Yes, this are actual bookshelves at my house -- including my most important bookshelf as many of the books on the top shelf in the photo are signed by the authors including Jack Carr, Brad Thor, and Ayn Rand.
I receive a fair number of book "pitches" from publishers which I enjoy because I can pick and choose among what I think will be some of the best new books for my listeners to read. I also get the opportunity to interview many of the authors. In addition to these books, I sometimes read other things, whether classics, or books recommended to me by friends, etc.
I'm going to use this page to keep a record of the books I read and the authors I interview (not every book will be associated with an interview), with links to the audio of those interviews. However I will not be going back to fill in the years where I didn't maintain this page...I'll just try to keep it up to date going forward.
There are a lot of potential ways to organize a page like this, but for simplicity I will simply list the books in the order I read them (latest on top) but try to include category information and keywords so you can simply search the page for "fiction" or "Trump" or "military" or "fishing", etc. Out of necessity, most book summaries will be very short, especially since a lot of folks who come to this page will be trying to find a book they already learned about on the show..
Keywords: Linda Kinstler; Herberts Cukurs; Latvia, Nazis, KGB
Linda Kinstler is an academic and journalist whose writing appears in the NY Times, the Atlantic, The Economist, and elsewhere.
Linda's new book is the remarkable result into years of research into Latvians who collaborated with the Nazis and into her own grandfather who appears to have been involved to some degree with such a group but perhaps as a double-agent working for the KGB. The story is fascinating though Linda ends with frustratingly little information about her grandfather. This is unlike any book I can recall reading in the past. I won't say it's a book for everybody but if you appreciate it, I think you'll REALLY appreciate it.
Nelson DeMille is one of America's most durable and successful thriller authors. His latest, The Maze, is the 8th in the John Corey series of novels. Corey is a former NYPD cop and federal law enforcement agent and he's decidedly old school in how he thinks about everything from women to killing bad guys.
Keywords: Nelson DeMille; thriller; John Corey; Long Island
Keywords: India; auto-biography
"Shantaram" is among my top few favorite books of all time. Part fiction, part auto-biography, Shantaram is a truly incredible story about a convicted Australian bank robber who escapes from prison and makes his way to India where he lives a life of crazy adventure and fascinating relationships. I had mentioned "Shantaram" on the show in the context of a new Apple TV+ series based on the book (a series that's getting mediocre reviews so far.)
The author, Gregory David Roberts, is, to put it gently, an unusual fellow who disappeared from the public scene for some years but appears to be back: Gregory David Roberts
Here's a wacky video of Roberts talking about his accent: (76) GDR On: His Accent 🇦🇺 - YouTube
Keywords: Vietnam War; Combat
Bill Scott is a Flight Test Engineer graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and a licensed commercial pilot with instrument and multiengine ratings. In 12 years of military and civilian flight testing, plus evaluating aircraft for Aviation Week, he logged 2,000 flight hours on 81 aircraft types. Bill lives in Colorado Springs and served as the Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. He worked there for 22 years writing more than 2,500 articles and receiving numerous awards.
"Combat Contrails" is a collection of short true stories of combat in Vietnam. Most stories are based on the experience of pilots although the first story, one that perhaps should have a movie made about it, is primarily about a Marine on the ground.
Keywords: Texas, Rare earth minerals, Russia, DEA, CIA
Taylor Moore is a former CIA operations officer who is out with his second thriller novel, "Firestorm." (His first novel, "Down Range", is one of the best first-book-by-an-author thrillers I've ever read.) The plot surrounds the efforts a competitor might go to in order to control a valuable mineral deposit if one were found in the US. I'm being intentionally vague...the book is interesting and thrilling and a great follow-up to Taylor's first novel, "Down Range" (which I recommend you read first.)
Keywords: Science, physics, calculus, Einstein, Spacetime
Sean Carroll is the kind of guy who unintentionally reminds me of how little I know, but I always love learning that from him because he's just so freakin' interesting. I'll just quote from his bio:
I'm the Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy -- in effect, a joint appointment between physics and philosophy -- at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and fractal faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. Most of my career has been spent doing research on cosmology, field theory, and gravitation, looking at topics such as dark matter and dark energy, modified gravity, topological defects, extra dimensions, and violations of fundamental symmetries. These days my focus has shifted to more foundational questions, both in quantum mechanics (origin of probability, emergence of space and time) and statistical mechanics (entropy and the arrow of time, emergence and causation, dynamics of complexity), bringing a more philosophical dimension to my work.
This is a book for people who truly enjoy math and its application. It's not the most difficult math but it's definitely not the easiest either. Still, Sean is a great teacher and walks you through things like partial differential equations and then explains their applications in the real world, which is to say in physics.
More about Sean here: Sean Carroll – Preposterous Universe
Keywords: Science, physics, fun
A former NASA roboticist, Randall Munroe is the creator and brilliant mind behind the wildly popular xkcd, a webcomic about science, technology, and the absurdities of the modern world beloved by millions of readers. Out of this genre-defying series came his multimillion-copy-bestselling books Thing Explainer, How To, and What If?, which spent a staggering 64 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. WHAT IF? 2 pairs clever research with charming comics to answer questions submitted by people around the world.
Keywords: Thriller, El Chapo, Cartel, DEA
Steve Stratton is a former Green Beret who spent many years as a civilian contractor doing things that I think he's not allowed to talk about, although I will ask. His first novel is called "Shadow Tier" and it's one of the best first-novel thrillers I've read. I think you'll enjoy it partly because it's so much fun and partly because Steve is a local author from here in the Denver area. More about Steve and "Shadow Tier" here:
Armored by Mark Greaney - Audiobook - Audible.com: English (this is the Audible original with different actors voicing each character, rather like listening to a movie and not like a traditional audiobook that has one narrator)
Keywords: Thriller, Mexico, FBI, SWAT, cartels
"Armored" is (I think) Mark Greaney's first non-"Gray Man" novel since 2016 other than Red Metal, on which he was co-author with Rip Rawlings in 2019 (link below.) In this great thrill-ride of a story, we meet a new character whom we'll surely hear from again in the future, former Marine Josh Duffy who, in order to make some money for his family, takes on a private security mission in the ungovernable mountains of central Mexico, getting in the middle of international intrigue and inter-cartel turf wars. It's a REALLY fun read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
By the way, this is still the best military thriller (in the style of Tom Clancy) that I've ever read: Red Metal: Greaney, Mark, Rawlings , Hunter Ripley: 9780451490414: Amazon.com: Books
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut - AbeBooks (link for a used book site since there are so many used copies available)
Unfortunately I don't have an interview link for this one. ☹
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) has long been known as one of America's most brilliant writers. A man of humor and cynicism, a man of his age. I'd only read one Vonnegut book before this (Slaughterhouse Five) and it's possible that Cat's Cradle (1963) is even better...and that's saying something. (Although I love and frequently think of the Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse Five and how they perceive time.)
One of many great lines: "My soul seemed as foul as smoke from burning cat fur."
Lots has been written about most of Vonnegut's books. Here's one example regarding Cat's Cradle: Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and The Meaning of Life | by Marty McCready | Medium
Read it, laugh, cry, think, and stay away from the ice-nine.
Probably the only time most Americans saw Kurt Vonnegut was his cameo in the Rodney Dangerfield movie "Back to School", where Dangerfield's character hires Vonnegut to explain Vonnegut to him. Then Vonnegut writes a paper that Rodney turns in as his own and the professor responds by saying "Whoever wrote this knows absolutely nothing about Kurt Vonnegut." The clip is here, but note that it has a couple of "F-bombs" near the end: (46) Kurt Vonnegut in Back to School - YouTube
Keywords: Physics, existential, philosophy, quantum mechanics, Einstein
Existential Physics is a wonderfully thought-provoking blend of physics and philosophy attempting to answer, or at least have a fascinating conversation about" questions such as "Does the past still exist?" (to which I have a follow-up question: "Does the future already exist?"
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and my conversation with the author and if you have any interest in physics and/or existential philosophy, I think you'll love this one.
Keywords: Non-fiction, military, USMC, war crimes, Marines, Afghanistan
A Few Bad Men is the shocking true story of how a platoon of brave Marines were persecuted and almost imprisoned by their own government and politicized military "leaders" for war crimes that not only did they not commit, but nobody committed. In other words, they were accused by Afghans (who had financial incentive to lie) of wantonly killing civilians when, I reiterate, not only did these Marines not kill civilians there that day, but NOBODY did. The accusations were utterly false and yet spineless American colonels and generals tried to "make an example" of innocent brave men. This book will have you furious and, if you're like me, will add to your skepticism of today's military "leaders".
Keywords: thalassemia, trader, pharma, genetics, Chicago
When I was a trader at the CBOE, Pat Girondi was known as the bad boy of the trading floor. One of the famous stories about him is told in slightly sanitized terms in this remarkable book, but the whole book is just an incredible read and certainly in my top few books of 2022. Starting with Pat's incredible childhood and young adulthood on the very rough streets of the south side of Chicago, to his time of incredible success trading options, to learning that his son has a usually-fatal genetic blood disorder (similar to the better-known sickle cell anemia), to his ongoing battles against corruption and fraud as he tried to help develop and bring to market a drug to treat the disease, this book is an unbelievable roller-coaster ride. It's possible that I love it a little extra because, although Pat doesn't remember me, I distinctly remember him from my earliest days as a trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. Buy this book!
Rising Tiger - Brad Thor (July 2022)
Keywords: India, China, NATO, Harvath, thriller
It's hard to say anything about best-selling thriller author Brad Thor that hasn't already been said. I have to say I particularly love this novel because it's set in India, a country where you rarely find American-written books set and a country of so many sights and sounds and colors and smells that it's impossible to adequately describe in words.
As often happens with Brad's books, reality caught up a bit to his fictional plot after he wrote this book which engages in what could happen along the border between China and India and how China might react if they thought America was trying to create the Asian equivalent of NATO.
I recently read this remarkable history of one of the most remarkable figures in human history. There was so so much I didn't know about Caesar and about Roman life at the time. In fact, upon reading this masterful work I learned that there was almost nothing I actually did know. One of the best history books I've ever read though you have to be willing and able to keep track of maddening Roman naming conventions. (You wouldn't believe me if I told you how they were named; you'll just have to read for yourself.)
Keywords: Julius Caesar, Rome, Roman history
The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump, by Gregg Jarrett (July 2018)
Keywords: Non-fiction, politics, Donald Trump, Fox News
The Russia Hoax is simply the best book of its type, namely the best book weaving together the threads of what the FBI and DOJ did (or didn't do) regarding Hillary Clinton's actual (criminal) behavior and the investigation into Russia "collusion" by Donald Trump or people surrounding him -- an investigation which appears to have begun without probable cause that a crime had been committed.
It will leave you shaking your head and wondering if public confidence in our federal justice system can be restored.
The book is excellent but its relevance will probably diminish fairly rapidly once the Mueller investigation is completed.
The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS, by Robert Spencer
The History of Jihad is what its title suggests: As comprehensive a history of this aspect of Islam as you'll find in a single volume. From its creation until today, "jihad" has been an essential tenet of Islam. Robert Spencer is a true scholar and, given that he's been banned from visiting the UK and poisoned in Iceland, a brave one at that. Spencer argues that "liberal" westerners risk underestimating the potential/likely harm to civilized society by downplaying what jihad really means and how many Muslims are willing to engage in it.
It's a book sure to offend those who look to reflexively defend Islam, while not recognizing that it is, far more than any other major religion, an expansionist political system as much as a faith.
Echo in Ramadi, by Maj Scott Huesing (USMC ret) (May 2018)
Keywords: Non-fiction, Iraq, military, Marines
Echo in Ramadi does a remarkable job of embedding you with Huesing's marines, not just in combat but also in the stresses of daily life in the war zone that is Iraq. How do you kill the bad guys while protecting innocent civilians? How do you dispose of human waste, and how can that be made funny (and dangerous)? What does it mean when you see a Military-Aged Male wearing running shoes? How does a leader tell the parents of a young man under his command that their son has lost his life?
A thoroughly enjoyable book...and the first war book I've ever recommended to my wife (who also loved it.)