Meeting Report

February 10, 2013

Book Reviews

About a dozen people attended this meeting, with book reviews by Anna Andrews, David Flanders, Walt Flowers, Wayne Luney, Ken Nahigian, Bill Potts, and Roger Zabkie

Anna Andrews led off with The Politics of Truth: A Diplomat’s Memoir: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, by Joseph Wilson. This book is the author’s take on the unfortunate affair in which his CIA operative wife—Valerie Plame—was “outed” in an attempt to discredit his report of mendacity in the Bush administration.

Next, Wayne Luney presented on To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918, by Adam Hochschild. This book is an exhaustive study of how Britain’s participation in The Great War divided society, and even families, especially as the casualty numbers rose dramatically.

Then David Flanders spoke about Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t. This author, famous for predicting the outcomes of presidential elections and football games, stresses the importance of careful, unbiased analysis of massive amounts of data in developing probabilities.

Roger Zabkie followed with his report on an anthology of entertaining science books by Mary Roach. First was Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, then Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and finally Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Ms Roach, while not a scientist, has a gift for combining painstaking research, great good humor, and a fine literary sense to produce highly-readable humanistic works.

Next, Ken Nahigian told us about The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, by Laura Miller. As someone who was enthralled by C.S. Lewis as a child, Ken found in this author a kindred spirit who dug into Lewis’s background and explored how his childhood and personal life shaped his narrative of Narnia.

Bill Potts then shared his take on William F. Buckley’s 1978 novel, Stained Glass. Although most of us knew of Buckley’s television and other efforts toward promoting conservative viewpoints, the fact that he wrote fiction was news to us. Bill related that the protagonist, Blackford Oakes, was a CIA spy who, as a cover, involved himself in the restoration of [the fictional] St. Anselm’s chapel after the war, hence the title, Stained Glass. Bill also recommended, but did not review, Alan Alda’s Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.

Walt Flowers wrapped up the meeting by discussing his book, Leaving the Fold, by Marlene Winell. Walt’s personal history of escape from religious indoctrination led him to closely identify with this work, which is a virtual handbook on how to recover one’s balance after “leaving the (religious) fold” for a secular lifestyle.

All in all, we had a very interesting meeting. Thanks to everyone for your participation.

Report prepared by Roger Zabkie, Secretary

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