My Summer Reading List

24 Jul

My goal is to read 15 books this summer–Halloween is the end date.  I have to say, I got a slow start, given the first book was long and factual and was interesting but hard to get through.  Here’s my list so far:


Legacy of Ashes:  The History of the CIA, by Time Weiner

Weiner a long- time reporter for the NY Times devoted twenty- years to this book, and in the course of it read through fifty- thousand declassified CIA Intelligence documents. He also interviewed ten former directors of the CIA.  He points out errors made all along the way. Frank Wisner at the beginning ignored ‘intelligence gathering’ and sent during the Korean War thousands of hired agents to suicidal behind- the- enemy- lines operations. In the Bay of Pigs fiasco and in numerous other operations the CIA instead of providing hard, truthful contradictory analysis essentially worked to politically support a prior decision of the Executive branch. Speaking ‘truth to power’ has not been its essential strong point.   Weiner understands the difficulty of having a spy agency in a democracy where there is always a certain discomfort regarding covert operations. His argument is nonetheless not about the wrongness of having such an Agency in a Democracy, but rather about the too frequent failures of judgment and action.  This book is extremely rich , providing new insight into a great share of American post- war history. It touches upon almost all the major conflicts. It also chronicles CIA successes wherever they have occurred, It is not in other words a one- sided politically motivated bashing of the Agency but rather a thoughtful, informative, challenging study that may provide valuable guidance as to how the Agency should be reformed to better confront the many security challenges the U.S. is facing today.


Promiscuous:  The Secret Struggle for Womanhood, by Naomi Wolf (author of The Beauty Myth)

This is an incredibly empowering book for women. No longer do we need to think of ourselves in a manner of either being a virgin or a whore. I only wish I would have read this three years ago, before I became desperate not to be seen as the former. The history of women’s sexuality was particularily wonderful. Though I took sex ed in the 80s and 90s, we still were being taught that it was always the boy who made the first move, and it was up to the girl to say no. (In other words, it is her fault when things go all the way.) It is depressing that no matter how far we come, we still regress back to that. This book should be required reading for every sex ed teacher, every school-aged girl, every school-aged boy, every parent. Want an insight into the mind of a female teenager? Things haven’t changed much since Wolf was a teen 30 years ago. This book changed — probably forever — the way I view matters of sex and sexuality.


A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard (read in 4 consecutive hours)

“A Stolen Life” is told with unflinching detail. Readers will be unnerved by the failure of a Justice system designed to prevent predators like Garrido from abusing our children, and enraged by what the Garrido’s did to Jaycee – losing her life and identity (she could not say or write her name but had to use a given name, Allisa) – and to her mother – who never lost hope. Jaycee can still hear the lock of the door of the soundproofed building she was forced to live in behind the Garrido’s house and the squeaky bed on which she was repeatedly raped by Garrido – “the demon angels let him take her so he could cure his sexual problems. Society had ignored him. Now, he did not have to go out and molest other little girls.” The sounds and smells of her existence don’t leave…they continue to haunt her.


First in Thirst, How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon, by Darren Rovell

Amazing how Rovell was able to piece together such a detailed history of a product which was developed in a basement over 40 years ago. The relatively unknown early history of Gatorade at the University of Florida was fascinating. And the behind-the-scenes account of the part of Gatorade that we all know about, the commercials, was equally interesting and entertaining. I found myself singing ‘Be Like Mike’ and reminscing about the great Jordan commercials. I definitely would have paid a premium for an accompanying dvd of all the great Gatorade commercials. If you have any interest in Gatorade at all, this is an absolute must read. If you are interested in sports, business, or just want a good story, then First in Thirst is also for you.



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