Friday, June 02, 2006

Summer Reading List

I always enjoy this time of year when every magazine invites their contributors to join in recommending books to take to the beach. Liberty, for instance, arrived in the mail today with a very nice list, some of which they have online.

Here are my own recommendations. Not the books I plan to read (some of those will turn out to be turkeys) but books I've already read, and re-read, over the last year or so. I'd be happy to loan them to you.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

A short history of the last 13,000 years. I've read it twice. When I find time I'll read it again.

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

A piece of furniture at the Psychology Department of Harvard University and a charter member of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists™, Steven Pinker knows a lot about most things and a more than a little about everything else. Intellectually, this book rocks.

The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels by Thomas Gold

I first read of maverick cosmologist Tommy Gold twenty years ago in The Atlantic Magazine, February 1986, which I have on my desk at this moment:
"The Origin of Petroleum" by David Osborne. If a controversial new theory is correct, the earth may contain a virtually inexhaustible supply of oil and gas. Huge reservoirs may exist where geologists have never thought to look.
This was his last book. Thomas Gold died in 2004.

The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime by William Langewiesche

The twenty-five mile limit is a formality. Ten miles out, you're over the horizon, off the radar screen, in a trackless void eight thousand miles across. In this series of essays William Langewiesche tells the story of the three-quarters of the globe which is beyond the effective control of any government.

I've mentioned this one before.

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowatt

In 1963 Farley Mowatt set out to write a satire about bureaucratic and scientific buffoonery, which he has, but gradually found himself engrossed in a nobler, although originally a secondary, character: the wolf.
We emerged under the cloud at an altitude of something over thirty feet, and discovered we were flying up a mile-wide valley between high rocky hills, and over the surface of a frozen lake. Without an instant's hesitation the pilot landed... [but] did not cut the engines.

"This is it, chum," he said merrily. "Out you go now. Got to be quick. Be dark before we raise Churchill."
And so he found himself alone in the middle of a frozen lake at sunset, three hundred miles from nowhere, with nothing but a pile of scientific apparatus and government issue camping gear, and fifteen cases of Moose Brand beer.

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

In a prefatory note Steinbeck wrote:
Readers seeking to identify the fictional people and places here described would do better to inspect their own communities and search their own hearts, for this book is about a large part of America today.
Forty-five years later, even more so.

I've read half a dozen of Steinbeck's novels, including Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, and The Grapes of Wrath. This is his best.

A History of the American People by Paul Johnson, author of Modern Times and A History of the Jews.

Half of everything you learned in school is wrong: the problem is you don't know which half.

Master historian Paul Johnson can help you sort it out.

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey by David Horowitz

From Sunnyside to Berkeley to Hollywood, from editor of Ramparts magazine and friend of Huey Newton to recipient of Reagan's "Teach Freedom" award, former Sixties radical David Horowitz tells with eloquent simplicity his story--the straight truth.

I've mentioned him before.

When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan

I've read a half dozen biographies of Reagan including his autobiography. This book I can recommend to everyone.