This is good basic introduction to the First World War. Keegan mostly describes the war at the strategic level, looking at large operations and the maThis is good basic introduction to the First World War. Keegan mostly describes the war at the strategic level, looking at large operations and the masses of armies brought to the front. For someone who had little knowledge of the war going in, this was a quite sound way to get a handle on such an epic event. Keegan keeps that war on a solid narrative and gave some insights into why the war started (short version: in the immortal words of Blackadder, it was too much trouble not to have a war).
If the book has a failing, it's that it gives short shrift to the Eastern Front, in my opinion. While the war was ultimately decided on the Western Front, millions died on other fronts and it is not told in nearly the same detail. The Ottoman Empire's role in the war is described briefly in their disastrous Caucasus campaign and the Gallipoli campaign. But their collapse in Mesopotamia is barely covered at all. You contrast the almost clinical approach to the Eastern Front with the horrific descriptions of wounded soldiers slowly drowning to death in artillery craters at the Third Ypres and you'd have a hard time believing they were the same book. (Part of this is because the Western Front was much more massively documented than the Eastern Front). I also felt more attention could have been paid to the millions of civilians who died away from the fronts and the experience of a typical soldier. So ... my biggest criticism of the book is that it's too short.
Still, this is a great way to start out a study of the war. Looking forward to learning more....more
While not as stunning as her "Gulag", this is still an excellent accounting of how the Iron Curtain was created and what it entailed. It is a rebuke tWhile not as stunning as her "Gulag", this is still an excellent accounting of how the Iron Curtain was created and what it entailed. It is a rebuke to the revisionist historians who try to pretend that the Iron Curtain was "not that bad" or that it was created as a response to "Western aggression". Applebaum details, point by point, based on first-hand interviews and documents, how the creation of the Iron Curtain was planned within the Soviet Union; how they put their own people in place throughout Eastern Europe; how they tried to destroy every institution other than the State. She also gets into why so few people resisted, at least until after the death of Stalin.
My main complain with the book is that is sort of trails off after the end of high Stalinism. The revolutions in Budapest and Prague are covered in very scant detail and then almost nothing past 1956 is discussed. I realize that's not the focus of her book, but I would like to have seen a lot more about how the Iron Curtain was maintained for the next 35 years.
Still, an excellent and thorough history and another reminder of just how thoroughly evil Communism was....more
Wright's book is a very thorough look at the history and practice of Scientology and details many of the rumors and stories we have heard over the yeaWright's book is a very thorough look at the history and practice of Scientology and details many of the rumors and stories we have heard over the years. It goes in depth on Hubbard's life and the early days of scientology and covers the extensive involvement of celebrities. Some of what it details is disturbing, including allegations of abuse by its current leader and the excesses of the Sea Org. Wright gives the Church a chance to respond. They also have a website where they "debunk" the book with extremely lame nattering about details; some of the more sensational allegations are basically unchallenged. This sounds like muck-raking,but it really isn't. At various points, Wright compares the Church to other religions, to see if what they are doing is really that far out there.
What interests Wright is not so much "smearing" the church (to use their words) but asking why people are so devoted to it, especially celebrities. For celebrities, the answer is clear: they are pampered and revered by the Church, treated almost like deities. If they so much as sneeze, a Sea Org member is there with a hankie. It's not quite as strong when it gets into why the rank and file are so devoted. Wright dismisses the idea of brainwashing (appropriately, in my opinion). He concentrates on Scientology's practice of disconnection and the answers they seem to give people. He hints at what I think is the important point: that people tend to find Scientology when they are in a moment of crisis and it seems to give them the order and purpose they need. There is a long history of research into why people join cults but Wright doesn't really get into that.
Anyway, it's a fair-minded look. Much more fair-minded than I could be about it. I recommend it....more
A quick read, but a really good one about the hijacking boom of the late 60's and early 70's. It looks at the problem in general -- how it arose, howA quick read, but a really good one about the hijacking boom of the late 60's and early 70's. It looks at the problem in general -- how it arose, how it was dealt with. But the heart of the book is the story of Willie Holder and Cathy Krekow, who seized a jet and flew to Algeria and mostly got away with it, becoming favorites among the Paris elite and minor celebrities. The book goes deep into the mind of Willie Holder, who pretended to be a radical but was really just a disturbed Vietnam War Vet with delusions of grandeur. The really interesting part of the book is the look into 60's-70's radicalism when such figures as Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver were hailed as heroes....more
Even though it's five years old, this is probably the most important book you will ever read about 9/11. It only has a small section on the actual attEven though it's five years old, this is probably the most important book you will ever read about 9/11. It only has a small section on the actual attack. The bulk of the book is about the rise of Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and the frustrating bureaucratic rules that kept key information away from the people who might have prevented the attack. The CIA does not come off well in this portrayal.
Having read it, I feel I have a good read on Osama bin Laden. Without him, the Jihadists would probably still be killing each other and blowing up their own countries. It was he who united them and pointed their guns at the West. Even though it was ten years later, his death was a critical blow to Islamic terrorism. But it also paints a broad picture of him that demonstrates what he really was: a charismatic ideology-addled rich kid who devoted himself to a radical ideal even he could not live up to but persuaded stupid young men to sacrifice themselves. bin Laden believed in a system that reduced women to little more that possessions and forbad any pleasures, especially Western ones. But he married educated women, one of whom had a doctorate, he educated his daughters, played video games with his sons and listened to Western music. His beliefs were so absurd, even he rejected them in his life. It's astonishing that only a few people realized just how dangerous and evil he was.
The most frustrating part of the book is the prelude to 9/11, when the CIA had the information that could have spoiled the plot, but refused to share it with the FBI because of "the wall" and their pathological secrecy. Why on Earth Ali Soufan was not made head of our anti-terrorism efforts boggles the mind....more
A fantastic and exhaustive examination of the Mary Phagan case. The author is objective and fair, not taking sides in one of the most important eventsA fantastic and exhaustive examination of the Mary Phagan case. The author is objective and fair, not taking sides in one of the most important events in Southern history. I grew up hearing stories about the Mary Phagan case -- and interested was rekindled with the Alonzo Mann statement. Now I feel like I know all that can be known about this terrible event.
Highly recommended for anyone interesting in American history....more
One of the best history books I've read. Applebaum is relentless in unmasking the horror of the Soviet Union. Should be required reading, especially fOne of the best history books I've read. Applebaum is relentless in unmasking the horror of the Soviet Union. Should be required reading, especially for those nitwit apologists for communism....more