Dave Murphy's Student Resources: Recommended Readings

Recommended Reading

If you notice a hypertext link that does not properly refer to the intended article, please let me know.


Critical Thinking
History (incl. Biography)
Technology (incl. System Design)

Breakthrough Rapid Reading
A previous National Director of Education for Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics presents his do-it-yourself program for increasing reading speed and boosting comprehension.

"Speed reading is one of the truly useful educational ideas of the last few years, and this book can be the least expensive and most efficient way you can learn it." --William Proxmire, United States Senator

The perfect answer to today's information explosion, Peter Kump's rapid reading method has already helped thousands of people to read up to eight times faster, with better concentration and retention.

This program brings together the best of what classroom speed reading courses have to offer, and distills fundamental principles and skills that can be learned at home with the help of the drills and exercises provided. And because it lets readers choose their own material and set their own pace, it's the ideal method for busy people juggling a full schedule.

Breakthrough Rapid Reading makes conquering information overload a reality. So whether it's cutting down on that backlog of business reports and technical matter or scaling that mountain of newspapers and leisure reading, getting up to speed is only a matter of time and practice.

The Magic of Reading

The Reading Edge: Tips & Tricks

Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
Style manual for writers, editors, students, educators, and professional across all fields. Provides clear guidance on grammar, the mechanics of writing, and APA style. Includes examples, new guidelines and advice, and more.

Concise Rules Of APA Style (Concise Rules of the American Psychological Association (APA) Style)
Easy-to-use, vest-pocket guide for quickly looking up the rules for APA style. Targets only those rules needed for choosing the best works and format for their articles. Comprehensive list of essential writing standards in a convenient, easily retrievable format is included.

The Gregg Reference Manual
The Gregg Reference Manual, 10/e, by Sabin is intended for anyone who writes, edits, or prepares material for distribution or publication. For nearly fifty years, this manual has been recognized as the best style manual for business professionals and for students who want to master the on-the-job standards of business professionals. GRM provides answers that can't be found in comparable manuals. That probably explains why GRM has received so many unsolicited 5-star reviews on the Amazon Web site. Those 5-star reviews offer a clear indication of the reputation GRM enjoys in the marketplace.

The Elements of Style
Composition teachers throughout the English-speaking world have been pushing this book on their students since it was first published in 1957. Co-author White later revised it, and it remains the most compact and lucid handbook we have for matters of basic principles of composition, grammar, word usage and misusage, and writing style. You know the authors' names. You recognize the title. You've probably used this book yourself. And now The Elements of Style--the most widely read and employed English style manual--is available in a specially bound 50th Anniversary Edition that offers the title's vast audience an opportunity to own a more durable and elegantly bound edition of this time-tested classic. Offering the same content as the Fourth Edition, revised in 1999, the new casebound 50th Anniversary Edition includes a brief overview of the book's illustrious history. Used extensively by individual writers as well as high school and college students of writing, it has conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. This new deluxe edition makes the perfect gift for writers of any age and ability level. Fifty Years of Acclaim for The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White "I first read Elements of Style during the summer before I went off to Exeter, and I still direct my students at Harvard to their definition about the difference between 'that' and 'which.' It is the Bible for good, clear writing." -- Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed
Karen Elizabeth Gordon is no ordinary grammarian, and her works (including The New Well-Tempered Sentence, Torn Wings and Faux Pas, and The Disheveled Dictionary)--are no ordinary books of grammar. A special edition of the 1984 classic, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire is populated by a wickedly decadent cast of gargoyles, mastodons, murderous debutantes, and, yes, vampires (both transitive and otherwise), who cavort and consort in order to illustrate basic principles of grammar. The sentences are intoxicating--"How he loved to dangle his participles, brush his forelock off his forehead with his foreleg, and gaze into the aqueous depths"--but the rules and their explanations are as sound as any you might find in Strunk and White. Outlining the building blocks of the English language, from parts of speech to phrases and clauses, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire goes on to exorcise such grammatical demons as passive voice, fragments, comma splices, and run-on sentences. At last, a handbook of grammar you will actually want to read. In the words of Gordon's preface, "Howling, exploding, crackling, flickering with new life-forms, and drunk on fresh blood (some of mine is certainly missing), this deluxe edition reminds us on every page that words, too, have hoofs and wings to transport us far and deep."

The New Well Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed
For over a decade THE WELL TEMPERED SENTENCE has provided instruction and pleasure to the wariest student and the most punctilious scholar alike. Now Karen Elizabeth Gordon has revised and enlarged her classic handbook with fuller explanations of the rules of punctuation, additional whimsical graphics, and further character development and drama -- all the while redeeming punctuation from the perils of boredom. For anyone who has despaired of opening a punctuation handbook (but whose sentences despair without one), THE NEW WELL TEMPERED SENTENCE will teach you clearly and simply where to place a comma and how to use an apostrophe. And as you master the elusive slashes, dots, and dashes that give expression to our most perplexing thoughts, you will find yourself in the grip of a bizarre and beguiling comedy of manners. Long-time fans will delight in the further intrigues of cover girl Loona, the duke and duchess, and the mysterious Rosie and Nimrod. The New Well-Tempered Sentence is sure to entertain while teaching you everything you want to know about punctuation. Never before has punctuation been so much fun!

A brief and engaging conversation on how to write with clarity and grace. Offers ten lessons on the principles of writing powerful, clear, and effective prose. Empowers writers to use their writing as a method to explore their own thinking. The Basics of Style is a direct, engaging, brief conversation on writing with style. The four sections-Style as Choice, Clarity, Grace, and Ethics- feature principles of effective prose. Williams offers these principles as reason-based approaches to improving prose, rather than hard and fast rules to writing well. Style empowers writers to use their writing not only as a tool to identify and solve problems, but also as a method to explore their own thinking.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Who would have thought a book about punctuation could cause such a sensation? Certainly not its modest if indignant author, who began her surprise hit motivated by "horror" and "despair" at the current state of British usage: ungrammatical signs ("BOB,S PETS"), headlines ("DEAD SONS PHOTOS MAY BE RELEASED") and band names ("Hear'Say") drove journalist and novelist Truss absolutely batty. But this spirited and wittily instructional little volume, which was a U.K. #1 bestseller, is not a grammar book, Truss insists; like a self-help volume, it "gives you permission to love punctuation." Her approach falls between the descriptive and prescriptive schools of grammar study, but is closer, perhaps, to the latter. (A self-professed "stickler," Truss recommends that anyone putting an apostrophe in a possessive "its"-as in "the dog chewed it's bone"-should be struck by lightning and chopped to bits.) Employing a chatty tone that ranges from pleasant rant to gentle lecture to bemused dismay, Truss dissects common errors that grammar mavens have long deplored (often, as she readily points out, in isolation) and makes elegant arguments for increased attention to punctuation correctness: "without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning." Interspersing her lessons with bits of history (the apostrophe dates from the 16th century; the first semicolon appeared in 1494) and plenty of wit, Truss serves up delightful, unabashedly strict and sometimes snobby little book, with cheery Britishisms ("Lawks-a-mussy!") dotting pages that express a more international righteous indignation.

On Writing Well, 25th Anniversary
Whether you write an occasional professional letter or a daily newspaper column, William Zinsser's On Writing Well should be required reading. Simplicity is Zinsser's mantra: he preaches a stripped-down writing style, strong and clear. He has no patience for excess (most use of adjectives and adverbs, he writes, just adds clutter) or tired phraseology (for instance, he'd like to outlaw all leads involving those "future archaeologists" most often found "stumbl[ing] upon the remains of our civilization"). He recommends that all writers of nonfiction read their work aloud (don't commit something to paper that you wouldn't actually say) and write under the assumption that "the reader knows nothing" (not to be confused with assuming the reader's an idiot). In addition to the chapters on the expected--usage, audience, interviews, leads--Zinsser also focuses on such trouble spots as science and technical writing, business writing, sports, and humor.

On Writing
Short and snappy as it is, Stephen King's On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid. You're right there with the young author as he's tormented by poison ivy, gas-passing babysitters, uptight schoolmarms, and a laundry job nastier than Jack London's. It's a ripping yarn that casts a sharp light on his fiction. This was a child who dug Yvette Vickers from Attack of the Giant Leeches, not Sandra Dee. "I wanted monsters that ate whole cities, radioactive corpses that came out of the ocean and ate surfers, and girls in black bras who looked like trailer trash." But massive reading on all literary levels was a craving just as crucial, and soon King was the published author of "I Was a Teen-Age Graverobber." As a young adult raising a family in a trailer, King started a story inspired by his stint as a janitor cleaning a high-school girls locker room. He crumpled it up, but his writer wife retrieved it from the trash, and using her advice about the girl milieu and his own memories of two reviled teenage classmates who died young, he came up with Carrie. King gives us lots of revelations about his life and work. The kidnapper character in Misery, the mind-possessing monsters in The Tommyknockers, and the haunting of the blocked writer in The Shining symbolized his cocaine and booze addiction (overcome thanks to his wife's intervention, which he describes). "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing." King also evokes his college days and his recovery from the van crash that nearly killed him, but the focus is always on what it all means to the craft. He gives you a whole writer's "tool kit": a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary models. He shows what you can learn from H.P. Lovecraft's arcane vocabulary, Hemingway's leanness, Grisham's authenticity, Richard Dooling's artful obscenity, Jonathan Kellerman's sentence fragments. He explains why Hart's War is a great story marred by a tin ear for dialogue, and how Elmore Leonard's Be Cool could be the antidote.

The Lexicographer's Dilemma
For language buffs and lexicographers, copy editors and proofreaders, and anyone who appreciates the connection between language and culture—the illuminating story of "proper English." In its long history, the English language has had many lawmakers—those who have tried to regulate, or otherwise organize, the way we speak. The Lexicographer’s Dilemma offers the first narrative history of these endeavors, showing clearly that what we now regard as the only "correct" way to speak emerged out of specific historical and social conditions over the course of centuries. As literary historian Jack Lynch has discovered, every rule has a human history, and the characters peopling his narrative are as interesting for their obsession as for their erudition. The struggle between prescriptivists, who prescribe a correct approach, and descriptivists, who analyze how language works, is at the heart of Lynch’s story. From the sharp-tongued satirist Jonathan Swift, who called for a government sponsored academy to issue rulings on the language, and the polymath Samuel Johnson, who put dictionaries on a new footing, to John Horne Tooke, the crackpot linguist whose bizarre theories continue to baffle scholars; Joseph Priestley, whose political radicalism prompted riots; and the ever-crotchety Noah Webster, whose goal was to Americanize the English language—Lynch brings to life a varied cast as illuminating as it is entertaining. Grammatical "rules" or "laws" are not like the law of gravity, or laws against theft or murder—they’re more like rules of etiquette, made by fallible people and subject to change. Charting the evolution of English, Jack Lynch puts today's debates—whether about Ebonics in the schools or split infinitives in the New York Times--in a rich historical context, and makes us appreciate anew the hard-won standards we now enjoy.

Grammar by Diagram
Grammar by Diagram is a book designed for use as a textbook at the college or advanced high school level, or as a book for the educated general reader who wishes to improve grammatical understanding and skill. Organized into thirteen chapters and complete with answers for all exercises, the text begins with the traditional eight parts of speech and moves on to ten basic sentence patterns. Making use of traditional sentence diagramming, the book proceeds to explain how the ten basic sentence patterns can be expanded into compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences, and how verbals (infinitives, gerunds, and participles) can provide further versatility.Chapters dealing with the structure of the English language and diagrams to illustrate that structure are interspersed with chapters dealing with usage. The text addresses the most frequent usage errors by explaining how to distinguish between adjectives and adverbs; how to avoid problems of pronoun case, agreement, and consistency; how to ensure that verbs will agree with their subjects and will be appropriate in terms of tense, aspect, voice, and mood; and how to phrase sentences to avoid errors in parallelism or placement of modifiers. The concluding chapters deal with punctuation, capitalization, and the use of structures such as the cleft sentence, the sentence appositive, and the nominative absolute.

Words into Type
This is the definitive text for questions of manuscript protocol, copyediting, style, grammar, and usage. For those who find The Chicago Manual of Style a bit cumbersome and sometimes ambigous, Words Into Type will be a welcome reference guide. With its easy-to-use index and definitive explanations, this third edition makes life simpler for writers, editors, and proofreaders. You may never need to know about frontispieces and imprimaturs, but if you deal with words, this is a wonderfully edifying, reassuring fount of clarity and wisdom.

Professional Writing Skills
Professional Writing Skills breaks down the writing process into easy-to-follow steps that help users get started and figure out what they want to say. . . . The process makes it easy to organize ideas and information into a logical sequence. . . .The practice exercises are great, too. I learned the techniques almost without effort. The simplicity of the program is another benefit. I could carry the book with me and do the practices on my way to work or even in bed. I also used the book to help tutor two staff members.

Business Grammar, Style & Usage
Based on the actual writing and speaking styles of leading business executives worldwide, this book features easy-to-follow instructions and techniques for preparing polished written documents and writing and speaking in an articulate manner. Focusing on how leading business professionals really communicate, the basics of writing and speaking, including traditional grammar and speaking dos and don'ts, are covered. Examined are the particular styles in which business professionals communicate with each other and how to develop a personal professional style. Featured are special sections on writing memos, offer letters, e-mails, and other business documents that business professionals need to master.

The Elements of Technical Writing
This book is general in its coverage and doesn't attempt to teach writing. It does teach some mechanics and offer some adivce on how to structure reports and articles. I found that I read this book once but now don't find it a useful reference. It does contain a number of style guidelines e.g., "representing numbers and math," but many examples are from chemistry and hard sciences; which I found less relevant to me. One chapter discusses what the authors call systems: computers and software.

Technical Writing 101
The [first edition's] pace is brisk, the writing crisp and clear...business principles behind technical writing shine through as well.To succeed in technical writing, you need a lot more than just writing ability. Technical Writing 101 details the skills you need as a technical writer, and it explains how to handle the pressures of tight deadlines and ever-changing product specifications. This valuable reference also describes the entire documentation process�planning, writing, editing, indexing, and production. This updated second edition features the latest information on single sourcing and a new chapter on how trends in structured authoring and Extensible Markup Language (XML) affect technical writers.

Rules for Writers
This is arguably one of the most well-written books on the subject of writing that I've seen thus far. The author provides the reader with a comprehensive set of tools, definitions and mechanics that are essential in most every form of writing. While this book is well-aimed towards those who write academic papers or journalistic publications, "Rules for Writers" will help improve the writing skills of those who communicate with others via email or who wish to acquire skills in writing professional business letters. The chapters are easily laid out and will help a reader regardless of whether the entire book is to be read from beginning to end, or if a specific subject is sought (punctuation, etc). This book has helped me with my academic writing and I highly recommend it for those who regularly write essays or other forms of correspondence.

Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation
Writing your masters thesis or doctoral dissertation can be a daunting task. Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation, Second Edition demystifies the process, helping you prepare your scholarly work. This experience-based, practical book takes you through the process one step at a time! Newly revised and updated, this edition uses a step-by-step approach, providing specific models and examples that will take you through the complex writing process. Included are chapters on: Laying the groundwork for the thesis or dissertation; Organizing and scheduling your work; Peer collaboration; Using technology; Developing and defending your work; Conducting quality research and writing a winning report; Defending and publishing your dissertation; and Solving problems throughout the dissertation process. This excellent resource, used in its first edition by tens of thousands of students, will provide you with clear direction for structuring a winning thesis or dissertation.

Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity
ABC News correspondent Stossel mines his 20/20 segments for often engaging, frequently tendentious challenges to conventional wisdom, presenting a series of "myths" and then deploying an investigative journalism shovel to unearth "truth." This results in snappy debunkings of alarmism, witch-hunts, satanic ritual abuse prosecutions and marketing hokum like the irradiated-foods panic, homeopathic medicine and the notion that bottled water beats tap. Stossel's libertarian convictions make him particularly fond of expos�s of government waste and regulatory fiascoes, which are usually effective but lead inexorably to blanket denunciations of "monster government" and sermons on the wisdom of the market. Sloganeering�"Myth: The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) will make America less sexist. Truth: The EEOC will torment people and enrich lawyers"�sometimes crowds out objectivity. The author's complacent glosses on overpopulation and global warming ("we can build dykes and move back from the coasts") are especially glib and one-sided. Fans of Stossel's similarly opinionated bestseller Give Me a Break will eat up this new book, but other readers may wince when the author's ideology overshadows the facts.

Asking the Right Questions
Guide to critical thinking for students. Includes revised text and Companion Website, new practice passages, rewritten chapters, and an emphasis on the positive dimensions of critical thinking.

Lessons From The Edge: For-Profit and Nontraditional Higher Education in America

The importance of for-profit higher education becomes clear when one examines the state of higher education today. Traditional institutions are facing major pressures, including diminishing financial support, a call to serve adult learners, the need to balance applied and liberal arts curricula, and the need to maintain and evolve the institutional mission.

Stakeholders are more numerous than ever before, and they are pulling institutions in different directions. Traditional higher education institutions are increasingly pressured to alter the their missions because diminished public funding has resulted in dependence on donors and corporations with varied interests. This strain is causing universities to behave in new ways.

For-profit institutions provide a model of how to handle these challenges by their very structure--they are organized to operate professionally as a business and continually question and refine their organizational mission. They are constructed specifically to meet the needs of adult learners, and the core of their mission--to help adult and traditionally underserved students--is constant and clear.

The Age of American Unreason

Inspired by Richard Hofstadter's trenchant 1963 cultural analysis Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Jacoby (Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism) has produced an engaging, updated and meticulously thought-out continuation of her academic idol's research. Dismayed by the average U.S. citizen's political and social apathy and the overall crisis of memory and knowledge involving everything about the way we learn and think, Jacoby passionately argues that the nation's current cult of unreason has deadly and destructive consequences (the war in Iraq, for one) and traces the seeds of current anti-intellectualism (and its partner in crime, antirationalism) back to post-WWII society.

Unafraid of pointing fingers, she singles out mass media and the resurgence of fundamentalist religion as the primary vectors of anti-intellectualism, while also having harsh words for pseudoscientists. Through historical research, Jacoby breaks down popular beliefs that the 1950s were a cultural wasteland and the 1960s were solely a breeding ground for liberals. Though sometimes partial to inflated prose (America's endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been grievously exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism), Jacoby has assembled an erudite mix of personal anecdotes, cultural history and social commentary to decry America's retreat into junk thought.

Quantum Computation and Quantum Information
In this first comprehensive introduction to the main ideas and techniques of quantum computation and information, Michael Nielsen and Isaac Chuang ask the question: What are the ultimate physical limits to computation and communication? They detail such remarkable effects as fast quantum algorithms, quantum teleportation, quantum cryptography and quantum error correction. A wealth of accompanying figures and exercises illustrate and develop the material in more depth. They describe what a quantum computer is, how it can be used to solve problems faster than familiar "classical" computers, and the real-world implementation of quantum computers. Their book concludes with an explanation of how quantum states can be used to perform remarkable feats of communication, and of how it is possible to protect quantum states against the effects of noise.

Quantum Computing
First textbook on the topic which discusses theoretical foundations as well as experimental realizations in detail. The authors, both experienced teachers, didactically prepare the basics of quantum communication and quantum information processing, leading readers to modern technical implementations. They also discuss errors and decoherence as well as methods of avoiding and correcting them.

Fundamentals of Quantum Information : Quantum Computation, Communication, Decoherence and All That (Lecture Notes in Physics)
Quantum information science is a rapidly developing field that not only promises a revolution in computer sciences but also touches deeply the very foundations of quantum physics. This book consists of a set of lectures by leading experts in the field that bridges the gap between standard textbook material and the research literature, thus providing the ne- cessary background for postgraduate students and non-specialist researchers wishing to familiarize themselves with the subject thoroughly and at a high level. This volume is ideally suited as a course book for postgraduate students, and lecturers will find in it a large choice of material for bringing their courses up to date. Consists of a set of lectures by leading experts in the field that bridges the gap between standard textbook material and the research literature, thus providing the necessary background for postgraduate students and non-specialist researchers wishing to familiarize themselves with the subject thoroughly and at a high level.

Quantum Computing and Communications
Quantum computers will revolutionize the way telecommunications networks function. Quantum computing holds the promise of solving problems that would be intractable with conventional computers, by implementing principles from quantum physics in the development of computer hardware, software and communications equipment. Quantum-assisted computing will be the first step towards full quantum systems and will cause immense disruption of our traditional networks. The world's biggest manufacturers are investing large amounts of resource to develop crucial quantum-assisted circuits and devices. Quantum Computing and Communications: Gives an overview of basic quantum computing algorithms and their enhanced versions such as efficient database searching, counting and phase estimation. Introduces quantum-assisted solutions for telecom problems including multi-user detection in mobile systems, routing in IP based networks, and secure ciphering key distribution. Includes an accompanying website featuring exercises (with solutions manual) and sample algorithms from the classical telecom world, corresponding quantum-based solutions, bridging the gap between pure theory and engineering practice. This book provides telecommunications engineers, as well as graduate students and researchers in the fields of computer science and telecommunications, with a wide overview of quantum computing and communications and a wealth of essential, practical information.

Approaching Quantum Computing
With a clear writing style and matter-of-fact approach, this rigorous yet accessible introduction to quantum computing is designed for readers with a solid mathematical background but limited knowledge of physics and quantum mechanics. Using a methodical approach and an abundance of worked examples, this handbook delivers a thorough introduction to the quantum circuit model, including the mathematical formalism required for quantum computing. Concentrates on the quantum circuit model to make complex subject matter more accessible. Provides a phenomenological introduction to quantum computing, encouraging readers to view the subject as a fundamentally new approach to computing. Detailed presentation of quantum algorithms demonstrates the logic behind the development of Deutsch�s problem, quantum Fourier transform, Shor�s factoring algorithm, Simon�s algorithm for phase estimation, and discrete logarithms evaluation problems. For anyone interested in learning more about quantum computing.

The Bit and the Pendulum
Information, for most of us, is an airy, abstract thing--the stuff of ideas, images, and symbols. But for Tom Siegfried and the scientists he writes about in The Bit and the Pendulum: How the New Physics of Information Is Revolutionizing Science, information has become something much more fundamental to the workings of the world. "Information is real," Siegfried explains. "Information is physical." What that means depends somewhat on the discipline it's applied to (cosmology, particle physics, computer science, cognitive theory, and molecular biology are among the fields examined here), but in general it comes down to the radically simple notion that the universe, at its deepest levels, is made not of matter and energy but of bits. Information is real, yes. But more to the point: reality, in some increasingly meaningful sense, is information. So goes the argument anyway. And Siegfried, science editor of the Dallas Morning News, does a pretty good job of presenting it. His prose, admittedly, puts the flat in flat-footed, and his explanations of the relevant scientific phenomena (which include cool stuff like teleportation and quantum-mechanical computing) are sometimes murkier than they ought to be. But his knowledge of the last 10 years of theoretical research is sweeping, and he's especially deft with the tricky philosophy-of-science issues that pervade his topic. Have scientists really discovered, in information, the world's true foundation? Or have they simply found a handy new metaphor with which to think about the world? Siegfried wisely comes down on neither side of the question. For him, the power of metaphor is inseparable from the quest for scientific truth. And his book convincingly suggests that information, as a concept, will be generating deep scientific truths for years to come.

John Adams
Left to his own devices, John Adams might have lived out his days as a Massachusetts country lawyer, devoted to his family and friends. As it was, events swiftly overtook him, and Adams--who, David McCullough writes, was "not a man of the world" and not fond of politics--came to greatness as the second president of the United States, and one of the most distinguished of a generation of revolutionary leaders. He found reason to dislike sectarian wrangling even more in the aftermath of war, when Federalist and anti-Federalist factions vied bitterly for power, introducing scandal into an administration beset by other difficulties--including pirates on the high seas, conflict with France and England, and all the public controversy attendant in building a nation.

In Command of History
For many, the fact that Churchill won his Nobel for literature comes as a surprise, but he was a prolific�and very well paid�historian and journalist. Awarded Britain's Wolfson History Prize, this highly readable book by Cambridge historian Reynolds supplies the backstory to Churchill's massive postwar publishing project: the epic The Second World War. As the author notes, he's writing "a book about personal biography and public memory," beginning with Churchill's crushing defeat in the July 1945 election and offering a unique perspective on WWII, the onset of the Cold War and Churchill's determination to write the history of the 20th century's signal conflict. But Reynolds's real achievement is his grasp of the motives behind that determination: "Churchill's sense of the fickleness of fame... impelled him to be his own historian." He quotes a 1944 letter to Stalin in which Churchill writes, "I agree that we had better leave the past to history, but remember if I live long enough I may be one of the historians." Packed with detail and vivid characterizations (but still clearly a scholarly, thoroughly researched work), it's a different take on one of the few men capable of both making history and writing it. 16 pages of b&w photos.

One Bullet Away
The global war on terrorism has spawned some excellent combat narratives�mostly by journalists. Warriors, like Marine Corps officer Fick, bring a different and essential perspective to the story. A classics major at Dartmouth, Fick joined the Marines in 1998 because he "wanted to go on a great adventure... to do something so hard that no one could ever talk shit to me." Thus begins his odyssey through the grueling regimen of Marine training and wartime deployments�an odyssey that he recounts in vivid detail in this candid and fast-paced memoir. Fick was first deployed to Afghanistan, where he saw little combat, but his Operation [Iraqi] Freedom unit, the elite 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, helped spearhead the invasion of Iraq and "battled through every town on Highway 7" from Nasiriyah to al Kut. (Rolling Stone writer Evan Wright's provocative Generation Kill is based on his travels with Fick's unit.) Like the best combat memoirs, Fick's focuses on the men doing the fighting and avoids hyperbole and sensationalism. He does not shrink from the truth�however personal or unpleasant. "I was aware enough," he admits after a firefight, "to be concerned that I was starting to enjoy it."

Esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and a gripping narrative, adding new scholarship and a fresh perspective to the beginning of the American Revolution. It was a turbulent and confusing time. As British and American politicians struggled to reach a compromise, events on the ground escalated until war was inevitable. McCullough writes vividly about the dismal conditions that troops on both sides had to endure, including an unusually harsh winter, and the role that luck and the whims of the weather played in helping the colonial forces hold off the world's greatest army. He also effectively explores the importance of motivation and troop morale--a tie was as good as a win to the Americans, while anything short of overwhelming victory was disheartening to the British, who expected a swift end to the war. The redcoat retreat from Boston, for example, was particularly humiliating for the British, while the minor American victory at Trenton was magnified despite its limited strategic importance. Some of the strongest passages in 1776 are the revealing and well-rounded portraits of the Georges on both sides of the Atlantic. King George III, so often portrayed as a bumbling, arrogant fool, is given a more thoughtful treatment by McCullough, who shows that the king considered the colonists to be petulant subjects without legitimate grievances--an attitude that led him to underestimate the will and capabilities of the Americans. At times he seems shocked that war was even necessary. The great Washington lives up to his considerable reputation in these pages, and McCullough relies on private correspondence to balance the man and the myth, revealing how deeply concerned Washington was about the Americans' chances for victory, despite his public optimism. Perhaps more than any other man, he realized how fortunate they were to merely survive the year, and he willingly lays the responsibility for their good fortune in the hands of God rather than his own. Enthralling and superbly written, 1776 is the work of a master historian.

Path Between the Seas
On December 31, 1999, after nearly a century of rule, the United States officially ceded ownership of the Panama Canal to the nation of Panama. That nation did not exist when, in the mid-19th century, Europeans first began to explore the possibilities of creating a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the narrow but mountainous isthmus; Panama was then a remote and overlooked part of Colombia. All that changed, writes David McCullough in his magisterial history of the Canal, in 1848, when prospectors struck gold in California. A wave of fortune seekers descended on Panama from Europe and the eastern United States, seeking quick passage on California-bound ships in the Pacific, and the Panama Railroad, built to serve that traffic, was soon the highest-priced stock listed on the New York Exchange. To build a 51-mile-long ship canal to replace that railroad seemed an easy matter to some investors. But, as McCullough notes, the construction project came to involve the efforts of thousands of workers from many nations over four decades; eventually those workers, laboring in oppressive heat in a vast malarial swamp, removed enough soil and rock to build a pyramid a mile high. In the early years, they toiled under the direction of French entrepreneur Ferdinand de Lesseps, who went bankrupt while pursuing his dream of extending France's empire in the Americas. The United States then entered the picture, with President Theodore Roosevelt orchestrating the purchase of the canal--but not before helping foment a revolution that removed Panama from Colombian rule and placed it squarely in the American camp. The story of the Panama Canal is complex, full of heroes, villains, and victims. McCullough's long, richly detailed, and eminently literate book pays homage to an immense undertaking.

This warm biography of Harry Truman is both an historical evaluation of his presidency and a paean to the man's rock-solid American values. Truman was a compromise candidate for vice president, almost an accidental president after Roosevelt's death 12 weeks into his second term. Truman's stunning come-from-behind victory in the 1948 election showed how his personal qualities of integrity and straightforwardness were appreciated by ordinary Americans, perhaps, as McCullough notes, because he was one himself. His presidency was dominated by enormously controversial issues: he dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, established anti-Communism as the bedrock of American foreign policy, and sent U.S. troops into the Korean War. In this winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize, McCullough argues that history has validated most of Truman's war-time and Cold War decisions.

Mornings on Horseback
Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as "a masterpiece" (John A. Gable, Newsday), it is the winner of the Los Angeles Times 1981 Book Prize for Biography and the National Book Award for Biography. Written by David McCullough, the author of Truman, this is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and almost fatal asthma attacks, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household in which he was raised. The father is the first Theodore Roosevelt, a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. The mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and a celebrated beauty, but also considerably more, which the book makes clear as never before. There are sisters Anna and Corinne, brother Elliott (who becomes the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the lovely, tragic Alice Lee, TR's first love. All are brought to life to make "a beautifully told story, filled with fresh detail", wrote The New York Times Book Review. A book to be read on many levels, it is at once an enthralling story, a brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. It is a book about life intensely lived, about family love and loyalty, about grief and courage, about "blessed" mornings on horseback beneath the wide blue skies of the Badlands.

Brave Companions
Despite the diversity of their interests and achievements, the men and women profiled in this collection of 17 essays by bestselling historian McCullough ( The Great Bridge ; The Path Between the Seas ) had a lot in common. Whether scientist (Louis Agassiz, Alexander von Humboldt), engineer (John and Washington Roebling), writer (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Conrad Aiken) or artist (Frederic Remington), each had a special perspective that continues to influence us. A skilled portraitist, McCullough vibrantly captures these viewpoints as he relates their impact on his own thought. Produced over 20 years, the essays unfold seamlessly to reveal the uniqueness of individuals whose "work and interests are inspiriting forces." History Book Club and QPB alternates.

Johnstown Flood
The history of civil engineering may sound boring, but in David McCullough's hands it is, well, riveting. His award-winning histories of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal were preceded by this account of the disastrous dam failure that drowned Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889. Written while the last survivors of the flood were still alive, McCullough's narrative weaves the stories of the town, the wealthy men who owned the dam, and the forces of nature into a seamless whole. His account is unforgettable: "The wave kept on coming straight toward him, heading for the very heart of the city. Stores, houses, trees, everything was going down in front of it, and the closer it came, the bigger it seemed to grow.... The height of the wall of water was at least thirty-six feet at the center.... The drowning and devastation of the city took just about ten minutes." A powerful, definitive book, and a tribute to the thousands who died in America's worst inland flood.

Great Bridge : The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
In the 19th century, the Brooklyn Bridge was viewed as the greatest engineering feat of mankind. The Roeblings--father and son--toiled for decades, fighting competitors, corrupt politicians, and the laws of nature to fabricate a bridge which, after 100 years, still provides one of the major avenues of access to one of the world's busiest cities--as compared to many bridges built at the same time which collapsed within decades or even years. It is refreshing to read such a magnificent story of real architecture and engineering in an era where these words refer to tiny bits and bytes that inspire awe only in their abstract consequences, and not in their tangible physical magnificence.

The Course of Human Events
In a 2003 speech given in Washington, D.C., author David McCullough reminds listeners that history is made up of human beings, not gods. He cites the flaws of the Founding Fathers as he ticks off their accomplishments. One of his favorite points to stress is their love of books and literature; Patrick Henry's famous speech before being hanged, for example, comes from CATO, a play popular at the time. McCullough reads as a master lecturer as he discusses the Founders, then turns personal as he discusses his own love of books, which started with a copy of AMOS AND ME, a children's book about Benjamin Franklin. Book-lovers, especially those with an interest in history, will enjoy hearing how books teach us about the past--and present. On May 15th, 2003 David McCullough presented The Course of Human Events as The 2003 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities in Washington, DC. The Jefferson Lecture is a tribute to McCullough's lifetime investigation of history. In this short speech, this master historian tracks his fascination with all things historical to his early days in Pittsburgh where he "learned to love history by way of books" in bookshops and at the local library. McCullough eloquently leads us through the founding fathers' attraction to history, letting us in on his composition of 1776 as well as the Pulitzer Prize winning John Adams. His obvious affection for history is inspiring, because it encompasses the whole reach of the human drama. In McCullough's able hands, history truly "is a larger way of looking at life."

American Heritage's Great Minds of American History
These are tapes of Roger Mudd's interviews on the History channel. Represented are Stephen Ambrose on WWII and the post-war era, Gordon Wood on the American Revolution, David McCullough on America's forgotten era (1865-1914), Richard White on the American West, and James McPherson on the Civil War. All five of the participants and the interviewer are articulate, well spoken and knowledgeable. Each historian brings his own point of view to his topic; no general survey of the area is intended. History buffs will enjoy listening.

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A new addition to the Oxford History of the United States, Wood's superb book brings together much of what historians now know about the first quarter-century of the nation's history under the Constitution. Acknowledged as the leading historian of the period, Wood brings authority and easy style to a tough task—wrestling into order a period of unusual anxiety, confusion, crisis and unbridled growth in the nation's affairs. The emergence of democracy and individualism is his overarching theme. No surprise there, for he's the author of a celebrated work (The Radicalism of the American Revolution) on just that topic. In this new work, he concentrates more on events, institutions, politics and diplomacy than in his earlier books yet proves himself a master of these topics, too. He offers no newfangled approaches, no strongly stated positions, no contests with other historians. Instead, we get the distillation of a lifetime's study and reflection about the era between Washington's presidency and the end of the War of 1812. A triumph of the historian's art, Wood's book will not soon be supplanted. No one interested in the era should miss it. 40 b&w illus., maps. (Oct.) Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Jill Lepore. In 1784 an English radical named Richard Price published an 88-page pamphlet called "Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution and the Means of Making it a Benefit to the World." Price, a friend of Benjamin Franklin's, had been a warm supporter of American independence. In advocating the rebelling colonists' cause, he had risked charges of treason. Now that independence was won, he looked to the United States as the world's best hope. "The revolution in favor of universal liberty which has taken place in America," he wrote, is "a revolution which opens a new prospect in human affairs and begins a new era in the history of mankind." With that colossal promise came great danger, in the possibility of an equally colossal failure. If the United States were to fail, if the new government were to descend into petty party rancor, if the American people were to grow smug and foolish and self-indulgent, it would be the whole world's loss: "The consequence will be that the fairest experiment ever tried in human affairs will miscarry and that a revolution which had revived the hopes of good men and promised an opening to better times will become a discouragement to all future efforts in favor of liberty and prove only an opening to a new scene of human degeneracy and misery." That thrilling momentousness -- the boundless promise and grave peril facing the new and precarious United States -- is what Gordon Wood has attempted to capture and tame in "Empire of Liberty," the newest volume in the Oxford History of the United States, a hallmark series launched by C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter 27 years ago and now edited by the distinguished historian David Kennedy. No other living historian knows this era better than Wood, who has been writing about it since his first book, "The Creation of the American Republic," which won a Bancroft Prize in 1970. His most widely read work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Radicalism of the American Revolution," served, in part, as a repudiation of the work of scholars who had argued that early Americans were fundamentally economic actors. Wood has little interest in grit, in daily ugliness and economic strife, although he has an eye for the ordinary. His argument in "Radicalism of the American Revolution" was that the real revolution lay as much in everyday and essentially peaceful "transformations in the relationships that bound people to each other" as in the replacement of a monarchy with a democracy. He made the same argument in "Creation of the American Republic" and now has made it again in "Empire of Liberty." This volume, which begins with the ratification of the Constitution and ends with the close of the War of 1812 ("the strangest war in American history," Wood calls it), ranges across vast swaths of territory, geographic and thematic, inventorying changes, both grand and subtle, in everything from the electoral process to vernacular architecture. Throughout, Wood is concerned with documenting the halting process by which early Americans shed their fidelity to a culture of deference in favor of a messier sort of striving with the idea of equality. "The essentially aristocratic world of the Founding Fathers in which gentry leaders stood for election," he writes, "was largely replaced by a very different democratic world, a recognizably modern world of competing professional politicians who ran for office under the banners of modern political parties." Wood, who is chiefly a political and intellectual historian, has a particular knack for writing books with the magisterial sweep of the other volumes in the Oxford History series. "Empire of Liberty" will rightly take its place among the authoritative volumes in this important and influential series, but it is not likely to stir readers yearning for a fresh interpretation of the period. Wood is not surprised by his own discoveries, and he won't surprise readers with them. Over the past few decades, the battles waged in the field of early American political history have gotten narrower and narrower. And the big questions have been beaten to death but not answered. The debate over whether the radicalism of the American Revolution lies in its origins or its consequences is, by now, a dead horse in a one-horse town. Wood has dominated this field because, at a time when historical scholarship has grown specialized and fragmented and cramped, he excels at expansive synthesis. The founding of the United States was marked by rebelliousness, originality and experiment. Price, rhapsodizing about the dawn of a new era in human history, was breathless and nearly giddy about it. "Empire of Liberty" is not, which produces a certain mismatch between the spirit of the age, soaring and irreverent, and the spirit of this book, commanding and dutiful. Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

Empires of Trust: How Rome Built--and America Is Building--a New World
An acclaimed historian offers an optimistic view of the future of the United States in the light of Roman history. Maybe the end of the American ascendancy is not upon us. Maybe the U.S. will continue to dominate the world for centuries. Now award-winning historian Thomas Madden delivers an optimistic view of our nation's future. Madden shows that the power of the ancient Roman republic and the U.S. was built on trust between allies, not the conquest of enemies. The far-reaching implications of this fact are essential reading for anyone who cares about the challenges we face now and in the years ahead. Packed with stories from Roman history that offer amazingly obvious and explicitly stated parallels to our recent history, Empires of Trust is a narrative pleasure and a hopeful inspiration.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum
The recurring metaphor in The Inmates are Running the Asylum is that of the dancing bear--the circus bear that shuffles clumsily for the amusement of the audience. Such bears, says author Alan Cooper, don't dance well, as everyone at the circus can see. What amazes the crowd is that the bear dances at all. Cooper argues that technology (videocassette recorders, car alarms, most software applications for personal computers) consists largely of dancing bears--pieces that work, but not at all well. He goes on to say that this is more often than not the fault of poorly designed user interfaces, and he makes a good argument that way too many devices (perhaps as a result of the designers' subconscious wish to bully the people who tormented them as children) ask too much of their users. Too many systems (like the famous unprogrammable VCR) make their users feel stupid when they can't get the job done. Cooper, who designed Visual Basic (the programming environment Microsoft promotes for the purpose of creating good user interfaces), indulges in too much name-dropping and self-congratulation (Cooper attributes the quote, "How did you do that?" to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, upon looking at one of Cooper's creations)--but this appears to be de rigueur in books about the software industry. But those asides are minor. More valuable is the discourse about software design and implementation ("[O]bject orientation divides the 1000-brick tower into 10 100-brick towers."). Read this book for an idea of what's wrong with UI design.

Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World
"Blog" is short for "Web log"-an online site with time-dated postings, maintained by one or more posters, that features links and commentary. But that is like saying a car is a means of transportation featuring four wheels. Millions are changing their habits when it comes to information acquisition, and the blogosphere has appeared so suddenly as to surprise even the most sophisticated of analysts. In Blog, best-selling author Hugh Hewitt helps you catch up with and get ahead of this phenomenon. Up until now no influential blogger has written a definitive book about this phenomenon. Since Hugh Hewitt's blog site was launched in early 2002, more than 10 million people have visited this site. Why does this visitor traffic matter? People's attentions are up for grabs. If you depend upon the steady trust of others, suddenly you have an audience waiting to hear from you. The race is underway, though, to gain mindspace and to be part of the blogosphere readers' habits and to position yourself as well as your business or organization at the forefront of this information movement. According to Hewitt, Internet bloggers will eventually cause book publishing to disappear--though not, one assumes, before Hewitt cashes in on his current book deal. Hewitt's premise leans to the right: Conservative truth-telling bloggers (a blog is a Web site offering daily commentary) will cause the liberal elite mass media empire to crumble. If you're looking for a nonpartisan take on the social and economic effects of blogging, this is NOT the book. Hewitt's rat-a-tat-tat narrative approach works on radio (at times he sounds like Dan Ackroyd in DRAGNET) but becomes tiresome over four CDS. The book's appendices and a few other extras are included on a bonus CD-ROM.

Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture
Blogging, at least in principle, is far from new. It could be argued, as the authors do, that Thomas Paine was a proto-blogger whose blogging paraphernalia consisted of pamphlets instead of free software and an internet connection. In this dense and entertaining analysis of the "new paradigm for human communication," journalists Kline and Burstein examine the notion that weblogs, or "blogs," are redefining journalism and media consumption and conclude that, while blogging may not signal the death of big media, it has measurably impacted everything from political campaigns-as evidenced by Howard Dean's presidential bid-to the life of former child star Wil Wheaton, who found his "second act" in a tell-all blog about the humiliations of show business. Soliciting the thoughts of well-known bloggers, such as Andrew Sullivan and Jeff Jarvis, the authors create a venerable blogosphere bible that navigates and interprets the cyber-verbosity informing the way journalists do their jobs, from fact finding to steering coverage. Using specific examples of blogger power, such as the release of an Iranian dissident from prison, and employing Q&A interviews with movers and shakers like Microsoft's Robert Scoble to discuss blogs' current and future marketplace utility, the authors offer a lot to consider about our information-saturated culture and what cream might rise to the top of it.

Editorial comments courtesy of Amazon.com.

return to list of available topics


last modified: June 24, 2015 00:07:04 UTC

Creative Commons License
The content of this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.