BOOKS YOU'LL LIKE... 

A GOOD BOOK is like a good pillow, drawing the dormant thoughts and reflections from the back of your mind and swirling them unexpectedly into a different place, or another time. Like dreams - sometimes humorous, adventurous, or inspirational, at other times tragic or provoking - a story told well touches the desire in all of us to be connected with one another, to our past as well as to our present.  What good reads stir your thoughts? Here are a few favorites of mine, my own worn copies of stories which remind me that beyond everything we can and have accomplished, beyond all we can and have endured, our capacity for either is often limitless. 

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The Great Migration, the “unseen” movement of over four million African-Americans out of the American South in the first half of the 20th Century, is likely the largest internal shift of a nation’s population anytime, and anywhere, in history. Who they were, where they went and how they got there, are important elements of the tale. But the story of WHY this long and silent exodus happened is a wrenching chronicle of what is was like to be a 'Negro' in America in the first half of the 1900s. It’s difficult to fully grasp. “Racism” is a wholly inadequate term to describe what compelled millions of Americans to abandon much of what they knew and loved for an uncertain future in the North.  Rather, the South’s unrelentingly cruel and systemic oppressions - known collectively as ‘Jim Crow’, a name drawn from a northern minstrel character in black-face – was the underlying current of causation, the riptide of human intolerance that pushed them northward.  After the centuries-long horror of slavery and the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation, a society built on White Superiority over Negroes discarded generations of Black Americans into a life-long abyss of dehumanizing fear, terroristic intimidation, and almost unimaginable violence with a level of indifferent cruelty against fellow human beings, fellow citizens of America, that is nearly impossible to comprehend as ever having actually happened. And yet, it did. Every day of every month of every year. For Generations. Entire lifetimes began and ended for millions of African-Americans, here in America, without ever having fulfilled the basic human desire for self-determination, for true freedom. The Warmth Of Other Suns is the story of their struggle to find that freedom for themselves.  Be daring enough to set aside what you think you know, and read this stunning book. It will change how you think about America then and now, as history written well ought to do.

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In 1953, barely five months after leaving the White House, former President Harry S. Truman and his wife, Bess, loaded up Harry's brand new Chrysler New in Independence, Missouri, and - all on their own and without any Secret Service protection -  hit the road! Stopping at gas stations, diners and motels along the way, ordinary American citizens were stunned to see the former President pumping his own gas in West Virginia, or seated with Bess at a roadside restaurant in Pennsylvania.  Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure is a remarkably charming story of an America that is long past, and of a remarkable American Citizen-President, the likes of whom we may never see again.  It's a terrific little read, a nostalgic journey with Harry Truman across America that will leave you smiling, remembering when, and wishing...   

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Beneath the great tragedy of the loss of seven remarkable American Astronauts is an even greater and more tragic truth: it ought never to have happened. 

The loss of these brave souls in a fiery explosion moments after lift-off on the 28th of January, 1986, could have been prevented. It should have been.  The long history of failures of the O-rings in the solid rocket booster joints of the space shuttle's launch system were well-documented and well-known by nearly everyone involved in the shuttle program.  Yet somehow, the clear risks evident in the previous O-ring failures were taken not as a sign of impending disaster, but rather - unbelievably - as proof that the ring design itself was safe to fly. 

How was such a decision even possible? To find out, Columbia University Sociologist Diane Vaughan, PhD., took a closer look not at the people who made the decision, but rather at the organizational structure within NASA that made such a clearly unsound decision appear technologically valid and safe.  The accepted rational within NASA was stunning: It's as if your house keeps catching fire, over and over again without burning down, and so you view these repeated fires not as a clear indication of a life-threatening risk to your family, but rather as evidence that your house is, in fact, fireproof. 

How do well-intentioned and capable organizations like NASA fail so spectacularly?  How did this particular decision to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger happen? Dr. Vaughan's examination of those questions is fascinating. 

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When I heard, in 1984, that President Ronald Reagan referred to Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, which Reagan had received as a gift, as the "perfect yarn", I had to have it! 

Written by a then-unknown author and full-time insurance salesman, Tom Clancy, the book exploded in popularity when the equally popular President touted it, and it seemed as if everyone, everywhere you looked, was reading it. 

Perfectly capturing the Cold War tensions of the time that existed between The United States and The Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics, the book also seemed to have an "inside" source into American and Soviet submarine technologies and tactics at a time when the USSR was still an enigma to most of the world. Remarkably realistic, endlessly exciting, and entirely believable, as a "perfect yarn" ought to be, Clancy's first book is a brilliantly crafted tale that hardly anyone hasn't heard of, though most people today are more familiar with the terrific movie of the same name.

Still, as is nearly always the case, the book is always better than the film; in this case, it's much, much better! The perfect nightstand book, I've read it, really, a dozen times or more. Each time, I can hardly put it down! If you've never read it, trust me: you really, really should.

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