Bill Monning

Senate Majority Leader Emeritus



The following list represents some current and recent readings that I have found to be informative and fun.

I am particularly interested in books and articles addressing current issues impacting the Central Coast, the State of California, and our planet: Healthcare, Education, Environment, Economics, and Participatory Politics.



Escape from Antwerp     From Terror to Paradise
by Eda Lew Balsam, Community Printers, Santa Cruz, 2003, ISBN 0-615-1247004
When Assemblymember, I was honored to welcome and formally recognize the author at the Holocaust Memorial event held on the Assembly Floor in Sacramento in 2010. Ms. Balsam lives in Santa Cruz and has been active in the arts community. Her story shares a compelling history of her family's trials and tribulations escaping the Nazi occupation in Belgium, then in France before their successful exodus via Spain to Cuba and finally to the United States.
Comrades in Health     U.S. Health Internationalists Abroad and at Home
by Edited by Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Theodore M. Brown, Rutgers University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-8135-6120-2
Forward by Vicente Navarro MD Phd, Johns Hopkins University. Features (among others), Drs. Bernard Lown, Jack Geiger, Vic and Ruth Sidel, Co-founders of Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Physicians for The Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).
Three Lives of a Warrior    
by Phillip Butler, A Camelot Press Book, 2010, ISBN 1452885036 (
This memoir is written by Monterey-based Vietnam Veteran, Phil Butler, who served as a POW in North Vietnam for 7 years 10 months. Phil has been an outspoken critic of torture and an anti-war activist who served as the national president of Veterans for Peace. His accounts are powerful, chilling, and disturbing, but serve as testament to the strength and unbreakable spirit of Phil and the many other POWS and veterans to whom he pays tribute. But it is Phil Butler's journey from Annapolis cadet to POW to warrior for peace that is so remarkable.
Wherever There’s a Fight     How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California
by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi,, Berkeley, 2009, ISBN 978-1-65714-114-7
The authors are ACLU activists who have captured and chronicled an amazing history of California through the lens of immigrant communities. Included are reports of “legal” and vigilante forms of discrimination, abuse, exploitation, and violence. These themes are countered, however, by the commensurate rise of civil rights, human rights, labor and political activists who fought for justice in the face of these historic and often unreported or forgotten moments in California history.
The Ballad of Bob Dylan     A Portrait
by Daniel Mark Epstein, Harper Collins, 2011, ISBN 78-0-06-180732-9
Epstein looks at Bob Dylan through the lens of four concerts... An interesting look at one of the seminal poets/songwriters of our generation...
How Soccer Explains the World    
by Franklin Foer, Harper Collins, , ISBN 13:978-0-06-073142-7

Lethal But Legal     Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health
by Nicholas Freudenberg, Oxford University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0-19-993719-6
This is a timely book amidst those who clamor about “Nanny government" and the over reach of government. Freudenberg focuses on food and beverage tobacco, auto, pharmaceutical, and fire arms industries to demonstrate how the marketing of inherently lethal products is outdistancing the public’s ability to provide public health protection. Freudenberg’s well-researched book provides compelling documentation of the very sophisticated corporate marketing and cost shifting tactics that move risk and adverse health impacts to consumers while protecting corporate profits. A must read for those concerned about trends in public health..
The Way It Was    
by Alana Haywood-Myles, Easy Break Publishing/Multimedia, Royal Oaks, 2002, ISBN 1-89157-07-9
Based on the real life story of a young African American girl named Susy.
Game Change    
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Harper Collins, 2011, ISBN 978-0-06- 173363-5
Compelling insight to the 2008 presidential election campaigns including strategy, fundraising, challenges, and drama.
To End All Wars     A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918
by Adam Hochschild, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2011, ISBN 978-0-618-75828-9
Hochschild continues in his amazing contributions to framed histories that capture the main events of the day and the simultaneous people's movements. This book captures the years before WWI and the War but with focus on anti-war activists, feminists, and the suffragist movement. A captivating read by the author of King Leopold's Ghost, about Belgium's colonialization of the Congo and the rise of the first human rights organizations in the 19th century.
Rebel Cinderella     From Rags to Riches to Radical
by Adam Hochschild, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2020, ISBN 9781328866745
Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost, crafts a look at the lives of Rose Pastor and James Phelps Stokes, the latter a multi-millionaire. Rose Pastor rose from work as a child laborer in cigar factories to become a recognized political activist and radical who married millionaire and fellow-radical James Stokes. The book captures Rose’s passions and connections with Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, Eugene Debs, and others.
Ill Fares The Land    
by Tony Judt, The Penguin Press, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-1-59420-276-6 (courtesy of Hugh McIsaac)
“Ill Fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and (wo)men decay”. Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village, 1770 (from cover).... Judt makes the case for building a social democracy: to valuing fairness over mere efficiency. Judt sets forth a cogent analysis as to how government can and should appropriately support people and communities without threatening individual liberties in marked contrast to the excesses, corruption, and damage inflicted by blind faith in a free market's ability to protect us.
Jerry West     The Life and Legend of A Basketball Icon
by Roland Lazenby, Ballantine, 2010, ISBN 978-0-345-51083-9

Prescription for Survival     A Doctor’s Journey to End Nuclear Madness
by Dr. Bernard Lown with Forward by Howard Zinn, Berrett-Kohler Publisher, 2008, ISBN 10:1576754820
First person account of the building of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the 1985 organizational recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Fight    
by Norman Mailer, Random House, 1975, ISBN 978-0-8129-8612-9
Features the Muhammed Ali v. George Forman Fight in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974. Norman Mailer had access to both fighters’ training camps. He captures a perspective that is unique in sports journalism as he presents the cultural and political dynamics in the USA and Zaire that provide one of the most interesting dynamics in a sporting event, ever!
Deep Economy     The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
by Bill McKibben, Holt Paperbacks, 2007, ISBN 10:0-8050-8722-2
Makes the case for economic development and environmental protection being linked. Challenges the assumptions of unchecked economic growth being compatible with sustainability.
The Burglary:     The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI
by Betty Medsger, Alfred Knopf Publishing Company, 2014, ISBN 978-0-307-96295-9
This book reveals the identities of eight of t he “Media Burglars” some forty years after they planned and executed a burglary of FBI offices in Media, Pennsylvania, during height of the Vietnam War and domestic uprisings in the USA. The burglars were never caught or prosecuted but agreed to maintain a code of silence after releasing documents from FBI files that revealed J. Edgar Hoover’s wholesale violation of civil rights and liberties as he operated the Co-Intel program and an assault on the freedoms of many Americans who had no idea that their anti-war and other protected, peaceful activities were subject to surveillance and disruption by the U.S. government.
EcoMind     Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want
by Frances Moore-Lappe, Nation Books, New York, 2011, ISBN 978-1-56858-683-0
How to re-frame messaging to advance protection of the planet...
CAPITAL in the Twenty-First Century    
by Thomas Piketty, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014, ISBN 978 0 674 43000-6
A contemporary economic analysis of the the growing wealth divide and income disparity...and, the implications for modern democracy and democratic institutions.
The Last Holiday     A Memoir, published posthumously
by Gil Scott-Heron, Grove Press, New York, 2012, ISBN 978-0-8021-2901-7
Gil Scott-Heron has been recognized as the godfather of rap, hiphop, and a master of the written, spoken, and musical word. The book captures his upbringing, education, family, and rise as a writer, singer, and bandleader. The book is most interesting although it avoids any discussion of the battles with alcohol and drugs that led to his early death.
Endangered Dreams     The Great Depression in California
by Kevin Starr, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 19-510080-8
A timely analysis that presents similarities to California’s current challenges.
Free Fall, America     Free Markets and the Sinking World Economy
by Joseph Stiglitz, WN Norton, 2010, ISBN 978-0-303-07596-0
The title says it all. Stiglitz received the Nobel Prize in Economics.
The Price of Inequality:     How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future
by Joseph Stiglitz, W.W. Norton and Company, 2012, ISBN 978-0-393-08869-4
Stiglitz (Winner of Nobel Prize in Economics) sets forth compelling data documenting the growing disparity between rich and poor and the fact that 40 of the nation’s wealth (USA) is controlled by 1% of the population. He sets forth the reasons for the growing disparity and the importance of affirmative steps to reverse this tide to protect and preserve the democratic principles upon which our nation was built.
The Art of Simple Food    
by Alice Waters, Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York, 2007, ISBN 978-0-307-33679-8
The founder of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, shares her revelations and recipes using fresh, healthful, and wholesome foods.
The Politics of Truth     A Diplomat's Memoir
by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2005, ISBN ISBN 0-7867-1551-0
I took another look at this book after seeing Fair Game, the current movie version of the actions taken by former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson to expose the Bush Administration's false pretext for invading Iraq in 2003. As a result, Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, had her cover blown as an undercover CIA operative in charge of anti-nuclear proliferation intelligence by the George Bush White House. I met Joe Wilson in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on the eve of Gulf War I, in December of 1990 as he prepared to close down the U.S. Embassy and evacuate the country. This book shares powerful insights into U.S. foreign policy formation and implementation.


The Century Trilogy     Book Three: Edge of Eternity
by Ken Follett, Penguin Group, New York, 2014, ISBN 978-0-525-95309-8
I ejoyed Fall of Giants ( Russian Revolution and WWI) and Winter of the World (WW2 ). Follett details the lives of 5 families from Russia, England, and the USA… whose lives are intertwined in the sagas of war, social/political/ and economic dynamics of the respective eras. The successive stories follow the lives of families through ancestors and descendants. Follett captures the suffragette movement in the England on the eve of WW 1… The horrors of war, the draft, and class struggle as played out in Russian, Europe, and the USA. Just beginning Book Three, but primed after the first two books. If interested, start with Book 1…
Soccer in Sun and Shadow    
by Eduardo Galeano, Nation Books, New York, 2013 edition, ISBN 978-1-56858-494-2
Galeano is an Uruguayan writer known for Open Veins of Latin America, Memory of Fire, Mirrors, Children of the Days, etc..
The Lacuna    
by Barbara Kingsolver, Harper Collins, 2009, ISBN 97-8006085-2573
A powerful novel that focuses on young man of Mexican and U.S. heritage who works with Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Leon Trotsky in Mexico then concludes his life journey in USA during the McCarthy era/HUAC hearings, etc. A historic novel with clear implications for today's world.
The Rising Tide    
by Jeff Shaara, Ballantine Books, 2006, ISBN 13:978-345-46141-4
A historical novel about WWII and the heroism and sacrifice of allied troops in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy.
The Cold Millions    
by Jess Walters, Harper, 2020, ISBN 9780062868084
A historical novel set in Spokane, WA in the early 1900s that features Elizabeth Gurley Fynn, Big Bill Haywood, and a story about two brothers who find and work with the IWW amidst trials and tribulations in the growing Spokane labor movement. Ruthless police tactics and mass arrests in violation of all constitutional protections are challenged by Elizabeth and her comrades.
by Peter Zheutlin, Pegasus Books, 2021, ISBN 978-1-64313-752-0
This novel captures the true story (documented in the author’s 2007 Non-fiction book, Around the World on Two Wheels.) of Annie Londonderry (Annie Cohen Kopchovsky) who in the mid 1890s accepted a challenge to ride a bicycle around the world. She left her husband and 3 children under the age of 3 to accomplish her 15 month journey full of excitement, media coverage, and differing stories. Susan B Anthony was reported to say at the time of Annie’s feat: “Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” Annie was the first woman and perhaps first athlete to secure corporate/business Sponsorships for her ride. She traveled light, often only with the clothes she wore and a pearl-handled pistol.