Book Reviews & Recommendations 2015


What a great year of reading it was.  The themes I’ve explored in my reading have been truth, physical fitness, historical & vertical community, politics, philosophy, religion, real estate and literature. 

I’ve written brief reviews for some of the books, as well as chosen a book of the year.  Enjoy!

The Old South: A Brief History with Documents (Mercer University Press) by Dr. David Williams 5/5 Stars
Excellent book.  History truly is written by the winners, and as always, the people at the bottom take the worst of whatever happens.  This book pointed out several key things: 1) Slavery was destructive for everyone, even to the slaveholders and the others who existed within this society 2) Indirectly, slavery was the main cause of the conflict of the Civil War, in that for economic reasons, the south relied on slavery 3) The Elite classes (British originally) began the precedence of racism in the US by turning whites against blacks, in order to prevent revolts such as the one which occurred in Virginia in the 1700s, in this way, the elite classes used poor whites to control blacks by making whites feel superior to blacks 4) poor whites had it bad in the Old South, but not near as bad as poor blacks and or slaves 5) There were legitimate social graces and manners which occurred within southern society that made it more “gentlemanly”, polite, or romantic, but much  was done after the war to create an ideal of southern romanticism and justify racism.  

CEO as Urban Statesman, by Sam Williams 5/5 Stars
Excellent book from my friend Sam Williams.  Business executives are the most powerful people in the US, perhaps even the world.  Sam details case studies of leaders who have made a positive difference in quality of life for the worlds they live in, respectively.  This book could be used to encourage other leaders to step forward and make a difference.  Politicians are often hamstrung by their ideological limitations and commitments, whereas business leaders can be more compromising and effective.

Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam, by Tawfik Hamid 4/5 Stars
Inside Jihad is packed full of eye-opening information, and gives us a detailed plan for how to deal with the problems we are sure to face.  We’re in for a long ride.  An anonymous friend of mine helped get this book done, and I truly enjoyed it, particularly the background and historical information about Islam and it’s different forms.

Brain Rules by John Medina 5/5 Stars
The human brain is the most complex thing in the entire world, by a long shot! We don’t even know that much (yet) relatively speaking, about how the brain works.  If you want to learn how to use your brain to the best of your ability, read this book.

Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin  5/5 Stars
Laurus is an enchanted tale of Medieval Russia, and one of the best books I’ve ever read.  It won book of the year for 2014 in Russia.  For most of human existence, all of life was metaphysical, in that every thing had spiritual meaning.  In modernity, we tend to live 100% materially, and we give too much meaning to material things that don’t matter so this book in addition to being a fascinating story, puts our lives in a different light.  Laurus tells an incredible story through the minds of simple but noble Russian characters who looked at their lives as being incredibly meaningful, every single bit. A wild and touching ride through Europe in the Middle Ages.

The Warrior’s Way & The Soldier’s Soul by Terrence Popp
There’s nothing like the stoic humor and sage advice of a hardcore soldier.  If you’re offended easily, or you don’t like to hear the truth, don’t read this book. 

The Names of Jesus by Father Thomas Hopko 4/5 Stars
Inspiring read, urging us to always remember our spiritual presence, and to help others in their journeys as well, by remembering the many different names of Christ in the scriptures and the many many ways he presented himself to us. 

God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens, 4/5 Stars
I would suggest reading this book before Peter Hitchens’ The Rage Against God.  Christopher, Peter’s brother, makes some much-needed points and critiques about the excesses of religion, particularly Islam.  His wit and command of history is unparalleled in the modern era, in my opinion.  Ultimately though, Hitchens fails, at least in his criticism of Christianity, by disproving his own thesis.  Mankind, in his imperfect and fallen state, has only proven even more his own need for truth and redemption, beauty, and goodness, explicitly by how he has handled and failed often in the administration of Christ’s church.  We are imperfect beings, and when we remember this, we’re at our best.  Tragically, Hitchens failed to grasp this key point: the church is an institution of fallen men, attempting to live out and become the body of Christ on earth, and are failing exactly because they are fallen.  In other words, Hitchens proves the need for Christ and the church by his criticism of it.  That being said, religious people should read this book, as believers can often fail miserably in their efforts and I commend the late Christopher Hitchens for his comments.

The Great Divorce by CS Lewis, 4/5 Stars
Great read about a man’s trip through hell, purgatory, and heaven.  As Lewis says, “the gates of hell are locked from the inside.”

Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway 4/5 Stars
I read this before I went to Australia on a black marlin fishing trip.  If ever anyone understood a man’s psyche, it was Hemingway.  The struggle can be a beautiful thing.  Hemingway won the Pulitzer prize for this book and was the master of economy and efficiency of words.

The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 4/5 Stars
A beautiful book, about what lies beneath the surface. Not much extraordinary happened, but it was a read that stuck with me, and even still I think about the characters.

The Way of Chuang Tzu by Father Thomas Merton 4/5 Stars
Thomas Merton was a monk who for a time lived in Kentucky. He wrote some inspiring books about spiritual truths we could learn from other religions (among many other books), including in this case, his examination of the life and teaching of Chuang Tzu.  Interesting to me was how the Chinese came very close to articulating the same idea of the Judeo-Christian God through their teaching on the Tao. 

Shop Class as Soulcraft by Mathew Crawford 5/5 Stars
This is one of the best essays / books I’ve ever read.  Work has been morally degraded in our society, as I have been touching on in the recent essays I’ve written on work.  This is not healthy.  Mathew Crawford has craftily written a treatise on the soul-nourishing value of trade and skilled craft work.  This could have been written in 500 BC or 2050 AD and it would have been just as good and timely. 

Strong Towns by Charles Maron 5/5 Stars
Charles should be nominated for TIme’s Man of the Year.  He is single-handedly doing more to help America than anyone else I’ve encountered the last few years by trying to rebuild smaller cities and towns to make them more livable, safe, and financially viable.

Can You Go? by Dan John 4 / 5 Stars
Strength Coach with a lifetime of experience relays his motto: Can You Go?  Bottom line- Fitness and athletic performance are an art AND a science.

No Man’s Land by Jack Donovan 4.5/5 Stars
Jack Donovan is controversial but he pulls no punches.  This is a short read about how America is being re-engineered away from traditional manhood, which does not bode well for the future. 

The Way of Men (Re-Read) by Jack Donovan 5/5 Stars
One of my all time favorite books.  I re-read it every year.  Strength, Courage, Mastery, Honor.  Enough Said.

37 essays by Quintuis Curtius 4/5 Stars
I love essays.  You can read one, then ponder it’s meaning.  These are all excellent and illustrate one maxim that has stood the test of time: There’s nothing new under the sun.

On the Edge by Dick Jackson 4/5 Stars – My friend, a legend from Vietnam and the Business World recounting his time spent in the jungle and in the great outdoors.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown 4/5 Stars – Important and very influential book: SHAME is a big deal, and it’s everywhere.  Recognizing it and calling it out are the first step in healing. 

The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline 4/5 Stars – former special ops officer from the USSR, detailing the secrets of body weight training. 

Same Side Selling by Ian Altman and Jack Quarles 3.5 / Stars
Good book, I felt like I could have written it.  Basically, sell with integrity.  Would you sell this to your mother? Someone you love?  This has always been my philosophy.

40 Alternatives to College by James Altucher 4/5 Stars – Self explanatory but with college tuition at an all time high, worth a look.  College, for the most part, is about socializing.  You can learn anything you learn in college for free now, and on a computer at home. 

Consulting 101 by Lew Sauder 4/5 Stars – Tips for a consulting practice

Forty-Five Letters from a World War II Sailor by Robert Bradshaw 4/5 Stars
Maybe it’s because I know the author, my friend Robert Bradshaw, so well that I enjoyed reading this so much.  These are letters written from a brave young merchant marine who just wants what so many other soldiers and sailors want: to come home, see family, and get back to normal. 

ESV Study Bible by Theological Staff at Compass 5/5 Stars – Impressive array of scholars from all over the world contributed to this masterpiece translation.  Similar to the New King James Version, but without the politics of that era, and with 1/4 to 1/2 of each of the 3000 pages devoted to study notes and explanations.  Superb book to own.

How to Think Clearly by Doug Erlandson 5/5 Stars – Logic, decision making, and critical thinking skills. Excellent and challenging read.  I’ll read it again.

Frommers Easy Guide to Australia 3/5 Stars – Gets the job done for the major cities and sites but leaves a lot to be desired for the rest of the country.

Hating Whitey, and Other Progressive Causes by David Horowitz 4/5 Stars
In this biting read the former Marxist progressive turned conservative Mr. Horowitz writes about the mind games that politicians play to keep people angry at one another and win votes.  This is a sad book to have to read.  The Democratic Party of FDR, the one I would probably belong to if it had not lost it’s moral foundations,  could have done so much better than the lowest common denominator politics that they seem to rely on these days.  Between race warfare, class warfare, sex warfare, and now even sexual orientation and gender warfare, the leftists have covered all the angles for stoking up anger, division, and votes.  Too bad it hasn’t led to any positive change and never will.  I recommend this book.

The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth by Chris Brogan 5/5 Stars- Point made Chris: Be different and be compelling in business.  3 steps: 1) Make a plan 2) Stick to the Plan 3) If you don’t have a plan, make one. 

Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton, 5/5 Stars – I’m ashamed to say this is the first Chesterton I’ve read.  Easily one of the greatest books ever written in the English language.  I literally outlined the entire book.  I was not surprised to find after Googling his name that there are “Chesterton Societies” all over the world.  The man was a genius. 

Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett 5/5 Stars
This is a new staple of my exercise library along with “Athletic Body in Balance”.  One of the all-time classics in exercise science literature.

*The Rage Against God: How My Atheism Led Me To Faith by Peter Hitchens, 5/5 Stars
*2015 Book of the Year

Every now and then, you read a book so good, you are sad that it’s going to end.  This is a book like that.  British Peter Hitchens, the less famous but every bit as talented brother of writer Christopher Hitchens details the decline of the UK and Europe, and to a lesser extent the US, through the lens of his former Marxism and through his time reporting from godless societies like China and (predominately) the Soviet Union.  Hitchens main points are hard to argue with: 1) the decline of Christianity is linked to an overall decline in the trust of institutions in general, particularly in Europe, where WWI & WWII destroyed faith in the church 2) Christianity has too often, like other religions, been co-opted by governments for purposes of war, or at least for the morale of the troops 3) godless states soon turn into anarchy and social trust breaks down- which may unfortunately be happening in the US & UK currently 4) The Rage against God is what it sounds like- Rage, Anger, stemming from pride, the greatest of all sins.  All sins I know all too well! 

As I read the book, I kept asking myself….is this why they crucified him?  The rage, the anger, the pride?  As I recently learned from GK Chesterton, who said not too long ago, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” What impressed me most about this book was Peter’s humility, all too lacking in modern discourse.  And this coming from someone with a cultural and educational pedigree which would not warrant it.   I’ll be buying copies of this book to give out.  An inspiring work!

There you have it, and what a year it’s been.   I’m always amazed at how many talented writers there are out there and I already have a whole stack of books I’m reading right now for 2016.

Let me know what you’re reading and what you recommend!

When it comes to being healthy, the search for the truth is always good thing.  As it’s been said, the truth can shine a light into dark places, and the truth can set you free. 

Have a great 2016!





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