Great Earth Day Reads

April 18, 2014: Earth Day is nearly here. And in honor of the day that celebrates our home planet, I thought I'd list some of my favorite conservation and environmental books.  Here's my list:

1. Encounters with an Archdruid
This is the story of David Brower and the book that set me on my career toward conservation.

2. Crossing the Next Meridian
A great primer on the major federal agencies responsible for managing our public lands, as well as, some of the issues and challenges facing the public servants who steward our natural wonders.

3. Mountains without Handrails
Essay on the importance of having places that remain wild and "risky."

4. The Lorax
Story that lays out the importance of conservation, recycling, and thinking of the next generation.

5. Guns, Germs, and Steel
Essay on the sometimes little things like geography that can make a society thrive or wither.

6. Theodore Rex
Biography of Teddy Roosevelt which lays out some of the political forces that shaped his conservation legacy.

7. The Magic of Reality
Book by Richard Dawkins on the "magic" that can be found by using the scientific principle when searching for truth.

8. A Sand County Almanac
Classic Aldo Leopold book on the development of a relationship with the land which could be the most important relationship for our long term survival.

9. The Cat in the Hat comes Back
Not normally thought of as a conservation book, but a telling story about the importance of not polluting and the difficulty in cleaning environmental spills.

10.  Unleashing Colter's Hell
Thriller about the potential catastrophic impact of a Yellowstone eruption. 

What's on your list of great Earth Day reads?

My Favorite Presidents

February 17, 2014: In the White House cabinet room, it's tradition for the president to pick portraits of his/her presidential heroes.  Four paintings are selected and they normally represent the values, leadership style, and outlook the new president hopes to emulate.

It's likely, I will never get to be president but if I were elected commander-in-chief here are the four portraits I'd select.

Thomas Jefferson:  More than any other president, Thomas Jefferson articulated the values and ideas for which the country hopes to achieve.  When he penned the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson likely couldn't imagine how those words have come to embodied all peoples, all races, all genders, and sexual preferences. But it does not matter, for we are unlikely to imagine how far the value "created equal" will be extended in the future.  The point is that we do our part today to move the debate forward.
 
Theodore Roosevelt: Like Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt was always looking to the future.  How would the decisions we make today, affect those to follow?  Roosevelt set foreign and domestic policy that still impacts our lives today. However, its his views on conservation that have the most impact upon modern America.  Roosevelt lived at a time when the frontier was closing.  The belief that more resources could always be found over the next hill was coming to an end.  America, like every other country, would have to live within its means, use its limited resources more efficiency and effectively, and finally put some aside for future generations.  Under Roosevelt's leadership the national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges were created laying the foundation for a system of public lands and waters that are the envy of the world.

Harry Truman:  President Truman is the consummate every man. Even as commander in chief, Truman insisted on going on walks off the White House grounds, paying his own bills, and taking his own mail to the post office.  Truman understood the power of the White House and what it meant to be president, but never let that power go to his head.  He knew that while he occupied the oval office, he was president. As soon as his term was over, he would return to private life.  This understanding helped to keep Truman grounded and focused on what was important. 

William Clinton: It might seem strange to have Bill Clinton on this list.  Only the second president to ever be impeached. However, what set Clinton apart from other chief executives is that he both understood and enjoyed the game of politics.  Clinton excelled at knowing what his friends and enemies wanted. He then would do everything in his political power to grant or deny their desire. Clinton bucked conventional wisdom, and avoided compromise as much as possible.  Rather, he focused on moving his agenda forward, by nearly any means necessary.  He wasn't always successful, but he definitely won more battles than he lost.

Who are your favorite presidents?

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Keys to the Northern Civil War Victory

February 9, 2014: The upcoming 205th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War has got many thinking about the war. In particular, much thought has gone into what were the keys to the Northern victory. Popular opinion is the North's victory was inevitable. The Union had more men and materials and simply ground the confederacy down. The South, so this line of thought goes, could not hope to win against such odds.

In researching plot points for my upcoming novel Lost Cause, a thriller set in Civil War battlefields and locations, I read dozens of books, watched hundreds of videos, and attended countless speeches on the Civil War's battlefields, combatants, politics, and economy. This research reveals the Union victory was not predetermined. Nor did the South enter the war believing they were fighting a Lost Cause. Rather, the North won the war due to a combination of better diplomacy, leadership, resource management, innovative battle tactics, and political debate. 

What are your thoughts on the Northern keys to victory?

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What Civil War books have you read?

January 5, 2014: Lost Cause is the exciting follow up to Unleashing Colter's Hell, the Amazon top 100 terrorism thriller. Lost Cause begins during the Civil War and is a nail-biting chase to find a relic supposedly owned by Robert E. Lee.  Legend has it the relic's finder will have the power to start the second civil war.  Members of the Confederate League are hot on the trail of the relic. They seek it's power to right the wrongs of the civil war.  National Park ranger Grayson Cole, along with fellow ranger and best friend Alex Reeves, and Sarah Thompson Gettyburg artifact curator, are ordered to find the relic before it falls into the wrong hands.
 
I've read countless text books, novels and articles about the civil war in order to bring realism to the thriller.  Here is a short list of recently read books:
  1. Battle Cry Freedom
  2. US Grant
  3. Cause and Comrades
  4. Nothing But Victory
  5. Grant
  6. Team of Rivals
  7. Killer Angels
  8. Confederates in the Attic
  9. How the South Could have won the war
  10. Why the North Won the war 
I'm always looking for new civil war materials, especially ones with a unique perspective on the war between the states.  What book(s) would you recommend to add to the list?

My 2013 Reading List

December 31, 2013: At the end of the year, I like to look back at the books I've read over the past 365 days. Here is my list. There are some really great reads, others not so much. Although, I didn't set out the year to read a broad spectrum of works, 2013 turned out to have a great mix of fiction and non-fiction, thrillers, science, history, and fantasy.  Every one of the books made me think, which I believe is the ultimate goal of every author.

What does your list look like?
  1. The Lost Bank
  2. The Inner Circle
  3. The Magic of Reality
  4. Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation to War
  5. Feast of Crows
  6. Why the North Won the War
  7. Area 51
  8. The Story of Medieval England, from King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest
  9. Dance with Dragons
  10. Inferno