Sutton, MA | Member Since 2014
My family and I drove from Boston to New York listening to "the wonderful wizard of Oz." At 3HRs 52MIN OZ was the prefect length for a long car ride. We were enthralled and memorized by the depth and beauty of the story. The book is moderately different from the movie, which allows much discussion around the discrepancies. The narrator, Anne Hathaway, is excellent, where she bring so much magic and life to multiple characters. Our family continues to discuss the book weeks after completion.
Steven Brill provides a critical analysis of the development and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Brill starts with the 2008 Democratic Primary, where Barak Obama seemed underprepared to provide a substitutive healthcare plan compared to Hillary Clinton. Recognizing his short-comings, Obama launches himself into the issue that will serve to define his legacy. Brill provides the details on the political deals, players, compromises, and negotiations that allowed the ACA to become law.
Brill does an expert job to describing the ACA registration rollout fiasco and the herculean efforts needed to create a functional enrollment website under immense political pressure. There are also numerous stories of ordinary people with significant health conditions and how they were affected by the ACA.
The problem with America’s Bitter Pill (ABP) is the big take away, although universal health coverage is terrific the ACA lacks the regulations to contain consumer costs. This issue is due to the fact that the ACA was written to protect the financial interests of insurance providers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment suppliers. ABP reminded me of Otto von Bismarck’s famously stated quote “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”
John Irving gave us all a gift by consecutively writing four of the greatest novels in American history: The World According to Garp (1978), The Hotel New Hampshire (1981), The Cider House Rules (1985) and A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989). It is not that Irving has failed his readership since 1989, but the novels listed above represent the historic height of any author’s powers. Cider House is a must read novel for any lover of serious fiction. Irving is a master story teller and effortlessly weaves together socially significant themes into morally complex human dilemmas without sounding too preachy or erudite. The novel has a natural flow that permits the reader to evaluate complex human interactions and perplexities they otherwise would not experience.
Why should you read Cider House? 1) Cider House is an engaging and beautiful story about human motivation, child development, and lasting friendships, 2) Irving will challenge your belief system relative to abortion, family, and breaking the law for a social good, 3) You are reading a great author at the height of his writing powers, and 4) Cider House is just that good of a novel and better than the 1999 movie.
“The Accidental Superpower” (Superpower) is a surprisingly interesting and powerful analysis about the geopolitical state of the world. The author, Peter Zeihan, uses regional histories, geographic topographies, demographic trends, and economic data to make predictions about the conditions of specific countries between 2015 and 2030. The big winners are Mexico and the United States. The big losers are Russia and China. However, its Zeihan’s culmination of the data that makes his hypotheses so compelling.
Zeihan, who also expertly reads the book, does not stray far from the data when making predictions about the world’s future. “Superpower” opens with the author discussing his love and obsession with maps. Zeihan suggest that a county’s financial and military success can be strongly correlated to its native topography. The author posits that the United States is the supreme superpower due to its numerous internal rivers that result in the cheap transport of goods, large costal oceans that provide a natural defensive border from hostile nations, and fertile farmlands that can feed the masses. No other country or superpower comes close to having the topographical advantages inherent to the United States.
Although Zeihan predicts the United States will continue its dominant superpower status for the foreseeable future, there will be bumps along the way as the country moves toward a more isolationist political policy. The shift toward isolationism is in part a result of achieving energy independence through increased petroleum production due to the Shale revolution. Simply put, the United States will have minimum incentive to protect oceanic trading corridors when energy independence is achieved. This sets the occasion for global disorder through regional conflicts and wars as the United States loses interest in policing water corridors across the world.
Readers of nonfiction and geopolitics will very much enjoy “Superpower”. I provided a very small taste of what this powerful and interesting book has to offer readers.
“Lock In” is first and foremost a well-conceived detective story takes place in the near future centered in Washington DC. Too often writers of science fiction attempt to razzle-dazzle the readers with all sorts of freaky technology with little emphasis on the actual plot. John Scalzi develops an intriguing/well-organized plot with terrific character development.
The plot centers around a deadly flu pandemic that affects the masses worldwide know as Haden syndrome. Although much of the population die of this meningitis type disorder, others develop a Lock In, where victims lie in a constant state of physiological paralysis but retain full cognitive awareness. Because mother is the necessity of invention, robotic and bioengineered interventions permit Lock In victims to transfer their cognitive beings to vehicles outside their unresponsive bodies and re-integrate in society.
“Lock In” is comparable to Isaac Asimov’s collection of short stories titled” I, Robot”. If you are an Asimov fan and enjoy reading about the moral dilemmas associated with integrating advanced technologies (artificial intelligence) within society, I would highly recommend “Lock In”.
“This Changes Everything” (TCE) is an in your face analysis about the impending global climate crisis and the forces conspiring to obfuscate its cataclysmic consequences. The author, Naomi Klein, takes on the climate deniers, Republican Party, Fossil Fuel industry, billionaire philanthropists, and even President Obama in light of the impending climate catastrophe. Klein’s main hypothesis is that conservatives of this country are more aware of the consequences of climate changes resulting from human application of fossil fuels than any other group. However, the interventions needed to thwart the effects of carbon induced climate change are an anathema to the principles of the consecutive movement. These interventions include the very intrusive government regulation of the energy industry and an individual’s use of various energy products. The interventions needed to slow down the earth’s warming must include increased taxation in forms of carbon taxes to fund clean energies (wind and solar), development of mass transportation systems to negate the use cars, and the elimination of global consumer consumption (The Farmer’s Market to replace Walmart).
Klein suggests that conservatives would rather roast to death in a fossil fuel induced heatwave than succumb to the needed government regulation to manage man made climate change. For these reasons the fossil fuel industry has funded various climate denier associations and conferences in an effort of cast public doubt about the science related to human induced global warming. This is despite that fact that “97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position” (http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/).
TCE is a great book! Her prose, writing style, ability to clearly explain complex scientific research, and maintain the engagement of the reader is exquisite. The reader can feel Klein’s desperateness in attempting to explain the realities and certitude of global warming on the future of the world’s economy, food sources, wildlife, and people. She is furiously attempting to wake up the American public from its comatose state of climate apathy and clear out all of the noise associated with this critically important subject.
I would strongly recommend you read this critically important book. TCE will open your eyes to the most pressing challenge facing human existence today and force you into action.
Another book that echoes a similar theme related to human motivation to change behavior for long-term good is “The Impulse Society”.
In my opinion, Stephen King has set the standard of excellence relative to authoring books in the horror genre. It pains me to report that “Revival” falls short of this very high standard. The plot of “Revival” serves as a vehicle for Mr. King to spout off about drug addiction, aging, the existence of God, and guitar playing. All of these items are interesting to read about, but seem jammed into a non-compelling story. Also, the antagonist of “Revival” is not all that evil. The worst you may say is he practices medicine without a license and seems selfish sharing his discoveries. Another issue it is not until the half-way point when “Revival” finds its sea legs and rhythm.
“Revival” does have moments of pure delight (I affectionately refer to these as Kingnezian moments), such as listening to the “terrible sermon” in Chapter 3. I was also touched my Mr. King’s descriptions of first love and family reunions. For most authors,” Revival” would represent a triumph of writing and storytelling. However, we expect much more from Mr. King.
I hit a dry spell in finding new novels that would engage my interest. As a result, I started searching for notable American novels I missed during the height of their popularity. Mystic River shows up on every book critic’s top 25 lists of great American modern novels. Since I had not seen the movie, I gave it a listen.
It would be misleading to characterize Mystic River (MR) as a murder mystery or detective story. Any reader who watched more than three episodes of “Law & Order” will figure out the mystery of MR by the end of the fourth chapter. The value of MR comes in the author’s, Dennis Lahane, skills at making the reader feel the anguish of the characters and intensity of the storyline. MR is a dark serious drama devoid of humor. The three main characters carry a deep sense of misery and psychological trauma that cannot be conventionally expressed due the machismo cultural standards of South Boston. The culture of machismo results in a basic breakdown in social communication, isolation, rejection, and pointless death. Lahane expertly takes the reader into an insular community where most of us would rarely venture. MR is always moving toward the conclusion, where the reader feels a tension similar to watching a car speeding obliviously in the wrong direction of a busy one way street and waiting for the eventual crash. The drama of the book occurs as characters rush to judgments based on community standards and spurious information.
Although the audio book runs roughly 15 hours, every detail is important to understanding the eventual finale. The interplay between the environment and characters makes this book special. After completing the book I watched the film. MR the movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, is almost 100% faithful to the book in plot and tone. I recommend reading MR instead of watching the film to capture Lahane’s masterful writing. However, if you already watched the film, the book will lose much of its punch.
Donna Tart FaceBook page recommended “Station 11”, which is the sole reason I engaged Emily Saint John-Mandel’s book. Although I enjoyed and recommend “Station 11”, I feel that I have visited the pandemic theme countless times in the last year (California, the 5th Wave, and the Maze Runner). Basically, 99% percent of the population is wiped out by the Georgian flu, civilization falls apart, and the reset button must be pushed. Following an interim period of chaos, a small troupe of actors/musicians travels to self-governing communities staging Shakespeare plays for the deprived peoples (there are no other forms of entertainment in the post-apocalyptic world).
The story of “Station 11” floats back and forth in time and centers on six characters. Saint John-Mandel is a very good writer, which makes “Station 11” a cut above similar pandemic books. “Station 11” is primarily about strong relationships. When society is stripped down to a survival of fittest mentality, forming and maintaining groups of friends with similar values are essential. Saint John-Mandel also has some interesting and creative ideas about how small independent communities may differ relative to self-governance.
Overall, Station 11 is a well written and offers a creative perspective on an old theme. The book is never boring or unnecessary violent. Instead, I found Saint John-Mandel’s work thoughtful and introspective.
The Invisible Bridge (IB) describes the cultural, economic, political, domestic, and social conditions that set the occasion for the "Reagan Revolution" or political realignment of the U.S. in favor of conservatism. Rick Perlstein starts “IB” with a detailed analysis of the Nixon administration’s break-in at the Watergate hotel in September 1971. Perlstein reminds the reader that Nixon had other problems brewing in 1971: Bombing of Cambodia, attempting to withdraw from Vietnam without the appearance of losing the war, POWs, and student demonstrations. Overall, the consecutive Presidency’s of Johnson /Nixon permanently changed the American people’s perception of the executive office. The office that was once revered and respected was now seen as corrupt and implacably tarnished.
Reagan’s story and ascendance is always lurking as the backdrop to the scandalous events ranging from Vietnam to Jimmy Carter. Perlstein gives the reader a good biography of Reagan’s development and history, but this is not comprehensive. The emphasis of IB is a microanalysis of political and cultural events that affected Americans between 1971 and 1976. I must admit, I had forgotten how turbulent and chaotic these years were in American history; especially the high degree of domestic terrorism.
IB is not a love letter to Republicans, Democrats, or Reaganites. Perlstein appears to treat all of the players between 1971 and 1976 with equal contempt and cynicism. If you interested in learning about a fairly turbulent time in the United States that set the occasion for a conservative agenda, IB is a winner. If you are a fan of Rush Limbaugh looking to re-affirm your existing worship of the 40th President, look elsewhere.
It took me the entire summer of 2014 to complete Robert Caro’s four volume set on Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). That’s over 160 hours of listening engagement and six downloads (“Master of the Senate” is sold in three separate sections to swindle the listener). However, like a lays potato chip, you can’t stop at one volume. Caro’s critically acclaimed masterwork is a contender for the greatest biography ever put to paper. I was actually saddened to complete the series as I found myself yearning for the release of the 5th and final volume.
Caro’s LBJ series is best described as a micro analysis of about amassing and exercising of power over others. For most of the work, the reader will learn how through duplicitous and manipulative means, LBJ acquired and wielded power. The 36th President displayed an innate motivation and skill that drove him to outwork and outthink his opponents. His drive for power is evident from the earliest years growing up in poverty in near Johnson City, Texas. Caro’s ability to describe the early life LBJ is done so expertly that the reader becomes totally engrossed in the story. Caro descriptions of LBJ’s childhood, economics conditions of South Texas, and socio economic conditions are full of passion and entertainment.
As a listener, you should know within 10-minutes of listening to the introduction if “Path to Power” is the right choice for you. Caro starts each book in the series with an overview. I found these introductions riveting and knew within a few minutes that I selected a winner. The LBJ series is also narrated by Grover Gardener, who is my opinion the very best audible reader in the business.
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