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One Sentence Reviews Of Last Five Novels I Have Read

Here are one sentence reviews for the last five novels I have read along with a link to each book—

Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow—Too much testosterone for my tastes and not as good as its reputation.

The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud—First-rate story of the shortcomings of literary and Ivy League elite in days leading up to the exploiting of America’s larger vulnerabilities on 9/11.      

Augustus by John Williams—National Book Award winner from 1973 is story of first Roman emperor told by the well-researched imagining of personal and official correspondences.   

The End Of The Affair by Graham Greene–At first I thought nothing would happen in this book, but in the end it read like a thriller. 

Malgudi Days by R.K Narayan–A collection of short stories, it is an account of India that matches your best concepts of that country while remaining surprising and original.

I found The Emperor’s Children the best of this group. Though I would strongly recommend any of the above books with the exception of Henderson.

March 31, 2008 Posted by | Books, Reading Lists | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Wicker’s Account Of Eisenhower Presidency Tops Weekend Reading

Tom Wicker’s account of Dwight Eisenhower’s Presidency tops this weekend’s reading list. I would detail what I’ve read so far, but I’m almost done and I’m going to make it a blog post at some later point.

Wicker was a long time political reporter at the New York Times.

The Wicker book is simply titled Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is part of the American President’s series that had been edited by Arthur Schlesinger.

Schlesinger is now dead.  Click here for an obit.  Schlesinger wrote The Age Of Jackson.

Also, on the list is It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over by Baseball Prospectus. This is an account of great baseball pennant races.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’m reading this because those guys at Baseball Prospectus are a bit libertarian in their outlook and I should not be using valuable reading time on baseball. 

But I suppose everybody has their vices.

I’ll also be looking at my book about the world’s oceans called Ocean: The World’s Last Wilderness Revealed by the AmericanMuseum of Natural History.

It’s a great big book filled with both pictures and comprehensive explanations.  I can’t suggest it strongly enough for people interested in this topic.      

September 22, 2007 Posted by | Books, Political History, Reading Lists, Sea Life | Leave a comment

The American By Henry James Tops Labor Day Reading List


It’s Labor Day Weekend. The wife and I are going to drive 50 miles south to Galveston on the beautiful Texas coast. It should be a nice day-trip. Maybe we’ll see a Bottlenose Dolphin.  

That said, holidays are a time for reading. All days are a time for reading.

Here is a Labor Day Reading List—-

I just purchased the novel The American by Henry James. Published in 1877, The American is about a millionaire who goes to Europe looking for a wife. In Europe, this wealthy American is seen as crude and vulgar by the old established families.

This will be my second Henry James novel. I’ve read Washington Square. That was about a father who would not let his daughter marry a man he saw as a phony and without prospects. The father was cold and cutting and I enjoyed the book.

I’ll also be reading William W. Freehling’s The Road To Disunion: Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854.

The chapter I’m currently on in Disunion is about antebellum South Carolina.

The author contends South Carolina worked itself up into rebellion over a period of many years. South Carolina pulled back from rebellion in the Nullification conflict in 1832 between Jackson and Calhoun. By the 1850’s however, South Carolina was pretty much ready to go.

Freehling says the bravado and aggression of plantation owners was the flipside of insecurity over, among other things, South Carolina’s economic stagnation and the rise of white man’s democracy outside of South Carolina. South Carolina elites wanted as little democracy as possible.

Insecurity is often the flipside of aggression.

I’ll also be reading my monthly copy of the liberal magazine The American Prospect. It’s often quite well done. Click this link to see if it’s something you might find informative.

I hope all blog readers and everybody else has a great Labor Day Weekend.   

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Books, Galveston, Reading Lists, Sea Life | 2 Comments

Summer Blogging Break Reading List


It’s time for a summer blogging break from Texas Liberal. I need a week off.

(Though I suppose I might sneak in a post if I can’t contain myself.)  

A summer blogging break requires a reading list.

Here are some suggestions— 

The Age Of Reform —From Bryan To F.D.R by Richard Hofstadter.

Published in 1955, Reform still has value. The account of years of progress gives hope that we can turn out own times around and the Americans Hofstadter writes about are often types still recognizable in the current day.

Crossing The Yellow River—Three Hundred Poems From The Chinese translated by Sam Hamill. 

One of my favorite books. The brief poems from ancient Chinese poets take you back in time and have the effect of putting you in a mindset of reflection.

Leviathan—The History Of Whaling In America by Eric Jay Dolan 

Just published. It’s the kind of subject you’re either interested in or not. I’m interested.

(The photo is of a Northern Right Whale.) 

Care Bears Caring Contest—By Nancy Parent

The Care Bears have a contest to see who can be the nicest. At the end a tie is declared and each one of the Care Bears wins a prize. Damn right. Just the program. 

Infrastructure— A Field Guide To The Industrial Landscape by Brian Hayes

Oversized book tells all about cell phone towers and train yards and other things we see each day, but don’t really understand their purpose or how they work. Many pictures. First-rate.

The Great Political Theories Volumes 1 & 2-Edited by Michael Curtis

Shorthand explanations of political ideas all the way back the ancient world in two mass-market sized paperbacks.

Beach reading? Well….I once read Jaws by Peter Benchley and I thought it was awful. I’d rent the movie. Nevil Shute’s On The Beach is a winner. 

Two great Texas blogs to read this summer and all of the time are Jobsanger from Amarillo and South Texas Chisme from the Corpus Christi area.

Also this summer, please consider some of the central tenets of American liberalism.

Liberals contend that individuals are part of a larger society, that we are dependent upon each other in many ways, and that government has some role to play in the lives of individual citizens and in society as a whole.

Lastly, please don’t forget that I also blog at Where’s The Outrage? and that I have one of five featured political blogs at The Houston Chronicle.  

I hope everybody is having a nice summer.

August 4, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Blogging, Books, Reading Lists | 5 Comments

Saul Bellow’s Henderson The Rain King Tops Weekend Reading

Saul Bellow’s novel Henderson the Rain King tops the weekend reading list for what may be yet another rainy Houston weekend.

(The above photo of Bellow is taken from The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia.)   

In this novel, published in 1959, a man, Henderson, leaves his family in America to go to Africa. He is not certain what he is looking for in Africa, but he knows that he is lacking something in life.

In Africa, a tribe of natives comes to believe that Henderson can bring rain. So he becomes some sort of rain god. I’m not up to that part.    

While I mostly read non-fiction, I often have a novel going as well. I read a few books at a time. I have “restless book syndrome.”

Henderson is looking for something new and different.  Just as many of us are. Though what we already have is often plenty good.

The Henderson character is written in a kind of over-the-top way. But if you think about it, most of us are absurd in many respects. It keeps us human to be flawed and absurd. 

I’ve enjoyed the book so far.

July 28, 2007 Posted by | Books, Reading Lists | Leave a comment

Andrew Jackson Reading List


A good thing about blogging are readers who track down your blog looking for information about something you find interesting.

I’ve made some posts about President Andrew Jackson—who was a friend of Sam Houston—and as a result I get search engine hits from people looking for Andrew Jackson. With that in mind, here are some solid books on Jackson and his times.

Jackson’s leading biographer is Robert Remini. He wrote a three-volume biography of Jackson that is also available condensed into one book. The one volume is a great starting point. The three volume set is still around as well. 

Richard Hofstadter’s classic The American Political Tradtion has a chapter critical of Jackson.

Arthur Schlesinger’s The Age Of Jackson is a Pulitzer Prize winning assessment of Jackson and his times.

A darker take on the same era is found in The Jacksonian Persuasion by Marvin Myers.

Here is the link to the C-Span series on Andrew Jackson that ran in 1999.

Thanks for reading this blog. The more you know about history the better you can understand the present. You’ll also be a more interesting person.

Here is a link to other Texas Liberal posts involving books in one way or another.

July 19, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Political History, Reading Lists | Leave a comment

Humanity—A Moral History Of The 20th Century Tops Weekend Reading

This weekend, which is expected to bring yet more rain to Houston, I’ll be re-reading portions of Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century by Jonathan Glover.

This book was published in 1999. 

Humanity is about the process by which people become able to do terrible things to one another. It is not a cheery book. 

Humanity offers insight into how certain ethnic groups or followers of a specific religion become vulnerable to violence. The author contends that violence often follows a process of dehumanization in which targeted people are portrayed as less than human or dangerously alien to prevailing norms. 

It was, in part, nastiness directed at Republicans, and some Democrats as well, on a few left-leaning blogs I’ve read that led me to pick up the book again. Anyone who thinks their side of the political debate is benign by nature has it wrong. 

can’t recommend Humanity strongly enough.   

Here is the New York Times review of the book.

July 13, 2007 Posted by | Books, Reading Lists | 2 Comments