Jim’s Bedside Table

I tend to always have way more books than I could possible read. As a result there is a big stack of books on my beside table that threatens to crush me in my sleep. I can’t review them because I haven’t read them yet but they all have a story for why they are on my bedside table.


9780674072824So I find navigation and maps fascinating and secretly wish I had the mathematical wherewithal to find my place on the globe with chronometer and sextant. Sadly I can’t even do basic addition and subtraction in my head so I compensate by reading books about navigation and maps.

Long before GPS, Google Earth, and global transit, humans traveled vast distances using only environmental clues and simple instruments. John Huth asks what is lost when modern technology substitutes for our innate capacity to find our way. Encyclopedic in breadth, weaving together astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, and ethnography, “The Lost Art of Finding Our Way” puts us in the shoes, ships, and sleds of early navigators for whom paying close attention to the environment around them was, quite literally, a matter of life and death. [GoodReads]






OpenWhen I was a young adult I was obsessed with historic airplanes. I baffled my teachers with my ability to identify obscure World War I and II airplanes with shocking ease and still not be able to remember how spell basic words like “planes.” Since then I’ve moved on to other kinds of history (and spell check has largely saved me from further embarrassment) but every once and a while I’m drawn back to books about the airplanes of the world wars. This one is a memoir by a pilot in World War I who went on to become a Vice Air Martial in World War II.

Thanks to a broken leg during flight school, Arthur Stanley Gould Lee gained valuable additional time flying trainers before he was posted to France during World War I. In November 1917 during low level bombing and strafing attacks, he was shot down three times by ground fire. He spent eight months at the front and accumulated 222 hours of flight time in Sopwith Pups and Camels during a staggering 118 patrols; being engaged in combat 56 times. [GoodReads]




9781568586731I was both drawn to and rather scared of this book. The Draw: I like all kinds of books on espionage both fiction and non-fiction but this was the first time I saw a book by an interrogator. The Fear: It’s probably going to be gruesome and emotionally shattering. I’m also worried that it will be heavily redacted.

The Interrogator is the story of Carle’s most serious assignment, when he was “surged” to become an interrogator in the U.S. Global War on Terror to interrogate a top level detainee at one of the CIA’s notorious black sites overseas. It tells of his encounter with one of the most senior al-Qa’ida detainees the U.S. captured after 9/11, a “ghost detainee” who, the CIA believed, might hold the key to finding Osama bin Ladin. [GoodReads]






9781611682250I saw this book on the display booth of the New England University Press at the 2014 New England Library Association conference in October. I dread visiting the vendors at library conferences. I dislike having so many sales people starring at me when I have no library funds to spend on them. I usually head straight for the book displays. This book caught my eye specifically because I greatly admire the Cormorant. It is one of the only diving birds that doesn’t have oil in its feathers to water proof them. After diving it has to hang its wings out to dry. This always struck me as a good life lesson: There’s always a work around.

Behold the cormorant: silent, still, cruciform, and brooding; flashing, soaring, quick as a snake. Evolution has crafted the only creature on Earth that can migrate the length of a continent, dive and hunt deep underwater, perch comfortably on a branch or a wire, walk on land, climb up cliff faces, feed on thousands of different species, and live beside both fresh and salt water in a vast global range of temperatures and altitudes, often in close proximity to man… In The Devil’s Cormorant, Richard King takes us back in time and around the world to show us the history, nature, ecology, and economy of the world’s most misunderstood waterfowl. [GoodReads]



0812927818As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I just finished reading Babayaga by Toby Barlow. Barlow’s novel is set in 1950s Paris. Well the other day I was at a library books sale in my town and I saw this one and just had to grab it.

Karnow returns to the France of his youth, perceptively and wittily illuminating a time and place like none other. Karnow came to France at a time when the French were striving to return to the life they had enjoyed before the devastation of World War II. Yet even during food shortages, political upheavals, and the struggle to come to terms with a world in which France was no longer the mighty power it had been, Paris remained a city of style, passion, and romance. [GoodReads]


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  1. Pingback: Staff Review: Open Cockpit – Arthur Lee | READ THIS

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