Sunday book group?

Is it too late to open a post for those who are interested in discussing books today?  I couldn’t get to my computer earlier, because of family commitments and those same commitments preclude my posting anything substantive today.

I’m willing to bet, though, that many of you are reading something interesting that you’d like to talk about.  If not, just consider this a late-in-the-day Open Thread.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Oldflyer

    Not quite to the point you were aiming for Book; but, I am still trying to read “Decision Points”.  I told my wife that there are several problems with contemporary books.  Or maybe the problems is just mine.  Still, here goes.  For someone who follows events and news, there is seldom anything really new.  Then the author does the book tour, and the high lights are discussed endlessly.  Finally, someone like “Bushey”  (I called him that before I knew it was Laura’s pet name for him.) doesn’t really want to hurt feelings, so his comments about individuals are pretty bland.
    I feel disloyal.  I really admire, (is love too strong?) and I want to read his book.  But, it is a struggle.
    I do want to read Rumsfeld.
    Another problem is Kindle.  I really like my Kindle for travel, where its advantages are obvious.  But, I don’t really enjoy reading from it as much as from a printed page.  One problem that crops us occasionally is that it loses its place–althought it isn’t supposed to.  Another thing I haven’t figured out is how to skip back and find something.  I know there are different mechanisms for marking places and entering notes, if you know you want to.
    As far as reading, I am mostly doing my usual mystery trash.  I did download the new Robert Crais book because there is a lengthy waiting list at the library.  I love Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.  I see a lot of me in Pike.  Ha! Ha!  He is the antithesis of me.

  • Bookworm


    To all of which I say, “amen!”  In an information-rich world, fact-based books always seem a bit behind the times.  I think that’s why Bush framed his book around an idea — turning points — rather than a chronological narrative.  But still, a lot of it is redundant.  (Which is worrisome for me, since I’m putting together my posts in book form, but I’ll plow ahead anyway.)

    As for Kindle, I agree with that too.  I’m hoping to treat myself to an iPad soon, and that may have a different reading experience than the Kindle, because the interface is more attractive (and flexible).

  • Danny Lemieux

    Still can’t say enough about 11B40’s recommended “Comanches: The History of a People” by T.R. Fehrenbach
    Also, if you like military history and great action novels…anything by Bernard Cornwell. “Agincourt” is a great way to start. If you start the “Sharpe” series, you will be hooked for a long time.

  • Bookworm

    Ditto to the Sharpe series, Danny.  I loved those books.  I liked the Agincourt books too, but not quite as much.

  • Pingback: Bugs Bunny and Friends: Animation Cel Painting Book Reviews | Animation Cels For Sale()

  • Oldflyer

    Danny & Book,  I loved Cornwell’s “Arthur Books” and to a lesser extent the Saxon Chronicles.  I have read a couple of the Sharpe series, but just don’t connect with them.  Guess I need to try them once again, after such a prestigious recommendation.

  • kali

    Ever see the BBC presentation of the Sharpe series?
    Sean Bean. Sigh.
    Even if they did stick some weird little pc bits in, and the massive army of Napoleon was one skinny column marching up and down the same defile again and again, it was still great fun.

  • Tonestaple

    It’s never too late for a book thread.  Never.

    Here are some recs:

    Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag by Armando Valladares.  It was brought to mind by this post over at Bloodthirsty Liberal.

    Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman.  It was brought to mind by this which I have been trying to make myself listen to for about two weeks now.  It’s interesting to note that Jim Jones has a bit of a lisp.

    A couple I’m looking forward to:

    A Desert Called Peace by Tom Kratman.  This was recommended by somebody over at Ace of Spades.  I read Caliphate last year and really enjoyed it.

    Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary  Not sure where I saw this but it’s certainly an interesting concept.

    And what I’m reading right now is The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.  It’s SF with time travel and people jumping into books and it just seems like good clean fun.

  • 11B40

    Greetings:   especially M. Lemieux  (glad you liked “Comanches”.)
    I am currently reading “Crucible of War: The Seven Years War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766” by Fred Anderson
    Once I got through the possibly longest subtitle in history, I really enjoyed the book.  I grew up in the Bronx and my father and I spent a two week vacation one year visiting a lot of the French and Indian War geography, so I had a bit of an emotional recall.  The time frames of the battling seem staggeringly long compared to nowadays, but the author interweaves the goings-on worldwide very well. His introductory premise was that the war should not be looked upon as some kind of precursor of the American Revolution but some of his telling slips into that common approach.
    What struck me as new was the all the economic and political interests of the historically important individuals. Apparently, land speculators were the “rapine” capitalists of the day and as rapine capitalists do, they penetrated government offices and used them to their own benefit.  Also of interest was the colonists “contractual” view of their relationships with the British military and the amount of abuse that they felt they suffered in that regard.  I was also somewhat unaware of the non-French and Indian breadth of the conflict.  The European, Caribbean, African, and Indian aspects of the war was a bit of a surprise.  The author quotes a lot from letters and journals of the day reinforcing the old adage about the British and americans being separated by a common language.

  • Charles Martel

    “Also of interest was the colonists ‘contractual’ view of their relationships with the British military and the amount of abuse that they felt they suffered in that regard.”

    I wonder if colonials’ resentments over that abuse lingered long enough to help pave the way to outright rebellion in 1776?

  • Danny Lemieux

    11B40, I liked that book, too.
    Amazing, that a world war was launched when a Delaware Indian took a tomahawk to the head of a French emissary in the presence of an inexperienced British officer by the name of George Washington.
    I really enjoyed the Sharpe’s series but the TV series was pretty lame. The stories were focused on a fictional Richard Sharpe but the real story was about the Duke of Wellington. The TV series could not do there series credit – it was too epic and would have cost a fortune. I once lived close to the Waterloo battlefield and it was fun to revisit the sites (not cites) by satellite as I followed the book’s recount of the battle.

  • JKB

    I just finished The Big Change: America Transforms Itself 1900-1950 by Allen, Frederick Lewis (1952)  The author, the editor of Harper’s, addresses the social, political and economic changes that occurred to transform America from that of the JP Morgan to the one we now enjoy.  The increased awareness of Americans in the plight of their fellow citizen over the first two decades created fertile ground for the welfare state.  It as also the time when our ability to incrementally change permitted the US to avoid Marxism — “not by dogma, but by the logic of advanced industrialism itself; or, to put it another way, by capitalism turned to democratic ends.”
    The book also introduced me to Sumner Slichter, an economist, and the idea that by 1950 there was no free enterprise in the US but rather, “government guided enterprise” in that the government defined the minimum wage, conditions, and for a time the maximum wage, the prices, etc. for enterprises.  We got a bit of a reprieve with Reagan and deregulation.
    If you think about it, you’ll see that the Left is still fighting the battles of the 1920s in labor and in the hopes for socialism.  They still yearn for trollies, for trains and an America where the urban centers distinctly superior to the hicks out on the farm.  The book tied together a lot of things.  The author observed in 1950 that when we discuss capitalism, socialism and the way of life, America and Europeans seem to have in mind a time long past.  If you observe the events in Wisconsin, we still see the same rhetoric trapped in time.
    I can’t help but wonder if we are not at or in another big change now that the social awareness change of the early 20th century has now run its course to the unsustainable welfare state we now have.
    The Archive version is missing 4 pages in the description of the 1950s but they aren’t critical.  The book is also available from Amazon.

  • 11B40

    Greetings:   especially M. Martel
    I think that what you surmise is one of the problems I had with the author’s introductory premise about not viewing the French and Indian War as an origination or precursor to our Revolution.
    The British versus colonist military relationship suffered from several strains which underwent modifications during the War.  Originally, all colonial officers, regardless of rank, were subordinate to British officers.  A British lieutenant would be considered and would consider himself superior to a colonial major. (Not that most lieutenants all over the world don’t consider themselves superior to majors.  Hell, there are some lieutenants that even consider themselves superior to sergeants; even 11B40s.)  Similarly, among the enlisted colonials, was the feeling that British “regulars” were “slaves” to their officers.  Those colonials usually enlisted for only one year and expected to be discharged at its end.  That didn’t always suit the Britishers needs.  Once William Pitt took over as Prime Minister, and subsequent to a number of French victories, those policies were modified to ameliorate the colonials problems.  But, certainly there were continuing frictions between the colonials and their less class-based culture and the British military culture.
    And, obviously, one George Washington was there and in a good bit of it.

  • Bookworm

    Tonestaple:  I love Jasper Fforde’s book.  His imagination his outstanding, and his word play over the top.  I recommend every single book he’s written.

  • Charles Martel

    “Hell, there are some lieutenants that even consider themselves superior to sergeants; even 11B40s.”


    Thanks for the response and explanation, 11B40.  

  • Charles

    Three current books: Decision Points by George Bush, Known and Unknown by Don Rumsfeld, and Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleeza Rice. 

    Yes, Oddflyer, like you I have found that most fact-based contempory books are, as Book said, “behind the times.” 

    However, I find for me it helps if I change my attitude when reading them. I read them, not for something new or “give me the dirt of what you really think of the people you worked with;” rather, I read them to see how that person wants his or her legacy to be seen.  I think this is very true of Decision Points.  Here Bush was finally having his say as to why he did what he did.  I feel that it was written not for us contempories; but, rather, it is written for future generations.  I find that having that notion before I start reading helps to make it a better read. (I do hope that the above paragraph makes sense?!)

    I found Decision Points a rather quick read.  Don Rumsfeld’s book, Known and Unknown, on the other hand, is a long 700+ pages.  I found myself skimming several pages, even chapters.  But, here again, with my attitude that he isn’t going to tell me anything new I enjoyed it more.  I did learn one thing from his book – man, is he ever detail-oriented.  That’s one reason for the book to be so long; he needs to tell the reader every last detail!  Oh, that and the fact that he served under several presidents too. 😉

    As for Condoleeza Rice’s book, Extraordinary, Ordinary People. I did learn a lot about her family that I didn’t know before.  While I had a lot of respect for her and still do, I have a lot less for her after reading her book.  Why?  Because so much of what she “accomplished” was actually a result of affirmative action.  For example, she was Provost at Stanford because Stanford at the time was trying to show that they encouraged minorities to apply there.  She gave the school a “two-fer” being both Black and female.  Then she wasn’t even Provost the whole time that she held the title.  She was out for two “leaves-of-absent” while she was working for the government.  That means someone else had to do the work that she was credited for.  Granted she did do a lot, but her race and gender played a big part in her getting promotions.  While I still have a lot of respect for her, I learned a lot about opportunities that she was given that many middle-class whites would not be given. And I think she does deserve credit for being honest about that.

    Two, not so recent, history books that I have read are both by Frederick Taylor – Dresden: Tuesday, Feb 13, 1945 and The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989. Both books challenge some “standard” ideas of both events in world history; Dresden, especially challenges the standard narrative of ‘The Allies wanted revenge.”  By pulling research from East German archives Taylor shows that the firebombing of Dresden wasn’t intended to be worse than other German cities it is just that everything worked out perfectly to be worse than the allied bombers had with other cities.

    On a lighter note, here are two other books that I will recommend:  Waiter Rant and Keep the Change by Steve Dublanca. Both books look at the world of service staff.  Read Waiter Rant first as that was his first book, then enjoy Keep the Change.

    And thanks everyone for some great book suggestions!

  • GadgetGirl

    I’m a daily reader, but this is the first time I took the trouble to register so I could comment. Love the book thread.
    I’m re-reading the Flashman books by George MacDonald Fraser; I don’t have all of them, but I recently finished the first in the series, Flashman (the rogue’s adventures in Afghanistan as the British army made its disastrous withdrawal). I don’t have Flash for Freedom, which is the “hero’s” adventures as a slave trader, and takes place partly in the United States. Right now I’m finishing up Flashman at the Charge, which sees old Harry at Balaclava and then as a POW in Russia.
    These books are much more than entertainment, for Fraser clearly did his homework about the historical events he describes (his footnotes written tongue in cheek, are illuminating and point to some of the classic historical writings including personal accounts).
    Fraser wrote other things as well. His account of his army experiences in Burma — Quartered Safe Out Here — is poignant and sometimes funny. He also wrote about the Scottish border wars (The Steel Bonnets). Shortly before his death, a long opinion piece on the present dangers to Western civilization made the rounds of the internet. His hard-headed realism was much appreciated. I wish I could have met him.

  • David Foster

    Charles/Dresden…there’s a German made-for-tv movie about the bombing of Dresden; I thought it was actually quite good on balance. My review is here.

  • Ymarsakar

    Away to the darkness, cowardly offspring, where out of hatred
    Eurotas does not flow even for timorous deer.
    Useless pup, worthless portion, away to Hell.
    Away! This son unworthy of Sparta was not mine at all.
    —Anonymous saying attributed to a Spartan Mother
    Reading Troy Uprising number 3 by John Ringo. The first one was a fun adventure. The sequels were more city builders, that is the usual pattern for Ringo.

  • Ymarsakar

    I wonder if colonials’ resentments over that abuse lingered long enough to help pave the way to outright rebellion in 1776?

    It probably made them extremely resentful of quartering, at cost, British troops, while suffering British taxation.

    The quartering issue was a big one for the propaganda mill. Made even bigger by the fact that the Americans didn’t consider British troops “theirs”.

  • David Foster

    More reading..
    Reading “The Tizard Mission,” by Stephen Phelps…it’s about the exchange of scientific information, mainly having to do with radar technology, between Britain and America during WWII. One of the critical decisions made by British leadership in late 1940…before the US was in the war…was to share with America the secret of the cavity magnetron, now a garden-variety device (you have one in your microwave oven) but then a new technology critical to the development of airborne radar and improved submarine detection. The combination of this British invention with American production expertise was critical to winning the war in significantly less time than it would otherwise have taken.

  • David Foster

    I second Gadget Girl’s recommendation of the Flashman novels…they are funny as heck, and clearly very carefully historically researched. There are also occasional passages that are very serious and insightful.
    The other book GG mentioned, “Quartered Safe Out Here,” is usefully read with “Defeat into Victory,” written by the general who was overall commander in Burma. Taken together, the two books provide a view of the same campaign from the bottom level and the top level.

  • Sgt. Mom

    I can chime in with David Foster and Gadget Girl for recommending the Flashman series – they are hysterically funny and very well researched. Quartered Safe Out Here is also excellent – but don’t forget the cycle of McAuslan/O’Neill stories: a young officer in a Scottish regiment just after WWII, stationed in North Africa and in Scotland. The General Danced at Dawn, McAuslan in the Rough, and The Sheik and the Dustbin. The one book that GM Fraser didn’t write and I so wish that he would have – was of Flashman’s adventures in our Civil War, where he wound up fighting on both sides. There were hints about this all during the other Flashman books. And on Danny L.’s recommendation – I have just put TR Fehrenbach’s Comanches on my wish-list. He is a terrific writer (kind of a dull person in person, or so say people I know who have met him!) who ought to be better known.