Future readers should be warned that this product lacks any sense of balance; its themes are all blatantly anti-US and anti-capitalist. The author putFuture readers should be warned that this product lacks any sense of balance; its themes are all blatantly anti-US and anti-capitalist. The author put forth little but a one sided chronology of events that lists off crimes from outsiders against Central American states and their indigenous peoples, while defending practically any action or direction taken by communist or other left-wing forces. There is little to no discussion of the progress or development in these countries over the last two centuries, or how their cooperation with international interests and foreign business partnerships benefited the region....more
Of course this book is great fun. It is amazing how many fictional concepts about pirates made their way into our modern conventional wisdom largely bOf course this book is great fun. It is amazing how many fictional concepts about pirates made their way into our modern conventional wisdom largely because of this story written back in the 1880s. We now think of buried treasure, treasure maps marked with X, the black spot, one legged pirates with parrots on their shoulder, and tropical islands full of mysteries, forts, and maroons. I even had dinner at Long John Silver's this week!
These are the marks of a powerful story teller. I wonder what other authors have succeeded in passing off multiple fictional concepts as truth?
By the way, if you are interested in movie, the 1990 Treasure Island film with Charlton Heston as Long John Silver was by far the closest adaptation of the book. I still think of that iconic character with Heston's booming voice....more
This fascinating dual-biography on Gandhi & Churchill is an unique side by side examination of two towering but complicated characters. Looking atThis fascinating dual-biography on Gandhi & Churchill is an unique side by side examination of two towering but complicated characters. Looking at their world through two contrasting and often forgotten viewpoints, the audience is treated to a story of the final decades of the British Empire, the Indian independence movement, and an epic rivalry that reshaped the world. The gritty details of both men will fascinate the reader and at times shock our modern sensibilities. Despite being dubbed with greatness by history, both leaders endured a seemingly endless line of failures and disappointments as they struggled towards unattainable lofty objectives. Churchill wanted to preserve the British Empire within a Victorian imperialist ideal. Gandhi wanted to create an independent non-violent India based on utopian neo-stone age practices. Churchill managed only to preserve the UK, while losing the empire’s crown jewel, India, as well as the entirety of the empire. Gandhi was a terrible politician who alienated most of his country's political leaders, completely failed to transform the Indian people, but slowly managed to push his homeland towards a violent break from Britain and their Muslim population....more
This work does a great job getting the reader into the minds of the people of the time and encouraging one to reconsider what they think they know aboThis work does a great job getting the reader into the minds of the people of the time and encouraging one to reconsider what they think they know about the people who brought us Thanksgiving. Of great interest to me, the era's political-religious divisions are well explained, including splitting Separatists/Pilgrims from the Puritans of Boston, Anglicans like the King, Catholics, and others. However, it is a difficult read. It is not chronological and often dives deep into extraneous topics of marginal interest to those curious about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and turkey dinners....more
This is a better than average political study by the conservative governor of Louisiana – Bobby Jindal – and likely presidential candidate in 2016. AsThis is a better than average political study by the conservative governor of Louisiana – Bobby Jindal – and likely presidential candidate in 2016. As is often the case with similar works of this kind, the book moves quickly, provides some biographical information, speaks to a number of issues of interest, and establishes a path for change at the national level. His first love is health care administration and reform, a skill set that will put him in a unique position to deal with Obama-care in the near future. Fortunately, the book is written with a slight sense of humor, providing some sarcasm and a few laughs along the way....more
The First Tycoon is a rare gem as it beautifully blends biography with the sweeping historical narrative of America in the early 19th century. It enerThe First Tycoon is a rare gem as it beautifully blends biography with the sweeping historical narrative of America in the early 19th century. It energetically depicts Vanderbilt as the towering figure who shaped the world he lived in and whose accomplishments laid the foundation for our transportation and financial sectors. The book includes a great deal of valuable fact checking and analysis of period newspaper reporting and private correspondence rather than just repeating dubious texts indiscriminately. Author T.J. Stiles certainly earned both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award that now accompanies this work....more
Double Down, a disappointing recounting of the 2012 election and the sequel to Game Change, was incomplete and punishingly one-sided in favor of ObamaDouble Down, a disappointing recounting of the 2012 election and the sequel to Game Change, was incomplete and punishingly one-sided in favor of Obama. Republicans were cast as near villains and Obama as the flawed savior. On the whole, very little deep analysis or fact checking was provided. The strongly worded language shaped the feel of the work into more of a self-aggrandizing left-wing op-ed then a balanced retelling of a historic event.
It was shockingly inconsistent in its focus on Romney’s mistakes – reporting virtually every Republican fumble in full – while ignoring most of Obama’s gaffes and negatives. It was clear from the tone that the authors detested their conservative subjects, finding almost nothing positive to credit Romney or the other Republican candidates with except Mitt’s strong first debate performance. For example, while the authors appeared overjoyed to discuss Romney’s “47 percent” comment and the post-election “gifts” assessment, they never once mentioned Obama’s “they didn’t build that” argument or the “that’s the best revenge” slight.
In another illustration of the imbalance, the coverage of the two conventions stressed the falsity of only Democrats highlighting ethnic minority and women leaders. However, Double Down never mentioned how the Republican convention in Tampa was loaded with non-white-male high profile charismatic speakers including Susana Martinez, Mia Love, and Nikki Haley. How many ethnic minority governors were present at the Democratic convention in Charlotte? The answer of course is none. And the book also served to fuel the truth-free reimagining of Bill Clinton as a god and George W. Bush’s administrations as nothing but a “reign”....more
With "1493", Charles Mann did a decent job in this follow-up to his first book "1491". It isn't as much fun as the original work about the largely uneWith "1493", Charles Mann did a decent job in this follow-up to his first book "1491". It isn't as much fun as the original work about the largely unexamined expansive histories of the American Indian civilizations. However, "1493" is instructive about environmental effects stemming from the Columbian exchange, the first wave of globalization that began with the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. The author is a big fan of food history, which can be seen in his telling of crop movements from the Americas to the rest of the world, including corn in "1491" and potatoes in "1493"....more
This is fun quick look at India and its food-related traditions. However, don’t mistake this for a gathering of recipes or a travel guide; it’s somethThis is fun quick look at India and its food-related traditions. However, don’t mistake this for a gathering of recipes or a travel guide; it’s something else entirely, leaning on the chatty and sentimental side of food discussion. Also, I recommend avoiding the audio book version. If you are not already smart on Indian geography, food, and vocabulary, you may need the maps, photos, and written words to keep up. With that said, Indian food can be a delight to prepare – and eat – if you have a considerable amount of time and access to a local grocery that specializes in the somewhat overwhelming number of unusual spices and herbs needed for these exotic dishes....more
For such an exciting subject and time period, this is a pretty dry read. The presidential section was weak, spending far too much time on naming the iFor such an exciting subject and time period, this is a pretty dry read. The presidential section was weak, spending far too much time on naming the individual cabinet members and not enough on critical achievements, including balancing the budget. I must also question the subtle but annoying left-wing bias noticeable in the manner that many critical issues -- federal spending, CIA operations, Cold War policy -- and other important politicians were approached by the author. He seemed to imply that Eisenhower was just about the only good Republican of the era who was lucky to have so many wiser Democrats around. However, the book makes clear that Eisenhower was a remarkable leader with stunning accomplishments during World War II, and in the White House, and should be considered among our greatest statesmen....more
This read provides an interesting look at the history and practices of the processed food industry. However, it is in no way a balanced tale, coming oThis read provides an interesting look at the history and practices of the processed food industry. However, it is in no way a balanced tale, coming out strongly against the makers of processed foods and their products. As such, it is informative, often persuasive, spun together with an annoying tone that doesn't always ring true. As a side note, I found myself constantly hungry -- craving the very foods so often attacked within these pages -- while determined to pay more attention to nutrition labels and my personal intake of salt, sugar, and fat. ...more
A great story depends, in part, upon having a great subject matter. Walt Disney is such a great subject. However, he is great not only in the amazingA great story depends, in part, upon having a great subject matter. Walt Disney is such a great subject. However, he is great not only in the amazing films and sites that he produced, but in the great flaws that dogged him. And that is the surprise of Neal Gabler’s book; Disney comes off not only as a brilliant visionary and creator that revolutionized animation and other forms of American entertainment, but as a troubled individual with an unexpected dark side. His life, as told in “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination,” is a dramatically volatile tale, with depressingly difficult periods falling in between colossal successes.
Gabler includes valuable insight into the impact of Disney on popular culture and the country as a whole. Utilizing old reviews and editorials from the period, the author pours substantial depth into a carefully balanced evaluation of the Disney brand, characters, films, and theme parks. This adds a unique period perspective to Disney’s works. Some of his films are obviously grand, others far less worthy of praise, while another group – mostly obscure and largely forgotten – badly needed this analysis to help the contemporary reader understand their historic impact upon the audiences and entertainment industry of their time.
The most noticeable shortcoming of this lengthy 880 page book is its first half, which is too slow and overdoes the exhaustive tale of Walt’s rise. While these early stages of the story help to shape this epic, they are far too detailed and steal energy from later more interesting chapters. The reader is likely to wonder why they need to read specifics of each of many desperate bank loans, not to mention other oddities that include legal contract language and studio room numbers.
Still, Gabler succeeds when it is most critical. His tales of individual projects, Steamboat Willy, Snow White, studio construction, and Disneyland are vividly described and make for mini-stories in themselves. Ultimately, the path of the Disney company, like Walt’s life, meanders through shocking periods of early film history that are unexpected for their roughness, turns, and outcomes. All of which help make for an epic read about a flawed personality, but ground-breaking figure....more