I picked up this history/biography hoping for some new information or insight on arguably the most villainous personality of the 20th century. Instead...moreI picked up this history/biography hoping for some new information or insight on arguably the most villainous personality of the 20th century. Instead this book covered old territory covered in many other books and articles.(less)
I read "No Easy Day" before seeing "Zero Dark Thirty" because of all the hullabaloo surrounding the movie's release and also because I found the inter...moreI read "No Easy Day" before seeing "Zero Dark Thirty" because of all the hullabaloo surrounding the movie's release and also because I found the interview with Mark Owen on 60 Minutes fascinating. I am happy I read the book first because so much of the information in the book is accurately depicted in the film.
As someone who lived in the shadow of the towers and spent a great deal of time commuting through and enjoying the retail spaces of The World Trade Center, its destruction was a very personal matter. I too cheered when the news of Bin Ladin's death was announced.
The book covers what it is like to be a ranger; the training, the discipline, the focus, the hardship and the adrenaline. This service is totally unfamiliar to me and know no one who has ever been employed or connected to this world. The author depicted the great efforts of these men as well as the minutia of everyday living we all share thus keeping the men in the realm of "human". As the author recollects, the amount of practice and dedication to intelligence were crucial to the success of the mission.
My only complaint with the book was the addition of the author's political views toward the end. For me they were a side bar better left to an afterward, not to be included in the main text. That aside, the book was an interesting read almost like a true crime story.
When I saw this in the library catalog, I felt it had "my name on it". This beautifully illustrated and documented history of the written word was inf...moreWhen I saw this in the library catalog, I felt it had "my name on it". This beautifully illustrated and documented history of the written word was informative, interesting and sometimes amazing. It reminded me in its style and presentation of the many books put out by DK Publishing of mostly illustrated volumes on a variety of non fiction subjects with an emphasis on collection rather than depth.
This huge book is definitely worth spending some time browsing through for any bibliophile interested in the mechanics, politics and process of book making and printing over the centuries.(less)
This book was written to add background to the "headlines" of Cleopatra's life with which most of us are familiar. I found most interesting the author...moreThis book was written to add background to the "headlines" of Cleopatra's life with which most of us are familiar. I found most interesting the authors premise that much of what we know was written by men who disapproved of her gender breaking role and position. The content and extent of her education was also fascinating.
I picked this book up after listening to a glowing review, I think on NPR. Part of the review spoke to the process of writing the book; how Laura Hill...moreI picked this book up after listening to a glowing review, I think on NPR. Part of the review spoke to the process of writing the book; how Laura Hillenbrand's physical limitations so moved Louie Zamperini, the subject of the story, that he sent her one of his purple hearts. An incredible gesture from a remarkable man with a remarkable life.
Louie Zamperini was a man famous in his time but I dare say relatively unknown today until the publication of this book. His life touched on many of the major events leading up to and following WW11. A wild youth, Louie learned to focus his energy by running track in school. His gift took him to Hitler's Olympics in Germany, a medal and a brush with the brown shirts. His running led him to college and then the military where he became a gunner in the war in the Pacific.
Always high spirited his resolve helped keep him alive when shot down and set adrift in a raft in the middle of the Pacific. Along with the surviving members of the crew he drifted several thousand miles with only his wits and few resources. Captured by the Japanese and subjected to torture and starvation, he persevered and lived to tell the story. Refusing to be used as propaganda for the Japanese he was subjected to additional abuse. After the war, suffering from post traumatic stress in a time when it was neither understood or acknowledged,he became an alcoholic but through AA overcame this becoming a functioning productive member of society.
But you have to read the book to really get an emotional perspective on the life Louie Zamperini lived. Almost always the underdog, it was through sheer force of will that he accomplished anything. Despite his athletic ability, others deliberately injured him (think Tanya Harding but with no publicity or recourse). His Olympic prowess angered Hitler, made his army superiors jealous and infuriated a psychotic Japanese guard who made it his mission to destroy Louis. Time and again Zamperini found the will to survive hanging on by the most ephemeral of threads.
Louie Zamperini was a hero's hero in a time when heroism was expected as part of daily existence. He is certainly someone to think about in a world where the least difficulty often turns into rant on the unfairness of life or the "system". The passages of the story that describe his harrowing journey aboard the raft with his mates are among the most vivid I have ever read.(less)
Interesting but ultimately disappointing history of the Roman Empire during Emperor Justinian's reign in the 6th century. I was drawn to this book bec...moreInteresting but ultimately disappointing history of the Roman Empire during Emperor Justinian's reign in the 6th century. I was drawn to this book because I really knew little about the pre medieval political map of the Empire except that it had moved its focus and capitol east to Asia Minor. It did fill in some of the blank areas although I did get lost in the names of all the different non Roman groups, places and cities and the religious schools of thought which were the source of conflict and political unrest in Justinian's domain.
My problem with the book was what I felt was a meandering away from the main premise which was that the outbreaks of plague weakened both the western and eastern empires so much that it enabled the subsequent conquest of the southern Mediterranean, basically today's middle east, by the armies of Islam. The author spends a lot of time arguing and explaining early church doctrinal differences; his own bias clearly in evidence by his overuse of hyperbole in the first half of the book. Similarly he goes into great scientific detail in describing the evolution and genesis of the epidemiology of the plague which was fascinating, even pinpointing the time and place of the initial outbreak but then only painting broad strokes on breakouts and timelines over the next 20+ years.
I could not help but compare his history to Geraldine Brooks' treatment of the same subject almost ten centuries later in "Years of Wonder". Admittedly the latter covers a much smaller geographic space and time. But it seemed to me "Justinian's Flea" spent to much time on prologue and afterward and not enough time on the premise.
Beautifully presented prints from from an exhibit in San Francisco of early photographic images using the technology circa 1840-1900 to portray scient...moreBeautifully presented prints from from an exhibit in San Francisco of early photographic images using the technology circa 1840-1900 to portray scientific subjects. There are sepia toned images of the planets and the universe, prints of snowflakes and diatoms as photographed through microscopes, famous motion studies and x-ray images taken of various objects including a six fingered man and the leg of a man complete with his boots.
Subject aside, many of the prints are artistically provocative.
I found it amazing to consider that in less than 20 years similar technology would be used to prove Einstein's theories using photographic evidence obtained during a solar eclipse.
The essays included in the book provide their own kind illumination.
This history of a southern county that did not secede from the Union during the American Civil War reads like a novel.
Newton Knight was an abolitionis...moreThis history of a southern county that did not secede from the Union during the American Civil War reads like a novel.
Newton Knight was an abolitionist from Jones County, Mississippi, who actively fought against the Confederacy. Several times impressed into Confederate ranks, he returned to his home none-the-less, despite threats of execution for desertion. Having survived the war and reconstruction, Knight's views on race relations (he in fact had a second family with a black woman named Rachel)was way ahead of his time.
As the author's note, Knight and Jones County were not alone in the south in their rejection of the Confederacy and slavery. This story is as fascinating as it is unknown.(less)
"The Photographer" was an amazing surprise. Written in graphic novel style, this non fiction account details the experience of a group of French docto...more"The Photographer" was an amazing surprise. Written in graphic novel style, this non fiction account details the experience of a group of French doctors (from the original NGO Doctors Without Borders) who travel mostly by foot from Pakistan to Northern Afghanistan in 1986.
Employing local guides, mercenaries, village representatives, horses, donkeys and animal handlers, they trudge through mountain passes, some over 16,000 feet high, to provide health care to villagers and the Mujahadim (later the Northern Alliance)fighting the Soviets.
Told from the perspective of Guibert on the first of his trips through this landscape, his observations make this most uncommon journey come to life. It is moving and detailed in a way only photographs and drawings can bring to life.(less)
This is the second book I've read this year about lives impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Having been displaced myself, I have some firsthand information...moreThis is the second book I've read this year about lives impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Having been displaced myself, I have some firsthand information. This book made me really angry but not I think as the author intended.
I'm not really sure whether Dave Eggers wanted to paint a picture of Mr. Zeitoun as "everyman"or the Muslim immigrant in post 9/11 America "the other" or just a person in the wrong place at the wrong time. What I saw was a two dimensional character caught up in a nightmarish blend of arrest, incarceration and incompetence from all levels of government. What I also got was a rambling scree of outrage and hyperbole the source of which is either the writer or the source. Point of fact the remarks about his arrest and detention being worse than anything occurring in a third world country (really?)and his Syrian family's fears of his being murdered upon hearing there were Israeli troops on the ground in New Orleans. Profiling anyone?
Mr. Zeitoun's treatment was an egregious violation of our laws and constitution. But his release after 23 days due to efforts of his attorney and his family is also testament to the rule of law and the kindliness of a minister whose part in the tale is later glossed over as not so much. The author's outrage and empathy seem focused on this one man only.
I am really disappointed the story was told with such a heavy handed political agenda. It had all the elements of a stirring cautionary tale that was diminished because of it. (less)
This absorbing biography of Percy Fawcett, famous Victorian era explorer of the then mostly uncharted vastness of the Amazon River and its surrounding...moreThis absorbing biography of Percy Fawcett, famous Victorian era explorer of the then mostly uncharted vastness of the Amazon River and its surrounding rainforest reads more like an action story than a true story. Trained by the Royal Geographic Society in "explorer" school, Percy began his expeditions with just a few companions speedily hacking his way through the Amazon forest rather than taking the river route. After numerous expeditions Percy was convinced there had been a great lost civilization there. The conviction turned to obsession as years passed and other explorers using more modern methods discovered lost cities in the Andes.
These expeditions were life threatening in every aspect. Food was scarce, many local tribes were hostile and the insects ferociuos harbingers of disease and death. In 1925 Fawcett along with his grown son and another companion enterd the Brazillian rainforest and vanished. Because of his worldwide fame other expeditions were sent to find him to no avail.
New York writer David Grann became fascinating with Fawcett after writing a magazine article about him. Determined to follow in Faucett's footsteps he embarked on his own journey to solve the mystery.
I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in adventure, history, anthropology and true tales. (less)