Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Random thoughts on new books

I am a fiction reader.  I like all types and often have several books going at once.  But, every once in a while a nonfiction book jumps out and begs to be read.  Lately, I have found several books that grabbed my attention.  So, in no particular order, here's what I've been reading.

This book was brought to my attention by the author when he was a guest on the Tonight Show.  It details the history of the planet, and explains why Pluto was demoted to a comet.  When I got to work, one of my co-workers was already reading it and he also gave it a big thumbs up.  I've since recommended it several times and everyone has come back with good comments about the book.

Davis has written several history books with the philosophy that history doesn't have to dry, dusty and boring.  His speciality is relating obscure bits that often had a bigger impact than was first realized.  A case in point is the story about Christopher Columbus in the first chapter.  Queen Isabella insisted that he take pigs on one of his voyages to the Americas so the sailors would have fresh meat.  When the sailors arrived in America, the last of the pigs were introduced to the new land.  The pigs brought new diseases which did not agree with the natives.  As Davis himself said, "... these are tales that the textbooks left out."

The millennial generation are those children born in the 1980s and 1990s.  According to Alsop, they have been raised with high expectations of personal achievement and they are the pride and joy (trophy kids) of their parents.  Now they are entering the workforce with a sense of entitlement and the intention of reshaping their job to mesh with their personal goals instead of adjusting their lives to suit the work environment.  This perspective is radically different from their older co-workers and can cause friction between the generations.  The contrasts between the generations and their perspectives of what their careers should be makes for a fascinating study of the workplace.

Fort Worth writer Guinn has penned a well-researched biography of the depression-era bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.  Bonnie and Clyde were poor kids from north Texas who actually robbed more gas stations and small country stores than banks.  But, because they were popularized in movies reels of the time, they gained national notoriety for their exploits.  As their fame grew, it grew harder to hide and they were eventually killed in Louisiana in an ambush while they were both in their early twenties.

Love it or hate it, Texas is known for the stereotypical flamboyant, over-the top millionaire oilmen popularized in movies such as "Giant" or the television show "Dallas."  H.L. Hunt, Roy Cullen, Sid Richardson and Clint Murchison (known as the the Big Four) more than live up to that reputation of the Texas tycoon. They wielded political, economic and social power in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metro areas.  When that wasn't enough, they began influencing state and national politics with donations and deals.  An engrossing and illuminating story of big men and even bigger money, native Texan Burrough's book re-creates a time of back room deals and flashy society.


posted by Karen Hufham

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