Good Books

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” - Mark Twain

The Patriarch. An incredible biography of Joseph Kennedy, who lived one of the most interesting lives in American history. It begins: “Had Joseph P. Kennedy not been the patriarch of America’s first family, his story would be worth telling. That he was only adds to its drama and historical significance.”

Crashing Through. A man is blinded as a baby, then regains full vision at age 46 after an experimental surgery. An amazing, counterintuitive, story about what it’s like to see the world for the first time as an adult.

The End is Always Near. Dan Carlin, one of the best historian storytellers, looks at periods in history when it seemed like the world was coming to an end – wars, famines, pandemics, and societal collapses.

American Moonshot. The best book I’ve read on the 1960s space race, telling the story of not just the scientists and engineers who made landing on the moon possible, but the anxiety of what would happen if the Soviets did it first and the political panic behind the scenes.

Tribe. A fascinating look at how and why people connect to tribes, and how it impacts our thinking and wellbeing.

Destiny of the Republic. The story of President James Garfield’s assassination, and how the doctors who tried to save him didn’t believe in germs, which is what probably killed him in the end.

The Science of Storytelling. The best story always wins, and I loved his book on why that is and how to do it.

Breath. Incredible book about something most of us spend little time thinking about: breathing. Odds are you’re doing it wrong, it’s impacting your day, and you can improve it dramatically without much effort.

The Body. Probably Bill Bryson’s best work, and one of the most practical science books I’ve read. Effectively an anatomy textbook written by one of the great storytellers of our time.

April, 1865: The Month That Saved America. I like the saying, “History doesn’t crawl; it leaps.” Few periods saw such a stark leap as when the Civil War ended and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated within the same week. Jay Winik is one of the few hardcore historians who’s also a great writer.

Seinfeldia. How Seinfeld was made, and what it did to American culture.

Boyd. John Boyd was the Elon Musk of the Air Force: erratic, brazen, vulgar, and convinced that rules don’t apply to him. But, like Musk, he was a genius, and revolutionized his field. So the military had to keep him happy, even if they couldn’t stand him. It’s such a good story about learning, bureaucracy, and innovation.

Lords of Creation. The best book I’ve read on the Gilded Age, and how Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford, Carnegie, and a few others dominated American business.

Dead Wake. A fascinating story about the sinking of the Lusitania, one of the first events that drew America into global politics in a significant way.

Born Standing Up. Steve Martin’s memoir of life as a comedian.

Where The Money Was. Willie Sutton’s memoir of life as a bank robber.

Polio: An American Story. A terrifying period ends with a scientific triumph.