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Reading Diary for 2002

  and earlier
"Caesar Against the Celts"
by Ramon L. Jiménez
Caesar Against the CeltsAn accessible, easy-reading look at Caesar's campaigns in France and Great Britain against the Celtic tribes who lived there. It's a nice introduction to that period of time, but serious history buffs might find it too light.

"That's Amore"
by Ricci Martin
That's AmoreDean Martin's third son presents a rather rosy-tinged view of his dad; while undoubtedly naive, it's full of love and captures the homebody side of a man whose public persona was of a hard-living ladies man.

"Tuesdays With Morrie"
Mitch Albom
Tuesdays With MorrieI didn't expect to like this book; I don't know that I even wanted to like this book. I expected some horrible sappy, sentimental bit of new age blubbering. But Mitch Albom – who spends his days as one of the better sports columnists in the country – has crafted a wonderful book that captures his teacher's approaching death with class and humor. Sure, there' sentiment – but it never overwhelms the story, nor descends into the kind of voyeurism that passes for documentary these days.

"The Surprising Archaea"
by John L. Howard
The Surprising ArchaeaMy sister got this for me for my birthday and said, "I hope this is more interesting than it sounds." And it was/is – it's a fairly accessible explanation of the recent discovery that many types of single-celled organisms have a structure that is chemically divergent from bacteria. The archaea are thought to have branched off from a common ancestor shared with bacteria more than 2 billion years ago, and may be the ancestor of eukaryotes (plants, animals and fungi). Okay, it's not exactly the next Grisham novel, but the author does a good job of keeping things in layman's terms.

"Within Limts: The U.S. Air Force and the Korean War"
by Wayne Thompson and Bernard C. Nalty
Within Limts: The U.S. Air Force and the Korean WarThis is a sister volume to "MiG Alley" (two below), and takes a larger overview of the entire Allied air campaign in the Korean War. A pretty honest assessment of the military tactics and effectiveness – particularly critical of the Air Force's insistence on controlling Marine air units, which is a surprise since this book is authorized by the Air Force.

"Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo"
by Ted W. Lawson
Thirty Seconds Over TokyoI borrowed my kids' juvenile version of this book for a quick read – and it's still a pretty graphic tale by one of the pilots on Jimmy Doolittle's daring raid on Tokyo. Using Army Air Corps medium bombers in order to have enough range, Doolittle and his men took their big planes off from an aircraft carrier! Lawson's tale focuses more on what happened after the raid, when he crash-landed his B-25 Mitchell into the surf off the Chinese coast. His injuries required the amputation of a leg under primitive conditions, and the resulting infections almost killed him. But it's a moving story, and a well-written one at that.

"MiG Alley"
by William T. Y'Blood
MiG AlleyA short history of the Allied fighter campaign in the Korean War. Published by the Air Force, this history is definitely told from the American point of view – Air Force at that. But it's a decent read, full of information – although it could have used more personal narrative and less of the dry historical overview.

by Michael Grant
GladiatorsA breezy and not terribly well-documented look at the practice of arena combat games during the Roman Empire. Not particularly well-written, but pretty informative for what it is.

"To Have and Have Not"
by Ernest Hemingway
To Have and Have NotI'd read this before some years ago, but was in a mood for Hemingway and decided to re-read. Bit of a disappointment, and certainly not among Hemingway's best novels. Some of the passages are very true to life, very good indeed. But at other times he seems to be struggling to find his meter, his rhythm. Oh, and except for the opening scene, the book is nothing like the movie – although I still heard the dialogue in Bogie's voice.

"Internet Insecurity"
by Harley Hahn
Internet InsecurityThere may be worse books on the market about how to protect yourself online, but I pray I never read them. This book was so bad that it came closer than any other to curing me of my bad habit of having to finish any book I start – worse even than John Irving, and I don't say that sort of thing lightly ...

"Two O'Clock Eastern Wartime"
by John Dunning
Two O'Clock Eastern WartimeNot really a mystery, not quite a romance, nor even a historical novel, this is simply a very well told tale centered around live radio on the homefront during World War II. While prone to retro-active political correctness (damn those internment camps, anyway!), Dunning creates wonderful characters and really brings the golden age of dramatic radio to life.

"The Three Musketeers"
by Alexandre Dumas
The Three MusketeersStill a grand tale, some 160 years later. Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan are as glorious a band of heroes as have ever been devised.

"The Celts"
by Gerhard Herm
The CeltsFirst written in 1975, this was one of the early "popular histories" that became so big in the '80s and '90s. Not particularly solid academically (the author is fond of writing along the lines of, "Archaeologists can't answer this question, so let's guess at what life must have been like then ..." – some folks call that fiction), "The Celts" is at least a readable history of the Celts. Since part of my family is Irish, I enjoyed the read.

"The Fallen Man"
by Tony Hillerman
The Fallen ManAnother Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn mystery set on the Navajo Reservation; like the others, "The Fallen Man" is as much about contemporary Navajo life as it is about a murder mystery. As good as any others in the series, with both main characters continuing to get more interesting.

"Life Beyond Earth"
by Timothy Ferris
Life Beyond EarthI'm not sure what this was supposed to be – I'm just grateful I got it off the bargain table. I enjoyed Ferris' earlier books on astronomy; he has a knack for explaining difficult science in everyday terms. But this is more poetry than anything else; it's an overly romantic look at our search for extraterrestrial life. At least the photography and paintings are first-class.

"Tin Man"
by Dale Brown
Tin ManIf there's ever been a worse book written, it must have had the word "Harlequin" somewhere on the cover. Brown's previous books were take-offs on Tom Clancy – this features the same characters as his earlier novels, but with less depth than before, and a plot that resorts to fighting neo-Nazis.

by James Carville
StickinThe Democratic campaign consultant explains his views on loyalty; not just why he stuck with Bill Clinton (and why he almost left), but how he and Republican advisor Mary Matalin have built a happy, rewarding marriage.

"How Paul Robeson Saved My Life"
by Carl Reiner
How Paul Robeson Saved My LifeHumorous short stories from the man who brought us "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

"Bump & Run"
by Mike Lupica
Bump & RunHilarious novel about a ne'er-do-well who inherits a football team from his father.

"The Dream of Spaceflight"
by Wyn Wachhorst
The Dream of SpaceflightA literary challenge in support of further space exploration. Wachhorst argues persuasively that we as human beings are explorers, and that the naysayers who decry money spent on exploration are spiritually dead.

"Brother Astronomer"
by Brother Guy Consolmagno
Brother AstronomerBrother Guy is an astronomer and a Jesuit – surprised? The book does a nice job of showing how the Church's persecution of Galileo was the exception, not the rule (for instance, the Catholic Church accepts the theory of evolution as God's handiwork). Consolmagno isn't the most interesting writer, and the book does bog down, but for those interested in the intersection of faith and science, it's a worthwhile read.

"Hidden Gospels"
by Philip Jenkins
Hidden GospelsA dry but apparently comprehensive deconstruction of efforts to use "alternative" gospels to prove that early Christianity was, in fact, a politically correct community designed by contemporary women's studies departments. Jenkins shows how the use of carbon-14 dating has disproved the assertion that any of the so-called "hidden" gospels pre-date the four accepted gospels.