A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

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Interesting title, interesting read……..  ****

When I review a nonfiction book, I look for how well it is written, how well the author knows their subject, and what did I learn that I did not know. Usually, this is fairly straight forward. Comey’s book muddies that process.

The book is well written as it flows smoothly through parts of Comey’s life and his interaction with presidents, politicians, and other leaders. He obviously knows his subject since he is talking about himself. As to what I learned that I did not know, not much. Things I had thought or already knew were validated, but there is no great revelation here.

Where it gets muddy, is Comey’s explanation of why he did what he did regarding the public announcement regarding Hillary Clinton just before the election. While the facts are presented openly, his decision to be the one to disclose the re-opening of the investigation contradicts his moral stance. He does admit he has always had trouble with his ego and that makes the other excuses more of a smoke screen.

For a man who led our nations best law enforcement group, the FBI, he comes across as naive regarding what people are capable of and what motivates them. He allowed his ego to blind him to consequences.

I am giving this four stars as it is worth the read, just don’t expect a great revelation.

Freedom From The Self: The End of Delusion, Fear, Hurt and Suffering by Nicholas Blewett

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High expectation but a slight let down….. ***

As far as self-help books go, this one is better than most, less than some. The author, Nicholas Blewett, admits up front that he is not an expert in anything other than the study of humanity, and the self-observations within his own life. This brings both positive and negative aspects to this book.

On the positive side, Blewett, describes in simple words the issues that plague us all. His discussion of fear, hurt, desire, attachment, and belief are worth reading, maybe more than once. At the end of each of these discussions are questions that if one will devote time to contemplate, will open your mind in ways other self-help books can only aspire to. With a refreshing clarity and real-world examples, Blewett describes how we all have been shaped by these issues in ways we may not even be aware of.

On the negative side, the author spends the first one-hundred-sixty-seven pages on the issues described above, and only the last twenty-seven on how to move beyond into what he describes as the Art of Living and how to embody true love and compassion. Had he gone as in depth in this last part as he did in the earlier part, this would be an amazing book.

My last comment could be applied to just about any self-help book, but more so to this one. The ideas Blewett presents could be world-changing as he states. The sad part is if only we could get the world to listen.

I give this one three stars, and I do recommend it, maybe if enough of us read it, we can change the world.

Burke & Wills by Peter Fitzsimons

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In the early 50’s, I used to watch a television program hosted by Walter Cronkite called You Are There. The show would re-enact famous events from history and Cronkite would report as if from an actual newscast, with reporters on the scene of the event. The show chronicled events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Chicago fire. Peter Fitzsimons writes his historical accounts as if you are there, witnessing the events as they happened. Burkes & Wills is another of his books utilizing this style.

This review is not going to address the accuracy of Fitzsimons account of the ill-fated exploration of Australia, but rather the writing itself. My review of Ned Kelly received a very negative comment when I said Fitzsimons had done an excellent job of telling Ned’s story. Since I am not from Australia, I cannot attest to the factual depiction of either of these accounts.

I can say that I love Fitzsimon’s style. Although his books are lengthy, I found myself engrossed in the telling of the story of Burke & Wills, and felt the emotion of those in this sad tale. The descriptions and detail made this reader feel as if I were there.

This book will make you laugh, cry and leave you wondering how this exploration got as far as it did. As the subtitle states, this is a tale of the triumph and tragedy of Australia’s most famous explorers.

I highly recommend this book and give it five stars.

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

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Nothing we didn’t know, yet still worth a read……   ***

This is an interesting book. If you already believe Trump is unfit for the Oval Office, this helps validate that feeling. If you support Trump, I doubt if you will read it, or believe any part of it.

Michael Wolff had access to to the White House and the people close to Trump. He uses first hand knowledge, conversations, and hearsay to paint a picture of a man who many believe should not be President of the United States.

This review is not going to debate the issue of competency, but rather the writing in the book. Wolff repeats himself throughout the book and tends to ramble in parts. His sentence structure tends to be long and convoluted at times. The writing felt rushed and I was expecting deeper insights but was disappointed.

There is not very much in the book that the public does not already know or suspect, with one exception. I suspected Trump was easily manipulated by others but not to the extent Wolff describes. Especially by Jared Kushner and Ivanka, and at times Steve Bannon.

This one gets three stars. It is a good read, just failed to meet my expectation.

 

Win Bigly by Scott Adams

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An almost interesting book on the art of persuasion……    **

 

The subtitle of this book is “Persuasion in a world where facts don’t matter.” Adams might as well have called it “Why I like Trump.”

In the beginning Scott Adams states that the purpose of the book is to discuss persuasion techniques and to teach the reader how to recognize a Master Persuader. He uses Trump as an example and describes how Trump was able to go from celebrity to occupying the Oval Office.

The parts of the book where Adams discussed the various qualities of a good persuader and how they are able to accomplish what they set out to do is fascinating. Regardless of one’s politics, seeing how Trump used persuasion techniques helps to understand how he succeeded. In comparison, Adams shows how the Democrats failed in the art of persuasion. After having read about these techniques, it is easy to recognize them in the current political arena.

Had Adams stopped at the descriptions of persuasion and comparing both parties success or failure in implementing them, this might be a five star read. But in what read as an almost defensive apology, Adams ends the book trying to defend why he ended up verbally supporting Trump. He undermines his discussion of persuasion by revealing his paranoia of Hillary’s tax plan and his fear of Democratic bullies as reasoning for his decision. Ironically, he states he doesn’t vote.

There is a lot of repetition and self promoting that gets old after a point. Adams kept saying he would discuss further something he wrote later in the book, which I suppose was a persuasion technique of a carrot getting me to keep reading.

This one gets two stars, and is worth reading if you can filter out the unnecessary rhetoric.

We Rise by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

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Yes, there is hope for the World and America too.    *****

 

This is an amazing book on several levels. First, it is a great resource on the effects of global warming and what the fossil fuel industry is doing to our environment. Second, it not only describes the problems, but gives practical solutions the average person can do to make a difference. And third, which is the most astounding part, it is written by a 17-year-old who has done more for environmental protection than most of us will do in a lifetime.

Martinez is a passionate, articulate spokesman for the youth of today who will inherit the decisions made by governments regarding the environment. This book is a call to action to everyone, but especially to the young.

It is well written and deserves to be read by anyone wanting to save this planet. I highly recommend it.

This one gets five big stars.

 

 

We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

powerAn eye opening treatise and a must read…..  *****

This is a history lesson, a sobering view of the country we call the United States, and an eye-opening look into how a government can oppress a specific part of its population. Coates does an excellent job of describing the struggle and overt, as well as covert,  discrimination of blacks in this country.

There are too many events from black history in this book, that I had no idea about, to list. One that stood out to me was the way the GI bill, which provided low cost housing loans, was handled regarding black veterans. Because the local banks and cities were given the power to decide how the bill was implemented, they were able to deny loans to black veterans. Coates goes into this in great detail, so I won’t.

Coates shares the articles he wrote for The Atlantic, spanning the eight years of the Obama administrationHe introduces each essay with his comments in retrospect.

This is a must read and an unsettling view of this country. Sadly, it probably won’t be read by those that need to, and based on current attitudes I doubt it would change their minds anyway

This one gets five stars.