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  • Recommend a book

    This was sparked by the recent thread about how much the U.S. population reads (or doesn't read). I'm sure this has been done before on the Sandbox, but everyone recommend ONE book. It can be fiction, non-fiction or even a cookbook, I don't care. But you only get to recommend one book.

    Please also post why you recommend it, giving special attention to people who may not like the book (for instance, if it's a sci-fi book, would you recommend it for people who don't normally like sci-fi and why does it or doesn't it cross boundaries?).


    If the thread gets long maybe you can recommend a second one later, but let's try to keep it at one for now.

  • #2
    Re: Recommend a book

    The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East
    by Robert Fisk

    Robert Fisk is a British journalist who has been living in and reporting on the Middle East for many years - at least since the late 70's. Many people may not enjoy his analysis, as he has a lot of criticism to throw around and a good chunk of it lands on the West's doorstep, but regardless of your political stance I think the depth and breadth of this book holds a lot of value.

    The Great War for Civilization is a lot easier to read than it first appears. I got turned on to Robert Fisk after reading his book, Pity the Nation, on the Lebanese civil war. The book was incredibly thorough but pretty dry. I was expecting the same from The Great War, a 1000+ page book, but found it to be very engaging.

    In a sense, it's a combination of what he calls a "first draft of history" and his personal memoirs. He starts the book talking about his few interviews with Osama bin Laden and each chapter covers either an event (the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Islamic revolution in Iran) or a country. Fisk focuses mostly on his own experiences and the characters he has met, and in doing so he turns what is an incredibly informative book into an incredibly compelling read.

    One of the strengths of this book, I think, is that Fisk doesn't isolate incidents - a habit too many journalists have. When dealing with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of the mujahadeen, he goes all the way back to The Great Game between Britain and Russia, when the borders of Afghanistan were drawn through the middle of tribal lands in order to create a buffer between Britain and Russia. But he also doesn't lay all the blame there. He shows how the ideology of local, urban Marxist/Leninist forces destabilized the country and alienated the rural communities, laying the ground for support of the mujahadeen.

    Ultimately, I think anyone interested in history or international affairs will enjoy the book, especially given the precedence the Middle East has in U.S. foreign policy today. It should be noted, however, that the book is about war. He does not try to explain the Arabic societies involved in the conflict any more than he does by talking about the causes of war.

    Though he critiques the West a lot, he does not whitewash the Arab world for its predicament. He has plenty of disgust to go around.

    I should mention that I haven't yet finished the book. I plan to be with it for months because I am treating it like a textbook, memorizing and familiarizing myself with all the names and events.


    • #3
      Re: Recommend a book

      Illusions (click to purchase from the Tactical Market)

      by Richard Bach

      I first read this book during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. It changed my life forever.

      Now, perhaps it had such a strong impression on me simply because I was impressionable and searching for my life's meaning or some such crap, but I read this book at least once a year and it just makes me think. What does it make me think about? Well, about life, the universe and everything, AND my place in those things. Don't let me overhype it, though. If you're not willing to read it with a very open mind, then you'll not get much out of it. I've gotten more than a few people to read it and more than a few have thought it was a load of crap. It seems to be mostly christians that are unable to wrap their head around the many ideas that can lead to knowing yourself and your future quite a bit better...

      Wikipedia article on the novel.

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      • #4
        Re: Recommend a book

        Originally posted by CingularDuality

        I first read this book during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. It changed my life forever.[/url]
        I read that at a similar point in my life and it had the same effect on me. Great book!


        • #5
          Re: Recommend a book

          Since philosophy is my thing and people don't generally read much philosophy, let me recommend a philosophy book:

          On Bull****

          By Harry Frankfurt

          Frankfurt is a Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University. He's best known for his work on free will in moral philosophy. Lately, he's been working on a series of short books targeted at a more general audience. "On Bull****" is the first. "Taking Ourselves Seriously And Getting It Right " and "On Truth" are to be released at the end of Oct. 2006.

          "On Bull****" is a 67 page essay that you can read in under two hours easily, even if you're a slow reader. There is very little jargon and the style is not technical. As evidenced by the title, the book is about bull****. Frankfurt attempts to explains what it is, why it exists, and why there's so much of it in today's culture.

          This is a philosophical essay and a serious attempt at conceptual analysis (the main tool of contemporary philosophers) not a comedy; and, although the topic and style is light, it's not meant to make you laugh. You'll be disapointed if you were expecting a joke book.

          I recommend the book because, on top of it being a good read, I think it serves as a good introduction to, and demystification of, the sort of thing that contemporary philosophers are tasked with doing.
          Last edited by sordavie; 07-11-2006, 09:28 AM.


          • #6
            Re: Recommend a book

            While I can't recommend two books here, I WILL take the time to point out an older recommendation I've made. :)

            That said, my official recommendation is Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. It wasn't my first Zen book, but it was probably the most complete one early in my reading on the subject. Lots of anecdotes, lots of conversations, and it lets the reader get out of the experience what's there; instead of TELLING you about Zen, in its examples, it SHOWS Zen, and lets you interpret enlightment as you will (which is how I prefer my Zen to go).
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            • #7
              Re: Recommend a book

              I could recommend lots, but instead will recommend the current book I am reading.

              Fate is the Hunter, by Ernest K. Gann. 1961.

              Called America's 'Aviation Laureate,' Gann covers his career as an airline pilot serving in America's nascent air industry from the mid-1930's on up through the 1950's. He spans almost the entire globe in aircraft that have no electronic navigational aids or long range radio. From the Greenland ice cap to the Brazilian jungle to the Great Pyramids. It is literally flying by the seat of your pants - going on instinct, skill, and of course, fate. Many memorable near-disasters are covered in eloquent detail. For anyone who enjoys aviation in the least bit, this is a must read.


              • #8
                Re: Recommend a book

                The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami 1998

                I have always had a slight preference for eastern literature and their focus of character over plot. They so often seem to reach deeper into the story by reflecting heavily upon the adventure that the subject is experiencing as opposed to more western styles that look for complex interactions and twists in the tale. I received this book as a present from a friend who had in turn received it as a present from an ex-colleague of his.

                The plot is dream like, following the character through his hazy existence as more and more notable events happen to him. He remains very much a spectator throughout the entire novel only being active in deciding to not do anything. He is told many stories by other strange characters that seem to tell their part and leave, and even though these are mostly irrelevant in terms of not providing him with any true guidance they are notable in how they effect him. Even the actions he does take are mundane, and minamilistic, and that gives the reader a great sense of empathy with the character. There is never a sense of "if I were him I would have done this" as he seems as much a reader in his own life as the reader themselves.

                The characters are magical. Just enough of a stereotype of themselves to work but not too much to seem cheesy, you get a sense of who they are, or were, through the stories that they tell. Even more apparent is how these stories open a window to a past of which the subject has little comprehension of. This mixed with how the 'evil' character depiction is mixed in with a more westernised society gives a strange sense of nostalgia. You like the subjects simple life and his resistance to change and desire to live for simpler times even though you know the future is inevitable. The only question remains is whether Toru will take responsibility for the future.


                • #9
                  Re: Recommend a book

                  Fast Food Nation
                  The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
                  by Eric Schlosser

                  FROM A WEBSITE:

                  You are what you eat. But do you really know what you’re eating?

                  Britain eats more fast food than any other country in Europe. Rates of obesity and food poisoning spiral upwards, but it seems we just can’t get enough of those tasty burgers and fries.

                  This myth-shattering book tells the story of America and the world’s infatuation with fast food, from its origins in 1950s southern California to the global triumph of a handful of burger and fried chicken chains. In a meticulously researched and powerfully argued account, Eric Schlosser visits the labs where scientists re-create the smell and taste of everything - from cooked meat to fresh strawberries; talks to the workers at abattoirs with some of the worst safety records in the world; explains exactly where the meat comes from and just why the fries taste so good; and looks at the way the fast food industry is transforming not only our diet but our landscape, economy, workforce and culture.

                  Both funny and terrifying, Fast Food Nation will make you think, but more than that, it might make you realize you don’t want a quick bite after all.

                  * ‘Fast Food Nation has lifted the polystyrene lid on the global fast food industry … it could even change the way we eat’ Observer

                  * ‘Not only will it make you think twice before eating your next hamburger … it will also make you think about the fallout that the fast food industry has had on the social and cultural landscape’ The New York Times

                  * ‘The grisliest description of fast food ever written’ Daily Telegraph

                  * ‘If the idea of a three-storey, illuminated Ronald McDonald strikes you as a blight on the landscape, this book is for you’ Globe and Mail

                  about the author

                  ERIC SCHLOSSER has been investigating the fast food industry for years. In 1998, his two-part article on the subject in Rolling Stone generated more mail than any other item the magazine had run in years. In addition to writing for Rolling Stone, Schlosser has contributed to The New Yorker and has been a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly since 1996. He won a National Magazine Award for "Reefer Madness" and "Marijuana and the Law" and has received a Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for Reporting. His work has been nominated for several other National Magazine Awards and for the Loeb Award for business journalism.


                  • #10
                    Re: Recommend a book

                    Two books, sorry:

                    An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears is a terrific mystery/historical novel if you have the patience.

                    Silk, by Alessandro Baricco is a neat love story you can read in an hour.




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