1. We'll Always Have Cleveland, by Les Roberts. Fans of Roberts's works, particularly the Milan Jacovich mystery series, and residents of Cleveland will enjoy this. It's not really an autobiography, but the author relates his life and impressions of Cleveland (and elsewhere), and he tells of some of the inspirations for some of his characters and locations in the Jacovich series. He relates what he loves about the city - and a few things that drive him (and I suspect most residents) nuts, the people who he has befriended and some of his favorite haunts. Actually, this isn't a bad guide for Cleveland-area residents who want to explore their neighborhood, or for those who have recently moved here and want to know this area better. This short book (180 pages)has a conversational, easy to read style, and, having met the author I can "hear" him narrating it.
2. Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. A very insightful, dense read. Give yourself time to read this one; I'm a fast reader. On a free weekend I can usually polish off a 200-300 page book with no difficulty. This one is more than 400 pages including numerous graphics and photographs). It's not the length but the amount of information and food for thought that made this slow reading for me. Indeed, I generally read about a half a chapter at a sitting.The basic premise is this: why did some countries - namely Eurasia (Europe in particular) so overwhelmingly dominate much of the rest of the planet, such as the Americas, Africa and Australia? What follows is a very abridged world history lesson. Indeed, one criticism I've read of this work is that it is too generalized. but the overall theories Diamond lays out, I believe, are sound and hold up. He shows how food production, and the availability of domesticatable plants (or lack of available plants), plus geography, plus the availability of dometicatable large mammals led to some areas being able to create farming and food industry, which led to greater population densities. In addition, the domestication by some areas of large mammals (cows, horses, pigs, goats, donkeys) not only resulted in more efficient land use (plowing), transportation and military operations, but the diseases that the animals harbored were changed and caught by their human owners, who, over time, grew resistant to illnesses such as smallpox. Populations which did not have large domesticated mammals (or very limited access) were wiped out by these illnesses. The greater populations, fed by a population of food producers, were able to concentrate on creating centralized governments, make inventions (such as better weapons), and establish a writing system. One of the more interesting observations was that the west-east orientation of Eurasia led to the greater possibilities of trade and population growth than the north-south orientation of Africa and the Americas. One thing Diamond is very clear on, and he illustrates this with several examples: the differences have nothing to do with the capabilities of the various peoples themselves. In general, when a new crop or technology is introduced that has a benefit, people usually embrace it. In the version I read, Diamond includes an afterwards written in 2003, where he illustrates how these theories apply even today (including in the business world).