Favorite Books on Sundry Topics
Ahlstrom, Sydney, A Religious History of the American People. Some good insights here into the messy American religious landscape, beginning with the opening section on the chronic problems of American Protestantism.
Chowdhry, Bernie, The Last Dive. A well written book on diving in overhead environments. The style of diving that Chowdhry describes is counter to best practice in technical diving (cf. the GUE homepage), but the early to mid 1990's was a relative dark ages for technical diving. And people and training agencies, unfortunately, continue to perpetuating the stupidity described here.
Farr, Martyn, The Darkness Beckons. A well written history of cave diving, primarily in Europe. Mostly focuses sump diving: a type of cave diving that cavers employ to extend caves, typically through small, zero-visibility passages.
Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative. Foote's history of the civil war is one of the most unusual that I've read. His account begins and ends with Jefferson Davis, and, while giving due justice to the Union side, conveys a feel for the south as a lost nation: i.e., for why many southerners use the term "War Between the States".
Oates, Stephen, With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. For me, a moving biography of a personal hero. (Think about Lincoln's second inaugural address for a moment, and ask yourself how many politicians in any era would have the guts to label a war as a divine judgment on the society that began it.)
Pratchett, Terry, Small Gods. My favorite Discworld novel so far...I think. Like Pratchett's other Discworld fantasies, Small Gods is social commentary--here, religious satire--cast as a simultaneously tragic and comic story. Also recommended: Feet of Clay, Soul Music.
Rowling, JK, Harry Potter I ... IV. Yes, the Potter series really is that good. Marvelous storytelling. Interesting characters. Poignancy mixed with humor and seriousness with optimism. Reads well aloud.
Toland, John, The Rising Sun. I'm not sure why this book has gone out of print. WW II, from the Japanese point of view: more history that isn't taught in the American public school (K-12) system.
Tolkien, JRR, The Hobbit. I've read this and Lord of the Rings aloud more times than I can recall. Let's hope that they don't botch the movie.