Posts Tagged ‘contemporary setting’

The Big Short

March 30, 2011

The Big Short

Author: Michael Lewis

Title: The Big Short

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Geographical Setting:  The United States (mostly New York City)

Time Period: 2000s

Summary: When American financial markets collapsed in 2008 , most people didn’t (and still don’t) understand exactly what happened or how.  As government officials, bank executives and other supposed experts all claimed that the crash was unforeseeable, there were other voices getting less attention who were saying just the opposite; they claimed that not only was the collapse foreseeable, but that they had in fact foreseen it and had been warning others about it for years.  Some of them had even profited from the collapse through complicated financial products that in essence were bets against the market, primarily the sub-prime housing market.  The Big Short tells the story of the collapse through a litany of interesting characters, including an autistic trader with a glass eye and a variety of others who had been outcasts in the financial world, taking positions and making bets that few else understood and many criticized, until finally they were among the few left standing, finally vindicated while the rest of the financial industry crumbled around them.

Subject Headings: Economics, American History – Twenty-First Century, Stock Markets, Contemporary History

Appeal: Character-driven, compelling, engrossing, dramatic, philosophical, eccentric characters, strong language, contemporary setting, stock market jargon, journalistic, informal language, investigative, dark humor

Three terms that best describe this book: Eye-opening; sometimes difficult due to complex concepts and professional lingo; question-raising.

Three relevant works of fiction:

Vineyard Days by Gene Pisasale (A murder mystery set to the backdrop of the 2008 financial market collapse)

Moral Hazard: A Wall Street Thriller by Jyl Scislow (A tale about the dark side of Wall Street, and the great lengths that some people will go to for money)

Black Friday by James Patterson (A novel about stock market collapse and financial panic in the midst of a terrorist attack)

Three relevant works of non-fiction:

Crash Proof 2.0: How to Profit from the Economic Collapse by Peter D. Shiff (Outlines methods for guarding yourself against economic meltdown and how to preserve wealth even in difficult economic times)

The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street by Robert Scheer (A recent history of American economic policy and what led up to the 2008 collapse)

Rigged: The True Story of an Ivy League Kid Who Changed the World of Oil, from Wall Street to Dubai by Ben Mezrich (The true story of an unlikely character making a big impact on the oil trading exchange)

Lee R. Sigman

Read my Pins by Madeleine Albright

April 8, 2010

Author: Madeleine Albright

Title: Read my Pins – Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 176

Geographical Setting: the world

Time Period: 1993 – present

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: In this book, Madeleine Albright takes us behind the scenes of her career as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997 and as the Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001.

We get a glimpse into the many subtle messages that go on during the delicate negotiations that diplomats handle so masterfully.  The first time that Albright actually used her jewelry to send a message was after she criticized Saddam Hussein during a United Nations meeting.  In response, his poet in residence called her “an unparalled serpent.”  Shortly after, when she had a meeting with Iraqi officials, Albright chose to wear a serpent pin as an unspoken message that she would not be intimidated.

After that incident, widely reported in the press, world leaders looked to Albright’s shoulder to get a measure of her mood.

This is just the first of many stories Albright shares that shed a new light on the tremendous responsibilities that diplomats shoulder where every glance and every gesture are subject to interpretation.

In addition to her stories about pins as barometers of her take on the success of a negotiation, Albright shares her personal history with jewelry – from the first pin her husband gave her as a college student to the handmade pin her daughter gave her to the many, many pins she’s received as gifts.  In between these stories, she manages to weave in lessons about the historical significance of jewelry.

Subject Headings: Albright, Madeleine Korbel; United States. Secretary of State; Jewelry; Diplomats, American; International relations; Diplomacy; Women diplomats — United States; Women politicians; United States — Foreign relations; United States — Politics and government; Autobiographies (Adult literature)

Appeal: relaxed, measured pace; closely observed characters, insightful, realistic, thought-provoking, contemporary setting, details of diplomacy and politics, comfortable, intimate, sometimes humorous, candid, conversational, engaging, sophisticated and thoughtful.

3 terms that best describe this book: information, insightful and detailed

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

7000 Years of Jewelry: An International History and Illustrated Survey from the Collections of the British Museum, editor Hugh Tait – This illustrated history of jewelry includes information and illustrations of jewelry made around the world and throughout history.  Includes 400 photographs.  Chosen because Albright touches on the history of jewelry in her books; plus these photographs complement the beautiful photos in Albright’s book.

Brooching it Diplomatically: A Tribute to Madeleine K. Albright by Helen W. Drutt
Helen W. Drutt challenged 61 artists from 16 countries to design brooches themed with political messages.  This book features those design.  Chosen to emphasize the creative use of jewelry to convey a message.

Seasons of Her Life: A Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright
by Ann Blackman
This is the first of many biographies written about Albright and it sheds considerable light on her childhood, her intellectual curiosity, her personal growth as she pursued her Ph.D. after a divorce, and her professional career as she became the first woman secretary of state.  Interwoven in the biography is information about the history of Czechoslovakia, the rise of the feminist movement and the foreign policies of the Carter and Clinton administrations.  Chosen to provide greater depth into these issues raised in Read my Pins.

Purple springs by Nellie L. McClung
This fictional account of Pearlie Watson follows her growth from a school techer in Manitoba to a social activist and ultimately a successful politician.  Chosen because it presents a fictional account of a life and career similar to those of Madeleine Albright.

The Lucky Ones by Doris Mortman
This novel follows a ruthless presidential campaign and the involvement of four powerful women – a foreign affairs analyst who serves as an advisor to the candidate, an ambitious national television reporter covering his opponent, a congresswoman who becomes an opponent, and an national advocate for children who transitions into a lobbyist.  Chosen to highlight the intrigue of a presidential race and the contributions of powerful women.

A Time to Run by Barbara Boxer
This novel, written by the former senator from California Barbara Boxer with novelist Mary Rose Hayes is a fictional account of a politician’s growth from the beginning of her career as an advocate for children in the 70s.  Chosen because of the unique perspective Barbara Boxer brings to the story.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

October 21, 2009

Author: Dan Brown

Title: “The Lost Symbol”

Genre: Adventure

Publication Date: September 2009

Number of Pages: 504

Geographical Setting: Washington, D.C.

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: Series character, Robert Langdon

Plot Summary:  Robert Langdon returns to use his brains to help out an organization as the reader is toured around a detailed set of Washington, D.C..  Langdon finds that he has been called to the Capitol building to help out a long-time friend, Peter Solomon, and to return a mysterious packaged item that has been entrusted to him.  He arrives only to discover that the severed hand of his friend has been tattooed and set up in the middle of the room, pointing upwards.  Peter’s sister, Katherine, joins the search for her brother.  The CIA join as well, except that that are not concerned with finding Peter’s captor, but will do anything to get the package held by Landon, which is said to reveal all the secret knowledge held by the legendary secret society, the Masons .  Questions litter this tale: Who has captured and tortured Peter?  Is he alive?  How has he come to know all that he does?  How did the CIA get involved?  Whose interests do they have at heart?  What exactly is this secret knowledge that has been guarded vehemently for centuries?

Subject Headings: Washington, D.C., Secret societies – Masons,

Appeal:  fast paced, relentless, series character, eccentric villain, complex storyline, investigative, plot twists, informative details, detailed depiction of Washington D.C. architecture, historical details, contemporary setting, political backdrop, dangerous, dangerous mood, conversational language, natural description, resolved ending, easy yet researched

3 terms that best describe this book:  Historical, Exciting, Dangerous

Similar Authors and Works
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

“The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capitol:  The Masons and the Building of Washington, D.C.” by David Ovason.  This text notes several important founders who were involved in the construction of D.C, such as James Hoban (designer of the White House) and notes how their designs reflect well-known Mason symbols.  This may in fact be a source Dan Brown used for his own text, as it was published in 2002.

“Insight Guide Washington, D.C.” by Insight Guides.  A great resource for Washington architecture, offering plenty of historical details and little bias.

“Secret Societies: And How They Affect Our Lives Today” by Sylvia Browne.  This text documents sixteen different societies, offers a brief history of each, and whether or not it is known to be active today and how.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

“The Kabalyon Key” by Charles Westbrook.  A religiously controversial tale of secrets and conspiracy wherein the world is threatened as historical secrets are revealed.  Westbrook peels the layers of mystery similar to Dan Brown so that the reader is taken on an exciting adventure.  Historical facts and illustration are also used to supplement the story.

“Spartan Gold” by Clive Cussler.  Like Brown, Cussler chronicles the hunt for a secret treasure (once belonging to the ancient world and then again to Napoleon) while two parties race to solve the clues to finding it.

“The Doomsday Key” by James Rollins.  This text intertwines history and science (like The Lost Symbol does).  Scientific experiments are explored that have the magnitude to change mankind, offering high suspense.  Also similar is the usage of series characters, for those who appreciate comfort with their narrator.

Name:  Melissa