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A friend (JD) during a personal meeting recently commented about my post on the book Red Notice and how I had given it four stars. He observed that I don’t give four stars very often. This prompted me to search for all books I have given four stars in the last two years. I found these twelve listed below. The definition of four stars for a book is contained in my Ratings Key:

Must read. Inspiring. Classic. Want to read again. I learned profound lessons. Just beautiful. I cried.

So here is Norbert Haupt’s reading list of the last two years of four star books:

Red Notice – by Bill Browder – a true story about corruption in Russia at the highest level of government, that stops at nothing, even killing people that get in the way.

Hungerwinter – by Alexander Häusser and Gordian Maugg – a documentary about what happened to the people of Germany after World War II and the collapse of the Nazi regime, and the incredible hardships they had to endure for years. This book is written in German.

Prophet’s Prey – by Sam Brower – the story of one man’s quest to bring down the polygamist leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, as it is commonly referred to, Warren Jeffs.

Kiss Every Step – by Doris Martin with Ralph S. Martin – the personal account of Doris Martin, who survived a three-year-stay at the Nazi labor camp in Ludwigsdorf as a young girl. I met the author herself in my local bookstore.

Napoleon – by Andrew Roberts – and outstanding, captivating biography of one of history’s most iconic leaders, Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Richest Man Who Ever Lived – by Greg Steinmetz – the story of Jacob Fugger, who was born in 1459 in Augsburg, Germany and died 1525, at the age of 66. He single-handedly created a banking and trade empire that reached to all ends of the globe. He also financed most of Europe’s wars of his time.

All the Light we Cannot See – by Anthony Doerr – a novel about two children in World War II and how their entire lives were shaped by the events of that age.

Zero to One – by Peter Thiel – a book about entrepreneurship and starting a tech company by the maddeningly self-absorbed Peter Thiel, who recently attracted additional notoriety by being a strong and outspoken supporter of Donald Trump. Thiel’s book is a great guide for budding entrepreneurs.

Elon Musk – by Ashlee Vance – a biography of Elon Musk, one of the world’s most admired entrepreneurs. Musk is the Thomas Edison of our time.

King Rat – by James Clavell – the classic novel about life in a prison camp in Asia during World War II.

How to Win at the Sport of Business – by Mark Cuban – a marvelous auto-biography by entrepreneur Mark Cuban on how he started his business empire. Very inspiring.

The World Without Us – by Alan Weisman – a book about what would happen if all the humans in the world suddenly disappeared. How long would the lights stay on?

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TreasureBoxWe think of Orson Scott Card as a science fiction writer, the most famous of his books being Ender’s Game.

Treasure Box, in contrast, is a witch and magic mystery novel. It plays in the early Internet days of about 1996 (the book was published in 1997). The hero is Quentin Fears (rhymes with pierce) who is a software mogul fashioned after Bill Gates (since in 1996, we didn’t know the Google guys yet, Yahoo! was just a startup, and Zuckerberg was just 12 years old).

Quentin loses his sister, five years his senior, when she was a teenager. He never quite gets over it. He grows up to be a computer programmer and through luck and circumstance becomes immensely successful. Like a lot of nerds, however, he is socially inept. Eventually he finds Madeleine, apparently by chance, and falls deeply in love with her. She is the perfect woman. Beautiful, extremely smart, superb in bed, a star on the social scene. They get married quickly and plan their lives together. Life is perfect for Quentin.

Whenever something is too good to be true, maybe it’s not true. When Madeleine takes Quentin to meet his her family in a small town along the Hudson north of New York City, odd things start happening.

Turn on the magic. Evil magic that is….

I read Treasure Box when it first came out and I remembered liking it. But I had completely forgotten everything about it. I just knew it was not a science fiction book. So I picked it up again now.

It starts slowly. The first 100 pages seem stilted, staged, perhaps not very interesting. Only later do all the events in the first part of the book become important and things get wrapped up nicely. Treasure Box is pure entertainment. Orson Scott Card plays with witchcraft, dark magic, illusion, and what those concepts would do in a modern world of cell phones, computers, air travel and modern lifestyles. It’s a quick read and a good page turner to wile away the hours perhaps during a long flight or sitting by the beach on vacation.

Rating: ** 1/2

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The subtitle is:

Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet.

I learned a tremendous amount reading this book. Systematically the author walks us through exotic places and shows us the adverse effect of human activity on the planet, in areas where we’d  never expect it.

I am a skeptic. I don’t fall for fads. But let me tell you this:

  1. I am going to review my personal use of electricity.
  2. I changed my thoughts on how to do the dishes.
  3. Water use (or abuse) has a different meaning.
  4. Paper and recycling (or rather, not printing  that page of paper in the first place) has new meaning to me now.
  5. I am going to be more careful about recycling my garbage.
  6. I will watch product labels and origins more carefully.

The list goes on.

The book is very readable and written in a no nonsense style. He just makes sense.

Go the Kostigan’s Web Site and get more information and updates, and be amazed about some of the asinine negative comments.

Thank you, Chelsea, for giving me this book for Christmas. It made an impact.

Rating: ****

A few days after I first published this post, I ran into this picture on MSN, which references one of locales a chapter of the book is dedicated to.

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