winterbadger: (books)
Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 by Lynne Olson (18) I need to come back and give this a proper review later, but it's another excellent book about America in the 1930s, which has broadened my appreciation of the politics and society of that period and provided more material for my ever-changing impressions of FDR. Like Blackett's War, this is not truly centered exclusively on its titular protagonists, as the action covers a much wider sweep of American and European personalities than even these two larger than life men constitute. As have many books I've encountered in the last few years, it gives me a pang of longing for something now long-dead, the liberal, progressive wing of the Republican Party, featuring as it does the few remaining hangers-on to the ideals of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, among whom I think Wendell Wilkie (a man I knew almost nothing about before encountering him in this book) should be numbered.

Wobble to Death and The Detective Wore Silk Drawers by Peter Lovesey (19) and (20) Two of a series of novels about a police detective in Victorian London. I remember seeing several of these stories televised in the 1980s. They're all right, but not great; they feature murders set in two of the popular sports of the time: long-distance competitive walking and (illegal) bare-knuckle boxing. I'm still trying to drag out of memory what the other detective series by a modern author set in the Victorian era was, since this wasn't it.

The Dragon Scroll by I.J. Parker (22) A detective novel of Heian-era (11th century) Japan. I'd read a selection of one story online and bought up a couple of copies of Parker's series cheaply on the strength of it. I'm glad that they were very cheap, as I find from closer acquaintance that not only is her style heavily dependent on that of Robert van Gulik (who she credits as her inspiration), but her writing is not very good and (this novel, at least) filled with attitudes, behaviours, and physical culture that seem entirely out of place in Japan, let alone medieval Japan. Most of her characters sound and act very much like modern Western people, which is highly disappointing.

Children of Jihad: A Young American's Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East by Jared Cohen (23) A travelogue by an American postgraduate student wandering through the Middle East, meeting and interviewing young people in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Considering that the author had traveled through some pretty hairy parts of central Africa and was a Rhodes Scholar in international relations at Oxford, he seems to have been remarkably, astonishingly naïve and ill-informed about the places he went during the course of researching this book. That he parlayed his experiences into a job on the US State Department's policy planning staff and advisor to two Secretaries of State is even more amazing. Despite his quite remarkable lack of understanding of the places he went and the people he encountered, his book is nonetheless quite interesting and enjoyable, both for the insights it provides into popular culture and political discourse among young people in a pivotal region, but also for the simple human interactions he engages in with ordinary people throughout the region.

In progress:

Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by Julian Thompson
Berlin Diary by William Shirer
Shinju by Laura Joh Rowland
Queen Victoria's Book of Spells Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

So true

Oct. 5th, 2013 03:32 pm
winterbadger: (Default)

"There are always people in graveyards, no matter the time of night." Lord Peter Wimsey, sounding a bit like Neil Gaiman

winterbadger: (books2)
51/50: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. I quite enjoyed Chabon's short novel "Gentlemen of the Road", so I decided to give this novel a try. I am glad that I did; it's a detective story set in an alternative history, a rather noir-ish read with quite entertaining and engaging characters. Ach, I seem to always end up with the same descriptors, and I feel as if my reviews end up being bland and recapitulative. But there's nothing bland about this tale of a man trying to pursue the truth in a murder case that no one seems to care about in a city that's rapidly approaching something very like its own death. The various layers of cultural, religious, and historical reference (including those to a timeline the reader glimpses mostly through allusion) delighted me; I was able to savour forgotten bits of Yiddish, half-remembered bits of mysticism or ritual, and the author's elegant blending of our reality with the creation of his mind.

52/50: Amateurs, To Arms! A Military History Of The War Of 1812 by John Elting. Colonel Elting was a truly gifted military historian, and his history of this early war shows both his exhaustive scholarship and his talent for colourful and accessible prose. That's what I appreciate so much about him--although he did his homework very carefully and had a thoroughgoing grasp of the historiography of any subject he engaged, his writing still gives the effect of a conversation with a seasoned old soldier. Not dumbed down, not simplified, but informed by a familiarity with army life and custom that someone who approaches military subjects without personal experience will not be able to convey. True to it's subtitle, the book gives good descriptions of all the war's military campaigns and the affairs of government that connected them without going far into the politics or diplomacy of the conflict. I've a number of other books on the war that I picked up this autumn, but I know I'll be coming back to this one for help in understanding the operations and battles and for the sheer pleasure of reading the good colonel's writing.
winterbadger: (books2)
Short summaries of a few more books I've read lately.Read more... )

Profile

winterbadger: (Default)
winterbadger

April 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
910111213 1415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 11:27 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios