I picked this to learn about the (Second) Boer War, but ended up learning about the broader political history of South Africa. There was some on the wI picked this to learn about the (Second) Boer War, but ended up learning about the broader political history of South Africa. There was some on the war--just five chapters near the end of a 47 chapter book. So I heard about the Boers' early strikes into the Natal and Cape Colony, the sieges that seemed so promising for them but became the undoing of their "conventional" military campaign. Then the British success that was hampered by continued Boer guerrilla warfare until exhaustion/collapse. I got a little bit about the military leadership & equipment, but not so much. No significant campaign maps.
Most of the rest of the book I listened to was the long socio-economic differences between the Boer republics and British colonies. In particular, Rhodes' & others' broad strategic view. Plenty on Kruger, too.
As an (ignorant!?) American, the fascinating part for me was the distinctions made between self-governing colonies, Imperial (Crown?) colonies, and so on. Similarly, Meredith referred to direct comparisons made at the time between the future of southern Africa, and the then-recent confederation of Canada. Somehow it never really sunk in with me that Canada existed well into the 19th century as a collection of colonies. The French-speaking, Catholic province of Quebec was part of a Canadian Confederation, a British Dominion that seemed to provide a blueprint for possible multi-ethnic British confederation that included Boers in southern Africa...it makes my 21st century head swim, honestly. (Just typing that sentence I had to keep checking another browser window to check on my terminology.) It both makes some sense, and demonstrates amazing imperial hubris that is cautionary even today....more
I'm normally a slow reader (not wpm, but pages per night--I fall asleep!). Since I had other books waiting after finally finishing the previous one, II'm normally a slow reader (not wpm, but pages per night--I fall asleep!). Since I had other books waiting after finally finishing the previous one, I wasn't sure about inserting this one. But coworkers & friends enthusiastically recommended it, and for me in particular. I found a copy at the library and jumped in.
Sure enough, I blazed through this. It reads like a screenplay for a movie thriller...which is what it's about to be next summer. The last time I had this experience was reading Jurassic Park before its movie was made.
The protagonist is a straight-talking mechanical engineer who's also the mission botanist. What's not to love?! :-) It's a story about the kind of Apollo 13 problem-solving we love about NASA. Fun stuff....more
A book about offices and working there won't appeal to everyone, but I'm really glad I gave this a try. In equal parts it's about sociology and architA book about offices and working there won't appeal to everyone, but I'm really glad I gave this a try. In equal parts it's about sociology and architecture, with some general history (e.g. the changing role of women) and economics thrown in for good measure. It sounds so mundane, but I found it fascinating. More than that, it helped me understand the context of my own professional lifetime, how some things I consider "normal" or just "the way the workplace works" to be relatively recent developments...and ones that are changing before our eyes....more
Listened to this audiobook as part of a military history book club. Like a lot of modern Americans, I knew very little about the Korean War. It the coListened to this audiobook as part of a military history book club. Like a lot of modern Americans, I knew very little about the Korean War. It the conflict going on when my dad was in the Air Force, though his service was elsewhere. The book is long, detailed, and somewhat nonlinear. It spends quite a few pages on the broader geopolitical context of the conflict, especially the relevant world leaders (Truman, Mao, Il-Sung). There is a whole lot about MacArthur, and it is very unflattering.
What I liked most of all was to think of it as a companion to the Postwar audiobook by Tony Judt that I listened to last year. That was about Europe, and though it covered more chronological time, the two books together provide a much more complete picture of the Cold War, its development after WW2, and where it got hot....more
Good story about a fascinating interval of time, when the Victorian world was in full tilt, Darwin's Origin of Species was a new theory, racial bigotrGood story about a fascinating interval of time, when the Victorian world was in full tilt, Darwin's Origin of Species was a new theory, racial bigotry was stronger than ever, and the gorilla was first "discovered." I was surprised that this biological discovery came so late--right around the time of the American Civil War--but perhaps I shouldn't have been.
I've been playing a boardgame, Source of the Nile, which echoes all of the travails and hardships of exploring the dark, unmapped continent of Africa. Now I need to rewatch Mountains of the Moon!...more
I enjoyed The Hunt for Red October (book & movie) when they came out near the end of the cold war, when I was in college. But I didn't stick withI enjoyed The Hunt for Red October (book & movie) when they came out near the end of the cold war, when I was in college. But I didn't stick with Tom Clancy & his military fiction bestsellers. Only now, due to my rekindled interest in historical wargames, did I read a recommendation for Clancy's WW3 book did I give it a try. It was interesting and entertaining, just a bit long for me.
The most interesting part was reading about the Cold War turned hot--something we all worried about in those days--but reading it NOW, after those particular threatening days are over. We have new ones now. And yet...the spark that sets this war in motion is fuel shortages and an act of terrorism from oppressed middle eastern people under the thumb of the Soviet Union. Even now, in 2015, that does not seem farfetched at all. Spooky....more
How come I didn't know about this already? A combined sea & land exploration that took place on a larger scale, just years after Lewis & ClarkHow come I didn't know about this already? A combined sea & land exploration that took place on a larger scale, just years after Lewis & Clark?! A great account of a chapter in North American history that I thought I knew more about...but didn't.
I felt the book ended too abruptly, after all of the detail on Astor's history, and especially the two voyages by across two oceans, and over the mountains. Or maybe that's how it happened. After ALL of that effort, the establishment of Astoria and smaller fur trading posts DID take place, but was unraveled disappointingly quickly. The War of 1812 was the nail in the coffin, but an enterprise this ambitious simply needed a few more things to go right than actually did. It was an incredible challenge.
P.S. This was extra fun to listen to (audiobook) last weekend as we took my daughter to college in the Pacific Northwest. We were literally driving through some of the territory that enticed & undid these explorers....more
Maybe like a lot of other people, the global subprime mortgage crisis triggered in me a desire to learn more about economics. Called "the dismal scienMaybe like a lot of other people, the global subprime mortgage crisis triggered in me a desire to learn more about economics. Called "the dismal science" for a good reason, it's also hugely important in our lives. After some earlier reading I'd already learned to think of money as human cooperation, rather than anything tangible such as gold. This author prefers to define it as transferable credit, which is probably more accurate (economically), but shows why no one likes economists. :-) Isn't the concept of money as human cooperation a much more positive definition?
Whichever it is, this book did a good job describing the history of mankind's stuttering knowledge of what this social technology is, and how to manage it, from pre-history (as much as possible), to more advanced understanding during Roman and Chinese societies. (I could've used more on non-western societies, actually.)
The most interesting part of the author's point of view is that monetary theory took a giant step BACKWARDS during the Enlightenment, for a well-intentioned but ill-informed reason. He lays the blame at the feet of John Locke, and everyone who listened to him. Although a founding father of liberal humanism, and therefore someone to respect for all of his political theory that we enjoy in modern democracies, that same point-of-view led Locke to insist that money had a fixed & inviolate value, not something that is adjusted dynamically by the society that's using it. He was protecting against abuse of power by the sovereign. See? He was on the right track, but fixed currency (while desirable for its simplicity & unambiguity) isn't what money really is. Nor does it serve an economy or its people's ability to produce & cooperate very well....more
Fantastic classic. Much of the history matched what I already knew about WW1, but I think that's because I've grown up in post-Tuchman world. Hers wasFantastic classic. Much of the history matched what I already knew about WW1, but I think that's because I've grown up in post-Tuchman world. Hers was already the definitive history of the opening of The Great War. Even though I knew the broad outlines, there were countless details I wasn't aware of. The book deserves its Pulitzer, for it's a fantastic combination of history AND writing. The scope is breathtaking, going from battlefields to staff headquarters to heads of government on both fronts throughout the entire book....more
A big letdown. I already knew something about WW1, and perhaps that's where the book & I parted ways. Right at the beginning. Although I didn't knA big letdown. I already knew something about WW1, and perhaps that's where the book & I parted ways. Right at the beginning. Although I didn't know the story of America's all-black 369th Infantry Regiment, the graphic novel form didn't do it justice. Though there are the compelling parts of the story--how America disdained these men that the French appreciated & Germans respected--they constantly have to make room for "trench warfare 101," describing the horrific life on the Western Front for those that have no idea about it. Who wouldn't know about it, yet picks up this book? At least it has a good bibliography, so I could read a real book about this amazing unit if I wished.
In the afterword the author reveals that this project was basically salvaged from a movie script he could never get made, thinking a graphic novel was kind of a movie "on the cheap." Maybe it would've been an ok movie, but it did a disservice to the printed page (illustrated or not)....more
I liked the approach that spread the story around the six armies (American, Canadian, British, German, Polish, and French), allowing the chronology toI liked the approach that spread the story around the six armies (American, Canadian, British, German, Polish, and French), allowing the chronology to jump a bit. That was fine, and I also liked how it went beyond Normandy & Overlord, bringing in Goodwood, Cobra, and even more-than-an-epilogue-but-not-too-much about the end of the war from the westwall to the very end. Likewise the appropriate sprinkling in of eastern front information.
I didn't realize (but should've) that tanks required rail transport for strategic movement, as their own mobility systems would break down over that kind of distance (e.g. from southern France to Normandy). Was also struck with how significant the allied air superiority was to this campaign...and how that's heavily abstracted out of the games on my shelf....more
Somehow I missed this as a kid, even though I was a LIBRARY kid that devoured everything interesting. Maybe back then old, European history doesn't soSomehow I missed this as a kid, even though I was a LIBRARY kid that devoured everything interesting. Maybe back then old, European history doesn't sound as interesting or as important as it does to my middle-aged self.
Regardless, I'm glad I found this "children's" book bow, because it's really amazing. The illustrations are wonderful, of course, but what's just as good is how you learn something about the enormous engineering undertaking that one of these cathedrals was. I still can't get my 21st century brain to imagine a social construction project that takes hundreds of years. We struggle with 5-year projects now....more