Books That I Recommend

During my forty year career, I hardly ever read a book, and then only an occasional one which was work-related.   Approximately mid-summer of 2016, I began reading books from our County Library.  So far, I’ve had great luck in my selections, and I would like to list a few of them. OVER TIME, I WILL MAKE ADDITIONS TO THIS LIST.  If you don’t find one that might interest you, perhaps consider another!

NEW ADDITION(S):

Young Men and Fire, By Norman Maclean

Norman Maclean knew the forests around where the Mann Gulch (Montana) explosive forest fire claimed the lives of thirteen of the sixteen “smokejumpers,” who parachuted in to put it out.  Maclean was a woodsman, who fought such forest fires as a young teen when the men were deployed in WWI.  He was a teacher, a Professor of Genetics and a marvelous storyteller.  Many of the lessons learned from Mann Gulch have contributed to new procedures and equipment, thus contributing to forest fire fighting safety.  Given the endless string of wildfires in the Western U. S, this is a very apropos book.  Also wrote: A River Runs Through It.

 

Hit Refresh, by Satya Nadella.  

This is an excellent book, which cannot be assigned to any one category. In it, Mr. Nadella provides insight into many topics: his journey from his native India, to become CEO of Microsoft, one of the world’s largest corporations; the many business management concepts that he believes in; how important family is in his life, to include a “special needs” son; what technology will mean to America’s labor force, as well as that of the world at large; and his love of Cricket, among other things.

If you are a businessman or woman, and are wondering what impact technology will have on the global work force, a techno-geek, or wonder what the future of technology might mean to us in the future, I would highly recommend Hit Refresh!

LIFE 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,
By Max Tegmark

Mr. Tegmark is a Professor of Physics at MIT, and the President of the Future of Life Institute. This is arguably the most comprehensive book that I have read on AI, and Professor Tegmark looks at the pros and cons from both sides.

His FLI brought the two sides—those who believe that machines will beneficial to Man, or they might represent risks—in order to better understand the situation, and work toward a common goal of safe Artificial Intelligence. His premise, which has been widely accepted is that very little is known as to when machines will reach Mankind’s level of mental capacity, and what the ramifications will be; so, let’s work together until we do.

Will Robots Take Your Job? By Nigel M. de S. Cameron.

This is a short book, which I believe provides a great deal of insight as to questions, which our politicians need to raise publicly, and that our society needs to consider most carefully. We have seen automation eliminate jobs, over the past 50 years—through “Bar” Codes and ATMs, and this transformation will continue on, and at a rapidly accelerating pace.

Mr. Cameron does, indeed, raise one most relevant point: the STEM subjects, which have been encouraged over the past two years, or so, may not be the magic bullet that many had thought. Science, Technology, etc., would just make the worker more like the Machines.

He suggests the term STEAM, with the addition of the “A” representing the Arts and Humanities. The critical thinking skills of Philosophy, the understanding of Economics in cost-controls, and the interpersonal concepts of Sociology would be what separates the well-rounded worker from the machines.

ENVIRONMENT:

Climate of Hope,  By Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope.
As many nations and politicians have dropped the ball on correcting today’s Environmental Dangers, Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope describe how some 7,000 local governments have stepped-in to fill the void.  They focus on the far-reaching problem from a four-pronged perspective:  Business; Government; Philanthropy and Environmental.  Convincing business that a healthy environment works sure helps!  (A blog post, describing his book, is linked, as follows.)

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future:  By Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.
Two scientists have written a science fiction novel, which predicts what the Earth, that Mankind passes on to successive generations, might be like. We must change direction, in order avoid assured destruction.  Related post on this book.

FINANCIAL:

Stress Test:  By Timothy F. Geithner.
Tim Geithner was President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the beginning of the crisis and, then, he moved over to take Hank Paulson’s place, as Secretary of the Treasury, during the First Obama Administration. The FRB-NY implements the Federal Reserve Board’s Monetary Policy.  Why did the Government Bail-Out Wall St, and not Main Street?

Too Big to Fail: the inside story of how Wall Street and Washington fought to save the financial system from crisis–and themselves:  By Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Respected Wall Street journalist—as a reporter from the NY Times and morning host on CNBC-TV—Mr. Sorkin describes the crises from outside the Government, with numerous excerpts of discussions and interviews with the Wall Street participants.

HEALTH CARE / MEDICAL SCIENCE:

Epic Measures:  By Jeremy N. Smith.
Christopher Murray, a Harvard-trained M.D, with an Oxford, Ph.D. in Medical Health Economics, challenges the Global Health Establishment and wins.  His tool is a data base of virtually every known disease, broken-down by country. The free on-line “GMD Compare” is linked, as follows: http://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/.

Mountains Beyond Mountains:  By Tracy Kidder.
Paul Farmer, a fellow resident at “Brigham” with Chris Murray (cited above), and Jim Yong Kim, vowed to “Save the World”, and they are working on it.  Farmer and Kim, through their Partners in Health, also challenged the Establishment, and appear to be winning.  PIH has taken top-flight health care to the poorest of the poor, in Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda, and a Siberian Gulag.

How the Affordable Care Act will improve our terribly complex, blatantly unjust, outrageously expensive, grossly inefficient, error prone system:  By Emanuel, Ezekiel.
Dr. Emanuel is a Professor of Oncology and Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act (derisively called “Obamacare” by the Republicans). program currently provides health insurance to some 25 million previously uninsured Americans. Dr. Emanuel acknowledges that any Health Care, or Insurance, System can always be improved upon.

The Caine Mutiny: By Herman Wouk.

This is a great fictitious novel, about the boredom that goes on on many Navy ships—as the everlasting preparation for action is only intermittently interrupted by the real thing. What set’s this book apart from many other books about WWII, in my opinion, is the consideration of Mental Health. Wouk had served as an officer on two DMS’s, Destroyer Minesweepers, similar to the USS Caine, in the Pacific, during the War.

NoteI was unsure as to which category to add this to; however, I believe that it might have been one of the first general circulation books to include Mental Health issues. Accordingly, I have listed The Caine Mutiny in the Health Care/Medical Science category.

The recent popularity of this 66 year-old novel might be due to the possible similarity in personality disorders, often ascribed to Donald J. Trump and the fictitious Lieutenant Commander Philip J. Queeg,

When Breath Becomes Air:  By Paul Kalanithi.
A young neurosurgeon, who way about to take the next step, in a most successful career, has the tables turned on him.  At age 36, he is diagnosed with lung cancer, and begins to face the hard reality, but as the patient, rather than the physician.  Dr. Kalanirh, a lover of Literature, Emailed his best friend to advise him of his terminal cancer, included: “The good news is:  I’ve outlived two Brontes, Keats and Stephen Crane.  The bad news is that I haven’t written anything’”  This book,  indeed, is a wonderful, and compelling one!

The Rosie Project:  By Graeme Samson.
A hilarious, fictional romantic novel about a middle-aged professor of genetics, with Asperger’s Syndrome, deciding that he needs to find a wife.  So, he draws-up a 16 page questionnaire for candidates to complete. Need I say more? Bill Gates’ wife, Melinda, suggested that he read it, since it deals with the focused mind of a logically-focused person.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY:

Churchill & Orwell:  By, Thomas E. Ricks.

Quite an interesting dual biography about two giants of the 20th Century. Winston Churchill and George Orwell (nee: Eric Blair) never met, but there were certain parallels in their lives. Both stood against any form of authoritarianism—albeit from different directions—at a time when such a stance wasn’t popular in Great Britain

The Plot Against America:  By Philip Roth.
A historical novel, as told through the eyes of eleven year-old “Philip”, growing-up in a Jewish neighborhood, in pre-World War II America. The setting is famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, an avid Nazi-Sympathizer, defeating incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the Presidency, in Isolationist America. The ironies with the current political environment abound.

POLITICS:

This Fight is Our Fight: By Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s book provides an excellent overview of how our Federal Government functions; but, it just doesn’t work properly for the averages American. And, for all those former Trump supporters, welcome to Sanity. Senator Warren surely is the power source, firing-up the “I Didn’t Vote for Trump” Citizens!” Al

Franken, Giant of the Senate: By, Al Franken. 
Al Franken, a former satirical comedian—writer and performer—is best-known for his 15 years on Saturday Night Live. For the past seven years, he has mostly disposed of the humor, so that he might be taken seriously in his new role as a U. S. Senator. This book is a most worthwhile read: blending humor, politics and what the actual role of a Legislator should be.

Insane Clown President:  By, Matt Taibbi.

Matt Taibbi is a Contributing Editor for Rolling Stone Magazine, and is widely followed for his  political coverage.  Insane Clown Prince is a succession of his various columns, as an on-the-bus journalist, during the 2016 Presidential Campaign.  His story begins in August of 2015, and runs through until the bitter end.  Mr. Taibbi provides some thought-provoking insight as to why Hillary Clinton might have lost, and Donald Trump won.

All the President’s Men:  By Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.
Although this book reads like fiction, it is an extremely intriguing—step-by-step—
—account of the authors’ investigative reporting persistence, along with those of numerous journalists from other media outlets nationwide.  That collective effort was instrumental in bringing-down the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon.  The painstaking attention to detail, and professionalism, are admirably portrayed on every page.  At times, I had to remind myself that this book was published in 1974.  THE BENEFIT OF A FREE PRESS WAS NEVER MORE EVIDENT THEN…TODAY!

RACISM / BIGOTRY / SEXISM:

Freeman:  By Leonard Pitts, Jr.
In this well-researched historical novel, Mr. Pitts describes life, in the Deep South, given the uncertainty of what life had become in the vanquished south, immediately after the Civil War.

Born A Crime:  By Trevor Noah.
Trevor Noah uses the same whit, which he displays on TV’s The Daly Show, to describe the exploits of a Naughty Boy, born illegally in South Africa.  He further provides a caustic analysis of the life of Non-Whites under Apartheid.  Racism from another angle!

Tears We Cannot Stop:  A Sermon to White America, By Michael Eric Dyson.
Georgetown University Professor Dyson, who is also a Baptist Minister, explains to White America what it means to be black—truly Black, in America. As a sociologist, Dyson explains that, until we come to terms with our own racism, which has been stewing for 400 years, we will never advance as a Society.   Relevant blog post.

Killers of the Flower Moon:  By David Grann.
This is a true story about a series of murders on the Osage Indian Reservation, in  1920s Oklahoma.  The case had been mishandled by various law enforcement agencies, including the small investigative arm of the U. S. Justice Department.  J. Edgar Hoover, Acting Director of the FBI, called on a former Texas Ranger, who went to work in solving the case.  This was the first major case of the newly formed, and now fabled agency.  An Osage journalist had questioned, at the time, whether the Court would consider the death of an Indian to be murder, or just animal abuse?

Shoot like a girl: one woman’s dramatic fight in Afghanistan and on the home front:  By  Mary Jennings Hegar.
This is a very compelling story about one women’s fight, against sexism in the Military, first to become a pilot, then to be recognized for her capabilities in combat and, then, her fight in civilian life for the next generation of females to advance in all military combat assignments.  At 5′ 4″, Major Jennings Hegar demonstrated that the little “guy” can, and often will, win.

SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGY:

The Second Machine Age, Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies:  By Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
This book describes how today’s Technological Revolution, the Digital Age, is taking-over where the Industrial Revolution had begun. Now, as then, innovation often doesn’t necessarily precede applications, the two of which might come in either order or simultaneously. And in same cases, intermediate inventions or applications might be required.

Rise of the Robots, By Martin Ford

As a 25 year veteran of Silicon Valley, and a business entrepreneur, Mr. Ford takes the reader through the widespread role of technology within out labor market. Not just robots and machine learning algorithms; but, also other forms of automation. From Bar Codes to ATMs, many of these ubiquitous items have reduced the need for workers. But, the labor market disruption is also beginning to occur within routine chores in the legal and medical fields, as well. I highly recommend this book if you: work for a living; invest in the stock market; or have children or grandchildren who will be entering the workforce, at sometime in the future.

SOCIAL SCIENCES:

Sapiens:  A Brief History of Humankind:  By Yuval Noah Harari.
A great historical and scientific explanation of Who we are, Where we came from, and How we got here. The obvious idea is to understand our past in order to contemplate our future. Namely, what We, as a Species, will become in the future?  The linked blog post is partly based on “Sapiens.”

THE BROKEN LADDER, How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die: By Keith Payne.

This intuitive book delves deeply into the New Science of Inequality. It goes well beyond what we might think of as Income-Inequality, as a relatively new economic phenomenon, for it draws on the full range of the Sciences. As someone who spent a career dealing in economics and finance, I found this book to be truly superb in expanding my understanding of the subject matter.

Tribe–On Homecoming and Belonging:  by Sebastian Junger.
Tribe is a wonderful book, that calls on a number of academic fields, in order to describe Mankind’s search for a sense of belonging. Mr. Junger traces this Tribalism from Colonial America, the WWII London Blitz, returning war veterans with PTSD, the lasting psychological effects on rape victims, etc.  His book “War” is also an outstanding, sometimes academic, journey into the minds and internal operation of Men in Combat.  The Guardian (UK) provided this excellent Review of Tribe-On Homecoming and Belonging.

GRIT:  By Angela Duckworth.
Throughout this book, Professor Duckworth searches for the answer to one of psychology’s most intriguing questions: To what extent are Accomplishments due to Talent, as compared to hard work? Are we born with the capability, or must we practice, or compete to achieve it? In essence, is it: Nature or Nurture?
During her research, Angela Duckworth has worked with, interviewed, visited with, or collaborated with: West Point staff and cadets; Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks; various corporate CEOs; Bill and Melinda Gates; college coaches; Olympic Athletes; other social scientists, and even her own daughters. This is not another of those Self-Help books; however, some of the lessons learned, by Ms. Duckworth, can make you a better: leader; teacher; co-worker; organizer; parent, etc.

Moneyball:  By Michael Lewis.
In this story, the little guy wins.  Once upon a time, the Oakland A’s, with one of the smallest budgets in Major League Baseball had a better record just about all of the other teams, that had bigger budgets, and paid players much higher salaries.  They challenged the Establishment, using statistical analysis, in managing their teams.  A great read, even if you’re not a baseball fan.

The Undoing Project:  By Michael Lewis
This is quite a hilarious book, about two Israeli Psychologists: Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their ground-breaking work on decision-making theory: created the new field of Behavioral Economics; revolutionized Big-Data studies; advanced evidence-based medicine and more rational government regulation.

Hillbilly Elegy:  By J. D. Vance.
After World War II, many people from Appalachia moved-up, to southern Ohio and Indiana, searching for a better way-of-life. But, they retained their Hillbilly culture—extreme poverty, lacking job skills or a respect for education. Actually, Appalachia moved north with them. This is J. D. Vance’s personal story about how he escaped, gained a good education and began a successful career; but, he still shares many of those same Hillbilly values.

UNCATEGORIZED:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide;   By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
This book tells the stories of a multitude of people—victims of sexual slavery, non-existent health care, decade’s-long civil warfare, etc—who discovered ways out, and had the charity to, then, help others. You might find other, similar books by this husband and wife team of interest. The authors also have another book, “A Path Appears”, which offers suggestions about how you can hep, but bypass corrupt officials.

I Am Malala:   By Malala Yousafzai.
I actually read this book last year; however, it is just too good not to include.  The theme–the importance of Education, especially for young women in  the developing world–fits right in with Half the Sky, by the Kristofs, just listed above.  Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for literally standing up to the Taliban, in Pakistan, receiving a bullet in the face–and a long hospital stay in  London.  Buy the book, if you can, and donate it to a school library near your home.

NEW ADDITION: On Writing: By, Stephen King.

Yes, THE Stephen King who is best-known for his horror novels; however, this great read is a combination of: his childhood, as background; his education in literature; how he got started, and ascended to considerable fame; and some useful hints about writing. This is a must read for the would-be novelist, the blogger, the high school English teacher, or anyone who provides written proposals in their career. Mr. King a;so provides a Book List, at the end, for anyone looking for some good reading material.

NOTE:   During the eight months that the Books That I Recommend Tab has been on this blog, there have been more than 400 visitors. As books have been added during that time, and a few eliminated, the number of Foreign Policy and National Security titles has grown. That had not been my original intention; however, perhaps that’s where the news headlines have led the conversation. Additionally, that is after including some obviously military stories, such as The Caine Mutiny and Shoot Like a Girl, as Mental Health and Sexism topics, due to the respective under-lying stories.

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