Archive for the 'History' Category

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.

 

The Fracking Truth. America’s energy revolution:the inside, untold story. Chris Faulkner

Fracking the Ocean

The Fracking Truth. America’s energy revolution:the inside, untold story. Chris Faulkner. 2014. ISBN 9780985070373.  The author started in software and moved from control systems for oil & gas into starting an energy company that benefited form the advances in fracking technology.   There are two sides to any story and he is taking the engineers role of presenting all the facts for you to make your own decisions.  It is a very thorough and I for one appreciated the insights into the whole story.

Fracking is an 100% made in America oil and gas well completion technology that is on track to serve up Americas energy needs safely,  for the foreseeable future at a reasonable price. This will finally free the US from being tied to Saudi Arabia and the volatile Middle East  Increasing proven resources of gas in the US make it a distinct possibility of exporting gas to Europe, which will mitigate most  threats from Russia against the EU.   Also you will learn the background of the misleading comments and outright lies put forth by the Fox documentary called Gasland – which has fueled a complete misconception in the public media.  These falsehoods have taken root as an often told story to become accepted by most with no questioning.  Fracking works in North America because of the geography, infrastructure, skills and competence that is  rarely  found in  other places.

The author shows that the oil & gas industry does a woeful job of telling its side of the  story. In Canada we see that mishandling first hand with the Northern Gateway project, the Keystone pipeline and the oil sands. Like the ways that the politically astute environmental groups destroyed the West Coast timber industry for many years,  similar  groups are determined to do the same to resource extraction.

You will earn about the economics and environmental impacts of hydro, solar, coal, wood and wind energy projects. From the analysis it becomes apparent that the oil & gas sector will remain dominant for many many years, world wide.

Great cross country read in a concise, clear easy to read style.

Lawrence In Arabia. War Deceit, Imperial Folly and the making of the Modern Middle East. Scott Anderson

Middle East at Night (NASA, International Spac...

Lawrence In Arabia. War Deceit, Imperial Folly and the making of the Modern Middle East. Scott Anderson. 2013. ISBN. 9780385532938.  A well researched, thorough book that will give the student of history, politics  and events a good grounding into why the Middle East will continue to be a problem.  For me it reiterates that the US will continue to be foolish in its “help” to the Middle East – as it tends never to learn from history and experience. It was tragicomic to read about the boundless incompetence of the British military in WW I which cause untold millions to die unnecessarily.  Our trip last year through Turkey taught us much about that country , but their “version” of this time has been rewritten to put Ataturk in the best light with a glossing over of the dreadful effect the Young Turks had on the whole thing.   Lawrence does not come away as an inveterate truth teller in his own writings.  The reader will learn about the machinations of the French and Germans , Arabs and  Zionists in all this as well.   Well worth the read.

Made in America. An informal history of the english language in the United States. Bill Bryson

English: Bill Bryson in 2005. Bill Bryson Amer...

Made in America. An informal history of the english language in the United States. Bill Bryson. 1994/2001. ISBN 0380713810.  A funny yet very insightful book as only Bryson can  write it. Well researched with copious annotations this is book for historians, writers,  political scientists and students of all ages.  I learned so much from this book such as

  • The Pilgims were incredibly stupid  and unprepared for their settling of America
  • American angst over public sex, visual and written owes much to the Puritan influence
  • Current ideas about political correctness are seriously flawed.
  • Many Americanisms came from England – but the Brits could no longer recognize them.
  • America is an incredibly funny and diverse place.

Have ago if you can find this book (Its on Amazon) , it is well worth the read.