I often like to read a series of books in one area of interest, so I can get a better perspective. This quarter, my area of interest was Vietnam.
The first book, Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster, current National Security Advisor, provides a PhD thesis level summary of the decisions made from President Kennedy through President Johnson and their staffs, related to the beginning of the Vietnam War. I found this book to be informative and chilling in its unrelenting focus on the decisions that were made that impacted far too many lives.
The next book, The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It is narrated by a double-agent who starts in Vietnam, moves to the US and I won’t say more. It’s well-written and an interesting look into the mindset of those torn between love for their homeland and a desire to get away from communism and all of the confusion this can cause.
I finished the Vietnam series with Through the Valley: My Captivity in Vietnam, by Col William Reeder who recently marked his 45th anniversary as a POW in Vietnam. His heroic journey and what it taught him and now us is worth the read. In today’s world, it can often be difficult to relate and realize how brave our veterans were and continue to be in the face of danger we can barely fathom.
The three books, overall, showed the dysfunction of the war, the contradictions for those native to Vietnam and the extraordinary efforts and courage of those who fought in this war.
The next series of books was focused on data. First, I read The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, which follows two Israeli researchers who expertly analyze how our mindsets often distort our view of reality. A very topical book as we all wonder how and why millions of people are impacted by fake or highly biased news. It turns out we have enough trouble keeping things straight without any untoward help. The next book in this series was The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld by Jamie Bartlett, which outlines the hidden world of the web. It’s too often a home for anonymous hate, illicit transactions and behavior that can be surprising. Yet, it is important to become expert at its role in society, since it is real and the dark net is increasingly the place to hide from society in plain sight.
I finished up the quarter with two very interesting reads. The first is a book called The Green and the Black by Gary Sernovitz. Gary, who writes with a sense of humor, discusses fracking and the growth of this industry. His perspective is fairly unbiased, which is rare on this topic. He is also the brother of Andy Sernovitz, founder and CEO of Socialmedia.org, so if you know Andy’s sense of humor, you’ll realize these brothers are similar in that regard. The final book was Bob Lutz’s book, Icons and Idiots, which is a travelogue of Bob’s views of his bosses throughout his career and what he learned from each, including those he thought were fairly poor leaders. Lutz, who was one of the more creative executives in the automotive industry for many years, never disappoints in his unvarnished views on life.
For next quarter, I am planning to start with a political theme. I will start with Shattered and then read one book each from the side of conservatives, liberals and libertarians.
As always, look forward to your suggestions for books that you are reading.