Henry David Thoreau: A Life

by Laura Dassow Walls 

What a boring book. But I learned a lot about Thoreau’s life.


Life Will Be the Death of Me

by Chelsea Handler

A kind of trashy autobiography written by the comedian Chelsea Handler. I want to read more about the Enneagram, the psychological test she said helped her understand herself better.



by Billy Collins

From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night, 
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves, 
Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son, 
each one stitched into his own private coat, 
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language. 

I picture a figure in the act of reading, 
shoes on a desk, head tilted into the wind of a book, 
a man in two worlds, holding the rope of his tie
as the suicide of lovers saturates a page, 
or lighting a cigarette in the middle of a theorem. 
He moves from paragraph to paragraph
as if touring a house of endless, paneled rooms. 

I hear the voice of my mother reading to me
from a chair facing the bed, books about horses and dogs, 
and inside her voice lie other distant sounds, 
the horrors of a stable ablaze in the night, 
a bark that is moving toward the brink of speech. 

I watch myself building bookshelves in college, 
walls within walls, as rain soaks New England, 
or standing in a bookstore in a trench coat. 

I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves, 
straining in circles of light to find more light
until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
that we follow across a page of fresh snow; 

when evening is shadowing the forest
and small birds flutter down to consume the crumbs, 
we have to listen hard to hear the voices
of the boy and his sister receding into the woods.

The Baseball Chronicles

Edited by David Gallen

Fun collection of articles written about some of baseball best old-time stars. Most written during the players career. Fun read.


Country of Baseball

The story of Dock Ellis, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I remember him well from when I was a kid. The Pirates were my favorite team. I remember the names of most of the players mentioned.

Book was written by Donald Hall, Nobel Laureate poet, and big baseball fan too.


Portraits and Observations – Truman Capote

Great collection of essays by Truman Capote. I had read In Cold Blood and some other things, but his essays are really his best work. Great stylist.


Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote



The book consists of a series of excerpts from various works by Fred Rogers. I suppose it’s fair to say that Mr. Rogers was a bit cornball and simplistic. It’s certainly understandable why have many people, including me, didn’t pay a lot of attention to him.

But after seeing the recent movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, doing some reading about his life, and reading this book, I can see the value of Mr. Rogers. Actually, his thoughts on love and kindness are profound.


Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin

Written by the daughter of Kenny Shopsin, the founder of the famously quirky restaurant which carries his surname.

Written in a quirky style, with funky typography. Primarily short antidotes about her family and the restaurant. It starts off kind of slow but becomes a lot of fun about halfway through.

The title refers to her father’s philosophy. Nothing really matters, but dedicating oneself to something actually makes it matter. (I may be wildly mispresenting his thoughts.)


The Ascent by Volker Ullrich

An analysis of the rise of Hilter. Many parallels to the rise of Trumpism, albeit on a much larger scale.

Really something of a boring book. Probably important for future historians, but too much detail for the average reader.


He Won’t Get Far on Foot – John Callahan

An autobiography of John Callahan, who was a well-known cartoonist. His work is pretty edgy, some would call insensitive (I wouldn’t).

He was a raging alcoholic from an early age. He describes in harrowing detail – and humor – his journey through the hell of alcoholism, which ended up with his being in terrible drunken car accident, which led to his struggle with being a quadriplegic, and eventually salvation through cartooning.

Highly entertaining book.


A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety – Jimmy Carter

Didn’t take notes on this one.

What a great, great man. His life is an inspiration.


Book of Luke

Pretty much the same story as all the others.


Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime – Lou Cannon

To boil it down to one paragraph. Reagan’s “great” insight was that the presidency was just another performance, very similar to his movie roles. He focused on his and his staff’s presentation and frequently ignored the real job. Kind of brilliant, and also sad.


George H. Bush – Tom Wicker

Bush’s father was a senator from Connecticut.  And executive at steel company. Ann Richards said he was born with a silver foot in his mouth 


Jackpot! – Jim Fixx

Fun dairy style book from Jim Fixx, author of the bestseller “The Complete Book of Running”. Discusses how the book came about, the the life changing result – both the good and bad. Fun read.


Jimmy Carter – Peter Bourne

Bourne was a friend/colleague of Carter. I thought that might be a problem, but it seemed to give a reasonably balanced view of Carter. It was much more detailed than I needed. Bit slow.


The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

On the one hand, lot of rambling drivel. On the other, lots and lots of wit; parts of it were really fun.

I also felt something of a kinship with him, which is odd, since I’m so normal, and he was well, not.

Many quotable quotes. I should have written them down as I went.


Gerald Ford – Douglas Brinkley


Munch – Steffen Kverneland

Very, very strange comic book-style biography of Edvard Munch. It used mostly books, diary entries, and Munch’s paintings to tell the story. Plus soem comic book style dialog between the author and his buddy discussing Munch.

I new most of the biographical material before, but a good review. A fun read, very original (at least to me) concept.


Being Nixon: A Man Divided – Evan Thomas


Lyndon Johnson – Charles Peter

Enjoyable, short and to the point biograph of LBJ. This book was just the right amount of depth for me.

Born in was born in 1908 in Texas. Not a good student. Mother was dominant force in his life. Went to a small teachers college in Texas. During college, worked as a teacher in a very poor town. Worked very hard, helped the students. Organized many activities for them such as sports leagues etc.

Was the editor of the school newspaper. Participated in debate club.

Got a job with a Texas Congressman, Richard Kleberg, a liberal. Used this first major connection to forward career. Became Congressman, served in military while in Congress, then Senator from Texas. Lost first run due to election fraud. Committed his own fraud to win the second time.

Extremely successful Senator. Very good at using rules to his advantage, building coalitions, and when that didn’t work, twisting arms. Very persuasive.

JFK made his his VP, mostly to help win the south. Bob Kennedy hated him. John was ok with him.

Worked hard to forward JFK’s agenda. Extraordinarily successful on the domestic side. Struggled with Vietnam.

(fill in details later)


Kennedy – Michael O’Brien


Dwight D. Eisenhower – Tom Wicker

DrBorn texas.
West point.good football player. Knee iinjury
Aide to MacArthur army.
Marshall thought well of him. Sent him to London. Churchill liked
Command of operation torch
Called himself a liberal Republican. But was really.
Was in favour of u n control of atomic weapons
President of Columbia
Beat Stevenson in 1952.
Nixon’s checkers speech
 “I will go to Korea”
 named dulle s as secretary of state
Nsc papers. Written by cabinet about issues around world. They became policy. Sometimes for too long, after they were outdated
End of Korean war. Voluntary reparation
Adop red policy of containment (from truman)
Truman gave aid to frenc h to help with Vietnam. Wanted to ensure France didn’t go commie
James McGovern. First U.S. Man to die in Vietnam. 1954
Domino theory
Eisenhower approved two secret wars. One in Iran and one in Guatemala. Started country down a slippery slope.
M. Nationalized Anglo-iranian oil comp in 1951. Eisenhower approved operation ajax.
Eisenhower cut off aid money. M. Started trade talks with russia. Ousted shah from head of army.  These moves sparked commie fears.
Operation success in Guatemala
Atoms for peace
Brown vs board of education. Eisenhower disagreed with the decision.
Eisenhower nominated earl Warren supreme court. Warren immediately voted for Brown
executive privilege
Irving preress
McCarthy hearings. “Have you no decency sir?”
Gop lost Congress in 1954
Changhi chec controlled Taiwan
Eisenhower signed mutual defense with Taiwan
Open skies proposal
Interstate highway system
Lawrence seaway opened (nothing to do with it)
Two years balanced budget
Suez canal war
Hungary crisis
Little rock governor faubus. Eisenhower Denton army
Egypt and Syria formed United Arab republic.
Arab union formed 1958. By Jordan and Iraq
Arms race in middle East
Eisenhower sent forces in at invitation of saudis
Successful. Weakened Russian influence
Curtailed spending and raised interest rates. Recession. Nixon fucked.
Disliked kennedy
Eisenhower didn’t like Nixon either. Didn’t really work for his election
Nixon didn’t aggressively use Eisenhower either. Petty.
Eisenhower suggested Nixon be replaced with Rockefeller
Eisenhower announced a unilateral ban on atmospheric nuclear testing. Soviets were then forced to follorsuit.
Powers U2 crash. Ended hopes of nuclear treaty.
Eisenhower tried to cover-up u2 incident. Didn’t know Soviets had proof
Military industrial complex was his farewell speech.

Citizen Solider: A Life of Harry Truman – Aida Donald

Born in Missouri. Mother was college educated. Big influence on his life. Truman was a mama’s boy.
Didn’t to college. No dough.
Worked at a bank. Did well.diligent worker.
Father lost most family money speculating on grain futures. Harry had to come home and help on the farm
Tried business venture in mining,and then in oil. Both failed.
Joined army in 1917. Net Harry Vaughn and Jim Pendergast during training. Very successful captain of a artillery brigade.
Married after the war. Open haberdashery store. Failed.
Got involved in the Pendergast politico underworld. Write the Pickwick papers describing his guilt.
Truman was a very energetic county judge. Spearheaded many initiatives. Write paper And Results of County Planning.
Won election to Senate. Called congressman from Pendergast.
WPA – works progress administration.
Supported FDR, especially land lease act.
Was not a strong new deal supporter but in general did support.
Headed special committee to investigate the national defense program. (Hilary Clinton wanted a similar committee to investigate Iraq Afghan wars. Republican s defeated it.)
Churchill coined “the iron curtain.”
 bombed killed thousands. Other hand Japanese killed many more in China Indochina Malaysia Thailand etc. Ruthless. Marshall thought would save 250k American. Not clear if anybody knew radiation would have been so bad. Japs had 115k American prisoners. We’re threatening to kill them. Bataan death March.
Book say MacArthur democratized japan.
Truman sent flotilla to Mediterranean to protect Turkey from Soviets. They had designs on Iran too.
Kennan memos about containing Russia
To err is Truman…
Lost Congress to hop
Established national science foundation. CIA.
Truman doctrine. Assist any nation threatened by Soviets
Piano player in a whore house was said by Truman
Balfour declaration = England agreement give Jewish own state after ww1
P. 185 1946 election. Formed Republican party as known today. Objective = remove new deal
Beat Dewey
Created NATO
Korean war
assassination attempt.