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Wow, we got some great responses to our call for Holiday books. Of
these, the ones we've had on our list are the biographies of John Adams and
Theodore Roosevelt, In A Sunburned Country (Bryson is always entertaining), and
anything by Stephen Ambrose is always good. The What If books look great, and
Seabiscuit does too, and the Bear v Shark idea is just too weird not to look
into. Here's what we got yesterday, with links to Amazon. If you buy
through them, DBR gets a percentage, but it's always good to support your local
bookstore as well!

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My best bet for the holidays:

A new book just out called, "What if" (volume 2). I don't know the author off-hand.
Actually, it is a compilation of about two-dozen (apx) 15-20 page articles on what-ifs throughout history.
Each is written by a scholar/specialist in the relevant area. Volume one came out a couple of years ago and was very popular. You learn a lot about each actual event, as well as they potential historical impacts if often chancy events hadn't conspired the way they historically did
Brian Hernandez

Finally got around to finishing Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Oprah
controversy aside, it's a book worth reading; Franzen rails against the
hopeless attempts we make to right our errors, the infusion of empty
therapies into modern life, be it via pharmaceuticals, surgery, desperate
pursuits of the American Fantasy . It's the story of a family splintered by
self-delusions, the myth of material bliss, Lithuanian criminals and lesbian
flings. The balance between seriousness and farce is done well, and Franzen
owes a lot to the blazing trails of Don Delillo and other modern writers.
Sometimes, though, you can tell that he tries too hard to keep an "edge,"
and his attempts only approximate the lingual acrobatic genius of writers
like David Foster Wallace. But overall, the book succeeds in its portrayal
and parody of the conflicts between the idealized American family and its
reality. Read it.
Pitchaya Sudbanthad

The Last Amateurs by John Feinstein


I just finished the David McCullough biography of John
I rate it very highly (any 700+ page book that
I manage to finish must be well written and
absorbing). Of course, in addition to learning about
Adams, you learn a great deal about many of the other
patriots, some of whom are familiar (e.g., Franklin,
Jefferson, Hamilton and Washington), and some who are
not so familiar, though the names probably are (e.g,
Abigail Adams, Benjamin Rush, J.Q. Adams). It's
interesting reading and is itself a good education
about a critical time in the history of our nation. A
remarkable book about a remarkable subject.

In a totally different vein, I have recently read THE
by Linda Greenlaw (Captain of the Hannah
Boden). It's a book inspired by THE PERFECT STORM in
which she describes a more "routine" swordfishing
trip. the book is written in a clear and concise
narrative style. It's reasonably exciting,
interesting and enjoyable reading.

Happy Holidays to all at DBR, and thanks for the site!!

" by Michael Cunningham. Terrific fiction by a man who dares to write about the inner workings of the female mind. Pulitzer prize winner.

"Point of Impact"
and all its sequels by Stephen Hunter. Pulp fiction about Bob Lee Swagger, Marine sniper and the most dangerous man in America. Anyone who has ever shot target practice with a bb gun needs to read these.

Stephen Ambrose's book on the building of the transcontinental railroad.
Gotoguy (trying to make time to read "A Prayer for Owen Meany")

Bear v. Shark

by Chris Bachelder

[attempts to answer the question "Given a level playing field, who would win in a fight between a bear and a shark?"]

Five-Point Play

by Mike Krzyzewski

[shouldn't this be assumed of every Duke fan?]
John Shadle

The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer

Keep up the good work.

Hey Guys,

Currently reading Riverhorse by William Leastheat Moon (he has also
written Blue Highways and Prairy Earth, both excellent books!). It is
about his journey across america via boat. They started just east of
the Verazanno Narrows bridge and went west to the Pacific. Somehow they
have limited the portages to something like less than 200 miles.

So far (I am at the point where they reach the Mississippi) it has been
a pretty good read.

And as always, a conservation and enviro-ethic classic which would make
a great gift is Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac.

That's all and good luck with the new DBR format. Where do we sign up?

My current pleasure reading is "House of
" by Mark Z. Danielewski.
Pretty easily one of the most unique, uncategorizical, scary, erratic,
labyrinthine books I've ever read. I give it my highest recommendation for
the not-easily-offended reader...
- jeff

I just finished
Greatest sports book about a non-human (and maybe human too!)
Jeff Lichtman

There is a very interesting book called "The Battle for
," which I read as a student a few years ago. I'm hazzy on the author's name, but the title should be enough to locate it. It provides an excellent historical look at Christmas traditions in America, past and present. You would be startled by how much Christmas has changed in the last 300 years. Also of interest is the root of tradition. Its startling to find out that many traditions which we attribute to Europe are actually of American invention.

The amazing adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon (the guy who wrote Wonder Boys. Could it be the great American novel?
David Hodskins

Hi DBR: Holiday Books I Am Giving Friends

This is one of the great things a Duke education does for you: life long learning and appreciation of literature, art and...... basketball. Here is my list:

1. Cormac McCarthy, Outer
. Maybe this should be a recommendation for all of McCarthy's books. This one has been around a while, but it is the most remarkable book I have read in 5-10 years. Those who have read and enjoyed Cormac McCarthy's other great books, Blood Meridian (Harold Bloom says that this is the best American novel of the 20th Century), or
All the Pretty Horses (the latter having been mangled by Hollywood), should read his first published work. I have given 3 copies as gifts in the last 2 months. This book is mysterious and jaw dropping, yet lyrical. McCarthy's books are to be savored.

2. Charles Frazier, Cold
. Just in case some readers haven't discovered this book (that is hard to believe, but I am giving 2 copies for Christmas this year), it is the 2d remarkable book in the last 5-10 years. I have given away 15 copies of this book through the years. It has held up for me through its third reading. I have decided that it is not only a great Civil war story (not really "war", if you want that go directly to Schaara's
The Killer Angels, which is fabulous, but not be confused with his son's later books) but a very moving love story and an exposition of North Carolina's wilderness.

3. Barry Unsworth, Sacred
. The third remarkable book in 5-10 years. Heavy, but rewarding, going. A book about the slave trade, that is almost Shakespearean, as the epitome of revenge. I also highly recommend
Morality Play
by Unsworth.

4. Jose Saramago, Blindness. 4th in my list; sometimes Nobel Prize winners are worth exploring. A "what if" book of great depth, excitement and intuitive value. I have heard more people talk about this book with excitement this year than any other, but I hang out with a strange group.

5. James Carlos Blake, In the Rogue Blood. This book is beyond violent, so watch out. But Blake, who won several awards for this epic, is telling us how the west may have been won (and decoupled). Excellent writing, breathless in its pace, but not for the faint of heart.

6. Ursula Leguin, The Lathe of
. Yeah, I know, Sci-Fi isn't cool. But this is a highly ingenious book, dealing with levels of reality, that is excellent literature. Another good Sci-Fi is Michel Faber's Under the

7. Franzen, The
. I had an enjoyable but exasperating time with the thoroughly unlikable but vivid characters. Despite Franzen's people, the writing is excellent and memorable. Every character Franzen develops will remind you of someone, despicable, driven or strange.

Happy Holidays and, of course, Go Duke !
Doug Rohrman

I am giving this book to all the women in my family.

Forget Perfect by LISA EARLE MCLEOD
Rob Kohl

Shogun. Easily the best book I've read in years. Totally engrossing, totally fascinating. So many different plot lines and aspects to the story, it can appeal to many sides of your reading interests. Definitely a must for any history buff.
Wil York

  • Theodore Rex
    - 2nd volume of the T. Roosevelt Pulitzer-prize winning biography. If you haven't read the first in that series, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Great stuff
  • John
    - by David McCullough - very well done
  • Bee Season - amazing fiction, spelling bee, Jewish family, kleptomania, mysticism
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - dark, Netherlands-set version of the original
  • A Secret Knowledge - David Hockney - explores how painting changed (particularly portraiture) in the 15th century and onward due to advances in technology
  • Savage Beauty - Nancy Millford - biography of Edna St Vincent Millay

  • American Slavery/American Freedom,
    By Edmund Morgan. Possibly the most thought provoking attempt to trace America's ideological rise to revolution based on Colonial


Who has time to read a book! I'm giving DBR golf shirts!
Jack Rogers

Being the busy junior that I am I never have free time to read outside of my classes so I didn't think I'd have a good list for you guys. However, I came to realize that one of my classes is rather pertinent topically. I'm taking Martin Miller's class: History of Terrorism. Yes... rather timely. Anyway, I know many people are curious to how terrorism could come about and things of that nature and we have read three books that I think would be of interest to DBR readers.

1. Hannah Arendt
- On Violence. Quite an interesting read. A rather short book though about 90 pages. In it she explains her theory on the relationships between politics, violence, power, and morality.

2. Origins of Terrorism - Edited by Walter Reich. Another compelling book in an academic nature. It explores the origins of terrorism through the psychological perspectives, ideologies of different organizations, and theologies of different religious groups. As a psychology major this was my favorite book that we've read. It contains articles from many of the top minds on the subject.

3. The Wretched of the Earth
- Franz Fanon. This one is the most accessible as it is still very widely read in France. Fanon was born in Martinique, made it to the Sorbonne to study medicine, and eventually went to Algeria to fight with and for the liberation front there. There's a foreward written by Sartre explaining how one could justify such violence. A very good read

For my term paper on the IRA I came across some great books on the history of that problem. I'll list a few of the more interesting ones.

4. The IRA - Tim Pat Coogan. Widely considered to be the best and most complete history of the IRA. He adds some personal anecdotes by not as many as some of the others. Can be a bit dry but is generally considered to be one of, if not the, foremost authorities on the subject.

5. Rebel Hearts - Kevin Toolis. Doesn't explore the history in as great at depth. It gives you the most important events. Toolis spends much more time on the stories of certain men and women of the IRA, giving us a glimpse into their souls. It gives a more human connection to the Troubles.

6. Killing Rage - Eamon Collins. The most human of all the books. Collins gives us his own life story within the organization. A fascinating account.

7. Behind the Mask - Peter Taylor. The Guardian and Observer (British or Irish papers I believe) both called this the most compelling and complete account written thus far. It's definitely more enjoyable than Coogan's book. Very excellent reviews.
Matt Siedsma