October 30th, 2016


My current job allows me to listen to audio while I work, so I'm getting a lot of "reading" done in the form of audiobooks.  My style nowadays is often to combine listening to the audiobook with reading the text either in print or on Kindle, so sometimes I'll listen to a few chapters at work and then come home and re-read them in print.  Here's a run-down of some of the books I've been taking in lately; some of them I've finished, others are still in progress.

'Envoy' by Zalmay Khalilzad.
Born into a Sunni family in a Shi'a city in a Sunni country, he moved with his family to Kabul ("much more sophisticated than Mazar") when he was in 8th grade.  Winning a slot in an AFS exchange program, he came to the United States as a teenager in the late 1960s.  He returned to Kabul for university, then went on to complete his studies at the American University in Beirut, where he met Cheryl.  The book takes us through Khalilzad's diplomatic career with the US Government, and his work in Iraq and in his native Afghanistan.  It's both a personal and a professional memoir, reflecting on his family life and offering insights into the thinking of various officials and other decision-makers.

'ISIS Apocalypse' by William McCants;
'ISIS:  The State of Terror' by Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger.
Two books detailing the rise, decline, and revival of the terrorist entity founded by Zarqawi.  Stern and Berger's book builds on McCants' work, and adds a special focus on the role of social media in the world of terrorist organizations.

'The Iran Wars' by Jay Solomon.
Detailed account of the behind-the-scenes negotiations surrounding the Obama Administration's nuclear deal with Iran.

'Rebbe' by Joseph Telushkin.
An inspiring yet clear-eyed account of the life and teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson - better known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe - easily the most influential figure in late 20th-century orthodox Jewish life.  Telushkin draws on interviews, diaries, and letters to paint a vivid picture of this visionary and driven leader.

'The Prime Ministers' by Yehuda Avner.
Personal memoir of the author's life, from his antisemitism-plagued youth in Manchester, England to his career in the service of four Israeli Prime Ministers - Eshkol, Meir, Rabin, and Begin.  Avner himself appears in Telushkin's book, as he accompanied both Rabin and Begin on their visits to the Rebbe.

All of these are non-fiction books - it's just what I happen to be reading now, and admittedly some of the material is pretty grim.  But I like learning about the nuances of power and human interactions from real-world events.

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Cross-posting from DW to LJ because LJ for some unfathomable reason does not have in indent or blockquote button.

Whooooo stole my hat?

The fitness center in my apartment complex is maybe 100 or 200 yards from my door. It's a short and usually uneventful walk across the manicured grounds - though a bit dark at night, as one of the lamps is out. I made this trek a few minutes ago, dressed comfortably and with my customary black beret perched atop my head.

About halfway across the green, out of nowhere, I felt a sudden swoosh, and my hat was suddenly gone. I looked around in the dark to see if a freak gust of wind had somehow knocked it to the ground - implausible, since the weather was calm - and then peered around warily for some human prankster. But there wasn't a soul in sight.

I went back to my apartment, put a knit cap on my head, and proceeded to the gym for a little exercise. This time I brought a flashlight with me. On the way back - again without warning - whoosh! and my cap was gone.

With the aid of the flashlight, I identified the likely culprit as a big owl, now sitting defiantly in the tree and staring back at me with a distinct look of "Yeah, it was me. What ya gonna do about it?"

So that is my obligatory Halloween story. I was relieved of my hat, not once but twice, by an audacious owl, and I guess I'm lucky that's all the critter took, or I might be wandering the trails of Hillsdale like the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.