Monday, January 4, 2010

Guest Blog Post: Holiday Reading by Rich Cover

Welcome back and Happy 2010!


I blogged in late December about what I planned to read over the holidays. Here, Rich Cover shares his holiday reading adventures. What did you end up reading?

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I can’t fly anywhere without taking a new book with me. This holiday, though, there would be no flights. We had to postpone a family trip from Michigan to California because my son’s new house, not far from Malibu Beach, wasn’t ready. Workmen were still sanding floors and taping drywall on Christmas Eve Day. So we all agreed to get together in January for our Christmas. My holidays were therefore going to be quieter than planned. Instead of lugging Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol onto a plane, I saw it waiting for me on the end table of my den. What was there to do except dive in? But first, I ran out to buy a few more, in case Lost Symbol wouldn’t fill the days until New Year’s.

Normally, I like books that merely entertain, novels of mystery, suspense, espionage. For unknown reasons, this time I drifted to the aisles of nonfiction. I had too much time on my hands. I picked up The Federalist Papers and Benjamin Franklin. 1776 looked good, too, but a salesperson said it would be too hard of a read. I rejected all three. Moving toward the safer waters of contemporary nonfiction, I bought Highest Duty, My Search for What Really Matters (Captain Sully Sullenberger), The Good Soldiers (David Finkel) and True Compass (the late Edward Kennedy).

I started with Lost Symbol. Professor Langdon faces even more dangerous and improbable dilemmas than in Brown’s other tales of symbolism. The forces and faces of evil are complex and determined. This one measures up to all of Brown’s work and was predictably entertaining. I devoured it first and it was only December 27. Six days to go.

Highest Duty was next. Sully Sullenberger reports a lifetime of dedication to task, duty and honor, starting with his first pilot’s license at age 16, then the Air Force Academy, combat pilot days and career as an airline pilot. He also provides a detailed report of the short flight of US Airways Flight 1549 from LaGuardia to the cold Hudson River from a seat that only he had. The book describes many valuable lessons for any professional and is a fast, easy read.

In The Good Soldiers, David Finkel gives us a firsthand account of Army Battalion 216, Fort Riley, Kansas, which became known as the 2-16 Rangers and was among the first troops of “The Surge” in Iraq. Their leader, Lt. Col. Ralph, The Kauz, Kauzlarich, was educated at West Point and is a completely professional officer. He is also relentlessly optimistic, a trait which eventually became maddening to some of his soldiers. But in Iraq, he was deeply saddened over every casualty. While George Bush was saying Rather than retreating, we sent 30,000 new troops into Iraq, and the surge is succeeding, members of Kauzlarich’s Rangers were being killed by those whom they thought they were trying to help. They had trouble aligning their mission purpose with the results. But they fought on, they did their job. This book teaches the reality of a war against insurgency.

Finally, on New Year’s Day, I started True Compass and wish that it had been first. This is a book of real history. Senator Kennedy speaks with brotherly love of Jack and Bobby Kennedy and gives us an inside view of their legacies. He opens his life for us, with all of the faults, failures, accomplishments and values that made him an historic American. Your political views, no matter what they are, will not interfere with your enjoyment of this great autobiography.

Three great books filled my holidays this year and the fourth will last beyond the New Year’s weekend. The only holiday that would have been better would have been one with a view of the Pacific Ocean from Malibu Beach.

Rich Cover is a freelance writer and management consultant in Rochester, Michigan. Following a career in both the steel and automotive industries, he now owns Richard J. Cover & Associates, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in market research, investment analysis and corporate business planning. Rich writes about business, family and literature. You can contact him by email at richard.j.cover{at}gmail{dot}com.

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