Jean Edward Smith (FDR; Grant; John Marshall; George Bush’s War) is one of my favorite biographers. His current book, Eisenhower in War and Peace, is among the best. Anyone willing to spend the time will be entertained and informed about Eisenhower. Every chapter has insights which inform our current understanding of war, government, and leadership. For example, the chapter dealing with how Eisenhower formed his first Presidential Cabinet is amazing. His dealing with his military aide and driver reveals so much about the man. In many ways, the emergence of Eisenhower as a military leader was accidental. The section dealing with his marriage and how it cooled after the death of his son is heart rending. The book is 976 pages, but don’t let that keep you from opening it and settling in to its rhythm. Negatively, if you get hooked on the writing of Smith you will end up reading all of his books. The narration of Paul Hecht is worthy of The General and this good book.
In You are Not Your Brain, Jeffrey Schwartz MD and Rebecca Gladding MD, help readers better understand rational thought and how individuals can garner control over their irrational thoughts. This book will be very helpful to anyone struggling with fear, anxiety, tedious compulsions, and unwanted behaviors. Detailed methods for changing behaviors are described and illustrated which individuals can access. Personally, I thought there was more illustrative material than was necessary to address the main concepts, but some new to this material may well benefit. Everyone will find some hints and insights which they can use in day-to-day living and improving their quality of life.
Kevin Dutton (Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds; Why the Science and Religion Dialogue Matters) has just published a very informative volume titled The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us about Success. In this very interesting book, Dutton provides a more contemporary, nuanced view of psychopathy. He reveals it as a continuum of context driven behaviors (Ruthlessness, Charm, Focus, Mental Toughness, Fearlessness, Mindfulness, and Action) that can be turned up and down at will. He shows how psychopathic behaviors are characteristic of the saint and sinner, monks and serial killers alike. This book helped me to better understand why psychopaths are able to function ably in the work environment and find success. Certainly, it has brought psychopathic behavior into clearer focus for me. A wonderfully absorbing, engaging approachable work of prose, Dutton’s most recent book is well worth reading.
In Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World, Christopher Steiner drags readers screaming into a brave new world where humans use computers to make complex decisions. I use an algorithm to help my students write better. The program gives comments on grammar, spelling, and content. Other uses are being found in medicine, news reporting, foreign policy analysis, and all sorts of other work. The brave new world of bots is upon us and Steiner aptly tells readers what, when, why, and how they will come to make our lives different - sometimes better and sometimes not so much. The narration of Walter Dixon is a plus.
I have had Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer moving up in my stack of books to read for just over a year and, well, I should have opened it much sooner. This book about a Lutheran pastor who becomes a part of the Nazi resistance may well affect readers on a number of levels. First, with some reservations, this is a well written biography. It is informative and the reader is engaged in every page. Next, the reader is drawn into theological reflection about the nature of faith and the Christian interpretation of that in particular. These sections will stimulate reflection on the part of readers of all faiths and those rejecting all faith. Finally, I was drawn emotionally into the life and thinking of Bonhoeffer particularly in chapters related to his involvement in the Nazi resistance and ultimate execution. If you don’t want your life and work challenged, pass this biography by. The reading of Malciolm Hilgartner is very good particularly she reading the passages in German..
Allan Eckert published The Frontiersmen over a decade ago. I have just returned to renew acquaintance with this work and have been rewarded by the effort. Eckert presents history as narrative and in this book he describes the lives, sacrifices, and problems faced by American frontiersmen – white and Indian alike. At the same time this book can be gut wrenching, eye opening, heart breaking, and entertaining. Sections dealing with the relationships between the Indians, settlers, and the US government are nuanced and particularly painful to read. If you will give over a little time and turn some pages, Eckert will make early American history – westward expansion, Daniel Boone, William Henry Harrison, the fight for Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley all come to life The reading of Kevin Foley is excellent.
Steven Brill in Class Warfare: Inside the fight to Fix America’s Schools has accomplished the impossible; making education policy exciting and interesting. You don’t have to be a policy wonk to benefit by the closely written and thoroughly researched narrative that Brill presents here. The founder of Brill’s Content Magazine – if you remember that great effort – Brill presents the story of how Federal education policy has come to be. He tells the story in a very well researched and readable style. Any American interested in the current status of schools in the US will benefit from his narrative and the insights that readers will gain from it. This is not a teaching book or a classroom management book. It is sort of a contemporary history book. Readers will not fully agree with Brill’s conclusions, but he certainly makes tax payers think, think, think. If nothing else, a reading of Brill’s current volume will know something of the sausage grinder that produces education reform in this era. The narration of L J Ganswer is very good.
Are you interested in the future of small business and manufacturing in the US? Do you want to know what is happening on the cutting edge of design technology? Do you know what 3-D printing, digital fabrication and the makers are? Then Chris Anderson’s introduction titled Makers: The New Industrial Revolution will bring you up short for sure. Anderson (The Long Tail; Free: How Today’s Smartest Businesses Profit by Giving Something for Nothing) is the editor of Wired Magazine who will guide you through the brave new technological world that is pushing us into the future. He opens with an introduction to the invention revolution and how it is contributing to the new industrial revolution. He explains how design and manufacturing are changing the face of the economy and how desktop factories linked to open hardware are driving that revolution. His description of 3-D printing is worth the price of the book to the unfamiliar. He clearly introduces computer numerical control, G-code and its importance, and software like CAD and its use. Those who despair for the US economy and manufacturing there is hope, for Anderson tells how custom batch work can well come home. Some may find Anderson’s approach a bit Pollyannaish, simplistic, or overly optimistic, but there is still much here to stimulate thinking and inform readers. This is a good book readily available to the nontechnical type just interested. The reading of Rene Ruiz is excellent.
Don’t pick up Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious thinking it might be a self-help book. It is really a serious consideration of the unconscious mind readily available to the general reader. Similarly, this is a departure from the psychoanalytical approach to the unconscious although Wilson does speak to that point of view. Rather, this book will open the reader’s eyes to current empirical understanding of the unconscious and seeks to answer the question, how might we access the knowledge contained there? The short answer is that we can’t (yet?) tap into the unconscious. However, Wilson provides a number ways that we might access that knowledge indirectly. The book is interesting, engaging, and informative. At least take a few minutes to thumb through a few pages or sign-up for a sample. You just might find it more entertaining and helpful than you envisioned. The reading of Joe Barrett is very good.
In The Politics of Trafficking: The First International Movement to Combat the Sexual Exploitation of Women, Stephanie Limoncelli presents an excellent introduction to the topic from an historical and public policy perspective. She opens with a history of prostitution and trafficking which is informative. Of particular interest to me were sections relating how some governments have used prostitution to promote economic development. She then addresses the French, Italian, and Dutch experience with abolition and reform. A concluding chapter comments on the politics of current trafficking activity. From an academic perspective, this volume reveals a great deal about how trafficking has been approached internationally. If readers are looking for insight into true crime on an international scale they might be disappointed. I appreciate Limoncelli’s work, but I wish she would have given more insight into how this trafficking works across borders. This book could have been written without any personal or reporting experience being applied. On the other hand, her intent was to introduce the readers to the international movement to combat human trafficking of women and she has done a fine job of doing just that. The reading of Lyssa Graham lends credibility.
Jean Edward Smith (Eisenhower in War and Peace, FDR and Chief Justice Hughes, Traitor to His class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) also published an outstanding biography titled FDR in 2008. I must disclose that I am a fan of Smith’s biographies and have completed almost all of them. This biography is longer than some will tolerate, but well worth the effort. It fully details the split between FDR and ER, the President’s relationship with his children, his handling of the War, his approach to the Depression, and the holding of Japanese US citizens. The most interesting passage for me covered his friendship with Churchill and Lend Lease. Anyone who didn’t live through this American era or in the shadow of FDR, will be more than rewarded for learning about this time in our history. Wade into the book, swim through some pages, and see if you don’t agree. Certainly, Jean Edward Smith has a knack for bringing history in general to the general reader through biography. The narration of Marc Cashman is excellent
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