Supreme Command - Elliot Cohen

Strategic leadership. He follows 3 or 4 great leaders in detail.

In a Sunburned Country

Bill Bryson describing his travels in Australia. I know some Australians at work and my officemate owns land with a small house, even though he is an American. The Australians say about this book "it's interesting." Bryson is very funny.

John Adams - David McCullough


5 Days in May - Lukas

In 1940 Chamberlain went to Munich when Hitler said he just wanted one more country and he would be satisfied. Chamberlain was ousted. This is the story of the critical days when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister.

Reagan in His Own Hand - Ronald Reagan, Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson

Reagan knew far more than people gave him credit for. He was a prolific writer. But he didn't write newspaper op-eds and books. He wrote radio addresses and speeches for groups.

For those who doubt this book reproduces the orginials in his own handwriting.

On the Shelf

Read not so recently

Driving the Blue Highways - William "Least" Moon

Interesting, but his world view of deriding everything as having no meaning is far from me.

Night Runners of Bengal - John Masters

Warsaw Requiem- Bodie Thoene

Number 6 of Zion Covenant series. Rescuing as many Jewish children as possible before the Nazis take over.

Cannons of the Comstock - Bodie Thoene

California during the Civil War. 5th in the Saga of the Sierras series. Not well written.

To Renew America - Newt Gingrich, 1995.

Newt had an expansive vision of the US renewing its values and social structures and having a great future. You might not like Newt, but you can't deny that Newt had a vision and was the best at explaining it.

The Telecosm - George Gilder, 2000

Life after Television: The Coming Transformation of Media and American Life - George Gilder, 1990, 1994. Gilder had a vision foreseeing the TV being replaced by a connected computer.

The Mathematical Tourist - Ivars Peterson, 1988.

Advanced mathematics for the general reader. Digestible introduction to fractals and chaos, prime numbers, topology and higher dimensions, finite automata and more.

The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy - Nancy R. Pearcy and Charles B. Thaxton, 1995

"How modern science blossomed from the Christian world view of the existence of a real physical universe, created and held in being by an omnipotent personal God. With man having the capabilities of rationality and creativity, and thus being capable of investigating him." - David Shotton on the back cover.

The Myth of the Robber Barons: a New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America 1840-1920 - Dr. Burton Folsom, Jr., 4th edition 2003

The productive lives of Cornelius Vanderbuilt, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Charles Schwab and more. They made life better for everyone by making products and services cheaper - much cheaper. They broke into government-sponsored cartels and they made integrated companies from widespread mon-and-pop operations. Folsom has just joined the faculty of Heidi's alma mater Hillsdale College.

The Myth of Male Power - Warren Farrell, 1992

Farrell is a man who is a feminist and was elected to the national board of NOW, the National Organization of Women. He got fed up with the agenda to drive wedges between women and men; the intent of the book is to bring them together. "Why does breast cancer get 660 percent more funding than prostate cancer when the chances of dying from them is about equal?" "If men are the powerful sex, then why did they live one year less than women in 1920, but 7 years less in 1990?" The book is a little dated, but the message is not.

The Measure of the Universe - Isaac Asimov, 1983

This is not a book in the usual sense. It's more like a yard stick. Asimov takes a physical dimension, then starting from the most human quantity of it goes by half powers of 10 first upward, first to worldwide size, then solar system, then galactic and beyond; then he goes downward to the microscopic to molecular to subatomic. The dimensions include length, area, volume, mass, density, pressure, time, speed and temperature. I thought he did some of the magnetic and electrical measures, but I don't see them now. For anyone with an interest in science it's more interesting than I could ever describe.

What I Saw at the Revolution - Peggy Noonan, 1990.

Gifted political writer who was in the trenches of Pres. Reagan and Pres. Bush I. lists her as a regular contributer, but she has been quiet. She must be hard at work on a book.

Black Mischief - David Berlinski

I read this in the 1980s. I was telling our daughter about the distinguished Harvard professor who said that there is no essential difference between chimpanzees and people. Before I could give Berlinski's rejoinder Heidi, who was 8 years old, said "Oh, yeah? Have you ever had a conversation with one?"

I finally got to hear and meet Berlinski earlier this year. Instead of telling him about our daughter I told him that I had read books by both his daughter Claire and his son Misha. He was proud as he could be about his son's first book.

On the Wish List

Einstein's Clocks and Poincare's Maps by ?

Stale - Started but I gave up on

Bowling Alone

I was warned that it was good to keep by my bed to put me to sleep... And it did.

Ron Hebron

Ron_lfp at

Lake Forest Park, Washington, USA


Nov. 2008