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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Irv's Book Reviews - Three Great Reads

Posted by patron and guest blogger, Irv S.

That Used to be Us by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
That Used to be Us is informative, well written, perceptive, and timely. It was published in 2011 and purports to deal with then current economic conditions but is at least as pertinent today and it was profoundly pertinent then. Both authors have excellent credentials--Thomas L. Friedman has written several informative books on international economics including the well-received The World is Flat (2005) and Hot, Flat, and Crowded (2008). Michael Mandelbaum was a professor and director of American Foreign Policy at The John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies as well as the author or co-author of twelve books including The Ideas that Conquered the World. Their core argument recognizes and analyzes four major challenges faced by the U.S.: globalization, information technology, budget deficits, and energy/ecology. They discuss America's particular formula for prosperity which consists of five pillars that constitute the country's own version of a public-private partnership for economic growth: public education, immigration, infrastructure, research and development, and regulation of private economic activity. They condemn liberals who blame all of our problems on big business and seek a more equal distribution of an ever shrinking economic pie and conservatives who assert that tax cuts will miraculously cause the pie to grow. The book provides thoughtful and critical analysis of our current economic position in a complex international economy and suggests corrective actions. It is a worthwhile read for anyone concerned about the future of America's place in the world or its ability to provide a healthy economic climate for its companies and citizens. The book has special significance in 2017.
15th Affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Ms. Paetro has mastered the James Patterson style and applied it to a novel with special appeal to female readers. 15th Affair is an unmemorable diversion, a break for those who need a respite from serious reading--a book for the summer beach.


Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler

The Atlantic Press correctly describes Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler as an “(E)xquisite novel that examines Family ties and the legacy of the Vietnam war through the portrait of a single family.” And some family. The patriarch is a veteran of World War II and a curmudgeon who meets regularly with other veterans for coffee without informing his overly dramatic wife of his whereabouts or activities, leaving her to surmise that he is engaging in affairs with other women.

He is dissatisfied with both his sons, Jimmy, the younger, for avoiding service in Vietnam by going to Canada and Robert, the elder, for volunteering to serve in order to obtain a clerkship rather than fighting at the front. Jimmy has married a war protestor and established a successful business in Canada. Robert is a college professor, another reason for the father’s scorn. Both sons have unsatisfactory marriages, though for very different reasons and in very different ways. This is a truly dysfunctional family and their mis- and non-communication are the grist for irony and exposition.

Perfume River is a fine novel, written by one of America’s most important authors. Mr. Butler is a graduate of Granite City High School.

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