Your loyal archivist is on a week off mostly reading. So I figured why not share a few of the nonfiction books that fill my tilting bookcases.
E-books are excellent, but there’s just something about the feel of a book and being able to write on the margins. I divide my stacks into five basic categories: Nonfiction, novels, plays (screenplays), poetry (lyrics) and science fiction. These are the Top 10 nonfiction ones I guard against anyone borrowing.
Your Herald archive ideas on topics to dive into are fantastic, so email away to email@example.com. Look for those beginning again next week. Here’s my off-duty entry for this week. (I’ve included a UFO bonus, since ET is back in the news)…
“Dear Theo,” the autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh
This series of letters edited by Irving Stone shows Van Gogh’s power of observation. He shares it all with his brother Theo. I lost my copy (or I gave it away or someone borrowed it… who knows) so I ordered a new one. It’s a book you must have in your library. Early on Van Gogh captures the muddy life in coal country only to take you to the mesmerizing colors and brilliant starry nights that became his obsession. He struggled, but his art became immortal.
“The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen
Have a highlighter ready when you read this book! Christensen is an author for our digital times. How your organization responds to customers – your “value network” – adopting the “attacker’s advantage,” disruptive and sustaining innovations, investing in what people want and lessons from innovators who succeeded and failed makes this tome worth your time. I must add he uses DEC, Digital Equipment Corp., as an innovative company that failed to see the future of computing. (They missed everyone would want a computer in their homes, cars, pockets.) DEC’s demise here in Massachusetts is worth its own “From the Archives” report.
“The Prince,” by Niccolo Machiavelli
Written in 1513, it’s still packed with wisdom – especially for leaders of all kinds. “Those who have relied least upon fortune, ”Machiavelli writes,“ have been the most successful. ” For me, that means make your own luck. Do the digging. Seek the truth. And, he adds soon after, “it is necessary to consider whether innovators stand on their own or whether they depend on others.” There’s so much more that still resonates today.
“The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” by Richard Rhodes
Everyone should read this book. “The bomb was latent in nature as a genome is latent in flesh. Any nation might learn to command its expression, ”Rhodes writes on page 379 in my copy. It’s all here. Einstein, Fermi, Szilard, Oppenheimer, Roosevelt. We’re still dealing with, as Eugene Wigner wrote during the Manhattan Project, “unlocking a giant.” Little Boy and Fat Man were first and we’ve never stopped worrying since.
“Hiroshima,” by John Hersey
I have two copies of this book. It’s so powerful you just can not walk past it – especially the paperback version listed for $ 4. It’s an eyewitness to the giant let loose, as mentioned above. “A tremendous flash of light cut across the sky. It seemed a sheet of sun.”
“Night,” by Elie Wiesel
The link above is to the full text, for free. Everyone should read this book. “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night,” the author writes. Of course it’s the story of the Holocaust. A nightmare we can not seem to learn from.
“And the Band Played On,” by Randy Shilts
The subtitle tells it all: Politics, People, and the AIDS epidemic. I bought this book soon after my colleague, Ron Doyle, died from AIDS. (I wrote about Ron early in the COVID pandemic.) I wrote: There are parallels between the AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic. Early misinformation proved harmful. Blame and political bickering did not help either. Some very heroic medical professionals worked tirelessly then and now to keep people alive.
“1776,” by David McCullough
“Truman” and “John Adams” are amazing, so why list “1776?” You come away realizing our nation could have failed that year; George Washington could have given up. But neither happened. It’s the epitome of carp diem!
“Lincoln,” by David Herbert Donald
The author says in the video below his goal was to write stories people will want to read. Add to that Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War changed America forever and you have the ingredients for a perfect book. That’s what I think of Donald’s “Lincoln.” It’s perfect. Flawless. Inspirational.
“A Brief History of Time,” by Stephen Hawking
I noted this passage: “God created the donkey and gave him thick skin.” That’s Hawking quoting Einstein and it helps you realize the clues to our questions are everywhere. Space and time, black holes, this book explains it all. Now I’m reading it again this week because I’m not sure I grasped it the first time. Since UFOs are zipping all around us, maybe it’s time to study harder.
UFO bonus: “Extraterrestrial,” by Avi Loeb
Could UFOs be scout ships? Avi Loeb considers that possibility in his book on “Oumuamua,” or “scout” in the Hawaiian language. “When you get a chance,” he starts off his book, “step outside and admire the universe. … The universe is always there, awaiting our attention. Just looking up, I find, helps change your perspective. ”