The Book Bag

The stream of consciousness list of books I have read. There may or may not be any attributions. Books at the top were read more recently than books at the bottom. Much of this will be trashy escapist fiction, so don't expect to find too many pearls in this oyster bed. If you want more scholarly recommendations, try here.

I find I cannot go to sleep at night unless I have learned something new and interesting, usually in the form of a book. I try to find a balance between fiction and non-fiction, both because non-fiction typically has a longer impact on my brain and because it takes me longer to read a non-fiction book, and therefore I get more bang for my buck.

Bone in the Throat by Anthony Bourdain. See my comments about Bourdain below under Gone Bamboo. This book is about a man who just wants to be a chef while the mob is taking over the restaurant he works in, the FBI is trying to extort him in working for them, and his ties to the mob through his father try to draw him into becoming a gangster. If you like comedic-but-serious crime stories ala Get Shorty or Pulp Fiction, you will like Bone in the Throat.

Vitals by Greg Baer. Most science fiction is juvenile--meaning it's intended audience is children. Baer is an author who writes for adults. His books always contain some big idea, and usually involve lots of action and global (or sometimes interstellar) conspiracy. Vitals is about a scientist who is on the cusp of discovering the Fountain of Youth only to find that others got there considerably before him and they mean to protect their secrets at all costs.

The Darwin Awards by Wendy Northcutt. By the author of the popular site. Numerous idiotic ways that members of the human race have used to remove themselves from the gene pool. Some of the anecdotes are pretty funny, but the author has had to lower standards to far to make an entire book.

Who's Afraid of Schrodinger's Cat? by Ian Marshall and Danah Zohar. I keep this by my bedside and read another chapter each night. The book is a series of short chapters of a page or so, each one of which describes some difficult scientific concept like entropy in clear cocktail party language.

Valhalla Rising by Clive Cussler. I always read the Dirk Pitt novels. It is surprising to me how well these trashy works do. Later editions boggle my mind at how pulpy they are, but they never cease to be good fun.

The Killing Zone: How and Why Pilots Die by Paul A. Craig. The best book I have ever seen on safety for the private pilot. The issue basically boils down to poor proficiency coupled with poor preparedness. If you are going to fly, you need to be in training all the time, just like the airline pilots.

Free Flight by James Fallows. The book that was originally published in Atlantic Monthly that talks about how NASA and a handful of small companies are revolutionizing General Aviation. Recommended.

At the Edge of Space by Milton O. Thompson. A test pilot insider's account of the X-15 program. He isn't the most dynamic writer around, but it is interesting reading for pilots.

In Search of Churchill by Martin Gilbert. I went looking for a Churchill biography and bought this book because it looked the least intimidating. Some Churchill biographies span more volumes than the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Unfortunately, the book is rather more about the author's efforts to write a monumental Churchill biography than it is about Churchill himself. I had no idea how hung up on biographies the British are, but the book gives a unique perspective into these vain grasps at immortality that go on amongst the Empire's Elite.

Plague Wars by Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg. A book that documents the bio-warfare activities of virtually every country but our own. Japan, Russia, Iraq, and on and on. Some of the incidents recounted are chilling.

Flint by Paul Eddy. Excellent thriller novel.

Cat Chaser by Elmore Leonard. Leonard's formula of having really stupid petty criminals strive for greatness and then screw up never ceases to amuse.

Futureland by Walter Mosley. An excellent collection of nine near-future science fiction stories. Some of the conclusions are all too believable and chilling. We will see them in our lifetime.

The Road to CEO by Sharon Voros. Leading executive recruiters talk about how executives should behave. Good career-development material.

The Alibi by Sandra Brown. I can't believe I like these upscale Harlequin romances, but they are really great. Just enough action to keep the male mind engaged together with steamy romance not far under the covers. Actually, it's usually right out in the open!

Gone Bamboo by Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain is a new author for me and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is sort of a mix of Hiasen and Leonard, which is to say zany comedy connected with serious violence. Bourdain is a chef by day at Brasserie Les Halles in New York. Check it out. This particular one is set entirely on the island of Saint Martin, which my wife and I both adore.

Burnt Sienna by David Morrell. Morrell is an awesome thriller writer, and this book really delivers a delectible mix of art, world travel, murder, and intrigue.


All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.