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Recommended Books
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I love books.  What follows is an ongoing list of books that I have read and my comments.  The list is not arranged in any particular order.
Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order 
    Written by Robert Kagan 
    Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2003 
    ISBN: 1400040930 

This is a good book.  A very quick read.  It explains why Europeans and Americans see things differently when it comes to geopolitics and the use of power.  It gives the topic a fair treatment from both perspectives and helped me understand things to a much greater degree.  I recommend it to anyone trying to understand why the French and Germans where not supportive of the US invasion of Iraq. 

Thomas Jefferson: The Man of Light 
    Written by Clay S. Jenkinson 
    Marmarth Press, a Division of Empire for Liberty, LLC 

An enjoyable little book highlighting the answers to many of the questions ask of Clay Jenkinson while he impersonates Thomas Jefferson the 3rd President of the United States.  It is a good starting point for anyone who would like to quickly learn about Thomas Jefferson and what it is like to portray a Chautauqua character. 

My First Two Thousand Years: The Autobiography of the Wandering Jew 
    Written by George Sylvester Viereck & Paul Eldridge 
     Published by Sheridan House, New York 2001 (written in 1928) 
     ISBN: 1-57409-128-X 

I found this book interesting because I am fascinated by the idea of hypothetically viewing large spans of history and society through the eyes of a single person who experiences it first hand.  The story is about a jew who took the Roman name, Cartaphilus (aka Isaac Laquedem), and was a contemporary of Jesus.  Cartaphilus, one of the Roman guards that escorted Jesus to his crucifixion, mocked and taunted him while he carried the cross.  Jesus responded to him by saying, "I shall go, but thou shalt tarry until I return."  From that point on Cartaphilus found that he stopped aging and was practically immortal.  He became an outcast among Jews and Romans and ended up wandering the world down through the ages.  The story meanders through history giving first hand accounts of Cartaphilus's experiences with (and influence on) different historical figures and eras. 

A special thanks to Dr. Sam Franklin, one of my old professors and mentor, for introducing me to the book. 

Angels & Demons; The Da Vinci Code 
    Written by Dan Brown 
     Published by 

Very entertaining fiction.  It was hard for me to put the books down. 

The Collected WHAT IF?  Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been 
    Edited by Robert Cowley 
    Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, NY (Previously published as What If? 1999 and What If? 2 2001) 
    ISBN: 0-399-15238-5 

An anthology of essays that ponders the crucial turning points of historical events that forever altered the course of civilization.  What if Martin Luther had been burned as a heretic?  George Washington had never made his miraculous escape from the British on Long Island in the dawn of August 29, 1776?  A Confederate aide hadn't accidentally lost General Robert E. Lee's plans for invading the North?  What if D-Day had been a failure? The Soviet Union might have controlled all of Europe.  Forty-five in-depth essays on the monumental events of the past with speculations as to what our world might be like had things gone differently in that one singular moment in time.  I am now much more aware of how small changes in todays events can have big ramifications for the future. 

The Prophet  
   Written by Kahlil Gibran 
    Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2005 (original copyright 1923) 
    ISBN: 0-394-40428-9 

When asked what was the underlying message of The Prophet, Gibran replied that it was: ‘You are far greater than you know, and all is well’. 

Day by Day Armageddon 
    Written by J. L. Bourne 
     copyright 2005 

Perhaps the best "zombie genre" book I've read.  If you like George Romero's movies, you'll enjoy this book. 

Battle Cry Of Freedom: The Civil War Era 
   Written by James M. McPherson 
    copyright 1988 by Oxford University Press 
    ISBN: 0-19-516895 

An incredible one volume history of the Civil War.  It is far more than a recount of battles and strategies.  It explores the reasons why various events unfolded the way they did.  The most compelling things about the book is its narrative style -- it is very easy to read and very hard to put down.  I bought the book on a whim and wasn't sure I would actually sit down and read its entire 909 pages, but once I finished the first chapter I knew I would finish the whole book.  I highly recommend this work for anyone who is even remotely interested in this era of American history.  It is well worth the time. 

From the books Afterward: 
"Eternal vigilance against the tyrannical power of government remains the price of our negative liberties, to be sure.  But it is equally true that the instruments of government power remain necessary to defend the equal justice under law of positive liberty." 

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies 
   Written by Jared Diamond 
    copyright 2005, 2003, 1997, by Jared Diamond 
    W.W. Norton & Company Ltd. 
     ISBN: 0-393-06131-0 
 Why are some human societies more advanced than others?  Jared Diamond's conclusion is that societies developed differently on different continents because of differences in continental environments, not in human biology.  Advanced technologies, centralized political organization, and other features of complex societies could emerge only in dense sedentary populations capable of accumulating food surpluses which was tied to the rise of agriculture that began around 8,500 B.C.  But the domesticable wild plant and animal species essential for that rise of agriculture were distributed very unevenly over the continents.  The most valuable domesticalbe wild species were concentrated in only nine small areas of the globe, which thus became the earliest homelands of agriculture.  The original inhabitants of those homelands thereby gained a head start toward developing guns, germs, and steel.  The languages and genes of those homeland inhabitants, as well as their livestock, crops, technologies, and writing systems, became dominant in the ancient and modern world. 

This is a book that taught me much and has indeed changed my view of world history in many ways. I do recommend this book - the details are good and many of the theories ring true, but in the same breath I would warn against applying Diamond's conclusions to all elements of history.  The book discusses ultimate causes of the differences between societies on a large scale.  On a smaller scale, other proximate causes come into play. 

I Am Legend
    Written by Richard Matheson
     copyright 1954, 1982
     Tom Doherty Assoc.
      ISBN 0-312-86504-X
The classic 1954 horror novel, "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson, which has previously been adapted twice as 1964's The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price and 1971's The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston. The novel is also often mentioned as being a core inspiration for George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, which by extension, means it is part of the core genesis for the entire "zombie movie" genre as we know it (though in Matheson's book, the monsters are called vampires, not zombies). Matheson's novel can also be credited for helping originate the idea of explaining monsters like vampires through science rather than supernatural legends, a concept which has been repeated relentlessly ever since.

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
      Written  by Joseph Ellis
       copyright 2000
       Alfred A. Knopf, New York
       ISBN 0-375-40544-5

An insightful exploration of the character and times of the men who founded the United States.  Ellis strips away the mythology surrounding Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison and Burr.  Declaring independence and creating a governement is a messing thing full of contention, debate, alliances and friendship.  After reading the book, I feel like I have a better understanding of who these men were.  They were great people, but not for the reasons that you learn in high school history class.

In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto
      Written by Michael Pollan
       copyright 2008
       The Penguin Press, New York
       ISBN 978-1-59420-145-5

"Eat Food. Not To Much. Mostly Plants."  This is what the author espouses and for the most part I agree.  However, his method of supporting his position was full of logical fallacies.  He attacks nutritional science and scientific reductionism, but then turns around and uses them in a round about way to say that we need to eat whole foods (as opposed to the highly refined and manufactured foods that take up most of the shelf space in grocery stores) and not over eat.  He sites all sorts of  "evidence" about certain ethnic groups being more healthy when they eat their native diets.  And he condemns the Western Diet of highly processed, cheap, and plentiful food.  But oddly he never address the role that physical activity plays in maintaining a healthy body.

Overall, his end message, in my humble opinion, is sound.  He would have been better off writing either a short essay or a much more extensively researched book (i.e. either state his opinion and be done with it, or really get in there and try to demonstrate the proof  backing up his claims).

Roadside Geology of Northern and Central California
    writtten by David Alt
    copyright 2000

This is an excellent book for increasing your understanding of modern geologic theory and applying it to the incredible geology of California. The subject matter is covered in plain-English in a manner that makes this a must-have for any geology student or enthusiast. 

The Last Season
     written by Eric Blehm
      copyright 2006

The story of Randy Morgenson, a backcountry ranger in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks who disappeared while on patrol in 1996.  It was his 28th season as a backcountry ranger meaning he had spent more time in the Sierra Nevada mountains than John Muir.

The author did a great job in weaving together all of the threads of Randy Morgenson's life into a compelling story.  If you enjoy hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, then this book will definitely interest you.

Other books I recommend:

Brave New World 
The Lord of the Rings 
The Hobbit 
A Brief History of Time 
Message on the Wind 

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Last updated: 12/2/2009