I enjoyed this book and actually learned more than I expected. I had read about a number of the characters in my ancient history studies and in histor...moreI enjoyed this book and actually learned more than I expected. I had read about a number of the characters in my ancient history studies and in historical novels or less broad histories in years past, but this book gave a broad overview of Normans in their various locations around the world for a few hundred years when they were at their peak of power and most influential.
Most of us know about Normans in Normandy, and of William the Conqueror of England who was a Norman. Most of us know the Normans had Viking-Scandinavia roots (Norman-Norseman), and I knew they had also migrated down the Danube and gone well into the Kievan Rus. But I was not aware of their strong influence there, in Sicily, or in the Middle east. I knew about Bohemond taking Antioch, but never before connected him with the Normans.
This filled in gaps in my historical understanding of Europe, and the ever interconnected web of families and political intrigue. In some ways, though their was no internet, no phone, no relatively instant communication, there was an amazing amount of interaction from one end of the Mediterranean to the other, as well as Britain, Scandinavia, France and Germany, the Byzantine and western Empires, North Africa, the Turks...the list goes on. The interaction, intermarriage, political intrigues, and long battle marches from place to place amaze me.
It is a very broad overview of the Normans in Western Europe and their extent, with specifics on a few who were particularly influential, powerful, or noteworthy for other reasons (not always good reasons) from the 900s to 1200 or so. The book left me wanting to read much more in depth about some of the characters. This book was a nice starting point. (less)
When I was a little girl I remember, whenever I was at my grandmother Hutton's house, listening to her clocks. She, or perhaps it was my grandfather H...moreWhen I was a little girl I remember, whenever I was at my grandmother Hutton's house, listening to her clocks. She, or perhaps it was my grandfather Hutton, collected clocks. Clocks with Westminster chimes. Every quarter hour several clocks would, in near synchronization, chime out the 4, 8, 12, or 16 simple notes of the measures of the Westminster chimes. To this day I love an interesting clock, not digital ones that throw a random number at me, but ones whose hands move about their faces with numerals to mark off in twelfths the segments of the day or night. Throw in beautiful craftsmanship, a sun and moon dial, a pendulum, a cuckoo...I am hooked. But until I read this book I had no knowledge of some of the most important and magnificent clocks ever made. I love micro-histories, so I tend to be automatically biased in their favor as a genre. I love learning new things. This book was fascinating, but I confess, tended to tedious at times. It was also frustrating to see how poor Harrison, the brilliant clockmaker, who was instrumental in creating a viable means for ships to measure longitude, was treated. In that respect the book was great...it evoked from me the strong emotional response to want to throttle those who treated him so unjustly, and to right old wrongs done him. I am pleased that his legacy is acknowledged today, and immortalized in numerous books. And in a museum. I would love to see those clocks he made. They must be things of incredible mechanical beauty. How he crafted them is more than I can comprehend. (less)
I really enjoyed this biography. Her perspective was fascinating, and the documentation of her changing views and feelings was well done. I love biog...more I really enjoyed this biography. Her perspective was fascinating, and the documentation of her changing views and feelings was well done. I love biographies, and this one did not disappoint. The author is only a few years older than I am, so the book spanned a time period I knew well. I understood and sympathized with her culture shock, wishing I could tell her that even some of us Americans might have felt similarly. Her attention to detail, the food, clothing, how they lived, helps make this biography especially interesting, and a record of places in a time of history that might otherwise be forgotten. (less)
I have always loved real life survival stories, especially when dealing with WWII. This is a story about the Double Cross spies, upon whom the surviva...moreI have always loved real life survival stories, especially when dealing with WWII. This is a story about the Double Cross spies, upon whom the survival of many in WWII was depended. Their misinformation was known to have made it way to top Nazi eyes and ears, and the resulting sucess of the Normandy Invasion is evidence that the ruses employed was successful.
I read this book just after reading "In the Garden of Beasts.", second in my trilogy of WWII stories recently read. In this book, you know the ending is a little better. It focuses on the spies involved in misleading the Germans as to where the D-Day invasion would occur. It worked. How much the double agents information was critical to the success of the operation may never be fully known...such is the nature of espionage...but the evidence shows it worked well, better even than the British had hoped it would, in some cases.
There are 5 spies in particular on which this book focuses: Tricycle, Garbo, Treasure, Brutus, and Bronx. Other such as Artist, Gelatine, Freak, and Giraffe are mentioned as well. I also enjoyed the little side stories of other spy's escapades, such as the wretched actor who made a magnificent double for Monty, the pigeon fanatic's efforts to infest German carrier pigeons with traitor pigeons, and an frustrated but nevertheless blustering Patton marching around touting his command of military units that did not exist. One slip, just one slip, one betrayal, one triple agent, could have blown the whole works, and perhaps cost the lives of tens of thousands more. And it nearly happened when the British spy handlers miscalculated the love of a the spy called Treasure for her little dog, and the bitterness she harbored when they broke their word to her regarding her beloved Frisson.
This book is a story of incredible bravery, astounding excesses, betrayal, psychology, strategy, and a look into the minds of those who masterminded the greatest deception in WWII. I was riveted. (less)
This is a good book, from the heart, from a man who was reared in a life where fundamentalist christianity was the only reality that existed for him....moreThis is a good book, from the heart, from a man who was reared in a life where fundamentalist christianity was the only reality that existed for him. As he grew older and wiser, and began sincerely questioning, investigating, and researching he came to the rational studied understanding that what he had been taught all his youth was not true, or rational, or consistent. He did not come to this understanding of anger, or hatred, but a sincere, concerned search for the truth.
Welcome to my world.
Our backgrounds shared many similarities, but many of his friends and family members were more compassionate. What I could relate to most of all were those who were convinced that he was living a life of egregious sin, or flagrant rebellion against all societal norms to come to a conclusion of agnosticism or atheism. Nor could they fathom that he was essential the same person he was before with the same likes and dislikes, just not a fundamentalist christian.
Like the author my own studies in linguistics, particularly linguistic anthropology, ancient history and literature, archaeology, and science showed over and over the huge gaps in my own learning and the apparent truths I had been told. I felt I had found a kindred soul in this man, although our stories are different in many ways. First I am a woman and had the added burden and inconsistent teaching that all my education and skills were to be used only for the church and at home. Second, his own church was less narrow than ones my parents or former spouse attended. Third, he is a good generation younger than I am, which offered him different avenues for independent research, communication with others, and opportunities that were unavailable to me. Nevertheless, I empathized with the author.
I did find the book to be repetitive at times, as he rehashed over again arguments for why he believed, or did not believe, certain things, or arguments with well meaning people who tried to gently pull him "back into the fold" or those who wrangled with him for the "bound for hell" apostate he now presented.
But what was important to me in this book was that the author sincerely tries to explain his thinking, his mind, his feelings, and how he came to the place he is now, even though many refuse to believe his experience is possible. It is possible, I can vouch for that.
Beautiful Boy is one of the most beautiful yet painful books I have ever read. David Sheff is a professional writer, who bares much of his soul as he...moreBeautiful Boy is one of the most beautiful yet painful books I have ever read. David Sheff is a professional writer, who bares much of his soul as he writes about the utter shock of discovering his son’s serious drug use and utter addiction, the agonizing guilt he feels, the torturing “what ifs” he ponders, his frustration, his helplessness, his anger, mixed in a seesaw of emotions with the love and pride he has for his son, and the fear…the horrible ever=present fear that the next phone call will be the dreaded one.
Somewhere in the middle of the book he quotes someone who noted something like this, “A parent can only be as happy as his least happy child.” Ah, yes, David Sheff, you have captured what every parent struggles with.
This book is not just for parents who have a child addicted to meth. It is for any parents who find themselves estranged from their children because of drugs or alcohol, prostitution, gangs, illegal activities, or the insidious high of religious cultism, all which can separate a child from a parent. This book is for any parent who is estranged from a child, who feels guilt over choices they made that may have caused the rift, and who wonders why…how…what can I do?
David Sheff has researched drug addiction, particularly meth addiction, treatments, medical and psychological studies, personal accounts, and comes to some fascinating, helpful, and at times dismaying conclusions. But the book helps. You cry, you sympathize, you empathize, and you totally understand his feelings, why he does what he does, and why he does not do other things. It is a book filled with compassion, and healing, and, yes, fear and guilt, and frustration. And hope. Always hope, and healing, and moving on. (less)
The history of salt is the history of humanity. Salt is in our very being. The finding, producing, use, transporting, taxing and wars over salt shows...moreThe history of salt is the history of humanity. Salt is in our very being. The finding, producing, use, transporting, taxing and wars over salt shows the history of man's migrations and civilization in a new and fascinating light. We cannot live without salt...so wherever man is, there is salt.
This is the kind of book I love. History, cookbook, trivia, people and places all around the world, all rolled into a fascinating book about one topic---salt. But that topic touches so much of our lives, so much history. From our food, to medicine, to wars, to taxes, riches and poverty, from ancient Egypt, Rome and China, down the rivers and coasts of Medieval Europe, to north America and finally to India where Gandhi in defiance of the British walked to the small village of Dandi and picked up salt from the seacoast.
From garum to salt cod, from mummies to gunpowder, this book covers so many topics and so many places it boggles the mind. With this book I traveled the world, and traveled through time as well. In a time when medical professionals are touting the dangers of salt, this book reminds us of how man's very life has been so bound up in salt. Too much may kill us, but without salt...well, that is unthinkable. We would not be here.
This book would be a great mapping project for me. If you like micro-histories, this one is a giant gem. (less)