Current Reading: June 2023

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Current Reading: June 2023

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 3, 12:58 pm

Finished The Pig War: Standoff at Griffin Bay by Michael Vouri. The Pig War is a little known confrontation between the United States and Great Britain over an island in Puget Sound that had the (small) possibility of breaking out into a war between the nations. The author is the Chief of Interpretation and Historian at the San Juan Island National Historical Park (that's the island) and the book was published by the local bookstore. It is a quite well done work, thoroughly researched and well written. If you can find a copy, it is worth the read.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 3, 3:45 pm

Just finished Justinian's Wars, a pretty good wargamer's guide type book on Justinian's wars of reconquest in the West. (The war with Persia is not covered.)

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 9:04 pm

Currently about a third of the way through The UNESCO General History of Africa - Volume 3 Seventh to Eleventh Century


kesäkuu 7, 9:29 am

Done with Franco's International Brigade, an account of the Spanish Civil War as filtered through the experiences of the volunteers who thought that they had signed up for a crusade against International Communism. I was on the verge of skipping this work, as it had been hanging around on various reading lists for over five years, but it turned out to be very worthwhile.

kesäkuu 9, 3:57 pm

Completed The Pharaoh's Treasure: The Origin of Paper and the Rise of Western Civilization by John Gaudet. It is all about papyrus and I found it a very interesting book. It starts off with the discoveries in the last few centuries of papyrus scrolls and their meaning, then goes back to ancient times and discusses the growing of papyrus for paper and the four thousand year industry based on it. Later the book looks at the papyrus in Roman and Early Medieval times, till its eventual dying out in first part of the second millennium AD. Finally the book describes current projects to restore some of those ancient texts and bring them to world attention.

As I said, it's a really interesting book and I learned quite of lot from it. The writer is very good at keeping the narrative interesting and flowing.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 15, 8:36 am

Finished Hessians, a new account of the British use of German mercenaries in the American Revolution, which debunks a lot of misconception about these people, besides providing a narrative of their service in this conflict. It's as much social history as it is military history.

kesäkuu 14, 2:59 pm

Finished An Incautious Man: The Life of Gouveneur Morris by Melanie Randolph Miller. A pretty good, if short, look at one of the lesser know Founders. Of particular interest is his time as minister to France during the French Revolution and especially the Reign of Terror.

kesäkuu 17, 11:03 pm

Finished His Majesty's Airship, which applies new studies to explaining the disaster of the R101, besides being willing to forthrightly deal with implications that many, until recently, were not prepared to dwell on.

kesäkuu 18, 11:06 am

>8 Shrike58: I've had that book on my wishlists. I read your review, glad you enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to getting a copy myself. If someone is looking for a good read and some insight on those British, I can recommend Slide Rule by Nevil Shute, his autobiography that covers his life up to 1938. He worked on the R100 and his book also has his views on the R101 disaster.

kesäkuu 21, 8:22 am

I just finished I finished Mission to Moscow, Joseph E. Davies' memoir, sort of, of his two years (1936 through 1938) as U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union. I say "sort of" because the book is not a narrative but a series of journal and diary entries as well as many of Davies' official reports and correspondences with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, President Roosevelt, and other government officials. There is quite a bit of repetition, as sometimes, for example, a report to Hull is immediately followed by a very similar report to Roosevelt. That said, the accumulation of information and insights that Davies provides ends up being pretty interesting for someone (like me) with an interest in the events of this era. Davies was in Moscow, and part of the inner diplomatic circle, during the purge trials and the run-up to World War Two. Interestingly, this book was published in October 1941, just 6 weeks or so before Pearl Harbor.

Davies discusses the state of Soviet industry at the time, based on the many tours he took for that purpose. He was surprised and extremely impressed with how far they'd come so fast since the Revolution.

He spend a good bit of time describing the Purge Trials that took place during his term as ambassador. As the trials progressed, Davies wondered whether the execution of so many high ranking officers would cause the Red Army to turn against Stalin, but concluded in the end that the Stalin administration had instead cemented its power quite effectively. Davies also tells us that many in the Diplomatic Corps (in other words, other countries' ambassadors to Russia) concluded that many of the defendants were probably actually guilty. Davies describes a period of "terror" in which the arrests and executions numbered into the tens of thousands, and reached from the highest levels of military and government down onto the factory floor.

Davies reports on the Soviet government's increasing frustration with Neville Chamberlain's appeasement politics towards Germany and their eventual outrage when they are left out of the negotiations that led to the infamous Munich Agreement. In fact, according to Davies, the Russians had been prepared to come to the aid of the Czechs militarily (as per the mutual defense treaty the had with Czechoslovakia and France). From the Munich Agreement, says Davies, the Soviets concluded that England and France were willing to give away Eastern Europe to Hitler in order to keep from being attacked themselves, and were probably willing to let Russia have to take on Hitler by themselves. This led them to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact that would allow them to at least forestall a German attack.

Believe it or not, I've posted a longer review on my Club Read thread.

kesäkuu 21, 4:25 pm

Finished Pipe Clay and Drill: John J. Pershing, the Classic American Soldier by Richard Goldhurst. Published in 1977, it is a fairly thorough look at Pershing, as well as the American military at the time, and also a look at the political realities experienced by Pershing during his time in Cuba, the Philippines, Mexico and Europe, the latter during WW1. The author is somewhat opinionated and gives his own interpretation on events, but not to a degree that discouraged me from finishing the book.

kesäkuu 22, 6:21 pm

From the library: The Secret Lives of Royal Women by Marlene Wagman-Geller
Short biographies of 36 famous/infamous royals around the world.

kesäkuu 24, 1:07 am

Finished an excellent Day of the Rangers: The Battle of Mogadishu 25 Years On by Leigh Neville. As the author notes, this book was not intended to be Black Hawk Down 2.0, instead it has a more complete view of not only the two days of the battle, but also the military and political events leading up to as well as the aftermath. It is also a military historian's view rather than that of a reporter. There are extensive quotes from the participants with the author's narrative seeking to tie together the individual views. There is also an excellent final chapter on lessons learned and post mission controversies. There are three appendices covering weapons and equipment, a discussion of the accuracy and inaccuracies of the film versus the actual events and finally the full Joint Operations Center Operations Log giving a good timeline of events. Finally there are several color photograph inserts which also include three maps. Highly recommended.

kesäkuu 26, 6:48 am

Finished The Beauty and the Terror, a reasonably good general history of the Italian Wars; still probably not the best book for the general reader coming to the subject cold. The content is fine, but as an examination of the transition between the late medieval and the early modern I'm not quite sure Fletcher has the right focus. I will bet that the average reader is not going to be interested in the interminable Valois-Hapsburg dynastic contest.

kesäkuu 26, 4:39 pm

Completed Target: America: Hitler's Plan to Attack the United States by James P. Duffy. Not a bad book, it has some interesting items I'd never heard about, but the plethora of of small errors makes the reader wonder if there might be larger ones as well. At least it is a short and fast reading book.

kesäkuu 29, 10:52 pm

>8 Shrike58: I got a copy of His Majesty's Airship on Kindle and just finished it. It is reasonably good, but the author is not a subject matter expert and it shows in a number of small but annoying errors. Also his tendency to over-dramatize the difficulties of hydrogen was annoying to me as someone who worked with hydrogen for over three decades. Finally, as the Amazon page description puts it, the book supposedly focused on "...the doomed love story between an ambitious British officer and a married Romanian Princess at its heart". There really wasn't much of that, thank goodness, I suspect the advertising spin was put in there to get more readership. Overall there was a lot of good stuff in the book, but it could have been better with a more alert copy editor and maybe a proof read by someone with more technical background in the subject.

kesäkuu 30, 8:28 am

>16 jztemple: I can agree with your overview. Even if the romance angle is relevant to why Thomson started a political career, it had little to do with why the man got on the R101 for that one-way trip.

kesäkuu 30, 8:33 am

The last book for this month is The Origin of Empire, a gallop through Roman history from the First Punic War to the zenith of empire. Potter offers a lot of insights, but I get the impression that too much was attempted in one book. The question is also begged that if you're going to write about the rise and zenith of empire, are you going to write about the fall?

kesäkuu 30, 9:19 am

Finished One Faith, One Law, One King, a wargamer's guide to the French Wars of Religion. It's got its quirks, but basically time we'll spent.