winterbadger: (pooh tao)
Catching up before the year ends. I've already beaten last year's 21, but I'm nowhere near the desired 50.

The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World by Greg King and Sue Woolmans (26)

The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Muslim Middle Class Is the Key to Defeating Extremism by Vali Nasr (27)

Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding by Hussain Haqqani (28)

In Progress:
The Battle of Midway by Craig L. Symonds
How Can Man Die Better: The Secrets of Isandhlwana Revealed by Mike Snook
Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by MG Julian Thompson
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy
Boer Commando by Denneys Reitz
winterbadger: (pooh tao)
Recently completed

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (6). A re-read of an old favourite. I've gotten to the point that, after maybe half a dozen to a dozen rereadings of this, I don't forget the plot in between :-) and even begin to find the author telegraphing it a bit. But I love the character portraits all the same, and the interaction of the players. Peter Wimsey the clever man playing the fool so as to put other people at their ease; Mervyn Bunter the tireless and loyal servant, firm in command of his employer where he feels he has the prerogative to be so and kindly and affectionate only when he knows it will be unseen and unheard and create no tension in the delicate balance of class and respect and comradeship he shares with Lord Peter. Charles Parker the intelligent, thoughtful, educated man of the middle class, neither filled with inverted snobbery nor lacking the ability to be polite and courteous to those he meets of whatever standing, and fully conscious of his abilities without either deprecating or inflating them. Yes, these are all characters I admire and wish to emulate, each in his own way.

The Korean War by Max Hastings (7). Recorded. A good book, though dated (1987) in some of its comments 'in light of contemporary events'. Hastings is quite an unrepentant British jingoist and Tory, and that shows clearly when he deals with the battle of the Imjin River, where a small British contingent fought a valorous retreat against tremendous odds. A heroic battle, but he devotes about the same amount of time and space to that battle of a few thousand UN troops (which had no tremendous impact on the war) as to the allied landing of 40,000 men at Incheon, one of the pivotal events of the campaign. The voice actor perfectly reproduces the snide sneers that I would expect to hear from Hastings himself, which sort of adds to the entertainment value. :-) The section on POWs (UN and Communist) is fascinating and touches on something that I knew literally nothing about. I'm sure that is comments drawing parallels between Korea and Vietnam and his open-eyed assessment of the US Army's poor performance in Korea raise some hackles, but I think by and large they are quite on point.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (8) Recorded. I enjoyed this a great deal, but the recording I was able to get hold of was, to my dismay, of an abridged version of the book. The third volume of this trilogy, which I heard earlier in the Spring, was 700-some pages printed and 20-some CDs. This was 920 pages in print but only 8 CDs. I really detest the recording of abridged versions of books, but sometimes they are the only version available. To the extent I can gauge from what is left, this is a thorough and comprehensive description of the early part of Roosevelt's life and career, from his birth to his ascent to the presidency on the death of President McKinley.

The sheer drive and determination of Theodore Roosevelt are quite astounding (especially to a slug like me); he was nervous and unhappy when he wasn't working furiously. At the same time, he seems to have had the most amazing polymath personality, being intrigued by and building up an encyclopedic knowledge about everything he encountered from birds to the history and practice of naval warfare, from Classical authors to public administration. He was also a hugely prolific author, though I have to wonder somewhat about the quality of his writing--he once wrote a life of Cromwell in a month, while vacationing. I can't imagine a professional historian feeling he could properly research the life of Oliver Cromwell in a single year, let alone research and write it in a month while sitting on the verandah of a summer house on Long Island.

What's also remarkable (as I may have remarked after finishing Colonel Roosevelt) is how some fo the same issues and patterns of political and social life that were prevalent aroudn the turn of the 19th/20th century are still front and center: the corruption of the electoral process is front and center in this book, as Roosevelt made great use of the machine politicians of his day, who were all funded and at the beck and call of Wall Street corporate interests. Remarkably, he managed to both use them and remain (to some extent) independent and even advocate and push through reforms that would make the election of legislators and the actions of government much less corrupt.

In progress

Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by MG Julian Thompson
The Forever War by Dexter Filkins
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Gentlemen Volunteers: The Story of the American Ambulance Drivers in World War I by Arlen J. Hansen (Some fo COl. Roosevelt's family worked in the American Hospital in Paris, which is mentioned here.)
The Captain From Connecticut by C. S. Forrester (several chapters in; odd to read Forrester wiring about an American)
French Napoleonic Infantry Tactics, 1792-1815 by Paddy Griffith
Enter Jeeves by P.G Wodehouse
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy (Learning all sorts of interesting stuff about the influence of pre-Islamic Persian religion on early Christianity)
Boer Commando by Denneys Reitz
American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years After Yorktown, 1781-1783 by William M. Fowler, Jr.


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