I always know when fall time is rolling round as I become more enamored of reading in the evenings. In much the same way that squirrels collect pine cones for the winter, I begin hauling in books that peak my interest.
Here are a few of my recent reads and reviews thereof:
This literary classic is much improved by the addition of some ultra-violent zombie mayhem. Not only do I heartily approve the addition of brain-hungry hordes of the undead and sword-swinging Ninja action to this wheezy tome, but I can only hope that it will lead to other cross-over stories. Charles Dickens’ novels could badly do with an injection of killer robots, for example. Seriously, if you have never been able to get into Jane Austen before (like me), try this volume and see if you don’t enjoy the story that much more. I am greatly looking forward to “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” which should be out in September.
From zombies to politicians–some folks would say that’s not much of a stretch. However, if you are looking for a good,non-fiction, political page turner, I can highly recommend “The Thumpin’: How Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats Learned to Be Ruthless and Ended the Republican Revolution”. I’m not generally interested in election stories, but I was definitely intrigued by Chicago Tribune reporter, Naftali Bendavid’s, coverage of the 2006 election. Bendavid’s portrait of the election process and the personalities behind it is both riveting and compelling. Literally, I couldn’t put this book down once I started even though I obviously knew the outcome.
One small nitpick: it would have been nice to have described the duties of a campaign manager in more detail. If you don’t have experience trying to coordinate a large event like a campaign, I’m not sure that you can really appreciate Rahm Emanuel’s position as he essentially manages not one, but fifty separate political races–at the same time.
So what were the ideas Rahm Emanuel and his posse of Democratic challengers campaigning on? “The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America” by Emanuel and Bruce Reed outlines the three major points of the Democratic platform: 1) universal education, 2) universal healthcare, and 3) universal service. A word of advice: the universal healthcare plan Emanuel and Reed advocate is not the same as the current plan under discussion.
Get the paperback version of this book with the new foreword written in 2008. The authors make clear in the foreward that The Plan is about their ideas and doesn’t reflect the views of the staff and management (e.g. President Obama).
The book opens with an entertaining account of the difference between hacks (professional politicians) and wonks (policy experts) and the importance of keeping an even balance of power between the two. It then moves into a discussion of the authors’ proposals for education, health, and volunteer service.
The healthcare policy changes they propose are much more conservative than anything currently being discussed in Congress (or at least that was my read of Emanuel and Reed’s ideas). I didn’t care for their idea of a volunteer service corps either. I’ve heard similar proposals before and I dispute the idea that my fellow Americans are somehow falling down in their citizenship duties. It’s the government that should do more, not the citizens who are going all out just to keep their heads above water. I did like President Obama’s plan–which is just a footnote in the universal service section–that high school and junior high students could earn money for college by doing community service.
The idea that held the most promise for me was universal education. In this section, the authors talk about making a college education free for everyone which I rather like. In Arnor, we have a similar program where high school seniors at the top of their class get a four year, full tuition scholarship to the state university.
One of the outcomes of The Thumpin’ was that Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House. “Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters” is the book she co-wrote with Amy Hill Heath. If you are looking for a definitive autobiography, however, you will be disappointed. The book is really the text of a long, inspirational speech in hardback. If, on the other hand, you are just looking for the highlights of Nancy’s life, then you will enjoy this book.
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