Does anyone care what someone else is reading? Possibly not, but other than serendipity, choices are usually meaningful and those meanings might prove informative. “So here goes nothing.”
- Dennis Lehane, Coronado (2006). Lehane is one of my favorite contemporary authors. In addition to being best sellers and earning critical acclaim, his novels Mystic River and Shutter Island were made into excellent movies. Coronado consists of five novella length stories and a two-act play. In this thin volume, Lehane demonstrates why his stories are so compelling. The characters are those we don’t often meet, but yet link back to American culture and tell us something about ourselves.
- Rick Ollerman, Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals (2017). An analysis of a particular subset of mystery novels from the 1950s through the 1990s, Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals consists of inside baseball. In other words, it’s not for the general reader, but is perfect for students of the genre who want to learn more about writers such as Peter Rabe, Donald Westlake, and Jada Davis. It is also filled with typos.
- Michael Moorcock, Wizardry & Wild Romance (2004). A new edition of the 1987 compilation with fancy cover and new introduction can’t disguise the fact that Moorcock has it in for certain writers and wants to laud those he likes. His arguments are obtuse. Very disappointing.
- Steven Beller, Vienna and the Jews, 1867-1938 (1989). Beller disputes the earlier thesis that so many of the leading intellectual lights in fin de siècle Vienna were Jews is irrelevant because those men were highly assimilated and not typically religious. Beller finds reason to credit the Jewish connection for the accomplishments of men like Freud, Wittgenstein, Schoenberg, and Schnitzler.
- John Le Carre, The Mission Song (2006). Compared unfavorably to The Constant Gardner, an earlier novel set in Africa, which was made into a well regarded movie, The Mission Song demands a little extra from the reader. It is the story told in first person of Bruno Salvador, the son of a missionary father and African mother, who becomes a translator of Swahili and other African languages, and finds himself in a hotly contested project. The story develops slowly but reaches a pitch after about 200 pages.
- Avi Jorisch, Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israel Ingenuity Repairs the World (2018). A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing a presentation at the Israeli stock exchange in Tel Aviv about how Israel has almost overnight become a leading force in high technology. The beginnings of that story were ably told in Start Up Nation (2009), but Jorisch has a different agenda. He uses case histories to explain why many of the inventions coming out of Israel are benefitting the entire world and not just the inhabitants of Israel. Jorisch reinforces the message I heard from our presenters: that Israeli inventors almost by necessity are focusing on products and services that can be used across the globe. On the one hand the Israeli market by itself is very small, which forces investors to think big; but there’s also a Jewish connection that Jorisch emphasizes. The idea that Jews have an obligation to ‘heal the world,’ is something that has been taught for thousands of years. Whatever the reason, Israel has produced more public companies on the NASDAQ than any other country other than the U.S.––more than all the nations of Europe combined. Read this fine book to meet the founders of companies whose products you’re already using.