The list author says: "For Bar Mitzvas or Bat Mitzvas I used to wonder what to give, then I realized I had a list of books in my head that I'd found illuminating and helpful to have read as a young person. Books to return to as you grow into adulthood, books to provide a guide, a commentary, and perhaps, an inspiration. Books I gave to high school graduates, and camp counselers at my son's summer camps. I'd have been pleased to get any of them, and I'm honored to give them, in turn.
I'll have to add comments to the rest, I'm putting in the titles now."
"Unique and magical, a chemist's life, each chapter centered on one element and its relationship to the author and those around him. Mercury, Lead and Carbon are imaginary, the rest autobiographical. My favorite chapter is the story of the chemists at lunch, and the slice of onion in the linseed oil."
"A detailed disection of a failing organization and the price it extracts. Not to mention a great novel. (The typhoon made my hair stand on end when I was a kid) I give this book to people in crazy organizations (most organizations are crazy...). I have never read a better description of where the distress and responsibility fall when things aren't working right."
"Hammett's best, not withstanding the Charles' of The Thin Man (and the movies it gave birth to...). All the elements are familiar, and yet the way it unfolds is riveting. The writing is gripping, laugh-out-loud funny and timeless. The subjects are honor, duty, loss, romance and having to get up every morning and get on with your life. Because "..a man ... has to do something.""
"This is it- how we know what we know, only one equation, and as readable and instructive now as ever. Hawking's ability to express himself against the challenges of his own body is beyond my words. This book is so clear, and starts with a wonderful joke. I was overseas the first time I read it, and his contrast of Einstein and Aristotle gave me courage to get the job done."
"One of those remarkable books which seems dauntingly long when you start and far, far, too short by the time you've finished. Emma, of good family and comfortable circumstances, trys to help her friends by matchmaking. The results are far from what anyone wants, complication and crisis compound on each other. But all is made well. Her own match is concluded in the sweetest way."
"This terrific book focuses on the Nariokatome Boy, a 1.6M yr old Homo Erectus' skeleton. Kamoya Kimeu found the first pieces, Alan Walker and Meave Leakey assembled them, the scientific descriptions were published by Walker. The Boy is most complete Homo Erectus skeleton so far. Like us. But not us. Pat Shipman, Walker's wife, is gifted writer. The story is his, the voice hers."
"I read this book in 1971 and I found it electrifying- Brother Malcolm X plumbed the depths and climbed the heights and had his life torn from him just as it seemed his greatest work was beginning. The hell of segregated America is something we must never forget. How one man educated himself out of prison and became a national leader is always worth knowing."
"A great how-they-did-it adventure, led by Richard and Meave Leakey, Kamoya Kimeu, etc. Kimeu is a treasure in his own right, worth meeting. Willis was with the expedition as they, Alan Walker, etc, found the Nariokatome Boy, a 1.6M yr old Homo Erectus skeleton. She also covers friction between the Kenyan team and the Institute for Human Origins (from Berkeley), who found "Lucy" in Ethiopia"
"Pirsig wastes no time. You need a thin aluminum shim for your top of the line BMW motorcycle. Do you buy expensive shim stock from the BMW dealer, or snip a piece of essentially the same thing from an empty beer can? Pay someone to think for you, or call it yourself and accept the consequences? What *is* high quality, how do you define or apply it? A great story too!"
"Written by a noted natural science reporter and a once-enfant-terrible of Freudian Psychology, is very readable and not always comfortable. Elephants are not the only species here. Animals feel and express emotions; cases to cite don't hurt. Full disclosure: S. J. McCarthy is a personal friend of mine. my admiration of her writing has been verified in double-blind tests."
"Some people can't stop writing books. Harper Lee had one book to write. Her love of her father and the story she wanted to tell is worth more than the whole production of many other writers. Atticus Finch's story wasn't leading straight to Rosa Parks, Brown Vs. Board of Education or the Voting Rights Act of 1964. Low-key person-by-person didn't get the job done. But it wasn't a coward's path."
"A landmark book, explaining the often unrealistic conventions of military history, as far back as Julius Caesar and as close as the Charge of the Light Brigade. He then describes three notable battles in the history of England and Great Britain, and what the typical soldier would have experienced. Keegan's account of the first Battle of the Somme is heartbreaking."
"A wonderful (filled with wonder) history of engineering in the long ago and far away. From the Tigris/Euphrates and Nile civilizations to Leonardo, who De Camp rightly points out, was the last of the ancients- wise, but secretive, not pubishing during his lifetime or after. Not a specialist book on any area or culture, its a guided tour by someone who loves the subject."
"The best kind of history, built of quotes from 350 survivors, 250 from the US and 100 from Japan. How code breaking, courage, luck and sacrifice stopped the Japanese conquest of the Pacific. A human tragedy, triumph and a victory that comprised 1/3 of what Winston Churchill called "The Hinge of Fate""
"If writing the best book about being an astronaut to date (no ghost writer) AND flying the Command Module for Apollo 11 AND being a Gemini astronaut were not enough, Collins started the Smithsonian Air and Space museum as we know it.
I love to quote Collins' example of the "capture latch release handle lock" that led him to believe more English majors were needed in the space program."
"I've bugged more friends and family with Carver's masterpiece, "The Car", in this book, than with any other poem. There are teaching guides online suggesting how to use it. Add your verses. Pick your own subject.
The first poem is called "What You Need To Paint". Its lists artists' colors, and tools. And then the zinger,: "...The ability to work like a locomotive. An iron will.""