Q4 vacation earlier this month was the site of my 43rd birthday (to those who wished me a happy birthday, thank you!) We spent the week in Cabo at the One&Only Palmilla my new favorite place to disappear from the world for a week. I hadn’t been reading much lately (no clue why – I just hadn’t been – maybe it’s due to the DDoS attack I have been under) so I reacquainted myself with one of my favorite things to do. As I’ve started my new daily book reading drill between now and the end of the year, I realized I hadn’t done short reviews of the books I read over Q4 vacation. Several were great; several weren’t. Here you go.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: Beautiful written and a great place to start. Haruki Murakami is a tremendous writer who has been running for the past 30 years of his life. He mixes personal philosophy, memoir, and treatise on running in a nice, appropriately size package. If you are a runner or triathlete, this is a must read.
Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race: This long history of the Cold War was really well done. For some reason I’ve become fascinated with the space race during the Cold War – maybe it’s a function of Sputnik’s 50th anniversary. Rhodes is a masterful story teller; this book was more like a novel than a history book. Coincidentally I saw an HBO Special on Sputnik and got to watch Ike and Khrushchev rail at each other, putting real faces to the whole thing.
Napoleon’s Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped: Boring. I thought this was going to be interesting based on the teaser that it was a series of short vignettes on sex over history, pivoting around everyone’s favorite short French general. "Short" and "sex" are two words that should never go together in a teaser; this book lost my interest about half way through. A few of the stories were funny; most were just silly, stupid, vapid, or dull.
The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL: I’m the football widow in my family, but this book was dynamite. It was a combination an extended description of the highlights of the 1958 Giants vs. Colts championship game, biographic sketches of all the major players and coaches involved, and an extensive explanation of the evolution of football into the NFL. At some point I looked up and realized I’d been sitting in the same beach chair for three hours without moving. I guess some of y’all have this experience every Sunday in your living room – it appears to take a book about football to work for me.
Then We Came to the End: A Novel: Damnit, this should have been good. It’s a cynical novel about the contemporary workplace. I kept trying to get into it but couldn’t really care about any of the characters. I’d try again. Still no interest. I bailed at about the halfway point.
Planet Google: One Company’s Audacious Plan To Organize Everything We Know: A fresh cut on the history of Google. Stross does a good job of organizing the story by chapter around specific Google products and their evolution. If you know a lot about Google, this book probably won’t be very interesting to you. If you think you know a lot about Google, but in you own personal quiet moment of honesty, you realize you probably don’t know as much as you do, this is a good book.
Rules of Deception: After that list of books, I definitely needed some mental floss. I was turned on to Christopher Reich in 2005 after writing a book review titled The Chairman (about one of Stephen Frey’s books). Reich is delicious – perfect mental floss.
Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World: Another awesome sports book. This one was about the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Once again I get some geopolitics around the Cold War – this time with a direct intersection with a play by play history of the 1960 Olympic games. Russia vs. US Cold War stuff, Germany trying to decide if it is one country or two, Taiwan and China arguing over who is actually China, US athletes showing racial unification while the black / white split in America boils over, and a whole bunch of awesome and dramatic sports stories unfolding on a day by day basis, chapter by chapter.
Upbeat: I read a draft of Rajesh Setty ‘s newest book Upbeat. I met Rajesh at Gnomedex 5 and we’ve kept in touch since. He’s done a nice job writing a book that you can read in 45 minutes that has practical advice for entrepreneurs about how to deal with all the negative talk all around everyone right now.
Hot Mahogany: Stuart Woods is one of my favorite mental floss writers. Stone Barrington is a heroic character I can relate to. This was another fun one. Woods proudly says in his books that he’ll respond to all emails. I’ve sent him a few and never heard back. Nonetheless, I still enjoy his writing very much. Like a lot of mental floss, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you start at the very beginning, in this case New York Dead .
Divine Justice: David Baldacci is one notch above Stuart Woods. Divine Justice is another book in the Camel Club series and is the best one yet. Yummy.
Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride: A Psychological Study (Studies in Jungian Psychology, 12): I was at a board meeting last month where we were discussing different entrepreneurial personality types. One of the board members suggested that we all read Addition to Perfection by Marion Woodman. I hunted it down and started working my way through it. After three chapters of Jungian philosophy, I had very little idea why I was reading it and bailed. I wonder if he was simply suggesting that we ponder the title.
Letter to a Christian Nation: Sam Harris has written a short, blunt, and extraordinary well reasoned book. Based on his assertions, I’m going to guess that about 50% of American’s will be completely offended by this book. That alone makes it worth reading and contemplating. And since I like reading both sides of the argument, I just one-clicked Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point.