These are some of Steve's favorites:
This is the first of a whimsical detective series set in a little-known place and time -- Laos in the 1970s after the Communist takeover. Dr. Siri Paiboun was a guerilla doctor with the rebels in the jungle. After victory, now in his 70s, he expects a quiet retirement but the new leaders make him the national -- and only -- coroner. Sidestepping the hindrance of the bumbling new Communist bureaucracy with the help of a few friends and assistants -- as quirky and interesting as he is -- he takes on the strange cases beyond the powers of the local cops. Cotterill’s quiet, wry humor enhances this entertaining series of eight books.
This is the 23rd Detective Inspector Banks book, which started with Gallow's View in 1987. Set in Robinson's birthplace, the Yorkshire Dales, they are stand-alone novels, but it's more fun to read them in order and watch Banks go through the ups and downs in his life as he solves each case. A man of integrity, Banks often bends the rules but avoids breaking them. Some of his superiors dislike him, but he gets results so he is tolerated. A very entertaining series that I read in one (actually 23) gulps.
Passionate and unsparing, Susan Jacoby skewers left and right as she surveys the tide of anti-rationalism, ignorance and mediocrity washing across America. She examines the effects of infotainment, poor education, scientific and cultural illiteracy, innumeracy, pop culture and junk thought.
This is a book about the loss of culture and the rise of anti-intellectualism and what it means to us. America has gone through previous cycles of anti-intellectualism, but Jacoby thinks the current one has some disturbing features. Every thoughtful person already knows much of this, but perhaps in a hazy and unformed way, so Jacoby’s clear and fair account helps to make it all appear in sharp focus.
This quirky, funny book features an unusual narrator - a gopher snake. Captured and imprisoned by a boy, Crusher the snake is determined to escape. She (the boy thinks she’s a male) also plans to take her friend Breakfast (a mouse the boy put into her cage for her to eat) with her when she breaks out. A very amusing snake’s-eye-view of humanity.
Banks is known for his sophisticated, witty and slightly cynical space opera for the thinking reader. Many of his books feature the galactic human civilization simply called The Culture. Rich, powerful and complacent, The Culture values personal freedom. Yet, with the best of intentions it cannot help meddling in the affairs of lesser civilizations, both alien and human, through its overt organization Contact and its shadowy counterpart Special Circumstances. (Parallels to U.S. foreign policy are probably intended).
Enhancing the ethical and political undertones in Banks’ books are his lucid prose, complex plotting and fully realized characters, human, alien and machines ranging from tiny intelligent drones to miles-long, eccentric, sentient starships who pick cliches like Unacceptable Behaviour, Attitude Adjuster or Killing Time as their name. Some of the reasons to read Banks are listed above, but the best one is that it’s just sheer fun. These titles are the first of a new edition of Banks’ out-of-print books.
The Battle of Britain was the greatest and most decisive air battle and one of the turning points of history. Korda’s sparkling narrative avoids getting bogged down in masses of lists and statistics and reads more like a novel. He deftly brings together the critical pieces of the story, from the development of radar and the question of whether the new fighters like the Spitfire and Messerschmitt Bf-109 would be more crucial than bombers in war, to the debates and arguments between the politicians and generals about how and where to use the resources each side had. Above all, this is the story of Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, eccentric, difficult, obstinate and definitely not charming. With rare foresight, courage and determination, he pushed for the production of the fighters, and the radar stations and control centers that comprised Fighter Command that orchestrated the battle and implemented his strategy. Standing up to his superiors, including Churchill, he sacrificed his career and saved his country.
Edward Pellew was simply the best frigate captain of the age of fighting sail. Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower and O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey were inspired by this man of a poor family who worked his way up from the bottom to fleet command in the British Navy. Rising from obscurity to fame, high rank and a peerage by means of the victories and feats he accomplished with his famous ship Indefatigable, he had powerful friends and popular public acclaim, but he also made powerful enemies who impacted his career. His humanity, care for subordinates and love for his family make him stand out even among the other naval heroes of his time.