Oh, the places you'll go and the stories you'll hear as you listen to Andrew Davidson's debut dazzler The Gargoyle, agilely read by Lincoln Hoppe, who captures its shifting moods, voices and settings - just get through the agonizingly detailed description of what happens to a human body when it's severely burned (there's more excruciata, but you'll become somewhat inured). Our hero and narrator, once a handsome, handsomely endowed porn star now lying a in hospital bed, knows the hell of burns firsthand. Having survived a flaming car wreck and months of harrowing medical treatment, he's savoring the idea of suicide when a woman with wildly cascading curls comes to his bedside and says, matter - of - factly, "You've been burned. Again." And goes on to tell him they were lovers in medieval times. An appealing schizo, or his 700 - year - old soul mate? As she reveals their past and plans their future, threaded through with stories worthy of Scheherazade, our hero wonders about her sanity, yet falls under her spell and into a love that renders his deforming injuries bearable, a love that may truly transcend time.

In a deep, gravelly voice, the voice of a man who's seen a whole lot of life, Joseph Galloway, a renowned foreign and war correspondent and former senior editor of U.S. News & World Report, reads We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam, which he co - authored with Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.). In November 1965, Moore commanded the battalion of the 7th U.S. Cavalry that fought in the Ia Drang Valley; Joe Galloway covered this deadliest "collision" of the Vietnam War for UPI, and the two collaborated on a gripping account of the battle, We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young (1992). Moore had vowed to return to those blood - soaked clearings in the jungle, and he and Galloway, after much bureaucratic resistance, walked the ground and did their duty to confront their own demons and honor the souls of all who had perished. Amazingly, they made that journey with the North Vietnamese commanders who had fought against them during "those nightmarish days." Vivid, gritty military history made all the more affecting by the concern, grief and understanding these warriors, who had once done their best to kill each other, now share. They are truly soldiers still, but soldiers who "hope against hope for peace and its blessings for all." Good gift for guys this holiday season.

Thomas L. Friedman's latest, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution - And How It Can Renew America, is a cri de coeur, an impassioned appeal, read with equal zeal by Oliver Wyman. Global warming, the "stunning" worldwide rise of middle classes and rapid population growth have converged to make our planet dangerously unstable, with tightening energy supplies, "deepening energy poverty and strengthening petro - dictatorships."  What we do about changing this perilous course will determine the quality of life in the rest of the 21st century. Friedman maintains that if America is to get "its groove back," get away from being a "subprime nation" that thinks it can somehow borrow its way to prosperity, we must go "Code Green," taking the lead in creating the tools, systems, energy sources and energy ethics that will allow our Earth to grow in cleaner, sustainable ways. He sees a great challenge and a great opportunity for this great country; he offers both a diagnosis of these challenges and a prescription for meeting them. Cogent, persuasive, fascinating in its scope, Friedman's call to arms (strong, green arms) will make you ask what kind of America you want for yourself and for your children.

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