“The Last Photographic Heroes : American Photographers of the Sixties and Seventies”

Gilles Mora

This brought back a lot of memories of the work of photographers I studied from the time I picked up a 35mm camera in high school till I graduated from college with a photojournalism degree in 1976. The photos are well chosen and nicely reproduced and the commentary is opinionated in a good way.

As with the songs of that era, there’s work in the book that I didn’t like then, but that I very much like now.

“Night of Camp David”

Fletcher Knebel

In this 1965 novel a president starts showing signs of paranoia and plans to subvert the Constitution to root out his enemies. One might call it prophetic. What’s disheartening is that, while Knebel could imagine a president going mad, he couldn’t foresee a day when the president’s own party would pretend the madness didn’t exist.

“Night of Camp David” is a solid political thriller, but very much of its era. By which I mean twenty-first century readers might be offended by the way gender and race are handled and surprised by its portrayal of a functioning federal government. It’s a good read, but sad.

“Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth”

John Garth

The title of this book should be “Tolkien: A Biography Through World War I”, because it’s not just about his wartime experiences, but about his life up till about age 26. It focuses on his closest boyhood friends and their fates in the war.

Garth He goes into detail about the development of Tolkien’s languages and the associated world building. He traces elements of Tolkiens legendarium to his experiences in the trenches, but it’s not a simplistic one-to-one mapping.

This is a great book that should be read by anyone interested in Tolkien. My only complaint is that it stops in 1918.

“Preparing to Make the Most of Your Free Time After Retirement”

by Bob Lowry

This is a very short book on the non-financial aspects of retirement. It’s thought-provoking, but not as useful as Lowry’s excellent blog (happily active again after a hiatus) and its equally valuable comments section. I’d recommend reading the blog and Lowry’s previous book before reading this one.

“The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation”

Bill Morgan

I’ve read a lot about the Beat Generation. To some extent this book repeats what I’ve read elsewhere. The valuable thing about it is that it tracks all of the Beats through decades so the reader gets a good sense of who was where when and doing what with who. The “doing what with who” isn’t limited to literary efforts, thus the subtitles’s “uncensored”. It’s less salacious that it sounds; mostly the account proves that the Beats behaved pretty horribly towards the women in their lives.

Though the author (an archivist for Ginsberg and other Beats) doesn’t explicitly state it, he makes a good case for an argument that the Beat Generation is best defined as “friends of Allen Ginsberg”. It’s also clear from Morgan’s account that Ginsberg was a better friend to his friends than they often were to him.