joyceanddougheader-2 (7K) ....Books

Currently Reading

Beyond Band Of Brothers


For those who want a bit more detail about Dick Winters and his experiences


Current Rating 5 out of 5

Just Finished

Men In Black


No, not the movie with Will Smith.  Ok with that out of the way, this is a great book that, much like Henry Hazlit’s Economics In One Easy Lesson, should be required reading  for all Americans. 


If you have ever thrown your hands up when the court strikes down a law that was overwhelmingly passed by voters.  If you ever wondered why the US Supreme Court, whose job (maybe) is to interpret the Constitution, seems to find a way to become involved in just about everything.  If you wondered what the Founding Fathers thought about the concept of a Supreme Court that would rule on any and all laws of the land, then this is your book.


 The book takes a look at the history of the United States Supreme Court and presents a compelling argument against what the author calls an “activist Supreme Court”.  Essentially, the author explains how the Court has all but made up certain rights that were never explicit in the Constitution. The Court then uses these rights and other ruling based on them to extend its reach into an ever widening scope. 


The concept of the Court making up the rules as it goes along is evident in the case of Marbury v. Madison  where the court appointed itself the powers of judicial review; a power not granted it by the US Constitution.


Rating 5 out of 5

Just Finished

Economics In One Easy Lesson


This is a must read for anyone and everyone.  Let’s face it our lives are driven by economics whether we like it, know it, or not.  This is never more so than in the crazy financial times we are living though today. 


Today Obama is bashing McCain and everyone is bashing Bush.  Most recently the rhetoric is aimed at what Obama calls Bush’s failed economic policy.  This sounds great to some but what does it really mean? When politicians say they want to “create jobs” and tax the rich.  Or when the local city council is discussing rising residential rents and someone proposes rent controls, what can we expect?  Why do minimum wage laws actually reduce income for some while increasing unemployment?  Why did FDR get it wrong, and why do most liberals regularly fall into the same trap? Why do farm subsidies hurt the economy and do unions help or hurt the economy?


The sad fact is most people don’t really understand the basics of economic theory but yet we hear so much from our politicians about how they are going to help improve our economic environment. How can we possibly make an informed and rational decision about who we should elect to office if we don’t understand what they are talking about?  Moreover, when you become educated on the subject you will quickly realize how silly and naive most political figures are on the subject of economics.


Rating 5 out of 5

Just Finished

The Sea Wolf


If you have ever read anything else by Jack London you will quickly recognize the writing style.  Jack London does not mess around with boring introductions but jumps right into the action.  The Sea Wolf is no exception as we follow an educated but sheltered Humphrey Van Weydon from the sinking of the ferry he was riding in San Francisco Bay to his being rescued by a  brutal captain of a seal hunting vessel headed to Japan.  Want to come along?  Pick up a copy and follow Humphrey’s adventures on the Pacific.


Rating 4 out of 5

Just Finished

Have Space Suit Will Travel


This book from the great Robert A. Heinlein, author of numerous sci-fi books including the classic Strangers in a Strange Land, wrote this book nearly 50 years ago and it weathered the years just fine.  The book follows a young Kip Russell, on his journey from dreaming about going to the moon to interstellar travel.  I think what makes this book still fun after all these years is that the book mixes science with a bit, but not too much, science fiction.  Is there a lot of depth to the plot in the book?  No.  Does the author take you though the gut wrenching tragedy of the characters lives?  No.  But, that is why its such fun.  Think about Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Watership Down, and you’ll get what I mean.  In any case, I suggest checking it out.  As my wife reminds me, it’s probably aimed at early teenagers, but what can I say…its just fun


Rating 5 or of 5

Just Finished


Quantitative Methods for Investment Analysis


Surprisingly interesting…what more can I say?


Rating 4 out of 5

Just Finished 

Seven Days to Disaster: The Sinking of the Lusitania


It is hard to say exactly why but this book did not ever really seem to catch my attention. For those who are not acquainted with the Lusitania, it was a passenger liner owned by the Cunard Company that was sunk off the coast of England during WW I.  The ship was considered the fasted and most luxurious of the sea at the time.   What is interesting about the story is some of the controversy that surrounds its sinking.  First of all the ship was a passenger liner that was attacked and sunk by a German submarine.  The question of whether it was involved in the transport of arms or was armed itself remains somewhat in question though it appears she was not armed.  The sinking happened well after the Titanic and newer and better safety measure were in place and yet over 1000 lives were lost.  The ship itself was thought to be in little danger from German subs as it traveled much faster (around 3 times ) than submarines at the time.  Yet for some reason, the Captain chooses to slow down, move close to shore, and not travel at the zig zag pattern recommended in areas where subs were present. 


The book also touches on a very interesting topic of German spies and saboteurs that existed in the United States during WW I.  Sadly the author never really follows up on this subject (most likely due to its departure from the main topic).  In any case for the author appeared to do a good job of historical research but for me, the book never really seemed to get going.  Maybe because it was on the heals of A Night To Remember which I read just a few weeks prior to this or maybe because I have overdone it was the sea disaster genre I just did not enjoy this book very much.  But as always check it out yourself and let me know what you think


Rating 2.5 out of 5

Just Finished


A Dogs Life


What? Yes, I know that this book really belongs I the “Young Adult” category…but hey, its relaxing reading and since I did all I could to avoid reading when I was a kid I have the right to read this stuff now and then.


Ok, now that I am done justifying, I will say two things about this book.  First, its exactly what you think it was be about.  Nothing more and nothing less; dog is born, dog experiences losses, people are mean to the dog, some people are nice, some dogs are mean and some dogs are nice.  Second, it’s a fast read.  So since I am almost done, I will just say.  Check it out


Current Rating 3.5 out of 5

Just Finished 

A Night To Remember


Being a bit of a history nut and, for some reason, finding myself in a rut reading sailing and sailing related disaster books, I suppose this novel about the sinking of the Titanic was bound to show up in my reading pile.


And so it did.  The good news is that it seems to be a pretty well written book.  I seem to remember somewhere that there it was criticized as having too much author privilege when it came to events and dialog.  Nevertheless I found it entertaining.  I will say that I was stuck with how this book tied in very closely with the film Titanic.  Excepting the story line with Jack and Rose from the film, there were a number of close similarities so I can only conclude that some of the facts about the sinking portrayed in the film were derived from this book.


In any case, it was a short and interesting read.  Well worth checking out.


Rating 4.5 out of 5

Just Finished


Weapons of Choice


This is my first run at an alternate history book.  I believe that this is a unique genre unto itself.  Since childhood (and like most kids) I have been a fan of time travel movies.  With the exception of Timeline by Michael Crichton this is the first real sci fi time travel book I have ever attempted.  Since WWII history is interesting and since I have an interest in science fiction (though most of the classic novels…even the stuff that everyone loves leaves me a bit bored) I thought I would see what I thought.

Sadly, in this case my initial intuition was correct.  This was a weak, weak  book with character development that did seem to progress beyond the literary equivalent of the third grade.  The author creates characters that are so one dimensional it is silly.  There is the scheming crook with ties to local underworld figures but who seems to be just smarter than the big dumb oaf he is partnered with.  There is the ridiculously “shocking” independent female reporter and on, and on.


The book spends way too much time beating the reader to death with the cultural differences between 2021 and 1940’s which could be interesting if it expanded beyond the male – female – white – non-white power struggle.  Seriously, of all he could have discussed, this topic comes up over and over and over and over and over and over; you get the point


Overall, don’t bother with this book, skip the series for that fact, and take the money you would have spend on the book and get yourself some ice cream. You will be much happier.


Current Rating 1.5 out of 5

Recently Read



This is a great book for lovers of Tolkin, T. H. White (The Once and Future King) and even the Harry Potter series.  This is the first book in a trilogy and as I understand it this was the first book ever published by the author.  While I am not an expert on the genre I think this is considered a modern classic in the fantasy genre.


The story is about a peasent boy who comes across a dragon egg while in a field.  He soon realizes that finding the egg becomes more and more like destiny than like chance.  He also discovers a mystical world of the “rider” and of his ability to connect to his dragon through his thoughts.  The boy, Eragon, eventually learns of his ability to perform magic, though unlike other similar books I have read, Eragon’s use of magic takes a toll on him physically.


Even though I am not quite done with this book it gets a 4 out of 5 and is well worth checking out


Current rating 4 out of 5

Recently Read

Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio


Sorry, but I am behind on my reviews for this book. The rating is right though! 

Current Rating 3 out of 5



Recently Read

My Dog Skip


Be prepared to take a walk down nostalgia lane when you read this book.  Everyone keeps asking me if it’s a  kids book so let me answer this now;  No, its not a kids book.  In fact the book is rather humorous to a point that would be lost on any but someone with the hindsight of years…thankfully, my hindsight is rather short.


So, what do I think?  Great book.  If you liked Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and thought the Forest Gump was a pretty good book then check it out.  For those who just said “what, Forest Gump was a book too?” check out the movie version of My Dog Skip.  You won’t miss much.


Rating 4.75 out of 5

Recently Read

The Forgotten Man


This book seemed to have all the makings of a great book.  I mean really, it covers a very interesting period of US history; the great depression.  While I am only about 80 pages into it I must say that I am losing interest fast.  The problem is not the subject matter but it is the way the author writes. He seems to be all over the place talking about various obscure people such as Father Devine and a variety of socialist and other obscure figures of history.  Its not that I am not interested in these so much as it is the way the author bounces about with no real direction or apparent link between the background of these individuals.  I assume that he has a point somewhere in all of this but he is getting a bit long in the tooth.  I will give this book a bit more time but it may soon end up in the pile next to the fireplace where I will ultimately make use of it as kindling

As I had hoped this book got much better as it went along.  Still a bit heavy on the anti - big business efforts of FDR.  I for one did not realize the level of socialism that was pushed by the New Deal (though now that I think of it makes sense).  I also was not aware of the modest economic improvement that the New Deal realized after a full decade of activity.  

Maybe I should read another FDR book as this one did little to improve my impression of him as a president.


Rating 3.5 out of 5


Recently Read

Alas, Babylon


Here I go getting into a rut again.  This time I have found several apocalyptic books to read and scare myself with.  This book is rather interesting but starts out a bit slow.  First I have to disclose that this book may be hard to find as it was written in the late 1950s or early 1960’s (sorry too lazy to look right now).  Anyway, the story is about a small Florida town that is off the beaten path and really reminds me a bit of the fictional town that George Bailey resided in It’s A Wonderful Life.  The town is even complete with the miserly banker. 


The main character has a brother who is conveniently in the Navy and works at NORAD type site located in Omaha .  The brother gives warning of an imminent danger of a Soviet military strike and sends his wife and kids to live in the small Florida town.


The book is only about 250 pages long and the “war” begins around page 100 so I am not sure how far the author will be able to get with the story.  So far the character development is pretty good and the chaos that is generated by the multiple missile strikes in Florida seems a bit understated but believable.  Obvious things such as the stores being out of food and gas stations without fuel make it into the story but the various characters drive in and about the town with relative ease; which seems a bit implausible…but hey, it’s a story right?


Rating 4.5 out of 5

Recently Read




Sometimes I find I can get into a rut when it comes to reading books of a certain genre.  It certainly seemed to be the case over the Christmas weekend this year where I read several “survival” type books.  The most recent one was the book Lost!


To be honest, this book was a bit dull.  Nothing in the book really captured by interest though, like I often do, I toughed out this book.  The plot is as you would expect: several people leave from a port in the Pacific Northweston a small hand build trimaran. For the most part the crew seems to me moderate at best when it comes to seamanship.  This alone was a quick tip off that disaster was at hand.


The one think that kept the readers interest more than anything was the constant question in the readers mind about what the nutty Seventh Day Adventist would do next.  If the lone survivor is to be believed, the Adventist regularly lost or simply disposed of supplies such as food and a salt water distillation device on the belief that God would rescue the party once everyone submitted their fate to God.


Now, as a Christian myself, I find this much more similar to the temptation of Jesus when he is told to throw himself upon the rocks below a cliff and wisely replies that you should not tempt God.  Not being a theology professor I read this to say that if you are in danger that one should do what they can to survive and not to do silly things and expect that God will reach down a hand of providence and save you….he may but don’t tempt Him.


Anyway, this was as lame a book as I have read on the subject of ship wrecked sailors and would simply say to check out the numerous others in my reviews that are far superior.


Rating 2 out of 5 - Don't bother




Recently Read

Sea of sharks : a sailor's World War II survival story



          Just a touch misleading.  Yes this book sort of took place during WWII…but not exactly.  I was sort of expecting at ship that was wrecked due to an enemy attack or contact with a mine.  In the case of this story, the ship was actually lost at sea during a hurricane that hit the Japanese islands AFTER the war was over.

But none the less, the story was an interesting read.  It was also a quick read and really drives home the misery and loneliness that can exist out in the ocean.  Those who spend most of our time on land only really see the sea as the little patch of busy harbor and possibly wonder “how in the world can someone go days or weeks without ever being seen”.  Well I assure you they can.  As this book outlines the vastness of the sea it a very difficult thing to comprehend.

Overall, an interesting story that has its share of exactly what you expect: sharks that eat survivors, delirium that sets in, starvation, and the constant temptation to drink just one sip of sea water. 

It I have learned anything from these types of book it is do NOT drink the sea water.  For whatever reason, those who do end up partaking in sea water find themselves delirious and demised within a few short days.

In the end, this is a good book, a quick read and worth checking out.


Rating 3.5 out of 5



Recently Read




OK, of the three lost a sea books I have recently read this one is the tops.  The story revolves around a 20 something woman who has a few personal family issues and deals with it by dropping out of college and becoming a bit of a sailing bum.  After some time in the Caribbeanand as crew on various boats, charters, racing crew, etc she takes a break from the vagabond life and moves to Main.


While working as a waitress he meets a guy who is looking for crew to take a 58 foot boat down to Florida.  The boat, called Trashman, is outfitted and ready to go.  A similar theme in this and other books of the like is that the protagonist has a feeling that they should not make this specific trip.  In this case, the feeling seems to appear only after they are underway. 


The skipper is portrayed as a competent but alcoholic seaman who is unable to round out the rest of the crew.  The boat sails the east coast and eventually pick up the skippers girlfriend and another crew member.


Tensions between the crew immediately begin to heat up and among the crew and only get worse as a large storm batters the boat.  The latest crew to be picked up is found drunk and passed out when it is his time to take the helm for his 4 hour watch during the storm.


I won’t spoil the end but will tell you that someone does survive and at least one person becomes shark food.  Ughh, just makes you shudder to think about it.


Overall, great book and you should consider reading this.


Rating 4 out of 5 stars



Recently Read

One Man's Wilderness


 Anyone who has watched the 70’s  show Grizzly Adams and thought, hey that would be a cool idea, this is the book for you.  This book about  Richard "Dick" Proennekeis very high on the coolness factor owing primarily to the fact that this guy decided in his 50’s that he was going to move to the  Alaskan wilderness, build a cabin and live there.

We are not talking about the sort of “cabins” you see in lake Tahoe or Stowe, no this guy cut down the trees himself, stripped the bark, and using only hand tools hewed the notches for each log to build his cabin.  He also build all his own furniture, doors, windows, and even a stone fireplace and chimney.

This book is an edited version of his diary for the first 18 months while he built and lived in the cabin.  All told I believe he lived in the cabin for about 30 years but now only lives there in the fall, spring and summer.  I suppose the 50 below zero (-46 C) temperatures he had to endure during his first winter are just too much as you get older.

This is a definite book to check out

Rating 5 out of  5

Currently Reading

Mere Christianity


This is no book for light reading.  It is short but dense with thought provoking concepts worthy of the best philosopher.  I have actually had to stop and take notes with this book and I consider myself able to retain concepts that I read quite well, thank you.  I am just 50 pages into the book and already find myself having to exercise the grey matter long after I put the book down. 


Currently my rating on this book is undecided

Recently Read

Citizen Soldiers


This was simply an outstanding book.  I have read other books on WWII by Stephen Ambrose and liked them all (but I must admit to having a difficult time getting through Band of Brothers, though I did love the film version). 


The book takes a more personal look at the war from the perspective of the foot solider.  Ambrose does a great job cutting right to specifics that get glossed over in many other WWII books that try and deal with the strategy of one side or the politics of the war. 


An alarmingly fast read (particularly considering the heft of this volume), it really reads like a peak into the personal diaries of the front line soldier with just enough historically context to help the reader understand how things played out in the broader scheme.


Rating 5 out of 5


Recently Read

Power Tips for Buying a House for Less


Not much to say on this book.  It was just something that I picked up on a whim.  You know that Joyce and I are looking at buying a house so this topic just seemed to make sense.


Overall I give the book pretty high marks.  It is a bit on the basic side but plenty useful for anyone with no experience in buying a home or with little or no experience in dealing with lenders and credit.  It was a quick read and I found some very useful information contained within the pages. 


Want to know what power tips I found out?  Well, don’t ever go to an open house and discuss your price range openly with the agent there…they work for the seller and have a fiduciary responsibility to disclose any beneficial information you give them.  Want more?  No thanks.  You may be the one I am negotiating against when I buy my house!


Rating 3 out of 5

Recently Read

God's Country: America in the 50's


This is a great book covering a little known and surprisingly interesting period in American history.  The 1950’s seem to get glossed over as an idyllic and happy time in the USwith really very little time spent on the decade by our educational system. I suppose that is because it was the decade that was sandwiched between WWII and the turbulence of the 1960’s.


What is sad, is that we spend really very little time discussing this era, save for discussion on the antics of one US Senator.  Lets face it Joe, was a bit of a fanatic but there was much more to the 1950’s than McCarthy.  Did you know that there was a recession in the 1950’s?  Odd, I thought it was a time when everyone had a job and things were just dandy.  Did you know that there were a number or race riots in the 1950’s No? thought that was just the 60’s huh?


If nothing else it is worthwhile to understand the social-political climate that produced the 1960’s and changed the face of the United Statesfor ever.


Rating 4 out of 5

Recently Read

Don't Eat This Book


A fascinating and quick read that appears to be the companion guide to Morgan’s successful documentary film, Supersize Me.  I have not yet seen the film but from what I know about it it appears to deal more with the experiment he conducted on himself where he decided to eat nothing but fast-food for 30 days. 


The book on the other hand, while dealing with the topic of the film in a superficial way, really digs into some material that Morgan probably wanted to include in the film.   While I enjoyed the book as a whole I do have a few complaints about it.


First, Morgan provides little or no support for some of the claims that he makes.  There are no footnotes or references and the reader is left to simply believe (or not) that “studies show…” and “it has been proven that…” 


Furthermore Morgan clearly has an ax to grind and does a great job of picking and choosing those opinions he wants to include the book.


Now, I am not saying that he is wrong on anything he has said.  I am only stating that the issue I had with the book was its lack of references to support its claims.  Maybe everything he says it true…maybe its not, I just want to be able to evaluate the research he uses to support his argument.


Rating 3.5 out of 5


Recently Read

The Last Templar


This book falls into the category of don’t bother.  Think a predictable version of a Da Vinci code rip off with really nothing new added to the mix.  My only comment to the author, should I ever meet him, would be that the covers of the book were too far apart..


Rating 1 out of 5 - Run away from this book

Recently Read

Twinkie Deconstructed

I am not sure exactly where I came across this book.  I believe it was from the wonderful podcast done by the folks at the SETI Institutecalled Are We Alone.  In any case, it is a fascinating read about where or food (mostly our snack food) comes from.  How its made and what all of those items on the ingredient list really mean.  Where those ingredients come from and why they are in our food to begin with.

Rating 4 out of 5