TL;DR version: Offers insight, but is not science and becomes a preachy old geezer at the end.
Referenced many times by military historians I enjoy reaTL;DR version: Offers insight, but is not science and becomes a preachy old geezer at the end.
Referenced many times by military historians I enjoy reading, On Killing starts on an academic footing and caught my attention with statistics that tell a story about the historical willingness to kill in combat. And I still recommend it for offering at least some insight into a soldier's mind leading up to and following the order to kill. Yet there is an asterisk to my recommendation, as it becomes increasingly clear that the book is largely agenda-driven (understandably given the place the author is coming from) and is the equivalent of firing an arrow and drawing the bullseye around it. Lt. Col. Grossman ends the book with doom-and-gloom "we're going to hell in a handbasket" preachery of the first order. He also demonstrates huge gaps of historical ignorance or overly romanticizes earlier periods. (His one mention of American occupation of the Philippines seems completely ignorant of the horrific treatment of natives putting down the insurgency, including American atrocities against women and children.) He ends on a solidly pro-censorship message that puts him squarely on the opposite line of the intellectual battlefield from myself, longing for a 1950s nuclear family America of black-and-white sitcoms that never really existed in real life. And crime statistics since the book was written have only proven his message wrong....more
Short version ... I was interested in it but can't say I ENJOYED it. I liked the concept more than the execution, and there wasn't a character compellShort version ... I was interested in it but can't say I ENJOYED it. I liked the concept more than the execution, and there wasn't a character compelling enough for me want to suffer through the slog of school and the downward spiral and any sort of redemption. The sequels may work better for me, but I'm not sure I really want to read them without recommendation....more
An enjoyable study, though perhaps not clear enough that most of the book is from a "royal family propaganda" text that probably largely mythologizedAn enjoyable study, though perhaps not clear enough that most of the book is from a "royal family propaganda" text that probably largely mythologized Genghis Khan's earlier life. It also tends to focus on the "good side" of the Mongols and brushing off the tens of millions of people they killed during the years of conquest. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable read on both the personal story of Temüjin and the buildings of his empire, and just how the Mongol influence carries over into our times in ways few modern people would suspect. ...more
This book offers lots of reasons to not like it, but dares you to like it anyway. "David Wong" (pen name of Jason Pargin) messes with structure, pacinThis book offers lots of reasons to not like it, but dares you to like it anyway. "David Wong" (pen name of Jason Pargin) messes with structure, pacing, tone, expectations, and more when crafting something different. Me, I liked it BECAUSE it messes with all of the above. Expect crude humor, a protagonist who is not necessarily a hero (which does not mean Wong is always unheroic), and a twisted look at the nature of reality. I won't ruin the book's many surprises by giving away the plot, even if the title teases a potential spoiler.
I say give this one a shot unless you're too sensitive to crude boner and poop humor. Just don't mistake "crude" for stupid. This book is much smarter than a lot of literary snobs give it credit. And don't get this one mixed up with the movie, as they are two very different stories that just happen to share some characters and scenes....more
Jim Butcher always delivers on action and humor and a page-flipping (or in my case, play-button-inducing since I enjoy the audio version of this serieJim Butcher always delivers on action and humor and a page-flipping (or in my case, play-button-inducing since I enjoy the audio version of this series) good time. But while this was a Good Book, it feels like this book gives a lot more service to payoff and setup than focusing on a contained story. I worried that the tale might disappear into its own mythology and continuity, and while that didn't happen I'm hoping that the next installment may keep moving things forward in the post-Changes world of Harry Dresden while still retaining the old magic of the series. Fuego!...more
It's always frustrating to me when people declare that "history is boring." It's like they have zero idea about the human drama, betrayals, sex, and vIt's always frustrating to me when people declare that "history is boring." It's like they have zero idea about the human drama, betrayals, sex, and violence that shames Game of Thrones -- AND IT TOTALLY HAPPENED FOR REAL. But I get it, you guys. Horrible textbooks and lame teachers made you think it was a jumble of facts and dates. United States presidential history suffers from this problem in spades, as the education system chooses patriotic spin and sanitization instead of telling the truth that our leaders are typically crazy, occasionally violent, sometimes evil bastards who've led interesting lives that would make us call bullshit if some of this stuff wasn't so well documented.
How To Fight Presidents goes through the roll call of leaders from our country's creation all the way through the most recent ones who happen to be already dead. (Turns out the Secret Service frowns on creating a how-to on beating up still-alive presidents.) Learn how Washington loved the sound of bullets whizzing by his head and died taking his own pulse. Find out how Andrew Jackson was a terrifying violent lunatic who nearly beat a would-be assassin to death after perfectly-functional guns were too scared to fire, who died only regretting not having killed a few extra people. Discover Lyndon Johnson's habit of waving his wang and pooping during negotiations as psychological warfare. Marvel at how a close range bullet bounced off Reagan's ribs and he walked himself in the E.R. with a collapsed lung complaining of a little trouble breathing.
I was a History major for most of college and I never suffered from the "history is boring" fallacy thanks to an awesome father, good books, and great teachers from a young age. So I would sometimes be tempted to yell at the book or mark it down for not relaying a bunch of other awesome stories of presidential badassery that I know and like to bore people with at slow parties. But I realize that I'm not quite O'Brien's target audience, as this is not a scholarly tome and not meant to be comprehensive on any one of these figures. This book is an appetizer, a gateway drug into US history that shows that Lincoln didn't just issue the Emancipation Proclamation and later got shot -- he was self-made man with the Spider-Man-like ability to lift heavy things and beat the living shit out of people. Teddy Roosevelt didn't just look awesome in spectacles, he kicked asthma's ass until it gave up and went away and allowed him to pursue adventure and war in a way that 8-year-old boys dream of but never do. Kennedy told friends that if he didn't have (okay, boned) a woman at least once every three days he would suffer from unexplained headaches, a line I had only WISH I'd thought of in high school -- and casually mentioned threesomes the way you or I would mention grabbing a latte at Starbucks. You will (hopefully) come away with at least a few previously-ignored historical figures that you suddenly want to know everything about. It'll lead you into more detailed history but with the right frame of mind because you'll know the kind of stuff you want to know more about.
I know I'm neither crazy nor badass enough to ever be President of the United States, and I'm okay with that because I can't think of a job I'd want less anyway. But reading about them can be a surprisingly awesome way to spend an afternoon. Be careful reading at night, though, or visions of Zombie Teddy Roosevelt tearing through your front door on an undead rhino might haunt your dreams....more
I assume I'm like most in that I stumbled into this book as a fan of Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's hilarious video game review known as Zero Punctuation. II assume I'm like most in that I stumbled into this book as a fan of Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's hilarious video game review known as Zero Punctuation. I wondered if he was attempting to write something serious, humorous, small-scale, or epic. Answer? Yes.
Yahtzee writes a hilariously cynical book that is about a nobody who becomes accidentally important. He flips a cheerful middle finger at the heroic conventions of fantasy storytelling and has fun describing the insane world of a game as seen through the eyes of people stuck living in it.
The author's wit and worldview are on full-display in the book, yet on the way there is just the tiniest hint of optimism and even romanticism, even while he handles both in a way that rejects the standard pop-culture stereotypes of both.
There were little niggling issues that took me out of the story every once in a while—including frequent joking similes that seemed anachronistic or out of place for our first-person narrator to use, but can be explained or forgiven given the bizarre nature of the world in which the characters live. But these are trivial compared to an inventive concept, engaging story filled with wickedly-dark humor, and characters that managed to surprise me despite being true to their motivations.
Yahtzee delivered a fun and solid first novel, and his next book will go straight on my to-read list. Thumbs up!...more
I don't know why I waited so long to read this one, being as how I'm already a big fan of Butcher's modern-fantasy series, The Dresden Files. I finallI don't know why I waited so long to read this one, being as how I'm already a big fan of Butcher's modern-fantasy series, The Dresden Files. I finally got around to reading the first of the Codex Alera series and was immediately sorry that I waited so long. The way magic works in the world is not only interesting, it informs the the history and society in which the story is set. The drama focuses on its characters and presents interesting mysteries and not feeling the need to answer everything right away. My time in Alera was a good one and I'm glad that there are five more books to keep me entertained. Recommended for my fellow fantasy lovers!...more
I could write a long-winded review but I won't. This is good ... better than good. Rothfuss continues with character-focused fantasy that has a beautiI could write a long-winded review but I won't. This is good ... better than good. Rothfuss continues with character-focused fantasy that has a beautiful, lyrical use of language. Though it may seem slow-paced for some readers, that's part of the rhythm of the author's storytelling. And when the action happens it's sudden, startling, and brutal. Start with The Name of the Wind and work you way through this and suffer along with the rest of us until the third book comes out....more
Read my review of A.B.'s original cookbook, since I don't want to repeat myself about his style or philosophy on teaching folks how to cook.
Baking isRead my review of A.B.'s original cookbook, since I don't want to repeat myself about his style or philosophy on teaching folks how to cook.
Baking is largely defined by the "method," the process by which the ingredients are mixed prior to baking. Things like the Muffin Method (wet ingredients mixed, dry ingredients mixed separately, then combined) or the Biscuit Method (cold fat cut into flour) are taught before they are applied to specific recipes. It even has these page flaps that allow you to fold over the "method" instructions for specific recipes ... though if you're paying attention you don't need to worry about that.
And the recipes themselves are just plain ol' nummy. I'm a fan!...more
For many years I've been addicted to the off-beat cooking show filled with unabashed geekery known far and wide as Good Eats on food network. I feel aFor many years I've been addicted to the off-beat cooking show filled with unabashed geekery known far and wide as Good Eats on food network. I feel a certain kinship with Alton Brown. He's from north Georgia, an unashamed geek, and he loves food of all kinds but has a deep love of true local cuisine and road-food. (This idea is explored in his "Feasting" documentaries for the last three years.) And his show has revealed knowledge of everything from Star Trek to Lord of the Rings to the Terminator franchise. Earlier this year I got to meet him when he lectured at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, and he was as interesting, funny, and genuine in person as he comes across on television.
I was thrilled, therefore, when a while back my wife got me his first couple of cookbooks. I scored the second edition of I'm Just Here for the Food and was really impressed that A.B. took the same inventive approach to a book on cooking as he does on his show. It's full of asides, margin notes, humor, and excellent use of illustration. It takes what could be a boring trip down culinary lane and makes it as fun and interesting as cooking is for those of us who have the "like to cook" gene.
A.B. is all about making things make sense, understanding "why" certain things are standards in the kitchen world. Along the way he debunks various rituals and myths that have nothing to do with reality. (Yes, you CAN rinse your mushrooms instead of brushing them. No, searing meat does NOT seal in juices.) Add a bunch of really tasty recipes and the know-how to modify them or just play in the kitchen.
I recommend this book, along with his other writings. Get in the kitchen and have some fun....more