Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend is the second book in the series. I'm feeling a little nostalgic. The book was actually better than I remembered since there was some subtext I hadn't noticed the first time. it continues the story of the dysfunctional Mole family described by their oldest child in diary form. Very funny. Also a very good look at 1980s England.

Recommended.

I've also reviewed the first book in the series The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend OK its young adult literature I'm feeling nostalgic. Surprisingly the book does still hold up and there's a bunch of rather subtle references I didn't pick up when I first read this thing back in grade 6.

It's the diary of the trials and tribulations of a 13-year-old in a working-class family trying to deal with a feminist mother and a lazy father. The book is an excellent snapshot of 1980s England firmly in the Margaret Thatcher years. It is still quite funny even to this 25-year-old. I came across it while wandering through Abebooks.

Highly Recommended.

I have also reviewed the second book in the series The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf

Here are my book reviews on Counterinsurgency/Insurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare. The links take you to my reviews. Don't worry about the posting date I'll put new reviews into the list as I write them. Last updated on January 2, 2008.

The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual

Arnold, James Tet Offensive, 1968: Turning Point in Vietnam

Bahmanyar, Mir Afghanistan Cave Complexes 1979-2004: Mountain strongholds of the Mujahideen, Taliban & Al Qaeda

Beckett, I. F. W. The Encyclopedia of Guerrilla Warfare

Bennett, Richard The Black and Tans

Bidwell, Shelford The Chindit War: Stilwell, Wingate, and the Campaign in Burma, 1944

Chandrasekaran, Rajiv Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone

Chapman, F. Spencer The Jungle is Neutral: A Soldier's Two-Year Escape from the Japanese Army

Chattopadhyaya, Rudrapratap Insurgency of Titu Meer: A Brief History of Wahabi Movement Down to the Death of Saiyid Ahmad

Clayton, Anthony Forearmed: History of the Intelligence Corps

Clodfelter, Mark The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam

Collins, James Lawton The Development and Training of the South Vietnamese Army, 1950-1972

Condon, Richard W. The Winter War: Russia Against Finland (The Pan/Ballantine Illustrated History of World War II)

Dach, H. Von Total Resistance

Engle, Eloise and Paananen, Lauri The Winter War: The Soviet Attack on Finland 1939-1940

Fall, Bernard B. Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu

Griffith, Samuel B. Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare

Hammes, Thomas X. The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century

Haycock, Ronald [editor] Regular Armies and Insurgency

Heaton, Colin D. German Anti-Partisan Warfare in Europe: 1939 1945

Heilbrunn, Otto Warfare in the Enemy's Rear

Herring, George C. The Pentagon Papers

Kuodyte, D. The Unknown War: Armed anti-Soviet Resistance in Lithuania in 1944–1953

Lanning, Michael Lee and Cragg, Dan Inside the VC and the NVA

Leakey, Louis Mau Mau and the Kikuyu

Morgan, Ted My Battle of Algiers: A Memoir

Nicolle, David Lawrence and the Arab Revolts 1914-18

Pearson, Mike Waging War from Canada: Why Canada is the Perfect Base for Organizing, Supporting, and Conducting International Insurgency

Peissel, Michel The Secret War in Tibet

Pustay, John S. Counterinsurgency Warfare

Rosen, Nir In the Belly of the Green Bird: the Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq

Rothstein, Hy S. Afghanistan And the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare

Schultheis, Rob Waging Peace: A Special Operations Team's Battle to Rebuild Iraq

Spector, Ronald H. After Tet:The Bloodiest year in Vietnam

Steinberg, Lucien Jews Against Hitler (Not As A Lamb) - The Seminal Work on Jewish Resistance

Tanner, Stephen Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban

Thompson, Sir. Robert Make for the Hills: Memories of Far Eastern Wars

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

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It is right!
As anyone who's read this blog for any length of time probably noticed already.



Thursday, December 28, 2006

new link on the sidebar

I've done the link exchange thing with Maggie Reads. A very interesting librarian's blog. She's trying to convince Mississippians to read which could be difficult as demonstrated by these terrifying statistics on her page.
My work is, as they say, cut out for me. At a reading level of one, an adult will be able to make out important words like “stop” and “sale” but will not be able to read simple sentences. Thirty percent of adults in the state of Mississippi are at level one. Thirty-four percent of adult Mississippians read at level two—equivalent to an eight-grade level.
Makes me wonder what Alberta's statistics are like.

Bush does something right

No that's not a typo. The administration has actually managed to do something right for once. U.S. to Declassify Secrets at Age 25. Sure agencies can still get around released but have to look through the material and not just give a blanket denial.

Has to be some good Vietnam material in there somewhere. Anyone want to go to the National Archives?





Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Salvage King, Ya! by Mark Anthony Jarman

Salvage King, Ya! by Mark Anthony Jarman is one of Amazon.ca's Canadian essentials I'm not sure why. The narrator is a washed up hockey player bouncing around various leagues. The writing style is pretty close to stream of consciousness which makes it very hard to follow.

To bad it sounded interesting.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

100th book review

Yesterday I posted my 100th book review on the blog. It was The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration by Mark Roseman an excellent book on the Holocaust. I'll be writing up a year-end awards post. Hopefully I'll be able to review more material it's one of my New Year's resolutions. Maybe hit the 150th review before May 22nd. Which is the blogs one-year anniversary.

Drop me a comment if you appreciate what I'm doing.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration by Mark Roseman

The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration by Mark Roseman attempts to explain how exactly the conference should be considered in the wider perspective of the Holocaust. The author suggests that instead of being important for decisions made at the conference it was more a signpost on the way to the final solution.

The conference has received much notoriety because of the Wannsee protocol which was written by Adolf Eichmann. It is included in its entirety and an appendix. The English translation provided in the records of the Nuremberg Tribunal has been cleaned up. The book provides a contextual analysis of the document as well as the events leading up to and following the conference. We also get some discussion of Holocaust historiography.

Extensive endnotes round out this superb book on the Holocaust.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.


For more Holocaust book reviews, take a look at My Holocaust bookshelf.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde is a humorous mystery about the Nursery Crime Division.

Humpty Dumpty has been murdered and Jack Spratt has to find out who did it. Maybe a little heavier on puns then Fforde's other books but still enjoyable. Perhaps the most interesting part is that detectives who have their exploits published in history magazines gained fame, notoriety and convictions.

This is the first in a series. He deals with some of the same ideas in his Thursday Next series.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Science Fiction and Fantasy book reviews take a look at My Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshelf.

Every War Must End by Fred Charles Ikle

Every War Must End by Fred Charles discusses the issue of war termination. Basically the author has written a book that shows various examples of the concept of war termination put forward by Clausewitz. The examples range from World War I to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. There is some reference to the First Persian Gulf War in a new introduction and some talk about al-Qaeda. He doesn't believe that negotiation is possible with them.

This book apparently influenced Colin Powell's decision to suggest terminating the First Persian Gulf War prior to invading Iraq proper. The book contains an extensive notes section and a bibliography on war termination. A short highly readable account. This is a third revision published in 2005. The three earlier introductions were included.

Recommended!

Red Meat Cures Cancer by Starbuck O'Dwyer

Red Meat Cures Cancer by Starbuck O'Dwyer is a very funny novel about the narrator's attempts to increase market share for his fast food company.

The narrator has been working at the same place for 19 years and only needs to stick around for one more to get a big fat pension but His civil war reenacting crazy boss tells him he needs to increase the Company's market share from 3% to 5% or he'll be fired. That would be difficult enough seeing as their burgers are not healthy but it's made worse by the threat of a class-action lawsuit brought by the state's to recoup health expenses of meet eaters. He has a feminist daughter who needs thousands of dollars in breast implants and another child who needs money for his Internet startup.

The book occasionally turns preachy discussing fame and fortune in America today but it's all done with some incredibly funny one-liners so it's okay.

The action which forces him to take a second look at his life is actually very well done and makes the last third of the book rather poignant. Surprising considering books like this don't usually have much emotional impact. The book does stay funny throughout the introspective section.

Highly recommended! The book was recently remaindered so there are many copies for $1.

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Columnist by Jeffrey Frank

The Columnist by Jeffrey Frank is supposedly a humorous fake biography about a columnist in Washington DC.

Unfortunately it's just not funny. We get close to parity occasionally. There is an oversexed version of the McLaughlin Group [as frightening as that sounds] but nothing really funny here. The book is all about sex and how everybody is sleeping around on everybody else. Problem is it's just not funny. The Flashman series by George Macdonald Fraser was able to make sex funny this book did not.

Not recommended! The book was recently remaindered so there are many copies for $1.

Is available through Abebooks.

George Bush, Dark Prince Of Love: A Presidential Romance by Lydia Millet

George Bush, Dark Prince Of Love: A Presidential Romance by Lydia Millet is a hilarious book about a woman's infatuation with the 41st president of the United States.

The narrator recently out of jail falls in love with Bush and attempts to meet him. We also get quite a bit of social commentary about Bush's America. The book is extremely funny with a dark sense of humor. Apparently the author has written other things but they're much darker than this. That being said the book isn't really for the squeamish. There is some violence and sexual material.

Recommended. The book was recently remaindered so there are many copies for $1. An excellent deal.

Is available through Abebooks.

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde is the second book in the Thursday Next series. The plot follows the situations in the first book but you don't have to have read the earlier one for it to make sense.

Basically the main character has to deal with the corporation that is out to ruin her life. The literary adventures are still part of this book. We get to learn all sorts of things about the reality of books and how they can be changed by evildoers. It's hard to summarize without giving away the plot of the first book.

Probably not as funny as the first book but still an excellent break from the military history I usually read.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.


I have reviewed the first book in the series The Eyre Affair

For more Science Fiction and Fantasy book reviews take a look at My Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshelf.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

INS and Homeland security must be informed its Santa!

Now we know why NORAD tracks Santa.

From: no santa for hazleton

This Christmas, a grassroots coalition of concerned citizens and elected officials have come together to conduct a public awareness campaign against the nation's most prominent undocumented worker: Santa Claus.
Terrific web site. Obviously Santa also violates minimum wage and working condition laws. Somebody call Lou Dobbs!





The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe, and Power in the Heart of Africa by Bill Berkeley

The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe, and Power in the Heart of Africa by Bill Berkeley attempts to explain why Africa has so many political problems.

Berkeley an American reporter tries to get past the usual description of African violence, that is being a Hobbesian world of all against all or simply tribal. He makes a convincing case that instead conflicts require "leadership". Much of this our caused by rather unsavory Cold War allies of the West. The behavior of the leaders is more equivalent to how the Sicilian Mafia operates.

There is a very interesting interview with one of Reagan's African adviser's who basically says that they don't care about the Africans just as long as the Soviets stayed out.

Various countries are covered the Wanda, South Africa, Sudan and Liberia. The section on South Africa describes the way government's attempted in the 1980s to foster conflict between different black groups. Something that isn't really known about in the West.

A fascinating and highly recommended book on an important subject.

Is available through Abebooks.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Anything that gets Don Cherry mad has to be a good thing

Well it's nice to know that the NHL doesn't seem to understand the Internet. I'm of course talking about the Internet campaign to get Rory Fitzpatrick in the All-star game First heard about this tonight. The way the CBC suits were going on about it you think the apocalypse was happening. Anything that gets Don Cherry mad has to be a good thing.

Funny considering Cherry himself was essentially a write-in candidate for a stupid CBC greatest Canadian special. I certainly don't remember him taking himself out of the running for that.

So as they say in Chicago "vote early, vote often". Go to http://www.voteforrory.com/




Friday, December 22, 2006

Anticipating Surprise: Analysis for Strategic Warning by Cynthia M. Grabo

Anticipating Surprise: Analysis for Strategic Warning by Cynthia M. Grabo describes the skills needed by intelligence analysts to avoid a military surprise. Grabo one of the few female intelligence analysts during the Cold War has written an interesting work.

This book started out as a 3 volume classified US government textbook but after September 11 it was condensed, updated and declassified. Anyone expecting an explanation of the intelligence failure around September 11 will be disappointed. There is only an oblique reference to the terrorist attacks in the introduction.

Most of the book discusses some of the reasons why the correct analysis does not always get through to policymakers. There are lots of negative examples where this did not take place. Pearl Harbor, the Chinese intervention in Korea, the Soviets in Czechoslovakia etc. Interestingly enough order of battle material is usually considered by outsiders to be accurate. The author explains that this is not the case and can be just as wildly inaccurate as other analysis.

Recommended for anyone who wants a look at the inner workings of threat analysis.

Is available through Abebooks.

Questia Online Library

I'm happy to announce that I have a new affiliate on my blog. It is Questia Online Library. This is a very interesting web site if you're interested in research material or just reading. They have over 1.5 million articles and 65,000 books. Much of the material is from academic presses which is usually very expensive to purchase on the market. New it can range anywhere from $20 a paperback to $150! so being able to get access to much the same material for $19.95/one month or $99/year is an excellent deal.

For researchers there are a bunch of tools that are provided including the ability to highlight passages produce citations and save bookmarks. Unlike most services the text is actual text that can be manipulated most services simply take apart the book and scan the individual pages and just post image files.

They have a free trial so you can test things out. Even before committing to the free trial you can start reading.

From now on I'll occasionally review books listed on the service as well as still providing links to Abebooks when appropriate.

For people who love to read




Thursday, December 21, 2006

John Lennon,enemy of the state

The Lennon Files: The FBI and the Beatle. So the FBI in their infinite wisdom took over 25 years to release some truly innocuous files on John Lennon.... and somehow were supposed to be surprised by this?

Apparently much of intelligence work is looking at open-source data in other words things that even you or I can see. Apparently you can end up with some weird nonsense when you do this is demonstrated by the mistakes in the file. The most interesting section is on the "foreign government" which could have made release of the files much quicker but didn't.
That embarrassment also extends very specifically to the Blair government. According to FBI records, the unnamed "foreign government" was asked for permission to release its documents on Lennon back in September 1997, just a few months after Mr Blair first took office. The foreign government said no, saying that secrecy remained necessary to avoid "serious and demonstrable harm to its sources, which remain sensitive".
What happened to you Tony? You used to be cool.






Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mau Mau and the Kikuyu by Louis Leakey

Mau Mau and the Kikuyu by Louis Leakey is a short anthropological study of the African tribe. The Kikuyu of Kenya are perhaps most famous for their membership in the Mau Mau insurgency against the British. This was responsible for the emergency in Kenya during the 1950s. The author was a member of the Kikuyu.

The book is quite short the first half dealing with the Customs of the tribe particularly those around land, marriage and oaths. These were the three major problems with fighting against the guerrilla campaign particularly the oaths that people were forced to participate in. The author explains the often confusing social system and how it can be countered by the government. He suggests a hearts and minds approach to deal with the guerrillas.

Recommended not only for those interested in the emergency but for those interested in the impact of colonialism on indigenous groups. The not always positive influence of Christianity is described.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Bush to increase size of Army and Marine Corps, now let's all wave goodbye to the RMA

With the news that President Bush wants to increase the size of the military, this leads to some interesting questions.

First of all this would seem to suggest that the Rumsfeld/Revolution in Military Affairs doctrine is dead at least for the moment. At least until the knee-jerk "we need to get back to real fighting" argument takes place internally after Iraq and possibly Afghanistan failles.

It will be very difficult to do any sort of meaningful expansion while engaged in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Canadian Forces are considering how to do an expansion and apparently has been very blunt when discussing it with the Prime Ministers Office that this will be impossible in the short-term [one to three years] without first stopping the Afghan assignment.

Now I'm sure someone out there is going to mention the American buildup after Pearl Harbor however this was done without any real reference to a budget or civilian economy. Basically if they wanted something odds are they received it. Considering the American political climate at the moment it is unlikely that the same sort of leeway would be given for a crash program. This is probably another example of what could have been done after September 11 by the Bush administration but wasn't. Many commentators have pointed out that if the administration wanted they could have asked the impossible mainly increased taxes.

It will be very interesting.









The Mouse That Roared by Leonard Wibberley

The Mouse That Roared by Leonard Wibberley is a satire about the Cold War. This was originally published 50 years ago and is now been recently republished. It tells the story of the only English-speaking territory within Europe the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. Which is enraged after an American winery start selling wine using their name [sounds like the EU today].

They figure by declaring war on the Americans they will be quickly defeated and rebuilt with their own version of the Marshall plan. Through a series of improbable events they end up defeating the Americans.

An excellent satire that is still funny today. Particularly if you know some of the Cold War history but even if not still an amusing book.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.


I also reviewed the second book in the series The Mouse on the Moon.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco by David L. Phillips

Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco by David L. Phillips describes the attempt to rebuild the political structure of Iraq after the invasion. It's a misperception that there was no thought done to reconstruction of Iraq prior to the invasion. Instead the author suggests that what was done was ignored by those in the Bush administration. The author currently an adviser for NBC worked for the State Department to help foster a consensus from the exiled Iraqi community. This was done through the Future of Iraq Project. The emigrés had difficulties, this was exasperated by the attempted hijacking of the process by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. Chalabi does not come off well in this book. He's portrayed as being power-hungry and manipulative.

The book also deals with the time from the invasion through the handing over of authority to the Iraqi government. Throughout the mistakes that were made by the Americans are described. The book concludes with a summary of best practices for political reconstruction.

The book includes endnotes, a list of important people and a chronology.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

Iraq bookshelf

Here are my current book reviews on Iraq. The links take you to my reviews. Don't worry about the posting date I'll put new reviews into the list as I write them. Last updated on January 11, 2008.

Bodansky, Yossef The Secret History of the Iraq War

Chandrasekaran, Rajiv Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone

Hammes, Thomas X. The sling and the stone : on war in the 21st century

Nasr, Vali The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future

Phillips, David L. Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco

Rosen, Nir In The Belly of the Green Bird : The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq

Roux, Georges Ancient Iraq

Schultheis, Rob Waging Peace: a special operations team's battle to rebuild Iraq

Stothard, Peter Thirty Days: An Inside Account of Tony Blair at War

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Beam Me Up, Scotty: Star Trek's "Scotty" In His Own Words by James Doohan

Beam Me Up, Scotty: Star Trek's "Scotty" In His Own Words by James Doohan is the autobiography of the Star Trek star. Most of the book describes his experiences prior to the TV series. From his abusive childhood in Canada through his World War II service. He was at D-day at Juno Beach where he was wounded in the right hand eventually losing a finger.

The book does talk about Star Trek giving his comments on various episodes as well as some of the behind-the-scenes going on. The disdain for William Shatner is quite clear. There's also discussion of the lousy third season of the original series. He was quite unhappy for being typecast not only for the role but with the Scottish accent. There's the material about fans and some stories about his career after the TV series.

He passed away in 2005.

Recommended even if you're not a Star Trek fan the part about his experiences in the Canadian army is interesting.

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Total Resistance: Swiss Army Guide to Guerilla Warfare And Underground Operations by H. Von Dach

Total Resistance: Swiss Army Guide to Guerilla Warfare And Underground Operations by H. Von Dach is an unofficial manual on guerrilla warfare produced originally by the Swiss veterans Association back in the 1970s. The book contains a massive material everything from basic organizational structure through the nuts and bolts of sabotage techniques [including homemade explosives]. There isn't just material on guerrillas but on the general resistance and what average members of the population who aren't willing to pick up a gun can do. Basically waste time and money for the occupier.

Funny to go through an entire book on insurgency without hearing Mao mentioned once but this is clearly aimed at the threat of Soviet invasion. There are multiple references to the KGB and MKVD.

There's also material on how to counteract the counterinsurgency strategy of the opposition. Basically maintain group solidarity as much as possible. Breakout of sweep operations as late in the game as possible when soldiers are getting tired and sloppy and at night.

I cannot recommend this more highly. Even looking at it from the perspective of a counterinsurgency policy there's so much food for thought here.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dynamic Defense by B. H.. Liddell-Hart

Dynamic Defense by B. H. Liddell-Hart describes the armored theorists perspective on the first year of the second world war. Liddell-Hart was a very good self-promoter this talent is demonstrated throughout this 60 page booklet. He does give other British writers some credit. In many respects this is a example of "I told you so" after-the-fact since much of what he wrote about armored warfare came true in the attack on Poland and France. Many of the stock concepts in describing Blitzkrieg [lightning war] are here. Interesting that they would have been developed so quickly. There is criticism of the guarantee to Poland as well as other parts of government strategy in their attempt to fight Nazi Germany. Interesting considering that during wartime such things are usually frowned upon.

He does have some definite ideas about what should be done which are in line with his other writings of the twenties and thirties. You won't really learn anything new here but it is an interesting historical curiosity.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more WWII book reviews take a look at My World War II bookshelf.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Unknown War: Armed Anti-Soviet Resistance in Lithuania in 1944–1953 by D. Kuodyte and R. R.Tracevskis

The Unknown War: Armed Anti-Soviet Resistance in Lithuania in 1944–1953 by D. Kuodyte and R. R.Tracevskis describes an insurgency against the Soviets. I think this publication started it's life as a handout for a museum exhibit.

It's very short with pictures on basically every page. There is just enough information here to get a general idea of the Forest Brothers and their attacks on the Soviets. They seem to make it into stage two of guerrilla warfare at least for a little while. Luckily in the same order I picked up a larger book on Balkan resistance to the Soviets hopefully that will have more info.

Is available through Abebooks.



For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Because We Are Canadians: A Battlefield Memoir by Charles D. Kipp

Because We Are Canadians: A Battlefield Memoir by Charles D. Kipp is an often very graphic account of the authors experiences as an infantryman in the Canadian army in northwest Europe in 1944 and 45. The book starts out with his joining and going through training. Most of the book discusses the operations to close the Falaise pocket and the campaign to liberate the Netherlands. The accounts of combat is very vivid and graphic not for the squeamish. The violence of battle is often not described in war memoirs but is here.

Kipp has some strong views on the recruitment process as well as relating stories of officers who couldn't cut it. There is often a thread of bitterness throughout, he was certainly no friend to the REMFs. He passed away in 2000.

Highly recommended, an antidote to the often sterilized view of combat which is unfortunately prevalent in today's society.

For more WWII book reviews take a look at My World War II bookshelf.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Long Year, A.D. 69 by Kenneth Wellesley

The Long Year, A.D. 69 by Kenneth Wellesley describes the year of the 4 Emperors in Rome. This took place after Nero's suicide [68 AD]. The 4 Emperors were Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. The reasons Why they achieved their status and how they were eventually overthrown except of course for Vespasian. The author uses primary source material as well as some inscriptions. The book is excellent at explaining the machinations of Roman politics particularly the involvement of the Senate and military. A classic in the field of Roman history.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Jungle is Neutral: A Soldier's Two-Year Escape from the Japanese Army by F. Spencer Chapman

The Jungle is Neutral: A Soldier's Two-Year Escape from the Japanese Army by F. Spencer Chapman describes a British soldiers experience attempting to help a guerrilla resistance to the Japanese in malaya [now known as Malaysia] in world war two. He didn't really accomplish much but the book does provide an excellent perspective on the nucleus of the communist insurgents which were the opposition for the British during the Malayan Emergency.

The title comes from the authors description that the jungle is not in an of itself dangerous. You have to know what your doing. If your interested in jungle survival this book is also for you.

Recommended.

For more WWII book reviews take a look at My World War II bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Pentagon Papers by George C Herring

The Pentagon Papers by George C Herring is a reprint of the New York times version of the Pentagon papers. This printing contains a new introduction, forward to each document and a bibliographic further reading section. This is based on a secret pentagon study about America's involvement in Vietnam. The coverage is from the end of World War Two through early 1968 and the Tet invasion. With the perspective that the intervening years has given the new material is excellent.

A Vietnam collection would be incomplete without this work.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Rorke's Drift 1879:Pinned like rats in a hole by Ian Knight

Rorke's Drift 1879:Pinned like rats in a hole by Ian Knight is one of the Osprey publications. This one is on the battle where the most Victoria Crosses were handed out. It is one of the legendary battles in Victorian imperial history. With many myths growing up around it. Knight does an excellent job dispelling many of these misperceptions about the battle and campaign. The Zulu attacked a British outpost and were eventually repulsed. Since it's an Osprey it's relatively short with pictures and 3D diagrams. Simply a must have if you're interested in the battle.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hot civil war has begun?

Will we look back on the attack on the Iraqi education ministry as being the first salvo in the hot Iraq civil war? With what happened on Thursday in large part a counterattack things are going to get very ugly. There are no magic bullets and anyone who thinks there are, are deluding themselves.



Some questions for Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada

Are there Quebecois a outside of Quebec and a strip of Ontario?

What about the francophones in northern Alberta?

Were you just blowing smoke or do you actually mean it?

If you did mean it what powers you giveing them?

What about the native peoples, Hutterites etc.?

Can I form a nation inside Canada? Those that know me can probably guess the official national costume.

Just what other parts of the Reform Party tradition are you getting rid of?

Weren't you against Meech Lake and Charlottetown?

Wouldn't this mean that calling Quebec a "distinct society" in the constitution would be a step backwards now?

Do you really think you can rebuild Brian Mulroney's big coalition?

Remember how much the west was enraged by Mulroney pandering to Quebec?

Wasn't that why you helped Preston Manning to create the Reform Party?

Does it worry you just a little that Andrew Coyne and Warren Kinsella both agree this is a stupid idea?

Did you actually do any polling before this step?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Afghanistan bookshelf

Here are my current book reviews on Afghanistan. The links take you to my reviews. Don't worry about the posting date I'll put new reviews into the list as I write them.

Bahmanyar, Mir Afghanistan Cave Complexes 1979-2004 : Mountain strongholds of the Mujahideen, Taliban & Al Qaeda

Fletcher, Arnold Afghanistan: highway of conquest

McCauley, Martin Afghanistan and Central Asia: A Short History

Rothstein, Hy S. Afghanistan And the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare

Tanner Stephen Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban

Listening In: Intercepting German Trench Communications in World War I by Ernest H. Hinrichs

Listening In: Intercepting German Trench Communications in World War I by Ernest H. Hinrichs is a primary source about a soldier involved in signals intelligence in world war one. This is probably the only source of its kind. He was German American. There's a nice introduction to the mechanics of picking up trench communications and the American units involved. There's also of course material on trench life. After the war he came home and criticized theTreaty of Versailles and supported Adolf Hitler's attempts to throw it out. Strangely there's no reference about what he thought after this second world war.

A fascinating look at an unknown topic.

Is available through Abebooks.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq by Nir Rosen

In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq by Nir Rosen describes the authors experience in Iraq from the fall of Baghdad to the elections in 2005. he is a reporter and speaks Arabic so can talk to people most other reporters can't. He interviewed the people from all three groups in Iraq. The book is excellent not just because of its description of the slide into violence but because he translates much of the propaganda that the different sides are using.

Highly recommended key to understanding Iraq today.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thirty Days: An Inside Account of Tony Blair at War by Peter Stothard

Thirty Days: An Inside Account of Tony Blair at War by Peter Stothard describes the British prime minister's experiences from just before the British vote on participation in the war to the fall of Baghdad. Until the memoirs start coming out and 25 years from now when the archives open this will be an important source. The author, a reporter received unprecedented access. A rather sympathetic character sketch of Blair.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

Afghanistan And the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare by Hy S. Rothstein

Afghanistan And the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare by Hy S. Rothstein describes the problems that they United States has had in its counterinsurgency policy in Afghanistan. The author suggests that special Forces are the only ones that can do counterinsurgency. This would seem to be an overstatement. It just takes a different set of training goals for regular Forces. There's quite a bit on the infighting within the Pentagon about unconventional warfare i.e. counterinsurgency throughout the decisionmaking process on Afghanistan. An excellent summary. There's also a description of why the military dislikes doing counterinsurgency. In his view the special Forces need to be made into a separate force which also bypasses the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A little surprising that he never brought up the Air Force analogy. the Revolution in military affairs also comes in for some criticism.

Recommended even if some of his recommendations seem rather extreme.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Afghanistan book reviews take a look at My Afghanistan bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Winter War: Russia Against Finland (The Pan/Ballantine Illustrated History of World War II) by Richard W. Condon

The Winter War: Russia Against Finland (The Pan/Ballantine Illustrated History of World War II) by Richard W. Condon is A brief history of the war between Russia and Finland. This is from a larger series of books on world war two campaigns. Instead of just getting descriptions of heroic exploits of Finland's military we also get an excellent discussion of tactics and strategy from both sides. There are pictures on just about every page. A superb book I will be looking for more in this series.

Highly recommended.

For more WWII book reviews Take a look at My World War II bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536-1537 by Geoffrey Moorhouse

Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536-1537 by Geoffrey Moorhouse describes a rebellion against Henry VIII. There isn't much on this rebellion as far as secondary sources. The book does an excellent job of looking through primary sources. The underlying issue was one of religion the break with the Roman Catholic church. Interestingly enough Hendry's advisers were criticized and not the King himself. Not that it made the reprisals any less violent.

Recommended.

From the Gracchi to Nero: a history of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68 by H. H. Scullard

From the Gracchi to Nero: a history of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68 by H. H. Scullard is an excellent history of Rome from the middle of the republican era through the Julio-Claudian emperors. Not only is there a discussion of the political and military aspects of the Republic and empire there's also material on literature and art. The book is often used as a textbook but even if you're just interested in the topic it's still good, not dry.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The tools of empire: technology and European imperialism in the nineteenth century by Daniel R. Headrick

The tools of empire: technology and European imperialism in the nineteenth century by Daniel R. Headrick discusses the technology that assisted the European nations in creating their overseas empires in the nineteenth century. The book talks about weapons technology, steamships, antimalarial drugs, railways and submarine cables. The book isn't just a listing of technical specifications but also talks about the sociological effects. There's a section on further reading.

Highly recommended!

Constant Battles: Why We Fight by Steven LeBlanc

Constant Battles: Why We Fight by Steven LeBlanc discusses the underlying reasons for warfare. His analysis is that wars are primarily over resources. Carrying capacity is the amount of supplies a group can get. When they need more supplies they have to get it from somewhere like their neighbors. One of the interesting parts of his analysis is that with increasing complexity of human societies the number of casualties actually decreases compared with the total population.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

"They like smiling when they shoot"

Interesting piece on Canadians training the Afghan military. Canadians pin exit-strategy hopes on training Afghan troops.






Friday, November 03, 2006

The Limits of Air Power: the American bombing of North Vietnam by Mark Clodfelter

The Limits of Air Power: the American bombing of North Vietnam by Mark Clodfelter describes the use of strategic bombing in Vietnam. The author attempts to explain why Rolling Thunder failed and by Linebacker I and Linebacker ii were successful. He makes a convincing argument that would it was not political interference but a change in North Vietnamese strategy that led to the operations success or failure. After all guerrillas don't need a lot of supplies or stand around in large concentrations. The linebacker operations were successful because the Vietnamese attempted to go into conventional war i.e. stage three of guerrilla warfare and can therefore be destroyed just like classic Western forces.

Highly recommended also good for showing why militaries refuse to adapt to the actual war that they're fighting.

Is available through Abebooks.



For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

It's always nice to know you're useful

My first complementary post from someone who I don't know off-line. Thank you jmnlman very cool that apparently my reviews are actually useful. The current account is 18 sales and just about $25 Canadian.

The blog Reading Copy is written by Abebooks employees.

The Thin Red Line by James Jones

The Thin Red Line by James Jones is one of the great World War II novels perhaps one of the great war novels of all time. The novel describes the experiences of soldiers and the invasion of Guadalcanal. Many of the characters on first appearance seen stock but Jones makes them all seem real and therefore disturbing. The descriptions of combat are superb Jones after all served in the US military during World War II. He was wounded at Guadalcanal.

Simply a masterpiece.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more WWII book reviews Take a look at My World War II bookshelf.

Gideon's spies: the secret history of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas

Gideon's spies: the secret history of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas is an often confusing look at the history of the Israeli intelligence service from its beginnings before the formation of Israel to the late 1990s. It's confusing mainly because there is no direct narrative line we are constantly bouncing around the last 50 years of intelligence work. All the big stories are here including the kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann and the various operations against Palestinian terrorists. There is some lesser-known stories such as the sex trap used to corral and attempted leaking of Israeli nuclear secrets.

The material itself is interesting it is just not organized at all which makes an aggravating book to read cover to cover. It's almost like the author had ADD or something.

Recommended if you must have everything on Israeli intelligence or just need to look up a certain event.

Is available through Abebooks.

World History of Warfare by Holger Herwig, Christon Archer, Timothy Travers and John Ferris

by Holger Herwig, Christon Archer, Timothy Travers and John Ferris is a massive History of warfare coming in at over 600 pages with very small type. The work deals with warfare from different areas and time periods. Each author writes on their own area of expertise and manages to cut through much of the jargon and myths the have grown up around some of the events. Particularly good for this is the section on ancient warfare which is somewhat of a minefield even for experts. An excellent further reading section is also included. A nice place to start if you want an overview that is very readable even considering its length.

Highly recommended!

Einstein's dreams by Alan Lightman

Einstein's dreams by Alan Lightman is an intriguing thought exercise as fiction. In vignettes the author describes Albert Einstein thinking about what reality would be like if Time moved in different ways. Much of this is quite intriguing however it doesn't work terribly well as a novel. There's no real plot line as such.

Its recommended if you're interested in the thought experiment. I probably wouldn't read more than one vignette at a time.

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Waging War from Canada: Why Canada Is the Perfect Base for Organizing, Supporting, and Conducting International Insurgency by Mike Pearson

Waging War from Canada: Why Canada Is the Perfect Base for Organizing, Supporting, and Conducting International Insurgency by Mike Pearson [presumably not that Mike Pearson] this book supposedly describes just how easy would-be to set up a terrorist organization in Canada. Naturally much has changed since September 11 but even the material discussing the late nineties is full of mistakes. Interesting as far as giving some idea of what the opposition thinks. It actually is intentionally funny in places. Some nice one-liners. Definitely a curiosity. CSIS doesn't have to worry about me.

Is available through Abebooks.



For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Department of National Defense has lost their minds

If they go through with this insanity then there's no help for them. Critics slam Afghan naval mission Throwing sailors and air force members into ground combat a mistake, experts say

The human potential for peace : an anthropological challenge to assumptions about war and violence by Douglas P. Fry

The human potential for peace : an anthropological challenge to assumptions about war and violence by Douglas P. Fry attempts to make the case that humans are actually more peaceful than is usually thought. Fry is very heavy on the nurture side of the argument. Unfortunately most of the book is spent arguing about how different violent actions are not really war. For example if there are any taboos placed on the level of violence in conflicts for instance stopping if someone is seriously hurt this is not war. I guess this means that world war two wasn't a war because both sides could have used poison gas but didn't.

He does make some interesting points. Brooks like this are useful because it forces the opposition to look at the evidence again and to do more extensive research but besides that this is not recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Reinforcements to Afghanistan

Apparently those in authority noticed the disturbing trend described in 10 days and a AK-47. So now the Vandoos are going to provide security for the PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team]. The article can be found here.




Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Afghanistan Cave Complexes 1979-2004: Mountain Strongholds of the Mujahideen, Taliban and Al Qaeda by Mir Bahmanyar

Afghanistan Cave Complexes 1979-2004: Mountain Strongholds of the Mujahideen, Taliban and Al Qaeda by Mir Bahmanyar is a very short book. It is part of Osprey's new fortifications series. I think Bahmanyar was having problems reaching word count. After describing aircraft being unsuccessful against these fortifications we get several pages of aircraft data. There is some very interesting information on both Soviet and American tactics for dealing with caves. Good stuff.

is recommended if you can find it for less than list price. Which you can do through the below banner.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Afghanistan book reviews take a look at My Afghanistan bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

10 days and a AK-47

Here is a very disturbing news item on a problem in Afghanistan. Apparently NATO is so strapped for soldiers that they are reduced to agreeing to the Afghan government's plan to push teenagers with ten days and a AK-47 onto the firing line.

Most, if not all, were asleep at their posts when Canadian soldiers recently dropped by to inspect. When they were awake, some had errantly fired their rifles in the direction of the Canadians.

"Randomly throughout the night, there were shots going over our heads," recounted Warrant Officer Michael Jackson of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Shilo, Man.

"We knew it was them, but they said, 'No, no, it wasn't us shooting.'

Apparently they have a tendency to shoot first and identify what they're shooting at later. Not only does this put the Canadians operating with them at risk but also means they will be miserable for counterinsurgency since their likely to blow away some innocent civilians.




Monday, October 16, 2006

Holocaust bookshelf

Here are my current book reviews on the Holocaust. The links take you to my reviews. Don't worry about the posting date I'll put new reviews into the list as I write them. Last updated on September 14th 2007.

Bartov, Omer Mirrors of Destruction: War, Genocide, and Modern Identity

Cornwell, John Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact

Langerbein, Helmut Hitler's Death Squads: The Logic of Mass Murder

Rhodes, Richard Masters of Death: the SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust

Roseman, Mark The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration

Steinbacher, Sybille Auschwitz: A History

Steinberg, Lucien Jews Against Hitler (Not As A Lamb) - The Seminal Work on Jewish Resistance

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Waging Peace: a Special Operations Team's Battle to Rebuild Iraq by Rob Schultheis

Waging Peace: a Special Operations Team's Battle to Rebuild Iraq by Rob Schultheis describes the trials and tribulations of a CA (civil affairs) team in Iraq in 2004. The unit attempts to provide basic services to a section of Baghdad with occasional success. There are conflicts with insurgents and the army's own bureaucracy. The author does an excellent job describing the stressful lifestyle that soldiers lead even though not directly in combat. Apparently some of the unit with the author was sent back so hopefully there is a sequel in the works.

There are a few glitches the incorrect year is given for the first publication of the Marine Corps Small Wars manual and the incorrect definition of PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) is given.

Recommended it should also provide a perspective of what the Canadians are dealing with in Afghanistan.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Demon of the Waters : the True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe by Gregory Gibson

Demon of the Waters : the True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe by Gregory Gibson describes an event from American naval history. The major portion of the text is discussing a new primary source about the mutiny which has recently come to light. Unfortunately after making such a big deal about the source we don't actually get the complete text of it. What seems to be a rather strange oversight if it was as important as the author makes out.

Besides the actual story of the mutiny there is a good description of wailing both the mechanics of the hunt and its social impact on Nantucket. There is a nice section of explanatory notes a bibliography.

Recommended.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

CONPLAN 8022 and the fallacy of use

In today's Washington post William M. Arkin talks about the American war plans for dealing with WMD. Specifically why they may not be used in the North Korean case. The analysis is pretty good although he falls in to something which we could call the "fallacy of use". in other words since the American's have these plans they must use them. This is well stupid. After all its what got the Germans in trouble at the outbreak of world war one. Arkin doesn't understand the war plan process just because planning is being done it actually has nothing to do with future events. After all the Canadian and American military's had war plans to invade the other untill the 1920s'.

It would be like saying that I must use every number in the phone book or I shouldn't have one.


Tiberius Caesar by G. P. Baker

Tiberius Caesar by G. P. Baker was originally published in 1928 and recently republished. It is a sympathetic biography of the first "bad" Roman Emperor. The book is based on primary sources. There isn't much use made of coinage or archaeology. The book makes a decent case. A modern introduction putting the book in context would have been useful. I am rather surprised one was not included.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more ancient history book reviews Take a look at My Ancient History bookshelf.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda's Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia by Maria Ressa

Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda's Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia by Maria Ressa discusses the involvement of Al-Qaeda in southeast Asia and why the infrastructure was so important for the September 11th attacks as well as the training and carrying out of the Bali bombing. There are some excellent character studys of individuals for the government's and Al-Qaeda. For example the transformation of Singapore from refusing to admit that there was a problem to combating the challenge.

The response or lack there of the various Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines is discussed.

The book is recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Byzantium: the Empire of New Rome by Cyril Mango

Byzantium: the Empire of New Rome by Cyril Mango is a social history of Byzantium published in the 1970s' recently reprinted. Actually it may be overstating it to call it a social history it's more like a history of the intelligentsia since there aren't really sources for the common people. There's basically no military or political history but inexplicably there is a list of the emperor's as an appendix. The book mostly talks about forms of literature particularly religious texts some of this is actually interesting they did their best to force Greek and Roman mythical events into the old testament. There's no discussion of the empire collapse.

If you're interested in the intelligentsia's world view this is for you.

For more ancient history book reviews Take a look at My Ancient History bookshelf.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter

The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter is possibly unique in Napoleonic biography. It is the memoir of a conscript from one of the German states allied with Napoleon's France. The material is quite short primarily containing his experiences in the retreat from Moscow in 1812. The soldier doesn't really sugarcoat the relationship between soldiers and civilians both in Russia and Germany. You would not want him as a house guest. There's also an underlying Anti--Semitism to the work. There are explanatory endnotes not to sure why they weren't placed as footnotes which would be more convenient. Also included are six anonymous letters of German soldiers describing the retreat.

A very important work.

Encyclopedia Of Guerrilla Warfare by Ian F.W. Beckett

Encyclopedia Of Guerrilla Warfare by Ian F.W. Beckett is well what the title describes. Coverage is actually quite good there is material on topics prior to 1945 as well as the usual suspects. Their are things in the analysis that I can quibble with but nothing to major.

Beckett is one of those who splits the concept of guerrillas, insurgents and partisans. I'm not particularly happy with this idea it is often been difficult to decide which is which. Extensive bibliography.

Recommended highly.

Is available through Abebooks.



For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Canada's role in Afghanistan one month in

On Thursday I gave my 4th lecture on Canada's role in Afghanistan to the senior citizen class. So far I'm doing relatively good I think. I have actually gained one more student. I'm starting to notice some patterns.

They really don't like background. If I don't mention Afghanistan every 30 seconds they start losing interest. It is hard to teach counterinsurgency without mentioning Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare or Small Wars . I also seem to get the same questions over and over. For some reason I can't move the discussion.

Most of the class think we should shut the mission down. I'm in a rather conservative part of Canada so I'm surprised. Probably not good for the "new government" of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.






Thursday, October 05, 2006

THE DIME MUSEUM BY DON ROSE

This pretty much describeds my own philosophy of book purchases although around the $5 range. Inflation I guess.

Published in The North American Review CCXXVI. From the Lucile Project. I assume it's public domain if not let me know.

THE DIME MUSEUM BY DON ROSEONE

ONE may read of the amenities of book collecting, and so enjoy vicariously the cultivated delights belonging to a higher financial sphere. One may taste the calculated hospitality of the book­stores, skimming stacked tables discreetly, rapidly enough to escape the necessity of purchase. There are public libraries; there is the magnificence of the British Museum , the Louvre and the Library of Congress. But of all thrills attendant on the seeking, the buying, the borrowing of books, there is one supreme.

This is to buy a good book for ten cents at a second-hand book­store

All cities have their share of such bookstores. They also serve, in a world wherein there is no end to the making of books. They are a sort of intellectual repositories; wayside inns for books of passage; purgatories of paper and print; Potter's Fields for many books of no importance. In our own city is a second-hand book­store distinguished above its fellows by a five-tier, fifty-foot shelf devoted to ten-cent books, and flanking the sidewalk with a standing invitation. This is the daily Mecca of many pilgrim­ages and hopes, and the field for rich gleanings among the unconsidered stubble of the publishing profession.

There are seasons when people seem either to sell more books or buy less. Of a sudden at such crises, either before the blast of inventory or the cold chill of poor business, the store begins to erupt its surplus, and books that have been enjoying false security and fancy prices on inner shelves rapidly descend the social scale. Unable to justify their original rating, they are sold up to pay for their board and lodging. They drop to fifty cents, to twenty five cents. Finally they are poured forth on the ten-cent shelf in daily replenishments that keep it overflowing.

Here is the real dime museum of the day. Here is the true democracy of letters, and the melting pot of the brains of men. Here is the last judgment. Here must they find a kindly owner or face a final grave.

These books are venerable, used and worn, as is the wisdom of the world. They are doubtless full of germs, as by now are most of their authors. The great majority of them are overpriced at ten cents, but a greater majority I shall not buy. It is the remnant, the residue, that I seek after, and if I find one pearl a day in so many bivalves, my dime becomes a joyful offering.

A certain conscience must be developed in the buying of ten-cent books, else a library becomes a confusion of tongues. To buy all that are worth the modest price imperils the peace of the home, and books will overflow into cellar and attic. Four car­dinal principles prevail. First, to buy no book, however excel­lent, treating of matters outside the conceivable domain of inter­est. Here, for instance, is a book, not unduly obsolete, on basket weaving. Yet I do not weave baskets, nor at this moment intend to. Here is a solid book on dentistry, and again the Confessions of a Barber , yet I do not practise auto-dentistry nor cut my own hair. Such books are not for me, and in charity I must remember that others are here to buy ten-cent books to their own liking.

Secondly, no book shall be bought for binding alone. This is a hard rule; it has a harder corollary, that no book shall be bought because it matches others already acquired. I prize some half-dozen volumes of Belles-Lettres, part of a "universal library", so called, which fell to my lot in the past. Here are six or seven volumes of the Memoirs of Continental Courts in the same edition or one of sufficient cousinship. How richly would they swell the importance of that other five, adding substance and symmetry to the shelf! Yet the Memoirs of Continental or any other courts have no proper place in my library, and for that I cannot, shall not buy them.

Thirdly, I may buy no book which I may not possibly, conceivably, eventually read. This does not mean that I have read or expect to read all my books; to ask this is to challenge the reasonable expectations of human life. But as I have more ties that I can wear; as I own pipes that I may never smoke again; as flowers grow in my garden that will never be plucked or noted, so my library is to present an opulence of choice, a variety of in­terest and infinitude of resource. With a thought to this wide basis of eligibility and another to the scarcity of shelf space, I will buy with such discretion as is granted to me.

Fourthly, no book may be forgiven for poor binding or bad print, and scarcely for the lesser shame of unseemly binding. I will have books substantial and adequate; yea, though they cost but ten cents; books whose outsides are comely and whose insides are decent. And even this is not incompatible with our appointed price. Witness my five volumes of George Eliot, all dressed in good leather, explaining in their substantiality how they have lived to tell their tale again. Here is a charming copy of Rasselas , surely an oversight of the presiding deity of the shelf. Here are five volumes of Dickens containing thirteen of his novels, bound in leather and not in ill repair. Why so cheap? Presumably because the set is incomplete. Yet thirteen tales from Dickens are no mean education.

The aim is to buy good books, well bound and printed, books of genuine interest which I hope or intend to read; and to buy them for ten cents. Occasionally, it is true, I am tempted around the corner and pay as high as twenty-five cents, but no profound principle is violated by somewhat stretching the limit. What fortune, then?

Enough to satisfy imagination and a modest ambition. A stray volume of Duruy's History of Greece and Rome were no great catch, but to collect five more becomes an achievement; that five of the group are in sequence is nothing short of direct Providence. A copy of Scott's Antiquary suggests further search, and patience is rewarded with thirteen volumes of the Waverley Novels in the same edition. Thirty cents purchases five inches of Dr. Eliot's five-foot shelf, and compasses all classic English poetry. From these same shelves I have three Shakespeares, and one cannot have too many Shakespeares. The plays of Euripi­des, the Poems of Emerson, the Ingoldsby Legends, Marcus Aurelius, Don Quixote, Sartor Resartus, Xenophon on Socrates, Macaulay's History of England, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, who will grudge for a volume of these the price of a sandwich?

If a man can read he need not die ignorant. Twelve harmonious volumes of science have left the shelf for a better home with me. Here are Darwin 's Origin of Species, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Tyndall's Essays, Hegel's Philosophy of History, Bacon's Novum Organum, Huxley's Addresses, and others as imposing. Have I read them? No. Have you?

Outside the classics there is room for rash venture. Is Man­kind Advancing, a book much quoted years ago, turned up here and was worth another reading. Charles Kennedy wrote The Servant in the House, whose reputation justified the investment of twenty cents for two other plays from the same pen. Ten cents devoted to Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature was a happy accident. Odds and ends of poetry and short story have paid generous dividends. Sometimes one buys an odd volume of a series or of some many-volumed work, but there are many voluminous masterpieces of which one volume is enough.

Religious books are here, of course, in an abundance matched only, it seems, by the inexhaustible supply of Owen Meredith's Lucile. There are books of doctrine, hymn books, prayer books and polemics. The state of the Christian world makes its own confession at ten cents a copy. Not least significant is a copy of the Scriptures, once handsome and with its message still entire, which a piece of silver rescued from the underworld of books.

Indeed, if there be a moral to the ten-cent shelf it is this, that the best and most important memorials to human genius find their way eventually to this plentiful scrapheap. One not too particular as to binding and condition might find here fair representation of every writer of importance to classic English and American literature, history and philosophy. The novels of the day, the transient fads of philosophy or art, the technical treatises of trades, live on the sheltered shelves and name their own price. But in the open air, begging for an owner, herded with the least among books, are the wise thoughts of the ancients, the classics of literature, the fundamental studies of human wit and wisdom, and even the Word of the God of both Hebrew and Christian.Add, then, to the many joys of poverty this privilege, -- to spend much time and little money in treasure hunting on the scrapheaps of literature. Call it a waste of time if you will, but since there is time to be wasted, name if you can a better way to waste it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

New name but same material

I figured I should change the name of the blog to something that was more accurate to what I am posting. It comes from someone in my department who borrowed some books, he was impressed by the massive amount of material I have.

If you scroll down you'll notice that I started an ongoing bibliography of my book reviews on World War Two. Links from each review will go back to the main page. Hopefully this will make browsing easier. I'll be doing other topics as well. My holocaust reviews are probably next. Let me know if it is useful.

Edward Gibbon, the Historian by J.W. Swain

Edward Gibbon, the Historian by J.W. Swain is an OK if rushed biography of Edward Gibbon the historian who was the author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. There actually isn't much here about the book itself most of the text has to do with various influences on Gibbon's life particularly religion, politics and philosophical outlook. the author does eventually admit that for modern historians the Decline is more interesting for its literary aspects them for its historical analysis.

Good but to short.

Is available through Abebooks.