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Holiday Reading

November 28, 2015

We occasionally post about a topic that has nothing to do with music, tech or policy.  Here’s a few ideas for holiday reading, some new some not.  If these titles seem a bit serious, well we live in serious times deserving of reflective mentation.

Winter is Coming by Garry Kasparov.  An important new book by the former world chess champion who is now one of the most determined opponents of the Putin autocracy.  He was beaten and arrested at the Pussy Riot punk prayer event in Moscow.

Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh.  If you only know Evelyn Waugh from Brideshead Revisited, you’re missing a lot.  Scoop is hands down one of the funniest send ups of modern media ever written, notwithstanding it was first published in 1938.  Waugh chronicles the machinations of Lord Copper, owner of The Daily Beast (yes, that’s right) and a host of others with Waugh’s own magical touch of character reanimation.  You might never know he served with The Blues.

The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones–Confronting a New Age of Threat by Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum.  A fantastic journey into the contemporary world of anonymous violence facilitated by technology.  I got your self driving car right here.

Greenmantle by John Buchan.  An oldie but goodie yarn by the father of the spy novel featuring Richard Hannay in a WWI era clash between jihadis and the stiff upper lip.  The sequel to The 39 Steps.  I’ve always thought Hitchcock should have filmed this one instead.

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War by P.W. Singer and August Cole.  Just to show we recognize talent where talent shows itself, a novel co-written by P.W. Singer, the brilliant military strategist and commentator on the ethics of machine warfare who now works for Google at the New America Foundation.  While the book may seem futuristic, there isn’t anything in it that is not a currently existing technology–given that the general theme is China’s attack on the United States, that should give pause.  If you are on your toes, you will recognize some of the “fictionalized” events as based on news stories you may have read.

The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.  If you’re a Civil War student, this is a wonderful if grisly book told by a great strategist and complex man who today would have great difficulty becoming either a general officer or President.  His narrative of Civil War battles at which he commanded (such as the siege of Vicksburg) is illuminating.

The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan.  If you have any desire to understand Vladimir Putin, read this book.  Written by the proprietors of the Agentura.ru website, the authors bring a local perspective and extraordinary analysis worthy of those people who work across the river.  Soldatov and Borogan trace the devolution of the KGB and evolution of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB).  Excellent factual analysis of the Nord-Ost and Beslan school massacres.

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Deadline Artists or Deadline Artists: Scandals, Tragedies & Triumphs, each edited by John P. Avalon, Jesse Angelo and Errol Louis.  Every blogger should own and read and reread these excellent collections of newspaper columns.  No writer in these volumes would get a “tl/dr”.  The collections include columns by authors like Ernest Hemingway, Nora Ephron, Mark Twain, Mike Royko, Jimmy Breslin and of course the great H.L. Mencken.  The best example of what good comes of barriers of space and time.

Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  Saint-Exupery’s breakthrough novel from his time in 1929 establishing air mail routes in South America.  The next time you’re on an airliner at night imagine how the experience might differ without the radar and radio, forget the autopilot and fly by wire operations.  And then there’s the gasoline part.  Not to mention flying the Andes Mountains.  At night.  Oh, and the heating.

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The Little Prince is his other book.  He disappeared while flying a reconnoissance mission in the Free French Air Force from Corsica in 1944, but has a plaque in his memory in the Pantheon.  Altogether not bad for a college dropout.

Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens. I always adored the late Christopher Hitchens and love this biographical memoir.  If you don’t know his work or life, just cruise around on YouTube and you will find some of his noteworthy performances.  I recommend as an introduction the Hitchens-William F. Buckley, Jr. debate which is young Christopher at his most devilish.  A confirmed atheist, you get the flavor from this one which might be a bit of blasphemy in the season of hope, but there it is.

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