Category Archives: Book Reviews

Staff Pick: Outlaw Platoon

Happy Post-Fourth of July Readers!

We hope you had a fantastic Fourth, celebrating our great nation with Pride! Today, we bring to you a review of a book, selected and reviewed by our very own STC Coordinator of Veterans Affairs. This book, Outlaw Platoon, has reached his heart, and the heart of many veterans across the nation. Read on, give this book a chance, and maybe you too can gain insight into the lives and minds of many of our veterans all around us.


Parnell, Sean. Outlaw Platoon. New York: William Morrow, 2012.

I heartily recommend that you read this book.  It is a personal account from a young officer “Captain Sean Parnell” that stepped into a combat environment in Afghanistan and was assigned to a platoon of infantry men (US Army’s 10th Mountain Division) also named the “Outlaw platoon”.  Their trade-mark was skulls designs on their vehicles.  The enemy respected and feared them.

Captain Parnell needed to win the trust and confidence from the members of the platoon.  He also needed proof to himself that he had the skills and ability to lead a group of men into combat.  Leading by example and taking care of your troops were a priority for Captain Parnell.  He talks about his personal trials from his injuries and the worries from home.  Captain Parnell’s disappointments in the Afghanistan Army, our politics, and the higher command as well with fellow officers are shared in this book.  He also talks about his love for his men under his command and the respect for the enemy.

The battle scenes are very explicit. They show the heroic actions, mental stress, sacrifices, decision making and injuries that our soldiers suffered both physically and mentally on a daily basis.  We see the change in a soldier’s life in dealing with the cruelty and destruction of war.  It gives us a better sense of respect and understanding to the countless sacrifices that our men and women are making on a daily basis in the protection of our freedoms that we, at times, take for granted.  We also get a small glance of the worries, pains and sacrifices that the family makes while their love ones are away defending our Nation.

Please stop, reflect and give thanks to our men and women that have served and are serving in our armed forces.  Always remember their sacrifices.

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”  – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Contributed by: Javier Arredondo, Coordinator of Veterans Affairs

You can check this book out in our libraries! Find out more about the availability of this book HERE!

Staff Pick: The Nature Principle

Happy Summer Session!

That’s right! The library is back in full swing with research help, available computers, and, of course, our ever smiling staff ready to help all of you as you make your way through the Summer semesters. And… New books! Check out our latest great Staff Pick below and browse our New Collections shelves, available at all campus libraries, for all of the latest and greatest additions to our collection!


Louv, Richard. The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books, 2011.

In The Nature Principle (2011), Richard Louv revisits the proposition that human beings need to reconnect with nature.   The work gathers anecdotes, observations, and the results of scientific studies to make a compelling case for developing an awareness of the natural world around us and for actively engaging nature.  Studies cited by Louv suggest that a separation from nature diminishes the quality of human life.  Conversely, a reconnection to the natural world, Louv argues, is fundamental to human health, spiritual wellbeing, and survival.   For example, an activity as simple as a nature walk, which famous geniuses such as Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel used to engage in, helps to improve mental activity.  According to Louv, in an age of rapid technological change, the future will belong to the nature-smart–those individuals, families, business, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of nature, and who balance the virtual with the natural world.  This book may well energize you to take more frequent trips to the park, the beach, or even your backyard this summer.

Contributed by: Jesús Campos, Director of Library Technical Services.

You can check out this highly recommended book in our libraries! Check it out here!


Faculty Pick: Marco Polo From Venice to Xanadu

Happy Intercession Dearest Readers!

Phew! We’re all sure glad that the semester’s over, and we’re sure that you are too! It’s been a long Spring Semester, and now we have Summer to look forward to! But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep our brains sharp and ready for our next set of classes!

So, with that in mind, we bring to you another Faculty Pick! Our very own Dr. William Carter from the STC History Department has read and reviewed the following book, which is fresh to our shelves, and we think you should Check It Out!


Bergreen, Laurence. Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu. New York: Vintage Books, 2007.

In Marco Polo, From Venice to Xanadu (2007), Laurence Bergreen presents a modern retelling of the Venetian’s momentous and epic journey spanning 24 years and vast expanses of Asia during the late 13th century.  Bergreen claims that, cultural biases and several exaggerations aside, overwhelming evidence supports Marco Polo’s own accounts of his experiences among different peoples and places across central Asia before becoming an honored guest, public servant, confidant and captive of the most powerful man on earth at the time, Kublai Khan.  Polo described in journalistic detail the cultures he encountered, their diversity, and their extent in the Mongolian empire.  His excitement becomes infectious when describing the huge, interconnected and well-planned Chinese urban centers (Hangzhou being the largest of all, and in the world, with 1.5 million people), and their remarkable cultural achievements in art, architecture, engineering, printing presses publishing a profusion of books, paper money, gun powder, and an immense amount of commercial activity that dwarfed anything in Europe.  The Polos never ceased to marvel at the Asian fortunes made off the incredible variety of products–foods, spices, jewelry, silk, carpets, games, gambling, knowledge, and art.  All of it seemed so wonderful, and futuristic, to the Polos.  Bergreen rounds out these stories with infusions of our current thinking on the geography, flora, fauna, and cultures that Marco Polo encountered, and his seminal influence on the imaginations of subsequent explorers, merchants, and intellectuals who brought the modern world into being.

Our reading group found several aspects of Marco Polo’s journey worth discussing at length—including his coming of age and transformation into an increasingly open-minded, cosmopolitan, and empirically bent thinker over the years; his encounters with a diversity of cultures and diverse cultural norms and values; and his discovery of and participation in the court of Kublai Khan and, even more impressive, Chinese civilization millennia in the making.  Much food for thought here.

Contributed by: Dr. William Carter, Professor of History

Has this peaked your interest? It’s peaked ours! Don’t forget, you can read this book for yourself by checking it out from our Library! (click here for availability)

Faculty Pick: Snow

Happy Wednesday Dear Readers!

As we near the end of this semester (congrats to all of our Graduates!!!), we know that you are anticipating the upcoming Summer! Who wouldn’t be?! With lots of sunshine and free time (hopefully!) we’d like to give you insight into some great reads that you can pick up and use to keep your brains fresh for the Fall!

Today we bring to you a Faculty Pick, reviewed by our very own History Instructor, Ellen Stone.


Pamuk, Orhan,  Snow translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely.  Random House, New York, NY, 2004.

Ka returned to Turkey after years of self- exile in Germany to find love and inspiration to write poetry again.  The outpost city of Kars close to the border with Armenia had seen better days, but Ka travelled here in the guise of a reporter hired to write about the “head scarf girls”.  The secular Turkish government did not allow head gear on women in their buildings so some high school girls had committed suicide over this issue.  The city, cut off from the rest of the world by a huge snow storm, closed roads and rails.  Only a few hours in the city, and Ka witnessed the killing of the minister of education by a Muslim extremist in a teahouse where all the unemployed men hang out.  There are more twists and turns in the story when a group of traveling actors staged a bloody coup d’etat with cooperating military.  Ka secretly visited the leader of the Islamic extremists called Blue and confessed that perhaps he may have begun to believe in God.  The real object of Ka’s trip, a recently divorced beauty from his college days named Ipek, lived with her sister and father in a hotel they own.  The father, an old Communist, had served time in prison for his beliefs.  All these story lines are complicated by the repressive Turkish government that has bugged the entire city with technology or spies.  Pamuk kept the reader on the edge of her seat until the very end.  Enjoy.

Contributed by Ellen Stone, STC History Instructor

Intruiged? Don’t forget, you can read this book for yourself by checking it out from our Library! (click here for availability)

Staff Pick: Life Sentences

Dearest Readers,

We are constantly bringing in new titles to our shelves, both physically and virtually, for you to browse and enjoy. Today, we bring to you a review of one of these brand new books to our shelves, reviewed by one of our very own staff members. And don’t forget, every book we review is available for you to check out and enjoy at your leisure!


Gass, William H., Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts.  New York, NY:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

In a collection of essays and lectures drawing on his professional experience as an essayist, novelist, literary critic, and former professor of philosophy, William Gass formulates a multifaceted exposition on books and writing that is at once informative, witty, and inspiring.

The book is divided into four parts.  The first, “Personals Column”, is largely a biographical reflection on Gass’ lifetime relationship with books and writing. The essays in the second part of the book, “Old Favorites and Fresh Names”, are thoughtful and often entertaining reflections on the work and the lives of several writers including Gertrude Stein, Proust, Nietzsche, Kafka, Malcolm Lowery, Henry James, John Gardner, Katherine Anne Porter, Knut Humson, and Richard Evans.

The third part of the book, “The Biggs Lectures on the Classics”, is a series of reflections on the evolution and application of Greek philosophical concepts such as form, mimesis (portrayal), and metaphor to good literature. The final part of the book, “Theoretics”, opens with a humorous essay on lust.  It is followed by an essay on the importance of factors such as word choice, word placement, narration, and signification in literature.   The final essay on the aesthetic structure of the sentence continues Gass’ exposition on what sets literature apart from other forms of writing.   Here, he makes the point that unlike other forms of day-to-day writing, which aim for clarity of communication, literature often aims for something more artistic and poetic.  Throughout, Gass employs excerpts from several notable writers.

For an entertaining and thought-provoking romp through literary and cultural history, read and enjoy Life Sentences.

 Click here to check on the availability of this book or to learn more!

Contributed by Jesús Campos, Director of Library Technical Services

Staff Pick: Power over Peoples

libblog-BookReview7Headrick, Daniel R. Power over Peoples: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

For the past several centuries Western Civilization (Western Europe and North America) has dominated the world.  While the European Empires of the past are all but gone, we still feel their impact on the world.  Today’s dominant superpower (USA) is a product of European colonization, and European languages are spoken all over the globe.  English is the official language in 54 countries, Spanish is the official language in 21 countries, and French is the official language in 31 countries.

How did the West manage to dominate the other major civilizations of the world?  And what explains certain setbacks the West faced throughout the centuries?  This book argues that the West was able to dominate the world through its manipulation of technology which allowed the West mastery over the world’s environments and therefore mastery over peoples in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Since 1400 the West has developed technology that enabled long-distance sea travel, the prevention of deadly diseases, and the mass destruction of human lives.  All of which have created the world we live in today.  If you’ve ever wondered how Western Civilization came to dominate the world then this book is for you.

Check here for the availability of this item in our libraries!

Contributed by Joshua Wallace, Reference Librarian at the Pecan Campus.

Check out some more of his recommendations on his Read! poster here!

Staff Pick: The Lost Cause

libevents-lostcause Rolle, Andrew. The Lost Cause: The Confederate Exodus to Mexico. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.

Today we often hear a lot about Mexican immigration to the United States. However, we rarely hear much about American immigration to Mexico. Well, in 1865 at the end of the US Civil War several thousand southerners chose to cross the border into Mexico rather than face the humiliation of surrendering to the northern states.

The primary focus of this book is the journey of General Joseph Shelby who led the largest group of ex-Confederate soldiers into Mexico. They went there under the invitation of Emperor Maxmilian who hoped to use them in his struggle with Benito Juarez over control of Mexico. These immigrants established small colonies near Vera Cruz. There they attempted to set up a profitable farming community. However, they did not succeed. After Maximilian was executed in 1867 these immigrants lost their protector. Juarez’s supporters viewed them as foreign invaders, and attacked their settlements. Some of them died in the conflict, but the majority of them returned to the US or fled to other countries. Today nothing remains of the towns they established. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating story then I highly recommend this book to you.

Click here to check for availability.

Contributed by Joshua Wallace, Reference Librarian at the Pecan Campus.

Staff Pick: Making Jack Falcone

libblog-BookReview6Levin, Michael G, and Joaquin Garcia. Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family. New York, N.Y: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

In the book Making Jack Falcone, FBI undercover agent Joaquin Garcia infiltrates the most powerful mafia family in New York City.  This book tells the true story of how FBI agent Joaquin Garcia assumes the role of Jack Falcone and helps take down thirty members of the Gambino Crime Family.  Using different aliases agent Garcia works different undercover cases at the same time throughout his career.

Follow Jack Falcone as he is taken under the wing of an old school capo Greg DePalma.  DePalma once cared for an ailing John Gotti in prison and used to socialize with stars like Frank Sinatra.  Greg DePalma introduces Jack Falcone to the world of shakedowns, beatings, and envelopes full of cash.   A must read for anyone wanting to know about the sacrifices people in law enforcement make to ensure a better way of life for ordinary citizens.  Click here to check for availability.

Contributed by Jesus Resendez, Library Specialist at the Nursing Campus.

The Spanish Borderlands Frontier, 1513-1821

libblog-spanishborder Bannon, John Francis.  The Spanish Borderlands Frontier, 1513 – 1821.  Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.

Before Texas was part of the United States, and even before it was part of Mexico, it was part of a vast Spanish Empire.  Not only Texas, but much of the US once belonged to Spain.  Florida, New Mexico, California, Arizona, and other areas were explored and settled by the Spanish centuries before they became part of the US.

Popular culture often portrays the story of American expansion in the West as one in which Anglo-American pioneers tamed an unknown wilderness.  This is an exaggeration at best, especially in the American Southwest, as this area had long been settled by the Spanish.  These early Spanish explorers and settlers left a lasting impact that affects us today; especially in regards to language, culture, religion and even place names.  Most of the rivers in Texas have Spanish names.

This book begins in 1513 when the first Spanish explorer arrived in Florida, and ends in 1821 when Mexico won its independence thus ending Spain’s involvement in North America.  If you are interested in knowing about the people and events that shaped this period of history, then I highly recommend this book for you.

(Click here to check for availability.)

Contributed by Joshua Wallace, Reference Librarian at the Pecan Campus.

Staff Pick: The Next 100 Years

libblog-BookReview5Friedman, George.  The Next 100 Years: a Forecast for the 21st Century.  New York: Doubleday, 2009.

If you have an interest in politics, international relations, or predictions of futuristic technology then this is the book for you.  Using his knowledge of historical trends and political forecasting Friedman predicts how international relations will unfold over the next century.  The author has a PhD in political science from Cornell University and he is the founder of STRATFOR a private intelligence firm.

Friedman claims that the current economic downturn will not last long and that soon the United States will be back on top and will be the dominant superpower for the next 100 years.  This book predicts that Russia and China will collapse in the next 20 or 30 years from internal divisions and pressure from their neighbors.  By 2050 Japan and Turkey will be the world’s new major powers.  They will form an alliance to rival the United States which will lead to World War III.  However, the US will triumph in that future war.  By 2100 Mexico will be the new rising power that will challenge the USA.  How does the author come to these conclusions?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!  (Click here to check for availability.)

Contributed by Joshua Wallace, Reference Librarian at the Pecan Campus