I learned about this book recently as a source material in the book On Killing and decided to add it to my reading list. Karl Marlantes, who served asI learned about this book recently as a source material in the book On Killing and decided to add it to my reading list. Karl Marlantes, who served as an officer in the US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, discusses the life of a warrior before, during, and after war based on his own personal experiences, reflections, and studies. Marlantes opens up and shares many details about his actions and emotional feelings from his time during and after the Vietnam war that are usually not shared by combat veterans and are often hard for civilians to comprehend and digest.
Throughout the book, the author discusses some mildly esoteric concepts concerning the recent emasculation of males in Western society, how the traditional roles of warriors in the 'realms of Mars' changed, along with more approachable concepts that veterans face such as heroism, self-deception, guilt, and denial.
Part of this book reminds me of the autobiographies from Vietnam veterans recounting this feats and achievements during the war that I used to read during my Vietnam War phase back in high school. Even though some of these accounts may feel like the author sharing his war stories, Marlantes dives deeply into his feelings, thoughts, and reflections of himself when he was a much younger and immature man dealing with one of the most difficult human experiences.
Overall, the book was an interesting read that reinforces thoughts and ideas from other veterans along with ideas that are new to me that I would like to learn more about....more
This book was definitely a giant eye opener for me about human nature in the midst of combat and the various factors that may incline or disincline aThis book was definitely a giant eye opener for me about human nature in the midst of combat and the various factors that may incline or disincline a person to actually attempt to harm another human being. I haven't read a book that made me want to discuss the content with other people in such a long time. With my crude ability to speak Korean, I was even able to talk about this book with my Korean mother-in-law (who is a bit of a history buff), and learn some things about Korean soldiers coming home from Vietnam.
After reading a few academic books, I found the writing style in this book extremely refreshing. The material was explained in a style that is approachable for an average reader with plenty of detail. At the same time, the information was concise and not bogged down with excessive flowery and obtuse speech. While a lot of the author's points were reinforced with personal accounts from veterans, there wasn't much data to support his ideas.
Almost every section in this book had a giant impact on the way I think about combat and veterans. The section that stuck with me the most was about how the way the US conscription system was set up in during the Vietnam War along with the actions of a certain segment of the US population compounded the psychological effects of combat to a extremely severe level for many of the veterans.
For the last segment of the book concerning the impact of violence in media on our children, I think Lt. Colonel Grossman makes some good points that are reinforced by what he has presented in the rest of his book. However, I feel that his arguments are a bit over simplified and that violence in our society is a much bigger issue with a plethora of other factors.
Overall, I feel that this book is a must read for anybody and everybody. While this may not be a perfect book, I believe that it will provide profound insights to anybody who reads this who has never been in a combat situation before....more
I have extremely mixed views about this book and it took me a long time to collect my thoughts to express my feelings. There's no doubt that Bruce CumI have extremely mixed views about this book and it took me a long time to collect my thoughts to express my feelings. There's no doubt that Bruce Cumings is a knowledgeable professor on the subject of modern Korean history and has much to share. I definitely learn some new things even though I've been in Korea for over six years and have read twenty some-odd books about Korea at the time of the posting. I could easily see why he is sometimes called a revisionist or an apologist from his writing. To me, there is nothing wrong with sharing an unpopular view that differs greatly with what is accept as the standard knowledge. The thing that really turns me off about this book is Cuming's presentation of the material.
What stood out to me right away was that it seems that Cumings was trying to write a book for the average reader to better understand Korea, but ended up relying too much of his academic writing styles in the creation of this book. I was able to follow along with almost all of the information in this book due to my somewhat extensive background in Korean history and Korea itself. It appears that most of the information in this book was written with the assumption that the reader already has a decent amount of knowledge of Korea. One thing that irked me was the way he offhandedly mentioned the "Chollas" in the book. For anybody not greatly familiar with Korean geography, I would suspect that they would not grasp that it is a reference to theNorthern Jeolla and Southern Jeolla provinces.
In addition to this, Cumings also seems to drop the ball when using his personal experience in the book. With his years of experience living in Korea, it could have supplemented the book extremely well and had a nice personal touch. Instead, he seems to use this information as anecdotal proof at times. The most shocking part was when he was talking about the less and honorable lifestyles of Korean politicians many years ago. He listed off a long list of inappropriate actions that he saw politicians do and then made the argument that if he had seen this, then Koreans must have seen it a lot. I feel that it would've been much more appropriate to list documented examples or statistics about the short-comings of the politicians and then add his own experiences to reinforce the point. The same problem arose when he was comparing the tear gas used by American and Korean police officers. Sure, he had experienced both of them when in or around protests, but this isn't the "proof" that Koreans used stronger tear gas. What I believe would've been better was to document the chemical make up of both tear gases, showing that more of the harsher chemicals are used by Korean police, and then add his personal experience to attest to this fact.
Last of all, I felt that a better title of this book could have been, "My Personal Axe to Grind with Korea's Current Place in the Sun." As I stated earlier, I think that presenting an unpopular or commonly overlooked side of a story. However, in this book, Cumings presents an extremely biased opinion when it comes to Park Chung-hee and North Korea. Park Chung-hee is an extremely controversial in modern Korean history and I was able to learn a lot about his government in this book. However, virtually all of the information that was presented in this book about him pretty much demonized him as a leader who abused the entire labor force in Korea. Even though this book was published well before the 2012 presidential elections, a balanced view point would've been much more appropriate to help understand while some people remember this leader fondly. The elderly population in 2012 played a big part in getting his daughter elected as the 11th President of South Korea. Many of these voters who lived under Park Chung-hee felt that they standard of living improved under his rule. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Cumings had almost nothing negative to say about North Korea. With no other previous knowledge of North Korea, someone might develop impression that North Korea is actually a lovely place that is just greatly misunderstood. There was quite a few pages that consisted of a philosophical thought experiment and excerpts from esoteric neo-Confucian writings in order show the reader the true nature of Kim Il-sung and his ruling styles. In addition to this, Cumings puts a lot of effort into pointing out all the faults in the West's and South Korea's diplomatic dealings with North Korea, and all the things that North has done in order to develop a peaceful relationship with the rest of the world. It's great that he is presented a side of the story that is often overlooked or ignored, but balance is needed.
Despite all of this negativity that I have wrote, there was quite a bit of information that I learned. I think the biggest thing that I learned (other than negative aspects of Park Chung-hee's rule - which did a nice job of balancing the positive things I had already learned about him), was the belligerent nature of the two armies parked along the 38th Parallel in the months proceeding the outbreak of the Korean War. Cumings doesn't declare that it was the North or the South that attacked first, but he provides a lot of great information showing that this situation was a lot more complicated that what a lot of people learn about the Korean War. I feel that if Cumings would've written the rest of the book in detailed and balance manner that he showed in the discussion of the 38th Parallel before the outbreak of the war, Korea's Place in the Sun would've been a completely outstanding book....more
After some contemplation, I'm going to be a bit generous and give this book three stars instead of two.
There was a lot of good information in this booAfter some contemplation, I'm going to be a bit generous and give this book three stars instead of two.
There was a lot of good information in this book and it helped me see the bigger picture of the Great Depression. By looking back at the actions of the four major economic and financial powers of the world starting at the end of World WarI, Liaquat Ahamed shows how the actions of the heads of the central banks in America, England, France, and Germany, along with the belief that the gold standard is the key to national economic success and stability, played a major role in the manifestation of the Great Depression. Most of what I have learned about the Great Depression in the past focused on America and often ignored what happened in the rest of the world. This book does a nice job of showing the big picture and the interconnections of the world market at the time.
While I did learn quite a lot reading this book, I have to say that the organization of the information made comprehension of the material more complicated than need be. The overall story presented was first divided up chronologically, and then further subdivided regionally. The early sections of the book focuses on the actions taken by different governments in the aftermath of WWI, but usually one country at a time. What this leads to is reading about four or five years of the actions the French government and banks took, and then going back to the same starting point and hearing about what the English did in this time period.
Another writing style that Ahamed chose was to interrupt the flow of the story with tangential background information about the different people he was talking about. Many of the things mention were quite interesting, but more times than not, the information was mostly about odd quirks or notable events in that persons life that aren't really related to the financial crisis that took place in the beginning of the 20th century.
I'm glad I read this book and was able to learn more about the Great Depression, but I feel that the author got distracted from his main objective and could have done a better job organizing and presenting the information....more
This book was a plethora of information and I was able to learn a lot. Luckily, I had been playing quite a bit of Europa Universalis IV, so I was someThis book was a plethora of information and I was able to learn a lot. Luckily, I had been playing quite a bit of Europa Universalis IV, so I was somewhat familiar with some of the locations and historical concepts.
I found the earlier parts of the Ottoman Empire more interesting, learning about how the first few Sultans were able to form their new dynasty. After Sultan #10, the quality and competency of the Sultans were all down hill from there. The book was still chock full of information, but it was a slow decent to the inevitable collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
After the conquest of Constantinople, the majority of the book centered around the European holdings of the Ottomans, especially the Balkans and the Black Sea. Except for a couple of armies to confront the Persians once in a while or European army running around in Egypt, there was much focus on the Middle Eastern section of the Ottoman Empire....more
With 2014 being the one hundred year anniversary for the beginning of World War I, I decided that I needed to learn more about this pivotal point in wWith 2014 being the one hundred year anniversary for the beginning of World War I, I decided that I needed to learn more about this pivotal point in world history. In high school, I spent a couple of years reading any books I could get my hands on about World War II and the Vietnam War, along with watching any documentaries about these wars. While I might not have as much free time as I did in high school, I decided to continue casual research into World War I by starting with this book.
On a quick side note, if you are looking for additional resources on learning about World War I, check out the Great War Channel.
As for this book, it is extremely dense with information. This is not a book to pick up to start learning about World War I. Once you have a decent idea of how World War I started, the Guns of August will go into much more details about the lead up and the actions of major powers in the European theater during the first month.
This is not a book to read on a short commute in the morning. There are so many people mentioned in this book, that it can get very overwhelming and confusing. I found that sitting down and spending an hour or two to read a couple of chapters in one sitting is a much more effective way to keep track of all of the events that Tuchman talks about.
I learned a lot from the book, but I hope to read more books about WWI in the future that are bit more approachable for a casual reader....more
Bill Bryson reviews life in America in the 1950's and 60's through the eyes of a child growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. While there is quite a bit of iBill Bryson reviews life in America in the 1950's and 60's through the eyes of a child growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. While there is quite a bit of information from research in this book, a lot of stories presented are anecdotal yet humorous accounts from the author's life. Many of Bryson's experiences are told through the lens of a child and greatly differ from reality. It's best just to take these stories with a grain of salt and enjoy the differences between how adults and children perceive the same thing.
I read this book quite a few years ago, and despite this I still found myself laughing out loud all throughout the book. I learned the hard way that this isn't a good book to pass the time while proctoring an essay test. You will spend much of your energy trying to stifle your laughter in order not to disturb the students.
Overall, I wouldn't use this book as a source in an essay. It's just a fun book to sit down and read to learn about life in America during an older time....more
This was quite a good book and did definitely introduce me to a part of history that I had known virtually nothing about. The book focuses mainly on tThis was quite a good book and did definitely introduce me to a part of history that I had known virtually nothing about. The book focuses mainly on the negative aspect of King Leopold II especially in regard to his actions in the Congo.
The book was mostly written in chronological order with a few tangents here and there. These tangents were nice side paths of extra information to the main topic and either got their own chapter or were put for the most part within a chapter. While the book wasn't perfectly organized, it was still easy to follow.
Overall, Adam Hochschild does a pretty good job at writing this book using the information that he has found from his research. There are a few times when the author starts to speculate about certain people or events, but when he does, he does a good job of clearly stating he is speculating and uses plenty of resources to support his speculation.
I'm glad that I read this book and was able to learn more about this part of world history that I never knew about....more
I was fascinated by South American history when I picked up Conquistador by Buddy Levy. Kim MacQuarrie continues the fascinating yet brutal story of tI was fascinated by South American history when I picked up Conquistador by Buddy Levy. Kim MacQuarrie continues the fascinating yet brutal story of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in this book. I don't know too much about this book and I was able to understand what was happening without too much difficulty. The hardest part is the plethora of Spanish and Inca names.
There was a lot of information in this book and the author presents in a way that is both entertaining and educational at the same time. However, there is a fine line between history book that reads like a novel versus a book that was written like a novel and MacQuarrie seems to straddle this line. Buddy Levy does a fine job using his journalism skills at writing a book that reads like a novel. He uses all of his sources well and uses powerful language to connect his information in a manner that is entertaining and draws us in. On the opposite side is Karen Abbott and her book Sin in the Second City. She seems to take lots of liberties in her writing. While entertaining, she fills in a lot of the actions, thoughts, and feelings that may or may not have happened without ever using a source within her writing. Maybe she has lots of good sources that back up her claims. However, her writing comes across as if she read the information and then she wrote a book based on how she imagined everything would have played out.
As for MacQuarrie, she does use a lot of sources in her narrative of the first contact between the Spanish and the Incas. Nevertheless, sprinkled throughout her book quite liberally are phrases like "no doubt", "without doubt", or "undoubtedly". These were key markers showing that the author was adding what she believed a certain person was thinking or feeling at the time. While she is at least highlighting in a manner that this is her perspective, there are better ways to do this.
Overall, it was a nice book. I would pick up another book of hers if it was about a subject matter that I was interested in. However, I doubt that I would go running to the bookstore to pick up her next new release....more
I've actually met one of the authors, David A. Mason, through the Royal Asiatic Society here in Korea. During a trip to the National Museum of Korea (I've actually met one of the authors, David A. Mason, through the Royal Asiatic Society here in Korea. During a trip to the National Museum of Korea (국립중앙박물관) about Buddhist Art from Korea, he was to add a lot of information to what the docent was explaining. I first learned about this book from a Facebook Feed from David A. Manson's profile. I contacted him and he sent me my copy of the book in the mail.
I've been to quite a few Buddhist temples here in Korea and wanted to learn more about what I was seeing. This book definitely provides plenty of information of what I've seen at the temples and the habits of monks, nuns, and laypeople at these temples. However, to a person like myself who has an extremely limited foundation of Buddhism, there was a lot of information related to Buddhist dogma that just washed over me.
Despite that, there was a lot of things that I did learn about Korean Buddhism. A few things that I learned were completely new to me while other things helped fill out my previous knowledge of other topics. I was really happy to learn about the Dabotap (다보탑), which is the stone pagoda that is on the 10 Won coin here in South Korea.
This book could be a bit tricky to use as a reference book since all of the entries are alphabetized by the English transcription of Korean words. Under the Revised Romanization of Korean, the writing of Korean words is not exact and there can be multiple ways of spelling one Korean word in English. This may cause difficulties when trying to find an entry in the book.
On a side note, I started to learn Hanja (한자), or the Chinese characters that Koreans use. I was able to get quite a bit of practice in recognizing some of the characters that I had learned when I was reading the book. Every single entry, along with other words, included the Chinese characters....more
This book was a bit difficult to get through since it contains lots of dry academic articles about the Korean economy from the end of the Korean War iThis book was a bit difficult to get through since it contains lots of dry academic articles about the Korean economy from the end of the Korean War in 1950 all the way up to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. It was a bit depressing that nearly five years out of college, my grasp of finance and economics - my major - has diminished a great deal, and this book reinforced that notion. Many of the articles contain lots of economic data and theories that I was able able to slightly comprehend. Some of the other articles were written in more of a sociological manner, and they were much more approachable and enjoyable to read.
Overall, this book looked at the rise of the Korean economy over roughly a 40 year period in which the government lead the economy in a very critical manner. This was an extremely great counterpoint to It was a bit irksome that there were quite a few errors in the numerical charts in the first half of the book.
I'm interested in reading other books in this series about other topics concerning South Korea....more
Awhile back I listened to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History series Wrath of the Khans. Even though it was still another detailed, thought provoking podcasAwhile back I listened to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History series Wrath of the Khans. Even though it was still another detailed, thought provoking podcast, for me it wasn't one of my favorites since my familiarity with the subject of Mongolia during the times of Genghis Khan was quite limited. After reading this book, I am ready to go back and listen to the entire podcast again.
I feel that this book is a great introduction to Genghis Khan and friends and would be a great spring board into other books that contain far more detail on the subject. Jack Weatherford starts from Genghis Khan's childhood and goes on to the destructive effects of the Bubonic Plague on the Mongolian Empire and beyond.
While the book is very approachable to a person not familiar with the history of Mongolia, I found that it seems to be too general at times. After living in Korea for more that five years and reading quite a few books on Korea, I found that a few of his comments about Korea seemed inaccurate. For example, Weatherford states that the Mongols united warring factions on the peninsula, and created a governance that continue to rule Korea into the modern day. The kingdom of Goryeo was founded in 918 AD, well before it became a vassal of Mongols in 1259. I am sure that king's control over the Korean people might not have been perfect, but the country was unified before by Silla during the Three Kingdoms Period by 668 AD. The only relative conflict that I could think Weatherford was referring to was of is the power struggle between military generals like Choe Chung-heon and the monarchy.
I am sure the author is a learned historian, but I am not sure if he has access to information that I don't have, if his sources are not the most accurate, or if he oversimplified the information to the sake of brevity.
Jack Weatherford has some other history books that look intriguing, especially since I am not overly familiar with some of the subject matters. I'm sure that I will being picking up more of his books, but I will take the information with a grain of salt....more
Andrei Lankov writes an academic book about an attempt to remove Kim Il-sung from power in 1956 that is quite approachable to the average reader. WhilAndrei Lankov writes an academic book about an attempt to remove Kim Il-sung from power in 1956 that is quite approachable to the average reader. While a fair amount of knowledge of 20th century Korean history is needed, the overall language isn't obtuse. There is quite a lot of detail in this book, including events in other communist countries that impacted North Korea during this time.
Due to the secretive habits of governments (especially those of the dictatorial persuasion), the author states when he using official documents versus second or even third hand accounts. In addition to that, he reviews many possible theories when sources are lacking. Lankov doesn't seem to shy away from admitting that certain parts of the story could be greatly enhanced by future declassified information.
During the book, there were a lot of Korean names that could be difficult to keep track of, especially those who are unfamiliar with the Korean language. It was while reading this book that I have come to value the McCune-Reischauer Romanization of Korean over the Revised Romanization method.
Overall, the biggest weakness is that the writing was quite dry and the overall topic was a bit underwhelming when juxtapose to a title of Crisis in North Korea....more
This was an interesting little book of a collection of articles written by Korean and Portuguese scholars about the first contacts between these two nThis was an interesting little book of a collection of articles written by Korean and Portuguese scholars about the first contacts between these two nations.
Some of the information I knew already from different lectures at the Royal Asiatic Society-Korea Branch. Other information was quite new to me and enjoyed learning. One of the most interesting things I learned was about Jan Weltevree, who was a Dutch sailor that became the first westerner to be 'naturalized' in Korean society back in the 17th century. He took the Korean name Park Yeon (박연), started a family with a Korean wife and went on to be government official....more
To me, Captain Cook was once just some vague naval officer in the British Navy that did a lot of exploring. Where, when, how and why were all unknownTo me, Captain Cook was once just some vague naval officer in the British Navy that did a lot of exploring. Where, when, how and why were all unknown to me until I read this book. Needless to say, this book is a good start for anybody interested in learning about this historical figure.
Throughout the book, Tony Horwitz focuses each chapter on a different location in one of Cook's three voyages around the Pacific Ocean. During each chapter, the author jumps back and forth between two time periods. This first is the life and times of Cook and his men, along with the natives that they came across during their travels. The second time period is the modern world and how this area has changed since the first arrival of Western culture.
The modern times of the book are all connected with the underlining theme of how is Cook perceived today by the inhabitants, both native and immigrants. While all of the information presented in the book is valuable and eye opening, most of the sections also talk about the author's personal journey going to each of the places on Cook's voyages with his Australian friend who is quite fond of alcohol. To me, this aspect of the book felt overly dramatic and distracting from what I am interested in, which is the historical information along with modern perspective of the people affected by the journey of Captain Cook.
Despite my complaints, the book wasn't written in an overly academic manner and was fairly easy to read. The author's writing style for the most part quite entertaining. The most humorous part of the book was about the author's participation in the Cook festival held every year in Cooktown, Queensland, Australia....more
After reading this book, I feel better prepared for my trip to Gyeongju (경주시) with my parents in a couple of weeks. I now have a better idea of the diAfter reading this book, I feel better prepared for my trip to Gyeongju (경주시) with my parents in a couple of weeks. I now have a better idea of the different historical sites in the ancient city capital, along with some background information that will make sightseeing more enjoyable and rewarding. The most interesting parts of this book to me were the historical pieces of information that put the different statues, buildings and tombs into perspective.
In addition to all of the historical information, there were a lot of descriptions of the different sights. While it did provide some valuable information, there is only so many times that I can read a description of a pagoda. Moreover, it seems that the reader has to have an extensive knowledge of Buddhism to fully understand all of the Sanskrit vocabulary used to describe the different temples and statues of Buddha. I think this problem arises from the fact the book is a translation of the original Korean text.
One other irksome aspect that appears from translating the book into English is the propensity of the author telling me how I feel when I look at something. The author doesn’t know me or my personality. Instead, just tell me what the artist wanted to convey. ...more
Robert Fisk provides a view of modern Middle Eastern history through the perspective of his life as a journalist in this region. This point of view ofRobert Fisk provides a view of modern Middle Eastern history through the perspective of his life as a journalist in this region. This point of view of history provides the reader with a much more personal (and often disturbing) understanding of what has happened in the last thirty years. Instead of a pure broad view of these events, we can see how the people, many of them being average citizens, suffered during the tumultuous times. While there is plenty of academic historical information throughout the book, a lot of the examples that he uses are quite anecdotal.
It becomes very obvious very quickly that the outlook Mr. Fisk has is completely one-sided. I think it is absolutely great that he is sharing the perspectives of many of the Muslims that are living in this part of the world, a perspective that many in the Western world are not familiar with. However, these opinions are not balanced with opposing point of views. Instead, Israel, America, and the West in general seem to be constantly demonized throughout the book, especially during the sections on Palestine and Iraq.
This book was very informative about the different parts of the world that Robert Fisk has reported in, which included Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. Overall, all of the chapters were placed in a chronological order based on when the major events happened in that area. The amount of conflict that has occurred here over the last thirty years is deeply disturbing....more
Much of this book contains lists of people and text from the time period which could become very tedious to read and hard to keep track of. After the lists however, the author then discusses the importance of these people and texts and the effects they had on the Joseon Dynasty.
While the text itself wasn't extremely riveting, there were some good descriptions of some figures from Korean history including Im Kkeogjeong (임꺽정), Yi Hwang (이황) and Yi I (이이). This was quite fascinating to me since Yi Hwang and Yi I are on the South Korean 1,000 Won and 5,000 Won bills respectively.
Compared to other Korean history books, this installation didn't seem overly emotional or patriotic. There was a lot of information to cover in this book. Because of this, parts seemed a bit water downed in comparison to other books that focus on one time period in specific, such as Samuel Hawley's The Imjin War....more
On a trip back to the States, I spent quite a bit of down time catching up some American TV. All of that time was spent locked on the Discovery ChanneOn a trip back to the States, I spent quite a bit of down time catching up some American TV. All of that time was spent locked on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and a couple of other adjacent education channels. During the wee hours of the morning wide awake due to my jet lag, I was able to catch some good, old-fashion, traditional historical documentaries on the History Channel before it reverted to a Pawn Stars marathon. On one particular morning, there were a couple of hours of documentaries about the Mexican-American War, of which I knew little about.
Since Richard Winders, the author of this book, was one of the historians guest appearing on this program, I decided to pick up this book, which was also mentioned on the History Channel documentary. I was ready to read more about the Mexican-American War, especially since I hadn't been able to watch the documentaries all the way through.
When I opened this book, I was ready to expand my knowledge of this time period is U.S. and Mexican history with information that I missed from the documentary along with more detail that couldn't be covered in an hour documentary. Unfortunately, I was able to get loads of details, but it was very detailed information in one specific area.
The title, Mr. Polk's Army, isn't a catchy title to describe the Mexican-America War; it is about exactly what the title states - the U.S. Army that was under the control of James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States.
Needless to say, this wasn't exactly the type of book that I was looking for. I was hoping for a book that would tell the overall story from the start of the belligerence between the United States and Mexico, through the battles that took place, and all the way up to the end of the war.
Despite lacking what I wanted, there was still plenty of insightful information about the people that served in the U.S. Army along with all of the politicking in the U.S. that surrounded the events of the war. Winders was able to provide lots of accounts from actual documents from the time period. Some passages could be dry and hard to get through. This included the list of Democratic officers that were appointed to the volunteer army under the patronage of President Polk. Other sections included gripping accounts of hardships that the soldiers had to face in this time period.
After this book, I feel much better informed, but I definitely want to read more books about this time period in order to get a more overall picture. Winders doesn't paint a pretty picture of President Polk, and now I feel a bit of ambivalence when I listen to one of my favorite They Might Be Gaints songs, James K. Polk.
Alternative Title: Climatic Impacts on European Farming
This was a interesting and quick read on how the cooling of climate has impacted human history.Alternative Title: Climatic Impacts on European Farming
This was a interesting and quick read on how the cooling of climate has impacted human history. The author doesn't say that recent miniature ice age was the cause for certain events, but instead it played a role in the timing and at times a catalyst for underlying problems.
Brian Fagan discussed many topics ranging from Viking colonization, Icelandic fishing, British land reforms to Alpine tourist attractions. ...more
O Won-chol, the author of this book, was one of the high ranking technocrats under the reign of Park Chung-hee (박정희) in the 1960s and 70s. During hisO Won-chol, the author of this book, was one of the high ranking technocrats under the reign of Park Chung-hee (박정희) in the 1960s and 70s. During his 16 years in office, Park was able to turn the impoverished, agrarian nation of South Korea into developing industrial nation before he was assassinated.
After being shunned from country's politics due to his close association with President Park, Mr. O has written this book along with developing a website that talks about economic policies that he helped create which lead to the rapid improvement of the South Korean economy and the lives of its citizens.
I originally picked up this book to learn more about Park Chung-hee, who is an extremely pivotal person in modern Korean history. While I didn't learn a lot about the man himself, there was quite a bit of information concerning the measures implemented by President Park and his technocrats that greatly changed the nation of South Korea. Mr. O clearly has inside knowledge and understanding of the Korean government, Korean current events and industry under Park's tutelage.
Unfortunately, reading this book was almost akin to reading propaganda. Virtually nothing negative was said about Park Chung-hee, while Mr. O was not hesitant at all to criticize Park's successors, Chun Doo-hwan (전두환), Roh Tae-woo (노태우) and Kim Yong-sam (김영삼). Additionally, throughout the book there were passages of overly emotional patriotism and idealism that further destroys the author's objectivity.
If I hadn't valued the information that I had learned from this book, these negative aspects would've brought the book's rating down to 2 stars....more
With the Middle East being a pivotal point in the world scene, I felt quite ignorant of what is going on there. I had a basic grasp of what the situatWith the Middle East being a pivotal point in the world scene, I felt quite ignorant of what is going on there. I had a basic grasp of what the situation, but still lacked a true understanding. Sure, Israelis want to create a Jewish state in the Middle East and the Palestinians disagree. However, why was there a fifteen year war in neighboring Lebanon? Why were both the Syrian and Israeli armed forces directly involved?
After reading this book, I feel much more confident about understanding the modern history of this region of the world. With that being said, I am still largely ignorant of current events of the Middle East. Despite that, I believe that if native Arab would start explaining to me the history of their land in detail, I would have sufficient knowledge to be able to follow their explanation.
Eugene Rogan started the book with the beginning of Ottoman rule over Arab populations and went up to 2009. While this is a long period of time, the author focuses more on the conflict at hand in this area of the world as appose to culture, science and other aspects of human civilization. I believe other books such as A History of the Arab Peoples would provided better insight into that field of study.
Additionally, this book was written from the perspective of the Arabs. While I may disagree with a lot of view points, opinions or choices of the Arabs, I can see where they are coming from and why certain aspects are important to them. Also, there were some definite biases throughout the text, but the author was also extremely critical of the Arabs themselves (along with Israelis, the British, French and Americans) the entire time.
If anybody feels the need for a crash course into the modern history of the Middle East, you can't go wrong by starting with this book....more
Most of the books that I've read about Korean history deal with large periods of time. While having a general overview of different time periods is grMost of the books that I've read about Korean history deal with large periods of time. While having a general overview of different time periods is great, lately, I've been interested in more detailed accounts of important events in Korean history. This book definitely provides the type of Korean history that I am looking for.
Coming into this book, a decent understanding of Korean history is a prerequisite. Throughout the 5,000 years of Korean history, this book only focuses on about 80 years of the Koryeo Dynasty (고려시대) in which the Ch'oe family was able to become more powerful than the king himself due to the conflict between the civilian and military sides of the government.
This book is written in a collegiate format that isn't in chronological order. Instead, the author focuses on different aspects (Buddhism, economy, peasants & slaves, etc.) in this time period and how each member of the Ch'oe family dealt with these matters. While this style was a bit hard to follow in the beginning, by the last chapter every tied together and was reviewed thoroughly.
Throughout the entire book, the author remained objective and refrained from emotional opinions. This book definitely introduced to me to deeper parts of Korean history that I was unfamiliar with. The academic approach of writing was a bit dry but very informative....more
After reading A Korean History for International Readers, this book is a nice next step for those of you who want learn more about the history of KoreAfter reading A Korean History for International Readers, this book is a nice next step for those of you who want learn more about the history of Korea. While A Korean History for International Readers covers virtually all of Korean history, Volume 1 of this series focuses on prehistoric times up 1392 AD, the fall of the Kingdom of Goryeo (고려). I was able to learn quite a bit more about Korean history without being overwhelmed since this book covers a shorter time period while going into more detail. This would be a nice stepping stone towards a book like Historical Origins of Korean Politics which is akin to a college textbook.
I was a little bit worried about the translation when I was reading the introduction because of all of the errors. However, after reading the first chapter, I realized that the main translator (probably) didn't translate the introduction. Overall, the book was easy to understand from a translation standpoint though the writing could be a bit formulaic at times.
Compare to Historical Origins of Korean Politics (which was extremely critical of Korean history), most everything was portrayed in a positive light. While I didn't feel like I was reading an elementary school history textbook, I do feel that it could have been written with a bit more objectivity from time to time. One underlying theme (that wasn't overly prominent) was how Korea influenced Japanese culture. I'm pretty sure this stems from some the remaining amnesty towards Japan in modern Korea from the living memory of Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula. While it is important to know this information, the discussion could have been more of a two way street....more
Jared Diamond provides a very interesting hypothesis of why civilizations that developed near the Fertile Crescent in Eurasia were able to develop theJared Diamond provides a very interesting hypothesis of why civilizations that developed near the Fertile Crescent in Eurasia were able to develop the the guns, germs and steel to dominate other societies in the modern world. The author tries to look at this idea from a larger perspective of multiple schools of thought from different fields. Overall, he is able to present a logical argument that makes sense with the facts and opinions that he presents.
With such a large topic to discuss (the entire history of homo sapiens), organization was definitely a challenge at times in the book. In addition, some of his information in certain parts could get repetitive. When explaining the benefits of an east-west continental axis in the development of civilizations, he showed the downfalls of a north-south continental axis in North and South America. Later, when discussing the history and development of human societies on these two continents, this point would be continuously brought up again.
While many parts of the book go into great detail to support his ideas, other parts are very brief and limited. It might raise the concern that the subject was simplified for a larger base of reader or that the author may lack familiarity with subjects that he talks about in brief.
Even though some of the organization styles and brevity of some sections may rub me the wrong way, Jared Diamond provides a very interesting idea of how human societies developed in relation to their environment and surroundings....more
The first half of the book consisted of essays and interviews about the early Christian missionaries in Korea. While I have read another book about thThe first half of the book consisted of essays and interviews about the early Christian missionaries in Korea. While I have read another book about the same subject, I was still able to learn more about this time period.
Additionally, information presented in this book also took a critical stance and discussed certain features of modern Christianity in Korea ranging from the Protestant Mega-churches to secularism. While there was lots of information on the benefits that turn of the century missionaries brought to Korea, I felt like I was reading a history book and not a 'propaganda' book.
The second half of the book was full of pictures from the early 20th century focusing around the missionaries and the people in their community. This brought a nice visualization to the subject matter. Additionally, each picture was accompanied by a brief explanation....more
Right off the bat, this is the kind of book that you would read for a college course. It was long, dry and jam packed full of details. Reading this boRight off the bat, this is the kind of book that you would read for a college course. It was long, dry and jam packed full of details. Reading this book was a bit of a struggle, but when I finished, I had a completely new perspective on the history of Korea (up to the end of the Kingdom of Joseon), especially concerning the role of the government.
At the very beginning of the book, Jin Duk-kyu - the author - stated that he was going to take a critical look at the history of Korea. This is a much different approach to most text I've read that were written by Koreans. Kim Jei-min did a nice job translating the book, though a few typos started to appear near the end (a trait of most translated texts). There wasn't really any flowery and poetic descriptions that is commonly found in most Korean texts directly translated to English that I've read.
There were a lot of details. A lot of details. Jin Duk-kyu dove deeply into the different people, governmental branches and different aspects of Korean history and culture. While I have a nice basic grasp of Korean history, there was a lot of information that was just overwhelming for me. A lot of the italicized Korean words ended up just becoming a blur to me.
Despite all of this, I did learn a lot about Korean history. There was a lot of missing pieces of information that I hadn't learned yet. Even though a lot of the details were too much for me, the overall explanation of what was happening to Korean politics and culture was quite clear and the political-science and sociological descriptions were very informative. I now have a much better grasp of the importance of shamanism, Buddhism and neo-Confucianism on Korean politics, history and culture.
It was interesting to see that most of the book seemed to have been written from the sociological Conflict Theory in the constant struggle between the ruling class and the ruled class. Jin Duk-kyu does not paint a pretty picture of the ruling class, especially during the Kingdom of Joseon.
The author hinted at another book concerning the history of Korean politics in the times starting with the collapse of the Kingdom of Joseon. If this book is published in English, I am definitely interested in reading it, but not right away. I need a bit of a rest from collegiate textbooks....more
It is quite unusal that a book can both be very general while at the same time very detailed. Albert Hourani is able to do this in his description ofIt is quite unusal that a book can both be very general while at the same time very detailed. Albert Hourani is able to do this in his description of the entire history of the Arab peoples (up to the late 80s).
After reading just recently reading Guns, Germs, and Steel, I am starting to find that I am not especially fon books that cover an extremely long time period. Whereas I was able to learn a lot, I find that these books just gloss over much of the information, leaving me not really grasping the information that I read. In many parts of the book, long stretches of time were discussed in brief. While I did get a big picture view of what happened, I wanted to know about the events in more detailed.
At other times in the book, the author would go into great detail about a specific cultural or social aspect of the Arab world in a certain time period. Even though this insight was fascinating, it felt a little out of place since I didn't have a firm grasp of the time period that was quickly discuss in that section of the book.
Despite the plethora of information, Hourani covers a lot of information spanning over 1400 years. During this time, the author writes in a manner that feels very familiar with the subject while at the same time quite objective.
I did walk away with much more knowledge of Arab history, I feel that this is a book that is intended for a reader who already has a decent foundation of knowledge of this part of the world....more
Before reading this book, I knew only adjective to describe Che Guevara: Mysterious. Recently, Che has become a bit of a cultural icon again in AmericBefore reading this book, I knew only adjective to describe Che Guevara: Mysterious. Recently, Che has become a bit of a cultural icon again in America, with the famous picture of him, Guerrillero Heroico, being printed on shirts and posters. Because of this, I wanted to know who this person was, what did he accomplish in his life, why his portrait was so popular and if his face should adorn the walls of my bedroom.
In the introduction of this book, Jon Lee Anderson discussed how many books about Che already out there seem to demonize or sanctify him. Through out the book, Anderson did a wonderful job of presenting the facts of his life based on numerous documents and interviews from during the life of Che. While reading this book, I didn't feel that the author was trying to convince me to believe one thing or another about Che.
Now that I have finished the book, there are plenty more adjectives that I would use to describe Che, both positively and negatively: communist, idealistic, dedicated, learned, unhygienic, naive, discipline, hard-working, frugal, educated, ignorant, harsh, disciplined, unrealistic, demanding, selfish and violent.
In the end, while there are certain aspects of his life that one could find admirable, I wouldn't buy a shirt with his face on it nor hang a poster of him in my room. I just found his extreme points of view unrealistic and incompatible with mine....more