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Books

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

by Hooman Majd

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In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs

by Christopher de Bellaigue

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A personal account of living in Iran post-revolution. With a bit of history thrown in.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s not for a person unfamiliar with Iranian history. I do like the approach, a mixture of personal experience and history. However, I found a good bit of the descriptions of his experience overly long and just not that interesting.

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Khomeini’s Ghost

by Con Coughlin

The author, instead of getting to deep into the details of Khomeini’s life, included a lot of information on what was going on in Iran during his life, which made the book much more interesting. Kudos.

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The Last Lecture

by Randy Pausch

Pausch was a computer science professor who contracted pancreatic cancer. He decided to do one final lecture, primarily aimed to teach his children some life lessons.

Pausch was a brave man with some interesting insights. It was a bit to uplifting for my tastes.

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All the Shah’s Men

by Stephen Kinzer

A history of the 1953 U.S. led coup in Iran.

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Countercoup

by Kermit Roosevelt

This book, about the 1953 coup in Iran that toppled Mossadegh, gets a lot of criticism for over-emphasizing the American involvement and also playing fast-and-loose with the facts.

That may be, I can’t judge, but I can say it’s a really good read. Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, could write.

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John Muir: A Passion for Nature

by Donald Worster

A biography of the environmentalist extraordinaire, John Muir. Good book, nicely paced, it gets a bit slow towards the end, but I guess to be expected since Muir’s life wasn’t as exciting.

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Henry David Thoreau: A Life

by Laura Dassow Walls 

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

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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.

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Books

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.
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Books

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.

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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.

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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.

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Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote

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THE WORLD According to MR. ROGERS

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Book of Luke

Pretty much the same story as all the others.

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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.

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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 

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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.

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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.

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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.