7 August 2001

Summer Reading List 2001

Thought I would dump my summer reading list out for you all ... going to have a few days off soon and wonder if anyone has some favorite selections of their own they would like to recommend. My list is not all-inclusive, as I've omitted books on computer programming, computer programs, computer program manuals, and wargaming books - the total number of "geek" books easily outnumbers the list presented here, maybe even by a ratio of 3 to 1 ... nevertheless, the choices following represent subjects agreeable to most here ... Anyway, I'm not going to rate them with 4 out of 5 stars or brand some kind of "Naumie" rating on the choices. I'll just give the title, author, and a short blurb with my take on the deal ...


Otherland: Sea of Silver Light, Vol. 4 by Tad Williams
The absolute, greatest piece of science fiction/fantasy ever written. The 4 volume set is an epic tale with themes of fantasy, science fiction, mythology, childhood fables, cyberpunk commingled into a masterful story that left me in tears (and no, I've never shed tears for any book ever - and you can count the number of times I've cried after watching a flick on one hand ...). In the not-too-distant future, a private cartel known as The Grail Brotherhood has constructed a private, multidimensional universe where they've hatched a sinister plot that involves the world's children who mysteriously enter into comas, the coma occurences correlate with net usage. A group of adventurers, from diverse origins, enter the virtual reality world to figure out what has happened to their friends, sons, daughter, brothers and sisters. Another set of allies fight in real life to discover the source of strange tidings. I can't put into words what wonderful reading this book series (4 books total). If you are a fan of science fiction, fantasy, or Star Wars, you simply must go buy these books right now (or go to the library and check them out).

Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan
Book 9 in the Wheel of Time fantasy series. The question is when is Jordan going to end the tale - the first 3 or 4 books were incredible, the next 4 deteriorated into barely readable prose. Winter's Heart, or Book 9, was a long time in coming (over 2 years), and it's worth the wait, as the series picks back up.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Reread the classic series, originally authored back in the 1950's. I think everyone has been rereading (or youth reading for the first time) in preparation for the epic New Line Cinema Christmas release. This will sound sacreligous to some, but although I admire the writing and appreciate the allure, the tale of the ringbearer at times was tough for me to read - I had to force the pages down. At other times, the writing is just too good and the story engrossing.

Dune by Frank Herbert
Another rereading - this one gets read every 2 or 3 years on a regular basis. It's tragic that the sequel novels and the spinoff movies and television shows (recently, on the Sci-Fi Channel) have been a disgrace to this beautiful work.


Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds
The autobiography of Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux. It took me less than 12 hours to read an enjoyable account of Linus and Linux, from his childhood in Finland, to purchasing his first house in California after he cashed in his Red Hat stock options. It is unbelievable that a college kid simply looking for a way to get his 386 computer hooked into the university computers led to a world-wide metamorphosis that fueled the internet explosion into the realm of common folks.

Double Cross by Sam Giancana
A former guest to Straus' Place radio show, a very insightful look into the family of a grizzled mobster, though the closer you get to the end, the bigger the tales get. I buy most of it until the last quarter of the book.

The Texas Connection by Craig Zirbel
Craig is an Arizona native and he guested on Straus' Place (again, the radio show!) back in November, 2000. It's dry reading, but lots of evidence piled up, pointing to a LBJ led assasination of JFK. I don't know if I buy it, but I did walk away with the belief that Lyndon Baines Johnson may have been the most corrupt U.S. president ever, dwarfing even the likes of Nixon and Reagan, and makes Bush and Clinton look like boy scouts.

The Case Against Immigration: The Moral, Economic, Social, and Environmental Reasons for Reducing... by Roy Beck
A treatise on the costs associated with immigration. I wish Beck would have focused more on the social and economic costs - as there are two chapters that stand out simply for the case study nature comparing American towns that embraced cheap immigrant labor vs. those towns that did not. The results are staggering and paint a portrait that even hardliner supporters of open immigration cannot dispel. Lots of facts and figures are brandished about and the history of American immigration is examined. Before the 1980's, immigration occurred at a rate of 200K per year, in the 1990's it jumped to 500K per year, and now it's approaching 2 million per year. The transferrence of wealth from American taxpayer to firms who profit from immigrant labor is highlighted - companies get cheap workers but we pay for the overcrowded schools, assault on the environment, public assistance (emergency room care, defaulted payments, food stamps) for the workers who most likely make less than poverty level wages, the escalation of crime, etc. ...

Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future by Sheldon Rampton
Public relations is big business now - billions of dollars are spent by industry to project an image to sway public opinion. Learn about "third man" strategies, astroturf organizations (fake grass-roots groups totally funded by industry as a front), and bias in studies by think tanks where the conclusion has already been bought and paid for. Rampton and co-author Stauber follow the money and illustrate the techniques with real-life historical examples.

The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947-2000
A historical account of Las Vegas that I'm certain won't be featured by the Las Vegas Chamber of City Commerce (or given the wacky nature of Nevada, maybe it would). The authors detail the growth of Las Vegas, from its dusty roots to corporate controlled present day. Instead of regurgitating press releases, the authors "follow the money" and give an account of all the major players, and the big taint of corrupted mob money that flows like the coins inserted into casino slot machines. No politician is unscathed - gritty details of Senator Paul Laxalt's grubby gleanings are given, and even the involvement of his good friend, Ronald Reagan had major impact. FBI presence, was intentionally scuttled and less experienced, lower ranking officers were assigned to the Nevada office, at the request of Laxalt and Reagan. A fascinating tale about Howard Hughes time in the city of lost wages - I will say no more, but it's worth the cost of the book alone (or library checkout).

The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President by Vincent Bugliosi
Every American needs to read this book. As I've expressed this before, Bugliosi isn't exactly a left wing wacko - he served as a prosecutor and he was the man who put Charles Manson away. Bugliosi concisely and succinctly lays out the prosecutorial case that the SCOTUS served as partisan surogates for the Republican party, and that the Bush v. Gore ruling had no basis in legal precedent, was signed anonymously in a per-curiam fashion reserved for unaminous, uncontroversial cases, and completely contradicted the justices own previous rulings. Oh hell, you can read my take on it here.

The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey
Not as good as What's So Amazing About Grace, but I enjoyed reading it.

A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence by Ray Raphael
All the history books I read always give the wars to you in a battle by battle, strategic leader decision type of timeframe. That and the dates. Here, the war is viewed from the perspective of the average folk at the time (1760's - 1780's). Things arn't as always cut and dry at the ground level. A good read.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
I read this book 2-3 times a year. I don't know why I keep rereading it. I guess it's a motivational ploy on my part.

Currently in the read queue

Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline by Robert Bork
Say what you will about Bork, but unlike other misguided counterparts of his ilk (Bennett, Reed, Thomas), he actually possesses sizable intellect. Interested to read his takes on matters, even if it is another "Democrats are destroying the U.S." schpeal.

Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President
The fact that the book was pulled off of the market and copies burned sparked my curiosity. Also, the mysterious recent "suicide" death of the author adds to the fray. Everyone talked about Vince Foster with the Clintons, but if anyone really checks, a lot more people who have gotten close to Bush family dealings have ended up dead in mysterious circumstances.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Everyone always expresses surprise when I tell them, no, I've never read it.

The Cathredral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary by Eric Raymond


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