Holiday Book Report

April 5, 2008

We just returned from a short week’s family holiday to La Gomera, an island near Tenerife in the Canary Islands. It was a terrific holiday very far from the normal “chaos” of the Canary Islands. Other than looking at the geology (lots of volcanoes!), we did nothing other than lounge by the poolside, tennis, eating terrific meals, and reading. I was able to read seven books over the week.

Charlie Wilson’s War, by George Crile. As stated by the Economist on the cover of the paperback, “gripping”. It provided me a completely different perspective on events in the US and Afghanistan during the occupation by the USSR in the 1980’s.

The New Cold War, by Edward Lucas. This is an account of Russia’s drive to autocracy over the last ten years since the fall of the USSR.

How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman, M.D. I bought this book by “accident” on Amazon, thinking that I was ordering another book. Despite that, this is a terrific read which gave me terrific insght about how medicine really works.

The Man Who Ran the Moon, by Piers Bizony. I grew up with the beginning of the US space programe (I wish I still had all the NASA brochures that I sent away for). This book tells the story of making NASA from the perspective of James Webb, the first administrator. The book is a pure political history of the creation of NASA and the space programme.

The Atomic Bazaar, by William Langewiesche. I had read some of this book already in articles written by Mr. Langewiesche and published in The Atlantic Magazine. However, in book form the whole topic of the drift of nuclear weapons through the world is a gripping and unending story. I read this book after reading “Charlie Wilson’s War”. The pair of books describe essentially the same thread, with little overlap, relations between the USA and Pakistan with many learnings which help me in a tiny way understand more about today’s world and where we are heading.

The Hot Topic, by Gabrielle Walker an Sir David King. I had the opportunity to meet Sir David at a dinner of The Scottish Oil Club in 1994. Following his retirement from being the Chief Scientist for HM Government (UK), he’s written a terrific book to set out the problems and propose solutions for climate change.

Why Things Break, by Mark E. Eberhart. Dr. Eberhart is a professor of chemistry and geochemistry at the Colorado School of Mines. This book is a biographical journey of his own discoveries during his childhood, formal education, and professional life learning how “things break”. I was particularly struck by his discovery that in today’s litigious world, people “expect” things to not break—ever.

With Speed and Violence, by Fred Pearce. Mr. Pearce is another author that I had the opportunity to meet a few years ago. He writes regularly for New Scientist magazine on climate change and the environment. This is a very engaging book which presents what we know, and don’t know, about climate change and the potential for “tipping points” to bring on abrupt climate change.