In the past six months, I have had the opportunity to travel a bit. I have observed that for the last four flights I have returned home with 4 new books that I picked to read in the airports bookstores. Now, I always travel with more reading material than I will read in my travel, but recently I developed this idea of picking new books.
One of the first books that I picked was by Eric Greitens entitled Heart and the Fist, the Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy Seal. Mr. Greitens is a Rhodes Scholar who earned his Ph.D. at Oxford University and was deployed four times as a Navy SEAL where he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. It is a book that presents both sides – a great desire to demonstrate the finest qualities of the Americans who want peace and prosperity globally and assiduously work at achieving it. Yet reality sets in when they find that there are people who desire to destroy what is the best in America and are completely opposed to anything good that we or anyone is willing to offer. It was an eye opener which I could not put it down once I started to read.
The second book by Fareed Zakaria was The Post–American World. I read a number of Zakaria’s articles in Time Magazine and sometimes I came to an opposite conclusion. Yet it was good to read an entire book and to see his sweeping political philosophy. Boston Sunday Globe reviewed this book and stated: “Zakaria may have more intellectual range and insight than any other public thinker in the West.” As I read the book I remembered how I stood in Shanghai, and Beijing and other great Chinese cities 10 years ago and marveled at the beauty of their skyscrapers and their accelerated desired to become the world’s first power. Yet, together with the advancement and the glory, I remembered asking our tour guide if Chairman Mao has made any mistakes. We felt this was an easy political question. The tour guide’s answer was that no mistakes were made because whatever the Chairman had done was to achieve what China has today. Zakaria argues that in the 21st century we should be very smart and make China our ally and not our enemy which would be bad for both countries and for the world.
The next book was back on home territory as I read Bob Woodward’s book The Price of Politics. Woodward has mellowed a bit since his Watergate days, but his journalistic research is commendable. He has had access to the inner city of the Obama Administration like no other journalist. The book details the 44 days of negotiation between Mr. Boehner and his associates and President Obama and his associates in chiseling a financial agreement and avoiding a catastrophe. I appreciated learning the Byzantine politics of Washington, but what saddened me was the polluted language that our elected officials and their staff use. Emmanauel Rahm, currently the mayor of Chicago was known for the gutterish language that he uses, but he is not the only one. He has so many colleagues. One wonders if we are so polluted at this high level are we better at lower levels or worse.
The last book I picked was by N. Fergusson, A British historian. I have always appreciated the way the British historians write universal history. They have their linguistic finesse, their unlimited passion for research and their ability to connect historical threads. In one chapter on medicine, in which medicine is praised, he picks on the negative aspect of medicine. He relates how the atrocities that have done during the Holocaust were tested in Africa and because no one protested, they became the destructive machine against the Jews, Slavs and anyone who did not fit the Aryan profile. If there would have been someone to call it for what it was in the middle of the 19th century, reflects Fergusson, maybe it would not have developed into what we knew in the World War II.
Easy reading it was not, but it has given me a glimpse into what other people are writing these days on broad themes – home and abroad. Therefore, I think that my odd habit happens to be a very good one.