**NOW PLAYING: The President is Missing – James Patterson & Bill Clinton

The President Is Missing

by Bill Clinton & James Patterson, pub. 2018, pp. 513

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What I learned from this book

I learned that there are still some horrifying events that can and may occur in our country at any moment in time.  We tend to consume ourselves with ourselves (selfies, smartphones, reality television, etc.).  What we may not do enough of is pay attention to some of the things that threaten to take all of the fun away from us – permanently. One example of this type of catastrophe (spoiler alert #1) is the one examined in the book – the purposeful contamination of a virus meant to cause a complete and total shutdown of all of the things we take for granted but need each day: clean running water supply, electricity from the grid, internet access – as well as too many other conveniences to mention.

In other words, we may find value in gluing ourselves to every personal experience, but none of it will mean anything without continued access to the things we actually need in order to exist each day. This novel could be looked at as a wake-up call for many of us in America.

Most of us think we’re wide awake, but, in fact, we are mostly “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to the prospects of a true, wide-scale crisis.  I suppose it remains to be seen how serious we can ever get about this or any other type of wake-up call.

What I liked about this book

I thought the mention of this book being “fiction” was the most interesting.  I suppose this is so because so much of what the book is about either has, can, is, or may occur in our actual “non-fiction” America.  I imagine this is the beauty of collaboration between arguably one of our best fiction writers and arguably one of our actual former sitting U.S. presidents.

It would be easy to believe that this is all just fun and games – until we examine our current state of global affairs and recognize the looming possibilities all around us.  No, we haven’t yet had (spoiler alert #2 of 2) a sitting president disappear – nor a vice president arrested for espionage – but we have had some interesting events that, if they ever occurred, could end up threatening and/ or ending American democracy as we know it. Only time will tell…

What I disliked about this book

There was very little to dislike about this novel – except for the fact that it appeared to be a much more substantial read (in time and length) than it actually was.  For me, a 500+ pager is usually a pretty “big bite to chew on,” but it read more like a 275-er.  Again, there is nothing to dislike.  I budgeted extra time to read it, but as it turns out, I’m going to need to rush to locate the next one much faster than expected.

Whom would I recommend to read this book

I would recommend this book to anyone (of any age) who wants both a political thrill and a chill simultaneously. Whoever avoids political books due to boredom issues won’t be able to say so after reading this one.  There is a good reason why it has shot up to the top of the best seller list.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

 

 

 

**NOW PLAYING: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire…**

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

by Kurt Andersen, pub. 2017, pp. 440

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What I learned from this book

I learned that no matter what your political affiliation, your viewpoint on whether we, as Americans in 2018, are in a good place or a bad one, safe or dangerous – there is in fact a 500-year documented history that we can break down that may assist in explaining it all.  Once we can divide it into smaller, more digestible pieces – perhaps we can then figure out the best way forward.  Only time will tell.

What I liked about this book

I thought the author, Kurt Andersen, was exceptionally honest about his views.  These are volatile topics that Americans have passion about.  They can’t be taken casually “playing it” from both sides.  The good news is Andersen doesn’t try that trick.  He delivers in a forthright, self-deprecating, thorough style while wading through historical explanations of many of America’s “powder keg” topics: religion, race, and, of course, politics.

What I disliked about this book

I pretty much liked everything about this book.  I even found it amazing that the author could discuss 500-year old topics in less than five hundred pages!  This could easily have become a convoluted, wordy “1,000-plusser!”  Fortunately, it did not!

Whom would I recommend to read this book

I would recommend this book to any American citizen who feels befuddled by the current environment in which we are living.  I talk to a lot of people in my daily interactions and I’m amazed at how confused many seem as to “How in the hell did we arrive here?”  I suppose one of the brilliant angles of this book is how the author takes us back to the very beginning of the European-American settlement in the U.S.A. Then, he methodically lays out how and why it took that long to get us to where we are today.  It took a variety of religious beliefs, plenty of economic and political maneuvering, and, yes, of course, heaping amounts of…well, fantasy.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

 

**NOW** Principles – by Ray Dalio

Principles – by Ray Dalio (retired Bridgewater Hedge Fund founder & CEO)

http://principles.com

Autobiography: Ray Dalio pub. 2017, ≈592 pp.

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What I learned from this book

I learned that when someone as successful as Ray Dalio tells the reader that he already has “all he or she needs in life” – with good health, good relationships (family, especially) and integrity in the workplace –  it may time to listen to him and stop feeling like life is always wresting everything away.

What I liked about this book

I liked most the candidness of most everything the author shared. Whether it was his early ‘mistakes’ – like getting fired for punching an early career boss – mistakes and oversights he made as CEO, or the struggles of fatherhood and his interpretation of the work-life balance. Mr. Dalio was much more “down to earth” than most of the big CEO autobiographers we have become accustomed to on Wall Street.

What I disliked about this book

The only thing I thought I disliked about the book in the beginning was the graphs the author used.  They – at first sight – seemed too simplistic.  However, once the author fully explained their origins in the way that the graphs worked for him and his firm, it made much more sense as to how and why they became one of the features of the book.  In fact, one of the points that Ray Dalio drives home to his reader is that he prefers to get his message across in the simplest way possible. He doesn’t seek to dazzle his audience with his message – just that they get what he means and moves on to the next point.

Whom would I recommend to read this book

This book is a great read for any “aspiring or current businessperson” who wants an unfiltered, forthright and thorough examination of what it takes to do the right thing in business – whether in the middle of the fierce Wall Street jungle – or, in the tamer confines of 123 Main Street.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

Nuclear Showdown – by Gordon Chang (publ. 2006)

Nuclear showdown: North Korea takes on the world – by Gordon G. Chang, approx. 225 pp. (publ. 2006)

 

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“Today he can hit most of the continent of Asia and even parts of the American homeland. In a few years–probably by the end of this decade–the diminutive despot will cast his shadow across the globe: He will be able to land a nuke on any point on the planet.”

Quiz: When do you think the aforementioned was said?

  1. Last week
  2. Last month
  3. Last year
  4. Several decades ago

The correct answer, believe it or not, is “D.”

It’s mind-boggling to realize that the above statement was not made describing current DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un by the present administration, but rather about his predecessor – and father – Kim Jong-Il, way back in the 1990s.  It sheds serious light on how long we have been stuck in this pattern with North Korea and its leadership.  No one in any U.S. presidential administration has been able to successfully “move the needle” at all.  The reason given has been something to the effect of “…it’s complicated.”  And, yes, it certainly is complicated.

What I liked about this book

I liked the way the author laid out the complex history of both North and South Korea and their relation to the situation we still wallow in today.  Gordon Chang clearly “did his homework” on this work – presenting all of the events that have led up to today’s standoff.

What I learned from this book

It is jaw-dropping to learn that the U.S. and Korea never formally ended the Korean War in the 1950s It has been passed around like a hot potato to each subsequent administration to “figure out” – supposedly with cooperation from border countries like China, South Korea and/or others. One thing the “historically-naïve reader” learns is that each country has differing interests in this “game.”  Unfortunately, this contributes to providing North Korea with excuses to continue to build and refine its nuclear arsenal; while creating a “ping-pong effect” of international rhetoric to its advantage.  As years turn into decades, the only outcome thus far seems to be a higher and higher probability of global nuclear annihilation.

What I disliked about this book

I disliked the fact that our leadership is still discussing the same unsuccessful tactics with the same associated countries without any real resolution.  South Korea, Japan, Russia and China have all participated in one way or another.  The entire scenario just seems wasteful, useless and irresponsible to the citizens relying on their leadership to safeguard their lives.  It gives the world an impression that leadership seems “okay” with everything continuing as is (even though we know they are not, but rather mostly puzzled as much as we are) The optics persist and continue to look really bad.

 

To whom would I recommend this book

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who lives – or plans to live – in the following place(s): any location on planet earth!

Your thoughts?

-A.N.

 

 

 

Last Words – by George Carlin

Last Words – by George Carlin (with Tony Hendra), 297 pps., 2009

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What I liked about this book

Okay, full disclosure first.  I am a life-long fan of this man.  Although I never had the opportunity to see him LIVE, I did see many of the HBO specials and listened to many albums from childhood into adulthood.  It is no wonder that he and comedians like Richard Pryor were “joined at the hip” during their first days of comedy.

Carlin mastered the English language and had a unique (and overpowering) delivery.  He makes mention of his natural “ability” (understatement) to grab an audience and compound the humor on them.  He had an amazing ability to engage with his audience.

 

What I disliked about this book

It sort of got a little slow in the middle of the book.  Though I’m not against slowing the pace to build on the plot, it almost seemed like there was repetition of the same portions earlier in the book.  Perhaps it was either intentional (as reinforcement) or because this book is derived from his compilation of notes.  Nevertheless, my mind wandered a bit – only to be “rescued” by a strong finish.

 

To whom would I recommend this book

I would definitely limit my readership to 18 and  older.  Repeated discussions on the “7 words you cannot say on television,” along with George’s general delivery of all information would be the reasons.  Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable ride for a mature/ adult audience.  It’s easy to miss this guy.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

Rise of the Robots – by Martin Ford

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Rise of the Robots

by –  Martin Ford, 286 pgs.

What I found most amazing about this book

The most amazing thing about this book is the stark realization that many forms of human labor as we know it is on the tail end of its very existence.  It’s no accident that corporations have seized on both the efficiency and profitability that robots – when built and operated properly – can offer them.  Unlike humans, there are no sick days, vacations, health insurance, etc. that otherwise “inconvenience” the 24/7/365 profit machine mindset

That may seem fine in a money-making sense, but it far from solves every potential problem.  In fact, it may prove to create some brand new ones.  Unless new methods are derived to figure out how all of the millions (up to even tens of millions) of displaced workers are going to miraculously afford to buy those state-of –the-art, robotically-built products and services, then we may come to regret outsmarting ourselves in our technological prowess. 

It is something to keep in mind in our quest for perfection.  In fact, the author proposes a few interesting options with respect to how we could compensate those of us who may pay the ultimate price in this process – that of losing our careers to robots.  As one pretty insightful scientist (Isaac Newton) once put it, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Let’s hope that we’re mindful of our actions as we move to the next generation.

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I thought this book was the most eye-opening I’ve read in several years.  As advanced as the concepts are, the author did a fantastic job in wording it in a way that even a very young person could relate to.  It is a game changer, a disrupter, and it will most certainly be cited often in the coming years.

Whom would I recommend to read this book

This book is (like it or not) a “must-read” for all working adults who may not even realize how close they are to being replaced in their occupation.  Yes, yours!  I would also strongly recommend it to all college students who are at the point of declaring majors and career-planning for the next stage of their lives.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

Carsick: John Waters hitchhikes across America

 

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Carsick: John Waters hitchhikes across America

by John Waters

What I found most amazing about this book

I liked the author’s ability for vivid description. He is such a professional in understanding the “thoughts behind the thoughts.”  In the social psychological sense, it probably leans somewhere in the examination of ideas on the subconscious.  Either way, it is easy to see what has made John Waters a storytelling legend of his time.  He has many talents that leak into the pages simultaneously that provide us an entertaining literary cocktail to savor. Eloquence, objectivity, hilarity – just to name a few!  It’s all “in there” and this was a nice overall read.

What I DIDN’T like about this book

The story did tend to slow down somewhat in the middle portion (nothing horrible, just a notation).  Perhaps the fact that it is on the topic of hitchhiking alone may have been a contributing factor.  However, with Mr. Waters’ wonderful wit, he was always able to recapture the reader’s attention and lure him or her back into a new twist.

Whom would I recommend to read this book?

I would definitely limit the audience to mature adults only.  This book has very graphic references to all of the “bad” stuff. Not for the timid.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

After Snowden: Privacy Secrecy and Security in the Information Age

After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy and Security in the Information Age (by Ronald Goldfarb, Edward Wasserman, and David Cole)

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What I found most amazing about this book

I found it equally amazing and disturbing that in our constitution nothing was mentioned on the topic of ‘privacy.’ Not a word, nary a mention…NOTHING.  This is problematic because where there is no mention, there are no rules. Herein lies the premise of this book.   Because there are no rules applying to privacy, there is a tendency of the government to “stretch” the powers of information gathering in the United States and on its citizens.  When every telephone call, email, text message, Facebook post or tweet is subject to interception and interpretation (let alone, occasional misinterpretation), we find ourselves sort of cast at sea without a paddle.  This is causing us to question everything that is going on for the purpose of “security.”  Those who have questioned these policies and practices have done so because they feel it is the most sensible thing to do and that we have the right as citizens to know.  It is a subject that will be debated over for years to come!

What I DIDN’T like about this book

I cannot find much to dislike about this book.  I suppose the only thing I could say is that I wish the people in charge of some of the covert programs that are currently in operation would take a moment to seriously reevaluate the potential long term damage this may be causing to the American people.  I would also like to for them to be more forthright concerning what our rights are turning into during the Information Age.  I imagine that they have some ideas, but are hesitant to share because of the anticipated backlash (or, perhaps they just don’t feel we need to know).  Regardless, I just think it might be better for us all in the long haul. Constant paranoia and pessimism is probably not a healthy state of mind in the nation’s big picture.  I think it’s fair to say that George Orwell (author of 1984 and the ‘big brother’ concept) is probably doing somersaults in his grave.

Whom would I recommend to read this book?

I would certainly encourage anyone and everyone to read this book.  No age is either too young or unsophisticated to realize that most of our ‘technological engagements’ – from smartphone calls, texts, Facebook and Twitter posts, and simple emails ALL may be subject to review and even more.  We may think that we don’t have any “friends” that are under surveillance, but THEY may have second or third degree “friends” who MIGHT BE.  So, if we are all just fine with the likelihood of falling prey to unwanted surveillance – like Edward Snowden, Bradley (a.k.a. “Chelsea”) Manning and others have claimed) – then perhaps we are overreacting.  If we’re not fine with this, then perhaps we’re not overreacting one bit.

Any thoughts?

 

The Invisibles

 

By Jesse J. Holland (published, 2016)

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This book focused on a topic that most of us have never come across in our many years of American History book reading and study.  It delves into the contributions made by African slaves living and serving their masters in the U.S. White House.  At first, it may seem to many of us that this couldn’t have been possible (mostly because it was omitted from our education lessons), but given the era in which it took place and the financial constraints the U.S.A. was under in its infancy, it is obvious that this was one of the ways which our founders used to build up a nation “on a financial shoestring.”

What I found most amazing about this book

I learned that 12 of our first 18 U.S. presidents had slaves actively serving them and their families in the White House.  It is a stunning statistic, but also a sobering exposé on a topic that needs to be discussed much more often than it has been in our time.  We must remember that these slaves were in no better or privileged position than slaves serving in any other area of the country.  They simply served their masters in what is considered the single most treasured landmark in America – the White House.

What I did NOT like about this book

In my opinion, there was nothing to dislike about this book.

Whom do I recommend should read this book?

This is a great book for almost all ages.  I would have liked to have known many of the facts and seen the gallery of photos exhibited in the pages of this book when I was a young man.  As painful as some of the events could be to some readers, it is still very important to be aware of and acknowledge.  The author, Jesse Holland, does a wonderful job in taking us methodically (to the extent possible) through the era.

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Alexander Hamilton – by Ron Chernow

 

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What I liked most about this book

 I liked the way Ron Chernow laid out the book.  His writing style made it an amazing read and allows the reader to quickly get in the flow to obtain a full understanding of the complicated brilliance of this man (Hamilton) and his amazing contributions to the formation of the U.S.A. in such a brief time – while simultaneously addressing the issues that led him to an early and tragic death.

 What was most challenging about this book

 The biggest challenge of this book was simply keeping it balanced and upright while reading all 730 pages!  My left wrist and fingers took quite a beating from many weeks of twists and turns. However, the pain was well worth it!

 Why and to whom would I recommend this book

 I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning a lot about our country’s start (and probably over the age of 12). There are so many compelling details of which many of us probably are completely unaware. Finally, it is a great way to gain a better understanding of how the United States of America took shape, what the environment was like at the time, and who made the greatest impact.