Four Books I Read in November 2017

Sharon’s Bridgehead: How Did [the] Israeli Army Turn Defeat into Victory – written by Uri Dan

This account of Sharon’s part in the Yom Kippur war is riveting. Uri Dan was there and captures the moment. A couple of recent biographies of Sharon have not been so flattering of him, especially regarding his years as a politician. Thus, Sharon’s Bridgehead was a refreshing read. It reminded me of how crucial his role was. Without him Israel probably would not have crossed the Canal. Although I strongly believe the war would not have had a relatively positive outcome without Chief of Staff, David Elazar, it is also clear that Sharon was the catalyst for success in the Sinai. I can’t emphasize how good a read this simple book is.  You certainly come away with the feeling of what it was like to be there.

House of Spies – Written by Daniel Silva

I got started late reading Daniel Silva novels. But late is better than never. Thank you David for suggesting that I read them. Although they all seem to follow the same formula as it follows the machinations of Israel’s #1 spy, Gabriel Allon, they never cease to entertain. As such, the Silva novels are a great break between my normal heavy non-fiction load. 

False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East – Written by Steven A. Cook

For me, the book was a must read. But for most, including myself, it is a bit of a slog. Having read it, I certainly have a greater appreciation for what the Arab Spring was, and was not. That is important for me given my interest in the region and my desire to write books about Israel’s challenges and history. However, for most, I fear that they will give up before finishing. In the desire to be comprehensive, the author slings details and names at the reader at a dazzling pace, but fails to do so in a manner easy to digest. Thus, it is hard to get excited about what was exciting and perilous times.

Culloden: Scotland’s Last battle and the Forging of the British Empire – Authored by Trevor Royle

I purchased this book with the hope of diving deeply into the battle of Culloden. My hopes were raised then dashed as I read deeply into the book. Out of 360 pages, only seventeen pages are directly devoted to the battle. The rest details many events and introduces a multitude of personalities leading up to the battle. I was willing to persevere though that because I thought it would lead to the same type of detail about the battle itself. Having walked the battlefield, I thought my understanding would be increased by a detailed description. Royle’s book failed to deliver. Instead, the last 160 pages of the book followed the careers of the many officers that served the British at Culloden. While that might be interesting to those devoted to British history over the last half of the eighteenth century, I found it a slog.

Four Books I Read in October 2017

Three Minutes to Doomsday: An agent, A traitor, and the worst espionage breach in US history – Authored by Joe Navarro. 

This is the gripping story of how Joe Navarro, an FBI agent, uncovered an espionage ring that severely undermined the security of the United States and the Western World. Chapter by chapter, you will be enthralled and amazed by how Navarro step-by-step successfully earned the confidence of a traitor and got him to reveal his conduct Along the way, you will also be treated to insights regarding how the FBI operates and is structured with regard to counter-intelligence activity. I heartily recommend this book.

Conscience of a Conservative: A rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principles – Authored by Jeff Flake

This short book is a must read, no matter your politics. I don’t agree with many of Senator Flake’s political views, but I completely agree with his focus on respectful politics. Writing the book took courage and probably cost him the support he would have needed to run a successful re-election campaign. But that is precisely why the book is important. Leaders must tell the truth no matter the cost. Flake did and has paid the price.

What Happened – Authored by Hillary Clinton

I purchased this book because I wanted to hear what she had to say through her own words as opposed to her supporters or detractors. Unfortunately, what her failure to delve deeply into herself was far more revealing than what she chose to highlight. Of course, she admitted to some of her own failures. But then she spent far too little time being introspective or discussing how they impacted her. Instead, she pivoted to many of the themes that one would expect: FBI Director Comey, bias against women, the state of politics in America, etc. I suppose it is for historians to uncover the innerworkings of Hillary Clinton’s mind. It is a shame that she would not do so herself. It would have gone a long way towards improving her reputation and creating a model for retrospective candor.

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziness Campaign in American History – Authored by Katy Tur

A light read and a heavy subject. I learned much about the Trump campaign and the candidate himself. But equally interesting, was what I learned about the challenges a reporter faces covering a presidential campaign.

Three Books I Read in September 2017

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis – And How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance – Authored by Ben Sasse

This book by Republican Senator Sasse, is an absolute must read. I don’t agree with many of Senator Sasse’s political positions, but I absolutely agree with his views on parenting young adults. It is a wake-up call that diagnoses the malady and prescribes a solution. It is sure to provoke you and force you to think about the issues he raises and how he suggest remedying them.

Soldiers of Jerusalem – Authored by Uzi Narkiss

Narkiss was a true hero of Israel. I always knew he was central commander during the 1967 war and led the units that retook Jerusalem. I did not realize all else he did on behalf of Jerusalem. This memoir of a lesser known leader in the IDF is well-worth reading.

The Netanyahu Years – Authored by Ben Caspit

This is the second biography that I have read about Netanyahu that has a clear bias against the Prime Minister. On top of that, the translation from Hebrew to English left something to be desired. Nevertheless, I recommend reading it. Why? Because it brought to my attention many issues that Netanyahu faced. Even though the author seemed to make every effort to place his subject in a bad light as he navigated around his problems, he did not always succeed. The bottom line is that reading the book made me realize that Netanyahu is complicated, flawed, but also immensely capable. The immensely capable part was not what the author intended me to learn from his prose, but his failure to provide a complete accounting of how Netanyahu surmounted many of the challenges he faced coupled with the fact that the author could not escape that somehow Netanyahu did so. It is hard to believe that he was always as nefarious as the author suggests. So, I was left wanting to learn more. That makes the book a success despite its flaws.

Five Books I Read in August

The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body’s Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You” – Authored by Sylvia Tara, PhD

This book on fat is an engrossing read regarding the science of fat and both its benefits and detriments. The science is skillfully interweaved with vignettes about those that suffer from too much or too little of it and the researchers that have uncovered its secrets. By the end, the reader realizes that every person’s fight against weight is unique, difficult, but not without hope. I strongly recommend the book.

Blockade: Authored by Gerald Ziedenberg

This short book does an excellent job chronicling the perilous journeys Jews took to escape to Palestine from pre-to post-World War Two. Before I read the book, I thought I already knew much of what happened. It only took diving in a few pages to realize that I knew little. The suffering and persistence of Jews escaping terror was breathtaking. Britain’s crass enforcement of a morally corrupt foreign policy that barred Palestine to Jews in need did much to ensure the death of many at the hands of the Nazis. And, it emphasizes the need for a vibrant Israel that all Jews can count on as a shelter in the storm.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign – Authored by Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes.
This light read gives what feels an accurate portrayal of the many failures of the Hillary Clinton campaign. As such, it is an important foundation to absorb before reading the multiple books written by insiders and principles that are sure to come. Although the book focuses more on primary effort and the Democratic Convention than the general election, perhaps that is appropriate. For it is during that time that the Clinton campaign developed bad habits (such as overreliance on data analytics) and lost its way. It is also during that time that candidate Clinton failed to develop a simple message as to why people should vote for her as opposed to why they should not vote for the other guy (Sanders and then Trump). In the end, Clinton’s loss seems to have been inevitable, an inevitability only masked by Trump’s seeming impossibility.

The Darkening Web – Authored by Alexander Klimburg

This is a timely read about current issues in cyber security. It reviews the current state of affairs and delves deeply into current capabilities of China, Russia, the United States and others.

First Strike – Authored by Ben Coes

Generally, after reading several non-fiction books of varying degrees of density, I need a little relief. First Strike fills the bill. Its basic premise is that rogue elements of the U.S. government naively created ISIS as a counter-weight to other Islamic militants. Then ISIS morphed into something beyond their control. The prose is light and quick, just what I needed. If you like Clancy or Silva, this book is for you.

Four Books I Finished in July

The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency – Authored by Chris Whipple

Few books I have read were more timely. Reading this book, and searching my memories of past administrations, makes clear that among the many reasons that the Presidency of Donald Trump is cratering is that he seemingly refused to take on a strong and independent Chief of Staff that will say what he thinks rather than what the boss wants to hear. Perhaps now General Kelly will. For sure, he should read this book.

The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas – Authored by Grant Rumley and Amir Tibon.

In March, I had occasion to hear Grant Rumley speak. I knew then that when his book would be published I would immediately purchase it. I was not disappointed. The story of Abbas is the enigma of the last twenty years. Israel could be ready to make the difficult concessions to make peace, but has never had a willing Palestinian partner that would mirror those difficult concessions. This highly readable book makes that fact glaringly clear.

Secret Soldier: The Six Day War…:Golan Heights…Entebbe… – Authored by Colonel Muki Betser with Robert Rosenberg

This is a remarkable story about Colonel Betser’s life in the IDF where he was one of Israel’s foremost Special Forces soldiers. He gives the reader an eyewitness perspective as to what it was like. I highly recommend this book even if humble-pie is not exactly the writer’s forte’. But then again, he has nothing to be humble about, he was a true hero!

Camino Island – Authored by John Grisham

Alright, I admit it. Every once in a while, I need some escapism fiction. My yearning for that reaches a crescendo when Grisham publishes a new book. Reading his stuff is like it used to be to eat at Houston’s, never great but always very good and exactly what I expected.

Seven Books Cliff Sobin Finished Reading in June

Struggling Over Israel’s Soul – Authored by Elazar Stern

This is an outstanding and fascinating memoir about how retired General Stern remained true to his orthodox beliefs with carrying out his leadership responsibilities in the IDF.

Israel’s Critical Requirements for Defensible Borders – Edited by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

An important contribution to understanding Israel’s fundamental security needs in any future negotiations.

Encounters of Fate: Heartbreak and Hope – Authored by David Yair

A rather hokey, but engaging, historical fiction that spans multiple decades beginning with the Holocaust. I can’t say it is a great book, but I was not able to put it down.

For heaven’s Sake: Squadron 101 and the Yom Kippur War – Authored by Aviram Barkai

This book honors those that fought in the skies to save Israel’s soldiers and civilians on the ground. I can’t recommend it enough.

A History of Scotland – Authored by Neil Oliver

While in Scotland for 2 weeks I started reading this book. All though it gets repetitive at times, that is not the author’s fault, it is more the tragic nature of Scottish history. I wish I had read it before I arrived in Scotland because it would have made a great trip even better.

An America Sickness – Authored by Elizabeth Rosenthal

This book has forever changed my views concerning the health care debate. Written by a New York Times reporter who is also a physician, it details the egregious problems that exist in each component of the medical industry in America.

How to Market a Book – Authored by Joanna Penn

A surprisingly good book on the subject.