It was a good year for reading.  I enjoyed a number of books I’d like to share with you.

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

An interesting book by an author from a Native American culture.  Is it really a true memoir or an expanded version of incidents and hearsay from many kindred souls?  It probably doesn’t matter much.  True or false, it is a collection of happenings in a life we don’t normally encounter; and is very interesting.

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs

A collection of the fascinating interplay between past and some sitting presidents that led, in some cases, to enduring strong friendships.  Hoover and Truman, Clinton and Bush, and many others.  All bitter political rivals who found in having occupied the White House common bonds of respect for the office as well as a continuing desire to still serve.  Great read.

Fridays With Art (not me) edited by Dick Wooten

An entertaining account of the early and continuing days of 27 television pros who made the medium a household and personal success.  Each of the future icons contributed a chapter on their exploits growing up with this new medium.  They all started in modest ways and moved through jobs as syndication salesmen, producers and management executives and on to movies.

Whenever they were in town on Fridays, they all met with Art Greenfield, one of the industries’ earliest superstars, for lunch.

Having worked for a local TV station for awhile, I know something about their business and even knew one or two of the people mentioned in the book which made it particularly interesting.

Unbroken:  A World War II Story by Laura Hillenbrand

This is the story of Louie Zamperini, a mischievous kid who started running and became a world-class Olympic miler in 1936.  But this is only the beginning.  He became a bombardier in the Pacific on a B-24, a plane that racked up great achievements as a versatile war machine but at the cost of many crashes and tremendous loss of life.

Flying in a borrowed plane, he went down and spent almost 40 days on a raft with two other crewmen.  When they floated over 1,000 miles and finally saw land, it was a Japanese-held island, so they became POW’s and were shuttled to a number of POW camps where the treatment was unbelievably brutal.

After the war, his repatriation was a long and difficult climb.  Under the influence of Billy Graham, he achieved sobriety and led a life of forgiveness and compassion.  He lived to age 95, making inspirational contributions to many.  A fascinating story of human struggle and redemption.

A Natural Woman, a memoir by Carole King

This is the interesting story of a Brooklyn teen, songwriter who wrote many outstanding popular hits; and with continued success over many years, was finally convinced to become a performer.  She followed all her success as a writer to become a star on the stage.  It’s also the story of why Carole, and perhaps many entertainers and actors, have so many failed relationships.  It was an interesting read.

Hamilton – A fascinating biography of Alexander Hamilton, born on St. Croix, who adopted the U.S. as home.  At a very young age, he was a top military strategist and undisputable aide for George Washington.  He became one of the principal authors of our constitution and the federalist papers that outlined how the constitution could work.  A guiding light with amazing foresight, he was our first Treasury Secretary.  A short life filled with great achievements.

Killing Kennedy – Another interesting factual account of the people and events leading up to the assignation of President John Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dunguard.  Even better than Killing Lincoln, maybe because more facts are now known and in a sense we were all part of the story.  We lived through it with the authors.  Excellent read.

In The Garden of the Beasts, Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

The title is long and uninviting, but the book is a very interesting inside view of what was happening in Berlin circa 1933 when the Hitler regime came into leadership and how they assumed total power in June of 1934.  A very good read.

Bull by the Horns by Sheila Bair

This was a fascinating account by Republican Sheila Bair of her five years in the Obama Administration as Chairman of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).  Her story as the outspoken champion of tighter controls and regulations to increase capital requirements for major banks during the turbulent financial crisis is a real eye opener.  She was a leading opponent of the “too big to fail” concept and was a constant challenger to Tim Geitner.

Two other interesting books:

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – The story of a serial killer and the building of the Chicago World’s Fair.

Thomas Jefferson – The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – The bio of a man of great accomplishments in early America who mainly exercised power through other people.

Last year’s favorites:

  • “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell
  • “Jobs” by Walter Isaacson\
  • “Capital Punishment” by Jack Abramoff
  • “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson
  • “Killing Lincoln” by Bill O’Reilly
  • “West by West” by Jerry West
  • “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” by Paul Torday


1 Comment

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  1. Dan Goodstein

    Art, I liked your book reviews. In your review of UNBROKEN, you wrote that Louie Zamperini “lived to age 95.” That seems to say that Louie is no longer alive, and so I mourn his death, especially since he gave a talk at Sinai Temple just a few weeks ago and I haven’t read his obituary anywhere yet. So your surprising report of his untimely passing is rather sad news.

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