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Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:41 am
by buffybot_in_beirut
Addendum... How could I have forgotten...

All books by Ryszard Kapuscinski. My personal favourite is one of his lesser known works, Another Day of Life, which is back in print, re-published in 2001 (though written in 1976).

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 4:29 pm
by phasmoid
I mentioned in another string that Antony Beevor is the shit. I read Stalingrad and Berlin; now I'll hit the Spanish Civil War i think.

The Austrian-Hungarian Empire (most esp. the last days of)


The other writer I mentioned is Misha Glenny and his book The Balkans. There are few angles left unexamined and one of the more interesting is the role of the Austrian-Hungarians and the impact they had on shaping this part of the world. Great parallel comparison between them and the Ottomans as the dad empires walking. The ficus is not on Austria per se but still might be worth the read.

The books main focus is how in the West folks tend to see the 'Balkan conundrum' as the result of crazy Euro rednecks that just can't stop going all Hutu on each other. He points out the role of the 'Great Powers' (GB, France, US, Germany, Russia, Ottomans).

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:47 pm
by Rhah
SOG: The Secret War of Americas Commandos in Vietnam by John L. Plaster

Great history of the Studies and Observation Group in Vietnam. Running cross border recon into Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam. Plaster was a three tour veteran of SOG but only talks about himself for a few paragraphs in the whole book. All of the people he served with were truly amazing. Just to name a few:

Robert Howard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Howard

Larry Thorne
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Thorne

Roy Benavidez
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Benavidez

Fred Zabitosky
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Zabitosky

Jerry "Mad Dog" Shriver

There was a German Shepard named Klaus that was Shriver's closest companion. One night in the NCO club some other Green Berets gave Klaus a bunch of beer and it made Klaus sick. He shit on the floor and they rubbed his nose in it then kicked him out the door. Shriver walked in and drank a beer, put his .38 revolver on the table, then dropped his pants and shit on the floor. "If you want to rub my nose in this, come on over"

According to the book Shriver also had spoken the most famous rejoinder in the history of SOG. His recon team surrounded by the NVA and the brass concerned that he would be overrun, a FAC told Shriver that the situation sounded pretty bad. With out missing a beat Shriver responded with "No no. I've got them right where I want 'em...surrounded from the inside"

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 11:08 pm
by Yeahsure
"The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara.

Possibly the best historically-based novel on the Gettysburg battle I've ever read.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 12:02 am
by mapandcompass
Yeahsure wrote:"The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara.

Possibly the best historically-based novel on the Gettysburg battle I've ever read.


+1, a really worthwhile read

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 11:19 am
by Caliban
Yeahsure wrote:"The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara.

Possibly the best historically-based novel on the Gettysburg battle I've ever read.



My enemy, my brother is also very good from the Gettysburg Fiction perspective. Tellsthe story from the viewpoints of various members of the Culp family and friends ,fighting on both sides and living in the town during the battle. Read it years ago ...must go and dust it off again I think.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 3:57 am
by deselby
buffybot_in_beirut wrote:Addendum... How could I have forgotten...

All books by Ryszard Kapuscinski. My personal favourite is one of his lesser known works, Another Day of Life, which is back in print, re-published in 2001 (though written in 1976).


Oh yeah.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:01 am
by deselby
buffybot_in_beirut wrote:I had a love-hate relationship with history in high school. Loved the subject, but hated the teachers and syllabus for their view that only stuff that happened at least 100 (and preferably 1000) years ago is "history." If I want to know what happened yesterday, I read the newspaper. If I want to know what happened a week ago, I study history.

So I have a strong preference for contemporary history books, ideally ones that are enjoyable and "easy" to read, mix in a fair bit of good journalism, and border on travel literature.

I am a few thousand miles away from my bookshelf at home, but some titles that I remember include:

Imperial Life in the Emerald City (Rajiv Chandrasekaran)
Easy read, chapters of varying quality, good for some (sad) laughts - Iraq is depressing enough.



50% true, 50% bullshit. I was there.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 11:29 am
by Penta
As was he, of course. :) He might have seen different things, had different perspective.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:08 am
by deselby
Penta wrote:As was he, of course. :) He might have seen different things, had different perspective.


I am talking about the things and the people we both saw.

Chandrasekaran wanted to draw caricatures, not portraits. His perspective was that of a reporter who wanted to jazz things up and impose a narrative.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 12:26 pm
by Penta
Fair enough.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:16 pm
by Arctic
Ahem.

"The Crusades through Arab Eyes" by Amin Maalouf.

The perspective is right there in the title, of course. Originally written in French.

Fascinating account of the world-shattering impact of the Crusades on the Arab and Islamic worlds. The petty factionalism, betrayal and fear that kept them divided as the Crusaders claimed one land after another. The rise of the Assassins, and the subsequent backlash that saw their adherents massacred in the streets. The Sunni verses Shiite aspects of internal politics (yes, even back then, except Egypt was the Shiite stronghold back then).

The narrative is pretty fast-paced, using historical accounts, primarily from the Arab/Islamic side, but also making the occasional reference to the European/Crusader chronicles. Lots of little personal anecdotes and colorful accounts, such as that of the Arab physician sent to treat a couple of cases in one of the Crusader-held cities. He describes how they asked him to treat a knight with a massive boil on his calf that had infected. He lances the boil, tries to clean the wound. Then a European doctor intervenes, asks the knight if he prefers to die or lose a leg. Naturally, lose a leg. The doctor summons an assistant with an ax and proceeds to lop the poor bastard's leg off. The Arab physician watches the man bleed out and die, then politely asks if they need him for anything else or if he can go home now.

Also some of the grimmer aspects of the history there. The cannibalism perpetrated by the Crusaders in Maara, among others.

The book naturally peaks with the ascendancy of Saladin and his assumption of the Egyptian throne, and his subsequent annihilation of the Crusader army at Hattin, followed by the capture of Jerusalem.

Interestingly, it's made fairly clear that, through his famed generosity and chivalry (don't get me wrong, he still executed prisoners, but he was pretty great by the standards of the time and the people he was fighting against), Saladin basically shot himself in the foot, as he allowed a substantial proportion of Jerusalem's populace to leave, and they promptly ended up reinforcing Acre, making it impossible for him to take.

Culminates in the rise of the Mamluks, who, as the book puts it, "were not joking." The slave-soldiers just basically went around knocking over Crusader castles one by one, retaking cities, and then finally wiped out a Mongol army in the field at Ayn Jalut.

Excellent read.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 6:49 am
by mapandcompass
I've been reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia to ye Peter O'Toole fans) and it has been really truly excellent. I've plowed through ~350 pages in the last 4 days. Some highlights:
- Shooting Turks
- Dehydration
- Executions by pistol
- Camel riding
- Malnutrition
- Blowing up trains
- Climbing in and out of broken wells
- Dysentary
- Boils

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 7:20 pm
by Caliban
mapandcompass wrote:I've been reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia to ye Peter O'Toole fans) and it has been really truly excellent. I've plowed through ~350 pages in the last 4 days. Some highlights:
- Shooting Turks
- Dehydration
- Executions by pistol
- Camel riding
- Malnutrition
- Blowing up trains
- Climbing in and out of broken wells
- Dysentary
- Boils


An excellent choice. I have a number of books by and about him.I recommend "TE Lawrence by his friends". Puts the man into the perspective of his time.

Re: Book recommendations and reviews

PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 1:52 am
by mapandcompass
Caliban wrote:An excellent choice. I have a number of books by and about him.I recommend "TE Lawrence by his friends". Puts the man into the perspective of his time.


Thanks, I will definitely check that out when I'm finished with 7 Pillars.