Books I Like

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In a lifetime of reading and collecting books, I’ve often recommended those I like. My current library contains almost 700 books, and here are some that impressed me. An asterisk (*) marks my special favorites.

Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics)
*Jane Austen — Pride and Prejudice (1813) — One of the first romances I ever read, and still a favorite.

Jane Eyre (Step into Classics)
*Charlotte Bronte — Jane Eyre (1847) — After I told parts of this story to my daughters, they wanted the whole thing. So I read the book as a bedtime story. Then they wanted me to read it again. I said no; it would have to wait until they were old enough to read it themselves. Obviously, this is a story that will never be outdated.

Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden (1938) – This was one of my favorite books when I discovered it as a child. At the time, I thought it was filled with suspense. The Secret Garden

The Final Countdown
Martin Caidin — The Final Countdown (1980) — A novel from the screenplay of one of my favorite movies.

The Ballad of Cat Ballou
Roy Chanslor — The Ballad of Cat Ballou (1956) — A paperback Western about a beautiful outlaw, and the source of one of my favorite movies from my youth.

The Crisis by Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill — The Crisis (1901) — A Civil War novel I read as a teenager.

Hardy Boys starter set
*Franklin Dixon — Hardy Boys series — I kept a list of these books as a child, so I could avoid repetition when checking out books from the library during our weekly trips to town. As an adult, I bought the entire 54-volume series in an updated version (1975).

H.B. Gilmour — The Electric Horseman (1979) — A paperback novel from the screenplay of one of my all-time favorite movies. The Electric Horseman

Old Yeller (Perennial Classics)
*Fred Gipson — Old Yeller (1956) — I first read this several years ago, from the viewpoint of a writer. It’s both a classic tale and an excellently crafted piece of writing.

Mistress of Mellyn
*Victoria Holt — Mistress of Mellyn (1960) — This gothic romance from my youth started an interest in the genre that lasted many years. I read every Victoria Holt book I could find, and this remained the best.

The Bastard (Kent Family Chronicles)
John Jakes — The Kent Family Chronicles — This 8-volume set (The Bastard -1974, The Rebels, The Seekers, The Furies, The Titans, The Warriors, The Lawless, The Americans) provided a great lesson in American history. I enjoyed traveling with the Kent family throughout the country from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War.

Sackett’s Land (The Sacketts)
Louis L’Amour — The Sacketts series — How I admire those Sackett men, soft-spoken but tough, winning against all odds. I’ve collected most of the L’Amour westerns, and will someday get them all read.

Don Reid — Piano Days: A Novel (2022)Don Reid describes his latest novel as “just one big Statler Brothers song without the music.” And that’s how I felt while reading it. I’ve been a Statler Brothers fan since the 1960s. I sometimes had to remind myself that Piano Days is fiction, rather than a continuation of the stories in Don’s earlier book, The Music of The Statler Brothers: An Anthology. It felt so real. Piano Days: A Novel

Anna Seyton — Devil Water (1962) — This started my interest in historical romances and the topic of struggles for the British throne. Devil Water

*Ernest Tucker — Dan Morgan, Rifleman (1958) — This is one of my favorite books from elementary school, a fiction story about a real person. I was excited to find Dan Morgan mentioned in my American history books. It brought history alive. I could feel the betrayal of learning an acquaintance named Benedict Arnold had gone to the other side. My interest in biography began with this book. Dan Morgan Rifleman

20 Years of Broadside
Jeff Bacon — The Best of Broadside (1992) — I always looked forward to seeing Broadside cartoons in The Navy Times, and purchased this collection upon publication. Most of it is inside humor; you had to be there to understand it.

Mark Berent — Rolling Thunder (1989) — I bought this novel of an Air Force pilot when I ran out of reading material in an airport. I enjoyed it so much I purchased the 5-volume series about Vietnam combat as each new book became available.

The Hunt for Red October (Jack Ryan)
Tom Clancy — The Hunt for Red October (1984) — I’d still be buying Tom Clancy books if they were this short and interesting.

Red Storm Rising
Tom Clancy — Red Storm Rising (1986) — I liked the detail in this story as it covered places I had been.

Flight of the Intruder
*Stephen Coonts — Flight of the Intruder (1986) — A great story about a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War.

The Lieutenants: Brotherhood of War
W.E.B. Griffin — Brotherhood of War series (first 6 of 8 volumes): The Lieutenants (1982), The Captains (1983), The Majors (1983), The Colonels (1983), The Berets (1985), The Generals (1986) — I learned a lot about Army history and society while following the adventures of these fictional soldiers.

The Corps: Book 1 Semper Fi
The Corps, Book 2: Call To Arms
W.E.B. Griffin — Semper Fi (1986) and Call to Arms (1987) — Although I bought the entire 7-volume The Corps series, I eventually got bored with the writing style.

A Sense of Honor: A Novel (Bluejacket Books)
*James Webb — The Sense of Honor (1982) — When I found this paperback, I was surprised to learn the former secretary of my Navy was a writer. And what a writer! He’s now my hero as both a leader and a writer.

The Winds of War
War and Remembrance
*Herman Wouk — Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978) — It took me almost a year to read this three-volume set during my military travels. I felt like I’d lost a friend when I finished, and could no longer take Pug Henry’s family along on trips.

John Barron — MIG Pilot (1980) — I attended a classified presentation during this timeframe and was thrilled to discover Viktor Belenko was the guest speaker. Mig Pilot: The Final Escape of Lt. Belenko

Baa Baa Black Sheep
Gregory Boyington — Baa Baa Black Sheep (1958) — The TV show starring Robert Conrad made me a Boyington fan and started my interest in collecting books on the WWII air war in the Pacific. It also made me a fan of the F-4U Corsair.

She Went to War: The Rhonda Cornum Story
*Rhonda Cornum — She Went to War: The Rhonda Cornum Story (1992) — This Gulf War POW is the epitome of a military leader.

Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills
Charles Henderson — Marine Sniper (1986) — Impressive story of Carlos Hathcock.

Phil Hirsch, editor — The Kennedy War Heroes (1962) — This book was distributed in our neighborhood over 40 years ago, probably by Senator McGovern forces. It’s a collection of 14 stories about “the fighting men who run the U.S.” It includes JFK’s PT-109 experience and McGovern’s emergency landing of his Dakota Queen B-24 bomber. The Kennedy War Heroes

Rogue Warrior
*Richard Marcinko — Rogue Warrior (1992) — I enjoyed reading about this SEAL and his experiences.

Up Front (First Edition)
Bill Mauldin — Up Front (1945) — I’ve always liked the Willie and Joe cartoons. It feels like holding history in my hands to read this decades-old book I found at a garage sale. I visited Bill Mauldin in the nursing home shortly before his death.

Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir
John McCain — Faith of my Fathers (1999) — A true leader and one of my heroes.

My American Journey
Colin Powell — My American Journey (1995) — Excellent autobiography of a military leader.

Here Is Your War
Ernie Pyle — Here Is Your War (1943) — Words fail me in trying to describe the writings of this famous World War II correspondent, especially knowing he was killed at Okinawa before war’s end.

*Saburo Sakai — Samurai! (1957) — I bought the Classics of Naval Literature volume (1991) after reading a library copy. The top-surviving Zero naval ace of WWII, Sakai had realistic and controversial opinions of Japan’s role in the war. I visited him in his Tokyo home and hosted him during a visit to NAF Atsugi. This book shows that combat warriors on both sides have the same thoughts and concerns. They worry about their families and complain about their leadership.

Ty Seidule — Robert E. Lee and Me (2022) – I bought this book after I read it, because of its facts about how so many Confederate names became prominent in the early 20th century, although they’d been ignored for over half a century after the Civil War. A retired U.S. Army brigadier general, Ty Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee and the Lost Cause myth—until he did the research. Robert E. Lee and Me

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
*E.B. Sledge — With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (1981) — I discovered this wonderful book in the Classics of Naval Literature series published by the Naval Institute Press in 1996. Combining the combat perspective of a PFC in the Marine Corps with the writing talent of his later years makes this book possibly the best ever written by an enlisted man fighting a war. It filled me with admiration and awe.

The Nightingale’s Song
*Robert Timberg — The Nightingale’s Song (1995) — I bought this book after I read it. It’s a well-written and objective account of five Naval Academy graduates who worked for the nightingale-like President Reagan.

The Rescue of Bat 21
Darrel Whitcomb — The Rescue of Bat 21 (1998) — An eye-opening and well-told description of U.S. military coordination problems in the latter years of the Vietnam War.

From the Hidewood: Memories of a Dakota Neighborhood (Midwest Reflections)
Robert Amerson — From the Hidewood (1996) — This memoir describes life in my neighborhood a generation before I was born. It uses a unique fictional viewpoint technique, and the story took place two miles from the setting of my Hidewood memoir.

Bill Anderson — “I Hope You’re Living As High On the Hog As the Pig You Turned Out To Be” (1993) — He sent me this book, along with Whisperin’ Bill: An Autobiography, to help me in writing Faron Young’s biography. It contains hilarious stories about life as a country music entertainer. I Hope You’re Living as High on the Hog

A. Scott Berg — Lindbergh (1998) — I can see why this book won a Pulitzer Prize. Although it’s too long and contains too much detail for my taste, it’s a model of good biography writing–well-researched and objective. The author maintains his distance. I especially liked the way he wrapped the end back to the beginning. At a writers’ conference I listened to Scott Berg describe his quest to make Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s acquaintance, and it motivated me to get started. He encouraged me to pursue my dream of being Faron Young’s biographer.

Lefty Frizzell: The Honky-Tonk Life of Country Music’s Greatest Singer
Daniel Cooper — Lefty Frizzell: The Honky-tonk Life of Country Music’s Greatest Singer (1995) — A well-written biography of a great singer who lacked a good manager.

Hank Williams: The Biography
Colin Escott — Hank Williams: The Biography (1994) — This is a good example of how to write a biography, especially when so much has already been written about this legendary singer/songwriter and unhappy man.

The View From Nashville
Ralph Emery — The View From Nashville (1998) — Entertaining stories about various country music personalities.

50 Years Down a Country Road
Ralph Emery — 50 Years Down a Country Road (2000) — More entertaining stories about country music personalities. He sent me this book to help me in writing Faron Young’s biography.

Rocket Boys: A Memoir
Homer Hickam, Jr. — Rocket Boys (1998) — This memoir draws the reader into the dreams of a teenage boy in the West Virginia coal country.

Sunshine and Shadow
Jan Howard — Sunshine and Shadow: An Autobiography (1987) — She was one tough and admirable woman. Jan Howard overcame many hurdles in her personal life before and during her years as a country music star. She wrote this book herself, without a ghostwriter, which shows one more aspect of her numerous talents and capabilities.

Still Woman Enough: A Memoir
Loretta Lynn — Still Woman Enough (2002) — This book is like sitting at the kitchen table while Loretta tells the amazing story of her life and marriage.

The Egg and I
Betty MacDonald — The Egg and I (1945) — This is the story of the real Ma and Pa Kettle. After watching all the movies with my daughters, I bought this book so we could learn where the stories came from. The author amazed me with her sense of humor. My 10-year-old commented on the unexpected twists that often changed a sentence into something totally hilarious.

Get to the Heart: My Story
Barbara Mandrell — Get to the Heart: My Story (1990) — Her description of recovering from a serious automobile mishap should offer understanding to families of severely injured individuals.

Candice Millard — Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (2012) — It’s unfortunate that James Garfield’s name isn’t included in the title of this book. He didn’t have to die. He could have survived the assassination attempt if not for botched medical treatment and egotistical doctors. And this nation’s history would have been a different story. He would have been one of our greatest presidents, following in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of… by Millard, Candice

Ice Bound : A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole
Dr. Jerri Nielsen — Ice Bound (2001) — Vivid story of “wintering over” in Antarctica, written by the doctor who was airlifted out because of cancer.

Pride: The Charley Pride Story
Charley Pride — Pride: The Charley Pride Story (1994) — An enjoyable autobiography of one of my favorite singers.

Nickel Dreams: My Life
Tanya Tucker — Nickel Dreams (1997) — Her feisty personality comes through in this autobiography.

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife
Peggy Vincent — Baby Catcher (2002) — I hesitated to buy this book because childbirth stories hold no interest for me. But Peggy and I belong to the same writers’ critique group, and I know what a good writer she is. After reading this book, I feel like becoming a crusader for expectant parents to choose their childbirth method and for insurance plans to encourage midwifery. This is much more than a “pregnant women” book. It offers the suspense of a lawsuit and an education in medical care and insurance practices.

The Complete Little House Nine-Book Set
*Laura Ingalls Wilder — Little House series (8 books) – I grew up with these books, and Laura became my role model when I decided to write about my South Dakota childhood. Upon learning that she published her first book at age 65 (Little House in the Big Woods in 1932), I knew there was hope for me.


Mary Kay Ash – The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur (2008 – republished from 1984) – If today’s corporate leaders followed the tenets of Mary Kay Ash, we’d have a more productive and dedicated work force. The 23 rules in the book include being big on praise, enthusiasm, and listening—simply treating other people well. She believed, “Help other people get what they want—and you’ll get what you want.” She also believed in letting everyone win who worked to a certain level. Her national sales directors all started at the bottom, as consultants, and worked their way to the top. No one gets there without leading a team, and all team members benefit from the success of their leaders. Mary Kay believed everyone needs to feel important. The Mary Kay Way

How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling
Frank Bettger — How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling (1947) — A friend gave me this book, and I reread it as soon as I finished the first reading. It contains great advice on selling yourself as well as your product, and it’s a lesson in how to treat people in general.

Write Tight
William Brohaugh — Write Tight (1993) — One of the first writing books I purchased. It’s an enjoyable read and full of good advice.

Panhandle Cowboy
John Erickson — Panhandle Cowboy (1980) — Humorous stories of modern cowboy life.

The Ghost of Flight 401
John Fuller — The Ghost of Flight 401 (1976) — Astonishing story of the aftermath of a 1972 airliner crash in the Florida Everglades.

Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life
Philip Gerard — Creative Nonfiction (1996) — This book should be read by the many writers who think creative nonfiction means being “creative” with the truth. Gerard says, “The hardest part of writing creative nonfiction is that you’re stuck with what really happened–you can’t make it up.” Creative nonfiction has an apparent subject and a deeper subject. It’s timeless, tells a good story, includes the author’s reflection, and uses elegant writing.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
Michael E. Gerber — The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (1995) — When you’re an entrepreneur and want to start your own business, you need to work on the business as well as in it.

David Grann — The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder (2023) – I didn’t expect a nonfiction story of a 1740 shipwreck to be a page turner. But I found myself reading the next chapter to find out what happened to each of these sailors. It’s an amazing amount of research and a feat of writing to turn hard-to-read, centuries-old documents into a story that flows so well. The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder

Michael Holmes — King Arthur, Military History (1996) — As a fan of Arthurian literature, I enjoyed this look at the historical evidence of a real Arthur. King Arthur a Military History

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money–That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
*Robert T. Kiyosaki — Rich Dad, Poor Dad (1997) — What I learned in this book changed my attitude toward finances. Wealth is based upon how long you can exist without getting a paycheck, not on how big a paycheck you receive. It changed my thinking from middle class to that of a rich person.

The Cashflow Quadrant – Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom
*Robert T. Kiyosaki — The Cashflow Quadrant – Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom (2001) — This book explains how we can either work for money (E for employee and S for self-employed) or we can have money work for us (B for business owner and I for investor).

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers : 100 Weapons to Help You Sell Your Work
Levinson/Frishman/Larsen — Guerrilla Marketing for Writers (2001) — This book gave me the idea to post a list of favorite books on my website.

Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book
*Susan Page — The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book (1997) — I used this book to write a proposal for the biography of Faron Young. As well as giving an excellent guide for proposal writing, Ms. Page offers much easy-to-follow advice for authors who want to learn about publishing and marketing their books.

Rachel Louise Martin — Hot, Hot Chicken: A Nashville Story (2021) – This book reads like a mystery, as the author seeks to uncover the history of the family that invented hot chicken, a dish she called “a part of the city’s history that had been invisible to me as a white woman.” She began with an 1860 slave schedule that listed sex and age but no names. She writes with the excitement of a researcher making major discoveries, as she describes Nashville’s attempts at urban renewal that destroyed black neighborhoods by building interstate highways through them. Hot, Hot Chicken: A Nashville Story

Tom Rath — Strengthsfinder 2.0: Online Test from Gallup’s Now Discover Your Strengths (2007) – Doing this assessment was a revelation to me. First, because we focus so much on improving our weaknesses and trying to get better at what we’re not good at. Or pushing our employees and our children to get better at what they’re weak in. Instead, we should focus on improving everyone’s strengths. How refreshing to work on what we’re already good at and enjoy doing. My second revelation was learning I’m an activator. No wonder I’ve never liked role playing, security drills, contingency plans, budgeting, or writing goals and objectives. I’d rather just do the job. This showed me there’s nothing wrong with me for disliking those activities. I can do them the minimum amount necessary and rely on others. Strengthsfinder 2.0

Heather Cox Richardson — How the South Won the Civil War (2022) – This book does an excellent job of tracing the changing cultures in this nation over two centuries, along with how the Republican and Democratic parties swapped ideologies. After the North prevailed in the Civil War and ended slavery, the culture of the defeated South moved out West, where Mexican Americans and Native Americans formed the lower racial hierarchy. The new group of white male oligarchs focused on mining, cattle, and oil, instead of the cotton of the South. How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America

Weigh Down Diet
Gwen Shamblin — Weigh Down Diet (1997) — This is the answer to weight loss. You can eat anything you want, as long as you don’t eat a bite until your body is hungry, and don’t eat the next bite after your body tells you it’s had enough. Simple but not easy. When I did this, it was the only time in my life the weight melted off. This is Part 1 of the Weigh Down lifestyle. Part 2 is to fill the emotional void (the one that causes us to overeat) with Jesus Christ instead of with food.

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image
Leonard Shlain — The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (1998) — Although I haven’t verified the historical accuracy of this book, it’s an eye-opening description of the appalling treatment of women throughout the centuries. An intriguing theory, too, that women are treated better in cultures that don’t rely on written language.

Rachel Slade — Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro (2018) – This is a riveting and exhaustively researched story of the loss of the container ship El Faro during Hurricane Joaquin in the Bermuda Triangle in 2015. It is a look at America’s aging merchant marine fleet, the cut-throat modern shipping industry, and ever more violent hurricanes fueled by global warming. Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of the El Faro

Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction
James Stewart — Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction (1998) — Great advice and examples for writers who want to turn people’s experiences and lives into riveting stories.

You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation
*Deborah Tannen — You Just Don’t Understand (1990) — These descriptions of the differences between male/female communication styles are valuable to improving relationships with family and coworkers.

Sarah Vogel — The Farmer’s Lawyer: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm (2021) — When so many farmers were losing their farms in the 1980s, I remember being glad my parents hadn’t borrowed money from the FHA to expand our operation and that our little farm was safe from foreclosure. This book is an eyeopener. Sarah Vogel took on the federal government and won. I was appalled to learn how the Farmers Home Administration, whose sole purpose was to help farmers, mistreated them instead. The Farmer’s Lawyer: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm

Holding Time: How to Eliminate Conflict, Temper Tantrums, and Sibling Rivalry and Raise Happy, Loving, Successful Children
*Martha Welch, M.D. — Holding Time (1988) — This book changed the way I disciplined my daughters. I started holding them while they worked through their tantrums and anger spells. I highly recommend this book to all parents of young children.

MY FAVORITE BIBLE VERSES — I chose the New Revised Standard Version for its combination of poetry, accuracy, and readability.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. — Joshua 24:15c

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. — Psalm 19:14

Love is patient and kind; Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. — Isaiah 40:31

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the fear of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. — Jeremiah 17:7-8

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds,and to him who knocks it will be opened. — Matthew 7:7-8

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him, For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are. — 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. . . . But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. — Deuteronomy 30:11,14

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. — 1 Corinthians 10:13

For I know that my Redeemer lives . . . — Job 19:25a

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His compassion is over all that He has made. — Psalm 145:8-9

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. — Proverbs 22:1

For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. — Psalm 50:10

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. — Ephesians 4:26

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.– Psalm 118:24

Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage. — Psalm 33:12

You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. — Psalm 139: 13b-14

God to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” — Job 38:4