Recent Books

My book reading has slowed to a crawl the second half of this year. Work, Family, Halloween, BioShock, all conspired to limit my time.

* “Tree of Smoke”:amazon by Denis Johnson. All kinds of acolades but I gave up, it was just boring. No hook, nothing intriguing about any of the characters. Nothing compelling about the setting or milieu. I gave it 100 pages. I’ll never know what happens to the characters and I really don’t care.
* “The Rise of Silas Lapham”:amazon by William Dean Howells. An interesting title as the story generally is about the economic and societal fall of Silas Lapham. At a deeper level it is a morality play about the temptations faced by Lapham, and how he tries to do the right thing despite the costs. At the end of the day he is at peace albeit greatly reduced in lifestyle. Shouldn’t we all aspire to this?
* “Spin”:amazon by Robert Charles Wilson. Very entertaining tale centered around 3 childhood friends and their adult lives as the earth goes through wrenching changes imposed by unknown outside agencies. Some hard science but a lot of character drama as well.
* “Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam”:amazon by John Nagl. Great analysis comparing British army culture and success vs US army culture and success. The core point — the British army is a leveraged tool of broader political goals, whereas the US army is designed for all or nothing wars when politics have failed. I also loved the succinct priorities established by Templer in Malaya when he took over the British military mission:

# get the priorities right
# get the instructions right
# get the organization right
# get the right people into the org
# get the right spirit into the people
# leave them to get in to it.