This book is part humor and part survival manual, but it does neither particularly well. It has a couple of amusing stories, but most of the attemptsThis book is part humor and part survival manual, but it does neither particularly well. It has a couple of amusing stories, but most of the attempts at humor are limited to statements like "you can use these steps to fake your death when your in-laws come to town".
As for the survival manual aspects, I wouldn't trust this very much. A lot of the tips are common sense (like "avoid encountering a bear so you don't have to fight it") or very impractical (the statement "once you have killed and gutted the deer" shows up at least once. Also, there is a suggestion that a person should have a pipe so they can make their own gun and have a large metal pot in which they can smelt metal, as if your average person took these things into the wilderness with them.
There were a couple of extreme survival stories scattered throughout the book that I wish were expanded on a bit more. Maybe BRI could make a book just of those in the future.
So basically, this book is a quick read, but very far fetched. ...more
Taking on the topic of the entire history of the world is an ambitious challenge for any author. What to include, what to leave out, how in depth to gTaking on the topic of the entire history of the world is an ambitious challenge for any author. What to include, what to leave out, how in depth to get on certain topics. In terms of the choice of topics, he is pretty good. I teach high school history and most of the information we cover is in this book.
There are two significant problems, however. First, his tone is far too intellectual and specialized for a survey book of history. He includes wordy introductions that are entirely unnecessary, especially when trying to produce a "short" history. Relatively simple concepts are made much more complicated.
The second issue, which is one common to survey world history books, is that this work has a very strong European and North American bias. Sure he does his due diligence in including sections on African, Middle Eastern and Asian civilizations and accomplishments, but they are in much less detail than the European sections.
Overall, while this book tells the story of the world and is accurate in its statements, it is more dry and intellectual than your average reader will want....more
I read this book at the end of a grad school class on the Civil War and I wish the professor had assigned it earlier in the semester.
This book is a coI read this book at the end of a grad school class on the Civil War and I wish the professor had assigned it earlier in the semester.
This book is a collection of 9 essays that explore the Lost Cause movement and its impact on the creation of collective memory and the history of the Civil War. Like most edited collections of essays, it has it's strong and weak contributors, but taken together, I thought it was a very well organized and insightful book.
The essays are generally broken down into three categories; those that talk about the Lost Cause in general terms, those that talk about specific states and those that talk about specific people.
The book begins with an essay by editor Alan Nolan, where he outlines the ideas of the Lost Cause movement and then systematically debunks them. The next essay which covers the general terms of the Lost Cause is an essay about Jubal Early and the efforts he took to glorify the South and explain away their failures. Taken together, these essays provides a good foundation for other essays by introducing terms, ideas and characters.
The next section of the book deals with how the Lost Cause was carried out in individual states. One essay covers the changing use of the image of Wade Hampton in South Carolina, another covers how Georgia veteran's reunions helped expand the appeal of the Lost Cause and the final covers how members of Virginia's "Last Generation (of slaveholders)" were trying to make reforms before the Civil War, but then did so afterwards. Taken together, I thought this section was insightful, but the weakest section of the book. The Georgia essay draws almost exclusively from one source, which begs the question if the reunions were the same elsewhere. The Hampton article doesn't do a very good job at placing the events of his life in historical context (basically ignoring his actions during and immediately after the war). The Virginia article does a decent job at describing how they intended to change things after the war, but doesn't prove that intent before the war.
The final section of essays covers individuals, and is well done overall. Two essays, covering the Lost Cause authors attempts to demonize James Longstreet and Ulysses Grant are a great pairing. They demonstrate the lengths to which the authors went to explain away Robert E. Lee's losses (because Longstreet was slow to act at Gettysburg and Grant having a 3 to 1 advantage in numbers... both of which aren't true). There is another essay on George Pickett's wife and the efforts to which she went to improve the image of her husband and the cause for which he fought.
This book had a few weaker- essays, but taken together it approaches the Lost Cause from pretty much every side and does a good job at explaining its methodology and successes....more
This book is billed as "the classic account of the final hours of the Titanic" and that description pretty much sums it up.
Positives - Contains a wideThis book is billed as "the classic account of the final hours of the Titanic" and that description pretty much sums it up.
Positives - Contains a wide cast of characters (crew, first class, third class, etc). Incorporates first hand accounts into the narrative very well. Explains complicated naval terms in a way that your average reader can understand. Good beach reading material. For several events that have multiple survivors' perspectives (ex. where Captain Smith was when the ship sunk), he does a good job at picking out the ones that are clearly false and which are most plausible.
Negatives - Doesn't really put the events of that night in context. Basically, the book starts several hours before the ship hit the iceberg and ends with the survivors returning to New York. There are a few passing stories about events before and after, but not much. If you're reading this as a historian, the lack of citations for quotes would be really aggravating. The quotes are good, he just doesn't say when, where and how he got them. He doesn't really have a thesis or argument. He throws out several theories and what-ifs at the end of the book, but doesn't pass judgement.
As one is reading this, they need to be aware that it was originally written over 50 years ago and the historical profession has come a long way since then (in terms of thesis statements and documenting sources). This wouldn't pass muster as a scholarly work today, but, for when it was written, its widespread use of sources was somewhat groundbreaking, which is what makes it such a powerful part of the Titanic narrative today. If you've seen the movie Titanic, you will have seen multiple scenes that are depicted pretty much exactaly as they aprear in this book....more
Good fast-paced coverage of a topic that most Americans only have a superficial understanding of. He does a good job at placing the events of ReconstrGood fast-paced coverage of a topic that most Americans only have a superficial understanding of. He does a good job at placing the events of Reconstruction in their historical context (ex. by starting the story as the Civil War was still occurring, rather than in 1865). He also does a solid job at breaking out of the political narrative that is often the only focus of Reconstruction. He focuses on economic problems and the very complex social changes that were occurring, as well as the political events, and shows how they are all interrelated.
Reconstruction, as portrayed by Foner, was extremely complex with different racial and political groups forming shifting alliances with every election. With that said, it is kind of understandable that teachers often skip over this era as quickly as possible. The economic stuff is very important, but also very dense and not very sexy, so, from a teacher's perspective, it's often better to move on to other material. This is, however, a critical time in America's political and racial history, and deserves more coverage than it gets... so a compromise between the two approaches would be good.
Overall, I thought the book was very good. Someone who isn't a trained historian (as I am) could understand most of what he was talking about, although I will admit that towards the end, the whirlwind of changing political alliances caused by economic problems got a little confusing. One other minor complaint that I have is with his treatment of the North. He rightfully spends most of the book talking about Reconstruction in the South, which makes sense. Then, about 2/3 of the way through the book he shifts to talking about Reconstruction in the North... but it isn't really Reconstruction he's talking about... it's about economic and demographic changes that were occurring in the North while the South was being Reconstructed. He makes a few passing references to racial issues, but the connections are weak. As I was reading that part, I was thinking to myself "I appreciate his effort to broaden the scope of the story, but this doesn't really belong", but as he wrote about the end of Reconstruction, he brought back a lot of the themes covered, and he earned back a few points....more
This book explores the role that sexual violence and gendered language had on a very important, yet relatively unstudied, period in US history - thatThis book explores the role that sexual violence and gendered language had on a very important, yet relatively unstudied, period in US history - that of Reconstruction. While many people are familiar with the general political history of Reconstruction (Radical Republicans taking over, Johnson being impeached, Southern Democrats gradually reestablishing control, etc), this book explores the violent and gendered causes of these events.
Rosen breaks the book up into three sections. The first is a microhistory of the Memphis Race Riot of 1866. The draws on the testimony of freedwomen who were raped and uses historical, anthropological and sociological methodology to break down how southern white males were using sexual violence and gendered language to try to enforce their superiority over the blacks who had just gained their freedom.
In the second section, Rosen observes the same trends as Arkansas tried to write a new constitution in 1867-68. Conservative whites tried to insert an amendment prohibiting biracial marriage. Rosen argues that the whites did this not so much because they feared "brutish" black men from sleeping with their daughters but because they wanted to enforce the purity of races so discrimination would be easier to enforce.
The final section is a broader history of violence throughout the South. She looks at the establishment and methodology of the KKK and other "night riders". While the information here is good, after 150 pages of her elaborating on her points in previous chapters, this section kind of beats her points to death.
Overall, however, this book is very well done. She draws upon a wide variety of sources and uses some of them in great detail. The freedwomen's testimony before government tribunals are particularly useful because they are among the first times black women were given agency in the political process. Additionally, her use of newspaper quotes is helpful in showing the attitudes of southern whites towards racial issues.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Reconstruction, gender studies or the Civil Rights movement....more
First, he takes on a topic on which there hasn't been much scholarship. Most books on the Civil War enI really enjoyed this book for multiple reasons.
First, he takes on a topic on which there hasn't been much scholarship. Most books on the Civil War end with Appomattox, the Lincoln assassination or the Grand Review, and that is where he starts. He tracks the experiences of hundreds of Union army veterans as they try to reintegrate into civilian life. He covers their various trials finding jobs, reconnecting with families and dealing with the physical and psychological scars of the war. Most narratives of the Civil War, and of war in general, is that the soldiers went home, were greeted as heroes by their families, got jobs and moved on with their lives, but Jordan clearly shows otherwise.
Second, the book is painstakingly researched. For a book that contains 200 pages of actual book, it has 150 pages of notes and bibliography. The variety and geographic scale of the sources is also impressive.
Third, this is a very timely work relating to modern discussions of soldiers dealing with PTSD, issues with the Veterans Administration, etc. It seems, sadly, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Finally, he writes in a fast paced, but easily readable style. I found a lot of similarities between this book and Drew Gilpin Faust's "This Republic of Suffering". Faust's book is also very good, but she used like five quotes to prove every point where three would have worked just as well. Jordan uses three points. Enough to prove the point, but not beat it to death.
Two sight drawbacks to this book. First, African-Americans are largely absent from his research, which is unfortunate considering they made up 10% of Union forces. He has a few references, but they don't really do the subject justice. The other slight flaw is that he paints an extremely gloomy picture for the lives of returning soldiers, meaning is largely ignores the positive returns (of which there were many). So in that regard, Jordan's work is somewhat one sided, but I think that is OK given what he was trying to accomplish.
Overall, I though this book was very well done. It was a very quick and well-researched read....more
This book is a collection of first hand accounts about the Normandy Invasion, but doesn't just cover the invasion itself. It begins with the build upThis book is a collection of first hand accounts about the Normandy Invasion, but doesn't just cover the invasion itself. It begins with the build up for forces in England, delays in the invasion, the attack itself and the weeks afterwards as the allies fought through hedgerows in northern France.
It contains a good mix of sources... soldiers, sailors, civilians and war correspondents, as well different national perspectives... American, British, Canadian, French and German. The one negative (if you can call it that) is that it does seem to contain a disproportionate number of British sources, but that doesn't take away from the overall message.
This book will appeal to military historians who have more background knowledge about WWII and to people who have a general interest in history. The editor includes some commentary and explanations, but lets the sources do most of the story telling....more
Good concept, overall, but it could be stronger in its execution.
Instead of a bunch of history stories, this book organized those stories into list foGood concept, overall, but it could be stronger in its execution.
Instead of a bunch of history stories, this book organized those stories into list form. For example, it has a list of stories about famous assassins or the origins of different types of sodas and candy. There is a lot of variety here, which is good.
I'm a history teacher and read a fair amount of Uncle John's books, so some of the stories here are familiar and repeated, but there's enough new information to make this book a worthwhile read.
As for negatives, there are two big ones for me... First, they kind of play fast and loose with the term "list". For example, there are several places where two items or events make the list. The biggest problem, though, is in the editing. There are numerous typos (mostly capitalization) and a few factual errors (where they set the date for an event in the wrong year, like 1862 instead of 1863). Those errors might be typographical as well....more
This book is based on an interesting premise, but it's execution leaves some things to be desired. Writing about events that occurred 1000 years ago iThis book is based on an interesting premise, but it's execution leaves some things to be desired. Writing about events that occurred 1000 years ago is a difficult thing to do, as the authors correctly point out. Written sources are limited, which means the writer needs to be a little creative in where they get their information from. Generally speaking, the authors do a pretty good job at dealing with those limitations, but some of their sources are well beyond the scope of their work (sources from the 700s or 1300s).
This majority of this book is organized into 12-15 page chapters, each relating to a month on the Julius Work Calendar. Each month on the calendar has an illustration of everyday life around the year 1000 which the authors use as inspiration for each chapter's topic (Life in the town, feasting, war games, etc.). That seems pretty straightforward in terms of organization, but the authors get off topic very frequently. A chapter that is titled "War games" starts on topic, but then meanders through topics like religion, food production and education. Each chapter suffers from this flaw, which gives the book the overall feel of being a disorganized, muddled mess.
One of the basic lessons of writing that I teach my high school kids when writing essays is that each paragraph needs to be focused on the same topic, otherwise you wouldn't need to have paragraphs. These authors apparently never got that lesson.
Overall, though, this book does a pretty good job at introducing what life was like around the year 1000 to general audiences. They don't really break any new ground in terms of scholarship, but generally speaking, this is a quick and enjoyable read if you can get past all of the organization issues....more