WHAT WE READ IN 2003

 

TITLE

AUTHOR

COMMENTS

Who's Your Caddy?

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Rick Reilly

Reilly is the guy who writes the acerbic column on the last page of Sports Illustrated.  Here he pulls a George Plimpton and hits the road as a caddy for some famous golfers and some golfers who are famous for something else.  As he discovers, it's not as easy as it looks.  A quick and interesting read for those who either play or watch golf (12/03)

The Smartest Guys in the Room

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B. McLean and P. Elkind

This is a truly incredible book about the rise and fall of Enron.  The authors, senior writers at Fortune, have pieced together a narrative that is enlightening and riveting.  There will surely be business scandals in the future, but it is hard to imagine that there will be one with the scope of this one.  While the top two or three Enron executives have been publicly humiliated, there were lot's of other guilty parties. (12/03)

The Namesake

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Jhumpa Lahiri

A further exploration of the Indian immigrant experience in America by the author of Interpreter of Maladies.  This is a good effort but not up to the high standard set by her short story collection.  The novel's protagonist, Gogol, hated his name.  Could it be that the author, Jhumpa (click here), who grew up in the U.S.,  didn't like hers either? (12/03)

Blue Latitudes

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Tony Horwitz

Two books in one.  The author tells the story of Captain Cook's voyages of discovery, and revisits the places he went and made first contact with the indigenous people.  Horwitz has an easy style to read.  His observations of modern day Hawaii are particularly insightful. (11/03)

My Dream of You

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Nuala O'Faolin

Although this is a novel, it seems likely that the author is extending the examination of her life that started with her autobiography.  In any event O'Faolin writes very well and deals honestly with her demons.  Now I'll be honest - this is not a man's book.  (10/03)

Under the Banner of Heaven

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Jon Krakauer

Krakauer started our to write a book about the inception and development of a new religion in America -  Mormanism.  As he was doing research for the book, he uncovered a historical streak of violence in the church and its offshoots, which continues today.  This book is not going to be popular in Utah. (8/03)

The Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown

Some researchers believe that there is a small secret society, the Priory of Sion,  that preserves information that would be damaging to the Catholic church if revealed to the public.  Former members include Da Vinci, Isaac Newton and Jean Cocteau.  This entertaining novel is based on the Sion theory.  The writing is just so-so, but there is action in every one of the book's 104 short chapters. (7/03)

The Language Police

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Diane Ravitch

Pressure on book publishers and state governments from the politically correct left and the religious right   have resulted in textbooks which are uninteresting and lacking in content.  The author, a historian, offers some possible solutions, but overall this is a disturbing story. (7/03)

Moneyball

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Michael Lewis

The management of the Oakland A's has discovered that the same kind of market inefficiencies that drive the stock market apply to baseball.  Using advanced computer techniques they have found how to win games with low cost players and non-traditional strategies.  You don't have to like baseball to enjoy this book. (7/03)

Spies

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Michael Frayn

A gripping novel about a man who returns to his boyhood home in wartime England to relive the defining moment of his life.  The first 40 pages or so are a bit slow, but after that the book is hard to put down.  Nominated for the Booker Prize, Frayn lost out to his wife. (6/03)

True Believers

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Joe Queenan

A must-read for anyone interested in sports.  This is written by a guy who effectively rationalizes wasting his life following the Eagles, Phillies, 76'ers and Flyers.  If you like Bob Costas and Joe Buck, and can't stand Brent Mussberger, here is a kindred spirit. (6/03)

By the Lake

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John McGahern

A pastoral novel about rural life in Ireland.  There is not a lot of action, but the character development is excellent.  The story revolves around the interaction of two neighbor families, one born to the land and the other refugees from the glitter of London.  A fine book. (5/03)

Are You Somebody?

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Nuala O'Faolain

An absorbing memoir by an enormously talented woman who sees herself as ordinary.  She is anything but.  Raised as an Irish Catholic, she was never able to squeeze herself into her pre-ordained lifestyle.  This is as honest a story as you are likely to encounter anywhere.  The paperback edition has an interesting epilogue which describes how a number of readers have been impacted by the book. (5/03)

Tishomingo Blues

Elmore Leonard

I canít say that I know what dialogue in the criminal world sounds like, but I would bet it sounds a lot like Elmore Leonardís novels.  This is one of his less violent efforts, which means that only about a half dozen bad guys cash in their chips.  Highly entertaining.  Like Get Shorty and Pulp Fiction this will probably show up on the big screen.  (04/03)

Loose Balls

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Terry Pluto

Purportedly,  the story of the old American Basketball Association, but really just a collection of notes and quotes, this is dead boring.  I feel like I was bilked and I am not amused. (3/03)

Catch Me If You Can

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Frank Abagnale, Jr.

Very similar to the movie except the Tom Hanks character is lurking in the background throughout the book.  Abagnale's antics were pretty outrageous but quite entertaining, although I would imagine the people he bilked were not amused. (3/03)

Globalization and its Discontents

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Joseph Stiglitz

Globalization sounds like a good idea, but something has gone wrong in the implementation.  This thoughtful book by the former chief economist of the World Bank explains where the IMF, World Bank and other high-minded organizations have gone off the track. (2/03)

Rumpole Rests His Case

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John Mortimer

With the death of Leo McKern it is unlikely that these episodes will ever be seen on TV.  Too bad.  All of the old friends like Claude and Philida, Soapy Sam, and She Who Must Be Obeyed are in fine form, and the stories are right up to date.  A must for fans of Rumpole. (1/03)

Spy

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David Wise

This story about the life of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who spied for the Soviets, is very well told.  The author had access to an incredible range of information sources, and managed to put the facts together in a very readable book.  Its still difficult to understand why he did it, but I suspect that even Hanssen himself isn't sure.  (1/03)

 

Books read in 2002

Books read in 2001