How About Some Really Good Reading?

I Have Been Reading Some Great Stuff. Allow Me to Share.


The State of Writing in America

I am pleased to report that, at least from my perspective, there is some really fine writing going on in this country. I have a short list of recent work that I have been thoroughly enjoying.

Note I said enjoying, present tense. I find that I tend to slow up when I find exemplary writing. I like to kind of roll around in the luxury of stories well told or facts well analyzed. These works hit those marks in spades.

One of my small pleasures in life is walking into a woodshop and smelling fresh sawdust. This kind of writing is a mental version of that same sensory pleasure. I hope you enjoy them as much as I am.

Rachel Maddow Does It Again

I hope many of you followed my advice earlier to check out Rachel Maddow’s podcast/book about the Spiro Agnew saga (Bagman). It’s relevance to what we saw in the Trump era was striking, to say the least. It helped that Maddow has a crack research team and is a talented storyteller.

Rachel has done it again, perhaps even better this time. She has a new book out, Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth.

This is the history and the current state of the oil and gas industry. BTW, Rachel won a Grammy last Sunday night for the audio version of this book.

It is a global story, but one mostly about how all this developed in the US and Russia. Intertwined with lots of information and data are great human stories.

I have just finished the lead in section about John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. I thought I knew most of that story. I had no idea.

The NY Times Review of Books describes the book pretty well:

Blowout is a rollickingly well-written book, filled with fascinating, exciting and alarming stories about the impact of the oil and gas industry on the world today. . . . [It features] many colorful tales about villains, scoundrels and adventurers. . . . A brilliant description of many of the problems caused by our reliance on fossil fuels.”

It’s a great and timely read, especially as we enter what I think is the beginning of the end of the oil and gas era. Have a good read.

Here is an Amazon link for more information on the book:

Welcome to World War III

I have written probably too often about what I see as the risks of armed conflict between the US and China in the South China Sea. I see this as a really, really high-risk zone. Turns out a number of people who think about such things full time share that concern.

One such person is James Stavridis, one of our brighter retired 4-star admirals and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. As we say in the Army community, not bad for a Navy guy.

He and accomplished author Elliot Ackerman (a combat veteran himself) have written a riveting, powerful novel, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War. It succeeds on every level.

The writing is superb. The story telling is arresting. The characters are three dimensional and compelling. The science and the military arts are accurate. And about every fear I have had about our vulnerabilities in a future conflict are brought to bear here.

I really like how well they make the three key points:

(1) We need first rate intelligence AND imagination;

(2) Get behind in technology and expect to lose, badly;

(3) As important as new technology and similar elements are, war is still a physical, heavy, aggressive operation. If you don’t have enough of the right  armed forces, you lose again – badly and with many casualties.

This is riveting, thoughtful stuff. And you have a couple of choices to check it out.

One, get the book from your local source or Amazon

Two, you also can read an excerpt version in Wired magazine (another publication I have often praised). Here is a link for the first excerpt:

Hell of a good read.

And Now for Something Completely Different 

How about some TV for a change of pace? We recently came across a fun and informative series on the History Channel, entitled The Food That Built America. It is really great stuff – informative and entertaining.

We learn about the amazing people who lead the way in chocolate, cereal, frozen foods, pizza, Coke vs. Pepsi, fast food, and more.

The competitions are ferocious, the inventiveness impressive, the impacts on society surprising. The drive of some of these people is almost superhuman.

Learn about the fascinating personal stories of James Kraft, Milton Hershey, the Swanson family, W.K. Kellogg, James Kraft, Milton Hershey, the Swanson family, the McDonald brothers, and others. Expect to be hungry after every episode.

Check out the 8-episode series if you have access to the History channel. Here is a link to learn more and to watch episodes online:

Have a good time losing yourself in some great reading and TV that lives up to what the medium should be.

Bill Clontz

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