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Reading Diary for 1993

  and earlier
"Fulcrum: A Top Gun Pilot's Escape from the Soviet Empire"
by Alexander Zuyev
Fulcrum: A Top Gun Pilot's Escape from the Soviet EmpireAn engaging story about one of the top Russian fighter pilots who flew his top-secret MIG-29 to Turkey at the height of the Cold War.

"The Boy Who Followed Ripley"
by Patricia Highsmith
The Boy Who Followed RipleyThe fourth Ripley book is just as twisted and troubling as the first three; Tom Ripley is a cold-blooded murderer who kills without remorse or hesitation, and yet Highsmith makes him the hero! And the troubling part is you end up rooting for him – not wanting him to get caught. A great read that you'll not soon let go of.

"This Wheel's on Fire"
by Levon Helm
This Wheel's on FireA hard-hitting look at The Band, the influential rock group that started out backing Ronnie Hawk and ended up touring with Bob Dylan before striking out on their own in the 1970s. Not much love lost between the original members of the group and Robbie Robertson, who took all the credit for the band's later success. (Read full review.)

"The Best of Plimpton"
by George Plimpton
The Best of PlimptonFrom Syd Finch to The Paper Lion, nobody immersed themselves in the psyche of American sports like the late George Plimpton. An erudite Ivy Leaguer, he turned his immense intellect and overriding curiosity to the world of sports. And his tongue in cheek parody of Truman Capote parodying Hemingway is to die for!

"Peppers: A Story of Hot Pursuits"
by Amal Naj
Peppers: A Story of Hot PursuitsA historical, cultural and culinary look at chile peppers – from their origins as a plant native to the Americas to their importance in the cuisines of Southeast Asia. Well-written and interesting.

"The List of 7"
by Mark Frost
The List of 7A period mystery set in Victorian London and built around a young Arthur Conan Doyle. It was okay, but nothing like the hype surrounding it (Frost was co-creator of the once-popular TV series "Twin Peaks" with David Lynch).

"The Lies That Bind"
by Judith van Gieson
The Lies That BindMy first stab at one of van Gieson's Neil Hamel mysteries – it was enjoyable, but not enough to drive me back to any of the others.

"A Night Over Water"
by Ken Follett
A Night Over WaterVery noir thriller set in a Pan Am Clipper flying boat on the eve of World War II. Well-written and hard to put down.

"If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I'm Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground"
by Lewis Grizzard
If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I'm Gonna Nail My Feet to the GroundGrizzard, who wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was one of the best humor writers going until he died way too young during heart surgery. Dry, wholly Southern, and ultimately as purely American as Twain, Grizzard's place has never been filled.

"A Rumor of War"
by Philip Caputo
A Rumor of WarCaputo served as a Marine infantry officer in Vietnam, and his first-person account is pretty harrowing stuff.

by Josephine Hart
Sin"Damage" was a wonderful book – stylized, moody, atmospheric. But since then, Hart keeps re-telling the same story over and again, with all the same gimmicks and tricks.

by Robert S. Johnson
ThunderboltOne of America's top aces in World War II tells his story of flying the P-47 Thunderbolt over Europe.

"Wing Leader"
by J.E. Johnson
Wing LeaderOne of the top RAF fighter pilots from World War II tells the story of the British aviators who defended England against the Luftwaffe.

"City of Gold"
by Len Deighton
City of GoldA World War II thriller set in North Africa where the British try to figure out how Rommel is getting inside information.

"Championship – The Complete NFL Title Story"
by Jerry Izenberg
Championship - The Complete NFL Title StoryA book for kids about the early NFL Championship game before the Super Bowl.

"Only in California: Fabulous Facts, Weird Happenings, and Eccentric Ephemera from America's Most Altered State"
by Janet Hearne
The author attempts to be cute and clever by poking fun at the state's eccentricity.

by Richard Louv
FatherloveOne of my favorite books ever – if you're a father, buy this book, read it, treasure it. Louv writes a column for the San Diego Union-Tribune where he explores the intersections of issues like family and the environment and the business world – important stuff that isn't easily classifiable, and so the newspaper doesn't know what to do with him. But as with his column, in this book, Louv manages to show how seemingly divergent issues are often simply different sides of the same thing. And in this book, he celebrates fatherhood – not only for the power we have to influence our children for better or worse, but what our kids give back to us in that process. He closes with my favorite line about being a dad: "I want to be a father forever."

"Is It a Choice?"
by Eric Marcus
  • E-book (Kindle)
  • Is It a Choice?A series of questions about homosexuality; hard to tell who the intended audience is – family and friends of newly outed gays, perhaps.

    "Fighting Airman"
    by Maj. Charles J. Biddle
    Fighting AirmanFirst-person account of an American fighter pilot in World War I.

    by Chaim Potok
    WanderingsWow – what an accessible yet comprehensive history of Judaism, from pre-history to the present. Of special interest to me as a gentile was the chapter on the Jewish perspective on Jesus, and his place in Judaism. An incredible book.

    "If We Say It Enough We'll Believe It"
    by Roger Hedgecock and Francine Phillips
    If We Say It Enough We'll Believe ItFormer San Diego mayor and local radio talk-show host Roger Hedgecock finally gets a chance to get his version of the city's political scene in the 1980s. Hedgecock was viciously attacked by the San Diego Union (which ended up having to retract huge swaths of its coverage under a court order), and ended up being wrongly convicted of corruption – a conviction the courts later threw out. Not that well-written, but an interesting take on how the Copley family, owner of the Union and the Evening Tribune (and now the combined Union-Tribune) was used to having its way in running San Diego.

    "The Micro Millennium"
    by Christopher Evans
    The Micro MillenniumAn interesting, if a bit dry, look at how microcomputers (what we today call personal computers) have changed society in the decades since their introduction. A bit dated today, but a good social history of the early years of the PC revolution.

    "Letters From Cicely"
    by Ellis Weiner
    Letters From CicelyA must-have book for fans of the TV series "Northern Exposure," this book is set up as a series of letters from various characters in the show's setting of Cicely, Alaska. If you liked the show, you'll like this book, too.

    "Red Square"
    by Martin Cruz Smith
    Red SquareThird novel featuring Arkady Renko finds the detective restored to his former post in Moscow's police department, where he now battles crime syndicates in post-Soviet Russia. More good story-telling from Smith.

    "Polar Star"
    by Martin Cruz Smith
    Polar StarSequel to "Gorky Park," Martin Cruz Smith brings Moscow police detective Arkady Renko back for another book. Renko is released from a mental hospital and finds work on a Siberian fishing factory ship – where a shipmate is found murdered. Every bit as good as "Gorky Park," even if a William Hurt movie wasn't made from it.

    "The Sum of All Fears"
    by Tom Clancy
    The Sum of All FearsSo now Jack Ryan is president (after starting this series of books as a CIA operative), and terrorists have a nuke in the Mideast. Clancy's books never sound like much, but you start reading and you're hooked – junk food for the mind.

    "Three On a Toothbrush"
    by Jack Paar
    Three On a ToothbrushLong out of print and hard to find, my mother gave me her old copy of this book – and forget what I wrote about Dave Barry's book below: Jack Paar's tales of travel travail is still outlandishly hilarious! After giving up his "Tonight Show" gig (which Johnny Carson then ran with for a quarter century before giving way to Jay Leno), Paar went on a trip around the world with his wife and daughter. If you can find this, get it!

    "The Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need"
    by Dave Barry
    The Only Travel Guide You'll Ever NeedThis is one of the funniest books on travel I've ever read – typically insightful yet quirky observations from the humor columnist.

    "Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee"
    by Nat Hentoff
    Free Speech for Me, But Not for TheeSubtitled "How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other," this is a book everyone who thinks they believe in free speech ought to read. Hentoff – a columnist for The Village Voice – makes a compelling case that liberals are just as intent on censoring views they disagree with as conservatives; perhaps more so.

    "Buckeye: A Study of Coach Woody Hayes and the Ohio State Football Machine"
    by Robert Vare
    Buckeye: A Study of Coach Woody Hayes and the Ohio State Football MachineThis is a fairly up-front look at former Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes – although in following the team for a season, Vare certainly came under Hayes' spell somewhat. But what Vare makes clear is that Hayes was neither the demon his detractors painted him to be, nor the hero his supporters made him out to be. His greatness was intertwined with his flaws to a degree approached only by basketball coach Bobby Knight.

    "Key to Rebecca"
    by Ken Follett
    Key to RebeccaFollett goes back to World War II for this novel – a Nazi agent battles wits with a Jewish girl over the secret that would give Rommel ultimate victory in North Africa.

    by Ken Follett
    TripleAt one time, Ken Follett was the best writer of international thrillers going. This story is set in the '70s, and is about Israel and Egypt vying to get nukes. Good read.