Books of Interest

In 2018, a majority of millennials said boomers had ‘made things worse’ for their generation. They tried to liberate us, and instead of freedom they left behind chaos.

In all fields touched by the six boomers profiled here---technology, entertainment, economics, academia, politics, law---what they passed on to their children was worse than what they inherited.

Andrews is senior editor at The American Conservative, and her book is a jeremiad, with the flavour of Old Testament divine justice, a call for owning up to one’s sins. The sins are many and the style is refreshingly unapologetically angry. The boomers should not be allowed to shuffle off the world stage until they have been made to regret their actions… In a just world there would be cosmic retribution for taking Jobs’s life’s work and turning it to the most boomerish purposes imaginable.

Writing this memoir has been as much about discovering my story, that is, myself as it is about telling it. That's Falk's version of Socrates' 'the unexamined life is not worth living.' Or should I say, Forrest Gump's? Falk's life reads like a storybook, starting with meeting Supreme Court judges with his father at age 9 in 1939, making friends with Claudette Colbere, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Liz Taylor (long story) at age 15, befriending and befoeing many of the dramatis personae of the Cold War throughout his long and productive life, finally landing on the shores of democratic socialism as the US charges towards the (literal) finish line.


Gene Weingarten, One Day: The extraordinary story of an ordinary 24 hours in America, Blue Rider, 2019.


Denied entry to the US (who knows why, and welcome to the club),* I must take solace as a writer, traveller, travel writer, in others’ experiences in the creaking monster to the south. In the writings of those ‘lucky’ enough in live there or at least visit at will.


Weingarten starts from literally scratch, pulling a year, month and date out of a hat with scribbled numbers on bits of paper. The only limit was in the year; between 1969 and 1989, ‘far enough in the past to feel like ‘history’ and have a future to explore, but not so far so witnesses would be hard to find.’


He landed on December 28, 1986, at first, in disappointment, as it was a Sunday (bad ‘news’ day) and worse yet, the news doldrums of post-Christmas. But he forged ahead, assuming fate had something to tell him. He started out interviewing a few HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) types he saw in 60 Minutes, but even they drew a blank (!)


But after 6 years of research and writing, it turns out Weingarten hit a winner, though his journalist talent alone could turn a pig skin into a gold mine.


He cleverly sketches out a full range of Americana: lots of murders, of course, but also a historic moment in medicine (longest surviving heart transplant), crazy politics of race (Koch blowing his chances at a fourth term as mayor of New York), miraculous escapes from death, a vicious lawyer turned nice transwoman, lots of ex-soldiers, corrupt police … A page-turner from start to finish.

James Clear, Atomic Habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones, Penguin Random House, 2018.

Rules: make obvious, fun, easy, satisfying. ie, hide 'bad' habit stimuli, see them as unpleasant, hard, unsatisfying, to break ‘bad’ habit.

-the more tasks you can handle without thinking, the more your brain is free to focus on other areas.

-little stresses compound into serious health issues.

-knowledge builds up, like compound interest. (buffett)

-if you see people as angry, unjust, selfish, you will see them everywhere.

-the more you help others, the more others want to help you. Build up connections (~ knowledge)

-not how successful you are right now. Your current trajectory rather than current results.

-fall in love with the process rather than the product. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. Your commitment to the process will determine your progress.

-true behaviour change is identity change. Start habit from motivation but stick with it because it becomes part of your identity. Must believe. Your habits are how you embody your identity. (when you write each day you embody identity of creative person.) Identity: proof in pudding. (what you do is what you are.) process of building habits is the process of becoming yourself.

First, Diana Johnstone’s memoir is a classic, and will be read and quoted as long as we keep struggling for peace and justice. It is one of the great personal accounts of the anguished decline of our uncivilization, both a riveting eye-witness account of many of the horrors and perfidies, and a primer for students of history and all those struggling to not only dismantle the beast, but to prepare us for what follows it.

Read it and weep. And smile at the follies. And shout ‘Yes!’ as light bulbs flash in your mind.

Johnstone’s concern in Circle in the Darkness Is not so much ‘the lived experience of the transitory nature’ of things but ‘especially of the moral environment.’ She was blessed to to begin at the beginning of the end. At the empire’s undisputed zenith under FDR. And though not a card-carrying anything religious or left wing, she grabbed that blessing and stoked and nurtured it, creating her life, her jobs, a single mother raising a daughter in Minnesota and then France, seeing through the cant everywhere and using her only weapon, the pen, to expose it.

It is a frightening, unremittingly gruesome, Dantesque journey, but Johnstone’s steady moral compass sees us through and is uplifting.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here