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Books and Bookish Things in 2009

The Forty Years War: The Rise and Fall of the Neocons, from Nixon to Obama by Len Colodny and Tom Shachtman – just arrived in my mailbox yesterday. Flipped through it today and scanned the index; it looks like a book that would appeal to both “political” bloggers, including Nixon aficianados and the security-defense-foreign policy types who compose a large segment of the readership here.

This year I decided to keep track of all the books I read and see what conclusions I could draw from that experience. I learned a number of interesting things.

First, I did not read nearly as many books cover to cover that I thought I would, though in fairness some of them were a) large and b) ‘hard”. Those I had to read for a grad program were also tedious in the sense of often being composed in the worst kind of academic jargon being overused to convey relatively simple arguments. That said, I could probably have read more than I did. Partly, the problem was a tight schedule and partly it was a case of my reading time being taken consumed more by blogs, PDFs, email, listservs, e-zines and news. All useful but not the same thing as deep reading provided by books.

Secondly, the variety of reading material was not as diverse as I’d have liked, though that is unfortunately the nature of formal programs of study. By definition they are narrow and drill down. I need to add more science and more literature to my repetoire.

Without further ado, my list:


Classics and Ancient History:

The Anabasis of Cyrus by Xenophon ( Wayne Ambler, trans.).    
On War by Carl von Clausewitz (Michael Howard, Peter Paret, trans.)
Caesar’s Commentaries On The Gallic War by Julius Caesar
Alexander the Great by Paul Cartledge
How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy

War, National Security, Military History and Strategy (Modern):

Great Powers: America and the World After Bush by Thomas P.M. Barnett
Threats in the Age of Obama by Michael Tanji (ed.)
The Culture of War by Martin van Creveld
Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P.W. Singer
The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security by Grant T. Hammond
Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton
The Bloody White Baron by James Palmer
The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America by Douglas E. Schoen
This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America’s Most Violent Gang by Samuel Logan

Islamic World:

Engaging the Muslim World by Juan Cole
The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future by Vali Nasr

Society, Arts, Literature and Science:

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky
Fatal Revenant: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World by Wendy Smith

Educational Theory, Learning and Schools:

Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality by Charles Murray
Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith
What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action by Robert J. Marzano
Teaching What Matters Most: Standards and Strategies for Raising Student Achievement by Richard Strong
Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work by Robert E. Eaker
Getting Results With Curriculum Mapping by Heidi Hayes Jacobs
SuperVision and Instructional Leadership: A Developmental Approach by Carl D. Glickman
Pretending to Be Normal: Living With Asperger’s Syndrome by Liane Holliday Willey
Dealing with Difficult Parents by Todd Whitaker
The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
School, Family, and Community Partnerships : Preparing Educators and Improving Schools by Joyce Levy Epstein
American Public School Finance by William A. Owings
Ethics Of School Administration by Kenneth Strike
Ethical Leadership in Schools: Creating Community in an Environment of Accountability by Kenneth Strike
Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Educational Issues by James Noll
Teachers and the Law by Louis Fischer
Practicing the Art of Leadership: A Problem-Based Approach to Implementing the ISLLC Standards by Reginald Leon Green
On Common Ground: The Power of Professional Learning Communities by Roland S. Barth
Leading in a Culture of Change by Michael Fullan
Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom: Strategies and Tools for Responsive Teaching by Carol A. Tomlinson
Studying Educational and Social Policy: Theoretical Concepts and Research Methods by Ronald H. Heck
Data Analysis 2nd by Victoria L. Bernhardt

Currently Reading Now:

The Call of Nepal: My Life In the Himalayan Homeland of Britain’s Gurkha Soldiers by J.P. Cross
Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count by Richard E. Nisbett
The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism by Howard Bloom


I also make use of a Kindle            


12 Responses to “Books and Bookish Things in 2009”

  1. YT Says:

    Oh boy! What an UGLY bunch. From that jude who’s responsible for coups all o’ er South-East Asia, "1% Dick", to Mr. Watergate & the "Doofus". Oh, I’m forgettin’ Mr "Unknown unknowns" a.k.a. Mr "Wika-wakka".

    Best holiday gift you’ve presented here, Zen. Thanks!

  2. Schmedlap Says:

    Did you do a review of the book by Charles Murray? I’ve always found his writing on education to be persuasive. Haven’t read any of his books, though, other than The Bell Curve.

  3. zen Says:

    You are welcome, YT.
    Hi Schmedlap,
    I had intended to do so, but I loaned out my copy to a colleague last August and they still have it. Murray makes some very good points, particularly about higher ed no longer providing the education that it is intended to do and NCLB testing standards in k-12 being empirically insane in their assumptions ( "by 2014, 100 % of students will…" ).

  4. J. Scott Says:

    Schmedlaop and Zen, Real Education and Losing Ground are Murray’s best work. I wrote a brief review over at Amazon on RE.

  5. Lexington Green Says:

    Good idea to keep a list.

    I used to do that and I got out of the habit.

  6. onparkstreet Says:

    How do you all read so many books and process that much information? I can’t do it. Practice makes perfect, I suppose.
    Lately, I’ve been finding that my blogging and online reading has been cutting into time I used in the past for reading books – a common complaint! I am ambivalent about this. I likely will go back to making schedules for stuff – like in school! – because, otherwise, I’m just wandering around. It’s fun, but also vaguely unsatisfying. I’m not *getting* anywhere.
    I’m planning on ordering the Howard Bloom book on the recommendation. Looks good.
    Finally, I found this article via Arts and Letters Daily interesting:
    "Now four psychologists argue that you were told wrong. There is no strong scientific evidence to support the "matching" idea, they contend in a paper published this week in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. And there is absolutely no reason for professors to adopt it in the classroom." – from the paper. I have to read the study to see if it is any good (drat, I’m going against my advice above) but I am surprised by the idea. I always contend I am a visual learner and must convert information into some sort of visual map, mentally. I may have to read one of the books on teaching and learning… .
    – Madhu

  7. daskro Says:

    I had pretty high expectations for Wired for War considering all the praise it got from many blogs on your roll,  but after reading it I was left quite disappointed.
    What I kept on reminiscing when reading it was how similar it was in style and structure to one of Thomas Freidman’s recent books.   It was full of anecdote and casual analysis, often venturing into discussions of film, web 2.0, and science fiction, along with what I can only describe as a layman’s attempt at discussing the ethics of unmanned systems and artificial intelligence.   This is not to say that the book was not worthwhile.  As an introduction to the unmanned revolution it is the best I’ve ever read, covering nearly every topic with enough substance to give the reader a taste.  

    One particular area I found frustrating was a lackluster attempt at envisioning the use of unmanned systems in the long term, with only casual mention of swarm technology and the boring and tired rehash of the use of nanotechnology E.G. the grey goo scenario. 

    An alternative to wired for war for those who already know a bit about Unmanned systems is another zenpundit mentioned book, Antoine BousquetThe Scientific Way of Warfare. I recommend this book because it looks at unmanned systems in the greater context of the development of network-empowered conflict (not to be confused with Net-centric warfare).  Bousquet paints a much more detailed and fascinating picture of the future than Singer does.

  8. zen Says:

    Hi Scott,
    Will check it out.
    Hi Lex,
    My List should look markedly different next year sans syllabi reading.
    Hi Madhu,
    Pre-internet, I recall reading twice as many books as I do now, easily. That of course, was also pre-children 😉
    Hi daskro,
    Having learned a little about the book business in the past year, I’m inclined to believe that Singer wrote Wired for War in a "friedmanesque" way because "friedmanesque"= mass audience and big sales. Not out of greed but because publishing is a business and a technical/expert book on war robotics might sell 5000 copies and a  # 1 NYT best-seller might sell 500,000. I don’t know how many copies Singer has sold but I will wager it is at least 10x what he cleared with Corporate Warriors.

  9. daskro Says:

    I agree, and there’s absolutely nothing with the approach he took as he does need to make a living whereas Bousquet has academia to rely on.

  10. Mark Says:

    Hey Zen,

    Impressive list, nonetheless.  I’m trying to read more this year, but the literal thousands of pages from board packets have gotten in the way.  We’ll get together in the next week, some how, some way.


  11. democratic core Says:

    No fiction?

  12. zen Says:

    Hi DC,
    Just one, Fatal Revenant. Normally, there would be more but grad studies skewed my sched and something had to go. I’m looking to read some Sinclair Lewis, Cormac McCarthy and William Gibson in the near future, probably on kindle.
    Hi Von,
    Local govt. generates a prodigious amount of paper ( the pettier the issue, the bigger the packet). Sounds good. Send me some prospective dates and let’s get something nailed down on the calendar.

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