Archive for the 'History' Category

The Bomber Mafia. A dream , a temptation and the longest night of the second world war. Malcolm Gladwell

The Bomber Mafia. A dream, temptation and the longest night of the second world war. Malcolm Gladwell. 2021. ISBN 9780316296939.  A riveting true story, how the US developed and then tried to apply the Norden bombsight, despite its huge limits.  The growth of the Army  Air Force and how it differed from the British model.  And an insight into Curtis Lemay.   Like any Gladwell book, there are life lessons in this.  One is the US love of technology over what actually works in the field.  How true believers will rewrite the story to fit what they believe vs what actually happens.  And for Curts Lemay how his firestorms in Japan hastened them to the table and shortened the war. One could suppose that the US did not have to drop the bomb as Japan was already teetering.   Useful read and an easy one.

The Edge of Eternity. Ken Follett.

The Edge of Eternity. Ken Follett. 2020.  Following two fictional families, one in East Germany and one in USA ( black) from building the Wall, the Kennedy years, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Bush, the fall of the Wall, Europe Spring.  The families, their contacts, their enemies are intertwined with these events in history.  If you lived through some or all of this, you may not be able to put the book down.   Leaders are not always shown in a kindly light, with JFK taking quite a hit on his morals ( or lack of).  Worth the read as it is recent enough to ring true.

Joe Biden. The life, the run, and what matters now. Evan Osnos.

Joe Biden. The life, the run, and what matters now. Evan Osnos.2020. ISBN 9781982174026.  Published just prior to the inauguration this is a decent reveal about who and what Joe is.  It seems he may be what the US needs right now to “get the job done” while being quietly competent at working the Washington levers of power.  ( I think we appreciate the quiet part now)    I was interested in the projected actions he may take in his first forty weeks of power, he is under no illusions as to how short a honeymoon he may have.  His actions seem to follow these projections and why they seem necessary. It’s a useful book for those of us who watch the US from a distance.

Simon Scarrow. Cato and Macro series (1-17)

Simon Scarrow. Cato and Macro series (1-17).  Scarrow is a prolific writer on the Roman expansion era ranging from the invasion of Britannia, in the Med., and the Middle East, and Rome all the way to the wars with Persia.  His two heroes, Cato and Macro are regular Roman fighters who get in and out of many deadly scrapes. The author’s research gives you an on-ground view of the life of a Roman soldier.  His writing is fast-paced, but with enough detail to keep you intrigued. Very enjoyable if you are a historical fiction buff.

The Splendid and the Vile. A saga of Churchill, family and defiance during the blitz. Erik Larson.

The Splendid and the Vile. A saga of Churchill, family and defiance during the blitz. Erik Larson. 2020.  ISBN 9780385348713.  A very well and tightly written story of the 57 days and nights of the relentless bombing of Britain by the Germans in WWII.  You see how Churchill and family ( and other govt ministers)  worked and lived through these horrendous days.  Lots of pathos and emotion in the pages as well as insights into the English upper-crust life. The author has researched diaries, written reports and memoirs of the English, American and German leaders at the time.  Well worth the read with the bonus of Churchill’s descriptive prose throughout the book.

A Long Petal of the Sea. Isabel Allende

A Long Petal of the Sea. Isabel Allende. 2020. ISBN 9781984820167. I am a long time fan of Allende’s work.  She weaves feeling. the human condition and history into a seamless tapestry.  This book starts with the  Spanish war between Republicans and Fascists that was a warm-up to WWII. We follow the hero ( a medical student)  through being on the desperate Republican side, what happens to his family and then fleeing to France. After they flee to Chiulem, build a life and then after Allende is killed, fleeing again to Argentina and starting over. The protagonist is jailed and tortured several times. Yet the characters survive the harshness and scarcities of war and repressions.  A great read that will stay with you for quite some time.

GIRT. The unauthorized history of Australia. David Hunt

GIRT. The unauthorized history of Australia. David Hunt.  2913. ISBN 9781922231086.  Written with true Aussie tongue in cheek, Hunt delivers a Bill Bryson style story of the initial years of Australia.  It is sometimes outrageous, often gritty and also empathetic to those affected by the actions of the often corrupt, inept and bigotted British bureaucrats/colonists.  There are some inside jokes for the Aussie audience but it does not take away from the story nor the humour.   The story moves right along and does not bog down in trivia, quite the read.

the cluetrain manifesto. the end of business as usual. rick levine, christopher locke, doc searis, david weinberger.

the cluetrain manifesto. the end of business as usual. rick levine, christopher locke, doc searis, david weinberger. 2000 ISBN 0736202444. This came out over 20 years ago after  Eric Raymond’s  The Cathedral and The Bazaar. What is insightful about re-reading the manifesto is to see so much of what was predicted has slowly come about.  Once again this proves the wisdom of the crowds as this document was put together from many thousands of conversations on the early web.  Yes, some of the references are dated ( As in no longer what they were) but the truth of this work is evident. The 95 theses are here

Read the whole manifesto if you can here.    I took away:

  • That markets were originally conversations and business is a conversation.
  • The pervasive web opens the web of secrecy behind business and govt so people can talk again to people.
  • People want to do a good job if you let them, and many enjoy making clients/customers happy.
  • There is another set of rules beyond the org chart ( those who get things done).
  • The future is the intersection of choice and interruption
  • Real people employ humour to connect
  • Hear the questions of the heart through the web
    • children talking to  children
    • who is this person really like?
    • poor connecting with the poor
    • listen to ideas in context
    • information is tied to what voice?
    • be smart not just Google it
    • which stories are worthy?
  • Bring forth the human story.

If you work in tech it is worthwhile to read this manifesto it is still valid and useful.

Yellow Bird. Oil, murder and a woman’s search for justice in Indian Country. Sierra Crane Murdoch.

Yellow Bird. Oil, murder and a woman’s search for justice in Indian Country. Sierra Crane Murdoch. 2020. ISBN 9780399589157. This is why I like to read books by journalists, they can write.  The book is seemingly simple, one woman following and journaling the efforts of another to find justice.  But it is much more profound. In  these pages is likely one of the better illustrations of what it means to be Indian in North America. Plus an indictment of big oil in North Dakota.   The reader comes to  their own judgement in experiencing life along with the book’s characters.  The style is simple, and almost pedestrian as you follow the chronology.  But in this simplicity comes a slow compulsion to see how it all comes out.  Worth the read.

The Secrets We Kept. Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept. Lara Prescott. 2019. ISBN9780525656166.  So what did happen to the brave women of the OSS ( predator of the CIA) who worked for Wild Bill Donovan in Europe? After years in WW II going behind enemy lines, running Resistance forces and all sorts of daring operations, they return to the US and the CIA offices. There they were relegated to the typing pool while their male colleagues became their bosses.  This book chronicles the life and times of several of these ladies as well as what happened to Boris Pastenak ( Dr Zhivago) after the CIA published his book and displeased the Soviet higher ups.  An excellent follower to Spymistress as some of the same people are in both.  Good gripping read.