The History Book Club discussion


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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jul 22, 2012 06:40AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Gerald, here is your new thread for 2012.

Our Format:


1. My Early Life 1874-1904 by Winston Churchill Winston Churchill Winston S. Churchill
Finish date: March 2008
Genre: (whatever genre the book happens to be)
Rating: A
Review: You can add text from a review you have written but no links to any review elsewhere even goodreads. And that is about it. Just make sure to number consecutively and just add the months.

message 2: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 10:46PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Cutting for Stone

1. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese Abraham Verghese Abraham Verghese
Finish date: January 7, 2012
Genre: fiction, medicine
Rating: A+
Review: I have just finished reading this incredibly powerful novel. The characters come so very much alive for the reader - Marion & Shiva, of course, but Ghosh, Hema, Thomas Stone, Sister Mary Joseph Praise are all so real that you can sense being in the scene the author describes. I gave the book a tentative 4 stars after I'd read about 50 pages. It was without hesitation that I changed that to 5 stars and added it to my all-time favorites list. I HIGHLY recommend it.

[Book 1 of target 50]

message 3: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Good start, Gerald! Don't forget to add the the month in bold before your first post as noted in the sample format. Thanks and happy reading.

message 4: by Gerald (last edited Jan 19, 2012 08:29AM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Sorry. I missed that part of the format. I guess my eyes went right to the book/author part.

message 5: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Thanks, Gerald....good start for 2012

message 6: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 10:35PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Fresh Disasters

2. Fresh Disasters (Stone Barrington, #13) by Stuart Woods Stuart Woods Stuart Woods
Finish Date: January 8, 2012
Genre: fiction, mystery
Rating: B
Review: I got hooked on Stuart Woods' Stone Barrington series of novels when I happened to pick up Son Of Stone early last November. After reading that one as a regular book, I continued with the series with recorded books and finished 6 more by the end of the year. FRESH DISASTERS was my first one for 2012. I am fascinated by the ability of the reader doing the CD-recording to switch voices instantly among the various characters male and female, American or foreign accents, young or old, etc. The characters become so familiar, like they are actual friends - Stone, Dino, Elaine, Arrington, Holly, Eduardo, Joan, et al. Each of the books seems to involve a fairly similar set of situations and problems to be solved, overcome, etc., but sufficiently different, so that when you finish one of the series, you are ready to find out what is going to happen to the characters in the next one.
Stone is an ex-police detective, turned lawyer, turned investigator. His buddy and former police partner Dino is always available to help Stone get out of the problems in which he finds himself. FRESH DISASTERS was a fun read (or "listen" in my case).

[Book 2 of target 50]
Son Of Stone (Stone Barrington, #21) by Stuart Woods

message 7: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) Gerald, great start on the year, looks like some fun stuff! Don't forget to number each entry (like in the sample format that Bentley provided in the opening post.) You can add that as an edit easy enough. Otherwise good job with the format. Happy reading!

message 8: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 10:28PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Vietnam: A Global Studies Handbook

3. Vietnam A Global Studies Handbook by L. Woods L. Woods (i.e., L. Shelton Woods) (no photo available)
Finish date: January 9, 2012
Genre: non-fiction, history
Rating: C
Review: Having spent a fair amount of time in South Vietnam as a U.S. Naval Officer in 1968-71 and having several Vietnamese friends, I was interested in this book from the point of view of learning more amount the country and its history. My "rating" of C (2 stars of 5) does not really mean that I didn't think it was a well written book. On the contrary, I think it was for its type. I served its purpose quite well as far as being informative, especially with regard to what I was trying to learn. I skimmed parts of its but read others through. I think it would be a very good book to read if one were planning a trip to Vietnam.

[Book 3 of target 50]

message 9: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 10:26PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

V is for Vengeance

4. V is for Vengeance (Kinsey Millhone, #22) by Sue Grafton Sue Grafton Sue Grafton
Finish date: January 12, 2012
Genre: fiction, mystery
Rating: B
Review: Sue Grafton has a great thing going with her "alphabet" series of Kinsey Millhone, Private Investigator novels. I'll just be sorry to see her arrive at the "Z" book. Kinsey gets herself into more difficulties in V IS FOR VENGEANCE" but finds a way to resolve them. I really liked the ending.

[Book 4 of target 50]

message 10: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 10:19PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Sailor Historian: The Best of Samuel Eliot Morison

5. Sailor Historian The Best of Samuel Eliot Morison (American Heritage) by Emily Morison Beck Samuel Eliot Morison Samuel Eliot Morison
Finish date: January 15, 2012
Genre: non-fiction, nautical, history
Rating: B+
Review: Sailor Historian is a compilation of Samuel Eliot Morison's notes from his more than 50 years as an historian (edited by his daughter Emily Morison Beck) on naval topics going back to Columbus and Magellan and forward to several important WWII battles as well as nautical topics, such as the voyage of the Mayflower and The Clipper Ships. His coverage of Commodore Perry's visit to and "opening" of Japan to foreigns was most interesting.

He includes wonderful tales of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and fascinating discussions of the "average" Harvard man of 1700 and The Ropemakers of Plymouth. Additionally, included are articles on noted American historians of prior centuries - William H. Prescott and Francis Parkman - as well as a discussion of the writing skill of Sir Winston Churchill, which led to his receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, the only historian to have been so honored.

In his chapter on History As a Literary Art, he gives a most illuminating picture of why academic historians, "in their eagerness to present facts and their laudable concern to tell the truth, have neglected the literary aspects of their craft. They have forgotten that there is an art of writing history." He quotes Theodore Roosevelt: "He must remember that while the worst offense of which he (the historian) can be guilty is to write vividly and inaccurately, yet that unless he writes vividly he cannot write truthfully, for no amount of dull, painstaking detail will sum up the whole truth unless the genius is there to paint the truth." Morison goes on to suggest that "the writer of history can enrich his mind and broaden his craftmanship by his choice of leisure reading. [My retired Latin-teacher wife loved the following and totally agrees. She taught English also.] If he is so fortunate as to have had a classical education, no time will be better spent in making him an effective historian than in reading Latin and Greek authors. Both of these ancient languages are such superb instruments of thought that a knowledge of them cures slipshod English and helps one to attain a clear, muscular style." Further Morison suggested: "The reading of English classics will tend in the same direction, and will also be a painless and unconscious means of improving your literary style."

I found this compilation of Morison's writings most interesting. It was published in 1977. His first was published in 1913.

He was, arguably, one of the greatest of naval historians. Having had significant naval service during World War I, he proposed to his friend Franklin Roosevelt in early 1942 to write the naval history of this new world war "from the inside." President Roosevelt liked his idea so much that he immediately commissioned him a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve and sent him on a continuous series of active duty assignments on a wide variety of ships and other naval commands for the duration of WWII. (He retired from his naval career as a Rear Admiral.) The result was Morison's History of US Naval Operations in WWII: 15 Volume Set. I acquired 10 of these volumes (all but 5, 10, 13, 14, & 15, which I would love to acquire to complete my set) when our main library was purging books determined to be excess during a move to a new location. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Morison's account of the 1942-45 period.

[Book 5 of target 50]

message 11: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 10:04PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Two Dollar Bill

6. Two Dollar Bill (Stone Barrington, #11) by Stuart Woods Stuart Woods Stuart Woods
Finish date: January 17, 2012
Genre: fiction, mystery
Rating: B
Review: Another fun read from Stuart Woods' Stone Barrington series.

[Book 6 of target 50]

message 12: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) Impressive Gerald, you are off to a fabulous start!

message 13: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 10:02PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Storm Warning

7. Storm Warning by Jack Higgins Jack Higgins Jack Higgins
Finish date: January 19, 2012
Genre: historical fiction, World War II, naval
Rating: A
Review: This was an extremely good book. The first 80% or so was fairly good as the author brought all the pieces together, but the last 20% was so very exciting as the hurricane winds bore down on all the characters. Heroic action by a very diverse group brought the story to a very exciting and surprising conclusion. I highly recommend it, especially for those who love tales of the sea.

[Book 7 of target 50]

message 14: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I am a fast reader,Gerald but I think you have me beat!! You are on a roll.

message 15: by Gerald (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Thanks Jill. I keep a number of books going all the time. In addition to the regular hardcopy books, I keep several others going, one on my Kindle, one on my android phone, and one on the CD player in my car. I also keep a paperback in my car console in case I'm otherwise caught without one.

message 16: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I do the same thing.....books in the car, books by the kitchen table, by the bedside, etc. I usually read three at a British mystery, one history, and something that can be read in spurts. Obsessive readers unite!!!!

message 17: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 09:59PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Off Islanders

8. Off Islanders by Nathaniel Benchley Nathaniel Benchley Nathaniel Benchley
Finish date: January 22, 2012
Genre: fiction, nautical-military humor
Rating: C
Review: 12/10/11 - My across-the-street neighbor frequently vacations at Nantucket Island. I borrowed this book from him after he told me that the movie THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, was based on this book. I thought the movie was pretty funny and am looking forward to reading the book.
1/22/12 - I've just finished THE OFF-ISLANDERS. It was an OK read, somewhat funny, in a slap-stick sort of way. I wouldn't give it a very high recommendation.

[Book 8 of target 50]

message 18: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 09:52PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Santa Fe Edge

9. Santa Fe Edge (Ed Eagle, #4) by Stuart Woods Stuart Woods Stuart Woods
Finish date: Jaunary 25, 2012
Genre: fiction, mystery
Rating: C
Review: In the last several months I have become a big fan of Stuart Woods' Stone Barrington series. This is the first of his books I've read that did not involve Stone Barrington. There was a lot of somewhat similar action with the setting of Santa Fe, New Mexico rather than New York City. I liked the book fairly well and would have given it 3 stars, but I was extremely disappointed with the way it ended.

[Book 9 of target 50]

message 19: by Gerald (last edited Jul 28, 2012 09:40PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments JANUARY

Up Periscope

10. Up Periscope by Robb White Robb White (no photo available)
Finish date: January 26, 2012
Genre: fiction, naval action, military, WWII
Rating: A-
Review: This fairly short book was full of action, a real page-turner. I would highly recommend it for those of you who enjoy WWII naval tales.

[Book 10 of target 50]

message 20: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Is this book the basis for the 1969 film starring James Garner?

message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 27, 2012 10:01PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Gerald said:

It most definitely is. Actually, the movie came out in 1959. I don't remember whether I've seen it (I don't think so), but after reading the book I'd really like to.

I was very interested to see some of James Garner's fellow cast members:
EDMUND O'BRIEN (who had 120 movies to his credit between 1939 & 1974)
ALAN HALE, JR. (who played the captain in the old Gilligan's Island series)
FRANK GIFFORD (of Monday Night Football fame)
EDD BURNES (from the old 77 Sunset Strip series).
Jill, I'm glad you asked me about that because now I want to see if I can find a copy of that movie to watch.

Note to Gerald: We do not use the imdb links which we think are just clutter. Ask Jill - she will tell you (smile).

message 22: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Edmond O'Brien.....he was at his finest in DOA. I always liked him....he was an "every man" kind of actor.
As Bentley says, no imdb links!!!...I used one the other day and now I am wiser. It tends to clutter up the thread so now I just use a picture of a scene from the film or that of an actor. Bentley kept me on the straight and narrow!!

message 23: by Gerald (last edited Jan 28, 2012 11:09AM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Thanks Jill. I am duly advised. I understand that I can still refer to info I might find on such a link but just not include the link itself in the posting. Is that correct?
I agree with you on Edmond (misspelled in post #21 above) O'Brien. He was really good. I particularly liked him in THE LONGEST DAY, D-DAY THE SIXTH OF JUNE, and 1984.

message 24: by Jill (last edited Jan 28, 2012 11:13AM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Right, Gerald. A link to the imdb puts a lot of extraneous information on the thread, so other links (Wikipedia, et al) are fine as well any information that you might find on imdb. :o)

message 25: by Gerald (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Thanks for the clarification.

message 26: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 10:33PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

Worst Fears Realized

11. Worst Fears Realized (Stone Barrington, #5) by Stuart Woods Stuart Woods Stuart Woods
Finish date: February 1, 2012
Genre: fiction, crime
Rating: B+
Review: I've grown to be a real fan of Stone Barrington. Stuart Woods painted him into some pretty tough spots in . It was difficult to envision how Stone and his friend Dino could work their way out of the major difficulties. Somehow they were able to do so.
I liked the book (on CD actually) and would recommend it to Stuart Woods' Fans.

[Book 11 of target 50 (January-10; February-1)]

message 27: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 10:26PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

Explosive Eighteen

12. Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum, #18) by Janet Evanovich Janet Evanovich Janet Evanovich
Finish date: February 4, 2012
Genre: fiction, humorous, crime
Rating: B+
Review: 2/1/12 - I have been concentrating on reading Books I Own and staying away from library check outs. I only went to the library today to get a new book on CD since I was almost finished with one. I made an exception today and had to get Explosive Eighteen when I saw it available. It is really funny. For example, when Grandma Mazur is talking about the reason for the improved play of her 91-year-old bowling teammate, she said: "She's doing better now that we got her the longer tubing to her oxygen tank." I really laughed out loud when I imagined the scene. Later, when Connie is giving her thoughts on why Vinnie's hot temper is less than normal, she says: "Lucille must have fed him a Vallium smoothie this morning."
The latest Stephanie Plum adventures and misadventures are a great change of pace from the "heavy" Einstein: His Life and Universe that I have been working my way through. I'll return to the latter soon but had to check on Stephanie Plum in the meantime.

2/4/12 - another hilarious read. Stephanie gets into all sorts of problems but always finds new and interesting ways of getting out of them, e.g., as she and Lula were going after the bad guys, Lula was making preparations from the trunk of her Firebird. Stephanie looked inside and stopped breathing for a beat. "That's a rocket launcher!" "Yep," Lula said. "It's a big boy. I got it at a yard sale in the projects."
Very funny and entertaining. A must read if you are a Stephanie Plum fan.

[Book 12 of target 50 (January-10; February-2)]

Einstein His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson Walter Isaacson Walter Isaacson

message 28: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 10:22PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

The Litigators

13. The Litigators by John Grisham John Grisham John Grisham
Finish date: February 6, 2012
Genre: fiction, humorous, legal
Rating: A
Review: Grisham has done it again. THE LITIGATORS is a great read and quite humorous. David Zinc is a feel-good hero. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it very much.

[Book 13 of target 50 (January-10; February-3)]

message 29: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I have read Einstein His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson by Walter Isaacson Walter Isaacson and I truly enjoyed it but sometimes you do need to take a break and read something a little lighter and shorter.

message 30: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 10:20PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

The Only Thing To Fear

14. The Only Thing To Fear by David Poyer David Poyer (no picture of author available)
Finish date: February 7, 2012
Genre: fiction, historical
Rating: B+
Review: David Poyer weaves an intriguing tale of what might have been. About-to-be-retired Lieutenant Junior Grade Jack Kennedy , recently returned from WWII action in the South Pacific, takes a final assignment as a naval aide to President Roosevelt to help protect him from a Russian assassin, who has help from someone on the president's staff. It is an exciting story.

[Book 14 of target 50 (January-10; February-4)]

message 31: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 10:18PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

The Short Forever

15. The Short Forever (Stone Barrington, #8) by Stuart Woods Stuart Woods Stuart Woods
Finish date: February 8, 2012
Genre: fiction,
Rating: B+
Review: Another enjoyable Stone Barrington novel. I recommend it to his fans.

[Book 15 of target 50 (January-10; February-5)]

message 32: by Gerald (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Thanks. I was hoping that would be OK to include.

message 33: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I think it is a great addition to the posts, Gerald.

message 34: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 10:02PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden

16. SEAL Target Geronimo The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden by Chuck Pfarrer Chuck Pfarrer (no author photo available)
Finish date: February 15, 2012
Genre: non-fiction, terrorist activiry, military
Rating: A
Review: I have just finished SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden. What an absolutely incredible read. The ultimate superlatives are totally inadequate in describing the exploits of the SEALs. Their training programs are so very hard to believe. The SEALS themselves are so incomparably supreme in whatever they are called on to do.

Several quotes from the book clearly illustrate their reason for existence and for being so good: "SEALs retain the ability to serve as special operations trainers, and have the capability to organize indigenous forces, but their primary mission, they raison d'etre, is HURTING THE ENEMY." "The mission of (SEAL Team) Six was easily guessed at - maritime and coastal targets all over the world - but not so much else about the command was general knowledge. SEAL Team Six, like Delta (i.e., the U.S. Army Special Ops Command, Delta Force), was on a constant war footing. Within a very short period the entire Team would be ready to deploy and fight anywhere in the world. SEAL Team Six was, and is, on the highest alert level of any unit in the U.S. military."

Some of their early background is shown: "In Vietnam, SEALs appeared where no enemy thought possible and struck with a ferocity far out of proportion to their number. The Vietcong called them 'the men with green faces,' and put bounties on their heads."

As is the case with any elite, successful team, there are MANY behind-the-scenes support personnel who ensure that the 'front-men' will be successful. SEAL Team Six was sent to rescue the Maersk Alabama's Captain Phillips, after he was captured by Somali pirates. The following quote is a good example as they arrived on scene at the naval vessel involved: "Also parachuted onto the (U.S.S.) Bainbridge was another SEAL Team Six secret weapon, a mobile tactical operations center (TOC), manned by a platoon of non-SEAL uberdweebs assigned to Team Six. The Navy called them Support Detachment Alpha, but to the shooters they were 'the Twidgets,' geeks on steroids."

A fair portion of the book discusses the background and issues from what is envisioned as the point of view of Osama bin Laden. A comic statement relative to when Osama bin Laden travelled to Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion there in this section is as follows: "Almost five years after the Soviets first invaded, Osama bin Laden made a trip to the battle area. Incredible as it seems, he had not gone earlier because he could not secure his mother's permission."

Another telling quote from the book about the make-up of SEALs: " Courage, SEALs learn at BUD/S (i.e., Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, which is "considered to be the toughest school in the United States military."), is not the absence of fear. The absence of fear in combat is the result of insanity, or an extreme lack of situational awareness. SEALs learn not to ignore fear but to channel it. One of the most popular books at SEAL Team Six is Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings., a 350-year-old manual for the Samurai that touches on strategy and tactics and how a warrior should comport himself. It teaches that a warrior should be calm, use all his senses, and achieve his goals expending the minimum amount of energy. The Book of Five Rings is the cornerstone of the Japanese code of Bushido, the philosophy that is 'the Way of the Warrior.' This code includes concepts of law, respect, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice, qualities that overlap perfectly with the SEAL Teams' own highly evolved sense of commitment and valor."

When the SEAL Team Six officer received his orders regarding Osama bin Laden: "They stated that he was to plan to 'interdict a high-value individual in a nonpermissive environment.'" In others words they were to go get the bad guy in very hostile territory.

A final quote seeks to capture what it is like when a SEAL is involved in a "hot" situation: "When a room is entered, SEALs go into a state like satori - a wide-awake Zen consciousness that allows them to perceive and react with a minimal space for thought. It puts them instantly in the here and now - connected not only to the situation, but tapping into the thoughts and intentions of the enemies."

I liked this book a lot and even more so because it is the non-fiction story of how a heinous terrorist, almost in the same category as Adolf Hitler, was brought to justice. I hartily recommend it to those interested in learning how this amazing situation developed and was brought to conclusion.

Having served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and retiring from the Naval Reserve after a career of 28 years, I am exceedingly proud to have been a part of the same organization as the SEALs. From the perspective of a "very poor, very distant cousin" I dare to call them brothers.

[Book 16 of target 50 (January-10; February-6)]

message 35: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 09:58PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Thanks Bentley. I made several corrections/additions after the initial posting and just caught/corrected the "165" error.
Yes, I very much did like the book. If it appeals to you, I would certainly recommend it. Two others the I read last fall are also incredible reads, i.e., The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL and SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper

The Heart and the Fist The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL by Eric Greitens Eric Greitens and SEAL Team Six Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard E. Wasdin Howard E. Wasdin

message 36: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Gerald, I have the second one sitting in sun room (smile). Thanks for the tips.

message 37: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 09:51PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

17. Seabiscuit An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand Laura Hillenbrand Laura Hillenbrand
Finish date: February 16, 2012
Genre: non-fiction, sports
Rating: A++

Review: WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have just finished reading this absolutely amazing story of the truly incredible horse Seabiscuit. The story tells of how the initially ill-tempered, little-appreciated horse was brought from obscurity to the pinnacle of his sport by an unlikely trio: Charles Howard (his flamboyant owner), Tom Smith (his ultra-quiet, very intense trainer), and "Red" Pollard (his incomparable jockey).

Illustrations of the impact this horse had on America are: "At year's end, when the number of newspaper column inches devoted to public figures was tallied up, it was announced that the little horse (i.e., Seabiscuit) had drawn more newspaper coverage in 1938 than Roosevelt, who was second, Hitler (third), Mussolini (fourth), or any other newsmaker. His match with War Admiral was almost certainly the single biggest NEWS story (not just sports news story) and one of the biggest sports moments of the century." "Each WORKOUT was attended by ten thousand or more spectators." During this match race, it was said that: "His (i.e., the race announcer) voice crackled over the radio waves to an estimated forty million listeners, including President Franklin Roosevelt. Drawn up next to his White House radio, F.D.R. was so absorbed in the broadcast that he kept a roomful of advisors waiting. He would not emerge until the race was over."

Laura Hillenbrand weaves a tale so vivid with detail that you really feel as if you were looking over the shoulders of those whom she is describing. A good example is portrayal of the jockey's role in the success of a racehorse. "To pilot a racehorse is to ride a half-ton catapult. It is without question one of the most formidable feats in sport. The extraordinary athleticism of the jockey is unparalleled: A study of the elements athleticism conducted by Los Angeles exercise physiologists and physicians found that of all major sports competitors, jockeys may be, pound for pound, the best overall athletes. They have to be. To begin with, there are the demands on balance, coordination, and reflex. A horse's body is a constantly shifting topography, with a bobbing head and neck and roiling muscle over the shoulders, back and rump. On a running horse, a jockey does not sit in the saddle, he crouches over it, leaning all his weight on his toes, which rest on the thin medal bases of stirrups dangling about a foot from the horse's topline. When a horse is in full stride, the only parts of the jockey that are in continuous contact with the animal are the insides of the feet and ankles - everything else is balances in midair." "The stance is, in the words of one... researcher, 'a situation of dynamic imbalance and ballistic opportunity.' The center of balance is so narrow that if jockeys shift only slightly rearward, they will flip right off the back. If they tip more than a few inches forward, a fall is almost inevitable."

Even before jockeys can mount for their race they must "make weight," that is step on the scale to ensure they don't exceed the weight limits. "They called the scale 'the Oracle," and they lived in slavery to it. In the 1920's and 1930's, the imposts, or weights horses were assigned to carry in races (i.e., the handicapping process), generally ranged from 83 pounds to 130 or more, depending on the rank of the horse and the importance of the race. A rider could be no more than 5 pounds over the assigned weight or he would be taken off the horse." "To make weight in anything but high-class stakes races, jockeys had to keep their weight to no more than 114 pounds." They went to extremes to achieve this. "Most jockeys took a more straightforward approach: the radical diet, consisting of six hundred calories a day. Red Pollard went as long as a year eating nothing but eggs." "Water, because of its weight, was the prime enemy, and jockeys went to absurd lengths to keep it out of their systems. Most drank virtually nothing." "But weight maximums were so low that near fasting and water deprivation weren't enough." "Then there were the sweating rituals, topped by 'road work.' This practice... involved doning heavy underwear, zipping in a rubber suit, swaddling in hooded winter gear and woolen horse blankets, then running around and around the track, preferably under a blistering summer sun."

In 1940 Seabiscuit was returning from a long injury-induced layout to run the Santa Anita Handicap, also known as the Hundred Grander to reflect the highest purse paid in any horserace at that time. "People had begun gathering by the track gates just after dawn. By nine-thirty, the parking lot was already swollen with care. Many people had driven across the nation to see the race; virtually every state in the union was represented by license plates." After they threw the gates open, one correspondent said it looked "like the Oklahoma landrush." "Up in the pressbox, reporters from all over the world arrived." "In the luxury boxes, celebrities filed in: Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Sonja Henie, James Stewart, and Bing Crosby."

One thing in particular that was so amazing is that the impost weights assigned to Seabiscuit were almost always 130 or more pounds and in almost every race his rivals carried imposts of no more than 114 pounds. "In six years, Seabiscuit had won thirty-three races and set thirteen track records at eight tracks over six distances. He had smashed a world record in the shortest of sprints, one half mile, yet had the stamina to run in track record time at one and five-eighths miles. Many of history's greatest horses had faltered under 128 pounds or more; Seabiscuit had set two track records under 133 pounds and four more under 130 while conceding massive amounts of weight to his opponents. He was literally worth his weight in gold, having earned a world record $437,730, nearly sixty times his price."

This is definitely a 5-star, A+ book. I most definitely recommend it to almost any reader.

[Book 17 of target 50 (January-10; February-7)]

message 38: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 09:48PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

White Cargo

18. White Cargo by Stuart Woods Stuart Woods Stuart Woods
Finish date: February 19, 2012
Genre: fiction, action
Rating: B
Review: This is only the second Stuart Woods' book I've read which was not in his Stone Barrington series. It was fairly good with a lot of action related to kidnapping and the drug people of Columbia. There were quick a few far-fetched circumstances, but it was generally entertaining. I'll give it a semi-good recommendation.

[Book 18 of target 50 (January-10; February-8)]

message 39: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) Gerald wrote: "FEBRUARY
17. Seabiscuit An American Legend by Laura HillenbrandSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura HillenbrandLaura Hillenbrand
Genre: non-fictio..."

This was a great book and I also very much enjoyed the story. Hard to fathom the number of people who turned out for the workouts. And what an unlikely group of characters to come together for historic results. Great review!

message 40: by Gerald (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Thanks, Alisa. I guess you could tell that I REALLY liked that book.

message 41: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 09:44PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

The Mouse That Roared: A Novel

19. The Mouse That Roared A Novel by Leonard Wibberley Leonard Wibberley (no photo available)
Finish date: February 19, 2012
Genre: fiction, satire
Rating: B
Review: This book is wonderfully ridiculous - a satire of this finest kind. "The Mouse" in this story is the tiny country of The Grand Duchy of Fenwick - an Alpine country five miles long and 3 miles wide near the borders of France and Switzerland. Their entire economy, based on the successful export of their world-famous wine Pinot Grand Fenwick, is brought to its knees after American vintners in San Rafael, California begins bottling a competitive wine they call Pinot Grand Enwick.

After being laughed at when they send several official documents of complaint to United States officials, they hit upon a scheme which they feel will restore their national economy forever. They plan to declare war on the United States and following their inevitable defeat, expect the United States to be the "gracious victors" and shower them with funds to rehabilitate them, as was done following Germany's defeat at the end of World War II.

Grand Fenwick's Duchess Gloriana XIII tasks the duchy's high constable Tully Bascomb with assembling an appropriate expeditionary force to invade the U.S. Constable Bascomb vigorously proceded to do so and soon marched out the duchy's only road connecting it with the outside world with his force of three men-at-arms, besides himself, and 20 longbowmen dressed in chain mail and surcoats. Once outside the duchy, they had to catch a bus to the port of Marseille, France, where they chartered a two-masted, square-rigged sailing vessel - a brig - to take them to their point of invasion, New York City.

As the result of a hilarious series of events, they "invade" during a 100% Civil Defense drill during which there were no people on the streets or anywhere in sight when they arrive in New York. The Grand Fenwickian expeditionary force ends up "winning" the war by capturing the Columbia University physicist and the ultra-destructive "Q" bomb that he created, then calmly sailing out into the Atlantic Ocean well before the United States realizes that it has been "invaded."

The remainder of the book describes, in hysterical fashion, how this event leads to "guaranteed" peace for the entire world. It is a "light" read and very funny, but it is also very thought-provoking in a "what-if" kind of way regarding how the guarantee of world peace came about. It is not great literature, but it is wonderfully imaginative satire. I recommend it to readers who can accept it on that basis.


This book was originally published in The Saturday Evening Post on a serialized basis beginning in December 1954. I read a paperback copy published in 1959 and which sold for $0.35. The pages were literally falling out, but I managed to keep them together long enough.

Some may remember the 1959 movie of the same name starring Peter Sellers. He not only played High Constable Tully Bascomb but also the parts of Grand Duchess Gloriana XII and the duchy's Prime Minister Count Rupert of Mountjoy. As I read the book, I recalled fairly clearly having seen the movie many years ago. To the best of my recollection, the movie was an excellent adaptation of the book.

[Book 19 of target 50 (January-10; February-9)]

message 42: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 180 comments Loved the movie!

message 43: by Gerald (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Kathy F wrote: "Loved the movie!"

Wasn't that a hilarious movie!!! I probably saw it within a year or so after it came out. I was very surprised at how clearly I remembered it more than 50 years later.

message 44: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 09:42PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY


20. Topaz by Leon Uris Leon Uris Leon Uris
Finish date: February 21, 2012
Genre: historical fiction, espionage, intrigue
Rating: A
Review: Leon Uris is masterful author. Topaz weaves a terrific tale of suspense and intrigue which both underlies and incorporates the factual circumstances surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. A French patriot, serving in the #2 position in the French Embassy in Washington, helps thwart a Communist conspiracy and infiltration of the very highest levels of the French government and at the same time playing an integral role in obtaining information of the nefarious activities of the Soviets in Cuba.

I most definitely recommend it to those who enjoy extremely good historical fiction.

[Book 20 of target 50 (January-10; February-10)]

message 45: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 09:37PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments FEBRUARY

Hot Mahogany

21. Hot Mahogany (Stone Barrington, #15) by Stuart Woods Stuart Woods Stuart Woods
Finish date: February 21, 2012
Genre: fiction, mystery
Rating: B
Review: Since I began listening on CD to Stuart Woods' Stone Barrington book series, I feel as if the characters have become friends. Although not great literature, they are quite entertaining. Hot Mahogany was even more enjoyable than most in the series.

I think you have to have become a Stuart Woods fan in order to fully appreciate this series. If you are such a fan, I do recommend this book.

[Book 21 of target 50 (January-10; February-11)]

message 46: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) You are rolling along, Gerald!!!!

message 47: by Gerald (last edited Jul 26, 2012 09:36PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments Just getting into but really enjoying my first read of a John Le Carre (no photo available) novel, i.e., A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré

message 48: by Gerald (last edited Jul 24, 2012 07:10PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments MARCH

Iron Orchid

22. Iron Orchid (Holly Barker, #5) by Stuart Woods Stuart Woods Stuart Woods
Finish date: March 3, 2012
Genre: fiction, mystery, suspense
Rating: B
Review: I ventured into new Stuart Woods territory with this book (on CD). After having read or listened to 12 of his 21 Stone Barrington novels, this one features another of his popular fictional characters, i.e., Holly Barker. With a background as a small-town-Florida Police Chief, she has been recruited by the CIA. The early part of this book covers the period of her training at "The Farm," which is the CIA training center. She and her surviving classmates (many had to be weeded out) have their training cut several weeks short in order to man a special Presidential-established task force in New York City to apprehend a rogue ex-CIA officer who is killing foreign "terrorists" who have diplomatic immunity. The trail takes many unexpected turns, and Holly is in the thick of the action. Stone Barrington even makes a brief appearance.

Lots of action and suspense!!! Recommended to Stuart Woods fans and other who might think they could be.

[Book 22 of target 50 (Jan-10; Feb-11; Mar-1)]

message 49: by Gerald (last edited Jul 24, 2012 07:03PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments MARCH

People of the Book

23. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks Geraldine Brooks Geraldine Brooks
Finish date: March 12, 2012
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: A-
Review: With this being the third of her novels I've read, all in the last few months, I have become a big fan of Geraldine Brooks. She begins with a very limited set of facts as a framework then fleshes out the novels with incredible attention to detail in her research and exquisitely imaginative storytelling to bring her characters and the circumstances in which they find themselves so very much alive. This was true for Caleb's Crossing as well as Year of Wonders, and it is equally true for this beautifully written novel.

The protagonist Hanna Heath, Ph.D., is a very likeable Australian book conservator, or rare-book expert, who is given the job-of-a-lifetime opportunity for someone in her field to examine, analyze, and prepare for museum display an extremely rare book known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. This priceless volume, which dates from about 1480, is one of the earliest Jewish volumes still in existence and perhaps one of very few, if there were any others at all, to be as richly illustrated. The very fact that it is still exists after more than 500 years is truly a series of miracles which are brought to life by Dr. Heath's discoveries during her examination of a number of miniscule artifacts contained in the binding and her following "the trail" of these artifacts - an insect wing, drops of blood and wine, a single hair, and a grain of salt - to unlock the historical mysteries of this book.

After the volume was discovered in post-war Bosnia, Dr. Heath was offered this career-making assignment by the Bosnian Museum not only because of her sterling professional credentials but also and more importantly because she is from a “neutral” country such as Australia and therefore does not "carry the baggage" of someone from a country that the Bosnians would not be able to trust with the priceless Jewish book, e.g., Germany, Spain, Italy, England, America, Israel, etc.

The book has survived against all odds for more than 500 years through the Spanish Inquisition, the purges of Jewish books in Venice in the early 1600's and Vienna in the late 1800's, as well as Hitler's fanatics during World War II, and the traumatic events of the Bosnian War in the 1990's. In several instances the very people who might have, in theory, had the most reason to destroy the volume were, in fact, the ones who took the greatest chances to save it.

As Dr. Heath is being considered by the Bosnian Museum Director for the assignment, she very carefully describes her approach by first clarifying the distinction, in her mind, between a book restorer and a book conservator:
“To restore a book to the way it was when it was made is to lack respect for its history. I think you have to accept a book as you receive it from past generations, and to a certain extent damage and wear reflect that history. The way I see it, my job is to make it stable enough to allow safe handling and study, repairing only where absolutely necessary. This, here,” I said, pointing to a page where the russet stain bloomed over the fiery Hebrew calligraphy, “I can take a microscopic sample of those fibers, and we can analyze them, and maybe learn what made that stain—wine would be my first guess. But a full analysis might provide clues as to where the book was at the time it happened. And if we can’t tell now, then fifty , a hundred years, when lab techniques have advanced, my counterpart in the future will be able to. But if I chemically erase that stain—that so-called damage—we’d lose the chance at that knowledge forever.”

She goes on to tell how she uses the bits and pieces she might find in her examination of the book to discover more about its history:
By linking research and imagination, sometimes I think I can think myself into the heads of the people who made the book. I can figure out who they were, or how they worked. That’s how I add my few grains to the sandbox of human knowledge.

The layout of the novel uses alternating chapters, first from what Dr. Heath is doing and thinking on a contemporary basis followed by a chapter from the point of view of the person most primarily involved with the book throughout its various stages in time and place during its past. The one slightly confusing aspect of this approach is that Geraldine Brooks uses a reverse chronology for the chapters in the history of the book, i.e., the Bosnian War going back to when the book was originally made. In spite of this a very vivid picture of the people involved with the history of the creation and saving of the book, i.e., The People of the Book, is painted at every stage.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and very highly recommend it to any interested in the fascinating glimpses of history.

[Book 23 of target 50 (Jan-10; Feb-11; Mar-2)]

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks Year of Wonders A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

message 50: by Gerald (last edited Jul 24, 2012 06:58PM) (new)

Gerald | 200 comments MARCH

Papa Tango

24. Papa Tango by John Clagett John Clagett (no photo available)
Finish date: March 13, 2012
Genre: historical fiction, military
Rating: B
Review: John Claggett presents a wonderful tale of the World War II sailors who was assigned to a squadron of PT boats (Patrol, Torpedo). Using the phonetic alphabet for military signaling they become "Papa Tangos." Those same sailors are also referred to as Papa Tangos. The novel tells of the terrible battles the PT boats had with the Japanese and the horrible, disfiguring injuries sustained by many of their crew members.

Claggett uses alternating contemporary and flashback chapters to describe how the Papa Tangos are so severely affected - physically, mentally, and in their personal relationships. The contemporary part of the novel revolves around a Papa Tango Reunion 20 years after the war. Many who had been hurt so badly have withdrawn from a normal life. For various reasons they have never previously attended a reunion but at the 20-yeear point decide to take a chance and go. There are mixed results for the various individuals involved - some happy, some less so.

It is an enjoyable read, especially for those such as me who are drawn to tales of the navy.

[Book 24 of target 50 (Jan-10; Feb-11; Mar-3)]

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