Solitude

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Much ink has been spilled regarding the way that social media impacts our lives. Some say it now dominates our lives. Many pay big bucks to “detox” from social media.

It’s no surprise, then, that there are a wave of new books – perhaps inspired by the fact that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the most famous believer in solitude, Henry David Thoreau.

Here is how Ellen Gamerman teed up the subject in her piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “New Books Celebrate Being Alone:”

“It’s time to go it alone, whether finding strength in self-imposed exile, surviving at sea without a soul in sight, or fixing a marriage without help from a spouse.”

Intrigued? Need solitude? You can read the full article here.

Is Your Bed Made?

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Few recent military leaders have inspired the kind of confidence and admiration that Admiral William McCraven – former head of the U.S. Special Operations Command and now the chancellor of the University of Texas System, overseeing 14 institutions with more than 200,000 students.

 

Admiral McRaven’s much anticipated book, Make Your Bed, was recently reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. Here is part of what the reviewer, John Nagl, said about the philosophy Admiral McRaven shares in his book:

“F. Scott Fitzgerald was completely wrong when he suggested “there are no second acts in American lives.” If America stands for anything, it is reinvention, renewal and second chances. Take the Navy SEAL who oversaw the most important manhunt in history and rose to command all of U.S. Special Operations Forces. What did he do for an encore? Only give the most successful college graduation speech in history—at his alma mater, the University of Texas, wearing Navy dress whites.”

“In “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World,” retired Adm. William H. McRaven admits that he was nervous before the address in May 2014. He was afraid that contemporary college students wouldn’t welcome a military man, even one who had once been, just like them, a slightly hung-over Austin senior eager to graduate and get on with life. They loved his speech, and word spread. It has been viewed more than 10 million times online, and Mr. McRaven has expanded the talk into a little book that should be read by every leader in America.”

Want more? You can read the full review here.

And remember to make your bed…

Google and Libraries

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Google can bring you 100,000 answers, but a librarian can bring you just the right one. We all know that intuitively, but Mahesh Rao brings it home in her piece, “Lost in the Stacks.” For me, it brought me a new appreciation, maybe a renewed love, of libraries. Here is part of what she shared:

Libraries are a place of refuge. It offers a respite from the heat, from office life, from noisy households, from all the irritations that crowd in. They also offer the intangible entanglements of a common space. One of my favorite descriptions of the public library comes from the journalist and academic Sophie Mayer, who has called it “the ideal model of society, the best possible shared space,” because there “each person is pursuing their own aim (education, entertainment, affect, rest) with respect to others, through the best possible medium of the transmission of ideas, feelings and knowledge — the book.”

Libraries may have their idiosyncrasies, but the fundamentals of their ecosystem are universal. They are places of long breaks, of boredom and reverie, of solace and deliberation. They offer opportunities for unobtrusive observation, stolen glances and frissons, anticipation and nudging possibilities. And when the sensible realization strikes that a thrilling plan is better left unaccomplished, they might also become sites of abandonment.

Intrigued? You can read the full article here.

America and the World

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Few writers have helped readers make sense of geography better than Robert Kaplan. In over a dozen books, such as the best-selling The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan has made geography make sense and tied it to history. He’s done it again in Earning the Rockies. Here is part of what Jonathan Rauch shared in his review in The New York Times.

For all the turbulent change swirling about us now, America was and remains the product of an exceptional geography. North America has more miles of navigable inland waterways than much of the rest of the world combined. Better still, its rivers run diagonally rather than (as in Russia) north and south, forming an ideal network for internal communication and trade. Moreover, America’s continental span and rich resource base shield it from external threat and dependency. Thus the United States is uniquely blessed by geography to form and sustain a cohesive continental union. Union is not the same as unity, but it’s a good start.

America’s geographical and hydrological blessings ramify not only inward but also outward. “The United States is not a normal country: Its geographic bounty gave it the possibility of becoming a world power, and with that power it has developed longstanding obligations, which, on account of its continued economic and social dynamism relative to other powers, it keeps,” Kaplan writes. “We are,” he says (his italics), “fated to lead.” For a host of reasons, ranging from geography to culture, no other country can play the same role.

Read this intriguing article here.

The Undoing Project

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Michael Lewis has brought us provocative books in the past such as Liar’s Poker and The Big Short. He thinks big and presents what he discovers in eminently readable form.

His latest book, The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, is not only a great read, but it makes us think about how we think, and that’s its purpose.

Here is part of what David Leonhardt shared in his review of The Undoing Project in The New York Times:

In the fall of 1969, behind the closed door of an otherwise empty seminar room at Hebrew University, two psychologists began a collaboration that would upend the understanding of human behavior. Those first conversations were filled with uproarious laughter and occasional shouting, in a jumble of Hebrew and English, which could sometimes be heard from the hallway.

When it came time for the two professors to write up their papers, they would sit next to each other at a single typewriter. “We were sharing a mind,” one would say later. They flipped a coin to decide whose name would appear first on their initial paper and alternated thereafter. The two names were Amos Tversky — the winner of that coin flip — and Daniel Kahneman.

Their work revealed previously undiscovered patterns of human irrationality: the ways that our minds consistently fool us and the steps we can take, at least some of the time, to avoid being fooled. Kahneman and Tversky used the word “heuristics” to describe the rules of thumb that often lead people astray. One such rule is the “halo effect,” in which thinking about one positive attribute of a person or thing causes observers to perceive other strengths that aren’t really there. Another is “representativeness,” which leads people to see cause and effect — to see a “narrative” — where they should instead accept uncertainty or randomness.

For writers, there is an important nugget in this review that ought to be stated in capital letters: “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.”

Read the entire killer-good review here.

The Need to Read

How do you engage with the world? We all have our own ways. And there is the inevitable factor that some of us are extroverts while some of us are introverts.

I’ve found that reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world. For me, it’s helped me understand many of life’s questions.

That’s why I was intrigued by Will Schwalbe’s article in the Wall Street Journal. Here is part of what he shared:

We all ask each other a lot of questions. But we should all ask one question a lot more often: “What are you reading?”

It’s a simple question but a powerful one, and it can change lives.

Here’s one example: I met, at a bookstore, a woman who told me that she had fallen sadly out of touch with her beloved grandson. She lived in Florida. He and his parents lived elsewhere. She would call him and ask him about school or about his day. He would respond in one-word answers: Fine. Nothing. Nope.

And then one day, she asked him what he was reading. He had just started “The Hunger Games,” a series of dystopian young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins. The grandmother decided to read the first volume so that she could talk about it with her grandson the next time they chatted on the phone. She didn’t know what to expect, but she found herself hooked from the first pages, in which Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the annual battle-to-the-death among a select group of teens.

The book helped this grandmother cut through the superficialities of phone chat and engage her grandson on the most important questions that humans face about survival and destruction and loyalty and betrayal and good and evil, and about politics as well. Now her grandson couldn’t wait to talk to her when she called—to tell her where he was, to find out where she was and to speculate about what would happen next.

Other than belonging to the same family, they had never had much in common. Now they did. The conduit was reading. We need to read and to be readers now more than ever.

Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them. They are the expression of an individual or a group of individuals, not of a hive mind or collective consciousness. They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s. You can rant against a book, scribble in the margin or even chuck it out the window. Still, you won’t change the words on the page.

You can read this insightful article here.

Scorched Earth

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The focus on our latest Tom Clancy Op-Center book, Scorched Earth, is Iraq and specifically Mosul. When we began writing the book in 2015 we anticipated a long-drawn-out battle for Mosul and that is where, in December 2016, the battle still rages. And most experts predict the battle for Mosul if far from over.

We’re pleased that Tom Clancy Op-Center: Scorched Earth continues to receive positive reviews. Here is what the latest reviewer had to say:

When George Galdorisi took on Tom Clancy’s series we didn’t know what to expect; could he fill the giant shoes left with Clancy’s passing.  In Out of the Ashes he answered that question with a flourish.  Now, with Scorched Earth, Galdorisi continues to amaze.  He has pulled a page from today’s headlines making Scorched Earth relevant with your morning coffee.  This next installment of the Op-Center series takes us back into the envelope of potential world conflagration.

The novel starts off with an unexpected and gritty assassination, throwing us into the action from the get-go.  The situation unstoppably escalates to the point where the Op-Center needs to get involved.  Chase Williams and his somewhat incorrigible cast of characters jump into the fray feet first.  The action is fast and furious and takes very few prisoners.  Just when you think there’s resolution, another wrench is thrown into the machinery taking the situation in a new direction.  New characters, both good and bad, are added with the great character development that Galdorisi has come to be known for.

Scorched Earth twists and turns, leaving the reader with resolution, but at the same time, open to something new.  It’s a “page-turner” taking you from the politically incorrect environs of DC to IED laden byways a half a world away.  Even though it seems the terrorist are going to have a field day with this one, the Op-Center geeks and operators get into action keeping you guessing.  Galdorisi’s novel is an enjoyable and satisfying read, introducing new characters and concepts for future development.  Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

The Existential Threat

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Earlier this month, the international media “flooded the zone” with reporting about North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests and its expressed plan to develop ballistic missiles armed with WMD that could strike the United States. Most reporting suggested this was an achievable goal for the “Hermit Kingdom.”

All this reporting begged the question: Is North Korea – and particularly its leader – crazy or calculating? In a September 11, 2016 article in the New York Times, Max Fisher answered this question in an emphatic way: North Korea is completely rationale is doing things most of us in the west find crazy. His must-read article is here.

When Dick Couch and I came up with the high concept for our second book in the re-booted Clancy Op-Center series, we decided the focus of Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire would be North Korea. While some at the time thought North Korea was, at worst, a nuisance, today’s events confirm that “life imitates art.”

If you want to see how life imitates art, read more about our New York Times best-selling Tom Clancy’s Op-Center series and our just-released Scorched Earth here.

Life Imitates Art

Out of the Ashes

Last month, the entire New York Times Magazine was devoted to one topic – the Middle East. The cover title, Fractured Lands, says it all. The reporting and photography are first rate.

You can read the full magazine here.

Dick Couch and I rolled the dice! When we came up with the high-concept for the first book of the rebooted Tom Clancy Op-Center series in 2011, the United States had committed to a national strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region. The plan was to have the Middle East be “yesterday’s news.” We thought differently. We decided to center this new book on the Middle East, because we will be there for the foreseeable future. This is how we opened Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes:

“The seeds of today’s East-West conflict were sown when Western nations took it upon themselves to draw national boundaries in the Middle East after the First World War. The infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, which clumsily divided the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence, created weak-sister countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, all-but ensuring permanent turmoil. After the Second World War, Pan-Arab nationalism, the establishment of the state of Israel, the Suez crisis, the Lebanese civil war, and the Iranian revolution all drove tensions between East and West even higher. While the competition for oil and oil reserves remained a major stimulus, longstanding Muslim-Christian, East-West issues created a catalyst that never let tensions get too far below the surface. And then came 9/11.”

“The events of September 11, 2001 and the retaliatory invasions that followed redefined and codified this long-running conflict. For the first time in centuries, the East had struck at the West, and delivered a telling blow. Thus, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Yemen to North Africa and into Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and beyond, the struggle has now become world-wide, nasty, and unrelenting.”

If you want to read more about how life imitates art, read about our New York Times best-selling Tom Clancy’s Op-Center series, including our just-released Scorched Earth here.

Mideast Churn

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With great reviews and strong advance sales, our next Op-Center book, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth is poised to live up to the expectations of our readers. The bar is high, since our first two books of the rebooted Clancy Op-Center series, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes and Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire lived up to our expectations both were on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly best-seller lists. Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say:

TOM CLANCY’S OP-CENTER: Scorched Earth, George Galdorisi (Griffin): Galdorisi successfully goes solo in the suspenseful third entry in the Tom Clancy’s Op-Center reboot (after 2015’s Into the Fire, with Dick Couch). When the leader of ISIL, Mabab al-Dosari, beheads the American president’s envoy in Iraq, the U.S. launches an air strike that leaves the terrorist’s only son dead. Vowing revenge, al-Dosari recruits a homegrown terrorist cell to kidnap the man who orchestrated the attack, Rear Adm. Jay Bruner. When the FBI bungles Bruner’s retrieval, the National Crisis Management Center—Op-Center’s official name—steps up. Meanwhile, the admiral’s Navy SEAL son, Lt. Dale Bruner, attempts to extract his father on his own and lands in the clutches of ISIL. An Op-Center book is always a master class in military acronyms and hardware, and the ever-expanding cast fights to keep the reader’s attention through the abbreviations. Still, the simple hostage situations keep the tension cranked high and will satisfy Clancy fans old and new.

If you want to see how life imitates art, read more about our New York Times best-selling Tom Clancy’s Op-Center series and our just-released Scorched Earth here:

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