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Voices in Our Blood: America's Best on the Civil Rights Movement
Jon Meacham
Shelby Foote: A Writer's Life
C. Stuart Chapman
Mindfulness and Acceptance: Expanding the Cognitive-Behavioral Tradition
Steven C. Hayes, Victoria M. Follette, Marsha M. Linehan
Washington: A Life
Ron Chernow
Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
Michael Korda
The 13th Sign
Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

The Fire Next Time

The Fire Next Time - James Baldwin Baldwin offers no place to hide for anyone, black or white, and does so in a style that is so mesmerizing the reader can not look away.

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family - Josh Hanagarne To me paradox is that place where the desires, logic and understandings of man intersect with the illogical, infinite, and divine. In that moment we see the difference between what we are capable of and what is possible, and see the miraculous. In that moment emotions flourish. Humility, awe, fear, wonder, inspiration, and so many more give form and order to perception allowing us to grow. My favorite expression of that moment is joy fueled laughter, and this is why The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne is such an incredible work of a life filled with miraculous moments of paradox.At six feet seven inches tall, Josh is the unexpected source of empathy and compassion that he offers to each of his patrons regardless of age, creed, or even grasp on reality. A Mormon, Josh would not likely be selected for a police lineup of suspected Steven King fanatics. Capable of unbelievable feats of strength that require absolute control of mind and body, you would never suspect that quite often that control is stolen by Tourette’s. Doubt is not typically what is anticipated in a man of faith. When predictable understanding is so frequently eroded by the unexpected, openness is required, curiosity builds, and there is no choice but to abandon perception and respond only with what is genuine, true, and real. A frightening proposition to be sure, but Josh makes it very much worth the adventure.Many folks view cursing and coarse language as disrespectful and rude, so it was a bit shocking to see F-bombs and other favorite curse words peppering the story. Not to make too much of “the Mormon thing”, but most of the Mormons I have known have been the super heroes of self-discipline and manners, so at first this paradox was quite confusing. However, it seemed as Josh’s adventure progressed that the language was included out of respect for the people he was quoting. This was even more apparent when that person was one of the many “patrons” emotional problems. In a world where so much of what they say is ignored or discounted, it seems that Josh’s care and respect for these folks outweighs any objection he might have for what they have said. The final paradox offered by The World’s Strongest Librarian is that it does not have an ending. All that is present in the story, the Tourette's, family, romance, strength, work, knowledge, and even more f-bombs, continues in Josh’s life today. All of this is met with gratitude, compassion, acceptance of life as it is, and a willingness to not allow life as it is to keep him from being who he is called to be. This paradox, gratitude and joy in the face of daily adversity, is the greatest and most inspiring result of Josh’s story and what made it so captivating to read. I hope that Josh will continue telling us his story as it unfolds.

The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church

The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church - John Thavis I have virtually no idea why I chose to read this book, and a very clear idea about why I wish I had not.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History - Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelice, John Pruden Disturbing in every aspect, I found myself horrified that ours is a world that so greatly needs the talents, and expertise of men and women like Chris Kyle. At the same time I gained a new appreciation for how fortunate we are to have men and women like Chris Kyle serving as protectors of our freedom, and greater clarity into the sacrifices made in order to serve, not only by them, but also by their families and all who love and care for them.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams - Harlow Giles Unger Are You Smelling What I’m Stepping In?Thanks to the blessing I have of working in the Young Adult Program with addicts 18 to 25, I am privy to the latest, hippest, and most advanced slang on the planet. True, I typically understand only 6 to 17% of it, but that’s not important now. What is important is that my current favorite way to ask if someone understands the concepts, relationships, and theories I am espousing at the time is to inquire, “Are you smelling what I’m stepping in?” If nothing else I at least have their attention. Lately, my attention has been captive to Harlow Giles Unger’s biography of John Quincy Adams. Speaking to a room of Nobel Prize winners, nominees, and their guests, President Kennedy said, “I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” The only possible challenge to JFK’s assertion is John Quincy Adams. The list of achievements by John Quincy Adams, the staggering breadth of his expertise, places the horizon of President Adams’ accomplishments far past the vision all that followed him. Only one or two of President Adams successors in the Oval office could demonstrate a comparable range of knowledge, Theodore Roosevelt for example, but even then they remained in more shallow waters. While we have been blessed to have as our leaders great patriots and men with a searing passion for our republic, Adams’ dedication was born while just a boy as he saw first hand the awful grip of tyranny, and the horrible cost of freedom bought through 18th century warfare. Undress your understanding of the world to that of a third grade boy, and imagine what his heart must have felt as his eyes witnessed Bunker Hill. His service began with observing the birth of our country, and those who labored as midwives including Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, not to mention his father, and the nation’s second president, John Adams. The life given in service ended when a stroke claimed him on the floor of the House of Representatives. Though no one knew it that day, he stood on the floor with a young Congressman from Illinois who would save the union from the cancer that could not be removed before it’s birth, and in rescuing the adolescent nation, become her greatest president. Many argue about the merit of such high praise given to John Quincy Adams, but there are two facts which seem contested by none. The integrity of Mr. Adams was above question, and when an honest broker was needed to find compromise, all eyes, friend and political foe alike, turned to the trusted eyes of John Quincy Adams. The second fact, also not disputed by his contemporaries is that John Quincy Adams was possibly the most arrogant and caustic son-of-a-bitch to ever stand within eye sight of the White House. Most of the political failures he experienced were caused by his own patronizing and belittling attitude. Governance and diplomacy each came with a structure, an understanding, a set a rules that gave cover to the disdain Mr. Adams so often expressed for lesser men, men lacking his intellect and skill like a mint covers bad breath. Without that cover the stench of his arrogance kept folks at `such a distance they could know little else about him. To tell a group of people who, less than 50 years earlier, inspired by words like “Give me liberty or give me death!”, were willing to stand against the most skilled military on the planet that Congress should not be "palsied by the will of our constituents" is just plain stupid.Even then, Adams continued to find a place of service to his country, and to others regardless of the expense to his family, his reputation, and even his health. Mr. Unger’s work allows us to appreciate all aspects of Mr. Adams, even his arrogance, and acknowledge and understand the gifts of a man whose skill, intellect, persistence and love of freedom were given to in the fullest, even to his very last breath.

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris Now this is the David Sedaris I've enjoyed so much! It's rare for me to read a writer's work back to back. Normally my attention span is far too short to create the momentum needed to stay with the same type of book, let alone same writer.In part because of when it became available from the library, but also in part because I was so shocked how little I liked the Sedaris work I had just finished, I jumped right into Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls praying that my last experience was a fluke, but still fearing there would be a "Say it ain't so Joe" moment.The voice of Sedaris is, at least it seems to me, genuine when writing about his own life, and his interaction with the world around him. Even though there are incredible differences between his life and my own, if for no other reason than I am one of the dreaded “conservatives” for which he holds such disdain and disgust, his writing makes his experiences seem familiar to me. In his writing and its space in my mind that which is common fills in the spaces where differences might be found. Even the thing about David that frightens me most, his meth use, still leads to a place of understanding. He never uses the word addicted or addict, and I no right to diagnose him. He is the only person who can define David Sedaris as someone addicted with the noted exception of his teeth. Appearntly having had all of David and his meth they could handle, the teeth abandoned him before he was 50 years old. Like women and children on the Titanic, teeth are the only part of the body met with understanding at their fleeing the human vessel. All other organs great and small, liver, spleen, heart and nails, are doomed to go down with the ship. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls is the newest of his writings, and my newest favorite.[bc:Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls|15790837|Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls|David Sedaris|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1359704028s/15790837.jpg|21512389]

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Wicked Bestiary

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary - David Sedaris, Ian Falconer The story of The Crow and the Lamb was an incredible story, but the remainder of the book was dull at best. The only thing that surpassed my surprise was my disappointment. While it's possible that the other Sedaris works which I thought were wonderful and hilarious caused me to set the bar too high for Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, but I doubt it.


Coolidge - Amity Shlaes “The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself.” -“The buck stops here!” - “ Ich bin ein Berliner!” –“ Tear down this wall!” – “I did not have sex with that woman.” The inspiration of the American experiment is fueled by the great words of her leaders. So powerful are these words, and the men who gave them birth, that their momentum carries across the hearts of generations. To these men and their words we erect statues, monuments, and glorify the historic legacy they inspired.However, at times, it can be decades before a President’s message can be understood, and its value truly appraised. Such is the case of our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge. “Silent Cal” as he was known then and now, was more famous for what he did not say, rather than what he did. Seated next to a woman at a dinner party, she told President Coolidge that her friends had wagered she would get no more than three words from him during the entire evening. What followed were the words that would define President Coolidge, “You lose.” Coolidge by Amity Shlaes illustrates the wisdom espoused by the President and illuminates much about Coolidge that I did not know. In addition to an obsession about spending as little of the taxpayer’s money as possible, his administration used “scientific taxation”, and demonstrated that revenues could actually be increased by lowering tax rates. For such a stoic figure in his public and historic persona, Coolidge was actually a truly compassionate man. The death of his son, a life changing event for anyone to be sure, for Coolidge became motivation to be open to others although in a private fashion. Hearing of his son’s death, a boy went to the Whitehouse gate, and when a staff member asked the boy why he was there he said he just wanted to give his condolences to the President. The boy was taken to see President Coolidge, and afterwards Coolidge told his staff that whenever a child was there to see him, they were to bring the child in “and don’t make them wait”.Had I not been on a quest to read about each of our presidents, I probably would not have chosen to read about Coolidge. Ms. Shlaes made the life of President Coolidge quite captivating, and his life’s story one well worth the journey.

Dad Is Fat

Dad Is Fat - Jim Gaffigan Having long been a fan of Jim Gaffigan’s stand-up, I could not wait to read his first adventure into the realm of literature. I looked forward to seeing how he dealt with some of the more delicate, tragic, and possibly embarrassing aspects of my life. Clearly after the fifth or sixth chapter, I realized Jim is the “Dad” in “Dad is Fat”, and not me. Ironically, this is also when I discovered “Dad is Fat” is not a literary masterpiece. As the oldest of five, I’m always irritated when the baby of the family starts whining about their birth order. How many sibling butts did you wipe, Jim? …exactly.Sibling rivalry transference aside, Jim’s levity as he talked about his life was wonderfully entertaining, as well as confirming my gratitude that the lovely young lady who would one day become my darling ex-wife and I stopped at three children. Like my Papaw used to say, “I would not sell any of my children for $1billion, but I would not give you $1 for another one!” – Yes, I adjusted his quote for inflation.

Under the Banner of Heaven

Under the Banner of Heaven - Lambert M. Surhone, Mariam T. Tennoe, Susan F. Henssonow A friend recommended this book, and it was a quick read much in the same way a walk through a graveyard is a sprint. It was disturbing on many levels, and forced grappling with the reader’s internal conflict – should I keep reading or simply turn away, whistling and praying that it is all in the imagination. The fundamentalist branch of the Mormon faith isolates itself from the rest of the world, so they are not corrupted. Were the congregants to discover the idea that marrying off their barely adolescent girls is a sick and disgusting proposition, then the churches old men would have no one to marry. Once the revolting mental images have passed the mind’s eye, there is nothing to hide behind, and it takes no time at all to discover the similarities between the Mormons and every other group of humans on the planet.Each of the world’s major religions can look at their history and recognize the shameful elements of their narrative. As a member of the United Methodist Church, I know that a few pastors who set out to face and kill the “savages” , now known as the Native Americans , with the zeal of Buffalo Bill harvesting bison. The north and south versions of the Methodist church, begun prior to the civil war, remained in place until 1938. Racial bigotry and hatred may have changed the vocabulary of the church, patting itself on the back for slavery’s destruction, but tyranny, suspicion, fear, poverty and hatred remain slavery.It is tempting to measure religious beliefs against Mormon theology and breathe a sigh of relief that “at least we’re not as bad as them”. Coming to that conclusion is ultimately to enslave ourselves in man’s inhumanity to man.

the man that saved the union ulysses grant in war and peace

the man that saved the union ulysses grant in war and peace - H.W. Brands I don’t recall why I chose to read H.W. Brands’ The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace, other than Grant was an American president I had yet to read about, but it totally changed my understanding of President Grant.Not to take anything from Mr. Brands, but my previous “understanding” of President Grant consisted of Mrs. Henderson’s 8th grade American Government & Social Studies, along with some brief paragraphs encountered only momentarily in various high school and college classes. An argument could very easily be made that with such a superficial knowledge of Grant, anything could change my “understanding”. True enough, but what impressed me the most was the way Brands was able to look past what was happening in Grant’s life, and the world around him, and focus on his heart. Prior to rejoining the army at the start of the Civil War, Grant had failed at every other endeavor he had tried. His drinking was a constant source of concern for Grant, and many of those around him, and though he tried mightily to remain sober, here too he failed. It would be nearly a century before Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith would found Alcoholics Anonymous, and help the world understand that addiction is a disease and not a result of a weak, immoral character.Grant’s attitude towards the south and her freed slaves, as well as Native Americans, was far more compassionate than I had ever imagined. By today’s standards we would read Grant’s letters and his discussion of African Americans, and label him a racist. However, in his time Grant’s attitude was considered quite liberal, and though it was a very small step, Grant did help the nation inch just a little closer to being a land where all men are created equal was not just an ideal, but a reality.

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection - Carol Burnett This book was great fun to read, but I highly recommend listening to the audio-book version recorded by Ms. Burnett herself. As blessed as Carol says she was to have her career to blossom during the birth and pinnacle of variety television, those of us who grew up watching her, her show ran from 1967 to 1978, were even more blessed.

C. S. Lewis A Life

C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet - Alister E. McGrath After reading C.S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister E. McGrath I feel a bit like I actually know nothing at all about the works of C.S. Lewis. While I’ve not read the entire Lewis library, I have read the majority of his work, and for quite some time used Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters as teaching tools in various arenas. Mr. McGrath looks not so much of C.S. Lewis’s life as his writings that the criticism they received. Obviously, the life of C.S. Lewis permeates his writing on several levels, but what makes McGarth’s perspective so interesting is that not only do we get a better understanding of Lewis, but also an impression of his acceptance or rejection, often occurring at the same time, and the view point of his supporters and detractors. That being said, I often found myself not knowing enough about many of the competing ideas of Lewis’s day. I found myself sitting in physics class all over again. I was in awe of the concepts and laws that in my view brought the physical world and the divine in such close proximity, but when it came time to use that knowledge I just didn't have the chops needed in mathematics to turn my fascination into anything of substance. So I think I really enjoyed McGrath’s treatment of the 20th century’s greatest Christian apologist, but I’m not quite sure.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

When You Are Engulfed in Flames - Décor!

Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective

Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective - 'Pat Head Summitt',  'Sally Jenkins' There is nothing surprising or new in Pat Summitt's autobiography Sum It UP: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses and a Life in Perspective. Rather, her telling the story of her life confirms what we have known and loved about Pat. Her courage in being willing to tell the tale, her willingness to openly discuss the mistakes along the way, and the honest, fair,even kind treatment of her ex-husband; remind us what is so incredible about this lady and the reason we hold her so dear has virtually nothing to do with basketball. Our admiration of Pat is because of who she is and her unending willingness to help others, especially the young women in her life, become who they dream to be.

Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court

Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court - Sandra Day O'Connor Were I to tell you that the history behind the Supreme Court of the United States getting it’s first frozen yogurt machine was mesmerizing, you would ask me for a drug screen. Were I to tell you that the court’s first justices traveled the nation’s roads, more like paths really, in order to hear cases, you might ask if I was making this all up. Were I to tell you that from time to time the justices had no choice in their journey but to share not only a room, but also a bed with each other or even fellow travelers, total strangers, in the taverns and lodges along the way, you might whisper to your friends, “Bless him”. Don’t take my word for it, but rather read Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court, and take the word of The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, Retired Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States.The gravity of Justice O’Connor’s book is generated by a deep love and admiration of the constitution, the law, and this attempt at self-governance Thomas Jefferson called the “American Experiment”. The precision of a great intellect and scholar, along with the compassion of a grandmother’s voice allow Justice O’Connor to help us appreciate, value and understand our founding fathers’ gift of freedom and self-determination.Her appointment to the bench by President Reagan in 1981 forced folks of all political persuasions to rethink their understanding of the reality of the day. Justice O’Connor’s response to the questions of the day was not to respond, but rather to simply be what she was. The ability to simply be genuine is what made her such a great jurist, and is also the other main contributing factor to her book. Her awe of the great men to proceed her on the court, as well as her excitement for those that followed her, especially the current court’s three women, was a palpable as a child’s anticipation of Christmas. And it was a window into the sacrifice that all nine members of the Supreme Court offer as a service to the country and legal system they love. Any judge, regardless of the relative power or anonymity of their bench, seeks to listen dispassionately to the facts of the case and impartially apply the law to those facts. All judges hunt the equilibrium between being an active member of society, and at the same time maintain a distance that allows them to protect their objectivity. For those occupying a seat on the highest court in the land this creates an incredible isolation. Every word they utter or write, every decision they make, regardless of how personal or trivial, is believed to be a microscope viewing the judge’s soul and offering insight in predicting how they may rule. To be willing to be so alone is a great sacrifice and demands our thanks and respect for the crucial role they play in our democracy.