Here are the titles that top my list of must-reads. Check these out on your next trip to the library. You will not be disappointed!
"Orthodoxy" by G. K. Chesterton (Image/Doubleday) – I re-read this book every few years, just for kicks. Here’s the background: G. K. Chesterton was a journalist who managed to write dozens of books and thousands of long newspaper pieces. He fits the description of a man who never had an unexpressed thought, but in this case that’s a good thing. Chesterton, a man of famously good humor and roiling passions, always had interesting things to say. In any event, "Orthodoxy" is the first of Chesterton’s books on faith, written when he was a relatively young man. He traces his journey from skepticism to belief, but in his own unique way. Chesterton didn’t write with a pen; he wrote with fireworks. In the midst of a passage on the latest scientific discoveries, he suddenly will begin talking about griffins and dragons – and in ways that make a great deal of sense. Striking passages leap from every page. If you underline books, as I do, you’ll use a lot of ink on this one. It’s a great introduction to one of the most thrilling writers of the 20th century.
"Founding Father" by Richard Brookhiser (Free Press) – This may be the best short biography available of George Washington, and it explains why he may be the most underrated of all our great presidents. I re-read the book to prepare for a recent event at Washington’s home of Mt. Vernon, and was reminded not only of Washington’s greatness, but Brookhiser’s skill in bringing to life a guy many people see only as a cold, stone idol.
"How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life" by Peter Robinson (Regan Books) – Peter is an old friend and former Reagan speechwriter. In this book, he lays out nine simple lessons he learned working for and watching Ronald Reagan. The book is personal, straightforward, and not at all wonkish. It’s a must read not just for Reagan fans, but for people who want a good dose of old-fashioned Reagan optimism.
"The Girl Watchers Club" by Harry Stein (HarperCollins) This book, just out, makes every one of us in the writing business say: “Man, I wish I had thought of that.” Harry Stein has documented the long-term friendship of six World War II vets who live in Monterey, California. They call themselves “The Girl Watchers Club” and have been meeting once a week for the last 40 years. (One of the guys is Stein’s father-in-law.) Think of this as “Barbershop” for veterans of a war that re-shaped American history. Think of it as a good glimpse of life...and death. The gang of six becomes the gang of five by the book’s end, but the lingering impression is that of guys who have become optimists, not because their lives have been easy, but because they have been hard – and good.
"Isaac Newton" by James Gleick (Pantheon Books) – Gleick, a physicist and science writer, has put together a short biography of Sir Isaac Newton. The book touches upon Newton’s prodigious intellectual achievements, but in a way that anybody can understand. More interesting are the insights about Newton himself – his belief in alchemy, his personal quirks (a home whose drapes and furnishings were of one color, crimson), his faith, and his often-petty feuds with figures great and small.