In my job I get books sent to me by publishers and authors looking for publicity. I read some of them, skim through others and often talk with the authors on my show. About this time every year, there are requests from listeners who want to know what books I would consider worthy of reading. Liberals won't be thrilled with some of my recommendations, but then I wouldn't much cotton to theirs, either.
Here are my 2009 book recommendations:
"Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt. This is the indispensable primer on economics, one that I've given to my children and son-in-law and one that I wish had been read and understood by those leaders of ours who seem to ignore the basics laid out so smartly by Mr. Hazlitt way back in 1946.
"The Dollar Meltdown" by Charles Goyette deals with the looming financial crisis we see unfolding all around us every day. He predicts the coming collapse of the dollar, tells us how we got to this point, what's likely to happen and, best of all, how to safeguard your own assets as the currency storm strikes.
"Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse," Thomas E. Woods Jr. This is another somber read analyzing economic events from a free-market perspective. If you believe Ron Paul is basically right in his anti-P.C. take on things, you'll enjoy this book.
"The Good Soldiers" by David Finkel is absolutely riveting. This Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter from The Washington Post spent eight months in Iraq during the much-ballyhooed "surge," with the young men in an infantry platoon that was sent to a particularly violent part of Baghdad. These "good soldiers" of the title arrived in the war zone filled with determination to make a difference. Fifteen months later, those who were still whole came home forever changed. Others were killed, and in the most heartbreaking parts of this story we see what happened to those soldiers who were maimed by roadside bombs. This book is simply superb, written from a grunt's-eye perspective of this war, a perspective far different than that of the policymakers in Washington, the theoreticians and the generals you see on TV.
"Wired for War" by P.W. Singer reads like science fiction but is instead a brilliant piece of reporting on the future of warfare, a future already unfolding in the skies over Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where unmanned drones scan the ground below and blow up people as determined by "pilots" thousands of miles away. Sci-fi is becoming battlefield reality, and Mr. Singer makes it clear that this is just the beginning. Robotic warfare raises lots of profound questions about how wars are to be fought. This is very important and fascinating book.
"The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs," by former Baltimore Sun science reporter Jon Franklin, is a fascinating study of how dogs and people formed their highly symbiotic relationship. Mr. Franklin, also a Pulitzer Prize recipient, is relentless in rooting out and making clear how this connection took place. Read this book and you'll never again look at your dog or yourself in the same way.
"Life At The Bottom: The Worldview That Makes The Underclass," by Theodore Dalrymple, is a collection of essays based on the author's years as a physician in British slums and prisons. Acclaimed as a master essayist and familiar to readers of the Spectator (UK), the writer tells poignant stories about the underclass and how and why the people in it live in "a special wretchedness." This is a painfully honest book.
"A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America," by Jim Webb is a call to action by the Vietnam war hero and novelist, now the senior U.S senator from Virginia.
"Breathing the Fire" by Kimberly Dozier, who grew up in Baltimore County, tells us about the CBS News correspondent's horrific experience of being terribly injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. She writes of her struggle to stay alive and all she went through in recuperating from her wounds. Her storytelling skill sheds light on what thousands of other IED victims have suffered.
Except for the dog story, no happy endings here, just some really great writing and good information.
Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090 WBAL-AM and WBAL .com. His column appears Fridays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.