A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013 by Stephen D Mikesell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I got this book from the library, I did not list it here because I was not sure I would read it. But as I started reading, it became clear, I was hooked. It is not a page turner, but I found I needed to read a few more pages every night before I went to bed. Living in the Bay Area, I am well aware of this bridge and could envision the process of building and rebuilding it, even though I do not use it regularly. I am not technically aware of all the aspects discussed but gained a great appreciation for what was involved. And I could certainly relate the decisions and politics involved in the construction–especially the reconstruction since the earthquake. The book was fascinating and I will never be able to use this bridge, or any other, again with out a whole new perspective and appreciation for the wonders of the modern world.

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The Stranger in the Woods

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitThe Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating true tale of a true hermit who lived totally alone and off the grid for thirty years. The author managed to connect with this intelligent man and get glimpses into what his life was like during all those year when he had absolutely no human contacts. For those of us who are not loners but understand the importance of living harmoniously within ourselves there insights here which can shed some light on our own existence and help us understand some of our own behaviors.

I think it is time for me to go walk on the trail awhile.

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Head in the Cloud

Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look UpHead in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up by William Poundstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this book was not a page-turner, it was interesting enough that I finished it by reading a few pages every night. The author is a statistician and poll taker whose premise is that people who know more make more money, are happier, are more likely to succeed, etc. By using random questions in large samples of people, he is able to compare their answers with other seemingly unrelated facts about their lives. It is an interesting way to statistically confirm what we probably already infer.

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The Long Summer

The Long Summer: How Climate Changed CivilizationThe Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian M. Fagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We are intrinsically enmeshed with the weather.

This book takes us on a trip through the history of the world through the eyes of everyman. It is an amazing journey. It compels us to live with humans starting with the Cro-Magnons of 18,000 years ago as they emerged from their caves to hunt beasts and gather wild berries. We follow our ancestors through the Ice Age, through climate warming and cooling, through droughts and deluges, as they encountered abundance and starvation, as they moved with the changes, developed houses, villages and cities. This is not an imaginary journey. It is documented with astonishing accuracy from ice core samples taken from Greenland to the Antarctic, pollen samples, artifacts, tree rings, isotopes found in bones and teeth, from every facet on scientific study.

The scope of this book does not lend itself to a quick read. A few pages a night left my mind reeling. But I looked forward to continuing this slow trek through time night after night. It has made me more human. The world has been shaped by the weather. And it will continue to be. How will it affect future generations? I would love to arrange for a visit in 1,000 or 10,000 years to see.

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American Mojo: Lost and Found

American Mojo: Lost and FoundAmerican Mojo: Lost and Found by Peter D. Kiernan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This journey starts at the opposite pole of the political rhetoric besieging us today. It explores every aspect of today’s middle class without partisanship and with a depth of economic insight and education that has left me giddy. Kiernan looks at the whole scene like a visitor from space might view it, focusing on and exploring interactions that have stretched my vision both nationally and internationally and pulled my focus in many directions. His knowledge sometimes made my brain reel. I could only fully digest a few pages a day. But I could not stop reading and I was compelled to pick up where I had left off on the following day. Occasionally his prose overwhelmed his erudition but, like a challenging college course, I found this book both stimulating and fascinating.

Walking the Woods and the Water

Walking the Woods and the Water: In  Patrick Leigh Fermor's footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden HornWalking the Woods and the Water: In Patrick Leigh Fermor’s footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn by Nick Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a trek! I followed the footsteps every bit of the way across territory with familiar names which I was surprised to find I knew little about. Part travelogue, part introspection, part history, the route was sometimes rough both literally and “literately” . I occasionally got lost in a sea of words as Nick got lost in a morass of explanations with words that eluded me. But we kept on together and the trip was more than worth it. Like the walk itself, I took it in small pieces with occasional rest stops, after which I was more than eager to get back on the road.

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