Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Island Belongings Part Three: Reading, Non-fiction

Meanwhile, back on the island. Well, we need more reading material. How about some non-fiction. No restrictions from your favorite list, just bring whatever you would like to have to read for the next year. The Bible is already provided by the island. Here are mine with my comments and then a synopsis provided for each book by Barnes and Noble and by Amazon. Enjoy.

Young men and fire by Norman MacLean.

You might know MacLean from A river runs through it. Here he tells the story of a tragedy that happen about 120 miles from where I live. I've actually camped about two miles from Mann Gulch and have been there when a horrible wind storm came in. Much like the one that cost these 12 men their lives. The graves overlook the Missouri. I can't imagine what it must have been like.
On August 5, 1949, a crew of fifteen of the United States Forest Service's elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean puts back together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy.

The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost.

This is a good movie but and great book. Frost paints a great picture about this incredible tournament and how the event changed so many lives. If you play golf you will love it. If you don't play golf, you will love it.

Frost deftly tells the story behind the legendary 1913 U.S. Open, in which Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old golf amateur from Massachusetts, shocked the genteel golf world by defeating British champion Harry Vardon, the most famous pro golfer of his time and the inventor of what today is still considered the modern grip and swing. Frost knows he has a good story and manages to touch on all the right elements of the plot: Ouimet and Vardon not only represent two different social worlds and two different generations, but also share a number of key personal facts and traits. Ouimet was "the boy-next-door amateur, young and modest and free from affectation," while Vardon was the consummate professional whose record of six British Open victories has never been matched. Yet Frost superbly shows how both shared a steely drive to succeed that helped Vardon overcome a long bout with tuberculosis and Ouimet to overcome a working-class background in which golf was seen (especially by his father) as a wealthy man's game, the perfect example of the evils of capitalism. Frost beautifully weaves history into his narrative, clearly showing the long-term impact this duel had on the game and how it helped propel the U.S. Open into the arena of world-class golf. Frost's final chapters on the last two rounds of the 1913 Open have all the page-turning excitement of a blockbuster novel.

Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis
Ellis basically has 6 short stories about the most powerful men in the country at our founding. I found the story about the duel between Hamilton and Burr particularly fascinating. Oh how our country may have been different if not for that windy afternoon on the banks of the Hudson.
An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic -- John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.
During the 1790s, which Ellis calls the most decisive decade in our nation's history, the greatest statesmen of their generation -- and perhaps of any -- came together to define the new republic and direct its course for the coming centuries. Ellis focuses on six discrete moments that exemplify the most crucial issues facing the fragile new nation: Burr and Hamilton's deadly duel, and what may have really happened; Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison's secret dinner, during which the seat of the permanent capital was determined in exchange for passage of Hamilton's financial plan; Franklin's petition to end the "peculiar institution" of slavery -- his last public act -- and Madison's efforts to quash it; Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address, announcing his retirement from public office and offering his country some final advice; Adams's difficult term as Washington's successor and his alleged scheme to pass the presidency on to his son; and finally, Adams and Jefferson's renewed correspondence at the end of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.
In a lively and engaging narrative, Ellis recounts the sometimes collaborative, sometimes archly antagonistic interactions between these men, and shows us the private characters behind the public personas: Adams, the ever-combative iconoclast, whose closest political collaborator was his wife, Abigail; Burr, crafty, smooth, and one of the most despised public figures of his time; Hamilton, whose audacious manner and deep economic savvy masked his humble origins; Jefferson, renowned for his eloquence, but so reclusive and taciturn that he rarely spoke more than a few sentences in public; Madison, small, sickly, and paralyzingly shy, yet one of the most effective debaters of his generation; and the stiffly formal Washington, the ultimate realist, larger-than-life, and America's only truly indispensable figure.
Ellis argues that the checks and balances that permitted the infant American republic to endure were not primarily legal, constitutional, or institutional, but intensely personal, rooted in the dynamic interaction of leaders with quite different visions and values. Revisiting the old-fashioned idea that character matters, Founding Brothers informs our understanding of American politics -- then and now -- and gives us a new perspective on the unpredictable forces that shape history.

Vision of the Annointed by Thomas Sowell.
Sowell is one of my favorite political essayists. Most of his books are way to deep for me but this one is outstanding. If you didn't hate the liberal elite before you read this, you certainly will afterwards.

Sowell presents a devastating critique of the mind-set behind the failed social policies of the past thirty years. Sowell sees what has happened during that time not as a series of isolated mistakes but as a logical consequence of a tainted vision whose defects have led to crises in education, crime, and family dynamics, and to other social pathologies. In this book, he describes how elites—the anointed—have replaced facts and rational thinking with rhetorical assertions, thereby altering the course of our social policy.

Summer of '49 by David Halberstam
Halberstam is the best baseball writer ever. There is no debate. If you know even a little about baseball, you know that the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry is the greatest in sports and second place isn't even close. What a lot of people don't realize is that this rivalry is as old as professional sports in America. I'm no Yankee fan but I'm not a hater either. I will tell you that if the Sox don't pull off the comeback in 2004 (or the Yankees don't choke) I wouldn't see near as many ugly blue hats with faggot looking "B"s on them. "Oh, I've always been a Red Sox fan!" Kiss my ass you fucking liars!! Most Sox fans out here couldn't find Boston on a map. I hate all teams that Ralph roots for so my hatred for the Sox goes back a long way. Its why we're best friends. Hey we got our tattoos on the same day. Mine is of the Cincinnati Reds and his of the Boston whatever they are calleds. Left ankle in 2001. Anyway back to the book. Halberstam's weaves a great story about the best summer in baseball. Baseball fans won't put this one down.

The year was 1949, and a war-weary nation turned from the battlefields to the ball fields in search of new heroes. It was a summer that marked the beginning of a sports rivalry unequaled in the annals of athletic competition. The awesome New York Yankees and the indomitable Boston Red Sox were fighting for supremacy of baseball's American League, and an aging Joe DiMaggio and a brash, headstrong hitting phenomenon named Ted Williams led their respective teams in a classic pennant duel of almost mythic proportions—one that would be decided in an explosive head-to-head confrontation on the last day of the season.

That should be enough reading to get us by but a year is a long time for only ten books. What else could we do? Hmmmmmmm. I have an idea.

1 comment:

McBritt said...

In no particular order:

Undaunted Courage-Stephen Ambrose(I could list all of his books)

The Boys of Summer-Roger Kahn(since you have a Yankee book, even though Halberstam wrote the better baseball books)

Ernie Pyle-Compilation of his WWII writing.

Seabiscuit-Lauren Hillenbrand(Belmont picks Dunkirk & Charitable Man)

Truman-David McCullough(he is another author who can write the socks off the other historians)

The Thoroughbred Almanac would be another but does that really count as non-fiction. It would be like including the Encyclopedia of Baseball. But since we are on a desert island, we can memorize the stats of all the players from Aaron(I don't care who the guy is who had one plate appearance and gets in ahead of him) to the guy whose name starts with Zy.