Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Book Talk

I need a new book to read, and I want your help deciding which one will become my companion for, oh, the next six months or so.

You see, I've just finished reading "1776" by David McCullough, which is a terrific book that I highly recommend. The problem is that it took me almost as long to read the book as it took George Washington to live through. This is because, despite my blog moniker, when it comes to pleasure reading I am slow as mollasses in heels.

I'm not a slow reader because I have to move my lips or anything, but rather because every night I fall asleep after having scanned approximately two sentences. I then drop the book to the floor and lose my place, and am thus required to re-read entire chapters just to figure out where the hell I was. It's pathetic really.

Anyway, now that G.W. is safely on his way to turning the tide of the Revolutionary War, I have excess capacity, so to speak. Anybody want to recommend a good book? Mind you, I don't care much for fiction (and, yes, I am that mysterious "other person" that hasn't read "The Da Vinci Code") preferring history and biographies. Any period.

Give it a shot, won't you? I promise I won't ridicule any suggestion except for those which are plainly asking for it.

I look forward to your comments.


portia said...

You are not alone. Who needs Ambien? All I need do is open a book before bed and I'm in the arms of morpheus. I just finished reading Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, which I highly recommend, however, like me you may find yourself staying up all night reading it, so plan accordingly:)

I'm 60 pages or so into On The Wing, about the peregrine falcon. Hey, anyone who reads a 500 page about salt doesn't get to diss my brids:)

Actually, it's a wonderfully colorful book about adventure and danger and geography…and yes, birds.

Waiting in the queue is "Team of Rivals," by Doris Kearns Goodwin, one of my favorite historians. I'm hoping to get to that by August:)

Cassandra said...

I'm sure I'll be sorry for this, but since as usual no one else has come forward, Gaddis' Surprise, Security, and the American Experience is brief, entertaining, and quite good.

Historian Gaddis places U.S. reaction to 9/11 in the context of national security policy. In 1817, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, reacting to the burning of Washington, D.C., by British forces during the War of 1812, inaugurated three policies to secure the nation as it grew: preemption --the U.S. would react swiftly and forcibly to attacks; unilateralism--the U.S. would reject alliances requiring response to unforeseeable developments involving other nations; hegemony--the U.S. would predominate in the Western Hemisphere. Polk in the Mexican War and McKinley in the Spanish-American stretched the limits of preemption, and Wilson's internationalism foundered on unilateralism, but the enormously popular Franklin D. Roosevelt significantly altered security policy by allying for World War II and crafting postwar developments, including the UN, to expand U.S. hegemony worldwide. Gaddis argues that George W. Bush in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq attempted FDR's exploitation of multilateralism but ultimately elected preemption ("shock and awe") in the service of global hegemony. Even Bush's staunchest opponents stand to be edified by Gaddis' impressive presentation.

Rah rah rah, sis boom bah. Yay team.

I also tend to fall asleep these days a few paragraphs into whatever I'm reading, but I managed to finish this one.

Cassandra said...

Ooops! Feel free to disregard :) It took me so long I didn't see Portia's comment.

spd rdr said...

Some good ones here already, but the more the merrier! Please keep them coming!
At some point in August I will flee the office and head to the beach, whereupon I will sit and read for hours and hours and hours. I'm usually good for two or three tomes in a beach week. So what I don't get to this week I'll bank for later.

KJ said...

"Eat the Rich" by PJ O'Rourke. Non-fiction, with selected, humorous history mixed with hillarious economics.

Also, The New Testament contains both history and biography.

Freakonomics is very interesting mind candy and a quick read.

spd rdr said...

I was thinking about this one or this one or this one or this one or this one, but maybe I just settle for this one first. Any ideas?

Cassandra said...

Well, you don't like fiction, but I suppose you're going to get what's sitting on my nightstand anyway, which is a dog's dinner. What can I say? I like variety in the boudoir:

Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician (Anthony Everitt)

Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow)

If on a winter night a traveler (italo calvino)

Snow (Orhan Pamuk)

Peace Kills (PJ O'Rourke)

portia said...

Geez, spd, after all those "battle" books, I think you'll need to find the "farm girl" in you…what's left of her.

In case you need some art with your leisure, I recommend* this wonderful book, which should help you find something...or at least help you stay awake:)

They say it's a "coffee table" book but who's to say you can't read a "coffee table" book when you're in a beach chair.

P.S. I actually have seen the book on a friend's coffee table, well, at least for the few minutes when it wasn't on someone's lap. Stunning

Cassandra said...

Yes Portia, I think he does need a bit of balance in that reading list. I read an interesting article yesterday on how to take better home photos of nude women, though after looking at the gentleman's handiwork I couldn't honestly say I was impressed with his technique. But then his opening line was, "Keep in mind, all women are beautiful", so I had to give him major brownie points for enthusiasm :) And they certainly all looked happy.

I'm not sure mrs rdr might not clobber him with a large, heavy object, though (probably the book in question) if he took it to the beach. Perhaps the online version?

*running away*

Cassandra said...

I admit it. I'm bored.

I knew he wouldn't react.


spd rdr said...

Well, despite Cassandra's dismisals of mordern masculinity, by paternal fiat we are now boiling my next choice of reading material down to two acceptable genres: war and sports (unless somebody comes out with a good pirate book between now and then).

First, Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams">">. Its all about the great baseball that I never learned about.

Second, this masterpiece. Just because I'm always sensitive to the tip of the wedge. Kinda of like Jackie Robinson to baseball...only different...ya know?

Vote now for your favorite. I've got to go to bed soon.

Anonymous said...


How about "Blind Man's Bluff" by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew (the submarine Navy during the Cold War)

"Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris (?)

-Don Brouhaha, eh?

Cassandra said...

Mommy... what's a "dismisal of mordern masculinity" when it's at home?

Cassandra said...

Wonder if they drive a paternal Fiat?

Cassandra said...

I'll bet there's a book about that somewhere.

Anonymous said...

"Mordern Masculinity"? Is that some kind of self-help book for the Nazgul?

Geez, this guy makes three times what I do, has his own blog and still can't spell worth a lick! :)

What's wrong with this picture?

-Don Brouhaha, spll chckr

spd rdr said...

Yeah, well, the reason that I make three times what you do Don (a facsist lie) is because I hire illegal imigrants to spell chck my stuff at about a quater of what ever you are paying. The rest is about volume.

Cassandra said...

The reason he cn't type so gud is that he was still daydreaming about that coffee table book Portia posted...

*high fiving Portia shortly before running away*

portia said...

Heh. That explains yesterday's typing efforts but what about the remaining 364 days?

Kinda makes you wonder what books he's really reading under the guise of "navel [sic] literature."

*High-five back at ya, Cass*

Cassandra said...

You notice how he never responds to any of this?

My theory on the typing is that old saw about men thinking about sex once every... oh... 5 seconds? How many vowels are there in the English language?

It has to wear on a man after a while.

I think he's hoping we'll get bored and start in on someone else. Fat chance.

spd rdr said...

More noisome women to bear? Dear Father, why hast thee foresaken me?

Cassandra said...

Noisome women?

And this is the thanks I get for paying attention to you? Man, I must really be losing it.

OK, let's be real. I never had it in the first place.

Pile On® said...


Spd, sorry this took so long but I have your must read non-fiction book. You may not be able to find it locally but you can order it from

It is called Gang of One Memoirs of a Red Guard by Fan Shen.

It is the story of a Chinese man growing up during the cultural revolution whose parents are commie true believers. The story takes you from his days in a youth red guard marching and looting the bourgeois to his transformation to try and escape the Maoist regime.

It is well written and a page turner.

spd rdr said...

Pile, you ol' whatever, that's exactly the kind of history that I find so instructive. On my bookself (although I admit to having not read it in years)is this gem: A Viet Cong Memoir: An Inside Account Of the Vietnam War And It Aftermath written by Troung Nhu Tang, a former VC operative. It is a tale of nationalist and ideological loyalty and betrayal that completely overshadows any substanive societal changes that the United States could have possibly accomplished in such a brief, and purposefully limited, military incursion.
A quote:
Whatever the facts of who infringed first on the Cambodian neutrality, the significance of that engagement was that it helped sperate the Ame5rican leadership from its internal support and instilled among many Americans a lasting skepticism about their government's morality. It was - to Vietnam's revolution and to the revolutions that have followed Vietnam - an enduring gift. pg. 213.

Sometimes, I wished big boys did cry.

And then I just go punch something.

It's hard, sometimes. Ya know?

portia said...

Maybe this will help spd: a punching bag to take care of all the
bag you need to set straight. It'll be a lot easier on your fists...and the drywall.

Aim for the bullseye, and use your imagination. It's the least I can do:)

camojack said...

Well, I just read the autobiographical prequel to "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt...'tis titled "'Tis", 'tis. 'Tweren't bad...