Sunday, August 5, 2012

More books

A few more books we have read recently...

An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale - This is the story of a New Zealander who spent several years living on a tiny island in the south Pacific. The author does a good job of describing his motivations for doing so, how his life in the surrounding islands had prepared him for this, and how he goes about arranging things on his island to make living feasible. I was struck by how capable the man was, yet how difficult it really is to do something like this entirely on one's own. The island he lived on is Suvarow, now a New Zealand national park, which we will visit in a couple of weeks.

"Where Men Win Glory" by Jon Krakauer - The tragic true story of Pat Tillman, an NFL football player who left his career and signed up for military duty after September 11th. I have read Krakauer's other books and this one seems most similar to "Into the Wild". It is a thoroughly researched piece of investigative journalism that follows Tillman's life through his unlikely rise to NFL stardom and on to his enlistment, deployment, and death in Afghanistan. This is both an exploration of an extraordinary man and an investigation into the circumstances around his death. The book also sheds (unfavourable) light on how Tillman's death was used by US politicians during the time leading up to the presidential election.

"The Prince" by Nicollo Machiavelli - Like many of the classics we have on board, I have been meaning to read this for a long time. This short book is a treatise on how to rule. Apparently, many such books had been written prior to Machiavelli's work. However, he was the first to write about the gritty reality of how to attain and keep power as opposed to how things should be done in theory. I was struck by how his advice and techniques are used to this day by both democracies and dictatorships. We have not moved as far from the 16th century as we like to think. E.g., the US still has a prince (the President) advised by a council of influential people. With a few changes of terminology, this book could also be made over into a business management guide for the aspiring CEO.

"The Glassblower of Murano" - An historical novel/romance set in Venice. This follows the life of a famous Renaissance glass blower and his descendent who returns to Venice to explore her roots and escape a messy divorce. Venice once maintained a monopoly on fine glass making (e.g., the production of large mirrors) and the plot is rife with intrigue, betrayal, and ruthlessness needed to maintain this monopoly. Notable are loving descriptions of Venice and of the art of glass making; the author has deep experience with both.

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