Best and the Brightest

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Reason read: the United States pulled out of Vietnam in the month of March.

Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest is a deep dive into the origins of the Vietnam War. It is a scrutiny of the policies and procedures crafted during the Kennedy administration that led to the consequences in Vietnam. The meat of the book takes place between the years of 1960 and 1965 but flows back and forth to earlier and later times to give substance to the timeline. What really helps the narrative is that Halberstam was a reporter during this time. He was at the heart of the perfect storm: the fall of China, the rise of McCarthy and the outbreak of the Korean War. This trifecta of events had a profound and lasting effect on the White House and domestic politics of the time.

A single line I really liked, “In government it is always easier to go forward with a program that doesn’t work than to stop it all together and admit failure” (p 212). Isn’t that human nature in a nutshell?

Author fact: I cannot help but wonder what books Halberstam would have written had he not been killed in a car accident at the age of 73.

Book trivia: I always love the photographs Halberstam chooses for his books. The photos in The Best and the Brightest are no different.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Best and the Brightest “hefty, riveting and definitive” (p 238). Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the chapter called “Vietnam” (p 238) and in More Book Lust in the super obvious chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).


No Match for March

What can I say about the previous month? Career-wise it was a busy month. I’m short staffed, budgets were due, accreditation teams loomed large, and my hockey team was breaking new records left and right. On the personal front friends were going through personal crisis after personal crisis (Just so you know, bad things are more than capable of arriving in multiples of five and six, not just three), I’m hip deep in planning a southwest trip with my sister and her sons, my mom’s dog is on Viagra, and! And. And, there was a little road race I always obsess about way too much. Somewhere in there I had a little time to read:

Fiction:

  • Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
  • Topper by Thorne Smith
  • Giant by Edna Ferber
  • ADDED: Flashback by Nevada Barr – in honor of Barr’s birth month. (AB)
  • ADDED: White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones – on honor of Alaska.

Nonfiction:

  • Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
  • Cherry by Sara Wheeler

Series continuations:

  • Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – I admit, I did not finish this one.
  • Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • The Moor by Laurie R. King

Fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – finally finished
  • Calypso by David Sedaris (AB)
  • Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta
  • Hidden Southwest by Ray Riegert
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die edited by Patricia Schultz
  • Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne
  • Arizona, New Mexico and Grand Canyon Trips by Becca Blond

Early Review for Librarything:

  • Nothing. The book did not arrive in time to be reviewed in March.

March to a Different Drummer

I will make a return to racing in two weeks. My last public run was in July. I’m not ready. Simply not. March is also two Natalie Merchant concerts. A return to my favorite voice. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais – in honor of March being a rainy month. Dumb, I know.
  • Topper by Thorne Smith – in honor of Smith’s birth month being in March.
  • Giant by Edna Ferber – in honor of Texas becoming a state in March.

Nonfiction

  • Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam – in honor of March being the month the U.S. finally pulled out of Vietnam.
  • Cherry: a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard by Sara Wheeler in honor of March being the month Apsley ended his depot journey.

Series Continuation:

  • Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – to finally finish the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza – to finish the series started in February in honor of the Carnival festival in Brazil.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • The Moor by Laurie R. King – to continue the series started in January in honor of Mystery Month.

For fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – still reading
  • Calypso by David Sedaris – needed for the Portland Public Library reading challenge.
  • Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta – written by a faculty member.
  • Hidden Southwest edited by Ray Riegert – for my May trip.
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz – for my May trip…and the 2020 Italy trip.

Coldest Winter

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Reason read: the Korean War officially ended in July.

The interesting thing about the Korean War is that most were reluctant to call it an actual war. Those that admitted to it being a conflict were convinced it would be over in no time. What started in June of 1950 as a “clash” between North Korea and South Korea turned into a war of attrition when China and the Soviet Union came to the aid of North Korea and the UN and United States joined the South. Despite a treaty being signed in July of 1953, to this day, technically the conflict has not been recognized as over.
While Halberstam portrays the well-researched historical events with accuracy and thorough detail, his portrayals of key U.S. figures such as Generals MacArthur and Bradley, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and President Truman read like a fast paced political thriller. The larger than life personalities practically jump off the page.

As an aside: I suppose it would make sense if I thought about it more, but the Korean War was the first time air-to-air combat was conducted. Before then planes were mostly used to drop bombs and transport men and supplies.

Best line to quote, “Sometimes it is the fate of a given unit to get in that way of something so large it seems to have stepped into history’s own path” (p 258).

Author fact: Halberstam was born in April and died in April.

Book trivia: The Coldest Winter was published after Halberstam’s death.

Nancy said: Pearl called Coldest Winter the “best book for the nonhistorian on the Korean War” (Book Lust To Go p 127).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Korea – North and South” (p 125). I am willing to bet Coldest Winter would have been in More Book Lust’s chapter “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112) if it had been published in time. MBL was published in 2005 and Coldest Winter came two years later in 2007. It would appear Pearl is a fan and has read everything Halberstam has ever written.


July’s Jam

July was jamming. Guess what! I ran a few times this month. Even participated in a charity run for an aunt-in-law (is that a thing?). I am feeling much, much better! And. And! And, I was able to read a ton:

Fiction:

  • Jackie by Josie by Caroline Preston – in honor of Jacqueline O. Kennedy’s birth month.
  • Cop Hater by Ed McBain – in memory of McBain’s passing in the month of July.
  • Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait – in honor of Lizzie Borden’s birth month.
  • Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken – in honor of July being Kids Month.
  • Gardens of Kyoko by Kate Walbert – in honor of Japan’s Tanabata Festival.
  • Animals by Alice Mattison – in honor of Mattison’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • The Coldest Day: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam – in honor of July being the month the Korean War ended.
  • The Book of Mediterranean Cooking by Elizabeth David – in honor of July being picnic month.
  • Den of Thieves¬†by James Stewart – in honor of July being Job Fair month (odd choice, I know).

Series Continuation:

  • The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason – to continue the series started in June.
  • Midnight in Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Into the Storm: Two Ships, a Deadly Hurricane, and an Epic Battle for Survival by Tristam Koten.

 


July’s Pages Upon Pages

I have a prediction for July. I will read a crap load of books. Actually, I am cheating. It’s not a prediction because I already know I will. Case in point – yesterday my husband and I spent seven hours on the water. He fished. I read. Yesterday was July 1st so I was already knee-deep in the July Challenge list and thanks to an iPad I had five books with me. I made a decent dent in the “Boat” books:

Fiction:

  • Jackie by Josie by Caroline Preston – in honor of Jacqueline O. Kennedy’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • The Coldest Day: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam – in honor of July being the month the Korean War ended.
  • The Book of Mediterranean Cooking by Elizabeth David – in honor of July being picnic month.

Series Continuation:

  • The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason – to continue the series started in June.
  • Midnight in Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April.

Others on the list:

Fiction:

  • Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken – in honor of July being Kids Month.

Nonfiction:

  • Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart – in honor of July being Job Fair month (odd choice, I know).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Into the Storm: Two Ships, a Deadly Hurricane, and an Epic Battle for Survival by Tristam Koten.

If there is time:

  • Gardens of Kyoko by Kate Walbert – in honor of Japan’s Tanabata Festival.
  • Animals by Alice Mattison – in honor of Mattison’s birth month.
  • Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait – in honor of Lizzie Borden’s birth month.
  • Cop Hater by Ed McBain – to honor McBain’s passing in the month of July.

 

 


March of the Books

Here’s the singular thing I love, love, love about March: the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race in Holyoke, MA. I adore running this race. Runner’s World magazine has mentioned it more than once, calling it the mini Boston Marathon for it’s toughness. I PR’ed this year! But what I am more excited about is that this time I was only five seconds away from breaking an hour. Unlike last year (1:07:and something seconds) I was 1 hour and a measly four seconds. But, enough about running! Here are the books finished for March, 2017:

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (AB +EB)*
  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (AB + print)
  • Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy*
  • Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinma Ibe*

Nonfiction:

  • Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam (DNF)
  • Big Empty edited by Ladette Randolph and Nina Shevchuk-Murray (EB)
  • No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (AB)

Series continuations:

  • Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
  • Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (DNF)
  • Endymion by Dan Simmons

Early Review “won”:

  • Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone (received and finished)
  • My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul (This has arrived & I have started it)

*Short enough to read in one day.


Breaks of the Game

Halberstam, David. The Breaks of the Game. New York: Hyperion, 2009.

Reason read: March Madness is well, in March. Everyone has heard of March Madness before. Read in honor of college hoops time.

This is an interesting topic for a book. Halberstam follows the 1979-1980 sad season of Portland, Oregon’s basketball team, the Trailblazers. Not their winning year. Interestingly enough, they had won the championship the year before. They bombed the year after. Maybe that’s what Halberstam found so interesting. After Bill Walton left the team they simply imploded. Halberstam could have called his book The Wreckage Walton Left Behind.
According to Breaks of the Game between 1970 and 1979 the Portland Trailblazers won 322 games and lost 416 and yet their fan attendance went from a paltry 1,095 to a cap of 11,500 by 1979. The One to Watch was Bill Walton, a first round draft choice. After he joined the team season ticket holders jumped from 2,971 to 6,218.
True to Halberstam form, Breaks of the Game looks at every angle of the sport of basketball from the coaches to the players, from the referees to the sponsors, from the owners to the fans and everyone in between. If you like basketball, this is the book for you. If you love the Portland Trailblazers no matter their record, this is a must read.

As an aside, I have seen Dead concerts “with” Bill Walton. He and I are huge fans. He’s often in the front row (or close to it) while I’m in the nosebleed seats.

Author fact: I probably mentioned this before but Halberstam was tragically killed in an auto accident on his way to an interview. I still can’t get over that.

Book trivia: Breaks of the Game contains no photographs whatsoever (not even of Bill Walton) & is not indexed.

Nancy said: Nancy connects Breaks in the Game with another sports book, The Punch, since Kermit Washington was traded to the Portland Trailblazers following the infamous punch (p 226).

BookLust Twist: from both Book Lust and More Book Lust. From¬†Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Sports and Games” (p 225) and from More Book Lust in the even more obvious chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).


Spring Forward

I’m really looking forward to spring. The chance to run outside (sorry, New Guinea) & a little more green in my life. Here are the books planned:

Fiction:

  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel ~ in honor of the best time to visit Mexico (AB). I think this will only take a few days to read so I’m adding:
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (AB) as a backup ~ in honor of the Oscars (even though they just happened, embarrassingly so).
  • Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy ~ in honor of the time Niagara Falls stopped flowing, and,
  • Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinma Ibe ~ in honor of Nigeria’s president as of 2015.

Both of these fictions are short-short so I should be able to read them in a day or two each.

Nonfiction:

  • Breaks in the Game by David Halberstam ~ in honor of March Madness (basketball)
  • The Big Empty edited by Ladette Randolph ~ in honor of Nebraska becoming a state in March.

Series Continuations:

  • Red Bones by Ann Cleeves ~ to continue the series started in January in honor of Up Helly Aa.
  • Endymion by Dan Simmons ~ to continue the series started in January in honor of Science Fiction month. This sucker is 600 pages long. Not sure I’ll finish it in time…
  • Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith ~ to continue the series started in February in honor of Exploration month. This is an ILL and it hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m not sure I will finish it in time.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leonne ~ maybe. I “won” it in February but it hasn’t arrived yet.
  • EDITED to ADD: I just got word I also “won” My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul. It isn’t expected to arrive for awhile so this is really an April book.

Thanks for the Books

November was a stressful month. The injury that sidelined me for the last half marathon of the season continued to plague me & myself but I pushed through it – ran 70 miles for the month. I don’t think I have ever mentioned this here but…back on January I was a dumbass and agreed to a 1000k challenge. By November 1st I had 267k left to go. I’m now down to 151k. Almost 100 miles. But enough of that. It stresses me out to even think about it.

Here are the books finished for November:
Fiction:

  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. I thought of this as a short story because it’s less than 100 pages long.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • The City and the City by China Mieville (AB)
  • Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – confessional: I knew that a fictional political book might bore the crap out of me but what I didn’t expect was outright disgust after the election. I couldn’t stomach the contents of Advise and Consent.

Series:

  • Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. (AB)
  • Love Songs From a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill
  • Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles

Nonfiction:

  • Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn (audio and print)
  • Baby Doctor by Perri Klass
  • The Fifties by David Halberstam

Postscript: it came in too late for me to mention here, but I DID get that Early Review book that I was pining for. I’ll review it next month.


The Fifties

Halberstam, David. The Fifties. New York: Villard Books, 1993.

Reason read: November is clean up month. The last month to finish books started during the year.

The 1950s. The greatest generation. To put it into perspective, Churchill announced America was poised to be the most powerful country in the world by 1950. The 1950s also gave birth to the microwave oven, Lucy and Desi, desegregation, Holiday Inns, the photocopier, McDonald’s restaurant, the credit card, the polio vaccination, hip=shaking Elvis, the discovery of DNA, the color TV…I could go on and on but Halberstam does that for me brilliantly in The Fifties. He covers everything from inventions to politics; from fads to phenomenons; from people to places.

One of the best things about The Fifties is the insight into personal lives. For example, who knew that General Douglas MacArthur was a mama’s boy? She “took up residence in a nearby hotel for four years” (p 80), while MacArthur was in school. Or that Lucille Ball was adamant about her real Cuban husband playing the role in I Love Lucy?

As an aside: you can’t launch into the 1950s without backing up and talking about the mid to late 1940s. Expect a little history lesson before the history lesson.

Author fact: Halberstam’s coming of age happened during the 50s. This era is “his” generation.

Book trivia: As one would expect, there are photographs. Just not enough of them.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p). Nancy Pearl mentioned this is one of her Halberstam favorites.


Know Your November

I am trying to move into this month without cracking up or breaking down. I’ve lost the run temporarily and even a small interruption sets me back. You know it is with a mental stability that isn’t quite that solid. I don’t want to say anything more than that.

Here are the books. Nonfiction first:

  • Living Poor:  a Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen – in honor of the month Ecuador’s civil war for independence ended.
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn – (AB) in honor of the holidays and how much they can stress you out. I’m reading this and listening to it on audio.
  • The Fifties by David Halberstam – in honor of finishing what I said I would.
  • Baby Doctor by Perri Klass – in honor of National Health Month.

Fiction:

  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton –  in honor of National Education Week. This should take me a lunch break to read.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – in honor of Gaiman’s birth month.
  • Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – in honor of November being an election month (and is it ever!).

Series Books:

  • Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright – (EAB = electronic audio book) to continue the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.
  • A Toast To Tomorrow by Manning Coles – to continue the series started in October in honor of Octoberfest.
  • Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill – to END the series started in May in honor of Rocket Day.

Playing for Keeps

Halberstam, David. Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. New York: Random House, 1999.

There is no doubt in my mind that David Halberstam loved basketball. He may have even loved Michael Jordan even more. The care and consideration he gave both to the sport and to the athlete is exemplary. To be sure, you will also get biographies of the key people surrounding Michael Jordan’s personal life and career path as well. From mama to coaches, from friends to agents, Halberstam details each and everyone one of them. You will learn about Michael Jordan, the driven kid; Michael Jordan, the aggressive ballplayer; Michael Jordan, the savvy salesman and everything else he was in between.
My only complaint – the chronology is a bit disorganized. Because the timeline is interrupted by different basketball games throughout out Jordan’s career Halberstam’s timeline isn’t constructed in such a way that a reader could witness Michael Jordan’s rise to success smoothly. The games lend a certain drama to the biography but the timeline suffers for it.

Reason read: March is the month for Madness; college basketball madness, that is. Only I started reading this early because a friend loaned it to me.

Time for some honesty. I have a pet peeve when it comes to professional athletes and their retirements. The media goes into a frenzy. The bigger the star, the bigger the segment on ESPN. Reporters clamor for a “last” interview. Researchers comb the archives looking for footage of so-and-so’s rookie year. Childhood friends are contacted and the athlete’s mama is always asked to reminisce about the first she noticed star quality and athletic potential. The story will break for days and days and be seen on every channel several times over. It’s as if the retiring athlete hasn’t given up the sport. Instead it’s as if he or she has given up the ghost and died. That is, Until they start playing again. It’s the in and out of retirement I can’t stand. Michael Jordan was one such athlete. He retired more than once and each time the media gave him a send off fit for kings. And not the Sacramento kind.

Book trivia: Playing for Keeps boasts a lot of really cool photos.

Author fact: Halberstam has written on a myriad of subjects. Basketball only scratched the surface of the topics he covered.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 113).