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This is a listing of some of my favorite books.  The list is not exhaustive and I have not attempted to review or critique these books.  Check back from time to time; I will add to the list.  If any of these books sounds interesting, you may order the book from Amazon.com by clicking on the appropriate link.

Click on this link to see what I am reading now or have read recently.


Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961 - 1973, by Stuart I. Rochester and Frederick Kiley.

This is a "must read" for Vietnam veterans, students of history, and anyone who wonders what war is really like.  The story told here is a monumental tribute to the bravery that humans are capable of when put to the most extreme tests.

During the Vietnam War, several hundred Americans were taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong.  These prisoners of war (POW) included a high percentage of aviators whose aircraft were shot down over North Vietnam and a smaller percentage of "grunts" -- mainly Army and Marine Corps troops captured in ground combat in South Vietnam.  The POWs held in North Vietnam were subjected to indescribably cruel and brutal torture and deprivation.  Those in the south were not subject to such extensive and long-term torture but their living conditions were equally indescribable and far more deprived than those in the North.  In all, 771 Americans were captured, 113 died in captivity, 658 returned either at Operation Homecoming (the prisoner release in 1973) or by being released or escaping before 1973.  This book is the definitive work on the US POW experience in Southeast Asia, 1961 - 1973.  The book is not easy to read -- it describes graphically the tortures applied to the Americans, their deteriorating physical conditions, and many of their horrible, lonely deaths; it is 596 pages long with hundreds of footnotes;  photographs are provided as needed.

Click here for the Amazon.com listing of Honor Bound.


Living Faith, by Jimmy Carter

This book is a personal account by President Carter of how his faith sustained him through the different periods of his life.  He describes the foundations of his faith as the son of a Georgia dirt farmer, then traces his personal growth and his faith journey through his years at the Naval Academy; into the Navy; facing the decision to stay in the Navy or get out and take over his family's business; moving into politics; running for and serving as President; and, in his post-Presidential period.

President Carter demonstrates how Christian faith is supposed to be.

Click here for the Amazon.com listing of Living Faith.


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard is a bit difficult for some folks to take.  Her writing seems, as one starts reading one of her books, to be disconnected and strange.  Her writing rushes ahead, yet is a slow journey of reflection.   Pilgrim is one of the most troubling, one of the most satisfying, and one of the most challenging books I have ever read.  I keep gong back to it.

The "plot" of the book is that Ms. Dillard spent a year living in a rural area of Virginia.  She observed the natural surroundings -- insects, frogs, fish, snakes, birds, and people -- and she describes them.  This book, however, is not a naturalists book.  Instead, it is a fascinating mixture of ethics, nature, metaphysics, emotion, and logic.  Her description of a moth dying in a flame is amazing.

In one of the most amazing parts of the book, she describes how, after surgeons learned how to remove cataracts from people who had been born with them, the surgeons then went out and gave sight to people who had never seen before.  Then, she describes the tribulations of these newly-sighted people as they tried to cope with the reality of space, time, distance, color and light. The rest of the book follows this same practice:  Describe a natural phenomena or event, then follow the event into its metaphysical realm.

Click here for the Amazon.com listing of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.


A Brief History of Time:  From the Big Bang to Black Holes, by Stephen W. Hawking

Hawking is the pre-eminent theoretical physicist of our time.  He also is a victim of Lou Gherig's Disease -- Hawking has spent nearly thirty years in a wheelchair, gradually losing more and more motor control and capability.  His mind has not bee affected and he continues to teach and explain theoretical and practical physics.  This book, written in 1988, is still unequaled.

Using plain language and an occasional diagram, Hawking explains:  Einstein's general theory of relativity; Newton's and Galileo's discoveries; the unified theory; black holes; quarks; the possibility of time running backward; and, the theory of a "no-boundary" universe, among other matters.  He also entertains the questions of: Was there a beginning of time?  Will there be an end? Is the universe infinite?

This book is a landmark.  I read it every other year and find something new in it every time I read it.

Click here for the Amazon.com listing of A Brief History of Time.


We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

This is the greatest account of ground combat to come out of the Vietnam War -- or any war for that matter.

We Were Soldiers Once and Young details the November 1965 battle of the Ia Drang in Vietnam.  The 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, with Joseph Galloway, a UPI correspondent attached.  The 450 men of the 1/7 were attacked by over 2,000 North Vietnamese regulars who wanted a pitched battle with a U.S. unit to test their tactics.  The battalion held their own and turned back the overwhelming Vietnamese force.

However, a sister battalion, three days later and two miles away, was destroyed.

I cannot do justice to this book or to the gallant men whose trial by fire is recounted here, often in minute-by-minute detail.

"In thy faint slumbers I by thee had watch'd
And heard thee murmur tales of iron wars . . . "
                                        -- Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part One, Act II, Scene 3

Click here for the Amazon.com listing of We Were Soldiers Once and Young.


Longitude:  The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, by Dava Sobel.

Positions on the earth's surface are determined by parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude.  Latitude is simple to determine because the lines of latitude run parallel to each other and the origin of latitude is fixed -- the equator.  One measures latitude by the angle of the sun or of certain guide stars or by the length of the day.

Computing longitude is a different matter entirely.  The meridians of longitude are not parallel -- they run together at the poles and the distance between them varies from 1,000 miles at the equator to zero at the poles.  The only way to measure longitude is to know the precise time at your present location and at your origin.

Early navigators had no way of determining time with any precision.  An hourglass was useless.  Pendulum clocks, while accurate, could not go to sea because the rolling of the ship made the pendulum swing crazily, destroying the accuracy.

This book describes how one man, John Harrison, an Englishman, devised the marine chronometer, thereby solving the problem of determining longitude.  While this book is a great story and recounts an obscure but vital discovery, it is not without flaws.  There are no illustrations in the book and the scientific descriptions are light, almost "newspaper reporter" in style.  This is a good book to read for general information and knowledge but it is disappointing in its light treatment of the topic..

Note:  On July 3, a gentleman recommended that I read The Quest for Longitude, edited by William J. H. Andrews, published by the Collection of Historical Instruments, Harvard University, Science Center, B6, Cambridge, MA 02138, ISBN 0-9644329-0-0.  I will find that book and report back.

Click here for the Amazon.com listing of Longitude..  


Moral Man and Immoral Society, by Reinhold Neibuhr.

This book was first published in 1930.  It has been reprinted a few times since then and is now difficult to find.  Reading it, however, is worth the effort of finding it.

Neibuhr deals with the  question of the difference in morals between and individual and a collection of individuals. That is, how is it that an individual can be kind, just, and merciful but a collection of kind, just, merciful individuals can become a lynch mob.  Given this fact, and the fact that man forms societies, it would seem that mankind is destined for unending conflict, stemming from the brutal behavior of collective man.

Read this one and figure it out.


  Click here for the Amazon.com listing of Moral Man and Immoral Society.

 

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