Archive for the 'History' Category

Prisoners of Geography. Ten maps that explain everything about the world. Tim Marshall

Greater Middle East

Prisoners of Geography. Ten maps that explain everything about the world. Tim Marshall.  2015.  I spotted this book on the shelf at Gatwick.  A quick perusal told me I should buy it.  The author does a terrific job in explaining the simplicity and complexity in understanding Russia, China, the US, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, Indian * Pakistan, Korea & Japan, Latin America, and the Arctic.  He starts with the geopolitics of each area, the gifts and lacks due to geography. Then you get a quick history of how meddling nations have drawn up political maps in contradiction to history  and geography.  Further explanation shows the present difficulties on helping/hindering these areas as well as their particular hot buttons . Every US president should read this book before saying anything about these areas.  Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

The Taste of Conquest. The rise and fall of the three great cities of spice. Michael Krondl.

Cover of "The Taste of Conquest: The Rise...

Cover via Amazon

The Taste of Conquest. The rise and fall of the three great cities of spice. Michael Krondl. 2007 ISBN 9780345509826.  While travelling in Portugal I read this book. Fascinating,  as it delves in the roles of Venice, Lisbon and then Amsterdam and their successive monopolies in the spice trade .  Each city had a different approach in gaining their monopolies and how they “ruled” their Indian/Indonesian sources/possessions.  So much of the gold and ornate buildings in these cities was based on spice trading ( Pepper, salt, chili, cinnamon, then coffee and sugar) . The source countries and people did not fare well under the dominion of these successive traders.  The pursuit of spice is what drove the Portuguese to sail around Africa and into the Indies.  The author does a good job of illustrating  their particular drives and business approaches. Clearly written

Homo Deus. A brief history of tomorrow. Yuval Noah Harari.

Homo Deus. A brief history of tomorrow. Yuval Noah Harari. 2017. ISBN 9780062464316.  The author wrote Sapiens,  which detailed how mankind ( Homo Sapiens) become the dominant creature on the planet. In this well thought out book, he extrapolates where mankind may take philosophy, religions and the planet if following past processes, the present interest in AI,  IoT, CRISPR leads to a logical conclusion. He hints at the potential in the exploration of consciousness ( as practiced in eastern mystics).  The conclusion of the book extends a thought that if we do not want the “logical” end, that we may want to change things.  The initial parts that extend the thoughts of Sapiens is thought provoking. The middle where he delves into more philosophies could be unsettling to many, but provocative. The ending is not necessarily dystopian , but one could go away thinking it.   A worthwhile book to cause you to think and ponder

Sapiens. A brief history of mankind. Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens. A brief history of mankind. Yuval Noah Harari. 2014. ISBN 978077103850.   If you ever wanted to know why humans behave the way they do. this is the book for you.  It does a very good job of drilling back into our early development ( as  lucky survivor – who ended up at the top of a food chain) and how we still end up repeating our destructive and social ways today. We have been responsible for the destruction of entire species all over the world from very early on and have much to learn from our history.  I was taken with the parallel with our early predilection with gossip and how we still are.  The growth of communities to cities and eventually empires is so fascinating.  I tend to agree that perhaps the foraging communities were “better” fed then the eventual civilized peasants trapped in filthy, disease prone villages with a limited diet.  The extension into what we could become makes for very interesting reading as well.

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.