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The Evolution of God (Hardcover)


Well-Researched, Judicious, and Enlightening, June 10, 2009
By John W. Loftus (Indiana)


This new book from acclaimed author Robert Wright is a well-researched one covering a great deal of territory. It should be read in its entirety to be properly understood. In it he discusses the history of religion with a focus on western Abrahamic faiths, although not entirely neglecting eastern religions. He tells us in the Introduction that he's giving us a human "materialistic" account of it, although he thinks doing so "actually affirms the validity of a religious worldview," though not a traditionalist one, but one nonetheless. Wright argues the gods arose as illusions and that "the subsequent history of the idea of god is...the evolution of an illusion." This evolution points to the existence of a "divinity," he argues, even though this god is not one that most believers currently accept. As it evolved it has "moved closer to plausibility." (p.4).

Wright begins with the five types of primitive hunter-gatherer supernatural beings: elemental spirits, puppeteers, organic spirits, ancestral spirits, and the high gods. These primitive gods were not always worshipped but treated as we would treat other human beings. In these societies the Shaman was the "first step toward an archbishop or ayatollah" who had contact with these otherwise hidden forces and could help focus their powers to heal, protect, and provide.

As small tribes grew into larger societies the chiefdom was the next evolutionary stage where there was a need for a "structural reliance on the supernatural." Chiefs in these agricultural societies were conduits through which divine power entered the social scale down to the lesser folk. If things went well for a society then the chief was doing a good job. Superstition reigned in these days.

With the arrival of the city-states, kings needed divine legitimization and used the gods to solidify their rule over the people. The king was now the conduit of divine power. The character of the gods could differ between city-states, but many of them demanded human sacrifices or else there was chaos. Along with this development came moral obligations, which if they were not met caused sickness and death. In these city-states there was competition between rival cities and along with them rival gods. This had a tendency for these polytheistic people to elevate their god above others, which was a step toward monotheism.

When Wright turns to a discussion of the emergence of Abrahamic monotheism it appears to me he is at his very best. In decoding the biblical texts from how we normally read them beginning with Genesis, he finds good evidence that behind what we see on the surface is a different story of Yahweh who was just one god in a pantheon of early gods. Yahweh starts out with a body, for instance, and was given the people of Israel to rule over by Elyon, the highest god in the pantheon. Originally Yahweh was probably one of the Canaanite deities, he argues. When it comes to the Israelites themselves, Wright argues from archeological evidence that they look more and more like Canaanites who originally worshipped Baal and Asherah, rather than some people who invaded Palestine after leaving Egypt.

In a fascinating discussion Wright argues that this Hebrew god evolved into a monolatry, which was a "way station on the road to full-fledge monotheism." Monolatry didn't deny the existence of other gods, it just affirmed that Yahweh was the highest of those gods in the pantheon. This was achieved mostly by King Josiah, who sought to solidify his reign and centralize worship in Jerusalem. Josiah even had his reforms written in much of the book of Deuteronomy.

When Judah was carried away into captivity by the Babylonians the exiled Jewish theologians made the most of their disaster. Based on good reasoning and scholarship Wright shows how they thought about such a complete and utter disaster and why they came to the conclusion that Yahweh was the one and only God. If it was Yahweh's will to bring the mightiest empire of their day to so utterly destroy them for their sins, as they did, then Yahweh was bigger than they had ever thought. "A god who governs the actions of the greatest known empire is a god who can govern history itself." (p. 171).

But this God of theirs was not yet thought of as a good God. That was the next evolutionary stage to take place, and Wright sees this coming from the writings of Philo of Alexandria, who urged a tolerance for other gods at about the same time Jesus was preaching.

But even Jesus did not think of his God as a loving God, Wright argues. In Mark's first gospel Jesus is portrayed as one who "believes you should love your neighbors, but that isn't to be confused with loving all humankind. He believes you should love God, but there's no mention of God loving you." (p. 258).

The Apostle Paul, however, is described by Wright as the "apostle of love," not only because he penned I Corinthians 13, known as the "Chapter of Love," but also from other things he wrote. It was Paul's version of Christianity that eventually won the day in Constantine's multiethnic empire because it favored ethnic harmony, Wright argues.

Wright sees the same evolutionary trend in Islam. First Allah "transcended tribal distinctions," as Yahweh did before him. Then he acquired the "multinational perspective of an empire," even to the point when in places the Koran grants the possibility of salvation to people "outside the fold." (p. 436)

Wright concludes that in our day "we've reached a stage in history where the movement toward moral truth has to become globally momentous." In short, God has some "some growing to do," (p. 436), and Wright seems confident this will happen, given what he wrote in his previous book, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny. Whether he can be this optimistic depends on the case he made there.

In the end, traditionalists will not like this book, and he admits this. Wright's god seems to be an abstract god as "the source of the moral order" (p. 446), and in such a belief he finds his god, although he holds out hope this god is also a personal one.

Other thinkers have argued God will become unnecessary and will evolve out of existence in the human mind, but whether or not that will happen is yet to be seen. In any case this is a judicious treatment that will surely provoke controversy. It's also enlightening. Hopefully his book will contribute to the ongoing evolution of the idea of God. And maybe it'll contribute to his evolution out of existence, too.

John W. Loftus, author of Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity

Absolutely brilliant, June 29, 2009
By GLS (Brooklyn, NY USA)


In THE EVOLUTION OF GOD, Robert Wright has given us a mind-blowing look at how monotheism has evolved over thousands of years, and in turn how our conception of God has changed along the way. I admit that my theology background is not the strongest (have read Old and New Testament, but not the Koran) but I found something new and provocative on nearly every page. Among the things that have stuck with me are how he shows how Jesus never said "love thy neighbor," how the Jews were not monotheistic after escaping Egypt, that Mohammed was willing to compromise his principles again and again in order to build alliances, etc, and that there is a moral direction to history, that we are heading for an age of tolerance--not what you'd expect given today's headlines. Perhaps what's best about this book is that it charts a middle path between hardcore atheism and hardcore religion. I just read the New York Times review which called it "brilliant" and I could not agree more.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage) (Paperback)


Amazon.com Review
Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back. This debut thriller--the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson--is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo. --Dave Callanan

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Cases rarely come much colder than the decades-old disappearance of teen heiress Harriet Vanger from her family's remote island retreat north of Stockholm, nor do fiction debuts hotter than this European bestseller by muckraking Swedish journalist Larsson. At once a strikingly original thriller and a vivisection of Sweden's dirty not-so-little secrets (as suggested by its original title, Men Who Hate Women), this first of a trilogy introduces a provocatively odd couple: disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, freshly sentenced to jail for libeling a shady businessman, and the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral but vulnerable superhacker. Hired by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his beloved great-niece before he dies, the duo gradually uncover a festering morass of familial corruption—at the same time, Larsson skillfully bares some of the similar horrors that have left Salander such a marked woman. Larsson died in 2004, shortly after handing in the manuscripts for what will be his legacy. 100,000 first printing. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

This Swedish bestseller deserves to be a blockbuster here too., August 25, 2008
By K. M. "literary devotee" (California)


A 24-year-old computer hacker sporting an assortment of tattoos and body piercings and afflicted with Asperger Syndrome or something of the like has been under state guardianship in her native Sweden since she was thirteen. She supports herself by doing deep background investigations for Dragan Armansky, who, in turn, worries the anorexic-looking Lisbeth Salander is "the perfect victim for anyone who wished her ill." Salander may look fourteen and stubbornly shun social norms, but she possesses the inner strength of a determined survivor. She sees more than her word processor page in black and white and despises the users and abusers of this world. She won't hesitate to exact her own unique brand of retribution against small-potatoes bullies, sick predators, and corrupt magnates alike.

Financial journalist Carl Mikael Blomkvist has just been convicted of libeling a financier and is facing a fine and three months in jail. Blomkvist, after a Salander-completed background check, is summoned to a meeting with semi-retired industrialist Henrik Vanger whose far-flung but shrinking corporate empire is wholly family owned. Vanger has brooded for 36 years about the fate of his great niece, Harriet. Blomkvist is expected to live for a year on the island where many Vanger family members still reside and where Harriet was last seen. Under the cover story that he is writing a family history, Blomkvist is to investigate which family member might have done away with the teenager.

So, the stage is set. The reader easily guesses early that somehow Blomkvist and Salander will pool their talents to probe the Vanger mystery. However,Swede Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is no humdrum, formulaic whodunit. It is fascinating and very difficult to put down. Nor is it without some really suspenseful and chillingly ugly scenes....

The issue most saturating The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that of shocking sexual violence primarily against women but not excluding men. Salander and Blomkvist both confront prima facie evidence of such crimes. Larsson's other major constituent elements are corporate malfeasance that threatens complete collapse of stock markets and anarchistic distrust of officialdom to the point of endorsing (at least, almost) vigilantism. He also deals with racism as he spins a complex web from strands of real and imagined history concerning mid-twentieth century Vanger affiliations with Sweden's fascist groups.

But Larsson's carefully calibrated tale is more than a grisly, cynical world view of his country and the modern world at large. At its core, it is an fascinating character study of a young woman who easily masters computer code but for whom human interaction is almost always more trouble than it is worth, of an investigative reporter who chooses a path of less resistance than Salander but whose humanity reaches out to many including her, and of peripheral characters -- such as Armansky -- who need more of their story told.

Fortunately, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in English translation will be followed by two more in the Millennium series: The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Air Castle that Blew Up. I can't wait. Larsson also made a 200-page start on a fourth book, but sadly he succumbed to a heart attack in 2004 and his father decided the unfinished work will remain unpublished.

I recommend this international bestseller to all who eagerly sift new books for challenging intellectual crime thrillers, who luxuriate in immersing themselves in the ambience of a compellingly created world and memorable characters, who soak up financial and investigative minutiae as well as computer hacking tidbits, and who want to share Larsson's crusade against violence and racism.

Best Book of the Year, September 13, 2008
By R. Crane (Washington, DC United States)


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a masterwork of fine craftsmanhip. When I reached the final page I was disappointed that there was no more to read. I did not want the story to end. The characters are too intriguing for this to be the end. Apparently this was the first novel in a trilogy by the brillant writer, Stieg Larsson, who unfortunately died in 2004: the book contains a tribute to him and his career. I cannot wait to read the sequels scheduled for release in the USA in 2009.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an international best seller and is set in Sweden. It takes a little effort to get accustomed to all the Swedish names and places but then the story moves with lightening speed. There are two key plots happening simultaneously. In one, a Swedish financial investigative journalist publishes a libelous attack about a powerful industrialist and is sentenced to jail, fined a ruinous sum, and has his career torn to shreds. Another industrialist, Vanger, hires the journalist to investigate the 36 year old disappearnace of his then 14 year old grand niece. There has been no trace of her in all these years and she is assumed dead. Yet, every year on his birthday, he receives a mysterious gift of a pressed flower, mimicking a gift his missing grandniece used to give him when she lived there. Vanger, an old man, is tormented by the flower gifts, and wants one more chance to find out what happened to her and who killed her. What the journalist uncovers about the Vanger family's hitherto unknown secrets and connections to the Nazis, will have you hanging on the edge of your seat.

The book is titled after yet another character, Lisabeth Salander, a societal outcast and social ward of the State, uncivilized without any desire to obey societal norms, and replete with piercings, tattoos, and a goth/biker appearance. In short, at first glance a totally undesirable and unsympathetic person. She is a researcher with a corporate security firm and ends up working with the journalist. In truth, she is a survivor of abuse in all forms with low self esteem, and an inablity to trust. She is a genius with Asberger's Syndrome, a form of autism, who sees patterns in things ordinary mortals miss and uses incredible computer hacking skills to accomplish her goals. She is fascinating: ruthless and tough to a fault, yet internally vulnerable, struggling to comprehend her own feelings. She has an appeal that draws you to her, rooting for her, and wanting to understand her. Lisabeth is unforgettable, unlike most characters that populate mystery thrillers. There is such depth here.

The book is a thriller on many levels: The story about the Vanger family itself, the journalist's crusade to redeem his reputation, Lisabeth's vendettas and development, and of course, the truth about what actually happened to the missing Vanger heiresss. This is a superb novel and impossible to put down. Utterly stunning. Probably the year's best book. SUMMER 2009: SEE MY REVIEW OF THE SEQUEL, "THE GIRL WHO

Catastrophe (Hardcover)


Product Description
It's time to take back our country. Now. It's that simple. It's that urgent. So begins Dick Morris and Eileen McGann's latest and most important book. They say that we must act before President Barack Obama fully implements his radical political agenda. Because after Obama has won his war on prosperity and canceled the war on terror, it will be too late to regain our liberty or our security. At a time when we needed a pragmatic centrist to lead us out of recession, we got a doctrinaire socialist who wants to use the crisis to put the government in charge of the economy and enact European socialism here in the United States. Cars, banks-what's next? He will keep at it until Washington governs every major business in America and sets all our salaries. It's a catastrophe. Dick Morris and Eileen McGann saw the meltdown coming. In their book Outrage, they called out the house of cards that was Fannie Mae. In Fleeced, they went after the credit card companies, the subprime mortgage lenders, and the hedge fund billionaires who conspired to wreck the economy-and Barack Obama, whose policies, they predicted last summer, would "trigger a stock market crash." Now, in Catastrophe, Morris and McGann take a hard look at America in free fall-and at how Obama is transforming a vulnerable America into a socialist state. They tell the truth about Obama and his radical policies: He will destroy our health care system so that no one gets adequate care. He designed his bank rescue plan to pave the way for nation-alization of the banks and socialization of the economy. He firmly believes in government control of our major industries-he's already commandeered the banks and the automobile industry. He plans to reshape the political landscape to keep the left in power for decades by cooking the census, enfranchising illegal immigrants, muzzling talk radio, and coercing workers into unions. He is attacking those who fight terrorism while letting the terrorists go free. He gives aid to Hamas while Shariah Law threatens to take over America. He has repealed the Declaration of Independence and put us under a worldwide, European-dominated financial regulatory system. But Obama is not working alone. Morris and McGann spell out how Congress is complicit: How Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Charlie Rangel use special interests and special friends for their own enrichment and glorification. How Ted Kennedy Jr. is exploiting his father's health care power. "This is no time for apathy or alienation or hopelessness," Morris and McGann remind us. "It's a time for action." And that action must begin now-before it's too late. --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

Lest One Forget, Dick Morris Was Bill Clinton's Political Advisor, June 23, 2009
By James R. Holland "Author of Adventure Photogr... (Boston, MA)


When the critics start calling this book "Extreme Right Wing Dribble", remember that the author of this dire warning was Bill Clinton's Political Advisor for two decades. He helped make him President of the USA. So if Dick Morris is warning that a very dangerous Government created tidal wave is approaching, maybe we all should take time to check it out and head for the high ground if he is correct? This is not the only voice screaming in the wilderness. Glenn Beck has just published a book of similar warnings called "Common Sense."
This 359-page tome has 16 chapters included in three major sections. Those overall sections are titled "How Obama Is Causing A Catastrophe," "How Congress Causes Catastrophe" and "How Special Interests Cause Catastrophe." The authors don't pull any punches or go easy on any of the guilty parties responsible for this oncoming tragedy. "At a time when we needed a pragmatic centrist to lead us out of recession, we got a doctrinaire socialist who wants to use the crisis to put the government in charge of the economy and enact European Socialism here in the United States. Cars, banks--what's next? He will keep at it until Washington governs every major business in America and sets all our salaries." Never mind that socialism has never worked anywhere in the history of the world.
The individual chapter headings provide a pretty decent idea of the book's content. "Obama's War on Prosperity", "The Bank Bailout That Bombed", " Obama's Health Care Catastrophe", "Obama's Blueprint for Political Domination", "Christopher Dodd and Charles Rangel: From Idealistic Reformers to Privileged Insiders" and "The Sheer Chutzpah of Countryside Financial Executives" reveal much and the material in those chapters backs up the chapter titles. The book also has an excellent introduction and nearly forty pages of Appendixes.
The basic theme is "It's time to take back our country. Now. It's that simple. It's that urgent."
"Obama has cancelled the war on terror and declared a war on prosperity."
The President was not kidding when he told "Joe the plumber" that what he knew about was redistributing wealth. He stopped talking about "Civil War Reparations" early in the campaign and the media went along with burying that hot button issue. The same media ignored Mr. Obama's almost complete lack of work experience and his connections with ACORN which is about to change it's name and go underground and probably re-emerge in control of the tax payer funded "AmeriCorps" and/or a Homeland Security Army. Acorn isn't really "COIN of the realm." It may be the administrations muscle, but it's not yet government financed.
Does anyone else hear any echoes of the rise of Hitler and Nazism?
"Upper-income taxpayers must feel a bit like hogs at the Chicago stockyards--being fattened with stimulus spending so they can be slaughtered with tax increases two years down the road...all to make a nice breakfast for the federal government.""Obama cannot succeed by waging war on the rich. It didn't work when FDR tried it, and it cannot work now."
The speed at which all these changes are being pushed through under the Liberals two favorite disguises "Crisis" and "For the Children" resembles an out-of-control train. As Morris and co-author McGann so clearly report, this government is not only bankrupt but also it is in the process of bankrupting all future generations of Americas. The twin crisis of a bankrupt Social Security System and Medicare will arrive within the next eight years and there will be no money to save it. Worse, the United States won't be able to borrow the money either. Our freedoms and our economy are on the verge of a virtual collapse. Wake Up America! The Snake Oil Salesmen have arrived. Normally, this recession would be over. Not this time. Why?
Believe it or not, it's because the new administration doesn't want it to return to normal and its programs are consciously designed to impede any recovery. Mr. Morris, by the way, predicted all this in print and on television more than a year ago when everything in the economy appeared rosy and now he can sit back and say, "I told you so!" Unfortunately he doesn't want to be able to do that, because the next steps in his predictions will take away most of America's wealth and freedoms. This is a very important read for anyone interested in his freedom and well being.

If true this is scary stuff....., June 23, 2009
By Robert Busko (Waynesville, NC USA)


I'm not necessarily a fan of Dick Morris, but he does know how to write a book. At nearly 360 pages, Catastrophe is an interesting read and certainly thought provoking. If only half of what he and Eileen McGann say is true, then the middle class really is in danger of losing the country. As someone who has been on the right side of center on the political continuum, I've become leery of both the left and the right in recent years. As an American I'm distrustful of the government, whether red or blue and believe that the less government we have the better off we are. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I love this country and I'm a devoted citizen.

As Morris and McGann point out, the United States' economy is sliding (slipping might be a better term) into socialism, something, by the way, that is fairly obvious to anyone who learned and retained anything from their freshmen Economics in college. That the government is taking over the banking, insurance, and auto industries is pretty obvious. The next target is the healthcare system and no one seems to be able to stop what seems to be inevitable. All of this, by the way, is unconstitutional but no one, outside a few conservative voices, and I mean no one, is pointing that out.

Chris Dodd, Teddy Kennedy (senior and Jr.) Charley Rangel, and Bill Clinton are all singled out for attention by Morris and McGann. But others are mentioned as well, such as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

One disturbing surprise for me in Catastrophe is the idea that American courts may become influenced by Shariah Law. This phenomenon has been reported in various sources as already happening in several European countries, but the idea that the American justice system would make this mistake is mind boggling, and unacceptable. Certainly Constitutional Law will continue to be the only law practiced in the courts in the United States. Shariah law is fine in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. but, respectfully, that's where it should stay.

Perhaps the most serious mention in Catastrophe is the fact that ACORN will be involved in collecting data for the 2010 census. If this doesn't scare you, nothing will. ACORN has already been called to task about questionable voter registrations in several cities and also have refused to let auditors look at their books. Why would we let them count the population? Scary!

There are some claims made by Morris that I have a hard time understanding. For example, that Obama wants the current banking system to fail so that he can nationalize banking entirely. I have a hard time understanding how anyone will benefit from this, liberals or conservatives. Further, Morris makes the claim Obama wants to dismantle the war on terror. Again, I can't see how anyone benefits from this, other than our enemies.

Dick Morris knows how to stir the pot. He's certainly stirred up a hornets nest with Catastrophe. Like him or not, he does raise some thought provoking ideas, some of which are quite alarming. However you view the world you should enjoy the book.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Hardcover)


Book Description
Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.

Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.

With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultrarunners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons. Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

A great story and so much more, May 16, 2009
By D. Sull (London, UK)


Born to Run succeeds at three levels. First, it is a page turner. The build up to a fifty-mile foot race over some of the world's least hospitable terrain drives the narrative forward. Along the way McDougall introduces a cast of characters worthy of Dickens, including an almost superhuman ultramarathoner, Jenn and the Bonehead--a couple who down bottles of booze to warm up for a race, Barefoot Ted, Mexican drug dealers, a ghostly ex-boxer, a heartbroken father, and of course the Tarahumara, arguably the greatest runners in the world.

Born to Run is such a rip-roaring yarn, that it is easy to miss the book's deeper achievements. At a second level, McDougall introduces and explores a powerful thesis--that human beings are literally born to run. Recreational running did not begin with the 1966 publication of "Jogging" by the co-founder of Nike. Instead, McDougall argues, running is at the heart of what it means to be human. In the course of elaborating his thesis, McDougall answers some big questions: Why did our ancestors outlive the stronger, smarter Neanderthals? Why do expensive running shoes increase the odds of injury? The author's modesty keeps him from trumpeting the novelty and importance of this thesis, but it merits attention.

Finally, Born to Run presents a philosophy of exercise. The ethos that pervades recreational and competitive running--"no pain, no gain," is fundamentally flawed, McDougall argues. The essence of running should not be grim determination, but sheer joy. Many of the conventions of modern running--the thick-soled shoes, mechanical treadmills, take no prisoners competition, and heads-down powering through pain dull our appreciation of what running can be--a sociable activity, more game than chore, that can lead to adventure. McDougall's narrative moves the book forward, his thesis provides a solid intellectual support, but this philosophy of joy animates Born to Run. I hope this book finds the wide audience it deserves.

A phenomenal book about running but more importantly a way of life, May 17, 2009
By R. George "raygeo3" (Brooklyn, NY)


My wife handed me Born to Run about 24 hours ago and said "you might like this." Having run quite a bit but nursing an achilles tendon injury for about 3 years, I had almost given up on my dreams of getting back into marathon shape. 24 hours (and very little sleep) later, I feel inspired, awed, and enlightened, and I have Christopher's wonderful book to thank.

In a nutshell, I have not been this entralled by a story since Shadow Divers, Seabiscuit and/or Into Thin Air. Christopher's recounting of the forbidding Copper Canyons, the amazing Tarahumara, ultramarathoners young and old, and the greatest race you've never heard of is enough for me to give this a rave review. But like the aforementioned books, there is so much more to this story, not the least of which was Christopher's own quest (and amazing resiliency) to run without pain. Finally, he put to words many of the thoughts and feelings I've had about running but am unable to articulate. And Christopher is a great writer - I laughed out loud many times throughout. He has a style akin to a Timothy Cahill - a great wit that was obviously aided by a wonderfully intriguing cast of characters.

As the sun was coming up this morning I was a bit sad to see this book end, and am already contemplating picking it up again. But only after I strap on the old, beaten up sneaks and get in a quick jog. Thanks so much for writing this book - I hope it changes lives and perspectives in the process.

L.A. Candy (Hardcover)


Product Description

Los Angeles is all about the sweet life: hot clubs, cute guys, designer . . . everything. Nineteen-year-old Jane Roberts can't wait to start living it up. She may be in L.A. for an internship, but Jane plans to play as hard as she works, and has enlisted her BFF Scarlett to join in the fun.

When Jane and Scarlett are approached by a producer who wants them to be on his new series, a "reality version of Sex and the City," they can hardly believe their luck. Their own show? Yes, please!

Soon Jane is TV's hottest star. Fame brings more than she ever imagined possible for a girl from Santa Barbara—free designer clothes, the choicest tables at the most exclusive clubs, invites to Hollywood premieres—and she's lapping up the VIP treatment with her eclectic entourage of new pals. But those same friends who are always up for a wild night are also out for a piece of Jane's spotlight.

In a city filled with people chasing after their dreams, it's not long before Jane wakes up to the reality that everyone wants something from her, and nothing is what it seems to be.

L.A. Candy is a deliciously entertaining novel about what it's like to come of age in Hollywood while starring in a reality TV show, written by a girl who has experienced it all firsthand: Lauren Conrad.


About the Author

Lauren Conrad is the star of MTV's number-one hit show, The Hills. She launched her career as a fashion designer in Spring 2008 with the debut of the Lauren Conrad Collection. Lauren has been featured on the covers of Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, and Entertainment Weekly, among others. She lives in Los Angeles. This is her first novel.

Sweet summer reading, June 17, 2009
By Madigan McGillicuddy (California)


The book, about reality-tv star 19-year-old Jane Roberts certainly sounds like a semi-autobiographical journey for the author, the star of MTV's "reality" show, The Hills. I started on the assumption that it would be pure fluff. The story was an enjoyable quick read though and even a bit weightier than I had anticipated.

Naturally, the lion's share of the story centers around the social lives of Jane and her best friend Scarlett. They are both new to Los Angeles, starstruck and boy crazy. Despite being an attractive natural blonde, Jane considers herself a "plain Jane" while Scarlett is a confident brunette bombshell. Jane's just scored an internship with renowned event planner, Fiona Chen. Scarlett plans to coast through classes at USC while she decides what to do with herself. When Hollywood producer Trevor Lord starts talking to them in a nightclub, they initially assume that he's trying to hit on them... but eventually he convinces them to come for an audition for a new reality show filming in Los Angeles. In the interview, the producers are impressed with the girls' natural good-looks and unaffected demeanor. Just like that, they are in!

With the cameras rolling, Jane and Scarlett are soon treated to a new luxury apartment and VIP lifestyle. I liked the behind-the-scenes reality behind "reality" tv... the awkwardness of being miked, the staged "spontaneous" scenes... it all rang very true.

Of course, everyone's wondering whether L.A. Candy was ghostwritten. (And wouldn't it be the ultimate irony if it was?) A careful inspection of my copy didn't seem to reveal anything in the fine print... maybe Lauren Conrad really did write this herself! I can't help but think of one of the episodes from the first season of "The Hills" where Lauren is called into her bosses office. Her boss asks her, "Can you write?" and she nervously replies, "Um... Yes?" There's an eerily similar scene in the book between the character Jane and her boss, event planner Fiona Chen. Her demanding and cold boss suddenly turns into a warm mentor when the cameras are rolling.

While the celebrities mentioned are all fictional, the names of many of the businesses and designer-name items in the book are not. The name-dropping and general tone strongly reminded me of Cecily von Ziegesar's Gossip Girls and It Girl series.

The story's somewhat of a cliffhanger ending leaves everything definitely very much unresolved. Fans of MTV's "The Hills" or the genre that I'd term "Chick Lit Jr." will definitely be clamoring for more. Fortunately for them, Conrad has signed a 3 book deal, so there are certain to be at least 2 more installments in the series.

L.A. Candy, totally delicious!, June 18, 2009
By Sheila (Grand Rapids, MI)


I picked this book up being a big Lauren Conrad fan. Not sure how I would feel about the Hills turned into a novel, I gave it a shot anyways.

I was hooked after the first few chapters, the style of writing is fresh, the characters are extremely relateable. For anyone who watched The Hills, this is a must read.

It is an extremely quick read, and the ending leaves the reader begging for more!

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change (Paperback)


by Jonah Goldberg (Author)

Finally Someone Has Documented the Link between Wilson's "Progressive" Ideas and Fascism, August 30, 2008
By David M. Dougherty (Arkansas)


First of all, allow me to say that I have purchased and read this book -- something I believe few, if any, of the negative reviewers have done.

This is an important work, tracing the intellectual development of the idea that the all-powerful people's State should always trump the individual and be in firm control of all aspects of the population's culture, education, defense or military expansion, information, health and economy, from its modern beginnings under Wilson to the currently epoused nanny state. One could go further back to the French Revolution or further to Thomas More, of course, but given the deplorable state of history knowledge in the US, this might well be counter-productive. Monarchies need not be considered as they are not states that derive their legitimacy from the people -- but rather from God and inheritance.

The most negative aspect of this book is its title, "Liberal Fascism." A careful reader will learn what is meant by the author, but the vast majority will simply see the juxtaposition of the two words, "Liberal" and "Fascism" and read into this anything their pre-conceived ideas suggest. Actually, the author meant to describe something like "Benevolent Fascism", "Soft Fascism", "Smiley-Face Fascism", or my favorite, "Fuzzy Fascism" (e.g. Fascism that will not hurt you.) The word "Liberal" is used to put a more moderate or liberal face on Fascism, something more appropriate to nanny-state fascism. If the reader misinterprets the title, then little rational discussion can ensue.

The strengths of the book are in its rediscovery of the truly disturbing policies of the Wilson administration in 1917 and 1918 whereby opponents of his administration and policies were brutally suppressed. One should review the repressive Alien and Sedition Act and the Espionage Acts that Wilson promulgated. Nor did he shrink from meddling in other countries' affairs and supporting leaders he favored. The reader is advised to study his backing of Carranza and his Vera Cruz expedition in Mexico. At any rate, the Progressive movement in the US really did bring many ideas into the mainstream of American political thought that were later used as cornerstones of fascist ideology.

The author traces the support of communist and fascist states by American progressives until World War II -- an historical fact that should not be denied today as an inconvenient truth.

He also argues succinctly that Fascism replaces a religion based on a supreme being (God) with a religion based on a supreme State. So does communism as a matter of fact. The new God becomes the will of the people as interpreted and enforced by the State's elite for the people's benefit. Hence the development of the nanny-state political philosophy is a direct descendent of Fascism and features many of its evils. Bill O'Reilly has coined the name "Secular-Progressive" to describe thie political philosophy, although I wonder if he realized the historical accuracy of his term. The missing part is the militarism and genocide associated today with Fascism, which were outgrowths of the core ideas of Fascism and may well yet develop in the nanny state. After all, what would there be to stop such a development? It should be remembered that one of Hitler's early steps was to introduce full gun control in Germany to reduce any possibility of internal resistance to his regime.

The argument that "it can't happen here" should be revisited in light of Wilson's actions, Roosevelt's creation of concentration camps for Japanese during World War II, and the more recent Patriot Act. Unfortunately, many turn to the ACLU for solace, but it must be remembered that this organization was founded to foster the spread of communist ideology, and consistently supports the all-powerful leftist and secular state against the individual and religion.

The book bogs down somewhat in the argument that fascism is a product of the left and not of the right (politically.) The author is correct here, but he is swimming upstream against a powerful current from the mainstream American media which is firmly leftist and committed to the creation of a nanny state. In addition, he is trumped by the educational industry, both in public schools and in universities which has consistently taught socialist ideology since World War Two under the rubric of liberal teaching. As of this date, we have had a steady diet of socialist propaganda in our schools and universities for so long than no national or local figure has escaped its pernicious effects. What was thought to be "far-left" in 1960 is now centrist -- so far have we gone down the road towards a fascist state.

Nevertheless, the use of terms that everyone interprets in their own fashion by the author colors this discussion so markedly that constructive dialog between liberals and conservatives over this work is highly improbable. That is a great loss to our democracy.

So what is the solution? There probably isn't one. Politicians eloquently espousing "change" and "hope" have already very effectively learned how to evade issues in favor of vacuous but thrilling demagogy to rise to power. It must be remembered that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama studied Saul Alinsky thoroughly, making him possibly the most important individual in the background of the 2008 election. Senator Clinton even did double duty traveling to California to study under an unrepentant Stalinist. Perhaps they do not understand the road on which they are traveling -- after all, they've never been taught anything different. (That's why home schooling and even charter schools are such threats.) I suspect that the US will survive anything they do in the short term, but they are harbingers of things to come. The trend is there from the days of Wilson, and the ultimate denouement is in sight with Europe cheering us on out of envy every day. Even the mass demonstrations so loved by fascism to demonstrate the power and popularity of the State and its leaders are now being copied.

Before I receive thousands of hate comments from Obama supporters, allow me to state that the epithet "Fascist" does not fit Barack Obama in any way, shape or form. But the parallels I noted should not be overlooked in a study of the historical sweep of events and the acceptance of ideas. There is no question that the US has taken many steps on the road to the author's fascist nanny state, and opposition to this trend is fast being suppressed.

Not What You Think It's Going To Be, August 25, 2008
By Samir Quntar al-Muti (Fairfax, Virginia)


So many people, to include certain friends of mine, are all too willing to write this book off as just one more salvo from the Republican noise machine without ever bothering to read it. Goldberg's title is perhaps unfortunate in this regard, as it leaves one with the impression that it is another rightist screed targeting the usual suspects--"feminazis," militant environmentalists, and the like. One friend saw the book on my desk and dismissed the title with a sneer: "Oh, liberals are fascists, right? Now that's a stretch."

Ah, but little did he know that Goldberg did not invent the phrase. It was coined by H.G. Wells, the famous turn-of-the-century science fiction novelist and visionary writer of utopian fiction. Wells, incidentally, was a thoroughgoing progressive and a socialist. He thought "liberal fascism" would be a good thing for society.

But wait! I thought fascism was racism, white supremacy, and all that.

Oh, but get this: W.E.B. Du Bois admired Hitler (specifically for his emphasis on the need for eugenics programs), and Marcus Garvey proudly said, in 1937, "We were the first fascists." Apparently he was miffed that Mussolini and Hitler were getting all the credit for their innovative approaches to government. (For those of you who don't know, Du Bois and Garvey were important early twentieth-century Black leaders).

The word "fascism" (in contemporary discourse), Goldberg points out, has become pretty much emptied of all real meaning. It has become a sort of floating signifier onto which people project various meanings as they see fit. In the last forty years, "fascism" has been served as a sort of stand-in for "extreme conservative" or "Christian fundamentalist" or "white-power racist." But pure fascism has little to do with conservatism, or religion, or the white power movement.

Goldberg begins with an anecdote--Bill Maher and George Carlin confidently asserting their definition of the word "fascism" one night on Maher's show. "Fascism is when corporations own the government," Maher said.

Uh, wrong, you ignoramus. What you've just described is monopoly capitalism, not fascism.

Goldberg does not set out to skewer the Mahers of the world exclusively, though. The neocon types who throw the term "Islamofascism" around in such a cavalier manner are just as ignorant in their own way. If you want to know what real fascism is, look to its purest example in history: Mussolini's Italy. Hitler's Germany is a close second.

Sorry Maher, but fascism is when the government owns and runs the corporations. Do you really think for one minute that the Fuhrer or Il Duce would allow any single corporation to supersede their authority? Ridiculous. And sorry neocons, but in fascism the object of worship is, ultimately, the state. There is no higher authority than the state; not even God. Ask any pious Muslim what he or she thinks of such a government, and you will be quickly disabused of any notions that "fascism" can exist hand in hand with Islam.

One strain of this goes back to the protests of the sixties and continues in protest discourse today (a la Chris Hedges' book, for example). Yet, as Goldberg shows in his detailed historical analysis, "fascism" has never really been synonymous with conservatism in any significant way. Fascism is in fact a form of radicalism, as is Christian fundamentalism, whereas conservatism is a movement that is focused essentially on the preservation of tradition and the moderation of the impulse to institute reforms.

One of the great ironies of sixties-era radicals bandying about the word "fascist" to describe Richard Nixon and his ilk is that many of those radical groups who trafficked in such talk (Weathermen, the Black Panthers) employed many of the classic brownshirt tactics of fascist agitators.

This is a great book for anyone who has been perplexed by all the shifting alliances and labels of our times, and anyone who realizes how slippery and meaningless terms like "liberal" or "conservative" or "progressive" are when you try to pin them down. What it really leads the reader to do is rethink the way we think of the political spectrum, in terms of Right, Center, and Left. The radical Right and the radical Left, for example, have much more in common with each other than the radical Left does with traditional liberalism or the radical Right has with conservatism.

Goldberg's working definition of "fascism" is pretty much this: Total worship of the state, state control of all activities and expression, and state ownership of everything. Fascism is always more and more government. The classic example of Fascism, Mussolini's Italy, is exactly this when you examine the historical record. True conservatism, on the other hand, always seeks to lessen the influence of government.

Certainly, the Franco regime in Spain was heavily Catholic and at the same time in political sympathy with Germany and Italy (but ultimately neutral during WWII), but it is important not to confuse "theocracy" with true Fascism. It had Fascist allies (Italy and Nazi Germany) during the 1930s, but was not a true fascist state itself--it was a theocratic dictatorship. Likewise, the Shah's regime in Iran and certain dictatorial regimes in Latin America (allied with the U.S. for strategic reasons) were very authoritarian, but that doesn't mean they were fascist in the true sense of the word. Authoritarian regimes can of course be very brutal and oppressive, but that does not necessarily make them fascist because they are often not premised on the notion that government should control every single aspect of a citizen's life. The Shah, for example, was fairly hands-off unless you happened to be openly critical of him or invovled in subversive activities (of course, it must be said, if either of those applied you ended up in the hands of the feared SAVAK).

Goldberg's readings of Rousseau, Robespierre, Sorel, Mussolini, Hitler, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and many other figures are lively and very perceptive. Many of his revelations are shocking and surprising. Woodrow Wilson, for example, has gone down DRASTICALLY in my estimation after reading Goldberg's interpretation of some of his major writings.

If Hillary Clinton-style liberalism and fascism have anything at all in common, Goldberg says, it's the notion that the state is the supreme arbiter and caretaker for all and of all. This is not a book which seeks to make a point that "liberals are fascists." It is a book, rather, which seeks to enlighten those individuals who casually throw a word (one that has a very precise meaning) around with little regard for its properly historical definition.

Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath (Hardcover)


by Michael Norman (Author), Elizabeth M. Norman (Author)

Review
By Richard Pyle, AP: "BATAAN DEATH MARCH,DETAILED, CHILLING"

"Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 480 pages, $30), by Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman: A new account of the Bataan Death March, in which more than 70,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were victims of appalling barbarism a particularly grim episode of World War II following Japan's invasion of the Philippines. Driven from Manila into the hills of the Bataan peninsula, the combined Allied forces fought without hope of rein-forcement or escape until they had no choice but to capitulate. The largest surrender in U.S. military annals was fol-lowed by a forced 60-mile march along Luzon's main highway during which more than 10,000 of the POWs were sum-marily murdered or died from torture, wounds and disease. For Americans the Death March was a first encounter with the brutality that would define Japan's military behavior, and the fact that the story has been told many times before does not dissuade Michael and Elizabeth Norman, both pro-fessors at New York University, from another effort. The result is an extremely detailed and thoroughly chilling treatment that, given the passage of time and thinning of ranks, could serve as popular history's final say on the subject. The Normans spent a decade in research and writing, interviewing more than 100 surviving American veterans and relatives of scores of others, and traveling to Japan to track down the most elusive and difficult sources some 20 former soldiers who were involved in the march and a guard from one of the miserable camps where more captives died from sickness, torture or starvation. The authors also find an ideal protagonist in Ben Steele, a former Montana cowboy who in 1940, at 22, joined the Army Air Corps and was sent to the Philippines. Steele survived the Death March and prison camp, and his personal story is the thread by which the authors spin their harrowing narrative, also using Steele's sketches to illustrate it. They find some sympathy for Gen. Masaharu Homma, the Japanese commander in the Philippines. His 1946 trial and execution as a war criminal showed how the Imperial Army was driven to excesses by right-wing racist fanatics who intimidated its senior officers, Homma among them. But as with other latter-day critics, they have little admiration for Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. commander in the Philippines who was being glorified at home in 1942 as the greatest American military hero since Ulysses S. Grant. On Jan. 15, the authors report, McArthur sent his beleaguered troops on Bataan a would-be morale booster, promis-ing them that reinforcements in the form of troops and planes were on the way from the United States. "It was a lie, a Judas kiss," they write. "The Philippines was cut off. Washington knew it and so did MacArthur." --Associated Press, June 15, 2009

Reviewed by Ferenc Szasz: "Remember Pearl Harbor" remains the best-known slogan of World War II. But for many, especially after the Dyess Report of 1944 (the joint Army and Navy testimony of officers who survived capture and imprisonment on Bataan and Corregidor) the phrase evolved into "Remember Pearl Harbor and Bataan." Yet the Bataan story does not resonate with most American as do the major battles of the European theater. Thus, Tears in the Darkness is a valuable addition to the literature on the war. It is the best single volume on Bataan now available.

Through a hard-driving narrative interspersed with numerous flashbacks, the Normans retell the painful saga of the battle to control the Philippines, which occurred in late 1941 and early 1942; the 66-mile Death March that followed the surrender; the atrocities that took place in the Japanese POW camps; and the Japanese "Hell Ships" that transported thousands of POWs to the home islands for slave labor. Although the authors weave the stories of many people in and out of the narrative, they focus largely on Ben Steele, a young Montana cowboy who endured 41 months of agonizing captivity. During this ordeal Steele discovered his artistic talents-he would later become an art professor-and quietly began to sketch his surroundings. Since we have minimal visual documentation of Philippine POW camp life, Steele's many pen-and-ink drawings, recreated from now-lost originals, are especially welcome.

The strength of this volume lies less with a radical reinterpretation than with a masterful compilation of new and fascinating individual stories. The Normans present the dramas of battle and captivity from a variety of perspectives, including the views of the average Japanese soldier. Their discussion of the impact of the Japanese code of honor on the various levels of the Japanese military is very well drawn. The authors are especially critical of General Douglas MacArthur, noting his lack of foresight, his failure to ensure adequate provisions, his decision in the Masaharu Homma war crimes trial, and his overall pomposity. "Dugout Doug," as the enlisted men scornfully referred to him, departed for Australia under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's orders, which left Generals Jonathan Wainwright and Ned King to oversee the surrender of 76,000 American and Filipino troops on 9 April 1942-still the worst defeat in American military history.

Tears in the Darkness revolves around three themes: brutality, suffering, and the power of human endurance. The unspeakable cruelty that infused the Death March, the POW camps, and the Hell Ships seems to have stemmed from Japan's refusal to sign the 1929 Geneva Convention, the harsh discipline accorded the average Japanese soldier, which he was eager to pass along to the disgraced "non-persons" who had surrendered; and the fact that Japanese command expected to deal with about 40,000 POWs hut faced almost twice that number. The anonymous, kind-hearted Filipinos who handed out food and water to the endless stream of marchers emerge as unsung heroes.

How Ben Steele survived his excruciating ordeal is almost beyond comprehension. That he and others did make it back can be credited to chance encounters with physicians or medicine (especially quinine, so crucial to combating the ever-present malaria), the concern of fellow prisoners, and just plain luck. Perhaps as many as 9,000 Americans and about 45,000 Filipinos were not so fortunate. In addition, although this is only hinted at here, many of those who did return were so weakened that they did not long survive.

Based on ten years of research and 400 interviews, including several with former Japanese soldiers, the Normans conclude that in warfare, "nothing runs true to plan." Still, amid the atrocities, one can catch glimpses of basic human decency: the Soldier who secretly slipped quinine pills into the slop he fed his comrade; the physician who ran out of paregoric to treat dysentery and created homemade remedies (clay and water and powdered charcoal); and Father Bill Cummings on a Hell Ship who said that he hoped to work with street children in Tokyo after the war. "The bastards are hopeless," one Soldier protested. "Son,' Cummings replied, "no one is hopeless." Unfortunately, Father Bill did not make it back.

If one plans to read but one volume on the Bataan story, it should be Tears in the Darkness."

----Dr. Szasz is Regents' Professor of History at the University of New Mexico. -- Proceedings of the Naval Institute Press, June 2009

Exploration of the human spirit, June 9, 2009
By D. Abrahamson (Evanston, IL USA)


In their book, "Tears in the Darkness," Michael and Elizabeth Norman, have taken a historical event, the American defeat and its horrific aftermath in the Philippines at the start of Word War II in 1942 and turned it into a spell-binding exploration of the human spirit. At the center of the tale, of course, is the Bataan Death March. But after ten years of incredibly detailed research on both sides of the Pacific, the authors are able to render its full reality from a variety of individual perspectives: American, Japanese and Filipino. The result is a revelation -- not merely a narrative of courage, sacrifice, cruelty and suffering, but also, ultimately, of the redemptive power of reflection and forgiveness. It may also be the most moving book ever written about those dark April days almost seven decades ago and men who experienced them.

The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters (Hardcover)


by Alexander Green (Author)

Product Description

Most of us devote a substantial percentage of our waking hours to making, spending and having more. This desire to accumulate is natural. But when a bigger bank balance – or the things it can buy - becomes our animating purpose, disappointment generally follows. In The Secret of Shelter Island, nationally renowned financial analyst and bestselling author Alexander Green explores the complicated relationship we all have with money and reveals the road map to a rich life.

The timing could hardly be better. After more than twenty-five years of virtually uninterrupted prosperity, the U.S. economy has hit a rough patch. Yet to the extent that downturns like the current one shake up the status quo and force us to re-examine our goals and priorities, they also offer enormous opportunities. The Secret of Shelter Island provides an ideal starting point. Drawing on some of today’s best minds and many of history’s greatest thinkers, it is both a much-needed source of inspiration and an insightful look at the role of both money and values in the pursuit of the good life.

The book is arranged around four central themes. In Part I, "A Rich Mind," Green explores such key questions as: How important is money in your life? What is it giving you? What is it costing you? In Part II, "What’s Most Important," he discusses how to calculate your real net worth—without using a financial statement. In Part III, "Attitudes of Gratitude," he offers powerful insights based on a deceptively simple philosophy of life. In the final section of the book "The Search for Meaning," he delivers a refreshing take on the universal principles that guide us all – or should. The Secret of Shelter Island is full of practical wisdom. More than just a personal philosophy, it is a profound and utterly modern commentary on timeless values, the search for meaning and what it means to be truly wealthy.

From the Inside Flap
Most of us devote a substantial percentage of our waking hours to making, spending, and having more. This desire to accumulate is natural. But when a bigger bank balance—or the things it can buy—becomes our animating purpose, disappointment generally follows. In The Secret of Shelter Island, nationally renowned investment analyst and bestselling author Alexander Green explores the complicated relationship we all have with money and reveals the road map to a rich life.

The timing could hardly be better. After more than twenty-five years of virtually uninterrupted prosperity, the U.S. economy has hit a rough patch. Yet to the extent that downturns like the current one shake up the status quo and force us to reexamine our goals and priorities, they also offer enormous opportunities.

The Secret of Shelter Island provides an ideal starting point. Drawing on some of today's best minds and many of history's greatest thinkers, it is both a much-needed source of inspiration and an insightful look at the role of both money and values in the pursuit of the good life.

The book is arranged around four central themes. In Part I, "A Rich Mind," Green explores such key questions as: How important is money in your life? What is it giving you? What is it costing you? In Part II, "What Matters Most," he discusses how to calculate your real net worth—without using a financial statement. In Part III, "Attitudes and Gratitude," he offers powerful insights based on a deceptively simple philosophy of life. In the final section of the book, "The Search for Meaning," he delivers a refreshing take on the universal principles that guide us all-or should.

The Secret of Shelter Island is full of practical wisdom. More than just a personal philosophy, it is a profound and utterly modern commentary on timeless values, the search for meaning, and what it means to be truly wealthy.

Very Worthwhile..., June 12, 2009
By The W


As an avid reader, particularly of books about money, I've become a bit skeptical regarding content. Much of what I read is either too obvious or completely nonsensical. But I'm happy to report that this author's effort is legit. The philosophies that underpin this book are truly unique -- ones I'll likely incorporate into my life's approach. And I can only say that about a handful of books, lately.

More than a book about money, June 11, 2009
By James L. "Investorman" (Palm Beach, FL)


A terrific book - each little chapter is like a nugget of practical instruction for how to be happy, whether you're rich or not.

This book puts money into perspective, without in anyway downplaying its importance. Very unusual combination, and very useful.

If you like investing and making money - but suspect there's more to life than your bank balance - you will enjoy this book.

Shanghai Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)


by Lisa See Lisa See (Author)

Book Description

For readers of the phenomenal bestsellers Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love--a stunning new novel from Lisa See about two sisters who leave Shanghai to find new lives in 1930s Los Angeles.

May and Pearl, two sisters living in Shanghai in the mid-1930s, are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-educated, but their family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl’s parents arrange for their daughters to marry “Gold Mountain men” who have come from Los Angeles to find brides.

But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel’s Island (the Ellis Island of the West)--where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months--they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she’s pregnant the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know.

A novel about two sisters, two cultures, and the struggle to find a new life in America while bound to the old, Shanghai Girls is a fresh, fascinating adventure from beloved and bestselling author Lisa See.

A bit of a departure from earlier novels, but no less compelling, March 26, 2009
By z hayes (plano,texas)


I'm a fan of Lisa See's two earlier novels, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" and "Peony in Love", both of which were set in 19th and 17th century China respectively. In "Shanghai Girls", the author moves the setting of the novel to Shanghai and later to the US. Lisa See paints a vivid portrait of life in pre-World War II Shanghai and takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through the Japanese invasion of China and its aftermath.

The protagonists in this novel are two sisters - Pearl and May. Pearl is the older sister, born in the auspicious Year of the Dragon, yet frowned upon by her Baba [father] who dislikes her tall appearance. Pearl is also educated, having completed college, and is proficient in a few languages and dialects. In contrast, younger sister May, born in the Year of the Sheep, is shorter yet lovely, and has only managed to complete high school. Yet, for all Pearl's accomplishments, it is May that is the apple of her parent's eyes, and uses this partiality to her advantage. Both sisters live a life of privilege, yet they work as 'beautiful girls' posing for pictures used in ads and posters and earn a good living. This may appear surprising given their parent's conservative outlook [the girls' mother has bound feet], yet not altogether strange as later events bring to light the family's dire financial straits.

When the girls are told their father has huge debts and has decided to marry them off to a pair of brothers, Gold Mountain Men residing in LA [men who have left China to go to America to seek their fortunes, returning to find China Brides], they realize their days of freedom are over and decide to revolt. Unfortunately, the Japanese invasion of Shanghai puts an end to any of their plans. Fleeing the Japanese is not without its horrors and ultimately Pearl and May find themselves alone except for one another.

Even after leaving China, the pair find their situation is still dire as upon arrival in the United States, Pearl and May are detained on Angel's Island for months undergoing untold suffering. They finally meet their 'spouses' but life for the sisters still has many trials in store, and a secret shared between them threatens their future.

"Shanghai Girls" is a well-woven narrative that flows well and Lisa See credibly evokes the bond between two sisters, whose love for one another is strong, yet also fraught by rivalries. This is not just a story about siblings for it is also about the clash between East and West as the sisters struggle to find their footing in a new world, even as the bonds of their old world remain strong. Lisa See is truly a gifted author for being able to portray both the old world of 17th and 19th century China [as seen in Peony and Snow Flower] and the new as seen in "Shanghai Girls". Final verdict: a compelling read.

Emotional Rollercoaster, April 4, 2009
By NuJoi "nujoikitchendiary.blogspot.com/" (Chicago, IL United States)


I was tired when I finished the book. It was one of those where I had to stay up one night to finish it because when I tried to put it down, the story kept turning over in my head. I had an honest like and dislike for some of the characters. I do have to admit that part of me kept wondering what else could go wrong as the story progressed.

The most striking thing about this book was that it is the first time that I, as an African-American, could feel the effects of discrimination against another people. The author is able to really make you feel what the characters feel. Additional kudos goes to the author for illustrating how dangerous it is to see things from only one point of view. Ever story has at least two sides.

Aside from wondering how much more hardship could possibly befall the family, I found the book to be an excellent read. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a challenging read.

Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine (Paperback)


by Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck (Author)


Product Description
"If you believe it's time to put principles above parties, character above campaign promises, and Common Sense above all -- then I ask you to read this book...."

In any era, great Americans inspire us to reach our full potential. They know with conviction what they believe within themselves. They understand that all actions have consequences. And they find commonsense solutions to the nation's problems.

One such American, Thomas Paine, was an ordinary man who changed the course of history by penning Common Sense, the concise 1776 masterpiece in which, through extraordinarily straightforward and indisputable arguments, he encouraged his fellow citizens to take control of America's future -- and, ultimately, her freedom.

Nearly two and a half centuries later, those very freedoms once again hang in the balance. And now, Glenn Beck revisits Paine's powerful treatise with one purpose: to galvanize Americans to see past government's easy solutions, two-part monopoly, and illogical methods and take back our great country.

About the Author
Glenn Beck is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers The Christmas Sweater and An Inconvenient Book. He is also the author of The Real America and publisher of Fusion magazine. He is the host of a tv show on FoxNews and also the nationally syndicated radio show The Glenn Beck Program, which is the third most listened to talk show in America. Visit www.glennbeck.com

An easy, quick read with a lot of "common sense", June 10, 2009
By L. Marti "Lormarti" (Arkansas)


I received this book yesterday and read it straight through. I expected a lot of democrat bashing and was pleased to see that the author focused on all of the failures of both major parties. This is a very good book that should be passed along to other once it is read. The book is actually only just over 100 pages with the remaining pages being a reprint of the original Common Sense.

Don't let history repeat itself!, June 8, 2009
By Andrew J. Rodriguez (Golden, Colorado)


This is America's eleventh hour! Our democaracy is morally, politically and economically bankrupt. I suggest we stop hiding behind "best-selling" trashy books and pore over Glenn Beck's "Common Sense." If for no other reason, at least to grasp a sense of ominous reality and sobering history.

As a former Cuban inmmigrant (50 years ago) I see so many similarities between my former country before the revolution and the US today, that sometimes I think I'm re-living a nightmare.

Signed:

Andrew J. Rodriguez
Author: "Adios, Havana," a Memoir

This is America's eleventh hour! Our democaracy is morally, politically and economically bankrupt. I suggest we stop hiding behind "best-selling" trashy books and pore over Glenn Beck's "Common Sense." If for no other reason, at least to grasp a sense of ominous reality and sobering history.

As a former Cuban inmmigrant (50 years ago) I see so many similarities between my former country before the revolution and the US today, that sometimes I think I'm re-living a nightmare.

Signed:

Andrew J. Rodriguez
Author: "Adios, Havana," a Memoir

Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan (Hardcover)


by Doug Stanton (Author)

Review

"Doug Stanton's Horse Soldiers is as gripping as the most intricately plotted thriller. It is a masterwork of stunning military action, brilliant in-depth journalism, and powerful storytelling. Finally Americans can know how just a few dozen courageous U.S. soldiers beat the Taliban under the most extreme and dangerous conditions imaginable. I could not put this book down."-- Vince Flynn

"Horse Soldiers is a great read -- a riveting story of the brave and resourceful American warriors who rode into Afghanistan after 9/11 and waged war against Al Qaeda. We're hearing many of these stories for the first time -- and from those who waged a war worthy of Rudyard Kipling, James Bond, and Davy Crockett." -- Tom Brokaw

"Doug Stanton's Horse Soldiers is the story of the first large American unconventional warfare operation since World War II. My Green Berets were launched deep into enemy territory to befriend, recruit, equip, advise, and lead their Afghan counterparts to attack the Taliban. The Horse Soldiers succeeded brilliantly with a highly decentralized campaign, reinforced with modern airpower's precision weapons, forcing the Taliban government's collapse in a few months. Doug Stanton captures the gritty realities of the campaign as no other can."-- Geoffrey C. Lambert, major general (retired), U.S. Army, and commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne), 2001-2003

"Not just an epic war story, Horse Soldiers is a beautifully written, intimate portrait of the men and women who lived the battle on the fields of fire -- and at home, too. Their secret mission against the Taliban was intelligent, brave, and undertaken with great care for the good people of Afghanistan. Doug Stanton's superb account is an invaluable insight for policy makers and the public for years to come." -- Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea

"In the spirit of Black Hawk Down and Flags of Our Fathers, Doug Stanton plunges into the heart of a single mission and returns with a stark understanding not only of what happened but what was truly at stake. Through precise reportage and hauntingly rendered battle scenes, Stanton shows that we may ignore this 'forgotten' theater only at our own peril." -- Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder

Product Description
From the New York Times-bestselling author of In Harm's Way comes a true-life story of American soldiers overcoming great odds to achieve a stunning military victory.

Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy across mountainous terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential if they were to defeat the Taliban.

The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators, and overjoyed Afghans thronged the streets. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed. Dangerously outnumbered, they fought for their lives in the city's immense fortress, Qala-i-Janghi, or the House of War. At risk were the military gains of the entire campaign: if the soldiers perished or were captured, the effort to defeat the Taliban might be doomed.

As the Americans struggled to hold the fortress, they faced some of the most intense urban warfare of our time. But until now the full story of the Horse Soldiers has never been told. Doug Stanton received unprecedented cooperation from the U.S. Army's Special Forces soldiers and Special Operations helicopter pilots, as well as access to voluminous after-battle reports. In addition, he interviewed more than one hundred participants and walked every inch of the climactic battleground.

This exciting story is filled with unforgettable characters: brave Special Forces soldiers, tough CIA operatives, cunning Afghan warlords, anxious stateside soldiers' wives who do not know where their husbands have gone, and humble Afghan boys spying on the Taliban.

Deeply researched and beautifully written, Stanton's account of America's quest to liberate an oppressed people touches the mythic. The Horse Soldiers combined ancient strategies of cavalry warfare with twenty-first-century aerial bombardment technology to perform a seemingly impossible feat. Moreover, their careful effort to win the hearts of local townspeople and avoid civilian casualties proved a valuable lesson for America's ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.

Horse Soldiers is a big-hearted and thrilling read, with an epic story that reaches not just across the cold mountains of Afghanistan but into the homes of small-town America, and confirms Doug Stanton as one of our country's preeminent storytellers.

Saddle up, May 25, 2009
By Timothy Benjamin (Miami Beach, FL USA)


I love memoirs and real-life accounts of fascinating events, and Horse Soldier doesn't disappoint. It's an action-packed, breathless account of American special-forces heroics that helped defeat the Taliban in the months after 9/11. Doug Stanton, bestselling author of In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors, 2001, pens a dime-novel narrative complete with strong-jawed American heroes, sneering villains, colorful natives and a relentless series of melodramatic cliff-hangers.

Enraged at the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden after 9/11, the United States resolved to invade Afghanistan. When military leaders realized it would take months to move soldiers to the distant, landlocked nation, they sent small numbers of elite Special Forces to support opposition fighters, guide precision air attacks and bribe local warlords to join. It worked brilliantly. Stanton recounts the lives of a dozen such soldiers and undercover CIA operatives, revealing their emotions and thoughts, quoting inner monologues and inventing dialogue to dramatize events. He invents similar scenarios for many Afghan figures and for John Walker Lindh, the American who fought for the Taliban. Using diplomatic skills, money, airdropped supplies and high-tech communications equipment, the soldiers inspired Afghan forces, who did almost all the fighting, to unite and crush the Taliban. In the final pages Stanton admits that America squandered this dazzling triumph.

Another great, stranger-than-fiction, true-life story I finished recently that I strongly recommend because it's outstanding is I Love Yous Are for White People: A Memoir (P.S.)

An epic tale brilliantly told, May 5, 2009
By Joe Mielke (Kingsley, MI United States)


Horse Soldiers will take readers from the freezing interior of a high tech Chinook helicopter flying higher than it safely can through the mountains of Afghanistan delivering soldiers to desert gun fights fought on horse back harkening America's old west. It's a modern day Odessy written with a journalist's penchant for detail and Homer's gift for telling a warrior's story.

In the end it is also the harrowing tale of how a small group of American Special Forces and the CIA working with Afghan soldiers managed to defeat the Taliban in one of the world's remotest battlefields.

It's not a book about politics. Stanton sets out to tell what happened, how it happened and who it happened to. He does this with startling attention to detail and a an objective overview of U.S. Military actions.

At one point American bombers can't seem to hit a target whether the bombs are guided by Global Positioning System coordinates or LASERs. Near the end of the book they drop a bomb on some of their own men.

But it is Stanton's ability to weave a story that brings the book alive and takes readers to places they would rather not be to hear things they would rather not hear and to see things they would rather not see and to smell things they would rather not smell.

The story is told in a narrative fashion sometimes switching between Afghan battle and a spouse battling her emotions about whether her husband will come back home. And, although this switching back and forth fills in interesting background, it's a technique more akin to screen writing than book writing. It makes it harder for readers to keep track of what's happening to whom.

There are unusual moments as when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld actually calls and asks why the soldiers aren't making enough progress and one of Special Forces officers writes a reply that Rumsfeld reads from during a press conference describing the miserable conditions and bravery of the Afghan fighters.

Stanton writes about the complexity of flying a helicopter under extreme conditions; cold, wind and extreme altitude like this: "You had essentially flown to the dead end of a physics equation."

Stanton relied on more than 100 books, articles and web sites and an equal number of interviews in writing this well documented book. He also traveled to Afghanistan to flesh out details and to see the fort where one of the major battles took place.

The book appeals to general readers seeking a good story well told as well as to those with an interest in history and the military. It also is a testament to the effectiveness of soldier-philiosphers who can outthink their enemies and think with their allies before they start shooting.

Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme (Hardcover)


by Richard Brodie (Author)

Amazon.com Review

If you've ever wondered how and why people become robotically enslaved by advertising, religion, sexual fantasy, and cults, wonder no more. It's all because of "mind viruses," or "memes," and those who understand how to plant them into other's minds. This is the first truly accessible book about memes and how they make the world go 'round.

Of course, like all good memes, the ideas in Brodie's book are double-edged swords. They can vaccinate against the effects of cognitive viruses, but could also be used by those seeking power to gain it even more effectively. If you don't want to be left behind in the coevolutionary arms race between infection and protection, read about memes. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review
Anyone who wants to be involved in media in the next ten years must understand memetics and must read Virus of the Mind. -- Danny Bannister, President, The Mental Fitness Company, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

A Basic Primer On Memetics & Evolutionary Psychology, April 14, 1999
By Alex Burns (alex.burns@disinfo.net) (Melbourne (Australia)


Since its publication in 1996, Richard Brodie's 'Virus of the Mind' has ignited ongoing debate within the memetics community, and signalled the beginning of the new science crossing-the-chasm into the mainstream (for example, Oprah Winfrey invited Brodie on her talk-show in January 1999).

For 'hard' scientific data and mathematical/conceptual modelling (which really conveys why memetics is a legitimate science and not just a controversial upstart), you definately need to look elsewhere (Brodie himself has admitted this to me in extensive interviews). Texts by Lynch, Beck & Cowan, Csikzentmihalyi, Blackmore, Dennett, Dawkins, and Hofstadter are more useful in this regard. Brodie should be considered as a populariser of memetics, able to look at its impact on and relevance to contemporary cultural debates.

Politics aside, Brodie's book is best understood as an accessible introduction to the memetics field, which can capture and hold a general audience's attention. It is closer in many respects to a description of evolutionary psychology drives, 'hot buttons', coercive double-binds, and ideological faith/belief structures used by cults, advertisers, politicians, and religious entities.

Thus, a reading of 'Virus of the Mind' can offer you an accessible text with some insight into how people are programmed, and how to become more aware of your own consensus trance (Charles T. Tart). It continues a self-help perspective developed by Brodie in his earlier book 'Getting Past OK'. Many of Brodie's ideas have been said before in different contexts, but the memetics angle puts a fresh spin on things, and his early chapters on definitions of memes are useful for the layperson in confronting a rapidly growing field.

As long as you don't expect the definitive text on memetics (which Dawkins may one day write as 'The Selfish Meme'?), you will find some useful insights that can be quickly integrated into everyday living. This is the real strength of the book, and partly why it has proven to be so popular.

A Consciousness Raising Book, December 8, 1999
By Jake Sapiens (Texas)


Richard Brodie's, Virus of the Mind, presents what has proven to me the most practical use of the idea of memes. He presents plenty of good scientific background to set up the concept for those still unfamiliar with the meme meme. Although he does not actually inaugurate a true scientific field of memetics, he uses the concept of memes very skillfully to raise our consciousness and look at everyday things in our culture in a whole new light. In this respect I think he accomplishes far more than many of the unsatisfying attempts to make memetics a full fledged science. It is a bit early to expect such grand successful collective science, but it is not too early to raise our consciousness as individuals about some of these ideas, and Richard Brodie does a fantastic job in that undertaking.

Unlike some in the self-development field, Richard Brodie does not insult the intelligence of more educated readers. He doesn't hide the ball, act mysterious in his presentation, cop out to supernaturalism, or try to claim false or highly questionable scientific support. I have found it easy to disagree with him on some points and still get a lot out of his work. He has certainly given a lot of serious thought to the nuances, pitfalls, and strongpoints of our modern culture and that shows through in this book. He is a guy trying to figure things out just like all of us, and he shares his thoughts in a non-offensive highly accessible way. I think you will find his book a joy to read, and find many useful insights as we individually try to navigate the quickly evolving cultural environment we find ourselves in today.