My 2017 Book Recommendations…for 2018

2017 has been a year in which my reading and reviewing has taken a back seat to life. The suddenly diagnosed illness and  death of my father-in-law in the first half of this year slowed my reading and reviewing to a crawl. As a result, I was only able to read and review 20 books this year, one-half of my Goodreads goal for 2017.  However, I did read several excellent books that I list below as recommendations for your reading pleasure for 2018.

And speaking of 2018, I am taking a break from reading and reviewing…I will be focusing on some personal and professional reading for several months. Having read and reviewed over 430 in the past nine years, I need a break. But, having reviewed so many great books, I will be re-posting on one or two Thursdays a month, the review some of my favorite books that I have read and reviewed since 2009.  Look for Jim’s Throwback Thursday Reviews!*

* Note: I will have one current review coming in early January, Abba Amanat’s Iran: A Modern History. 

After all, a good book never goes out of style!

Okay! It’s time for my favorite reads of 2017 that I recommend to you and your reading family and friends as great books to read!

Sana Krasikov’s The Patriots

From my review:

“…a tremendous piece of historical fiction that covers both the breath of mid to late 20th century history from Brooklyn to Moscow to Siberia and back; the depths of human love, betrayal, idealism, despair, and hope, and ties these two threads together in an unforgettable way through the life and choices of Florence Fein, an American who goes to Russia in 1934 and who embraces the socialist vision of Russian society but at a great cost to her and her family.”

Andra Watkins’ Hard to Die

From my review:

“Against the historic backdrop of West Point and the Hudson River valley surrounding it, author Andra Watkins again pens another historic thriller in the vein of her first novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriweather Lewis. 

With Hard to Die (2016, Word Hermit Press) the first in a series she calls the “Nowhere Series,” we enter the lives two historical figures whose disappearances remain shrouded and in mystery and debate, Theodosia Burr Alston the daughter of Aaron Burr, the Vice President of the United States who was presumed dead in a shipwreck and Richard Cox, a West Point cadet, who vanished meeting a man named “George” in January 1950.”


Jennifer Grant’s When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?

From my review:

“Jennifer Grant has written a book about aging and middle life that is, at times, gritty, humorous, sad, honest, but very, very much grace-filled. It is one that those who are about to enter mid-life, those who are in mid-life, and those, like me, who have passed through mid-life and are on the verge of senior adulthood should read.

Make that, “everybody should read.”

Shauna Shames’ Out of the Running

From my review:

“This is the story of a multi-year investigation into why elite, well qualified young adults who are already on a path toward a career in policy or law are not more interested in running for office. 

Shauna Shames, a Political Scientist and researcher in American political behavior, has added a meaningful narrative to the discussion of contemporary American political life with an insightful and well-researched study of why a group of well-educated and qualified young adults are choosing to focus their attention on meaningful work into areas other than elected office with Out of the Running: Why Millennials Reject Political Careers and Why It Matters (New York University Press, 2017)”


Matteo Bussola’s Sleepless Nights and Kisses for Breakfast

From my review:

“My job is being a father. My profession is drawing comics. I write for fun.”

Matteo Bussola’s Sleepless Nights and Kisses for Breakfast (TarcherPerigree, 2017) is a delightful and wonderful piece about the joys of fatherhood no matter if you are the father of daughters (as he is) or sons…or both!

Developed, from what this reviewer understands, from his Facebook posts, Bussola takes us on an inside look of fatherhood, and life, as he helps his three young daughters navigate life and the wider world which they live.


Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant

From My Review:

“What strikes me about The Flight Attendant are the characters who are neither over the top nor wooden. They are credible, they are everyday. I felt sorry for Cassie at times and then at other times, when her implusiveness gets the best of her, I felt frustration tinged with concern. Then there was the mysterious “Miranda” whose own second guessing (that will become clear as one reads the book) chips away at her refined and deadly image. And the rest of cast? Sorry, no teasers from this reviewer. You will have to read the book!

Additionally, the tense plot line, which left this reader/reviewer on edge, is an edgy one. One that kept me wondering when Cassie would finally be arrested…or die…or live…in spite of herself.”


Robert W Merry’s President McKinley: The Art of Stealthy Leadership


From my review:

“Merry seeks to at least move Teddy Roosevelt’s shadow aside (if one could move TR’s shadow aside!) for a least several hundred pages and bring to light a President who oversaw (and perhaps was swallowed up by, at times) a United States emerging out of the Civil War/Reconstruction era and into the twentieth-century. This reviewer believes that he accomplishes that task and reveals a President who knew how to use executive power in ways that allowed him to accomplish his goals. And the book’s subtitle, The Art of Stealthy Leadership, reveals how McKinley does that – through a stealthy approach – in which personal influence and relationship account for a great deal.

…it is a wonderful introduction to the 25th President to a new generation of readers and students of history and politics. Merry is able to describe the complex issues and events over which McKinley governed in simple and clean prose. He is sympathetic to McKinley but points out his slow and deliberate way of working often got him in difficulties or forced him to act before he was perhaps ready to act.”


Mohana Rajakumar’s Pearls of the Past

From my review:

“Over five years ago, I read my first Mohana Rajakumar novel entitled Love Comes Later  which introduced me to the world of contemporary Arab fiction and the two main characters of Rajakumar’s newest novel Pearls of the Past, Abdulla and his wife Sangita, who met while graduate students in London and fell in love, following the death of Abulla’s first wife and unborn child, much to the chagrin and frustration of his family with whom they now live among back in Abdulla’s home country.

Living in a constant state of tension with both the past and the future hanging over them in a cloud…and with a cloud of another kind about to cover them and their family, Pearls of the Past, is a tense and onrushing work of fiction about dreams and desires of the past still affecting the dreams and desire of the present and future in ways which unfold as the story unfolds…and which threatens to swallow all of them up in a very dark way.”


Scott Eyman’s Hank and Jim


From my review:

“Scott Eyman has done us a favor with the writing of his book Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart (Simon Schuster, 2017).

Well researched and written from a sympathetic and yet honest point of view, Eyman chronicles the rise and the decline of Fonda and Stewart’s careers and lives in a manner which drew this reader/reviewer in. He goes behind the scenes of stardom and gets into the personal lives of both men, in an alternating narrative as the story develops.”

Ryan Coughlin’s Right Handed Lefty


From my review:

“Ryan Coughlin has given us a collection of characters who can, and does, draw on the sympathy of the reader, as they struggle to prove that what they saw and heard was true, though they are not believed, especially by local law enforcement.

Right Hand Lefty is a novel about overcoming the challenges of growing up not just as a teen but as a teen who is considered an outsider whose word is doubted. It is also a novel about claiming one’s heritage and living in that heritage with dignity and pride.”



My Favorite Reads of 2016

It is time again for a list of my favorite reads of the year and having posted this list in November the past couple of years, I decided to wait until the end of this year.

The list is no ranking order but, I am listing several books at the end of this post as ones that I was definitely impressed with.

There is fiction and non-fiction here and my rubric for selecting these books is based on the impact that it made on me – a character, a great story for the fiction and for the non-fiction addressing a subject in a manner that stuck with me.

In short, these books have stuck with me just as three or four books I have read in the past 7 to 8 years continues to stick with me.  But that is another blog post.

Here are my favorite reads of 2016. (You can read my review of these books by clicking on the titles.)


Karl Rove’s The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.



Laura McNeill’s Sister Dear


Roger Daniel’s Franklin D Roosevelt: The War Years


Sarah Sundin’s Anchor In the Storm


Dorothy Love’s Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray


Rick Campbell’s Ice Station Nautilus

Then there several books that I highly recommend for reasons that I note below.


James D. Hornfischer’s The Fleet at Flood Tide: America At Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945 

The debate about the use of nuclear bombs to end the war in the Pacific has been and will continue to be debated as to its morality and the reasons given for it use. Hornfischer’s book chronicles the path to Truman’s decision because, in part, what the American forces encountered through their march across the central Pacific in 1944 and 1945: An enemy who fought to the death and who refused to surrender because it was a sign of weakness. Well written and a vitally different view of the War in the Pacific.


Elizabeth Drescher’s  Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America’s Nones

Drescher’s book is a book which interviews and seeks to understand a group of people, several of whom were members of churches at one time, for whom organized religion no longer holds any meaning or purpose. It was an eye opening, mind opening, and soul opening book. Instead of talking about these “Nones” as many have done, Drescher seeks to help us understand why faith is no longer a priority to them.


Cie Cie Tuyet Nguyen’s Shock Peace: The Search for Freedom

Shock Peace is a piece of historical fiction based on the author’s experiences in southern Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. This is a gripping story about people who risked their lives to escape to find the freedom they had lost.


Dennis W. Johnson’s Democracy for Hire: A History of American Political Consulting

This book was a political science re-education for me. Hate the negative campaigning? Get tired of the phone calls asking “Who would you like vote for if the election was held today?” This book chronicles the rise of American political consulting and how it has change and influenced American politics since the 1930’s. A great historical read as well.


Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

(No review written)

A powerful book that I have re-read. It addressed the inner life of a leader. A different kind of leadership book that is faith based but well worth the read. So much of leadership writings seem to address the position of leader. This one addresses the leader him/her self and their inner life.


Cara Brookins’ Rise: How A House Built A Family 

Brookins book is an intense book about the effects of mental illness and domestic violence on and in a family. In an effort to rebuild her family, Brookins and her four kids design and build their own house and as they do, the build (and re-build) their family and their lives.


Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal

(no posted review)

A powerful book that moved me to tears at times especially as Gawande wrote about a care facility at which an innovative medical director took steps to help the residence feel at home and alive again.

There is so much here to read and to discuss not just in an intellectual way but as a family member who is a care giver, a medical professional seeking to give quality care to patients and their families, a counselor, clergyperson, and those who care about quality of life issues.

Gawande brings to light what many people, I think, wrestle with – when is NO needing to be said to give dignity to those who are facing death.

(I read this book which I received as part of a seminar on caring for the terminally ill and dying.)

Well, there you have it! I hope that you either buy a copy at your local bookstore or head to your local library to check out one of these great reads.

“These are a few of my favorite books…”

At the beginning of this week, I started to tweet about one book each day as a way of celebrating  Read Across America Week. I did two and then decided a blog post would be a better thing. So I deleted the two tweets and planned to write a post before the end of the week.

When I signed into Twitter today and saw that it was World Book Day and I thought, “NOW is the time to write the post.” So I went into my Goodreads account and picked out books I have read which have stood out to me in some fashion over the years.

So here they are, in absolutely random order. There is fiction, books about faith and recovery, history of various kinds – film, US, world, even beer! – one by a US President and one on baseball. You can search for my reviews for (most of) them using the search feature in the left hand column of this page. I hope that you find something that you like and read it… or two or three…

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My Top Twelve Reads of 2015

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I decided in late August to change my annual book buying recommendation post to my Top 12  Reads for 2015.

Why twelve books  Jim?     

Well, that’s one book for each month!

You can gift yourself with one of them a month or for some you love (with the hope that they will share the book with you later on!)  There is something here for the fiction reader, a person of faith reader, a historical fiction reader, a personal memoir reader, a Presidential autobiography/biography reader, a leadership reader, and a history reader.

So, (in no particular order) are my Top 12 Reads for 2015 !

25404141Roger Daniels’ Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939.

I loved this wonderful account of FDR’s life by Daniels, the Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cincinnati. This was volume 1 of a two volume set and finished with FDR facing his third election as President.  I think that this is a fair assessment of FDR and one thing I liked about this book is there are wonderful insights by Daniels that gave me a new perspective on Roosevelt. (Published by University of Illinois Press)

22609420David O Stewart’s Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America

A wonderful look at the life of James Madison and the partnerships he developed with Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and his wife Dolly Madison in the early and tumultuous years of America. I liked this book for providing me with a fresh look look at our fourth President and his ability to well, network, in accomplishing major tasks to help the United States become the United States. (Published by Simon Schuster)

cover59043-mediumGary Scott Smith’s Religion in the Oval Office: The Religious Lives of American Presidents 

Politics and Religion. It has always been the subject of serious discussion, passionate debate, and sarcastic soundbites. Scott’s book is a serious and thorough discussion of how faith was lived out in the lives of eleven United States Presidents – John Adams, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, James McKinley, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barak Obama. One thing that I liked about this book is that Smith did what  I call a thorough 360 degree view of faith and its relation to work and legacy of each of these eleven men. (Published by Oxford University Press)

24832420Marci Jefferson’s Enchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King’s Court

A wonderful work of historical fiction with great attention to the small details which brings the past to life.  Set in 17th Century France, Enchantress of Paris is based on the life of Marie Mancini who captured the heart of the 17th century French King, Louis XIV.  One thing I like about this was Jefferson’s wonderful attention to the setting that made this story, about a period in history that I rarely studied, come to life. I also was rooting for King Louis to finally say, “I am the King and I am going to marry Marie!” But… politics… well read the book to find out what happens! (Published by Thomas Dunne Books)

25265721Laura McNeill’s Center of Gravity

A gripping and contemporary  novel about the shattering effects of domestic violence on a marriage and a family. Set in the modern day American south, Center of Gravity was a book that I truly could not put down and kept reading deep into the night over two nights to finish. It is a story about courage, fear, hope, determination, love, and I think… faith. I liked that McNeill’s credible characters drew me in and kept me reading. (Published by Thomas Nelson)

23164911Jeff Shaara’s The Fateful Lightning: Novel of the Civil War

The final volume in a four volume set of a historical fiction on the American Civil War, The Fateful Lightning follows William Tecumseh Sherman and his Union Army as they march from Atlanta to the sea and then up through the Carolinas to defeat the Confederate forces in the waning months of the war. A rich novel with both fictional and historical characters fighting both their military enemy and their military comrades for fame and glory, I liked this novel for bring to life the historical events in the southeastern theater of war in 1864 and 1865. (Published by Ballantine Books)

23322210Marc and Samantha Hurwitz’s Leadership is Half the Story: A Fresh Look at Followership, Leadership, and Collaboration

I have read a lot of books on leadership. Some have been inspirational and helpful and some have not. I have read two books on followership and what being a good follower means. There were many excellent illustrations and suggestions for  co-vision, co-work, and co-flow to be part of the work place in the 21st century. What I liked about this book is that both profit and non-profit organizations can learn from the Hurwitz’s insights and ideas. (Published by University of Toronto Press)

20578111Gary L Thomas’ A Lifelong Love: What if Marriage is about More Than Just Staying Together

I think marriage is important. And I think that marriage is a life-long commitment not just a beautiful ceremony followed by a sumptuous banquet. Gary Thomas underscores the belief of marriage as being more than just romance but a sustained life long love that is more than just staying together. What I liked about this book is that marriage is given a deeper rooting than just as a choice. (Published by David C Cook)

Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the NatchezAndra Watkins’ Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace

Now a New York Times Best Seller, I read Watkins’ “story behind the story” of her journey along the 444 mile Natchez Trace in 2014 to promote her first novel To Live Forever, with interest. It was the story, of two journeys, one geographic and one relational. I liked this book on many fronts but mostly because it was a journey of the heart for both a budding author and her dad. (Published by Word Hermit Press)

22504506Angela Hunt Ewell’s Esther: Royal Beauty

The Old Testament book of Esther is one of my favorite books of the Bible in large part of Esther’s courage in standing up for her people the exiled Jews in Babylonia. Angela Hunt Ewell’s fictional account of her life does justice to this epic Biblical character. What I liked about this novel was how well Ewell develops the character of Esther throughout the entire story in a manner that brings a realism to her story and actions. (Published by Bethany House)

23995336Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno

I loved Marra’s first novel,  A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon, and when I requested his newest novel The Tsar of Love and Techno for review purposes I hoped that it would be as good as his first one.  It was. Tsar is a challenging read as it is a collection of stories that stretches across Russia and Russian history so you have to pay attention to the first chapter of the book to make connections later on.  I loved it for the characters, which evoked sympathy, whose lives and work influence spread across the decades and kilometers. (Published by Hogarth)


25081778Maha Ahktar’s Footprints in the Desert

It is easy to forget that there was a Middle Eastern Front in the First World War but there was and the battles fought there influenced not just what was happening on the Western Front but also the rest of 20th century and 21st century.  Maha Ahktar’s novel brings to life the struggles the Great War brought to the Middle East in the lives of its people. I liked this novel for the wonderful characters and great details of ancient Cairo. (Published by Barcelona Editions)


Well there you have my top 12 reads for 2015. I hope that you find something you would enjoy! Happy Reading!

See you behind the page.

President’s Day Special: My Favorite Presidential Biographies and Autobiographies

Updated January 2016

Over 30 years ago, I began a journey that I finally fast-tracked after the 2008 Presidential election: reading a biography or autobiography of every American President. My rationale for selecting the following biographies/autobiographies is this:

They made a lasting impression on me in some way regardless of political views and policies while in office.

The writing, at least in my opinion, is wonderful and helped me to understand the subject and the times

Here they are, in historical order…


Fred Kaplan’s John Quincy Adams: American Visionary (Harper Collins, 2014) A very comprehensive look at the sixth American President who was part of the first father/son team to be elected President. Kaplan does a wonderful job of revealing the multifaceted aspect of  this man who spent many years living in foreign capitals as part of the US diplomatic delegations and then later, after his Presidential term in office, a member of the US House of Representatives.


3147367 Jon Mecham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Random House, 2008) Meacham makes a case for Jackson turning the Presidency into the political force it is today. The title of the book is very appropriate as well. Jackson was a lion in many ways!



654269Norma Lois Peterson’s The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler (University Press of Kansas, 1989) When William Henry Harrison died soon after taking office, our  nation faced a crisis – who would now be the President? The 25th Amendment (that lays out the order of succession) would not be adopted until the 1960’s and so the succession issue was front and center. Peterson’s work tells the story of John Tyler’s assumption of the office and the political firestorm it set off.


2199Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Simon and Schuster, 2006) Where do you begin to read about Lincoln? I started here. What Goodwin does is to show how Lincoln used his political genius (and rivals) to govern the nation, run and win a war, thus keeping the nation together.



9780914427674Ulysses S Grant’s Personal Memoirs (William S Konecky and Associates, 1999) I think that Grant’s Personal Memoirs is the gold standard for any autobiography/memoirs. They were originally published in two volumes. My 1999 edition published by Konecky and Associates is one volume and totals nearly 670 pages. Grant wrote simply and clearly.  It covers his early life, his time with Robert E Lee in the Mexican-American War and concludes with his US Civil War experiences and observations. It is a classic.


51scGHUnhqL._SX374_BO1,204,203,200_Margaret Leech’s In the Days of McKinley (Harper and Row, 1959) A few Saturdays back I found a copy of this wonderful biography at a used book store. I bought it. It won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1960 and justly so. What I remember about this biography is how McKinley presided over an America that was becoming an international power and Leech wrote  in a way that made the President seem small in comparison to the fast moving changes in the nation and the world.

943780Francis Russell’s The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G Harding and His Times (McGraw-Hill, 1968) An interesting biography about an interesting man who did not finish his first term due to his death. What also made it interesting is that just before publication, members of the Harding family won a lawsuit against Russell to keep some of the Harding love letters out of the book. Those letters are now public… should be interesting!

174547Calvin Coolidge’s The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge (first published by the Cosmopolitan Book Company, 1929) I love this autobiography. Simple and to the point. I personally think that Coolidge had a dry, very dry New England wit, but I could be wrong.


12345967Amity Shales’ Coolidge (Harper, 2013) Shales’ work is a good introduction to this truly quiet President of the mid-1920’s. Her portrait of him as true fiscal conservative shines through. But, don’t let that moniker stop you from reading this well researched biography!


18728Doris Kearns Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt – The Home Front in World War 2 (Simon and Schuster, 1994) As with Lincoln, where do you start with FDR? In the late 1980’s I read the late James MacGregor Burns two volume set on FDR and would highly recommend them in a heart beat. (Volume 1 is The Lion and the Fox (1882-1940) and Volume 2 that won the Pulitzer Prize is the Soldier of Freedom (1940-1945). But Goodwin’s one volume work of both FDR and Eleanor is a valuable contribution to the study of FDR… and Eleanor. It addresses both their war time efforts and the complex dynamic oftheir relationship and relationships with others.


Robert Caro’s multi volume The Years of Lyndon Johnson

86524The Path to Power; Alfred A Knopf (NY), 1982;




208324Means of Ascent, Knopf, 1990;




86525Master of the Senate, Vintage, 2003




Nixon’s memoirs got me started reading Presidential biographies and this series, beginning with The Path to Power, helped me keep going. I just bought the fourth installment The Passage of Power and am looking forward to the fifth volume that will focus on LBJ’s Presidency. I think Caro does a wonderful job telling us about LBJ and Master of the Senate is one of my favorites for its opening chapter, The Desks of the Senate.



19934741 Richard M. Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (Warner Books, 1979) I was a teenager during Watergate. I remember and felt the anxiety of our nation. But say what you want, Nixon was a foreign policy genius. I have no doubt that some who have read, are reading, and will read, these volumes will question Nixon’s honesty. But they are important writings.


10252574 Gerald R. Ford. A Time to Heal. (Berkley, 1980) From our only non-elected President, Ford’s autobiography, is one of the most inspirational ones I have read. Easily read, it is a good way to get to know our 38th President of the United States.


If you choose to do this kind of reading, do it in historical order. It will make more sense and you will see connections across the years and administrations. I think that no matter your political stripe, reading these works will give you a very good education in American history and politics. If you read them, let me know what you think about them!

My 2014 Gift Giving Book Recommendations

It has been a privilege to read some great books this year and I am pleased to recommend the following books as gifts for this Christmas season, and throughout the year as well! Looking forward to reading more great books in 2015!

So here are my recommendations for the reader or readers in your life with a brief quote from my reviews of each book:


For the Fiction Readers on Your List…


18114124Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck

I was amazed (and at times, uncertain) at the mercurial narrative from start to finish that had my mind and emotions all over the map from start to finish. In my opinion, Robuck’s narrative style, capturing the edgy and uncertain life of both Kelly and Millay (both of whom fit and illustrate the title Fallen Beauty) is one of the biggest pluses of this book.”


18209339The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

“I think that Alena Graedon has given us something important to think about – the place, the value, (really pricelessness) of words, meaning, and community and the vital interplay of all three. This is demonstrated in how the treatment of word flu takes place – with silence and reflection, reading a physical book, and writing.”


20873691To Live Forever by Andra Watkins

“To Live Forever is a fast paced and unpredictable novel that, at certain points, reminded me of the dark romanticism of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe with its frequent forest settings filled with ghoulish and evil images and apparitions.”


17910573The Tyrant’s Daughter by JC Carleson

“The Tyrant’s Daughter is novel of many threads – the cultural differences between Laila and her American classmates, the navigation of adolescence and adolescent relationships, the differences between a war torn nation and one with peace and prosperity, the role and place of women in societies ruled by men, the emerging political power of women, and the human dynamics within families of the haves and have nots in a culture and country at war – woven together with a credible cast of characters.”


18222672Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones

“Nicole Mones’ newest novel, Night in Shanghai, is worth every word! With meticulous detail to locations of streets, hotels, and the cultural and political life of Shanghai in the turbulent years of 1937-1941, Mones’ brings alive the nightlife of a culturally diverse city that quite frankly I never knew existed as it did.”


978-1-4143-8949-3 The Fight by Luke Yardley

In Luke Wordley’s debut novel, The Fight we are taken behind the masks of anger in men, young and old, and shown the unresolved pain and loss which fuels that anger and drives so many to angry and destructive acts. And Wordley does a masterful job of telling an all too common story but with the potential for hope and change.”


17934508The Trident Deception by Rick Campbell

The last time I read a military and political thriller involving a submarine it was a thriller about a sub named Red October!…The result is a true thriller that has more twists and turns in its plot than did Hunt for Red October which I consider to be the gold standard of military thrillers.


Helpful and Inspirational books about Faith and Family..


21816684Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

“…Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? is a timely book for today as Yancey seeks to go behind the rhetoric and find out why religion, especially Christianity, is being perceived more negatively today. His search leads the reader on journey that is rich and multifaceted.


18608105Empty Nest by Marci Seither

“…this book is not just for parents who are, like me, beginning to enter the empty nest phase. I think that Seither’s book would be a wonderful book for those entering the world of teen and really high school parenting as she steps back in later chapters and provides some wonderful long term thoughts on preparing your child for the day they leave the nest. Of note is her quote of Annette Spangler who said “parents can either raise their children to be faith-based or fear-based… We have to decide if we are going to raise safe kids or strong kids.”

18951090Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

I often ask the congregation I serve, “How is your soul?” I think that I have a right to ask that question because I am their pastor and I have been charged with caring for their souls. But John Ortberg has asked me, as a reader, in his newest book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, the same question, “How is  your soul?”…  I liked this book for its depth, simplicity, and hopefulness for while Ortberg does remind the reader of the impact of sin and sinfulness on the soul, his focus on God’s work to help us see our soul be transformed is front and center.”

18778012No Saints Around Here: A Caregivers Guide by Susan Allen Toth

No Saints Around Here is Toth’s first person account of the final eighteen months of her care of, and life with, her husband James as he succumbed to Parkinson’s disease along with dementia… There are many topics she touches on in this book that many in the professions of counseling, medicine, social work, and ministry will find helpful and practical. Topics such as handling step-family issues, dealing with the mental and physical exhaustion of care giving, and taking care of one’s self. But it is also for care givers and their families who will benefit as well from Toth’s experiences. I really appreciated this book for its practical wisdom and insight it offers both in my own care giving role and in my work as a clergy. I will be recommending it to others as a guide to help them as care givers and as those who help care givers.


Living in the Power My Weakness by Dave Clark

This book was a joy to read. And as I read I felt the Dave was talking, on many issues, to me. I liked this book for its honesty and yet hopefulness of living and working in the challenging field of ministry despite our human weaknesses and frailties.



For The Reader Who Loves History and Biography…


17262206 (2)Lawrence In Arabia by Scott Anderson

“If you like military history, this book describes the hit and miss successes and failures of the British and the fledgling Arab army, to dislodge Turkish forces from Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula during the First World War. If you like political history, this book provides an often confusing portrait of the fluid political alliances and betrayals which occured and which has impacted geopolitical realities up to the present. Well researched and very engaging, Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and The Making of the Modern Middle East provides some very important historical background reading to the current Middle Eastern situation.”

18594532Russian Roulette by Giles Milton

“…With his ascension to power, Lenin began to focus on exporting his socialist revolution to the world so that capitalism and capitalistic nations would fall. The English took a dim view of Lenin’s plans and thus began an effort to defeat those plans as well as re-establish a government friendly to the west, democracy, and capitalism. Giles Milton’s book chronicles this effort with the stories of an eclectic group of British agents and friendly Russians of what would become commonly called the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) or MI6.”

18310279Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell

“What impressed me about this book was that in addition to a very readable and helpful narrative on Sherman himself, is O’Connell’s observations about the second generation of American leadership into which Sherman is chronologically born and the how the strategic and tactical development the US Army of the West has influenced US military doctrine since then. And in the introduction, O’Connell also reminds us of the challenges of writing about persons long dead whose visible nature eludes us which offers both a challenge and an opportunity.”

cover52018-mediumBaghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood by Justin Marozzi

“This is not just a political or even religious history of the city though those two themes run through the book and are adequately addressed. This is a story of Baghdad and its people, its development and architecture, its expansive and expressive cultural periods which led to advancements in learning across the disciplines notably of math and science but also of literature, most notably poetry, which Marozzi points out, was central to court life for centuries. The result is a comprehensive look at Baghdad’s development as a key city in the Middle Eastern world.”






Why I Read: Books for dad… Father’s Day Book Recommendation

With Father’s Day coming up on June 17th, I thought that I would offer some suggestions for dads as far as books.

They are listed here in no particular order but are ones that I think that dads would be interested.

I have been able to read at least one biography or autobiography of every American President. ( It was a very good experience and I suggest that if you do it, read them in their order of office.) And it is one of the those biographies, published in 1991, that is my first recommendation.

It is Doris Kearns Goodwin Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream It is a fine one volume work written by someone who worked for Johnson for several years.

Cars and guys go together and a very serendipitous surprise that I have read this year is about a car that is legendary, still produced, and became the symbol of a free-wheeling and free-spirited generation (yes the boomer generation). The car is the Volkswagen Beetle or Bug.

The book is Andrea Hiott’s Thinking Small : The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle

Baseball is another subject that has caused the writing and printing of many books. There are three baseball that I have read this spring that I recommend. All three are recently published books. Two are about two New York Yankees of two different generations (one could have been the grandfather of the other), and two different styles of pitching but both were left-handers! The third is about a unique, progressive, and controversial owner whose innovations helped to transform the game in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in ways large and small… mainly large in my opinion.

The first two books are Vernona Gomez and Lawrence Goldstone’s Lefty: An American Odyssey and Jim Abbott and Tim Brown’s Imperfect: An Improbable Life 

The first book is a wonderfully fair and personal look at a Yankee pitcher, Lefty Gomez, whose unique personality and style of pitching were a part of the great Yankee teams of the 1930’s. The second is an autobiography of a pitcher (Abbott) whose disability (no right hand at birth) transformed him into a passionate competitor and role model for those who had similar disabilities. Very introspective (in a good way)   tome but also inspirational.

The owner was the incomparable Bill Veeck (as in ‘wreck’) and the book is Paul Dickson’s Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick. This is a wonderful walk down the golden age of baseball in the mid-20th century and it is also a portrait of a changing America as well as a changing game, often led by Veeck through his marketing gimmicks and exploits.

Now for some good fiction.

The first is a piece by an established author and critic and takes for its story line one of the most tense and serious moments in American History – Watergate.

It is Thomas Mallon’s  Watergate: A Novel 

Mallon’s work took me back to that period 40 years ago when I was a teenager watching the drama unfold on the TV and radio and in the paper. He brings back to life Richard Nixon and his staff, gives dimension to Pat Nixon, and uses the truly interesting character of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, whose father had occupied the White House seven decades earlier, to provide color to an extraordinary and troubled time in history.

The second novel is a financial thriller written by someone who knows the financial markets.

It is HT Narea’s The Fund

The book is set in the current historical period and features government operative Kate Morales who begins to unravel a trail of financial dealings, that if allow to take place, will break the back of the American economy. Fast paced with twists and turns, The Fund is a great read!

Finally two faith based books for the dad who is a person of faith.

The first is an award winning bio of a German Pastor who stood against the Nazi regime and paid with his life for such as stance. His name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The award winning book is Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Get it for dad and then when he is done, read it.

The second is one about following and not leading. And while it has a faith based context it has some important things to say about following and the importance of following.

It is Leonard Sweet’s I am A Follower: The Way, The Truth, and Life of Following Jesus

Sweet offers us a very needed perspective on followership that I think is needed today. This will be a re-read for me.

Early Happy Father’s Day!

see you behind the page!