The best 50 cents I’ve spent this year went to buy Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising at the fundraiser outside the school budget vote. This was Clancy’s second book, a brick of a WWIII story published in the late 1980s—back when someone could claim that if NATO were neutralized by a successful invasion of Germany, America wouldn’t react to an invasion of the Persian Gulf aimed at taking over the oil fields. (A catastrophic oil-field fire is the event that kicks off the novel.) When I was a kid, I read my dad’s copy and enjoyed it; now, I was able to parcel it out over a couple of weeks as bedtime reading. It was perfect for that purpose: absolutely no characters to get emotionally involved with, a story that I remembered the broad outlines of, and soothing little tactical puzzles or military info-dumping in convenient chapter-sized chunks. (Also, its politics aren’t distracting, being limited to a strong sympathy for the professional military ethos and a distaste for the political system of the USSR.) I’ve just acquired copies of The Hunt for Red October and (though I’m somewhat ashamed to admit to reading later Clancy novels) Rainbow Six, and look forward to many more weeks of soothing bedtime technobabble.