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Reading Diary for 1990

  and earlier
"Tales From Margaritaville"
by Jimmy Buffett
Tales From MargaritavilleSomeone with as much musical talent as the popular Buffett shouldn't be able to turn out such good short fiction, too. Modern American story-telling in the tradition of Hemingway and Crane, but with a sun-kissed Caribbean twist.

"A Thousand Days"
by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
A Thousand DaysThe ultimate insider's history of the Kennedy administration, written by JFK's "special assistant." Sympathetic to, and often apologetic for, his friend the president, Schlesinger nevertheless presents a fly-on-the-wall account of the most mythologized presidency of the 20th century. A must-read for anyone interested in the Kennedy years.

"Talking God"
by Tony Hillerman
Talking GodNavajo police detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are surely two of the most remarkable characters in American fiction. This book finds them inadvertently working on the same case, from two different sets of evidence – and both find themselves in Washington, D.C., far from the Four Corners territory they know as home. Both, too, are mourning the end of a romantic relationship: Leaphorn the death of his beloved wife, and Chee an ill-advised pursuit of a woman who doesn't share his lifestyle. Not widely praised as one of Hillerman's better Chee or Leaphorn novels, it's still a fine read and better than most anything else in the mystery genre.

"Explorers of the Amazon"
by Anthony Smith
Explorers of the AmazonA well-written, enjoyable introduction to the history of this most incredible of rivers. It is not comprehensive in scope, but instead focuses on the more riveting characters and events of its 450-year relationship with European explorers, conquerors, scientists and the seemingly unavoidable (wherever westerners are concerned) businessmen. (Read full review.)

by Tony Hillerman
GhostwayA shootout at a laundromat on the Navajo reservation leaves tribal detective Jim Chee trying to figure out who killed two men, and whether he wants to live as a Navajo or a white man.

"American Notes"
by Charles Dickens
American NotesThe 19th century British author toured the United States in 1842, and kept a diary while here. What impressed him most, though, apparently, was Americans' habit at the time of chewing tobacco and spitting the juice everywhere – on sidewalks, train carriage floors, other people's boots. Actually, that's what made the biggest impression on him, rather than impressing him most. He was pretty disgusted by it.

by Tony Hillerman
SkinwalkersJim Chee and Joe Leaphorn find themselves dealing with shamanism as they try to solve a series of murders on the Navajo lands they police. Another classic!

"Cheshire V.C."
by Russell Braddon
Cheshire V.C.Solid biography of mostly forgotten WWII RAF hero who went on to found a series of charitable trusts around the world.

"Education of a Wandering Man"
by Louis L'Amour
Education of a Wandering ManThis was the book that got me to keeping a notebook listing every book I read – see, L'Amour did just that for a few years in his early 20s when he was reviewing books. I've found it both interesting and instructive to look back on what I've read – reminds me of different fancies and periods I've gone through, interests I've cultivated, and passions I've indulged. It's also interesting to note how books I've read and re-read through the years strike me differently at different points in life.

"Cities and the Wealth of Nations"
by Jane Jacobs
Cities and the Wealth of NationsJacobs argues in this book that rather than moving toward monetary mergers (a la the euro), we should be going to more and more local or regional currencies – with each city issuing its own. According to Jacobs, this would result in money more accurately reflecting its real value, as cities, not nations, create wealth.

"Coming of Age in the Milky Way"
by Timothy Ferris
Coming of Age in the Milky WayA neat history not of the universe, but of our view of the universe and our place in it. From the ancients' attempts to figure out the patterns in the night sky up through contemporary research into whether our universe will continue to expand or eventually contract, it's an easy layman's read on a fascinating subject.

"A Brief History of Time"
by Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of TimeIn many ways, the perfect companion to Carl Sagan's "Cosmos." Hawking takes Sagan's approach of explaining complex concepts from astronomy and physics and explaning them in everyday language any of us can understand. One of the best books out there for gaining a working grasp of how the leading researchers view our universe.

by Joseph Conrad
YouthOld-school tale of a young man who ships out on a coal run from England to the South Pacific, and the many problems their ship encounters. If you like Conrad, this is a must-read.

"Flight of the Intruder"
by Stephen Coonts
Flight of the IntruderDecent fictionalized narrative of Navy attack pilots in Vietnam.

"Eye of the Needle"
by Ken Follett
Eye of the NeedleOne of the better WWII thrillers – a Nazi spy in England on the eve of D-Day learns of the Allies' plans and tries to get back to Germany to alert Berlin.

"Hitler Victorious"
edited by Gregory Benford and Harry Greenberg
Hitler VictoriousA series of 11 short stories based on the premise that Germany won WWII; intriguing alternative history.

"The Barbary Coast"
by Herbert Asbury
The Barbary CoastA tabloid take on San Francisco's early days, presented as history. More entertaining than it is informative.

"I Cover the Waterfront"
by Max Miller
I Cover the Waterfront"I have been here so long that even the sea gulls must recognzie me. They must pass the word along about me from generation to generation, from egg to egg." Thus begins the greatest newspaper memoir yet written, a tale by transplant reporter Max Miller, still a young man when he wrote this, but looking back to his earliest years writing for the San Diego Sun, covering the harbor of what was then a sleep little tuna-fleet and Navy town. His pioneering style shines through here – he largely invented the kind of personal reflection news column, the format the Herb Caen and Mike Royko would make more famous. There's a trip to San Nicolas Island, a visit to La Jolla, attempts to inverview celebrities come to town aboard an ocean liner. It's a glorious throwback to when newspaper reporters were jaded but not yet cynical.

"Roads of Destiny"
by O. Henry
Roads of DestinyTwenty-two of O. Henry's stories are collected in this anthology, published the year before his untimely death from cirrhosis. It's as good an introduction to his writing, with plenty of his patented surprise endings, endearing characters, and playful dialogue.

"Coyote Waits"
by Tony Hillerman
Coyote WaitsWhen Officer Jim Chee is slow to back up colleague Officer Nez, he arrives to find Nez dead in his burning patrol car. When an elderly Navajo confesses to the crime, Chee has his doubts – but it will take both his efforts and those of his mentor, Detective Joe Leaphorn, to find the real killer.

"The Blessing Way"
by Tony Hillerman
The Blessing WayThe first of Tony Hillerman's Navajo Police mysteries, this novel introduces us to Lt. Joe Leaphorn, who is investigating a killing while also trying to help a college friend conduct research into Navajo witchcraft. Hillerman came out in top form form the very start of this series, and never let down.

"Dance Hall of the Dead"
by Tony Hillerman
Dance Hall of the DeadThe second of the Joe Leaphorn mysteries; a Navajo boy and his Zuni friend both go missing. Leaphorn teams up with a Zuni policeman to try to find the boys.

"The Dark Wind"
by Tony Hillerman
The Dark WindOfficer Jim Chee is reassigned to Tuba City & and ordered to stay away from the case of a crashed drug smuggling plane. Chee finds himself interviewing witnesses on Hopi land, and must learn the nuances of Hopi culture to solve his case.

"Listening Woman"
by Tony Hillerman
Listening WomanAfter Lt. Leaphorn is almost killed by a man who tries to run him down, he ends up tracking the man to some caves where a Boy Scout troop is being held hostage. Leaphorn manages to stay alive long enough to attempt a rescue.

"The Structures of Everyday Life"
by Fernand Braudel
The Structure of Everyday LifeA groundbreaking look at history, seeing it from the vantage point of the average person: What did they eat, what did they wear, how did they spend their days? Fascinating

"Casino Royale"
by Ian Fleming
Casino RoyaleThe birth of James Bond. Ian Fleming's first novel finds 007 inserted to a high-end casino with the stated goal of bankrupting Soviet asset Le Chiffre.

"Live and Let Die"
by Ian Fleming
Live and Let DieThe second entry in Fleming's 007 series finds Bond going to Jamaica to track down a mysterious Mr. Big who is smuggling gold coins out of the British Caribbean.

by Ian Fleming
MoonrakerThe third Bond novel from the pen of Ian Fleming, this is nothing at all like the movie that came more than a decade later. Here, Bond must protect a British missile system from sabotauge. And this novel has a unique twist to Bond's romantic endeavors.

"Diamonds Are Forever"
by Ian Fleming
Diamonds Are ForeverBond is sent to shut down a diamond smuggling ring that stretches from Africa to Las Vegas.

"From Russia, With Love"
by Ian Fleming
From Russia, With LoveThe Soviets launch a plan to lure Bond with a beautiful SMERSH agent as bait, and then assassinate both him and his reputation.

"Doctor No"
by Ian Fleming
Dr. NoBond returns to the Caribbean to investigate the disappearance of two MI6 agents.

"Confessions of a Pregnant Father"
by Dan Greenberg
Confessions of a Pregnant FatherA humorist tackles fatherhood – or, perhaps, is tackled by it.

"For Your Eyes Only"
by Ian Fleming
For Your Eyes OnlyFour short stories featuring 007, three of which would grace film titles (although the connection to the original story was often tenuous): "From a View to a Kill," "For Your Eyes Only," "Quantum of Solace," "Risico" and "The Hildebrand Rarity."

by Ian Fleming
GoldfingerBond uncovers a plot to steal the U.S. gold reserve from Fort Knox.

"The Gift of Asher Lev"
by Chaim Potok
The Gift of Asher LevThe sequel to Potok's remarkable "My Name Is Asher Lev," the story continues for the son of a devoutly Orthodox Jewish family who finds his path in life as a secular artist. Now middle-aged, Lev finds out that his uncle had a secret art collection, which he willed to him to care for or dispose of. In addition, Lev's son may the the future hope of his family's religious community.

"Davita's Harp
by Chaim Potok
Davita's HarpA young girl being raised by agnostic Jewish radicals learns to reconnect with her family's religious heritage. As always with Potok, a good read with characters you can't help but grow attached to.

by Ian Fleming
ThunderballBond is sent to recover two atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE. Not quite as dark and brooding as some of the earlier Fleming novels, it's the only one Fleming wrote as a screenplay first.

> "The Spy Who Loved Me"
by Ian Fleming
The Spy Who Loved MeFleming's most unusual Bond novel, it's told from the perspective of a woman whom Bond helps. Nothing like the movie, and much more interesting for it.

"Mishima: A Biography"
by John Nathan
Mishima: A BiographyPretty solid read laying out the personal life and career of one of Japan's best-known postwar novelists, whose public suicide cemented his legend.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
by Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell TollsSet in the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway's narrative is small in scope – a tiny band of guerrillas try to blow up a bridge. But in that constrained premise are themes of honor, devotion and courage. One of the best novels by one of the best writers ever.

"Driving Through Cuba"
by Carlo Gebler
Driving Through CubaA committed socialist, Irish author Carlo Gebler traveled to Castro's Cuba to write a supportive book – but came away utterly shaken by the grotesque inhumanity of the totalitarian state, and it's hard to read his book without being equally shaken. Any non-Cuban who still clings to romantic notions of Castro as a humanitarian should be forced to read this book.

by James Michener
IberiaNon-fiction, and yet Michener's best tale ever – perhaps because he lived this one. It's a travelogue, taken from Michener's many trips through Spain and his years living there. He achieves more balance and grace here than in any fiction he ever wrote, and Robert Vavra's photographs add a stunning visual element. Every bit the equal of Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon."