An enjoyable read, but after reading the book I still don't understand what made Bobby Fischer such a revered chess player. Yes, he was a child prodig...moreAn enjoyable read, but after reading the book I still don't understand what made Bobby Fischer such a revered chess player. Yes, he was a child prodigy and there was the whole Cold War battle with the Soviets, but there were other great chess players, Morphy, Capablanca, Alexine. Maybe this just isn't possible in a book without chess annotations. If anything, character issues aside, I came away with the feeling that Fischer is probably overrated. Granted, I am just a patzer and in no position to judge his chess abilities, but this is how I felt walking away from the book.(less)
I agree with the author that the First World War was a tragedy and not a crime, where one expects to find the perpetrator with a smoking gun in his ha...moreI agree with the author that the First World War was a tragedy and not a crime, where one expects to find the perpetrator with a smoking gun in his hands. Although the author refuses to rank order the degree of culpability, based on my reading I would nonetheless do so as follows: (1) Serbia, essentially a terrorist state or state sponsor of terrorism; (2) Russia for calling a general mobilization against both Germany and Austria when only Austria had mobilized against Serbia; (3) France for placing the trigger for a continental war in Russia and Serbia's hands (the Balkan inception scenario); (4) Austria for all kinds of ridiculous military and diplomatic incompetence; (4) Germany, somewhat naively hoping to restrict the conflict to a localized war between Austria and Serbia; and (5) England, based on its own geopolitical calculations deciding that it was better off throwing its lot in with the Entente Powers than remaining neutral.
Germany importantly may be separately blamed for its poor handling of the war once hostilities were actually declared (see Belgium, invasion of), but genuinely wanted avoid a European-wide war and hoped to limit the conflict it to a strictly Balkan affair. On that score, it is hard to believe today that an Austrian demand for what essentially amounted to a joint police investigation and promise to crack down on terrorist networks (the infamous Austrian ultimatum) would degenerate into a war that would cost 16 million lives and sow the seeds for a much more terrible conflict. Of course, the participants did not realize that at the time and the institutions that exist today to mediate conflicts were nonexistent. In that sense, the author is correct that the participants were sleepwalking through history.(less)
The main premise of this book is that adolescence is essentially "Lord of the Flies." Thus, to become adults adolescents need to be socialized by adul...moreThe main premise of this book is that adolescence is essentially "Lord of the Flies." Thus, to become adults adolescents need to be socialized by adults and not by other adolescents. The author mainly recommends treating adolescents like adults and exposing them to adult responsibilities, e.g., chores, volunteer work, jobs. While I agree with this message, I don't think that the book really broke any new ground.(less)
This book is an excellent guide not only to discussing matters of sexuality, but also to parenting in general. I would recommend this book without hes...moreThis book is an excellent guide not only to discussing matters of sexuality, but also to parenting in general. I would recommend this book without hesitation to any other parent.(less)
Besides being a good history of the Civil War, a topic that I have not studied since high school, this book provides excellent insight into the profou...moreBesides being a good history of the Civil War, a topic that I have not studied since high school, this book provides excellent insight into the profoundly dysfunctional institution of slavery. It is incredible to learn that slaveholders actually believed that slaves should have been so grateful for their bondage that they would have taken up arms to defend the institution or that masters fathered their own slaves, through rape, and then sold their own offspring into further bondage. It is also interesting to note the historical evolution of the North's position on slavery from limiting its expansion in the territories, to arming freed slaves, to finally supporting full citizenship for former slaves. Based on this book, I will likely read more about this subject and time period.(less)
I was interested in reading this book after watching Tim Wise on YouTube. He is clearly a dynamic speaker and a very thoughtful academic. The book its...moreI was interested in reading this book after watching Tim Wise on YouTube. He is clearly a dynamic speaker and a very thoughtful academic. The book itself is a bit academic and dry, but thought-provoking. His central premise is counter-intuitive, that color-blindness (ignoring race) itself leads to unfairness because it ignores both historic and present-day disparate treatment. In its place, he suggests a form of race-conscience individualism, recognizing that someone is both an individual and a member of a distinct historical group. Wise does a decent job of presenting his thesis, marshaling his arguments, and presenting his recommendations. (less)
I highly recommend this book: thought-provoking; insightful; and highly readable. The old-model of encouraging boys to separate young, to toughen up e...moreI highly recommend this book: thought-provoking; insightful; and highly readable. The old-model of encouraging boys to separate young, to toughen up emotionally, and to go it alone, is simply no longer working. One of my favorite insights is how in patriarchal societies individuals are viewed as strengthened by an association with things male and weakened by an association with things female. This is the best explanation I've read for the treatment of young men and boys who transgress from traditional male roles, while the same is not true for women and girls who transgress from traditional female roles. A great read!(less)
This is an important book that discusses the various ways that men are discouraged from discussing their feelings and how this impacts their physical...moreThis is an important book that discusses the various ways that men are discouraged from discussing their feelings and how this impacts their physical and emotional health, relationships, and society. The author describes the three forms of male silence: personal silence (inability to describe emotions); private silence (unwillingness to discuss one's emotional state); and public silence (discouragement from discussing emotions through public shaming or ridicule) and explains how these silences become self-reinforcing.
From an early age, for example, boys receive social and cultural cues from relatives, adults, and peers that discussing one's emotions and experiencing a rich emotional life is not culturally acceptable. Through gender policing, e.g. "cry-baby," homophobic slurs, boys are taught from an early age that they should follow the stereotype of the stoic, self-reliant male. While this gender stereotype is normative, it is nonetheless harmful to men and boys because although they have the same depth and range of emotions as anyone else, they are discouraged from discussing such subjects openly. This impacts the health of men in physical ways (refusal to go see a doctor, increased alcoholism) and in emotional ways (placing all the emotional burden on a spouse or on oneself). I found this a very interesting read as a male, a parent, and a spouse.(less)
While I learned a great deal about the Black Panthers, I think the author overstates their importance. They were not responsible and in...morePaper panthers
While I learned a great deal about the Black Panthers, I think the author overstates their importance. They were not responsible and in fact probably only marginally contributed to ending the Vietnam War, creating affirmative action programs, or inducing greater government hiring of minorities. For all their talk of insurrection, they never engaged in armed guerrilla warfare and their conflicts with the police were little more than haphazard shootouts. However, they did have style (black leather jackets and berets) and knew how to capture the public's imagination with Marxist language and free breakfast programs. The pictures of Huey Newton sitting on the "Wicker Throne" and of Kathleen Cleaver holding the shotgun in the doorway are iconic. They were master media manipulators but having just finished reading "Embers of War" they are hardly comparable to the Việt Minh with which they identified themselves.
I think the book would have been served better if the author had taken a less worshipful tone. Except for the shooting of Fred Hampton which is explained in detail and had all the appearances of a political assassination, I wanted to know more about the details of the police shooting for which Huey Newton went to jail. The Panthers considered Newton a political prisoner, but knowing the facts surrounding his incarceration would have been more helpful. My assumption as to why such facts were not included (e.g., killing a police officer) is that it would have made the Panthers look less sympathetic.(less)
The author explains the origins of the Christian Right movement, in particular that movement's capture of the Republican Party. The author traces the...moreThe author explains the origins of the Christian Right movement, in particular that movement's capture of the Republican Party. The author traces the origin of the movement in the 1920's in its reaction against the teaching of evolution and later communism, though this is somewhat unconvincing. Except for the chapters on Billy Graham and his influence in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, the book doesn't really get going until the 1970s and the Christian Right's reactions against what it would later call "secular humanism", e.g., abortion, gay rights, and restrictions on school prayer. Although my biased opinion is that this is a reactionary theocratic movement, proceeding from some idealized vision of a Christian nation that never really existed, it is fascinating to read about the tactics and political successes of this well mobilized, ideologically-driven minority. One small criticism, the author does differentiate between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, but the theological differences (if any) aren't really very well explained and I walked away with the understanding that the differences are probably based more on style than anything else.(less)
Pretty much everything, anyone would ever want to know about the French-Indochina War. Although the book weighs in at over 700 pages, I was never real...morePretty much everything, anyone would ever want to know about the French-Indochina War. Although the book weighs in at over 700 pages, I was never really bored. Although there is some discussion of the abuses of the Viet Minh, e.g., botched land reform, targeted assassination, the author takes a largely sympathetic view of the guerrilla movement. It is hard not to walk away from this book without a measure of respect for Võ Nguyên Giáp who led the Viet Minh guerrillas against the French and later the Americans. I was amazed to learn that he was still alive at 101. Although Cold War politics, e.g., America's "loss" of China, explain America's involvement in Vietnam the extent to which American policy makers ignored the history of the French in Vietnam is truly mystifying.(less)