Archive for the 'History' Category

A Truck Full Of Money. Tracey Kidder.

Soul of a New Machine

A Truck Full Of Money.  One man’s quest to recover from great success. Tracey Kidder. 2016.  ISBN 9780399589553.  I read Kidders seminal book , The Soul of a New Machine when I was first selling computer hardware.  It was a book that changed and then reinforced my outlook to these wonderful machines.  This  book takes a look at the career of Paul English – who co created Kayak and then struck big time money.  With his easy to read, cogent style, Kidder makes this into a novel that pulls you along English’s career track.  You will come away, knowing much more about the challengers and pull of programming/software engineering and the mindset of these very creative often difficult folks.  I recommend this book to anyone in the software industry today as well as those contemplating a career in it.

Flashpoints. The emerging crisis in Europe. George Friedman.

Europe

Flashpoints. The emerging crisis in Europe. George Friedman.2015, ISBN 9780385536332. A clearly written analysis of  today’s Europe that uses history,  present day reports and what seems common sense to project believable scenarios.   Combined with Studwell’s How Asia Works, this book dovetails nicely.  As a bit player in the economic world, Canada should have some people who look at the world like Friedman.  In a recent article, Freidman’s projections show an economic basis for Japan and Islamic Turkey in future to knock heads with the US, with the first blows happening in space.  Its not such a long shot, when you take in all the arguments.

I especially appreciated his comment that Europe matters less to the US than it matters to Russia.  Russia wants buffer states like before and needs to keep the oil flowing to Europe.  Germany’s recent bullying of Greece ties to his analysis that Germany has to keep the exports up in order to keep prosperous, and internally there is little support to helping Greece if Germany has to take any hits.   Muslim immigration, the rise of right wing parties , combined with high unemployment mean some major impacts on European nations.

Written like a journalist , so it flows along quite nicely. I suggest you read it, you may not agree but it is good  food for thought.

Quantum Leaps. 100 Scientists who changed the World. Jon Balchin

Tim Berners-Lee

Quantum Leaps. 100 Scientists who changed the World. Jon Balchin.  2014 ISBN  9781782126935. A delightful English book that does a great job of linking innovative thinking from Pythagorus to Tim Berners-Lee through the centuries. The author does a good job in that he takes what could be confusing information and distills it into easily managed amounts of concise readable  information.  I enjoyed the chance to review my understanding of theoretical physics, plus I picked up more information on the life-science front.   Recommend this book to anyone who wants to add to his/her educated person background.   Quite fascinating read that holds your attention and for me added to the desire to learn more about some of these interesting characters.

It Doesn’t Take a Hero. The autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. cw Peter Petre.

General Norman Schwarzkopf.

It Doesn’t Take a Hero. The autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.  cw Peter Petre. 1992. ISBN 9780307764997.  Partially a book on Middle East  history ,  military strategy , geopolitics and a view into the mind of a singular leader.  It is compelling stuff to see how events in the authors life shaped him toward becoming the Commander in Chief of Desert Storm.  His personal details of home are often missing from sanitized autobiographies.  This book rings true. It is concise and too the point.  It also points to the ongoing ability of the US forces to get a job done when asked.  Good book for a cross country flight as it moves right along.

Thomas Nast. Political cartoonist. Lynda Pflueger.

English: Thomas H. Nast, Photograped by Sarony...

Thomas Nast. Political cartoonist. Lynda Pflueger. 2014. ISBN  The life of a very influential cartoonist during the time of Tammany Hall, President Grant and many others. Thomas Nast was extremely popular and influential in his day. As most people could not read, cartoons made a huge impact. I learned that he rally stood his ground on principles to create a better place and rid public life of the corrupt influences endemic in his times.  AN east quick read, It is non the less informative and illustrative of the times.  I think  democracies still need people like Nast to point out the human foibles as fewer people read for substance and mostly get drowned in information.  Hopefully there are people like Nast able to work in countries like China, Myanamar, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq as well as the US.

Waterloo. The history of four days, three armies Bernard Cornwell

The Fort (novel)

The Fort (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Waterloo. The history of four days, three armies Bernard Cornwell. 2014. ISBN 9780007539383.  If you have ever wondered about these “great ” battles  then this book is one to read.  There is no glory in war and Cornwell shows great tenacity in writing compelling text that takes you back to what is may have been like.  Using many firsthand accounts on all sides, the author painstakingly takes you there and offers the reader various options in making up their own mind.  A good clear read, it’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

How Asia Works. Success and failure in the world’s most dynamic region. Joe Studwell.

English: Member nations of the Asia-Pacific Ec...

How Asia Works. Success and failure in the world’s most dynamic region. Joe Studwell.2013. ISBN 9780802193476.  An all encompassing, insightful book.  The structure is simple . Compare the NE Asian successes ( Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China ),  to the SE Asian disasters ( Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India) ignore unique nation states like Hong Kong, Singapore,  then extract behaviors that seem to lead to economic powerhouse countries.   Then discuss each country a little more deeply to unpack their individual  successes, failures and on-going weaknesses.  Along the way  blow holes in the prevailing World Bank and IDB ” economic wisdom” .  The  author has little regard for most economists and after reading the book I am inclined to agree.  He does indicate that economic history is a useful pursuit in this analysis.   I saw many of his observations “operating” in our recent Asia /Africa trip.  Even though this is well before the Chinese stock market meltdown, much of his analysis indicated the inevitability of it.  The text is easy to read, well organized and will consume you.  No wonder Bill gates endorsed it.

Cry, The Beloved Country . Alan Paton.

Kiswahili: Alan Paton

Cry, The Beloved Country . Alan Paton.  1987, 1957, 1949. ISBN 978074326244.  Our driver on a safari tour in Durban South Africa recommended this book. It is about South Africa in the late 40’s and how the segregation policies had wide spread and often unexpected impacts. In Canada we can recognize similar issues rising form the treatment of aboriginal peoples, or the blacks in America . The book is simply written in the viewpoint of a poor black preacher from the depths of Natal ( Zulu heartland you can still see outside Durban). but it is not simple in its observations.  You can read this as adocumentary, a political text , a humanitarian  story or a reflection on the simislarities among all peoples. It is a wonderful book and useful for all ages.

In The Garden of Beasts. Love, terror and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin. Erik Larson

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

In The Garden of Beasts. Love , terror and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin. Erik Larson. 2011. ISBN 9780307408853.  A very good but terrifying book.  US Ambassador William Dodd and family and the four years they spent in Berlin as Hitler was seizing more and more power in Germany.  YOu follow the acquiescence of the German people and the  unwillingness of the world powers to acknowledge what was really happening, which allowed Hitler and his thugs to essentially take the world to war.  Another preventable situation (Just like WWI). Clearly and well written this book is full of surprises and dark parts. Human nature remaining what it is, we will likely go down this road again.

The Great War for Civilization. The Conquest of the Middle East. Robert Fisk.

The Great War for Civilization. The Conquest of the Middle East. Robert Fisk.2006. ISBN 9781841150086. Although this book ends shortly after the capture of  Saddam and the subsequent nightmare of an occupational war for the US in Iraq,   the present horrific causalities of Palestinians in Gaza fits exactly with what Fisk predicted for the Middle East.   This tome is a detailed description of what Fisk has observed with over 30 years of reporting for the Independent in the Middle East. He has the ability to report unvarnished observations of what goes on in these wars. He has no time for the “spun” stories and media managed material that both sides put forward. He tells you what he sees.   Thus he is not the friend of the US, UK, Israel and the various trumped up despots that the West has supported in the Middle East since WW I .  He is the describer and friend of the villagers, civilians and non combatants who find themselves in the hospitals, morgues, mass graves where ever these combats/power struggles play out.   I was not surprised to see him sometimes labelled as an anti Zionist.  Since he raises the question, if 10 Israeli’s are killed it is  a massacre, but if 40 Palestinians die it is a tragedy.  He asks who decides the difference in the wording? Through eye witness reports by himself and other journalists you see how war is portrayed by the the West to fulfill its own sense of right.  Insightful and shocking you will never look at the news the same way. I began to agree that the Israelis are colonizing Gaza in direct violation of UN resolutions since 1967.