Category Archives: Book Reviews

These are books I have read that I review for the benefit of others who don’t enjoy reading as much as I do. Perhaps this section will assist you in selecting your next book. I hope so. I read EVERY word on EVERY page of the books I review. If I don’t particularly care for a book, I don’t review the book publicly, unless I make a unique exception. I read around a hundred book a year. Most of my reviews are here and on Amazon.

Bill reviews pre-publication manuscripts, and early release books for a variety of publishers and authors in the U.S. and abroad, literary PR firms and at the request of certain authors. He performs this service gratis, without any compensation whatsoever (he knows….he’s really stupid). Notable authors whose work Bill has reviewed include William P. (Paul) Young, Donald Miller, George Barna, Samantha Power, Parker Palmer, George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, John Wasik, Roger Lowenstein, Taylor Branch, Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Jim Palmer, David Kinnaman, Irshad Manji, Eboo Patel, Mark Scandrette, and Erwin McManus. Bill has a policy of not publishing reviews of books he reads that he doesn’t particularly care for and is uncomfortable recommending to others ( “Literature is like ice cream….there’s a whole bunch of flavors and I have my own tastes that differ from others…some people adore chocolate while others prefer pecan nut”).

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Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars by Daniel P. Bolger

Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – By Daniel P. Bolger

 

The 21st Century U.S. Military Post-Mortem

 


 

 

 

Daniel Bolger is a 35 year veteran in the U.S. Army. He retired in 2013 as a Lt. General. During his career he was awarded five Bronze Stars.

 

As a U.S. citizen, this book should be required reading for the lay person with no military experience. Why?

 

Bolger provides unparalleled access into the lives of U.S. military men and women who were engaged in these wars – and provides uniquely, frank and descriptive accounts of the conditions and challenges they encountered. Bolger’s insightful accounts provide the reader with an appreciation of their service, sacrifice, courage and bravery that one simply cannot garner from the mainstream media coverage of the same. You walk away from this book with a deep and renewed sense of appreciation for the bravery and courageous contributions of our men and women who were/are involved in these conflicts.

 

This book is written in a brutally honest fashion. It is definitely not a muckraking attack on the U.S. military – nor is it a one-sided justification treatise for all things military written by a insider zealot. It is a fair and balanced treatment of every dimension of these conflicts from a participant’s perspective…Bolger’s voice is refreshingly fair, providing uncanny, forthright commentary surrounding the genesis of these wars, the conduct of the wars, and U.S. attempts to extract ourselves from the aftermath of this mayhem.

 

Finally, Bolger’s insights into “now what” regarding the lessons learned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq provide fertile ground for the essential dialog that must take place regarding the role of the U.S. military in the 21st century.

 

Who is the enemy? This is a central theme throughout the book, and remains the question today embedded in the threats to geo-political stability that continue to inhabit our globe. There are some quotes Why We Lost that should serve to provide the basis for a dialog far too many in the U.S. choose to avoid. Here are a few:

 

“The war cost the U.S. a lot of money, almost a trillion dollars since September of 2001, about two-thirds for Iraq, the rest for Afghanistan. Just how much permanent damage this did to our country’s economy is hard to determine. War funding certainly elevated the Federal government’s already burgeoning annual deficits and added a few more unwelcome strata to the accreting mountain of long-term debt. Both political parties pointed accusing fingers even as the spending continued. By any measure, fighting a protracted war on the opposite side of the world with a volunteer military and a lot of expensive contractors is no cheap” (p.419).

 

“We did not understand our enemies. Indeed, drawn into nasty local feuds, we took on too many diverse foes, sometimes confusing opponents with supporters and vice versa. Then we compounded that ignorance by using our conventionally trained military to comb through hostile villages looking for insurgents” (pp.429-430).

 

“The record to date shows that no senior officers argued for withdrawal. Instead, like Lee at Gettysburg, overly impressed by U.S. military capabilities and our superb volunteers, commander after commander, generals up and down the chain, kept right on going. We trusted our invincible men and women to figure it out and rebuild two shattered Muslim countries and do so under fire from enraged locals” (p. 430).

 

“Stay the course. Add forces. Pull out. Over time, in both countries, all three approaches were tried. Only the third one, pulling out, worked, and that in the finite sense that it ended U.S. involvement. But it left both friends and foes behind, sowing the seeds for future troubles” (p. 431).

 

As Dwight Eisenhower warned decades ago, the military-industrial complex is – well – a business. Like any organization, it knows what it knows and does what it does – learning along the way.

 

However, after reading Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, I came away with an appreciation for another reality of organizational behavior; inertia.

 

Inertia is an energy that propels an organism/object/organization ahead, knowing what it knows, doing what it knows how to do. The problem with the energy of inertia is that it possesses an intrinsic characteristic; motion. Once you combine energy and motion and a huge organization begins lumbering downhill into vast and remote terrain – it is terribly difficult to pause, take account of oneself, change direction and rethink what we thought we knew. It is difficult for organisms and organizations to unlearn, reconstitute themselves and become more fit for the challenges that will undoubtedly unfold in the future.

 

In my mind, the dialog about the role of the U.S. military in the 21st Century is the unequivocal contribution of Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

 

This is a superb contribution for anyone desiring to become more informed about the role and future of the U.S. military…a discussion that we should not avoid or postpone.

 

BUY THIS BOOK!!! I deeply appreciated General Bolger’s masterpiece. I’m confident you will too.

WHY-WE-LOST

 


 

 

 

 

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The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln

This is my second novel by Stephen L. Carter. (My first was Carter’s BACK CHANNEL) — It won’t be my last.


 

 

 

Carter is the master of historical fiction. The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln is my second meal of his literary fare. Carter’s character development, dialog, plot and careful caricatures — provide the reader with a yearning to keep turning pages (ALL 655 of them in this case).

Carter’s historical fiction works are also educational…his twisting of historical events is insightful and provides insights into historical contexts that are absent from non-fiction treatments of the same.

Introduce a reader to Stephen L. Carter!!! They will appreciate your thoughtfulness and be back for MORE!!

About Stephen L. Carter (Excerpt from https://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/authors/carter/bio.html)

Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught since 1982. A prolific writer who has published seven critically acclaimed non-fiction books during the past nine years, he has helped shape the national debate on issues ranging from the role of religion in our politics and culture to the role of integrity and civility in our daily lives.

Professor Carter, 46, was born in Washington, D.C., the second of five children, and attended the public schools of Washington, New York City, and Ithaca, New York. He received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Yale University. Before joining the Yale faculty, he served as a law clerk for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson, III, of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He also briefly practiced law at a firm in Washington.


 

 

I was immersed in this marvelous book. You will be deeply satisfied you selected it as well. BUY IT! Read Stephen L. Carter!!!

 

ENJOY!!!

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The Last Light Breaking by Nick Jans

 

The Last Light Breaking by Nick Jans
A Phenomenal Work of Literary Artistry

 


 

I’ve read a number of books artfully crafted by Nick JansThe Grizzly Maze and A Wolf Called Romeo – to name two of my favorites.

 

I recently had the opportunity to read Nick’s first book, The Last Light Breaking. I savored this journey into the lives of the Inupiat people of Ambler, Alaska – a people who, according to Jans, “move within the eddying currents of time, space and light – where the laws of physics seem to float freely, compressing and expanding, refusing logic.”
Last Light Breaking
Last Light Breaking
This book is an anthropological treasure. Yet – it’s much, much more than that. For the naturalist, the outdoors person, wildlife biologist – and those who simply enjoy a damn fine artist (Jans) and the tales of his time in a place that most will never journey remotely close too – It’s a fantastic read!
Nick Jans
Nick Jans

 

The characters, creatures, culture and challenges of living in a remote village like Ambler provide a wide and diverse audience with every element essential to invigorating the readers interest – and a yearning to return to the volume to continue enjoying Jans literary artistry.

 

Buy it. Savor it. Learn. Listen. Prepare to perceive the world around you in a unique and precious way.


 

 

 

ENJOY!!!

 

Last Light Breaking

A Place Beyond by Nick Jans

 

 

Meaning Beyond Words


 

According to author Nick Jans, “Words, like map and compass, tell one story yet fail at another.”

 

Nick Jans
Nick Jans

 

If there is meaning beyond words – well – Nick Jans is a literary guide I urge you to read – as he details the stories of his life among the Inupiat people of Ambler, Alaska.

 

Jans has a way of writing that affords the reader the privilege to envision, imagine, see, smell, hear, taste, feel — to journey intimately to those places where – for far too many authors – their ability fails to open these mysterious dimensions for our souls to wander, to live, to explore. Jans writing creates a yearning in the reader to return to his work – to immerse oneself into the marvelous milieu that Jans is uniquely gifted to create.
A Place Beyond
A Place Beyond
A Jans writes, “It’s not the death of the elders I mourn. It’s what’s dying with them and what’s taking their place.” There is an intimacy to Jans writing that allows you to feel what he is writing about – how he actually feels about the subtleties of  his many years of  living in Ambler reveal. He possesses an uncanny ability to observe and relay for the reader the human dimension of feeling that many writers simply are unable to accomplish.

 

This book is a song. It’s music for the soul. Listen to Jans sing:

 

“And beneath it all is music – a delicate, liquid shattering, a song of returning, of breathing again after long silence. I should join the others in their celebration, but just now, I want to sit alone, to watch and listen as the winter breaks apart.”

 

Nick Jans is an artist whose literary gifts allow the reader to enjoy dimensions of meaning and sensory stimulation amidst a literary topography that has been characterized as — “meaning beyond words,” a place beyond.

 

Enjoy A Place Beyond – Finding Home in Arctic Alaska by Nick Jans. Trust me – you’ll fall in love with this book. I did.

 


 

ENJOY!!!

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BLOWBACK by Valerie Plame

 


 

BLOWBACK by Valerie Plame
Plame
Plame
When you sit down to enjoy a meal in a restaurant, sometimes the appetizer is better than the entree. On other occasions, dessert is the most memorable course.

 

I happened to read Valerie Plame’s BLOWBACK between Bloodmoney by David Ignatius and Back Channel by Stephen L. Carter. Needless to say, Plame’s BLOWBACK was memorable for all the wrong reasons – it simply was bland when compared to the memorable dishes I devoured before and after her entree.

 

BLOWBACK…it was okay.

 

 


 

Back Channel

BACK CHANNEL by Stephen L. Carter

 

 

Back Channel by Stephen L. Carter


 

 

Spectacular. PERIOD!

 

This was my first Stephen L. Carter novel. Back Channel motivated me to buy Carter’s The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln – which I am currently savoring.
 

Stephen L. Carter
Stephen L. Carter

 
Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University, where he has taught since 1982.  His courses include law and religion, the ethics of war, professional responsibility contracts, and evidence.

 

 

This a fascinating read – my first read of what can be characterized as literary fiction. Carter uses the Cuban Missile Crisis as the central setting of this yarn. It is fast-paced, believable, inhabited by intrigue,  and crafted in a way that makes the reader legitimately enamored with the pure intellectual prowess of the author’s ability to spin a yarn like this.

 

A magnificent mystery. You’ll love it. I did. I’m now hooked on Stephen L. Carter.

 


 

 

ENJOY!!!