I loved my father; he was a truly good man. But I’d be lying if I said we ever really understood each other. I was high-strung, emotional, “the actress.” He was serious, dedicated to his work as a dentist, and at times, remote. One thing we did share was an interest in learning new things. If he were here today, I’d thank him for everything I never really appreciated as a kid, and I’d get him these books, which I’m sure he’d enjoy.
Henry A. Crumpton was featured on a recent segment of “60 Minutes.” He was so articulate, and what he said was so important, I knew I’d be comfortable recommending THE ART OF INTELLIGENCE, subtitled “Lessons From a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service.” For example, he says of 9/11 that government officials didn’t think it possible that a real threat to our security could come from a place “where only 6 percent of the people had electricity…we were at war, but for the most part, we did not realize it.” He discusses how spies are recruited, the importance of understanding why men fight, and he describes his decision to ignore Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and just do the job at hand.
Science is the focus of Mark Anderson’s THE DAY THE WORLD DISCOVERED THE SUN. Uncovering the secret of the Venus transit made it possible to be able to take longitude measurements at sea; this opened the door to a new age of exploration. Three men, including English Captain James Cook, a Hungarian priest, and a French astronomer, risked their lies to find the answers they needed.
In THE RIGHTEOUS MIND, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines “Why good people are divided by politics and religion.” Haidt disputes the theory that evolution has made us basically selfish creatures; we are, instead, fundamentally groupish, needing desperately to cling to those who are most like ourselves. He points out that our moral intuition makes us certain that those with different standards and customs than our own are wrong, while we are in the right. Haidt has drawn on the work of other psychologists, as well as historians and anthropologists, to explain this phenomenon.
The author of SUBLIMINAL, Leonard Mlodinow, is a most interesting author. He has co-written works with Stephen Hawking and Deepak Chopra. He teaches at The University of California, the school which awarded him his PhD in theoretical physics. He’s also written for both “MacGyver” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Here, he deals with “How your unconscious mind rules your behavior.” Using his characteristic wit, Mlodinow explains how our actions are governed by our subliminal mind, which effects how we view friends and family, the ways our memories can be tricked, and even the amount we choose to tip. Not a book you want to leave in the bathroom for occasional visits, this is the perfect gift for those who are truly seeking to understand just how our minds really work.
I’m including in this list FATHER’S DAY, not only because of the obvious title connection, but also because it deals with the way families interact. Buzz Bissinger (author of “Friday Night Lights”) feels the need to connect with his son, Zach, a savant who is challenged by the simplest things in life; yet Zach also has an astonishing memory, an uncanny knack for navigation, and the ability to tell the day of the week on which any date falls. Buzz decides to take Zach on a cross-country trip, revisiting places Zach has been in his twenty-four years. Buzz must deal with his own anxieties and personality defects; this book is at times hard to read, because Buzz loses his temper and yells at Zach in a cruel and exasperated manner. But ultimately, he does come to recognize that his son is a man of character, and that he can learn as much from Zach as Zach can learn from him.
So if the man in your life appreciates serious drama but not sitcoms, is never satisfied unless he’s learning something more, and is definitely more intellectual than playful, I’m betting you’ll find a book or two here which will be a great gift for him.
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist and an avowed bibliophile. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle. www.michalljeffers.com