Following a quick reorganization of my person library, here is a list of recommended titles (and some not-so-recommended ones).
Those Who Trespass – Bill O’Reilly: The Fox News talk show host/commentator’s foray into the world of fiction is, quite surprisingly, entertaining. O’Reilly took the credo of “write what you know” quite literally, creating a murder mystery in which a serial killer is knocking off media hotshots. An old-school NYPD detective teams up with a doe-eyed reporter to uncover the truth and the killer’s identity in a tale which takes the reader from the mean streets of New York, to the tony hamlets of Long Island, to the electric glitz of South Florida. This novel has all the intrigue, action and suspense of a Bond novel, only with O’Reilly grit.
1776 – David McCullough: An in-depth, compelling look at what was, arguably, the worst year of the American Revolution. McCullough weaves together anecdotes, excerpts and written correspondence in cohesive fashion and, along with insightful analysis and commentary, gives the reader the sense of actually witnessing the action of that fateful year from not just the points of view of America’s George Washington, Henry Knox and Nathanael Greene, but those of Britain’s Lord North, Generals Corwallis and Howe and King George himself. McCullough’s style keeps the reader entertained all the way to the end. A must-read for anyone with a love of both American and world history.
The Tao of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff: This semi-whimsical approach to Oriental philosophy is a thought-provoking “Taoism for Dummies.” Hoff explores the concept of Taoist thinking through the characters of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Rabbit. For those looking for a wonderfully simple way of learning about eastern thought, this is the book to read.
Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort-Of History of the United States – Dave Barry: While he has had many other titles to his credit, this book remains, by far, a top-tier booger-joke laden commentary about American history. Barry’s approach to writing about America’s past is so sarcastic that his blatant laziness about all important dates being October 8 (his son’s birthday) and repetition of such normally bland topics as the Hawley-Smoot Tariff lend to some amazingly hilarious passages.
Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson: Though not the worst book in the world, it is certainly not recreational reading. Johnson’s approach to teaching acceptance of change in life is good for a rah-rah coaching session in business, but it smacks of a “that’s life, deal with it and the make the best of it” approach which preaches conformity rather than innovation.
Treason – Ann Coulter: Despite being well written and well-researched, Coulter’s political diatribe about liberal political doctrine reads more like a manual for commie haters than an actual reasoned argument for conservative thought. Despite being on the money about such topics as Alger Hiss, much of this book screams “if you’re liberal, you’re a traitor,” rather than “I may not agree with what you say but will defend, to the death, your right to say it.”
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy: Yes, it is a classic, but this 19th century soap opera is long, droning and should only be read in serious cases of insomnia or as part of some strange literary club initiation ritual. Hardy is one of the few writers who ever managed to successfully mesh intense dialogue with a full information dump, thus creating a book which is as much inspirational as it is literary train wreck. There’s a reason this book is the object of scorn for so many literary students, and why it was even the butt of a Monty Python joke.