Ron Powers, Mark Twain. This is an extraordinarily well written and detailed life of Twain. Even as an historian, I learned a ton of history about the 19th and early 20th centuries as they formed a backdrop for Twain's amazing life and creations. Out in paperback.
Edward Hoagland, Sex and the River Styx, hardback. Finely crafted essays which include observations about life, death, and nature. Hoagland is a superb writer. Accessible to everyone.
Garrison Keillor, Good Poems, (pb). Keillor's collection of poems as heard on The Writer's Almanac on public radio. I read a few poems each day just to engage new ideas and feelings, and recall old ones too--and to marvel at what really good wordsmiths and artists can do. Whew!
Alistair Cooke, Letter from America, (used pb.) Wonderful volume of insightful and entertaining essays about America from 1946-2004. Views of people and events from all walks of life, short essays which are entertaining and also useful as distraction while you wait in the doctor's office.
James Hollis, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life (hb). Hollis is a practicing Jungian analyst and I find his thoughts and ideas to be most instructive. This volume, in particular, is so very relevant as I trip and stumble into the latter second half of my life. Check out this quote: p.65 "Despite what we say to ourselves about wanting to know who we really are, there is a very strong chance that we will steer clear of decisive meetings with ourselves for as long as possible...No one I ever meet began a serious, sustained therapeutic conversation simply in order to have a good chat with a stranger." A'ha! Caught me right between the eyes.
Jeanne Braham, The Light Within the Light: Portraits of Donald Hall, Richard Wilbur, Maxine Kumin, & Stanley Kunitz. Liz found this little gem for me to buy in the Brandywine Museum bookstore after several hours of "experiencing" the art of N.C. Wyeth, and his son Andrew and grandson, Jamie. I have been reading it aloud to her in the car as we travel. We've finished Hall and Wilbur, and then expanded the experience by reading more of their poems in Keillor's Good Poems (above) which accompanies us on our "Sentimental Journey."Braham writes beautifully about some of my favorite poets.
People interested in Progressive thought who feel starved by the fare offered up by traditional media should check out the web site < http://www.nationofchange.org>. You'll find such writers as Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, R J Eskow, Chalmers Johnson, Robert Reich and the like. Articles are intelligently written, obviously biased Left of Center, but they do not beat up irrationally on Conservatives or other occupants of the Right. Topics include such issues as foreign policy, the economy, politics, Defense, the status of America in the World, the global economy, and so forth. At the web site you can get a free daily subscription if you are tired of the offerings of Time and Newsweek, and you can make a tax free donation if you choose. So far, I am using it as my main source of public opinion about matters which are important. And, there are no ads!
Here are three books I discovered while doing research for my grandson's history package. Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change. This is a pretty frightening account of the fourteen instances since the 1890's that America involved itself in the affairs of other nations with the deliberate intention of effecting regime change in those nations. Along the same lines, is William Blum, Killing Hope: Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II--Updated Through 2003. This is another discouraging look at the many times America has been overtly or secretly involved in the internal affairs of other countries all around the globe. I would like to know who defines "self interest" insofar as it is used as a justification for our actions. Chris Hedges, lately seen as an active participant in the "Occupy" movement, is better known as a war correspondent and observer. He's "walked the walk" and reports accordingly. I came upon two books of his as I researched Zack's learning package on military history. What Every Person Should Know About War. This book is written in Q and A format and gets down to the nitty gritty details of what war is like. Probably a great gift for anyone who is considering enlisting in the military--a taste of reality before it is eaten whole. Then there's War As A Force That Gives Us Meaning. This book makes use of the classics as one way of helping us understand why and how war is and has been such a prevalent condition in human history.
Finally, check out the PBS video entitled Vietnam war Stories: Stories You Haven't Heard From Veterans Who Can't Forget. Watching and listening to these gray haired vets will bring tears to your eyes. All of the casualties of war are not left on the battlefield. How anyone is even reasonably "normal" after being in a war is a mystery to me.