Books I Have Read

From Dawn To Decadence – By Jacques Barzun

From Dawn to DecadenceJacques Barzun

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Highly regarded here and abroad for some thirty works of cultural history and criticism, master historian Jacques Barzun has now set down in one continuous narrative the sum of his discoveries and conclusions about the whole of Western culture since 1500.

In this account, Barzun describes what Western Man wrought from the Renaisance and Reformation down to the present in the double light of its own time and our pressing concerns. He introduces characters and incidents with his unusual literary style and grace, bringing to the fore those that have “Puritans as Democrats,” “The Monarch’s Revolution,” “The Artist Prophet and Jester” — show the recurrent role of great themes throughout the eras.

The triumphs and defeats of five hundred years form an inspiring saga that modifies the current impression of one long tale of oppression by white European males. Women and their deeds are prominent, and freedom (even in sexual matters) is not an invention of the last decades. And when Barzun rates the present not as a culmination but a decline, he is in no way a prophet of doom. Instead, he shows decadence as the creative novelty that will burst forth — tomorrow or the next day.

Only after a lifetime of separate studies covering a broad territory could a writer create with such ease the synthesis displayed in this magnificent volume.


The Drug Hunters – By Don Kirsch and Ogi Ogas

The Drug HuntersDon Kirsch & Ogi Ogas

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The Drug Hunters, by Donald Kirsch and Ogi Ogas, is a book about the drug discovery process. The authors highlight the discovery of drugs like penicillin, as well as the contraceptive pill, reliable anesthesia, beta blockers for treating hypertension, the use of insulin to treat type 1 diabetes, and a vaccine for syphilis, just to name a few. They also explain the mechanisms of drug testing and the critical role of financing. By humanizing the idiosyncratic nature of drug discovery, the authors make the material approachable. And while these stories should be lauded, I was disappointed that the authors framed mental health disorders, namely depression, as a medical problem, in want solely of an appropriate medicine. This side steps a broad literature on a diverse set of available treatments for depression.

To be clear, this book does a brilliant job at illuminating how we make new effective drugs. The historical scope of this book clearly shows how much progress we have made, while still conveying to the reader how much more we stand to discover. Author Donald Kirsch is a veteran in the pharma industry, and his insider perspective was insightful. His description of the financial stakes involved in drug production today was sobering. He writes “it costs an average of $1.5 billion, and 14 years to manufacture a new drug.” Some low-ball estimates put the cost just under $1 billion to develop single medication. And that is because “only 5% of proposals get funding by management, and only 2% get FDA approval.”


The Corrections – By Jonathan Franzen

The Corrections

Jonathan franzen
Johnathan Franzen

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson’s disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man-or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

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The Wife – By Meg Walitzer

TheWifeMeg Wolitzer

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The Wife is the story of the long and stormy marriage between a world-famous novelist, Joe Castleman, and his wife Joan, and the secret they’ve kept for decades. The novel opens just as Joe is about to receive a prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honor his career as one of America’s preeminent novelists. Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, finally decides to stop.

Important and ambitious, The Wife is a sharp-eyed and compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she’s made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. “A rollicking, perfectly pitched triumph…Wolitzer’s talent for comedy of manners reaches a heady high” (Los Angeles Times), in this wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make—in marriage, work, and life.


Right Here, Right Now – By Stephen J. Harper

Right Here, Right Now

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The world is in flux. Disruptive technologies, ideas, and politicians are challenging business models, norms, and political conventions everywhere. How we, as leaders in business and politics, choose to respond matters greatly. Some voices refuse to concede the need for any change, while others advocate for radical realignment. But neither of these positions can sustainably address the legitimate concerns of disaffected citizens.

Right Here, Right Now sets out a pragmatic, forward-looking vision for leaders in business and politics by analyzing how economic, social, and public policy trends–including globalized movements of capital, goods and services, and labour–have affected our economies, communities, and governments.

Harper contends that Donald Trump’s surprise election and governing agenda clearly signal that political, economic, and social institutions must be more responsive to legitimate concerns about public policy, market regulation, immigration, and technology.

Urging readers to look past questions of style and gravitas, Harper thoughtfully examines the substantive underpinnings of how and why Donald Trump was able to succeed Barack Obama as President of the United States, and how these forces are manifesting themselves in other western democracies.

Analyzing international trade, market regulation, immigration, technology, and the role of government in the digital economy, Harper lays out the case for pragmatic leadership as a proven solution to the uncertainty and risk that businesses and governments face today.


The Whistler – By John Grisham

The Whistler

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We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.

What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.

But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.


Living Trust For Everyone – By Ronald Frarrington Sharp

Living Trusts For EveryoneRon Farington Sharp

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Readers say it best: “Very informative”, “saved me a lot of money and headaches!”, “recommend it for everyone who has to plan estates for their elderly parents”

Living Trusts for Everyone is the best resource for setting up a living trust. Explaining in specific terms what benefits a trust will have, Ronald Farrington Sharp gives the tools necessary to set up a loved one’s trust with no lawyers and no expense.


Atlas Shrugged – By Ayn Rand

Atlas ShruggedAyn Ryand

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I will be uploading each chapter gradually as I find time.

Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s magnum opus: a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller—nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

Who is John Galt? When he says that he will stop the motor of the world, is he a destroyer or a liberator? Why does he have to fight his battles not against his enemies but against those who need him most? Why does he fight his hardest battle against the woman he loves?

You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the amazing men and women in this book. You will discover why a productive genius becomes a worthless playboy…why a great steel industrialist is working for his own destruction…why a composer gives up his career on the night of his triumph…why a beautiful woman who runs a transcontinental railroad falls in love with the man she has sworn to kill.

Atlas Shrugged, a modern classic and Rand’s most extensive statement of Objectivism—her groundbreaking philosophy—offers the reader the spectacle of human greatness, depicted with all the poetry and power of one of the twentieth century’s leading artists.


 

My Life – By Bill Clinton

My Life - Bill Clinton

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President Bill Clinton’s My Life is the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public.

It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House—a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested itself at every stage of his life: in college, working as an intern for Senator William Fulbright; at Oxford, becoming part of the Vietnam War protest movement; at Yale Law School, campaigning on the grassroots level for Democratic candidates; back in Arkansas, running for Congress, attorney general, and governor.

We see his career shaped by his resolute determination to improve the life of his fellow citizens, an unfaltering commitment to civil rights, and an exceptional understanding of the practicalities of political life.

We come to understand the emotional pressures of his youth—born after his father’s death; caught in the dysfunctional relationship between his feisty, nurturing mother and his abusive stepfather, whom he never ceased to love and whose name he took; drawn to the brilliant, compelling Hillary Rodham, whom he was determined to marry; passionately devoted, from her infancy, to their daughter, Chelsea, and to the entire experience of fatherhood; slowly and painfully beginning to comprehend how his early denial of pain led him at times into damaging patterns of behavior.

President Clinton’s book is also the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written—encompassing not only the high points and crises but the way the presidency actually works: the day-to-day bombardment of problems, personalities, conflicts, setbacks, achievements.

It is a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals.

It is the gripping account of a president under concerted and unrelenting assault orchestrated by his enemies on the Far Right, and how he survived and prevailed.

It is a treasury of moments caught alive, among them:

  • The ten-year-old boy watching the national political conventions on his family’s new (and first) television set.
  • The young candidate looking for votes in the Arkansas hills and the local seer who tells him, “Anybody who would campaign at a beer joint in Joiner at midnight on Saturday night deserves to carry one box. . . . You’ll win here. But it’ll be the only damn place you win in this county.” (He was right on both counts.)
  • The roller-coaster ride of the 1992 campaign.
  • The extraordinarily frank exchanges with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole.
  • The delicate manipulation needed to convince Rabin and Arafat to shake hands for the camera while keeping Arafat from kissing Rabin.
  • The cost, both public and private, of the scandal that threatened the presidency.

Here is the life of a great national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions, told openly, directly, in his own completely recognizable voice. A unique book by a unique American.


When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air

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At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.