Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About EverythingAroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything by Randi Hutter Epstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything" is a wonderful read. Randi Hutter Epstein employs her unique wit, and her gifted ability to make her writing relevant and familiar, to present a history of hormones that reads more like a novel than a history or medical account.

Epstein begins talking about sunbathing with Johnson's baby oil and an album cover wrapped in aluminum foil—something to which all us 1970s kids can relate. And before it hits you that the subject matter has changed, you are reading about her grandmother’s affliction with Addison’s disease, the coining of the phrase “hormone” in 1905, and nineteenth-century experiments on a dog’s liver. From that jumping off point, we get “Aroused.”

Epstein discusses hormones in the context of everything from Leopold and Loeb to Coney Island freak shows. But her writing is more than historical anecdotes. "Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything" is meticulously researched and informative. As Epstein points out, hormones are “so much more” than “boobs and periods and sex.”

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Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mitchell Zuckoff captures the stories of 9-11 in a way that has not been done before. His accounts of the attack, the victims, and the victims' families are mesmerizing. Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 is a must-read regardless of what you know—or think you know—about that infamous day in September 2001 that forever changed our way of life.

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 "You never really understand a person until you  consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Badge of Honor: Blowing the Whistle (the True Story of a Mayor's Bodyguard)Badge of Honor: Blowing the Whistle by Walter L. Harris Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enlightening. In Badge of Honor: Blowing the Whistle, Walter L. Harris Jr. takes the reader along his eye-opening journey from being a decorated officer to being a whistleblower who needed to expose the rampant corruption and immorality in the Kwame Malik Kilpatrick administration. Harris clearly and poignantly shows the reader the toll the corruption took on him and the affect whistleblowing had on his family. Badge of Honor could easily be subtitled "Badge of Bravery and Selflessness."

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To End a Presidency: The Power of ImpeachmentTo End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment by Laurence H. Tribe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment is exceptionally well-written and provides the reader with a flowing discussion of impeachment, including its origin, history of use, and potential consequences. Before reaching page seventy-five, there were comparisons to Spider-man, Julius Ceaser, Harry Potter, and Through the Looking Glass. I knew then that To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment was never going to be drab academic writing. And I was right.

Laurence H. Tribe and Joshua Matz offer an insightful look into impeachment. Their discussion of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” including its vagueness, sets the stage for questioning what acts warrant impeachment. Their examination of whether it might be best, depending on circumstances, for Congress to choose not to impeach a president—even when suspected of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors—” is thought-provoking. Their observation that in the post-Clinton era “impeachment talk has become a routine aspect of partisan strife,” is accurate, but disheartening. Most of all, their writing, knowledge, research, and passion is just superb.

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Ricky's Recent Reviews

An Officer and a SpyAn Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In what has become known as the “Dreyfus Affair,” French Jewish military officer Alfred Dreyfus was wrongfully tried and convicted of treason in 1894.

Based on unverified testimony and false information and fueled by anti-Semitism, Dreyfus was arrested and court-martialed for providing military secrets to the Germans. Dreyfus was found guilty of treason and exiled to Devils Island.

After the trial, Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart was promoted to the new head of France’s intelligence agency. It was then that Picquart discovered evidence of Dreyfus's innocence.

An Officer and a Spy is a fictionalized story of Picquart’s journey to prove that Dreyfus was wrongly convicted. As author Robert Harris noted, An Officer and a Spy “aims to use the techniques of a novel to retell the true story of the Dreyfus affair, perhaps the greatest political scandal and miscarriage of justice in history.” Staying close to the historical facts, Harris presents an exciting spin on an already gripping historical story.

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The Case Against Impeaching TrumpThe Case Against Impeaching Trump by Alan M. Dershowitz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Case Against Impeaching Trump is more of a collection of Alan M. Dershowitz's thoughts and columns, and Sunday morning news shows' transcripts than it is a deep dive into impeachment. Having already read Dershowitz's columns and having watched him regularly on news shows, there was little new information for me.

Several points in the book directly respond to positions taken by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz in their excellent book about impeachment, To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment. At times, I found myself wondering whether Dershowitz authored his book just because Tribe and Matz wrote theirs.

Still, Dershowitz is one of the best legal minds and scholars, and his thoughts and positions are important to understanding the issues related to impeachment, presidential power and immunity, and the ongoing investigations. If you have not read his columns from the past year, The Case Against Impeaching Trump pulls it all together in a cohesive well-organized manner. If you regularly read and watch Dershowitz, The Case Against Impeaching Trump will leave you feeling shorted.

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Leadership: In Turbulent TimesLeadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pulitzer Prize winner and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin penned another historical gem. And this time it includes lessons on leadership befitting a series of Harvard Business Review articles.

In Leadership: In Turbulent Times, Goodwin floats back and forth recounting the histories and leadership of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Goodwin focuses on one critical event faced by each president. These events are Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Theodore Roosevelt’s managing of the 1902 coal strike, Franklin Roosevelt’s first 100 days, and Johnson’s passage of the Civil Rights Act. Using these nation-shaping events, Goodwin described these presidents’ leadership styles and effectiveness. She also pointed out that “their leadership fit the historical moment as a key fits a lock.”

These historical contexts are meaningful, but Leadership: In Turbulent Times provides lessons for today. For example, President Lincoln, who “entered the presidency … [when] the house was not merely divided; the house was on fire,” would likely have never tweeted in anger.
“When angry with a colleague, Lincoln would fling off what he called a ‘hot’ letter, releasing all his pent wrath. He would then put the letter aside until he had cooled down and could attend to the matter with a clearer eye,” explained Goodwin.

Goodwin also shows that President Johnson led collaboratively.

“My experience in the NYA,” [Johnson] recalled, “taught me that when people have a hand in shaping projects, these projects are more likely to be successful than the than the ones simply handed down from the top.” As president, “I insisted on congressional consultation at every stage, beginning with the process of deciding what problems and issues to consider for my task forces right up to the drafting of bills.”

These are just a couple of the lessons in Leadership: In Turbulent Times; an exceptionally well-written book about leadership, American history, and effective presidencies.

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Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic RockTwilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock by Steven Hyden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“What a Long Strange Trip Its Been”

These lyrics from the Grateful Dead’s "Truckin" captures how I felt reading Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock, which author Steven Hyden subtitles “a journey to the end of classic rock.”

Hyden is a Gen-Xer—an early-nineties alt-rock baby—and a music critic. As he takes the reader on his “journey to the end of classic rock,” it is easy to forget that Hyden came of age after many of the classic rock bands had split up, lost key members to death, and passed their prime. Although Hyden was not born until 1977, “the year … the Clash imagined a world without classic rock,” his knowledge and appreciation of the music that came of age before he did is exemplary. Hyden came about his love of classic rock through the radio. By listening to the classic rock stations.

As Hyden writes, “classic rock didn’t exist as a genre until the early 1980s, when stations in middle-American cities like Cleveland and Houston that had once aspired to a progressive mix of new music and obscure album cuts began relying on the same old familiar songs by the most famous and successful bands of the sixties and seventies.” So is classic rock only about the sixties and seventies? Does it include the early sixties? Does it include all bands from this era? Is classic rock an era or a genre or both?

In "Twilight of The Gods," Hyden answers these questions and more.

Classic rock began in the summer of 1967 with the “release of 'Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band', the album where the Beatles officially stopped being lovable mop-topped pop stars and became serious rock intellectuals.” Classic rock ended in 1999 with Nine Inch Nails’ "The Fragile."

“Clearly, my definition of ‘classic rock’ is shaped by classic-rock radio," explains Hyden. "The overriding factor in determining who was classified as classic rock—and who was classified as folk, punk, new wave, or metal—was mainstream popularity,” he adds.

"Twilight of the Gods" is a four-part book designed as a double LP; each part represents a side of the double album. It almost makes you want to wrap the book in aluminum foil, slather yourself with baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic, and sit in the sun. Throughout the well-sequenced journey, Hyden provides facts interwoven with anecdotes and critique.

Hyden’s critiques are usually on target. What I mean here is that I typically agree with Hyden’s critiques. But we diverge on the Eagles. Hyden dislikes the Eagles and likens them being “cool like the captain of the high school baseball team is cool.” Hyden is right that “[Don] Henley and [Glenn] Frey were never cool in the way that Jimmy Page was cool,” but I like "Witchy Woman" and "Hotel California." Still, Hyden does not shy away from the importance of the Eagles in classic rock. “But whether you love the f**king Eagles or you blame the f**king Eagles for f**king Sublime, the fact remains that no other band better encapsulates the arc of classic rock’s cultural prominence.”

“A journey to the end of classic rock” must deal with the end of classic rockers. “You can’t talk about classic rock now without also thinking about death,” writes Hyden, who began writing "Twilight of the Gods" “around the time that David Bowie died, and [he] finished it around the time that Tom Petty passed.”

Eventually, the end of classic rock might die out when the icons of classic rock die. “When you can’t actually view Mick Jagger or Ozzy Osbourne or Neil Young in the flesh, loving classic rock will require a process of animation not unlike a religious ritual,” Hyden laments.

But is it classic rock, classic rockers, or the memory of our youth that dies? As Hyden points out “when a rock star dies, what people are mourning is their own mortality.”

Part eulogy, part retrospective, part historical, mostly opinion, and always entertaining, Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock is a great journey.

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The President Is MissingThe President Is Missing by Bill Clinton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I chose to read The President Is Missing, I did so because of the collaboration between Bill Clinton and James Patterson. I expected the book to be good; but not great. But I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, that surprise never surfaced. The first three chapters set the plot for what could have been a twisting and turning story of espionage, cyber-attacks, treason, backstabbing, trust, and presidential soul searching. The story did not follow through. The plot became predictable and the writing, at times, is verbose and preachy. The President Is Missing met my expectation, good; but not great.

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