Friday, April 10, 2020

(Update # 3) Now would be a good time to read a good book. Rod's recommended reading list.

by Rod Williams - In this time of lock down and quarantine, it is a good time to put free time to good use.  Instead of watching reruns of Seinfeld, now would be a good time to catch up on some quality reading. Below is some recommended reading.

What I'm reading now.
The Book Thief, by Thief Zusak  
This is on a lot of "best books ever written" list.

"It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time."

What I recently read and recommend

Victory, by Peter Schweizer
This book tells the story of how Reagan's leadership led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The prevailing wisdom at the time Reagan took office was that the best the US could do in its cold war conflict with the Soviet empire was to contain Russia and we were not doing a very good job of doing that.  Reagan wanted to defeat the Soviet Union.  Under Reagan's leadership the U.S. engaged in economic warfare denying Russia hard currency. We tightened the screws on those who sold technology to the Soviet Union and we made it harder for the Soviet Union to steal Western technology. We supported the resisting mujahedeen in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan and  we helped support the Solidarity movement in Poland.  We kept Russia guessing as to weather or not the U.S. would use military might to stop Soviet aggression.  We engaged in a new round of weapons development in which Russia did not have the means to match our effort. It is no accident Communism was defeated.  If Jimmy  Carter had been reelected and then he followed by Walter Mondale, we would still probably be facing a menacing Russia and pursuing a losing policy of containment.  The book is well documented and the author interviewed a host of active players involved in the strategy to defeat Communist Russia.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
"For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North

Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens (link)."

This is good light reading.  I enjoyed it.  In addition to a good love story and murder mystery those who love nature will like this book.

Masters of the Cross Roads by Madison Smart Bell.
This is a great book. It is about the formation of the State of Haiti and exploits of the Haitian General Toussiant Louverture. It is fascinating to learn of the culture of Negro slaves and how people of mixed blood were viewed and the role of Voodoo in the society. The book is full of military strategy and shifting alliances and the role of international relations.  All Souls Rising also by Madison Smart Bell is  about the Haitian slave rebellion a few year prior to when Cross Roads occurs and it also a great book. Madison Smart Bell is a Nashvillian.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
This may make by "100 best" list.  This is a dystopian novel in the vein of Brave New World or
1984.  It is set in a future century.  People live in glass enclosed domed cities like giant bubbles. The society is called OneState and it is ruled over by "the benefactor." People have numbers instead of names, uniformity is maintained and individualism and human emotions are suppressed  and spies and agents of the secret police abound. It is not only a good book because it explores the issue of the conflict between the public good and individual identity and liberty but it is a good science fiction story.  It is interesting to see in the early 1920's what technology was envisioned. Also the prose is a joy to read. The author is Russian and wrote the book in 1921 but it was suppressed, the author exiled, and the book was not published in Russia until 1988.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
"In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.

Among the hostages are Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Swiss Red Cross negotiator oachim Messner comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands. Days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months. Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds. Time stands still, priorities rearrange themselves. Ultimately, of course, something has to give. " (link)

This book was a joy to read. You like the characters and do not want it to end. Ann Patchett lives in Nashville.

Home by Marilynne Robinson
"Home parallels the story told in Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead. It is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith (link)." This only barely made my recommend list.  It is slow paced. There is a lot of sitting around drinking coffee feeling self-conscious and wondering what the other person is thinking. You do not have to have read Gilead to enjoy this book.  In my view this is not nearly as good as Gilead.  If you have not read either book, read Gilead.


The best 100 books I ever read.
This list is a work in progress, so check back for more detail, reviews, links and additions to the list. The first and second books on the list are by far my first and second most favorite books.  The others on the list are not an ordered ranking, so I don't necessarily favor the thirteenth book on the list more than the thirtieth. None of the books on this list are on the list because they "ought" to be.  I did not list the Bible or Shakespeare or a great many other books that one ought to read.  These are book that I personally recommend that brought me joy, or hours of pleasant entertainment, or rewarding insights.

Atlas Shrugged, by  Ayn Rand


Witness, by Whitaker Chambers

Miracle at Philadelphia

The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, or the Living Reed. I have read most of her books, I mostly read them as a teenager so I don't know if they would still stand up, but I loved them at the time.

The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Soltzenitzen.

The Quest for Community, by Robert Nesbitt
Follow this link for the Conservative book Club review.

Captain Cortés Conquers Mexico, by William Weber Johnson

Our Enemy the State, by Albert Jay Nock
Nock argues that the State has no power except that that is surrendered by individuals or is taken from them and that it is the tendency of the State to accrue more and more power. He says that as the State takes more power it takes it from society and weakens community. He argues that their can be a great degree of social order without government power.  When the states takes over functions like welfare, as example, people tend to be less charitable and to exercise less social power. Nock also makes a distinction between government and the institution of the State. He addresses the issue of the nature of rights.  Do all rights belong with the individual and the State only has the legitimate power yielded to the state or does all power belong to the state and individuals have only rights granted to them. The concept of natural rights is addressed.

Where the Sidewalk Ends and/or Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

In Defense of Freedom, by Frank Meyer
Frank Meyer is the author of "fusionism." There are many varieties and stains of conservative thought but the major divide is between those of the traditionalist order and virtue strain and the freedom of the individual stain. Meyer shows how these are not exclusive of each other buy complementary.

Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt.  There is so much ignorance of economics. This is one book that will erase some of that ignorance and cause one to think more clearly about economic matters.  While liberals seem much less knowledgeable of basic economics, the ignorance is wide spread.  This book is clearly written and one does not already have to be grounded in economic theory to understand it This book tackles  topics like rent control, tariffs, the function of profits, minimum wage laws, debt and credit and the fallacy of machines causing unemployment. Many people take strong positions on such topics and never think deeper than their emotional response causing them to support their position. 
Animal Farm by George Orwell and/or

1984, by George Orwell

Everything ever written by the husband and wife team of Will Durant and Ariel Durant.
Excellent books that explore the philosophy and cross currents of ideas and history of the period being studied.  Ones that I most highly recommend or The Age of Reason, and The Age of Revolution.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

The Road to Serfdom, by Henry Hayek
"In the book, Hayek warns of the danger of tyranny that inevitably results from government control of economic decision-making through central planning. He further argues that the abandonment of individualism and classical liberalism inevitably leads to a loss of freedom, the creation of an oppressive society, the tyranny of a dictator, and the serfdom of the individual. Hayek challenged the view among British Marxists that fascism (including National Socialism) was a capitalist reaction against socialism. He argued that fascism, National Socialism and socialism had common roots in central economic planning and empowering the state over the individual."

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Economics of  The Free Society, by Wilhelm Roepke
"Economics of the Free Society first appeared in Austria in 1937. Since then, nine German editions have been published, along with French, Swedish, Italian, Finnish, and English editions. The book's purpose is twofold: to provide a coherent description of the whole of the economic process, and to analyze current burning questions from an economic perspective. Written for the intelligent layman, as well as the student of economics, Economics of the Free Society is more than just an exercise in economic analysis, it is a masterpiece of economic wisdom and wit."

Huckleberry Finn, or Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
It has been a long time since I read them, but they are good books and a joy to read.

The Call of the Wild, by Jack Loundon.  I read it as a young teen. Loved it. I was later to learn that Jack Loundon had been a Communist but that does not distract from this being a great book.

Something by William Faulkner. Maybe,  As I Lay Dying or Absalom, Absalom! or The Sound and the Fury. It has been a long time since I read anything by Faulkner and I could not even tell you what these books are about but I remember enough to know that I recommend one read Faulkner.

Ideas Have Consequences, by Richard M. Weaver
This is a complex book and while compiling this list I realize I need to read it again.  Modern political thought, especially, conservative thought, has embraced economic freedom and individualism.  There is more to a good society than that argues Weaver. He explores the detrimental role of egotism, and materialism, and the abandonment of generalization for specialization, and the technological fallacy which says because a thing can be done, it should be done.  He argues for absolute truths, religious faith, honor, virtue, and tradition.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Something by Franz Kafka.  I like The Castle. Metamorphosis is his most famous work. Castle, like many of his works, is a story of frustratGene ion about forces beyond your control.  The impersonal bloated bureaucracy frustrates the protagonist at every turn. His novels make you feel like you are in a dream of running in thick mud in slow motion.

Lord of the Flies, by William Golden

Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the

American Airwaves, by Gene Fowler
This is a fascinating story about the large radio stations located in Mexico that blanketed the United States.  XERF and XEG were two of the biggest and both were started by quack doctors to promote medical procedures not approved by the AMA.  The most power an American radio station could have was 50,000 watts; these had at one time up to a million watts. In the Texas towns near the border one could only get one station from one end of the dial to the other.  Fences hummed with static at times and it is claimed people heard the radio through the fillings in their teeth. These stations were not covered by the FCC, being in Mexico. This book especially appealed to me because my father, part of the Christian signing duo of Don and Earl, were on two of the station for years.  The status of the stations were constantly in doubt with the US government wanted them dialed back or closed and at times the stations were out of favor with the Mexican government. When I was twelve years old, my Dad's program was suddenly discontinued and Dad and his partner went to Mexico to try to get back on.  I went with them and it was adventure. They got back on. Some people my know of the stations by knowing Wolfman Jack the rock DJ who broadcast from one of the stations. A lot of Country Music artist rose to fame from broadcasting on these stations including The Carter Family.  Unfortunately my dad is not mentioning in the book but he should have been.

All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
This is a fictional story based of Governor Heuy Long of Louisiana.

Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beaeher Stowe

We the Living, by Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer

Helter Skelter

The Shining

Something by Cormac McCarthy.
His subject matter and style varies. Some are dark and brooding and deal with the perverted and marginalized. Others are entertaining tales of western lore, but no matter which you read it is worth reading. Some recommended titles are:
  • Blood Meridian
  • The Road
  • Suttree
  • All the Pretty Horses
  • No County for Old men
The Moviegoer, by Walter Percy

The Good German, by 

Rabbit Run, by John Updike 

The Spy who Came in from the Cold, by

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
"First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin's forced work camps, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union and confirms Solzhenitsyn's stature as "a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dosotevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy"'--Harrison Salisbury

Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry

Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole


This a draft of a work in progress. Check back for refinements and additions to the list.

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