Dec 12, 2009



(1) June 08 Selection
The Pillars of the Earth - Follett
The Shack - Young (Not a book club selection)

(2) July 08 Selection
Human Smoke
Plato & The Platypus (Not a selection)

(3) Aug. 08 Selection
The Innocent Man - Grisham
Surrender Is Not An Option - Bolton (Not a selection)
America Alone - Steyn (Not a selection)

(4) Sep. 08 Selection
The Book Thief - Zusak
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Shaffer (Not a selection)

(5) Oct. 08 Selection
The Man On Mao's Right - Ji Chaozhu

(6) Dec. 08 Selection
Misquoting Jesus - Ehrmann
(7) Jan. 09
The Mold on Dr. Florey's Coat
(8) Feb. 09
The Most Wanted Man - LeCarre
(9) Mar. 09
I Rose Like A Rocket - Grondahl
River of Doubt - (Not BC))
(10) Apr. 09
Pandoras Keepers - Van De Mark
The Bagel (Not BC)
(11) May 09
Dixie Betrayed - Eicher
What If (Not BC)
(12) June 15, 2009 1:00 p.m.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
(13) July 20, 2009 1:00 p.m.
Inside The Oval Office
(14) August 28,2009 12:15 p.m.
The Nine: Inside The Secret World of The Supreme Court

(15) September 24, 2009 12:15 p.m.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

(16) October 22, 2009
General U.S. Grant's Memoirs

(17) November 18, 2009

Member Biographies

(18) December 21, 2009
Man of the People (Harry s Truman) by Hamby

(19) January 28, 2010
Hell To Pay by D. M. Giangreco

(20) February 25, 2010
Why Viet Nam Matters by Rufus Phillips

* * * * *

Dec 1, 2009

What's So Great About America - D'Souza

Another good book from D'Souza. In fact this is probably his best. He looks at contemporary America - it's wonders and it's problems - and comes away smiling. His positive outlook is catching. The real and fundamental nature of Islamic terror is put into perspective. The progress of integration in America is exposed. D'Souza makes a loud argument against any sort of racial based reparations. Finally, he is firm and direct in his praise of America and Americans.

Far from beginning a decadent death in the west,  D'Souza proudly proclaims that America is alive and well - and making a positive impact on the world everyday.                                                                                             

Sep 22, 2009

Two Years Before The Mast - Richard Dana

I read this years ago but did not recall it until reading it again. A good book. Not great literature perhaps, but an interesting study of early 19th century seafaring. Reading the language of sailing the square rigged wooden vessels of the day is like visiting a foreign technology. The author spends a lot of time describing the great wooden ships and boats, and the life of the sailors that endured the rough life of making them go forward. It's written more as a diary than I remembered. Life on board from day to day, sailing up and down the California coast. The book is rather a log of a ship doing what was necessary to make a successful commercial venture.

On page 21 Mr. Dana describes the discovery of California by Cortez, the early control of the Indians by the Jesuits, their attempts to Christianize the Indians, the expulsion of the Jesuits in all Spanish dominions and the rise of the Franciscans. This part of California history is fascinating. The priests served as area administrators under the Archbishop of Mexico, and the Governor General assumed all civic and military responsibilities.

The government was an arbitrary democracy with no common law and no judiciary. California was treated as a province of Mexico at that time.

In the details of the wooden sailing ships of the day, the book is complete. I was especially taken with (page 251) the description of "smoking the ship". Despite all the Hornblower sagas and the like, this was the best rendition ever on how they found potential leaks - and at the same time cleared the ships of vermin and other pests.

Two Years Before The Mast does a great job of explaining the relationship of the sailors to one another, and how they worked together to run the ship.

A good re-read.

Aug 25, 2009

Enrique's Journey - Sonia Nazario

Thunderstruck! This powerful little book has changed the way I will look at immigrants forever. It is a moving story of determination, squalor, filth, brutality, hopelessness, hunger . . . . and kindness. Carefully written and fully documented, this is a modern story of poverty and corruption that is happening now. As I write this. Everyday.

My family was poor once. Grandfather and Grandmother lived in penniless London among the cobbled streets, grey tenements with no plumbing, horse drawn carts, mud and dirt, sooty fog, and abject poverty. There was little or no work for anyone. Children went to school hungry and shoeless. In those years (around 1900) England was going through a serious recession. Most working people scavenged and bartered in the streets. The government could not care for them and encouraged them to migrate. My family did. They landed in America in 1905.

By the time I came along in the 1930's our family was solidly lower middle class. We were all Americans by then and despite a worldwide depression my parents were able to maintain that status. My father was in and out of work several times as I grew up, but food was always on the table and clothes were always on my back. When I was between the ages of 5 and 15 years old the depression ended, America entered World War II, and my parents purchased our first home in the suburbs of Minneapolis.

Now contrast that with Enrique's experience beginning in Guatamala.

Enrique's Journey describes the world he was born into, the utter lack of a present or future in that world, and the tremendous impetus to go north and find a better life. The story is moving, sad and typical of the situation in Mexico and Central America. Enrique's experiences have the impact of a steam powered ram. His world was nothing like mine, and probably nothing like yours. After reading the book and reliving his impoverished early life and the magnetism of opportunities and family members already living, working, and sending money home from America, my mental picture of todays immigrants from Mexico and Central America changed. Changed a lot.

The book promotes understanding WHY migrants come, and WHY they act the way they do when they get here. For me, this was the most important and most influential book I've read this year.

Strongly recommended.

Aug 24, 2009

Moby Dick - Herman Melville

I read Moby Dick fifty-two years ago while in the Libyan desert somewhere south of Miserata. I was then in the Air Force and working twelve hour shifts monitoring and fine tuning the Shanicle Guidance System that was kept ready to control Martin Matador TM-61-C guided missiles. It was hot and dirty. Food and beer was flown in by Banana Choppers. Water for drinking and hygiene was warm and tasted of rust. When we woke in the morning scorpions were often found in our boots before we put them on. The on-duty shifts were long and boring. I think I read Moby Dick while on duty in the electronics van where the light was better and the temperature a bit cooler.

Now our club picked it as one of the selections for August. I read it (something of a chore) and before the review meeting the club dropped it as the selection. It was such a laborious effort to read that I decided to write this report anyway.

A person starts this book knowing that the overall story is symbolic. Scholars tell us it is allegorical and an important work. Well, I agree but probably not for the reasons usually cited.

On second reading I found that the book dwells (and dwells) on the biology, personality, configuration, habits, and other specific details having to do with whales. Perhaps more that you ever want to know. Out of 650 pages about 450 discuss minutiae about whales. The story of Moby Dick, the sailing ships of the day, the methods used then to kill whales, and the moral (somewhat subliminal) lessons of the good and evil in man's nature - could have been condensed to fit 200 pages.

That is not meant to take away from the scholarship and literary skills of the author. Mr. Melville must have been a brilliant man. There is no question that he was an excellent author. His encyclopedic use of language and his confident sentence structure is outstanding. His philosophic studies of the ethical and moral questions that have bothered mankind forever - are interesting to consider.

All in all, a good solid book of whale-ology and seafaring during the time of wind propulsion.

But long.

The Nine - Jeffrey Toobin

The sub-title is "Inside The Secret World of the Supreme Court". The book is not a history but instead it is a snapshot of of each jurist more or less since Earl Warren. For me there were several surprises as I read the book.

The author obviously believes Sandra O'Connor to have been a very effective and important jurist. She is depicted as the swing vote and therefore the deciding vote most of the years she spent on the bench. She is also described as very smart, firm in her beliefs, and a jurist that always strives for the middle ground.

The authors' take on Antoin Scalia was less complimentary. Scalia is shown as volatile, argumentative, and not intellectually deep. This was a disappointment for me as I tend to admire Scalia.

Justice Thomas was another disappointment. According to the author Thomas is not admired for his verbal silence on the court and has written few outstanding decisions. He is passed over quickly and the reader is left with the impression that Thomas is not one of the more important justices.

The book goes on to review most of the justices since the time of World War II. It's written by a journalist and generally sticks to the facts as he sees them. There are very few of the author's opinions in the book, but there are a few:
  • It had been almost twenty years since Roe vs Wade, and while the court ad allowed states to regulate and limit abortion during that time, there had been little doubt that the Constitution forbade a complete prohibition on abortion.
  • Notably, Scalia's intemperate dissent was joined not just by Thomas (as was customary), but by Roberts and Alito as well - revealing their true feelings about the power of the executive branch, which had been a conservative cause since the Reagan years.
  • Warren Burger, the former chief justice and hardly a liberal thinker, once made the same point in an earthier way. In an interview, he said the idea that the Second Amendment prohibited gun control was "one of the greatest pieces of fraud" on the American public by special interest groups."

  • This was a good book to read, a little tedious at times, but an excellent study of just how the Supreme Court works. Recommended.

Jun 25, 2009

Workin' on the Chain Gang - Walter Mosley

One of my many interests is "Black" History.

Sorry, but even before writing further, I need to rebel at the name "Black". It just isn't a proper description. I grew up with the word "negro" - and I still like it better. It is softer and prouder than black, colored or African-American. I think "Negro" History is superior. It has a positive, clear and distinctive ring to it. But onward.

This little book is the finest and most clearly written explanation of Negro history that I've ever read. It recalls a little of the James Baldwin anger, but only as it reasons the past and future for Negros in America.

It is disturbing that Negros are not, as a societal group, doing better in America. Many social critics blame slavery, predjudice, glass ceilings, poor education, discrimination in the courts, and so forth. Mosley does not.