YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Wish List

Editor's note: What books would you give this holiday season to friends and family? Book Review contacted community leaders from around Southern California, and here's what they said about the books that have most inspired them this year.

December 10, 2006

Phil Jackson

coach of the L.A. Lakers:

I've always given books as gifts to my five children and, for the 16 years I've been an NBA coach, to my players and staff. However, the book I'd really like to give this year might not be for those who don't remember rabbit ears on TVs or cars without seat belts (let alone shoulder harnesses and air bags). The book is Richard Ford's "The Lay of the Land." Ford has revisited his protagonist Frank Bascombe for the third time. Bascombe's now in his mid-50s and dealing with mature adult issues: cancer, death, "lost" wives and friends, and the political climate of America in the new century. This book made me reflect about the process of aging. What important lessons did one learn from life's experiences?

"The Lay of the Land" is as good as it gets, and I'm not done with it yet.


Eli Broad

chairman, Broad Foundation:

"The Audacity of Hope," by Sen. Barack Obama, is an exhilarating work that affords valuable insights into the thinking of one of our country's most promising young leaders and his vision for a better American politics. The senator's candor and steadfast belief in the fundamental values of community, education and hard work come through clearly and make for an inspirational read.


John E. Husing

consultant specializing in the economics of the Inland Empire:

Recently I had occasion to reread Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island." As a child, I spent hours with this book, often under the covers at night with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. (Imagine punishing a child for reading today!) It is the story of an odd assortment of travelers -- an engineer (and his faithful dog), a former slave, a journalist, a sailor and a boy -- in a hot-air balloon that gets blown off course en route from Richmond, Va., during the Civil War and lands on an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. There the castaways have to figure out how to survive, how to defend themselves and ultimately how to create the beginnings of an industrial economy. As a 65-year-old PhD in economics, I was amazed to find that this exciting adventure, which includes a description of Captain Nemo's final days, contains one of the best explanations I've read of how an economy evolves from foraging to agriculture, mining, pottery and on to electricity and industry. My fascination with this book as a youngster seems to have foreshadowed my career. It seems a good choice for any budding young economists on my list.


France Anne Cordova

professor of physics and astronomy, and chancellor of UC Riverside:

In my first year as a Caltech graduate student, I saw a notice for something called the annual TGTNGPHS party, which I finally learned meant "Thank God the North Galactic Pole Has Set." It was a vivid reminder that the night sky changes from season to season -- and that an astronomy student's pattern of research and sleep can be defined by those changes. For years, I've thrilled to the changing seasons of the night sky and the "old friends" that come calling annually, like the Seven Sisters in winter. Thus I knew I'd found something special when I discovered Robert Gendler's "A Year in the Life of the Universe."

The author arranges the night sky according to season and guides the reader via star charts to find the location and time of the debut of the sky wonders depicted in the book. The richly colored, deep-space photographs were taken by Gendler with electronic cameras. In the photo captions there's some science, too -- such as what makes a quasar and how a gravitational lens works. Without even going outside, a family can enjoy together the likes of Thor's Helmet, the Eskimo Nebula or the Pinwheel Galaxy. But the idea, of course, is to go outside at night and look up! This book just might create some aspiring astronomers during this holiday season.


Earl Ofari Hutchinson

political analyst and author of "The Emerging Black GOP Majority":

When's the last time you picked up a historical work that runs nearly 900 pages and read it in two sittings? Bleary eyes and all, that's what I did with Doris Kearns Goodwin's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Team of Rivals."

This is history the way it was meant to be written and lived. I say "lived" because I felt I was right there in the White House, the Old Soldiers Home, and the various encampments where Abraham Lincoln and his highly contentious Cabinet members and generals debated and squabbled over policy matters regarding the conduct of the Civil War and made the monumental decisions that shaped our nation's political future.

The book is subtitled "The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." Not an unfamiliar subject, but it took a writer with Goodwin's laser-like historical instincts and sensitivity -- and, yes, passion -- to bring out the high drama of Lincoln's turbulent, perilous years in the White House. It's a timeless book for all seasons. And you don't have to read it in two sittings to delight in this stirring and vital pageant in our nation's life.


Esa-Pekka Salonen

Los Angeles Times Articles