As a writer, editor and publisher I am still a reader. So here’s another small sample (the fourth) of reviews you will find on my Goodreads author page, with very slight editorial revisions. You can’t be much of a writer if you aren’t also a reader. Politics, religion, classic works–you name it, I have read it. So here’s an eclectic mix of books I think you should know about. You may or may not agree with my take on all of them, but they all contribute in one way or another to how I look at the world and how I myself write.
Romancing the Buddha: Embracing Buddhism in My Daily Life by Michael Lisagor (read 2005)
The image many people have is of monks with shaved heads wearing long robes. Or maybe Richard Gere looking very serious. Those are other forms of Buddhism. The Buddhism that Mike Lisagor practices is Nichiren Buddhism, as popularized by Daisaku Ikeda and the Buddhist lay organization, Soka Gakkai International (SGI). The SGI is the leading and largest Buddhist denomination, with members in over 192 countries and territories. As Lisagor reveals through a collection of humorous anecdotes from his own life, this is a religious practice for day-to-day application and not something for hermits, professional monks or scholars. Read this book for lightening up your perspective on whatever problems you may have and laugh along with Mike as he overcomes one situation after another and offers keen insights on family relationships.
Iraq and Back: Inside the War to Win the Peace by Kim Olson (read 2007)
I had the pleasure of being in a writing class with Kim Olson as she worked on this book, a memoir. The raw writing was very entertaining and interesting, including the humorous incident of a wave at a passing local as she got caught in mid-stream during a pit-stop in an open field. Then there was the disaster of her civilian boss suggesting to the Air Force Chief of Staff that she should be promoted to General and where she should be assigned–derailing her career at its apex.
Some reviewers fault her criticism of the Bush administration officials and others; I wish there was more of it. At the same time, knowing what she intended to write and what I see in the book, I think some miss the point in thinking this book is primarily about her experience in Iraq or the relative merits of ORHA versus CPA. I don’t believe it is. I see the book using Iraq as an anchor around which the bigger boat floats.
It is about the issue of Iraq reconstruction. But it’s also about the harsh challenges and the rampant sexism that women have faced in advancing in the military–in this case the Air Force, especially those who chose to fly and to command men. About the conflicts between roles as a mother and an officer that she encountered. About the interesting ways that a woman may be better at resolving some issues than men. It is about how she overcame all the impediments that were put in her way and became an outstanding officer in the Air Force. It also reveals the good old boy club is far from dead–shooting her down in the end despite her record. It is worthwhile reading to get a different perspective on all these issues and more.
Vampyrie: Origin of the Vampire by Tina Frisco (read 2018)
This one grabbed me in the first few paragraphs. Occasionally, you’ll find tweaks on the vampire genre. This story has more than one, but I won’t offer any spoilers here. It’s well-written–with believable characters and dialogue. Tension and suspense grows as conflicts arise between the protagonist and her supporters. Secrets and more secrets are revealed like an onion being peeled. The last few offer unexpected twists. If you like the genre–with accompanying suspense, you’ll love this one as I did.
Less Than Meets the Eye: an Aaron Asherfield Mystery by David Berlinski (read 2014)
If you are into mocking political correctness, this may be the book for you–but surely there are others who have done it at least as well and with a more comprehensible story line. It is hard to recall the many characters, for such a short book, from one chapter to the next and what their significance is in the story arc/plot line–to the extent there is one. Happily I did not buy it; I picked up this book on the giveaway shelf at my local library. If you are inclined to read it, perhaps based on his nonfiction work (I have not read any of that) I recommend getting it from a library or buying one of the very cheap used versions Amazon (and others probably) has.
Retrograde: Some Principles are Timeless by E. J. Randolph (read 2017)
Borrowed a copy of the paperback edition. Didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the writing and the story-line. Randolph keeps the plot moving in this sci-fi tale of diplomacy made dangerously difficult on an intentionally backwards and backwater planet. Conflicts among various factions keep things challenging. Randolph makes use of a history degree with a focus on diplomatic and military history (according to her profile). Interesting interactions among crew members set up future books about up-and-coming Federation diplomat, Kate Stevens.