I was going to do a list of movies for my second in the “Year in Review” posts but I realized going through the list that I made that I really did not watch a lot of new movies this year and I cant make a list containing all of the Marvel related movies and call it good. So, while I’m marinating on ideas for that post I decided to push my list of books to second instead of third in the series. I am much more of an avid reader these days than I am a tv watch or movie goer.
This is a list of a few books I’ve read throughout the year that were both insightful and entertaining.
Sons and Soldiers-Bruce Henderson
I inevitably pick up a book while at the airport even if I have two with me. So, this year on my vacation/pilgrimage back to the Gem State this year I picked up this historical book about the Jewish soldiers that left Germany just before the war and returned to fight the Nazi’s as part of a group of soldier translators on the Allied side.
This book is great because it never bogs itself down in the minutiae of the military and gives a very human side to the soldiers who lost their homes and families only to return to fight to free them and end the pogroms against the Jews in Germany and other Axis held areas. This is one of the sides to the war that has not received as much attention as it should, partly due to the classified nature of some of these soldiers activities, but also due to more attention being given to singular stories or more visible men of the time.
This is a great read for any WWII buff or anyone interested in real life human drama.
Accessory to War- Neil deGrasse Tyson
I’ve been a fan of Tyson’s for a bit now but had never read any of his books to this point. After seeing a Joe Rogan podcast that he was on it made me want to read this book. Tyson has a very gifted way of getting you interested in physics and science with his personality.
This book is great for both science and history buffs because it helps to bridge the gap in some areas regarding technology and the military and how the two both work together, though with different objectives, and have produced the technology that both kept the US from destruction but also ended the second world war earlier than it would have without science.
While the book does get bogged down in some long scientific explanations, there are enough interesting historical ties and stories that help to bring the point that the author is trying to make home in an easily explained manner. Definitely not for a casual reader, this book goes into some detail regarding astrophysics and other pretty heavy subjects. You don’t have to be a math or physics whiz to get the content of the book, however, you do need to have a little bit of stamina mentally to get through some of the more cumbersome parts.
Overall a great read and super insightful.
Everything All At Once- Bill Nye
Everybody’s favorite ‘Science Guy’ wrote this book to help drive home his “Everything All At Once” philosophy. The book combines both autobiographical bits from his life but also tangible life lessons that one can apply to their own to help focus your energies on your own projects. Insightful, funny, and warming Nye manages to hold your attention while teaching you lessons just like he does on his television programs.
One of the strongest takeaways from the book is to remember to think about how all things are connected and how you treat people and your environment around you will ultimately effect your life and work. Another strong point of the book is to remember that nobody knows everything, but if you take some time to learn things that you don’t know from people who have different experiences than you it opens a whole new world of thinking.
Sharp Objects/Dark Places- Gillian Flynn
These are actually two separate books, however, I put them together in a short review because I read them pretty much back to back as well as they are by the same author. Those who know the book or movie Gone Girl should know this author as she wrote all three books. I went into both of these books with the hope that the twist was as good as Gone Girl’s was. I remember sitting up reading that book and was about to go to bed then I hit the twist and was up 3 more hours reading until the end because it was so out of left field that it hooked me.
Unfortunately, I was a little let down in this regard with both books. While the twists were still interesting in both they did not live up to that of Gone Girl but I was willing to let that go because both read very easily and the story did not wander around to where you grow bored. Flynn has a definite hold on pacing and characters that are flawed and in search of answers in their own lives.
In Sharp Objects the protagonist is in search of answers about a possible serial killer in her home town. That search leads her on a dark road in regard to her own past and family ties that she didn’t realize were connected to the present story.
Sharp Objects was an interesting story and had a slow build to it. My only complaint is that she gave a little too much away too early which made me wonder if I was right about who the killer was until the end. This was a good hook but at the same time she included enough misdirection to make you question your instincts.
Dark Places’ protagonist starts her story in need of money and her desperation for cash leads her down roads to her murdered family’s past that she dared not travel before. She gets put in fairly dangerous situations but ultimately gets a better understanding and finally answers to the mystery that has defined her since childhood.
In Dark Places the hook is buried deep as you ride the wave of the story to a strange conclusion. In the end I felt like ‘huh, how did I miss that?’ As the end of the story unfolded it became less obvious as to who the killer was until the sharp left turn at the end which was good. Flynn made good use of timeline in this novel, going back and forth between present day and past to fill out the story.
Both books are worth a read as they are well written and, as mentioned earlier, the pacing is just enough to keep you nibbling the cheese until you’re caught in the trap.
Fear- Bob Woodward
I was a little hesitant to read this book, not because of subject matter but because I had just finished reading “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff. Anyone who was around or is aware enough of the past knows who Bob Woodward is and his role in the Watergate Scandal of the Nixon administration. However, while I feared that this book would be a rehash to a lot of the content in “Fire and Fury” it actually did more corroborating in regard to the attitudes of people both in the administration but also the situations revolving around major events in the first two years of the Trump Presidency.
If anything, it will reinforce any anti-Trump person in their beliefs that he is a moron who should not have been elected president. Pro-Trumper’s will see this book as another in a long list of attacks on his character. However, looking at this material as objectively as possible, you see a man who was too used to getting his way through either shady business practices or having enough money to throw at the problem that he never had to deal with any real adversity and this has become the major Achilles heal of his time in office.
Without getting too much into my political leanings or attitudes, I can say that the book sheds a lot of light on the separate factions, overall unprofessionalism of the staff, and the obvious missteps of a man who thought he could do great things but ends up getting in his own way because of his hubris and inflated concept of self importance.
I think both “Fire and Fury” and “Fear” are great companion pieces to help people understand what is going on in the White House and a cautionary tale to future presidents about how NOT to run an administration.