Superb writing (with amusing similes) about the first major battle of the American Civil War. It provides a good lead up to the battle, lots of detail...moreSuperb writing (with amusing similes) about the first major battle of the American Civil War. It provides a good lead up to the battle, lots of details, good tangents on aspects of Civil War era military, tackles all the controversies, but perhaps best of all was just a joy to read.
My only real criticism is the HUGE lack of maps.(less)
Never heard of this until someone at the library recommended it to me. Based on their description and the blurb it was sure to be the kind of book so...moreNever heard of this until someone at the library recommended it to me. Based on their description and the blurb it was sure to be the kind of book so bizarre it was either going to be amazing or terrible. And after 35 or so pages, I'm calling it quits.
This is a weird book full of metaphysical introspection and a weird satire of science fiction. I'm reminded of that famous Faulkner novel where one chapter consists of nothing but the sentence "My mother was a fish." I still think some people will love this book, but it's not for me.(less)
"Gooks, napalm, rapes, whores, an unreliable ally, a cunning enemy, fundamentally untrained GIs fighting a war their top generals barely understood, f...more"Gooks, napalm, rapes, whores, an unreliable ally, a cunning enemy, fundamentally untrained GIs fighting a war their top generals barely understood, fragging of officers, contempt for the know-nothing civilians back home, devilish battles indescribable even to loved ones, press handouts from...headquarters apparently scripted by comedians or lunatics, an ostensible vision of bringing freedom and liberty to a sordid dictatorship..." Vietnam? Korea.
The title of this book is misleading. It would be more accurately be "Things You Didn't Know About The Korean War". This book is focused on the wrongs of American and especially of South Korea and how these wrongs both contributed to the war itself and demonstrate it was not simply "good vs evil". It also delves into the nature of the Korean War as a civil war and the impact of China and Japan (and the interactions of Koreans with those countries).
The author - who has written several books about Korea - has been criticized for a North Korean bias. In this book, he has harsh words for North Korea too and seems favorable toward modern South Korea which has reformed from it's dubious beginnings. America certainly did have a history during the Cold War of siding with oppressive right-wing regimes so long as they fought against left-winger (be they real Communists or simply perceived as such).
While the book devotes a great deal of time and effort to Korean conflict outside the constraints of 1950-1953, it is NOT a military history. The war itself is covered in the first three dozen pages, providing little insight or detail. As the main text of the undersized hardcover edition is less than 250 pages long, this leaves the book feeling incomplete.
I would recommend it for the perspective it provides, but it really seems like a supporting work not an introduction nor comprehensive text.(less)
The story of Tombstone and the Earps. Legend has grown tall on this subject so it was good to read a book that deals with it. Unsurprisingly, the Earp...moreThe story of Tombstone and the Earps. Legend has grown tall on this subject so it was good to read a book that deals with it. Unsurprisingly, the Earps were not as good nor the cowboys quite as bad as they have gone down in history. he book does a good job of setting up the tensions that lead to the famous gunfight. The biggest thing I got from the book is that facts simply aren't know on many things. The records were poor, the journalism, biased, the witnesses told contradictory stories, the participants were prone to lying. For some questions, the truth may never be known.
I generally liked the author's style and use of section breaks, but at times the book feels a little repetitive and the author has an annoying habit of writing out years ("eightteen eighty one" instead of 1881).
I'm a big fan of the movie "Tombstone" so it was interesting to connect more background to the movie characters and compare events in the film to real life. While dramatic license was taken as usual, my impression is the film followed real events fairly well for a work of fiction (though admittedly the standard isn't real high).(less)
This book took me nearly a year to finish, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the book. I started and stopped twice, putting it down both...moreThis book took me nearly a year to finish, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the book. I started and stopped twice, putting it down both times with regret, but having other books become higher priority due to presentations and research.
This is a single volume Pulitzer winning biography of George Washington's entire life - surveyor, plantation owner, husband, commander of the Continental Army, first President of the United States, father of his country, deified and mythologized in the more than 200 years since his death as much as any American has ever been. 165 pages cover Washington up to the American Revolution, 300+ cover the American Revolution, and 350+ pages cover the rest of his life including two terms as President.
Chernow hits it out of the park with possibly the best biography I have ever read. The writing is good, striking the right balance of readability and scholarly. Chernow feels reasonably unbiased: he clearly has a positive opinion of Washington, but is willing to criticize his mistakes. The issue of slavery is handled in way balanced between our modern understanding of the immorality of the institution with an recognition of the times in which Washington lived - a question that Washington grappled with much of his life. Most of all, Chernow captures Washington's complexities and shows him as complex individual: a man ambitious yet principled; mindful of appearances and self-conscious about his finances and lack of education; enjoying the limelight to some degree yet very private about some things and often longing to be left alone with his plantation; he who enjoyed the attention of the ladies yet was devoted to his wife. A man (and his wife) who had to deal with the death of a great many close relatives and a difficult mother.
Washington strikes me as a more grounded Jefferson. Yet Jefferson and Washington found themselves on very opposite views on early American politics. Anyone who thinks our Founding Fathers had a grand unified vision of our country will be clearly shown otherwise. Furthermore, Chernow demonstrates Washington as a dedicated Federalist with good reasons for being so - Alexander Hamilton's colleague not his puppet. In short, Washington's frustrations with squabbling colonies/states before and during the American Revolution made him an advocate for a strong central government.
Highest possibly recommendation. I learned a great deal. Don't be dissuaded by the 800 page length.(less)
The true story of an adult rediscovering the fun of building with LEGOs and exploring the world of AFOLs (Adult Fans Of LEGO). There's some nice histo...moreThe true story of an adult rediscovering the fun of building with LEGOs and exploring the world of AFOLs (Adult Fans Of LEGO). There's some nice history on the LEGO company and if you enjoyed LEGOs as a kid this book will make want to start building again.(less)
Sarah Vowell visits sites relating to assassinated presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley and their assassins. The book is about half Lincoln and...moreSarah Vowell visits sites relating to assassinated presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley and their assassins. The book is about half Lincoln and a quarter each of the others.
Part of the problem is the material being covered. Bryson's travels and Klosterman's search for death sites of rock musicians cover topics and places less well known (at least to me). Maybe this book would have been more interesting if I hadn't already read American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies and Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President. However, I have not read any such book about McKinley and his section wasn't terribly impressive either. Some more background on the anarchist movement of the 1890s would have helped (McKinley's assassin was an anarchist). The book also never really delivers on the dust jacket blurb's promise that readers will "see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party."
The bigger problem is the style and bias. Klosterman's "KYTL" is introspective. Bryson comes across as jolly and curious. Vowell is morbid, neurotic, and unabashedly political partisan. The book is full of tangents about President Bush II and the Iraq War; at times it feels more like a cable news op-ed piece than travels to historical locations. There is also plenty of white guilt, relating in part to the author's Cherokee ancestors.
This book is too dark and serious for lighthearted reading and not scholarly, informative, or unbiased enough for serious reading. If you like Vowell's sense of humor and her politics then you'll probably enjoy this book, but I don't and I didn't. (Lest I give the wrong impression, I'm no fan of Fox News either. I generally dislike authors who wear their political bias on their proverbial sleeve - or in this case, as their whole dress.)
I leave you with this hideous run-on sentence from pages 130-131:
As a Democrat who voted for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, an election suspicious tipped to a tragic Republican victory because of a handful of contest ballots in the state of Florida, I, for one, would never dream of complaining about the votes siphoned in that state by my fellow liberal Ralph Nader, who convinced citizens whose hopes for the country differ little from my own to vote for him, even though had those votes gone to Gore, perhaps those citizens might have spent their free time in the years to come more pleasurably pursuing leisure activities, such as researching the sacrifice of Family Garfield, instead of attending rallies and protests against wars they find objectionable, not to mention the money saved on aspirin alone considering they'll have to pop a couple every time they read the newspaper, wondering if the ap water which they wash down the pills is safe enough to drink considering the corporate polluter lobbyists now employed at the EPA.