* Probably the most highlighted book I currently own -- long stretches of the book, especially on PlaThis is a fabulously hit and miss book.
* Probably the most highlighted book I currently own -- long stretches of the book, especially on Plassay and Clive, are pure gold. * Incredibly well sources and referenced. * Index and bibliography is amazing. * Great detail on incredibly fine minutae, which I adore out of a history book. * Hilariously opinionated.
* Terribly organized. The chapters are in some kind of linear order but the book itself careens like a car out of control back and forth through time. I would read a paragraph and go "what century was this in?" * Expects the reader already to be an expert on John Company. It just leaves out various and crucial details like who some of these people were and why we care -- it just is like "And X did Blah blah terrible thing." * The last chapter is totally worthless. * Can be a real dry read in places.
So if you're doing heavy research on the British East India Company yes, you should add this to your reference library. Absolutely. If this is your first book on the subject, more intro and readable books exist. ...more
A dense but compulsively readable survey of world trade for the last 1000 years. Wished it would have delved into some topics deeper - sugar and coffeA dense but compulsively readable survey of world trade for the last 1000 years. Wished it would have delved into some topics deeper - sugar and coffee to pick two - and almost no historical developments in finance but excellent for exactly what it is. Recommended....more
At first I was all like, "Man, the Plantagenets is super long and detailed, I will never get through this book." Then I was all like, "Man, this bookAt first I was all like, "Man, the Plantagenets is super long and detailed, I will never get through this book." Then I was all like, "Man, this book is _super detailed_, this is great!" And then I was, "I am bummed because I finished the Plantagenets, does Dan Jones have any other books?" It turns out he does!
The Plantagenets is an immensely readable yet still dense history of the British Royal Family from 1135 to 1399 with the White Ship disaster of 1120, Henry I dying and the country falling into the Anarchy as Empress Matilda and King Stephen of Blois go to war. And from there we are off to the races following the wax and wane of the Plantagenets from the greatest of them (Henry II, Edward III, the Black Prince) to the very worst (Edward II, Richard II) and everyone in between. There is blood and treachery and war and murder and regicide and treason and big pitched battles and Scots and crazed Welshmen fighting in swamps and drama.
If you're super interested in the 800th year anniversary of the Magna Carta and its impacts to history, this book goes into pretty good detail.
Loved it, would recommend it. A fine book of history. Totally worth the high ratings it has on Goodreads. ...more
Generally, Salt is a pretty enjoyable read for a high level overview history book focusing on a niche subject. And it is exactly that -- a survey of wGenerally, Salt is a pretty enjoyable read for a high level overview history book focusing on a niche subject. And it is exactly that -- a survey of world history seen through the lens of salt (and, apparently, cod and herring).
My complaint about Salt is not its survey nature but the moment the author really starts digging into a subject the chapter ends. This was especially pernicious with the beginning chapters where the topic was super interesting and well researched and the chapter just stops. Multiple times I was shocked to turn a page and... there was a new subject!
Also, the last chapters on "what salt is today" feel very filler-esque. The book more or less ends in the 1920s and then rambles on for a bit. The book could lose the last chapter entirely and nothing would be lost.
It's a fun read -- especially the sections laced with old and ancient recipes full of salt. It's still recommended. 3.5 stars. ...more
The City and the City is the rare book to make a better movie than a book. The core conceit, the two ciThe most interestingly boring book I have read.
The City and the City is the rare book to make a better movie than a book. The core conceit, the two cities laid on top of one another and existing in the same physical space, is intellectually interesting. Visually, it would make for some great CGI-based cinematices with 'unseeing' and the strange way two cultures try to aggressively ignore one another.
But China Mieville is today's Philip K. Dick. The book is philosophically interesting but the characters are dull, the conversations flat, and the noir crime novel buried within this philosophical puzzle has no energy. The characters sit lifeless on the page spouting mostly meaningless dialogue amidst lush backgrounds of imaginative environmental twists and turns. It seems cool but the actual story part of the story gets short shrift. I had to force myself to finish the book and, multiple times, it was the conduit for a quick nap.
The City and the City gets bonus points for being funky science fiction but almost no points as an actual crime novel. Rated: meh....more
I came to Destiny Disrupted through the large number of positive reviews hoping to get a good sweep of Islamic history, especially Medieval Islamic HiI came to Destiny Disrupted through the large number of positive reviews hoping to get a good sweep of Islamic history, especially Medieval Islamic History. The author admits to not being a professional historian in the introduction and it shows: he often puts himself into the story, his lens of focus on different parts of history is not even, he's often biased, and he drops and loses interest in large swaths of Islamic history in places not Persia. His section on the rise of the Umayyids in Spain is especially spotty.
The reason this book gets one star is the opening to the chapter on the Crusades and the Mongols. He starts off with a multi-page ranting chain of ignorance. According to the author, in 1100 AD the entire peninsula of Italy was still in smoking ruins overrun with Germanic barbarians (incorrect), no Europeans outside of Byzantium had made it to the East (incorrect, esp with Vikings), and the major advances in agriculture like crop rotation and the horse collar are "minor innovations of no note." No one bothered with Europe not because Byzantium was a huge walled city on a choke point armed with Greek Fire or that the Moors were beaten back by the Franks, but because there was "no one worth trading with."
I find I am fine with calling the Crusades what they are -- enormously ignorant campaigns of extreme hubris. I'm fine with the opinion that the Europeans were unwashed barbarians. But be very careful going into territory where ignorance on a subject shows through because after running into page after page of factually incorrect information, I could not reliably believe anything else I read in the book. It was invalidated.
Entertaining read but there are much better histories on the Middle East. Unless looking for an opinionated piece on the history of the world from one man's perspective, this one is a miss.
I returned from vacation to discover the Washington Post -- a major character in a book I finished, _This Town_ -- was sold for $250 million in cash tI returned from vacation to discover the Washington Post -- a major character in a book I finished, _This Town_ -- was sold for $250 million in cash to Jeff Bezos.
_This Town_ is mostly about the WaPo's main competitor, Politico, and the destruction it has wreaked on the cloistered world of Washington DC. But not just Politico -- the entire class of politicians using public service as a springboard to lobbying millions and how a trickle has become a flood. No longer do people get elected to public office to serve in public office. Now they get elected to public office for fame, for hanging out in television show green rooms, for cash, for bribes, for parties, for recognition, and to appear, yes, in the daily emailed letters from Politico.
The best way to read _This Town_ is to pretend all the characters in the story are fictional. Otherwise, the temptation to throw the book into the sea becomes so great it overwhelms the senses and over the side of the boat it goes. The people are, for the most part, horrible people and they are horrible a-politically -- _This Town_ does not subscribe to any left-right politics and rare is the political book who treats all the horrible people with equal even-handedness. They are all horrible, regardless where they fall on the political spectrum. It's best to pretend because otherwise reality is too awful.
A few of the characters in the book are exactly as they are on the tin: Haley Barbour (who clearly played along extensively with the author), Darrell Issa, Bill Clinton, Trent Lott. A few come out looking better than you would expect: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Paul Ryan. But the rest -- the status seekers and the money seekers and the party goers and the insecure politicians -- are a horrible class of people with varying degrees of terrible.
And then there's Barack Obama for whom I left with a very confused picture -- just like everyone else on earth, apparently. He's a man who hates the DC game and refuses to play and is endlessly frustrated by the insistence of everyone around him to play instead of getting down to the hard wonkish business of government. He feels like a man trapped in a glass box. He wants to be there but everyone around him would rather be at a cocktail party in Georgetown. What is a President to do?
I greatly enjoyed _This Town_. It's a refreshing break from the pointless back and forth of the blogs and twitter and Facebook and "winning the cycle" to walk through Washington as it is today with no agenda. I got more out of this book than I have out of a 1,000 hours of reading various op-eds and "serious" journalistic pieces. I was left with a healthy hatred for Politico (and Terry McAuliffe and Dirk Gephardt), a worry about the sanity for the staffers who inhabit the halls of power like tiny ants, and a resignation at the Gilded Age-era rotating door between Congress and enormous lobby firms -- excuse me, "strategic consultants."
If you want to understand the news, read _This Town_. But don't read it on a full stomach. ...more
I found this book through a referral on, of all places, /r/AskHistorians on reddit, and, more to the point, the "How Much of the Bible is Historical"I found this book through a referral on, of all places, /r/AskHistorians on reddit, and, more to the point, the "How Much of the Bible is Historical" question linked to in the subreddit's FAQ where it was referred to as a decent reference. Having not read much Biblical Archeology in a while and finding the book in Amazon's Kindle Store, I downloaded it to my Kindle.
The Bible Unearthed is a dry, fairly technical text dealing with matching Archeology with books of the Old Testament, mainly Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings and pieces of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and lesser Prophets. Working from the beginning with Abraham and concluding at the Exile into Babylon, the authors methodically dissect the Old Testament chapter by chapter and, in some places, verse by verse and compare it to the known archeological evidence to prove their core supposition: the Old Testament and the Torah were compiled, and in no small part written, in the mid-to-late 7th Century BC in Judah for a combination of political and religious aims by likely two Kings: Hezekiah and, later, Josiah. These are not historical recordings of mid-Bronze Age wanders but of Iron Age Kings under the Assyrian yoke who were trying to forge a national identity through myths, tales, stories of various tribal peoples, and political propaganda, stamp out the local religions and create a theocratic state.
Although the book is a little out of date, as it was written in 2000, the evidence presented is pretty plausible stuff if one can slog through chapters based on the settlement patterns of Iron Age bedouins and their village layouts or read 100 pages on pottery sherds at different strata.
The authors present:
* No historical record of the patriarchs in any form; * Moses's Pharaoh is far more the Pharaoh of Late Period 26th Dynasty and not a New Kingdom Monarch; * Joshua conquers cities that do not exist in the 12th century BCE but certainly do in the 7th, and those that did exist likely collapsed in the Bronze Age Collapse at different times over a hundred years; * No sign exists of David's Kingdom and all that remains is that of a small hill fort and David's name in secondary sources; * No sign exists of Solomon or his works; * The Omrides, who kindly left heaps of archeological evidence and secondary sources, were likely quite good Kings; * Israel was likely a victim of its enduring financial success making it a tempting target for a sack; * Deuteronomy written in the format of an Assyrian legal document to a vassal describing the rules and rights therein; * Etc... it goes on like this for ~400 pages.
All signs point to a 7th century BC compilation of books, tales and sources into one unified whole, smoothing over the lumps and presenting the people -- many suddenly pouring into Judah from the sack of Samaria -- a new complete identity with their One God. One shouldn't besmirch the power of an enduring document that managed to forge a people, see them through the Babylonian Exile, and then become the root of three major world religions. But no archeological evidence points to the Old Testament being a reliable historical document, either.
For me, it's fascinating book showing the pressures and the prejudices of a people who were living in uncertain times with two crazed superpowers (the Assyrians and the Late Egyptians) on their borders and smaller enemies all around them and just before the Phoenicians would become "a thing." These were Kings who wanted to reconquer Israel back from Assyria and return it to its once financial glory, and they saw the way forward was to unite all these people pouring into their tiny kingdom filled with bedouins under One God and One Temple. The plan didn't work out because sticking a finger into the side of a crazed kingdom loaded with mercenaries and a religion that tells them to kill and bathe in blood _never_ works out well but the legacy of that time endures.
It's doubly fascinating to think this: in the 7th Century BCE, the great Egyptian Kingdom of Ramesses II, the Hittites, the fall of Sumeria and founding of Assyria, were as far away from them as the /Fall of Rome is from Modern Day/. The time of great civilizations and great kings was destroyed by the Bronze Age Collapse and left huge mounds where cities once stood -- and no one of Iron Age II knew why. No one read those languages. No one did satellite-based archeology. This is something to think about -- the time of Moses and Joshua and Judges were all distant myth at a time when real 7th century enemies were on the doorstep. Why _wouldn't_ there be stories about how those ancient dimly remembered cities? Why _weren't_ there be ancient kings and great heroes and an explanation of how those civilizations of the great antiquity fell? Why wouldn't those stories be forged in one narrative of one God who destroyed them in the past and will destroy them now?
Not for the highly religious, obviously. Interesting if one wants to read the constant debates on reddit, though.
ALSO: if you have no time to read the book, the BBC did a 4 part series with the authors which is available on Youtube some years ago.
Game of Thrones meets Deadwood, with more Deadwood than GRRM. Revenge, murder, Indians, filthy outpost mining towns, horrible mercenaries, InquisitorsGame of Thrones meets Deadwood, with more Deadwood than GRRM. Revenge, murder, Indians, filthy outpost mining towns, horrible mercenaries, Inquisitors and blood jammed into 450+ pages of novel. I have read all of Abercrombie's books and Red Country is my favorite. More focused than the First Law Trilogy and less gratuitous combat than the Heroes, Red Country is a stand alone novel packed with good stuff. It starts slow but picks up in the second half.