“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.  ― Charles T. MungerPoor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger



The New Tsar

The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

By Stephen Lee Myers

Published by Vintage Books – Copyright 2015 – 481 Pages

“Steven Lee Myers has worked at The New York Time for more than twenty years. He spent more than seven years, in two stints, as a correspondent based in Russia during the reign of Vladimir Putin.  He has previously worked in New York, Washington D.C. and during the winding down of the American war in Iraq, in Baghdad.  He now writes about foreign affairs and national security issues from Washington.  This is his first book.”

This book tells the story of a life beginning as a KGB apparatchik who received his first foreign assignment, to East Germany, shortly before the Berlin Wall came down.  He never ran the KGB but was appointed by Yeltsin to head the FSB, the watered down Russian version of the Soviet intelligence apparatus shortly before his ascension to the presidency, replacing Yeltsin in 2000.

It describes the 90’s and rise of the Oligarchs who assembled unimaginable wealth from the debris of the failed Soviet Union.  It was a decade Russia was ill prepared for institutionally or mentally. Putin brought stability and strength from the chaos, attributes valued above all others by the Russian electorate.

With regard to hacking the 2016 U.S. election, this was payback to Hillary Clinton for her role in Putin’s 2012 election and not any fondness for Donald Trump.  You will learn that politics of post-Soviet Russia bears little resemblance to its monolithic predecessor.

“The New Tsar” provides texture to the international political scene which you will not find any place in U.S. media.


“And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less exciting pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive.”
― George Orwell


Once Upon a Time in Russia

By Ben Mezrich

Published by Atria – Copyright 2015 – 262 Pages

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Once Upon a Time in Russia is a dramatic narrative account based on numerous interviews, multiple first person sources – most of whom have asked to remain anonymous – and thousands of pages of court documents.  In some instances, settings have been changed and certain descriptions have been altered to protect privacy.  I employ the technique of re-created dialogue, based upon the recollections of participants who were there, court documents and newspaper accounts, doing my best to communicate the substance of these conversations, especially in scenes taking place more than a decade ago.

This book is a great companion read to “The New Tsar” and fleshes the characters out into real people.  It is a technique often used by James Michener as he built his stories about people and places long ago and far away.

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
― Francis BaconThe Essays



The Mirror Test

By J. Kael Weston

Published by Knopf –  Copyright 2016 –  585 pages

When a face has become disfigured or otherwise has surgery, it is covered for a period of time with bandages.  When the bandages are removed and the patient looks in the mirror for the first time, the reflection can be traumatic.

J. Kael Weston is employed by the State Department and is assigned for a couple of tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan to develop contacts with local civilians. Over the course of seven years, he experiences war time casualties up close and personal.  It is not so much an anti-war polemic as recounting the impact each death has on him.  He is continually frustrated by Washington’s lack of understanding of the local dynamics.

At the conclusion of his last tour, Weston leaves the State Department to travel the U.S. visiting KIA grave sites and meeting some of the families of casualties he knew personally.  This  is his Mirror Test.

“Before this generation lose the wisdom, one advice – read books.”  Amit KalantriWealth of Words



Syrian Jihad

By Charles R. Lister

Published by Oxford University Press – Copyright 2015 – 393 Pages

With major media shutting down foreign bureaus for economic reasons, meaningful information is hard to come by.  Lister gives us the details about what’s going on in Syria.  For instance, there are 1500 separate Jihadi groups involved who alternately collaborate and kill each other depending on the objective. ISIS and their behavior in Syria gives us some clues about their objectives.

Books give not wisdom where none was before. But where some is, there reading makes it more. Elizabeth Hardwick


The Real Global Warming Disaster

By Christopher Booker

Published by Continuum  2009  358 Pages

Relying on real experts in climatology ignored by the mainstream media, Christopher Booker dismantles this ‘political science’ one bogus theory at a time.  He goes on to tally the enormous cost to Great Britain one btu at a time.

“Reading and writing are solitary activities that increase a person’s capacity for concentration, awareness, and conceptual thought as the person weaves immediate information with stored memories.”  ― Kilroy J. OldsterDead Toad Scrolls

The Way of the Strangers

By Graeme Wood

Published by Random House 2017  279 Pages

Author Graeme Wood travels the globe interviewing the many people who are touched by the growth of ISIS.  We learn that the world of Islam is completely fragmented with each group convinced that they alone are the true bearers of Mohammed’s teachings and they don’t much like each other.

“Your mind is your library of what you read.”   Lailah Gifty Akita