So packed with information in the 200 pages, touching on history from regions of the globe that I have limited knowledge of, I'm not sure I agree thatSo packed with information in the 200 pages, touching on history from regions of the globe that I have limited knowledge of, I'm not sure I agree that it is a well argued book. Whereas a book like Guns, Germs and Steel was exhaustive and well-argued (over-argued?), this was trim, with plenty of "whats", but not so strong on "whys". I suppose it doesn't help that I don't fundamentally agree with his emphases of why human history progresses the way it does. For instance, the power he lends to the spiritual leadership of the papacy and other religious leaders, I find unconvincing. The Franks were an expansive power before and after their conversion to Christianity. In general, I think those powers which can expand will do so at the expense of neighbors because that is the nature of man. Concepts like religion only build justifications. The Mongols and Turks needed no spiritual push to do what they did. Maybe it's just I find the title misleading, because having read the book, I find little difference in my mind between Nomads and Crusaders. They were just names we've given to invaders that were after the same things invaders have always been after; wealth and power. I did find it very useful to build a picture in my mind of what conquest did for civilizations regarding control of trade routes and what different areas lacked or had in spades regarding resources. But beyond that, I'm just not sure it had much to say....more
**spoiler alert** Wow, just wow. Allegorical, metaphorical, a stunning book. It's been a while since I've been moved by a book like this, and I think**spoiler alert** Wow, just wow. Allegorical, metaphorical, a stunning book. It's been a while since I've been moved by a book like this, and I think it's because the story hews closely to how I see the present day world. It offers sharp criticism of the present day, and offers a glimpse of a future I would tend to predict should a zombie invasion ever crop up. More militarism, more cynicism, and a quick return to a bad trajectory leading toward what led to the crisis in the first place. Thus the Zombie War becomes a metaphor for politics, world finance, capitalism.
This was the most potent polemic of our modern society that I've read. It reads not so much like Zombieland as much as Guns of August. Descriptions of zombies are certainly terrifying and gripping, but that is only a minor part of the story in my opinion. The true quality of the storytelling is in the structure, the oral history aspect which moves from person to person circling the globe. Through this unique medium, the author is able to tell a future history in it's full Aristotelian tragical glory. The way the different people move through the horror of the zombie invasion and war in their different ways, reflecting cultural and political predispositions shows that the author is both well-travelled and well-read....more
This was a pretty great book, though it dragged a bit in the 4th 5th of the book (is that a real term?). Learning about the development of the AmazonThis was a pretty great book, though it dragged a bit in the 4th 5th of the book (is that a real term?). Learning about the development of the Amazon Basin certainly alleviated white-man's guilt for the American West. It was certainly shocking to learn of the conditions of the aboriginal South Americans under a system so far removed from any centralized authority. Genocide, slavery, no regard for anything, but the product for export. The other shock was to learn of the diseases and parasites inhabiting the jungle. The descriptions are graphic and make me pretty damn wary of journeying into the unknown. Never in my reading life have I come closer to vomitting. Yes, it was that bad. And I consider myself having a strong stomach. As I said, it gets a bit slow toward the end, but has a nice ending that brings the story to a close satisfactorily. I recommend this to all the Indy fans out there. Not cars. Adventure. That Indy....more
Not nearly as compelling as Tacitus, but still a wealth of information. It was good to learn more about the lives of many of the Greeks, who I was unfNot nearly as compelling as Tacitus, but still a wealth of information. It was good to learn more about the lives of many of the Greeks, who I was unfamiliar with, but the Roman lives were not really in a compelling narrative form. This took a while getting through....more
A very impressive book that I enjoyed very much. The timing was excellent as well, as I've been thinking about the processes of peoples and cultures pA very impressive book that I enjoyed very much. The timing was excellent as well, as I've been thinking about the processes of peoples and cultures pushed to extinction in the context of the Roman expansion in antiquity. So much diversity has already been lost, but as the world continues its march toward a more unified global culture, I wonder what the end will look like. How many languages will be spoken? What ceremonies will be celebrated? Is this a good or bad thing?
From the standpoint of morality, this was an eyeopener which certainly made me examine my own sense of right and wrong. And Achebe does not hide from the truths of the ways of his ancestors. He does not attempt to convince the Western reader of the injustice of the oblivion the Igbo culture was pushed toward by portraying an idealized version. Twin exposure and polygamy are simply the facts of 1880's Nigeria, and the reader is left to puzzle through the question of justice with regards to the British conquest....more
Pretty good book. It's a bit more academic than Guns Germs and Steel, and it certainly touched upon the points of that book, as well as Collapse (as IPretty good book. It's a bit more academic than Guns Germs and Steel, and it certainly touched upon the points of that book, as well as Collapse (as I've heard descriptions). I really enjoyed the desciptions of big game hunters passing over the land bridge or crossing to Madagascar and finding a land of large mammals who had no familiarity with humans and were subsequently wiped out. Such meetings must have been mind-blowing to behold, and makes me wish I could witness such things. Who needs Martians when you have 800 lemurs and 12' deer?...more
Wow. Just Wow. Who knew that a history nook could be such a page turner. And I was a history major in college! Absolutely relevant to today's world. FWow. Just Wow. Who knew that a history nook could be such a page turner. And I was a history major in college! Absolutely relevant to today's world. Flawed men in positions of power making bad decisions that they are not held responisble for. Inflexible in ideology, intracable in their demeanor. Force of personality rasied them to their positions and can't save them from their inability to see the world for what it is. A confusing jumble of independent people that has consistently defied every attempt to broadly explain it and make it all fit into clean explanation. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, capable people rise to decision making positions, but not before the world is laid waste....more
I found this a great read. As a microbiologist by training, I really liked the middle part when they began constructing the genomes of certain virusesI found this a great read. As a microbiologist by training, I really liked the middle part when they began constructing the genomes of certain viruses and bacteria for the first time in history. In a fell swoop, life was a little better understood, and evolution was seen in a whole new light. What's funny is that I was in college when the major breakthroughs were happening, but I didn't know enough tp really appreciate it. As for the man himself, he has a reputation as an insufferable a-hole, but I have nothing but respect for him. I think when you are given the full story of where a person comes from and what they've seen, much can be forgiven....more
So (scrolling down...) 10 books ago, I read the Guns of August, which explained how it was that an assassination in Sarajevo led to 20 million lives lSo (scrolling down...) 10 books ago, I read the Guns of August, which explained how it was that an assassination in Sarajevo led to 20 million lives lost in World War I, and that was a fantastic book (I highly recommend that book). The only problem with it was that it basically only went through the month of August 1914, the first month, leaving the other 4 years to be filled in with further reading. That's what this book was supposed to be.
As it turns out, that's not how this book was laid out. This was actually a book composed of essays addressing particular questions regarding the outbreak, the waging, and the ending of World War I. Each essay was liable to range the entire length of the war, and each argument was composed from the standpoint that the reader already understands the facts concerning the course of the war. While that was not me at the beginning of the book, I certainly understand a great deal more about the particulars of the war. I may not understand why the Battle of the Somme was waged, why it took 2 months, or what tactics were used, but I understand questions a retelling of the war would have left me with.
One thing I noted was that the writer is a rather conservative fellow, and an economic historian to boot. this showed through a couple times, but only in throw away lines, not even amounting to multiple mentions of "confiscatory taxes".
I was nevertheless, impressed by this book, as it did touch upon things I had no idea it would, such as the nature of war, and why men fight. It certainly did make me confront the psychology of men in trenches and I am certainly thankful for that. At the same time, it made me confront the idea that there probably never will be an end to war, and that's not the worst thing imaginable....more
This was a rather good book, though in retrospect, and having read 3 books on World War I, I read them in the wrong order. Guns of August was phenomenThis was a rather good book, though in retrospect, and having read 3 books on World War I, I read them in the wrong order. Guns of August was phenomenal, and dealt with the beginning of the war and a bit of its background in an entertaining, narrative manner. The Pity of War gave an impressively detailed account of how the war was waged and what factors determined who would claim victory. But as much painstaking detail as it contained, it was not a narrative of the course of the war. So I understood why the war happened the way it did, but nothing about how the war was waged. That is what this book does and I do wish I'd read it second. This did an excellent job in constructing a narrative, though naturally, with 700 pages covering 4 years, it lacks the depth of detail that Guns of August had, with 500 pages covering 1+ months. Nevertheless, this was very enjoyable, and I'd recommend it....more