Reading is one of my great passions. Next to hitting a small white ball down the middle of a green fairway, it is how I love go to spend my free time. To say my reading inventory is eclectic would be an understatement. I read for pleasure, for fun, for knowledge, for growth.
Electronic readers have enriched my reading experience. I know many of you insist on a paper book, newspaper or pamphlet as the only way reading should be experienced. Don’t get me wrong, there is something comforting about having the Sunday New York Times or Saturday Wall Street Journal in the morning sitting alongside a fresh cup of coffee, but electronic readers have transformed access and accessibility to all forms of literature and news. It is just so easy to acquire new books and the latest papers, whether by purchase or going to the library.
I use a number of e-readers and have a few of my favorites, which I am prohibited to endorse in this blog. Suffice it to say, I especially like the option to have audio books and often switch from reading to listening dependent on the setting. For audio, connection to Bluetooth wireless ear buds is a treat.
I previously shared lists of business- and medically-related books that I had read. I was recently asked about books I’m reading for pleasure. These “popular” books may not impress certain people at the library or literary circles, but they are what many of these people are actually reading on the plane. I would be happy to share with you a number of erudite classics, New York Times Book Review recommendations, and other high-brow literature that are on my e-reader and will prove I actually had a liberal arts education. For this blog’s purpose, I am concentrating on fun reading with only a few books that made me think or have to look up words.
So I popped open my e-reader and created this list.
- “Two Kinds of Truth” (2017) by Michael Connelly
- “The Late Show” (2017) by Michael Connelly
I have read almost all Michael Connelly books, which include the Harry Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer series. Connelly is a former Los Angeles newspaper crime reporter and understands the inside workings of both the police department and the legal system. Homicide is his beat and the stories Connelly writes are fast paced and captivating mysteries.
These two books came out in the last several months. “Two Kinds of Truth” is a continuation of the saga of homicide detective Harry Bosch. He is one of the more compelling characters in crime literature, and this book does not fail to deliver on this complex subject. “The Late Show” introduces a new series and a new character in the Connelly stable. Detective Renee Ballard works the “late show,” the night shift for the Los Angeles Police Department. She, like Bosch, has seen her share of trouble with her superiors in the department. Like Bosch, she is an excellent investigator and doggedly determined to see that justice is done.
Like many of the books that are in my e-reader library, earlier books in the series noted are probably better reads. For Connelly, I would suggest “The Black Echo” (2013) for the Harry Bosch books (or read the series in order) and “The Lincoln Lawyer” (2012). I still enjoy reading the evolution of an author’s series. Same reason I have read Vince Flynn’s series and the multiple versions of Tom Clancy Jack Ryan books, even though the primary authors have passed and been taken over by others.
I have been asked why I wouldn’t read novels about the medical profession. I have and do, but for fictional enjoyment I like to “get out of the office.” I don’t think that is unique to the medical profession.
- “The Road to Character” (2016) by David Brooks
David Brooks is a highly respected opinion columnist for the New York Times and author of several bestselling books. This book is about character and how it is developed, encouraged, and challenged. He starts with a description of the eternal battle between the resume developing self and the altruistic self. That narrative alone made me think for hours about this internal battle we all face. Like most great books, the beginning hooks you into the theme, and Brooks does not fail in this regard.
I had the great pleasure of hearing Brooks lecture at a recent national medical meeting. He is urbane, funny, self-effacing and incredibly thoughtful. After hearing him speak, I purchased the audio version of the book, which he personally narrates. Books are great for all of us to add our own areas of focus, but it is great for an author to provide this insight by adding his inflections and verbal emphasis.
This book is a must read. Thought provoking, challenging and insightful. Whether you agree with all he writes or not, it is the reason most of us read non-fiction.
And yes, reading about character is a pleasure.
- “The Cuban Affair” (2017) by Nelson DeMille
I became a DeMille fan after reading “Plum Island” (2011). His casual style, his quips and his interesting interactive dialogue keeps me interested and entertained. Many of these had me laughing out loud. The story plot was also fast moving and topical. After Plum Island, I read most of DeMille’s books, including the popular “General’s Daughter” (1993), which was subsequently made into a feature film. “The Cuban Affair” isn’t DeMille’s best, but it is a good casual read while at poolside or on vacation.
I would suggest reading an earlier book by DeMille that is very long but a great read – “Gold Coast” (1991), a complex tale of a Mafia don drawing a Wall Street lawyer into his corrupt world. Like many authors, some of the best works are his earlier books and stories.
- “The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds” (2016) by Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis has produced some of the more influential popular books about complex topics, such as the mortgage-backed bond industry, Wall Street and baseball metrics. This book follows the science of decision making, from intuitive guesses to firm analytic projections. It is told by exploring the close partnership of Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, whose work demonstrated the problems of human decision making. It reinforces the need to understand the statistical basis of what we believe are truths, such as the “hot hand,” the “run” in gambling, and business predictions.
If you are not willing to read the works of Kahneman and Tversky, and/or explore the science of data analytics and decision making, take a look at this book. It will change your opinion about how we as humans decide.
And yes, the psychology of decision making is a pleasure as well.
- “The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel” (2017) by Lee Child
The latest installment of the Jack Reacher series, “The Midnight Line” continues the journey of the former major in military police who now travels the country without attachments of any sort and seemingly walks into trouble wherever he goes. Not the best in the series, but a casual read that continues the myth of Jack Reacher. The series has been made into major motion pictures, but I can’t understand the casting of Tom Cruise playing Reacher in the movies (alright, I understand box office appeal). Somehow he doesn’t appear to be the written version of the 6’4” bruiser capable of taking on five assailants as detailed in the books. How about the Rock?
- “Leonardo da Vinci” (2017) by Walter Isaacson
This magnificent book is so beautifully published that it is worth getting the printed copy for the quality of the accompanying pictures and diagrams. This is a continuation of the biographies of geniuses that Isaacson has written. These include superb works on Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs (I am particularly fond of the Franklin work.). To get a glimpse into the mind of the endless creativity, curiosity and breadth of da Vinci is inspirational, although humbling to all of us who seem to waste a fair amount of our time on less meaningful ideas.
- “The Rooster Bar” (2017) by John Grisham
- “Camino Island” (2017) by John Grisham
Two more books from the prolific lawyer turned writer. “The Rooster Bar” is simply a story about three students tired of debt incurred while attending a for-profit law school and who turn to practicing law without a license. It seems it was inspired by the rampant student loan crisis caused by easy money available to students and the consequences of this practice. The story developed around this was not particularly believable and seemed contrived. I do like Grisham’s easy prose, but I would pass on the book.
“Camino Island” is not a typical Grisham legal book. It centers on the theft of rare books and the subsequent investigations of the heist. Easy quick read with a different premise than in the usual Grisham novel.
I like Grisham as an author but not all of his books are great reads. If you haven’t read him, read his first, “A Time to Kill” (2009), a truly captivating story about a small time attorney dealing with a heart wrenching murder trial. This was made into a major motion picture that is very true to the book. Grisham’s style and prose captures much of the Deep South. Several other books, like “The Firm” (2009) and “The Rainmaker” (2011), are really tightly written and excellent stories.
- “The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War” (2015) by A.J. Baime
A great book about Detroit, Henry and Edsel Ford, and the role the Ford Motor Company, our city and the region played in creating the manufacturing engine to produce the necessary bombers to win World War II. Most people may not realize the role of Edsel Ford, a truly remarkable person of enormous character, who was instrumental in this effort. Read about him and I am sure you too will be impressed with this quiet hero of American industry. This book establishes why the entirety of this country owes so much to the manufacturing world and workers of Detroit.
Finally, my e-reader always has an Elmore Leonard book available. My latest is “Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories” (2015). This is a compilation of early prose written by Leonard at the start of his career. It demonstrates how he established his style, the influence of Hemingway, his use of adverbs to modify the verb “said.” Still my favorite author.
I also love the style of fellow physician and far superior writer, Charles Krauthammer, whose decades-long columns, largely for the Washington Post, are compiled in the book “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics” (2013).
Man, I wish I could write like him.
Regardless of your style and interests, keep reading.