Recent Reads

Scott William Carter   February 2, 2009  
  •  Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell.  The story of success.  I’ve read Gladwells other two nonfiction bestsellers, and this one was just as compelling a read.  Gladwell focuses on the circumstances — both good and bad — that allow people to become extraordinarily successful.  The lesson?  If you understand that the “self-made man” is only a small part of the story, then you can grant more people the opportunity to become successful.  However, I’m not sure I buy the author’s premise completely.  There are obviously people who are granted the same opportunities and don’t do anything with them.  Determination and persistance will still take you far in life. 
  • Nightmare in Pink, by John D. MacDonald.  A young NY banker is killed and McGee goes looking; ends up falling in love with the young man’s fiance.  Drugs.  An experimental wing of a psychiatric ward.  I’ve now read about half of the Travis McGee series (there’s twenty-two in all), and you could definitely tell this was one of the early efforts.  Still, it’s always great to spend a few hours with McGee.  It’s like seeing an old friend.
  • Stephen King, Duma Key.  A wealthy Minnesota building contractor suffers a terrible accident and loses his right arm.  He soon discovers a buried talent for painting — and finds himself summoned to Duma Key, off the Florida coast.  The rest is typical King, and fun — ghosts, paranormal power, etc.  You always want to go along for the ride so long as the characters are good, and Edgar Fremandle is a good one.  Perhaps not his best, but good.  I was, however, struck with how similar the ending was to “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”  For a writer, all the stuff about the life of an artist was an extra bonus. 
  • Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin.  A great, Pulitzer-winning biography of Lincoln that focuses on his bold, judicious cabinet.  It’s all the talk today because of Barack Obama’s fondness for the book and his own choice to fill his cabinet with strong opinions and strong personalities.  A long book, though, and it took me months to get through as I kept getting distracted by other books.  What I found so fasincating was how this little-known prairie lawyer, who was at first seen as a lightweight his other cabinet members might boss around, quickly came to command the respect, adoration, and even love of his once-time rivals for the Republican nomination. 
  • Rogue Moon, by Algis Budrys.  A short (180 page) classic of science fiction regarding an alien “death machine” found on the dark side of the moon, a transporter that essentially duplicates a human being (which indeed plays a part), and a fascinating assemblage of characters.  I’d been meaning to get to this one for a while, and I’m glad I finally did.  You can see how many later works of science fiction owe a debt to Budrys.

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