Personal Book Reviews And Recommendations

  1. Book reviews

    Books I've enjoyed (mostly from the Austin Public library,, and

    Rating 1-10
    (10 the best)
    Title AuthorComments Date
    10 Click to read reviews or buy Gates of Fire

    Steven Pressfield

    An amazingly well written novel that explores the Spartan culture. Steven is so good with characters and weaving a story together with historical events.01/2003
    10 Click to read reviews or buy Hunger Games

    Suzanne Collins

    Taking her cue from the Greek myth of Theseus and the Roman culture of spectator violence Suzanne Collins weaves an incredible tale of a flawed, yet heroic girl, Katniss Everdeen.08/2011
    9 Click to read reviews or buy Longitude

    Dava Sobel

    Wonderful book about John Harrison's quest to solve the longitude problem. Although he solved the technical difficulties, the politics around him stymied his progress, while sailors died for lack of longitude11/1999
    9 Click to read reviews or buy Tides of War

    Steven Pressfield

    Very interesting historical novel of the Peloponnesian war between Sparta and Athens and Alcibiades. Pressfield highlights the turn of history influenced by Pride and petty Jealousy; somewhat like a Greek tragedy - oh wait - it is a Greek tragedy. Excellent abridgment, the language is rated PG13 at times.02/2001
    9 Click to read reviews or buy 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

    Charles C. Mann

    Interesting stories of how the exchange of foods, ideas, and people from the New and Old Worlds had unimaginable consequences.11/2013
    9 Click to read reviews or buy Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II

    Adam Makos

    Makos does an amazing job of bringing to life these stories of WWII tank crews. His prose is rich and easily followed. Though his eyes we learn about the characters and care for them. He skillfully weaves several story lines together with an ending that is surprising and satisfying. 05/2024
    9 Click to read reviews or buy Iron Coffins

    by Herbert A. Werner

    The story of Herbert Werner, a German U-Boat captain during wwii. His story is simply told and incredible. His survival is the most unlikely event in the story. Told from the German point of view, it's fascinating to see that the crews were so motivated by false propaganda that they wanted to go to sea to fight their enemies even though it was highly likely they would die. The link to the Youtube free version is here.5/2024
    8 Click to read reviews or buy The Zeros

    Scott Westerfeld

    A fun, well-written novel about a circle of friends with mystic powers. Did I mention it was well-written?12/2015
    8 Click to read reviews or buy Guns of August

    Barbara Tuchman

    Insightful novel about World War I. A few things struck me:

    Many of the top leaders for the war were not well prepared, nor suited temperament-wise for their duties.

    How garbled all the communications were during the war. The leaders had no idea what was really going on during the battles or where the enemy was.

    How cruel the Germans were to the inhabitants of Belgium and France.

    How little justification the Germans had for the war. The Kaiser just craved the respect of his cousins and plunged the entire world into a carnage that overwhelms the imagination.

    8 Click to read reviews or buy State of Fear

    Michael Crichton

    I enjoyed the story, but "State of Fear" is really more a Greek dialog discussing the various views on global warming. Drama and action are spread liberally through the book, but ultimately it's all about the conversations between those who have a clue about science and those who just want to feel good about doing something, however misguided. 12/2005
    8 Click to read reviews or buy The Lost Gate

    Orson Scott Card

    A fun coming of age novel of a young gate mage.10/2015
    8 Click to read reviews or buy The Lion's Gate

    Steven Pressfield

    A great overview of the Six Days War through the eyes of the combatants.10/2015
    8 Click to read reviews or buy Catching Fire

    Suzanne Collins

    Suzanne Collins continues her tale of Katniss Everdeen.08/2011
    8 Click to read reviews or buy MockingJay

    Suzanne Collins

    Suzanne Collins completes her tale of Katniss Everdeen.08/2011
    8 Click to read reviews or buy Cardinal of the Kremlin

    Tom Clancy

    A fast-paced action story about the closing days of the cold war11/2000
    8 Click to read reviews or buy The Big Short

    Michael Lewis

    This is a great story about the collapse of the sub-prime housing market and how clueless the Wall Street mavens were. Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side, makes the story eerily compelling. Three items stood out to me:
    1. How the fund managers were paid well to be ignorant of the true details; they were making lots of money with no thought to the future ramifications of their actions other than their annual bonus.
    2. Almost all the people responsible for this terrible catastrophe actually came through the debacle making tons of money, which, for the most part, the taxpayers ended up paying.
    3. The problem really was OPM - Other People's Money. Once the brokerage firms went from partnerships to publicly owned companies, the risks they were taking were not with their own money, but the stockholders money. Hence the temptation to gamble with Other People's Money in a way they would not have done with their own. If they bet right, they'd make a ton of money, if they bet wrong, well, they will lose their bonus and the stockholders will lose money.

    8 Click to read reviews or buy The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

    Tim Alberta

    A detailed history on how an extremist branch of politics infiltrated the church and subverted the message of the Gospel into a Nationalism movement that goes against the teachings of Christ.

    8 Click to read reviews or buy Fear Nothing

    Dean Koontz

    This fast paced mystery novel was a treat. The first person narration worked well.5/2004
    8 Click to read reviews or buy There the Wind Leads

    Vinh Chung

    A gripping story about a Vietnamese-Chinese family's history of growing up, surviving the Vietnam war, and their ordeal to come to America.11/2022
    8 Click to read reviews or buy Rebel Yell

    S. C. Gwynne

    This is a great overview of the character of Jackson, both the myth and the man. It's also a good overview of the early days of the Civil War.7/2015
    8 Click to read reviews or buy Without a Doubt

    Marcia Clark

    Compelling story of the O.J. Trial 12/2000
    8 Click to read reviews or buy The Partner

    John Grishom

    Good, fast paced novel, great abridgment. I loved the book, but thought the identity of the final informant was lame. 04/2001
    8 Click to read reviews or buy Just As I Am

    Billy Graham

    A very good overview of his life. 03/2001
    8 Click to read reviews or buy Valhalla Rising

    Clive Cussler

    His best book yet. Fast paced, intriguing. Clive knows how to tell a story well.4/2002
    7 Click to read reviews or buy Nothing Like It In The World

    Stephen Ambrose

    The epic story of the making of the transcontinental railroad. Ambrose writes about the personalities involved, the technical challenges, ordinary people who built this amazing thread that connected our country.

    7 Click to read reviews or buy Turing's Cathedral

    George Dyson

    A big, elliptical story about the birth of the computer age. Dyson often strays from the topic at hand, like the history of the area rincton, but it works. Dyson details how incredibly smart Turing, Von Neumann and the other were. He chronicles the relationship the computers and nuclear weapons.

    7 Click to read reviews or buy The Bellwether

    Connie Willis

    A fun book about invention and fads. Willis superbly blends commentary about how science progresses with an entertaining story.

    7 Click to read reviews or buy Project Hail Mary

    Andy Weir

    A great hard science fiction story. I like the way the author puts words in the narrators mouth. It has some great plot twists. A fun >

    7 Click to read reviews or buy The Martian

    Andy Weir

    A fun book with great science backing a great story. The movie is also good.

    7 Click to read reviews or buy One Bullet Away

    Nathaniel C. Fick

    Interesting, well-written novel about the training of Marines and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The most interesting vignette was about slator, Mish, who after talking with a group of Iraqis on good-will missions would always get cigarettes handed to him. When Fick asked people gave him cigarettes Mish replied, "I told them to hand over some cigarettes, or you'd kill them."

    Another interesting message of the book is the amount of civilian causalities. Large numbers of innocent civilians were killed during the n not necessarily from the intent of either side, but just as "collateral damage".

    7 Click to read reviews or buy Debt of Honor

    Tom Clancy

    A fast paced fun action story about a possible WWIII.12/2002
    7 Click to read reviews or buy Blind Man's Bluff

    Sherry Sontag

    A well told story of submarine covert actions in the Cold War.3/2002
    7 Click to read reviews or buy Endurance

    Caroline Alexander

    Story of the incredible saga of Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic is gripping. His crew was trapped in the ice and then stranded on island. He undertook the greatest sea voyage ever in a lifeboat in very adverse conditions. The story is tough sledding at first, but speed; its difficult to listen to at times, but worth it.5/2000
    7 Click to read reviews or buy Snow Crash

    Neal Stephenson

    An imaginative view of the future. One of the early cyberpunk novels. The language is fairly harsh with profanity, but very original and a ry.03/2002
    7 Click to read reviews or buy How Doctors Think

    Jerome Groopman

    How do doctors sift through possible causes for our ills? The author explores the question and concludes you should ask these questions of lth care provider when given a diagnosis: What else could this be? Could there be two problems? What other organs are around that 10/2010
    7 Click to read reviews or buy Summer Moon

    Sam Gwynne

    Mr. Gwynne, a former executive editor of Texas Monthly, chronicles the rise and fall of the Comanche people who started in the Northern s a stone-age people, and through their intimate relationship with the horse, rose to completely dominate the American Plains for s. Gwynne does a masterful job of 01/2015
    7 Book Cover Treasure IslandRobert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Free Librivox recording. A fun adventure tale that started the whole pirate movie motif complete with Long John Silver with his peg leg and parrot. 12/2023
    7 Book Cover America and the New Global Economy Timothy Taylor Interesting overview of globalization and the world economy.1/2011
    7 Book Cover Economics Timothy Taylor Although it starts slowly, the lectures are th your patience until the latter chapters. My notes are here.10/2010
    7 Journals of the Pioneers 1 Frederick DrimmerI loved the pure, unadulterated stories from the mouth of the people who witnessed and lived the culture of indians. Most of what we read today has been processed and refined for political and social reasons, so this book is a valuable resource. According to many of the writers, the warriors would eat the bodies of defeated warriors who died valiantly, but refuse to eat the body of cowards. The writers also said that many whites were kidnapped to take the place of tribe members who had died. The Native Americans would prairie fires to flush game. 10/2010
    6 Click to read reviews or buy The Most Powerful Idea in the World

    William Rosen

    A fascinating read on the history of the steam engine and the history of inventing. His major premise is that the Industrial Revolution in England and America due to patent protection for inventors which allowed inventors to spend many years working on an invention, that it could make them rich in the end. 03/2013
    6 Click to read reviews or buy Don't Know Much About the Civil War

    Ken Davis

    An interesting and even handed account of the War of Northern Aggression06/2000
    6 Click to read reviews or buy The Intruders

    Stephen Coonts

    Interesting story of a Vietnam Navy Intruder pilot. 12/2000
    6 Click to read reviews or buy Power Plays / Shadow

    Tom Clancy and Martin Greenberg

    A good story of a space station and sabotage.12/2000
    6 Click to read reviews or buy Every Man a Tiger

    Tom Clancy, Chuck Horner

    A story of Chuck Horner's career.12/2002
    6 Click to read reviews or buy The Art of Gathering

    Priya Parker

    An good book of tips on how to have better business and social meetings.

    My takeaways:
    Commit to a clear purpose of the gathering.
    The place and setup should support the purpose.
    Invite the right people, don't be afraid to exclude people.
    Dinner starts with the invite, drip details before the meeting.
    Starting the event is important, thank the guests for coming (and those who brought things).
    The host who exercises generous authority is better than a too laid-back host.
    The host can set rules, like asking a general question to break the ice, no phones.
    Be the host, welcome guests, introduce guests to each other, be present, curb bad behavior.
    Be sure to have a definite ending and reinforce the purpose.

    6 Click to read reviews or buy On Writing

    Stephen King

    Mr. King's thoughts on writing the novel.5/2004
    6 Click to read reviews or buy The Boglehead's Guide to the Three tfolio

    Taylor Larimore

    A guide to investing. Buy three funds: a total US stock index, a foreign stock index, and a bond fund. That's it. Done.1/2020
    6 Click to read reviews or buy Dark Pools

    Scott Patterson

    Very readable history of electronic trading.8/2012
    5 Click to read reviews or buy The Ten Thousand

    Harold Coyle

    The story was not very plausible, the scenarios of battle were interesting, but the editing was "an abridgment too far".4/2000
    5 Click to read reviews or buy 2034

    Ackerman and Stavridis

    Interesting story about a future war between the US and China.12/2021
    5 Click to read reviews or buy Icebound

    Dean R. Koontz

    Mildly entertaining. 12/2000
    5 Click to read reviews or buy Atlantis Found

    Clive Cussler

    A highly imaginative Dirk Pitt novel.7/2000
    5 Click to read reviews or buy Cyclops

    Clive Cussler

    A fairly typical Dirk Pitt novel.4/2000
    5 Click to read reviews or buy Krakatoa: The Day the World

    Simon Winchester

    A leisurely walk through the events surrounding the eruption of Krakatoa. Winchester is informative and entertaining.01/2005
    5 Click to read reviews or buy Sole Survivor

    Dean Koontz

    An interesting, but ultimately unfulfilling story of fantastic events. As always Koontz is a wonderful storyteller with well textured rs we care deeply about, but it doesn't quite save the plot line.05/2005
    5 Click to read reviews or buy The Blessing Way

    Tony Hillerman

    An interesting look at the Navajo culture through the story of a series of murders on the reservation. The story starts slowly with some nd then picks up steam about 2/3 of the way through the book.06/2023
    5 Click to read reviews or buy The Checklist Manifesto

    Dr. Atul Gawande

    An entertaining review of how checklists from the aviation industry have helped the restaurant, building and medical professions. Tasks n professions are so complex that a single "Master Builder" can no longer keep everything in their head, but due to the weakness of our we must commit the tasks to a checklist used by everyone involved in the operation. Not every activity should have a checklist - some simple, some are too complicated requiring too much expertise, like child rasing. Most people don't like using checklists although the cs Dr. Gawande provides are stunning - infection rates went from 11% down to 0% in trials.

    Characteristics of a Good Checklist (a checklist for checklists:)

    1. Must be simple and brief: 5 to 9 items
    2. Obvious things should not be on the list, only killer items
    3. Must be beta tested and refined continually
    5 Click to read reviews or buy A History of Warfare

    John Keegan

    Keegan tackles a difficult subject, but comes up with little. He seems intend on having a Clausewitzian encounter with the premises of Clausewitz. He tries so hard to prove that Clausewitz was wrong, and it gets tiring. Keegan is also not afraid to make the facts stand on their heads - like his description of site 117. He really wants us to believe that the Greeks invented "total war", but neglects other cultures like the Hawaiian that do not fit in with his views. Overall this book was a great disappointment. 06/2000
    5 Click to read reviews or buy Blink

    Malcolm Gladwell

    Gladwell describes how humans can make instant judgments and be amazingly accurate. The most interesting example was predicting which doctors would be most likely to be sued. People were able to predict the likelihood of a doctor being sued for malpractice not by looking at his grades or IQ, but how well she interacted with patients. By watching a short video clip of the doctor and patients, observers could predict if the doctor would be likely to be sued. If the doctors treat their patients kindly and respectfully, the threat of a malpractice suit is low.09/2009
    4 Click to read reviews or buy When We Cease to Understand the World

    Benjamín Labatut

    Fascinating story about the history of science and technology with a slant to quantum mechanics. Somewhat unsatisfactory in that it was a mix of history and fiction, so I never knew what was true.04/2022
    4 Click to read reviews or buy Inca Gold

    Clive Cussler

    An adventure action story that strains credibility often, but entertaining 11/1999
    4 Click to read reviews or buy Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War


    An informative history of germ warfare in the US showing that the issue is truly complex. Parts of the story get very tedious.05/2005
    4 Click to read reviews or buy Jane Eyre

    Charlotte Bronte

    That woman can write dialog! I'm amazed at the speech that just flows from her characters.9/2014
    3 Click to read reviews or buy The Great Gatsby

    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    I'll save you the trouble, old sport, and give you the one line summary: "J. Gatsby is madly in love with Daisy who is married to Tom who is having an affair with Myrtle whose husband George kills Gatsby because Tom told George it was Gatsby's car who struck and killed George's wife Myrtle, even though it was really Daisy driving his car." 06/2011
    3 Click to read reviews or buy A Farewell To Arms

    Ernest Hemingway

    Quite disappointing - tedious at times. I've read it twice to talk about it with my kids when they had to read it in High School. Still didn't like it.03/2013 & 02/2024
    2 Click to read reviews or buy Life of Pi

    Yann Martel

    It's an interesting story with great characters. It moves along well and has depth. Pi becomes a Muslim, Hindu, and Christian. The basic theme seems to be that all religions are equally false, but useful to make this world seem less brutal. I did not like the book. The ending is quite gruesome for younger readers.03/2023
    2 Click to read reviews or buy Death of a Salesman

    Arthur Miller

    It's a hard listen. Miller is a great screenwriter, but the subject is depressing. But it's good to listen to depressing stories to teach us a lesson. It picks up near the last 5 minutes. I could see the redeeming value of the play at that point - Don't force your kids to be something they are not.12/2023
    2 Click to read reviews or buy The Commodore

    Patrick O'Brian

    I listened to the 3hr condensed version. Don't bother. I think all the character development, action, and story line where all abridged out. 9/2000
    1 Click to read reviews or buy White Shark

    Peter Benchley

    An action story that completely strains credibility. Not recommended. 8/1999
  2. My Audio Library from the The Great Courses

    Following is a list of my audio books. If you are a personal friend and would like to borrow some titles, please let me know.

    1. picParticle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos by Steven Pollock
    2. History of ScienceHistory of Science: Antiquity to 1700
    3. picEinstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition by Richard Wolfson
    4. picIliad of Homer by Elizabeth Vandiver
    5. picOdyssey of Homer by Elizabeth Vandiver
    6. picGreek Legacy: Classical Origins of the Modern World by Daniel N. Robinson
    7. picHuman Prehistory and the First Civilizations by Brian M. Fagan
    8. picGreek Tragedy by Elizabeth Vandiver
    9. picAn Introduction to Greek Philosophy by David Roochnik
    10. picThe Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis by Louis Markos
    11. picThe History of the English Language by Seth Lerer
    12. picThe Foundations of Western Civilization by Professor Thomas F. X. Noble
    13. picArgumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning by Professor David Zarefsky
    14. Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor by Professor Kenneth W. Harl Tulane University
    15. picThe History of Ancient Rome Vol I-IV
    16. picAlexander and the Hellenistic Age Vol I-II by Jeremy McInerney (12 CDs)
    17. picAge of Pericles by Jeremy McInerney (12 CDs)
    18. picAncient Greek Civilization by Jeremy McInerney (6 CDs)