Barry Eisler

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Few Book Recommendations

Whenever I read a good book, I try to post an Amazon and Goodreads review, and it occurred to me that I ought to be doing so here, too. So here are three recent ones I thought were outstanding:

Glenn Greenwald, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful

This superb book is a powerful indictment of America's two-tiered system of "justice" and the perversion of American ideals by the American establishment (better understood as an oligarchy). It could serve as a manifesto of the Occupy movement, which, contrary to variously naive and opportunistic mischaracterizations, has no problem with people winning, and is opposed instead to systemic, institutionalized cheating.

If you think certain classes of people should be above the law, or that the law (including the Constitution) should be treated more as a kind of guideline, suggestion, or recommendation than as a binding authority equally applicable to all, you won't agree with the book's clear argument and you'll find a way to ignore its overwhelming evidence. But if you recognize that, as Thomas Paine said, in America it is the law that is king, you'll be grateful that Greenwald has written such a cogent appeal for Americans to live up to our ideals.



Michael Hastings, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan

The Operators covers, in excellent prose and with perfect pacing, three broad topics. First, the insanity and futility of America's war in Afghanistan. Second, the way decisions are made in Washington and at the Pentagon -- the bureaucratic battles, the petty resentments and one-upmanship, the alliances and betrayals. And third, the realities of journalism -- the tradeoffs journalists engage in between access and honesty, the way journalists allow themselves to be seduced and suborned by the powerful figures they purport to hold to account.

For nonfiction, the book was an unusually gripping read (I listened to the audio version in my car, and many evenings sat in the driveway after getting home, unable to turn it off). Hastings turns this trick by avoiding preaching, and instead illuminating his broad themes through a specific focus. The insanity and futility of the war are represented by the heart-aching death of Army Corporal Mike Ingram. The White House and Pentagon turmoil is told via the story of the rise and fall of General Stanley McChrystal, America's commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. And the realities of journalism are presented through Hastings' account of his own decision-making process; of the temptations he felt (and, to his credit, resisted); and of the reactions of other journalists to his coverage of McChrystal and the war.

The subtitle is spot-on: this really is a wild and terrifying inside account, and a deeply affecting one, too. I highly recommend it.


Writers Anonymous, Seven At The Sevens: A Collection of Seven-Word Stories, Memoirs and Poems

I completely enjoyed this eclectic and wonderful book, which the authors were kind enough to give me when I spoke at Grub Street Writers in Boston this past November. I wouldn't have thought a book grouped around the concept of seven-word observations, poems, stories, and aphorisms would be so engaging, but I would have been wrong about that (and I should have known better, as I suppose you could say the same thing about haiku).

If you love writing, this book will make you feel connected with a passionate and funny (and anonymous, though their bios provide delightful glimpses) group of people who share your love. The illustrations are memorable, and sometimes haunting. The quotes from Steve Jobs, Hemingway, and others will inspire you. I'm indebted to the authors for introducing me to the work of Katherine Mansfield -- her short story The Fly is a magic act. Magic.

A particularly fine read in a favorite coffee shop (mine is Hatou in Tokyo). Also goes with Charlie Haden's American Dream. I hope you'll have as much fun with this slim volume as I did.
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10 Comments:

Blogger Ali Trotta said...

Seven at the Seven sounds AMAZING. I love things like that, and I will definitely check it out. Thanks for sharing this list, Barry!! :-)

Monday, February 13, 2012 9:58:00 AM  
Blogger Jon Olson said...

Along the lines of THE OPERATORS, I'd recommend (not that anyone cares) GHOST WARS, by Steve Coll. CIA arrogance run amok. (Apologies to the ex-CIA among us.)

Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone
The Ride Home

Monday, February 13, 2012 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger PBI said...

Thanks, Barry - the first two are on my to-read list. I'll check out the third as well.

Hope all is well,
Paul

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger David L. Shutter said...

Barry

Thanks for the recommendations, appreciated, and it's great to see you back on your blog. Heard you just had a trip to Seattle.

Would like to ask; is there a Youtube video, or the like, from your keynote at the Writers Digest conference this Jan?

Think I can imagine what your subject matter was but I'm just curious to hear more.

Thanks

Dave

Writing Trip

Friday, February 17, 2012 8:55:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Not that I know of, David, but you can find some related videos and links at the bottom of the Indie Resources page on my website, under the For Writers link. I'd include the exact link, but for some reason the full URL isn't showing for subpages on my website right now.

Monday, February 20, 2012 9:24:00 AM  
Blogger David L. Shutter said...

Thanks Barry, I'll take a look. Also, been almost five months since Detachment was released, I guess we'll start hearing about your next book soon?

Dave

Monday, February 20, 2012 7:06:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Inshallah... :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Sean L. Hastings said...

Hello Mr. Eisler. I just want to begin by saying that you are one of the best writers in the world, and that Fault Line is literally my favorite book. Now, knowing your great social consciousness and awareness, I just thought you should take a look at this. This is an international issue, and I hope the link to this video works. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc If this link does not work, I urge you to google Joseph Kony, Invisible Children.org, and Kony 2012. Mr. Eisler, if you could help spread awareness about this on Heart of the Matter, you would be doing a great help.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012 7:48:00 PM  
Blogger Sean L. Hastings said...

Hello Mr. Eisler. First, I would like to say you are an amazing thriller writer and that your novel Fault Line is my favorite book. Now, if you could take some time and look at this video, I would be very grateful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc If the link to this video does not work, could you please google Joseph Kony, Invisible Children.org, and Kony 2012. If you could spread awareness through Heart of the Matter, you would be helping so many people. Thank you, Mr. Eisler.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012 7:54:00 PM  
Blogger Sean L. Hastings said...

Hello Mr. Eisler. First, I would like to say you are an amazing thriller writer and that your novel Fault Line is my favorite book. Now, if you could take some time and look at this video, I would be very grateful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc If the link to this video does not work, could you please google Joseph Kony, Invisible Children.org, and Kony 2012. If you could spread awareness through Heart of the Matter, you would be helping so many people. Thank you, Mr. Eisler.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012 7:54:00 PM  

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