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Simply a list of books I've read lately. Please email comments to

cover Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back by Douglas Rushkoff
Perhaps the most disturbing book I've ever read. A powerful indictment of what the "American way of life" has become, molded in every way by the corporations that dominate our lives. Yet, like fish who know nothing of the water that surrounds them, we are largely unaware of the extent to which corporations pervade our human condition. -Dan (10/16/10)

This didn’t just happen.

In Life Inc., award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and scholar Douglas Rushkoff traces how corporations went from being convenient legal fictions to being the dominant fact of contemporary life. Indeed, as Rushkoff shows, most Americans have so willingly adopted the values of corporations that they’re no longer even aware of it.

This fascinating journey, from the late Middle Ages to today, reveals the roots of our debacle. From the founding of the first chartered monopoly to the branding of the self; from the invention of central currency to the privatization of banking; from the birth of the modern, self-interested individual to his exploitation through the false ideal of the single-family home; from the Victorian Great Exhibition to the solipsism of MySpace–the corporation has infiltrated all aspects of our daily lives. Life Inc. exposes why we see our homes as investments rather than places to live, our 401(k) plans as the ultimate measure of success, and the Internet as just another place to do business.

Most of all, Life Inc. shows how the current financial crisis is actually an opportunity to reverse this six-hundred-year-old trend and to begin to create, invest, and transact directly rather than outsource all this activity to institutions that exist solely for their own sakes.

Corporatism didn’t evolve naturally. The landscape on which we are living–the operating system on which we are now running our social software–was invented by people, sold to us as a better way of life, supported by myths, and ultimately allowed to develop into a self-sustaining reality. It is a map that has replaced the territory.

Rushkoff illuminates both how we’ve become disconnected from our world and how we can reconnect to our towns, to the value we can create, and, mostly, to one another. As the speculative economy collapses under its own weight, Life Inc. shows us how to build a real and human-scaled society to take its place.

cover All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity by Robert W. Fuller
Robert Fuller's bestseller Somebodies and Nobodies diagnosed and named the malady of rankism -- "what somebodies may do to nobodies." In this sequel, he further explores the social and psychological costs of this problem and counters it with the vision of a "dignitarian" society. Drawing on his experiences as a scientist, college president, and public diplomat, Fuller identifies rankism as the chief obstacle to achieving the American vision of liberty and justice for all -- and he spells out the steps required to eradicate it. Beginning with a call to action, the author exposes what is at stake by demonstrating rankism's poisonous presence in politics, business, and even personal relationships. By way of solutions, he offers alternative dignitarian models for several fundamental parts of society, including education, healthcare, politics, and religion. All Rise illuminates the subtle, often dysfunctional workings of power in all our interactions, and shows why change is not only desirable -- but vital.
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cover Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
I was a teenager when I originally read this book so I really didn't remember anything from it other than I liked it. It's a quick read, compelling yet peaceful. I prefer this particular translation as it seems more poetic than the others I've looked at. -Dan (3/10/06)
In the shade of a banyan tree, a grizzled ferryman sits listening to the river. Some say he's a sage. He was once a wandering shramana and, briefly, like thousands of others, he followed Gotama the Buddha, enraptured by his sermons. But this man, Siddhartha, was not a follower of any but his own soul. Born the son of a Brahmin, Siddhartha was blessed in appearance, intelligence, and charisma. In order to find meaning in life, he discarded his promising future for the life of a wandering ascetic. Still, true happiness evaded him. Then a life of pleasure and titillation merely eroded away his spiritual gains until he was just like all the other "child people," dragged around by his desires. Like Hermann Hesse's other creations of struggling young men, Siddhartha has a good dose of European angst and stubborn individualism. His final epiphany challenges both the Buddhist and the Hindu ideals of enlightenment. Neither a practitioner nor a devotee, neither meditating nor reciting, Siddhartha comes to blend in with the world, resonating with the rhythms of nature, bending the reader's ear down to hear answers from the river. In this translation Sherab Chodzin Kohn captures the slow, spare lyricism of Siddhartha's search, putting her version on par with Hilda Rosner's standard edition.
cover Why I Left The Contemporary Christian Music Movement: Confessions Of A Former Worship Leader by Dan Lucarini
I recommend this book to anyone who has questions about the validity of using Praise bands and Praise music in churches. The author comes at the subject as an insider who ultimately rejected Praise music on a biblical basis. In fact, he quotes chapter and verse to support his claim that this movement is bad for churches and Christians and is ultimately more concerned with pleasing people rather than pleasing God. A must read for Church musicians! -Dan (2/25/06)
For many churches today, music has become one of the most important factors in both their mode of worship and their attempts to reach unbelievers with the gospel. Writing from his own personal experience as a former worship leader, Dan Lucarini questions the use of contemporary music in the worship of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and shows why he believes many churches have been deceived into using ever increasing worldly means to Œreach their lost¹. He has seen at first hand how an emphasis on music, and the ultimate move towards rock music in particular, has caused divisions in the church, and turned the emphasis in worship away from the Lord towards ourselves. This warm and heartfelt account is intended to highlight these dangers and to help churches wishing to reverse this trend return God to his rightful place as the centre of our worship.
cover Reconstruction: The Great Experiment by Allen W. Trelease
It is interesting to read this book through the lense of everything I've learned since 10th Grade about government, history and politics. I was especially interested by how the events of this time period impacted the future of the US, right up to today. -Dan (2/17/06)
Describes the prominent people and political and social events of the Reconstruction period.
cover Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie
The setting is what you'd expect, given that Guthrie is an Okie but the level of detail he provides in his autobiography puts you "right there," in a land that we've all heard about but that just doesn't exist anymore. We should all have the ability to wax so eloquently about our youth. -Dan (11/4/05)
The original road novel--even though it takes the form of autobiography. If Guthrie didn't actually invent the footloose, no- strings-attached American hero (remember this guy Twain who wrote something about lighting out for the territory?), he certainly solidified the 20th-century version. Guitar slung over the shoulder as he sprinted to boost himself aboard freight trains, a man of the people equally at home with urban intellectuals, Guthrie incarnated for generations of Americans the artist as free spirit. This is the book that created the legend.
cover The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I don't know why it's taken me so long to finally get around to reading this book. I think I may have avoided it as it's one of those cult classics that people can get sort of over-zealous about. Actually, I'm finding it quite accessible and fun. It seems very derivative of Kurt Vonnegut's work but since Vonnegut could never live long enough to write enough to satisfy his fans, Adams' efforts are more than welcome. -Dan (10/28/05)
Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years. Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don't forget to bring a towel!
cover The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner by Dorothy J. Holden
This book provides another way of studying the development of the organ in America, through the prism of Skinner's life. His life had an interesting parallel to Bach's in that he never compromised on quality or his ideals, even if it meant that trends passed him by. Skinner created the ultimate theater organ but it was roundly rejected because it was too sophisticated sound-wise and didn't offer enough "bells and whistles." Also interesting is Skinner's contention that he could have reached even greater heights in organ building had he not had to waste time on salesmanship. It staggers the imagination. -Dan (10/21/05)
I'm finding that I'm enjoying the Life part of this book more than the Work part of it. EM was a real character, the kind that you don't see much of anymore. I guess there was something about that time in America. I strongly recommend it though, especially to all those organists who are interested in the organ from the perspective of imitating an orchestra. -Dan (10/6/05) community member Gordon Clark Ramsey recommended this book to me. I'm more of a Baroque organ fan but so far I'm finding Skinner to be a fairly interesting fellow. I'm still reading about his early development. -Dan (9/18/05)
By far the most popular book about an organbuilder, The Life & Work of Ernest M. Skinner by Dorothy Holden reveals the personal life, the professional triumphs and defeats of this most original and influential of America's organbuilders in the Twentieth Century. This hardbound second edition of 327 pages includes a large collection of photographs from Ernest Skinner's own camera and other sources and stoplists of 24 organs. Everyone devoted to the organ and its music will be fascinated.
cover Dungeon, Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades by John J. Robinson
Halfway at this point in time. Getting kind of overwhelmed with all the players and their interconnectedness. The Templars aren't the stars at this stage of the story. Just finished the Third Crusade and it looks like there's another on the way. Many, many more people than you can imagine have died on both sides, and so many in awful ways. -Dan (8/24/05)
More than simply a history of the Templars, this book puts the Knights as well as the Crusades into their proper historical context. In other words, this book provides a solid history of civilization in general. Well, worth the effort and full of surprises. I was especially interested to learn the origins of the divide between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Also unexpected was learning that, as far as the Middle East is concerned, not much has changed in the relationship between Christians and Muslims since the Crusades. -Dan (8/17/05)
With more colorful characters and startling plot twists than the most dramatic of novels, John J. Robinson's Dungeon, Fire, and Sword immerses the reader in an historical era where the blood flows freely, tribal antagonisms run deep, and betrayal lurks around every corner. The time is the Crusades and the place is the Middle East, where a fearless band of monk-warriors called the Knights Templar have vowed to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. The story of their faith and courage - and the horrors of their ultimate betrayal - has resonated throughout history. A vivid and gripping account of that incredible time, Dungeon, Fire, and Sword is a brilliant work of narrative history. Here are some features of the book: Separates fact from the large amount of fiction that surrounds the Knights Templar. Offers valuable insights into the people and politics of the Middle East that are strikingly relevant today. Filled with famous figures such as Richard the Lionhearted, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, Marco Polo, and Genghis Khan. Explores the question of missing Templar treasure and whether a secret succession of underground grand masters exists to this day.
cover J. S. Bach's Great Eighteen Organ Chorales by Russell Stinson
This book is a great reference book but it is also a good read. Chapter 1, which I've just completed, covers the compositional models and musical styles of each chorale. -Dan (5/10/05)
On the 250th anniversary of the composer's death, this volume offers an in-depth look at the "Great Eighteen" organ chorales, among the most celebrated works for organ, and a milestone in the history of the chorale. Addressed to organists, scholars, and general listeners alike, this lucid and engaging book examines the music from a wide spectrum of historical and analytical perspectives. Stinson examines the models used by Bach in conceiving the original pieces, his subsequent compilation of these works into a collection, and his compositional process as preserved by the autograph manuscript. Himself an accomplished organist, Stinson also considers various issues of performance practice and concludes with a discussion of the music's reception--its dissemination in manuscript and printed form, its performance history, and its influence on later composers. Completely up-to-date and presenting a wealth of new material, much of it translated into English for the first time, this study will open up fresh perspectives on some of the composer's greatest creations.
cover The Celestine Vision : Living the New Spiritual Awareness by James Redfield
This was a quick read and I found it very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the discussions on intuition and synchronicity. It got a little wishy-washy at the end but overall I found it helpful. -Dan (2/28/05)
When James Redfield wrote The Celestine Prophecy and The Tenth Insight, he crystallized a new spiritual vision for millions of people around the globe. Since then people have been gathering together to discuss how spiritual experiences have touched their lives and to explore the global renaissance already under way. Now in an exciting nonfiction book, James Redfield further helps us explore our unique missions on this planet. Personalizing the ideas of his earlier works, he delves into the hidden energies of our individual life dramas and shows us the mystical experiences that resolve them. Through self-disclosure, he clarifies how mysterious coincidences led him toward a specific destiny and can lead us to ours. And, finally, the principles of synchronicity, connection, and purpose all converge in Redfield's lucid discussions about history and science, allowing us to see their unbroken chain of evolution toward a better world. Inspiring and enlightening, The Celestine Vision is a wonderful, wise companion as we expand our consciousness and take action to create a truly joyous Earth.
cover Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn
The latest just out today is that a new nest has been put up for the hawks. -Dan (12/23/04)
This is a big story in NYC right now but I was reading this book before all the latest excitement happened. In 1991, a Red-tailed Hawk decided to make Central Park home and took up residence high up on the face of a Fifth Avenue building. This book doesn't include the latest development which is that people in the building had the hawks' nest taken down and angered the local birders. Great book on the nature of Central Park in general. -Dan (12/13/04)
Marie Winn is our guide into a secret world, a true wilderness in the heart of a city. The scene is New York's Central Park, but the rich natural history that emerges here--the loons, raccoons, woodpeckers, owls, and hundreds of visiting songbirds--will appeal to wildlife lovers everywhere. At its heart is the saga of the Fifth Avenue hawks, which begins as a love story and develops into a full-fledged mystery. At the outset of our journey we meet the Regulars, a small band of nature lovers who devote themselves to the park and its wildlife. As they watch Pale Male, a remarkable young red-tailed hawk, woo and win his first mate, they are soon transformed into addicted hawk-watchers. From a bench at the park's model-boat pond they observe the hawks building a nest in an astonishing spot--a high ledge of a Fifth Avenue building three floors above Mary Tyler Moore's apartment and across the street from Woody Allen's. The drama of the Fifth Avenue hawks--hunting, courting, mating, and striving against great odds to raise a family in their unprecedented nest site--is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. Red-Tails in Love will delight and inspire readers for years to come.
cover Lies of Silence by Brian Moore
I wasn't sure I was going to like this but it came highly recommended and it sucked me right in. Has to do with the political-religious conflict in Ireland. -Dan (11/26/04)
Set in his native Belfast, this is Moore's ( The Color of Blood ) most powerful, meaningful and timely novel, one that will generate strong emotions and diverse opinions. Michael Dillon's literary aspirations vanished when he became the manager of a small hotel; he thinks of himself as "a failed poet in a business suit." Married to a shrewish, dependent woman, he has just decided to leave her and move to London with his lover, a young Canadian woman, when he is swept into Northern Ireland's daily violence. A group of IRA thugs invades his home and holds his wife hostage while Michael is directed to plant a bomb that will kill a Protestant minister. Seamlessly turning what begins as a drama of domestic unhappiness into a chilling thriller, Moore engages Michael in a moral dilemma: whether to risk his wife's safety but save countless other lives by informing the police of the bomb ticking in his car. Once made, Michael's decision leads to yet more excruciating choices, escalating the tension in a narrative that mirrors the conflict which neither camp can win. As he depicts the passions on both sides of the civil war, Moore excoriates both "Protestant prejudice and Catholic cant," deploring the ceaseless conflict in "this British Province founded on inequality and sectarian hate." If the novel seems, in retrospect, perhaps a little contrived, readers will remain riveted as it hurtles to an inevitable, cleverly plotted conclusion.
cover The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self by William Westney
I'm almost finished with this but I think it's time for me to move on. I think this is a great book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who plays and/or teaches an instrument. I'd like to come back to it in 3-6 months for a refresher and to judge what kind of progress I've made in becoming a healthier player. -Dan (11/17/04)
The author has many interesting things to say about wrong notes, mistakes in general and practicing the "right" way. Reading this book has provided an excellent opportunity to sit down and assess my work habits and philosophies of playing and performing. -Dan (11/5/04)
There are books that entertain us and books that make us think. There are some books that do both and this is one of them. I have found this book very stimulating, at least so far. I had trouble getting into it because no one really likes self-help books and especially one on music. I do nothing wrong! -Dan (11/1/04)
In this groundbreaking book, prize-winning pianist and noted educator William Westney helps readers rediscover their own path to the natural, transcendent fulfillment of making music. Teachers, professionals and students of any instrument, as well as parents and music lovers of all ages, will benefit from his unique and inspiring philosophy, expressed with clarity and immediacy. He offers healthy alternatives for lifelong learning and suggests significant change in the way music is taught. For example, playing a wrong note can be constructive, useful, even enlightening. The energetic creator of the acclaimed Un-Master Class workshop also explores the special potential of group work, outlining the basics of his revelatory workshop that has transformed the music experience for participants the world over.
cover 1876 : A Novel (American Chronicle) by Gore Vidal
I'm about 2/3 of the way through. The story has moved on to Washington City (now D.C.). The story is really heating up and still has far to go. It's great to find out so much about a period in our country's history that up until now I've known zero about. We never covered this in US History class or Problems of Democracy. Pipe Organ reference: "But then Blaine's voice began to rise, and his face turned as scarlet as his eyes. The black eyes burned. The voice rumbled like an organ as stop after stop was pulled out." -Dan (10/20/04)
I'm about 1/3 of the way through. New York in those early years sounds dreadful, even if you had a lot of money. The politics of the story have made their entrance. -Dan (10/15/04)
In the election of 1876, Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York won the popular vote but his opponent Rutherford B. Hayes ascended to the presidency. "1876" is a novelization of the events surrounding this historical situation and, gee, it all sounds kind of familiar. Vidal's writing is superb and makes history come alive. -Dan (10/13/04)
The more things change, the more they stay the same: "The last few days would have brought down any parliamentary government. As it is, the Grant Administration is a shambles, and there is even talk that the President may resign." Charles Schuyler, the narrator of Burr, returns to the United States after an absence of nearly 40 years, with his widowed daughter, Emma, in tow. While they try to find a suitably rich husband for Emma among the New York social set, Charles concentrates on the scandals in Washington--including accusations of corruption and obstruction of justice against Ulysses S. Grant--and the presidential race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden (Tilden apparently, in fact, won the election, only to have it taken away because of electoral fraud). Cameo appearances by Chester A. Arthur, Mark Twain, Charles Nordhoff, and others enliven the proceedings.
God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian by Kurt Vonnegut
It's been a while since I've been through a Vonnegut-inspired delirium. This one was rather short, thank goodness. Out of his twenty books, I only read three. -Dan (9/29/04)
As a "reporter on the afterlife," Kurt Vonnegut bravely allows himself to be strapped to a gurney by his friend Jack Kevorkian and dispatched--round-trip--to the Pearly Gates. Or at least that's what he claims in the introduction to this series of brief pieces originally read as 90-second interludes on WNYC, Manhattan's public radio station. Revised and rewritten for this slim volume, Vonnegut's "interviews" range from the gossamer-slight to the deliciously barbed. Among the dead people he is privileged to talk to are Salvatore Biagini, a retired construction worker who died of a heart attack while rescuing his schnauzer from a pit bull; John Brown, still smoldering 140 years after his death by hanging; William Shakespeare, who spouts quotations and rubs Vonnegut the wrong way; and one of Vonnegut's own personal heroes, socialist and labor leader Eugene Victor Debs. The tables are turned on Vonnegut when he runs into Sir Isaac Newton, who is lurking near the Heaven end of the "blue tunnel" of the Afterlife. Newton, tireless in his quest for knowledge, wants to find out what the tunnel is made of, and he takes over the interview, besieging Vonnegut with questions. Unfazed, the writer moves on, looking up Martin Luther King's assassin, James Earl Ray, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. It is only when Dr. Kevorkian is inconveniently convicted for murder that Vonnegut is forced to desist. This may be Vonnegut (or his publishers) scraping the bottom of the barrel, but no matter: there are few writers whose scrapings we'd rather have.
cover Civil Disobedience and Other Essays by Henry David Thoreau
Surrounded by calls for and acts of civil disobedience, I thought this book might be a good way to look into the whole idea. Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience" grew out of his opposition to the Mexican War (1846-1848). At some point he spent a night in jail for refusing to pay his poll tax as a way of protesting the actions of the United State government against Mexico. Of the remaining four essays, "Life without Principle" is particularly appropriate for musicians as he discusses, among other things, the value in having a job doing something you love. -Dan (9/2/04)
Philosopher, naturalist and rugged individualist, Thoreau has inspired generations of readers to think for themselves and to find meaning and beauty in nature. This representative sampling includes five of his most frequently read and cited essays: "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" (1849), "Life without Principle" (1863), "Slavery in Massachusetts" (1854), "A Plea for Captain John Brown" (1869) and "Walking" (1862).
cover The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason
Finished it. I enjoyed it, it was a good read but it didn't bowl me over. I think without the whole religious component, it wasn't as compelling as The Da Vinci Code, perhaps because there was less at stake. I would say it was over-hyped which is unfortunate. When expectations are high, it doesn't matter how good the book is, odds are it will fall short. -Dan (8/18/04)
This book has been getting promoted in the wake of The Da Vinci Code. So far, it seems like there's been a lot of setup and not much action, making it hard to compare the two books. On the plus side, I have enjoyed learning what it's like being a student at Princeton, if the book is to be believed. -Dan (7/27/04)
A mysterious coded manuscript, a violent Ivy League murder, and the secrets of a Renaissance prince collide in a labyrinth of betrayal, madness, and genius.
Princeton. Good Friday, 1999. On the eve of graduation, two students are a hairsbreadth from solving the mysteries of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Famous for its hypnotic power over those who study it, the five-hundred-year-old Hypnerotomachia may finally reveal its secrets -- to Tom Sullivan, whose father was obsessed with the book, and Paul Harris, whose future depends on it. As the deadline looms, research has stalled -- until an ancient diary surfaces. What Tom and Paul discover inside shocks even them: proof that the location of a hidden crypt has been ciphered within the pages of the obscure Renaissance text.

Armed with this final clue, the two friends delve into the bizarre world of the Hypnerotomachia -- a world of forgotten erudition, strange sexual appetites, and terrible violence. But just as they begin to realize the magnitude of their discovery, Princeton's snowy campus is rocked: a longtime student of the book is murdered, shot dead in the hushed halls of the history department.

A tale of timeless intrigue, dazzling scholarship, and great imaginative power, The Rule of Four is the story of a young man divided between the future's promise and the past's allure, guided only by friendship and love.
cover Silence: Lectures and Writings by John Cage
Yes, I'm still reading this (almost done). I don't find all of it directly relevant to me (such as the dance section) and some of it is purely technical but in general I think it is readable and thought provoking and has had a positive effect on me. -Dan (7/2/04)
Some of this can be hard to get through but it helps that Cage punctuates the book with funny and/or profound stories. It helps me to remember that the essays and lectures aren't simply reports but actual pieces that he performed, using words instead of notes. -Dan (5/26/04)
In this collection of essays and lectures, Cage explores his ideas about sound and silence, with tangents into every imaginable subject. Considering when these essays were written, it would not be an exaggeration to label Cage as the greatest philosopher/composer of the 20th century. Every time I think that I've come up with an insightful observation about music, I find that John Cage has already said it years ago, and better. Regardless of what you may think about his work, John Cage was as entertaining as he was brilliant. Having met him on several occasions, I can also say that John Cage was truly one of the nicest men ever to have walked the planet. -Dan (5/23/04)
Silence, A Year from Monday, M, Empty Words and X (in this order) form the five parts of a series of books in which Cage tries, as he says, to find a way of writing which comes from ideas, is not about them, but which produces them. Often these writings include mesostics and essays created by subjecting the work of other writers to chance procedures using the I Ching (what Cage called writing through).
cover Over the Edge: A Regular Guy's Odyssey in Extreme Sports by Michael Bane
This guy is great. His story would be hilarious if it wasn't so scary. More to come! -Dan (4/19/04)
I just finished! I was fascinated by his evolution from simply doing life-threatening stuff with a minimum of training to participating in exquisitely dangerous activities that required extensive training and learning specific skill sets. Bane's story is as much a travelogue of the mind as it is of the physical world. Great book! -Dan (5/3/04)
In this personal narrative, former couch potato Michael Bane begins an incredible journey that takes him from the abyss to the highest, storm-swept mountains and, ultimately, changes his life forever. Bane's insights have come from participating in such high-risk sports as mountaineering and cave diving. Everyone makes lists, but the baker's dozen of personal challenges that Michael Bane came up with to test the breaking points of body and soul are literally breathtaking. The adventures he exuberantly narrates are the extreme of the extreme, like swimming from Alcatraz Island, running through Death Valley, bicycling the Rocky Mountains, and climbing Mt. Denali. Along the route of his audacious odyssey, he meets his share of fascinating fellow extremists, one of whom describes the author as a kind of "George Plimpton from Hell," an apt depiction, to be sure, of man intent on journeying to a daringly engaging version of hell and back.
cover Chess For Beginners by Israel A. Horowitz
It's been a while since I brushed up on my chess. Out of all the books I looked through, this one was the most readable while still managing to convey a great deal of useful strategy. Most importantly, it shows how to avoid losing in five moves at the hands of those sharks who know a few cute tricks. -Dan (4/16/04)
In this book, I. A. Horowitz, Chess Editor of the New York Times and former U.S. Open Champion, applies some of the ideas and convictions acquired from thirty-five years of playing, teaching and analyzing the royal game. He emphasizes the tactical aspects of the game: how to recognize the big chance and hit hard when it occurs. He also stresses the ideas and methods in opening play, rather than the routine memorizing of variations that takes the joy out of chess for so many beginners. When you have completed this book, you will be able to play chess with pleasure and some ability..
cover The Possessor and the Possessed: Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and the Idea of Musical Genius by Peter Kivy
I'm not sure about this one. Just getting started. Kivy is a good writer but it remains to be seen how you can have a book about musical genius that doesn't include Bach. -Dan (3/19/04)
Kivy is a great writer. My problem is I haven't been reading from it often enough so I keep losing his train of thought. I need to build up some momentum or else move on to another book. It's an interesting idea he proposes, that there have been two different ideas of artistic genius in history and that we go back and forth between the two. That's why I want to keep going. -Dan (4/2/04)
The concept of genius intrigues us. Artistic geniuses have something other people don't have. In some cases that something seems to be a remarkable kind of inspiration that permits the artist to exceed his own abilities. It is as if the artist is suddenly possessed, as if some outside force flows through him at the moment of creation. In other cases genius seems best explained as a natural gift. The artist is the possessor of an extra talent that enables the production of masterpiece after masterpiece. This book explores the concept of artistic genius and how it came to be symbolized by three great composers of the modern era: Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven. Peter Kivy, a leading thinker in musical aesthetics, delineates the two concepts of genius that were already well formed in the ancient world. Kivy then develops the argument that these concepts have alternately held sway in Western thought since the beginning of the eighteenth century. He explores why this pendulum swing from the concept of the possessor to the concept of the possessed has occurred and how the concepts were given philosophical reformulations as views toward Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven as geniuses changed in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.
cover All the Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and Its American Masters by Craig R. Whitney
I just started reading this one today but so far it's an enjoyable read for anyone interested in organs and organists. -Dan (1/25/04)

I've made good progress, finishing off the lengthy introduction as well as the first four chapters. Never having had time to focus on organ history, this book has been very helpful in filling the gaps in my knowledge, some I didn't even know I had. -Dan (2/7/04)

A distinguished New York Times editor explores the history of the pipe organ in America in a book that will intrigue and delight anyone interested in classical music and popular culture.

For centuries, pipe organs stood at the summit of musical and technological achievement, admired as the most complex and intricate mechanisms the human race had yet devised. In All The Stops, New York Times journalist Craig Whitney journeys through the history of the American pipe organ and brings to life the curious characters who have devoted their lives to its music.

From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, organ music was wildly popular in America. Organ builders in New York and New England could hardly fill the huge demand for both concert hall and home organs. Master organbuilders found ingenious ways of using electricity to make them sound like orchestras. Organ players developed cult followings and bitter rivalries. One movement arose to restore to American organs the clarity and precision that baroque organs had in centuries past, while another took electronic organs to the rock concert halls, where younger listeners could be found. But while organbuilders and organists were fighting with each other, popular audiences lost interest in the organ.

Today, organs are beginning to make a comeback in concert halls and churches across America. Craig Whitney brings the story to life and up to date in a humorous, engaging book about the instruments and vivid personalities that inspired his lifelong passion: the great art of the majestic pipe organ.
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cover Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician by Christoph Wolff
As if I wasn't feeling inferior as a musician after reading Conroy's "Body and Soul," now I'm really in for it. But like a moth to a flame, I can't get enough of ole J.S. -Dan (12/29/03)

Finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. A landmark biography of Bach on the 250th anniversary of the composer's death, written by the leading Bach scholar of our age. Although we have heard the music of J. S. Bach in countless performances and recordings, the composer himself still comes across only as an enigmatic figure in a single familiar portrait. As we mark the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, author Christoph Wolff presents a new picture that brings to life this towering figure of the Baroque era. This engaging new biography portrays Bach as the living, breathing, and sometimes imperfect human being that he was, while bringing to bear all the advances of the last half-century of Bach scholarship. Wolff demonstrates the intimate connection between the composer's life and his music, showing how Bach's superb inventiveness pervaded his career as musician, composer, performer, scholar, and teacher. And throughout, we see Bach in the broader context of his time: its institutions, traditions, and influences. With this highly readable book, Wolff sets a new standard for Bach biography. 42 b/w illustrations.
cover Body and Soul by Frank Conroy
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it extremely well-written. It's not that often that the protagonist in a novel is a musician. Body and Soul will make you wonder what you could accomplish if you were able to devote your entire day, every day to learning about music. In other words, it's exhilarating, inspiring and a little depressing at the same time. -Dan (12/16/03)

In the dim light of a basement apartment, six-year-old Claude Rawlings sits at an old white piano, picking out the sounds he has heard on the radio and shutting out the reality of his lonely world. The setting is 1940s New York, a city that is "long gone, replaced by another city of the same name." Against a backdrop that pulses with sound and rhythm, Body & Soul brilliantly evokes the life of a child prodigy whose musical genius pulls him out of squalor and into the drawing rooms of the rich and a gilt-edged marriage. But the same talent that transforms him also hurtles Claude into a lonely world of obsession and relentless ambition. From Carnegie Hall to the smoky jazz clubs of London, Body & Soul burns with passion and truth--at once a riveting, compulsive read and a breathtaking glimpse into a boy's heart and an artist's soul.
cover The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
This book is a fairly quick and easy read. Those who have previously enjoyed "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" will recognize quite a bit although there is much new information offered. "The Da Vinci Code" is suspenseful, well-written and successful at making a great deal of information easily digestible. -Dan (11/23/03)

While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. While working to solve the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci -- clues visible for all to see -- yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, and learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion -- an actual secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci, among others.

In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who seems to anticipate their every move. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory's ancient secret -- and an explosive historical truth -- will be lost forever.

THE DA VINCI CODE heralds the arrival of a new breed of lightning-paced, intelligent thriller”utterly unpredictable right up to its stunning conclusion.