An engaging and informative history of fitness and fitness culture in the US. Spanning from the nineteenth-century circus strongmen to the presen-day...moreAn engaging and informative history of fitness and fitness culture in the US. Spanning from the nineteenth-century circus strongmen to the presen-day fitness trends, the author hones in on some of the key figures and inventions that changed the fitness landscape. I really enjoyed the 1930s-1950s era of Muscle Beach, California, and then back stories of some of the ubiquitous equipment found in every gym, like the elliptical, the cable machines, etc. (less)
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
4.5 stars - rounded up
A st...more"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
4.5 stars - rounded up
A strong semi-autobiographical narrative surrounding events in Houston, 1968. The book is constructed around two families, one black and one white, in deeply divided Texas during the Civil Rights movement. Long relates the story of his father, a white news reporter, who befriends a professor at Texas Southern University and a civil rights activist, on the eve of a race riot in Houston.
A powerful story, only docked slightly in my rating because I felt a hint of the "white savior" device in the final scenes of the book - hard to ignore, even despite the true story. That being said, is is a wonderful addition to civil rights literature. (less)
Savodnik does something extraordinary in "The Interloper". He removes the conspiracy theories, the sensationalism, and the hearsay, and discusses Lee Harvey Oswald in context of his itinerant and unstable early life, his early predilections of anger and violence, his lacking education / intellectual development, and his fervent desire to go to the USSR to join "The Cause".
Oswald's early life is briefly discussed, with heavy emphasis on family and friends' testimonies from the 1964 Warren Commission after the assassination. Oswald's own diary also provides a look into his conscience from an early age, including his brief stint in the Marines, where he solidified his desire to move/defect to the USSR after decommission.
What we find is a man strong in his convictions (irrational as they are), going so far as to renounce US citizenship, and then be in a diplomatic limbo for months as the Soviet government and the KGB decided what this American was doing in their country. When his Soviet citizenship application is denied, Oswald went so far as attempting suicide in his hotel room, ensuring that he would be admitted to a hospital to lengthen his stay. His antics, by some means, worked, and he was granted resident status (though never citizenship) and shipped off to Minsk, in modern Belarus, where he was given a tenement flat, and a job as a welder/metal worker at a radio factory. By Oswald's estimation, his plan had worked, and it was just a matter of time before his citizenship was granted. What he did not realize (perhaps ever...) was that each person around him, his co-workers, his friends, even his lovers, were largely plants, informing on his every move to the KGB.
One of the things that really struck me - having known so little about this before reading the book - was just how misinformed Oswald was about the USSR at that time. He had grand Bolshevik notions, but this was post-Stalin, and Khrushchev was meeting with President Nixon - although they're dealings can't be described as "friendly", it was slightly warmer than Stalinist USSR. In other words, Oswald was desperately behind the times, about 30-40 years late for his grand Marxist revolution, and instead, he found a Soviet nation that was very different than what he had dreamed.
The impulsive man who so quickly fled to Russia saying that he hated the US, returned only 3 years later (in 1962) - now with a wife and a child. His anger and his disappointment fueled his actions afterward, which included a failed assassination attempt on a General, an attempt to defect to Cuba and join Fidel Castro, and finally, a brief "settling down" period where he took a job at a Book Depository in Dallas - the same building from which he shot JFK in November 1963.
I liked that the book focused specifically on Oswald's time in the USSR, and the brief periods before and after. Focusing on this time period, and looking into Oswald's psyche through his own words, his nature is evident. Only in the epilogue does Savodnik discuss some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination, and possible links to Soviet intelligence agencies, etc.
The style is crisp and journalistic with little nuance and conjecture - very readable and enjoyable. I had a hard time putting this down.
A strong historical synthesis of Jefferson, and his complex relationship with the institution of slavery. The 1990s saw a lot of new research on this...moreA strong historical synthesis of Jefferson, and his complex relationship with the institution of slavery. The 1990s saw a lot of new research on this topic after the discovery of genetic links between the Jeffersons and the Hemmings, one of the premiere "house slave" families at Monticello. The book does cover this topic, but it is not the central theme, but instead focuses on the great dichotomy between the slaves at Monticello, Jefferson's vacillations between slave holder and emancipator (he was never an abolitionist), and the economic workings of the plantation. Jefferson at home - a domestic history.
Jefferson had no qualms about tearing families apart (selling a wife/mother, father, children), violently punishing slaves for minor infractions, and employing very harsh quarter masters to enforce rules. At the same time, he greatly favored some of the slave families, to the point of education, and allowing them to buy their own freedom. One of the most tragic and telling stories relating to the stark favoritism was about a complete family (husband, wife, and children) who all die within weeks of each other of a mysterious illness - it is conjectured that this favored family was poisoned by other slaves.
After reading this one, I need to schedule another trip to Charlottesville...(less)
Crosby has written a solid history of 3 events in yellow fever history, one leading to the other.
1) the Mississippi Valley yellow fever epidemic of 18...moreCrosby has written a solid history of 3 events in yellow fever history, one leading to the other.
1) the Mississippi Valley yellow fever epidemic of 1878 (she focuses primarily on Memphis, the hardest hit area) and the forensics that studied how the disease was carried to Memphis via a steamer that eluded quarantine in New Orleans. Also successive cases that plagued the southern US (and even northern areas in warm summer months) and the need for research into what was causing this disease.
2) the US Army's Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba, and the scientists that worked to prove the mosquito as vector theory proposed by Carlos Finlay twenty years earlier. Chief among the scientists was Walter Reed. (I enjoyed her short biographical sketch of Reed - someone I knew very little about, despite years of working down the street from the hospital that bore his name...) While several of the scientists and medical volunteers succumbed to the disease (or later complications from the disease) it is clear that the work done at the dawn of the 20th-century forever changed medical history.
3) the after-effects: prevention through public health information, public works implementation, urban planning and sanitation, finding a vaccine, an African origin point, and the looming threat of viral mutation/adaptation and more yellow fever cases worldwide (including a 2002 case of a south Texas man).
The book was fascinating, both in its cultural and scientific history. I learned a lot from the stories and accounts of the doctors in the Yellow Fever Commission, and the discussion of medical ethics in that time, e.g. vivisection, patient consent, and medical "martyrs" who gave their lives for scientific progress. An interesting quote from Crosby (page 223): "I can think of no other disease that killed so many scientists studying it."
My 4-star rating is more of a 4.5 or 4.75 - there were a few instances when Crosby's melodramatic style was too much for me. Her section and chapter endings are over-the-top. I can almost hear the organ music or the Twilight Zone music fading in. (One that particularly stood out was "Then, the prey turned on the predator." *Dun Dun Duuuunnn*) But it was easy to just roll my eyes and continue reading...
Highly recommended if you are interested in medical and scientific history, the Spanish-American War, Caribbean/Latin American studies, and/or public health. (less)
Disappointed in the style of this book (the author rambled on and on about things that had ZERO relation to his overall topic), but there were still s...moreDisappointed in the style of this book (the author rambled on and on about things that had ZERO relation to his overall topic), but there were still some valuable tidbits of information for my research. (less)
Solid contextual piece for the Central American wars and skirmishes during the late 19th and early 20th-century. Chapters focus primarily on Nicaragua...moreSolid contextual piece for the Central American wars and skirmishes during the late 19th and early 20th-century. Chapters focus primarily on Nicaragua and Honduras, although Guatemala and El Salvador come into play.(less)
Watch as a rich and compelling history is turned into a snooze fest!
If this book consisted of the first three chapters alone, it would be 3 or 4 star...moreWatch as a rich and compelling history is turned into a snooze fest!
If this book consisted of the first three chapters alone, it would be 3 or 4 star material. It is evident that much more research and time went into piecing those chapters together. So, is the writer or the editor at fault? Maybe both. The author seriously spent an entire chapter on the dangers of banana-peel slipping on urban sidewalks. If she had painted it in a larger context, or if the writing had been better, she (maybe) could have pulled it off.
The writing style is encyclopaedic, but if you are looking for facts, you will find them; however, if you are looking for something a little higher on the "interestingness" scale, there are probably better options. (less)