Read Books This will provide a list of the books I've read with a brief review. Users are blocked, contact me for access. I welcome discussions, but I'm tired of spam.

October 23, 2022

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C. S. Forester

Filed under: Fiction,History,Series — Tags: , — Randolph @ 2:08 pm

This is the first book in the Horatio Hornblower saga, being written as a prequel. It is a series of short stories telling his tale from arriving at his first post through his promotion to Lieutenant.

The author shows his knowledge of tall ships in its handling, manning and in damage. I found it useful to keep a nautical dictionary at hand, but the details are not needed for a full appreciation of the stories.

I found the stories interesting, well-paced, well-told and hard to put down.

August 11, 2020

Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

Filed under: History,Sports — Tags: , , — Randolph @ 4:58 pm

This book discusses the history of football (Am. soccer) through different cultures, following major figures and how they affected the game’s strategies. To that end, it certainly delivered what it promised, but I found it a bit lacking.

There are a lot of people discussed that I found it difficult to keep track of. Maybe in the U.S., we aren’t exposed to these people. At each evolutionary phase of the game, you have one or two significant people as the proponent of change, one or more opposing it, and any number of players on both sides of the pitch. For me, this made it a bit difficult to follow.

The book has a lot of images of the pitch of various games, identifying the players on both sides. Some of them are even diagramed suggesting strategies or tactics involved. This was a big selling point of the book for me, but the discussion never references the diagrams. It discusses the players, and you can figure out which image is involved, but it does not use the diagrams to further the discussion and understanding. Second, the diagrams are often a few pages removed from the discussion, so it requires flipping back and forth a lot. The diagrams on the different images are never referenced, so they only raise questions that are never answered.

I did not find the book particularly bad, just disappointing. If you have an interesting in football’s history, you will probably enjoy the book. Otherwise, I’m sure there are better available.

August 15, 2019

Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Allen C. Guelzo

Filed under: History — Tags: , , — Randolph @ 8:12 pm

The series follows the life of Abraham Lincoln starting with his father and grandfather to build a picture of the family and of Lincoln’s childhood, then going through his death.

The story is told in three parts. The early history and his family relationships. Then his political career, telling of his leaving the family, his successful command during the Blackhawk War and finding his place in the world through several failures, gaining success in a law and his joining the new Whig party. And following his career in politics and how he left the Whigs for the new Republican Party and, by a small chance, gained the opportunity to run in the 1860 presidential election. Much of the last section deals with the Civil War, and how he managed to make the issue of slavery a crucial part of the war in spite of the resistance of slave-holding states still part of the union.

The lectures paint a much more complex image of Lincoln than we usually receive. Although a stanch abolitionist, he believed slavery would die out on his own and would be willing to compromise his position for the sake of the union. Yet in the end, he still managed to make his goals a reality.

The lecture series is interesting and well worth the little time commitment to listen to. The accompanying book doesn’t add much, but provides an outline to the lectures with a couple of questions to highlight key points.

November 15, 2018

Fools and Mortals CD: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell

Filed under: Adventure,History — Tags: , , — Randolph @ 3:21 pm

Fools and Mortals CD: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell takes a break from his traditional military-based historical fiction to tell the story of an actor, Richard Shakespeare, the younger and estranged brother of William Shakespeare. It is a coming-of-age story about Richard, but it is more a story about late 16th century theater and politics.

The story itself would have made a good Shakespeare play, it has love, politics and betrayal. The author brings the stage to life and gives the reader a good feel for life in the Elizabethan period.

In his usual way, Cornwell tells a very good story. The characters are real and the situations believable.

This isn’t what I expected when I started, I didn’t read the jacket and was expecting a typical Bernard Cornwell novel, but I was pleasantly surprised and could not turn away.

July 31, 2018

The First World War by John Keegan

Filed under: History — Tags: , — Randolph @ 2:17 pm

The First World War by John Keegan

John Keegan’s book provides a very thorough look at World War I. It details the politics, both international and internal to each of the primary countries, in addition to the military status, targets and goals. It also summarizes the affects the war had on the world while raising some interesting questions. It is an excellent way to learn about this war and how it affected the world, something that is being forgotten in our schools.

July 12, 2017

Most Secret War by R. V. Jones

Filed under: History — Randolph @ 3:23 pm

Most Secret War by R. V. Jones

Dr. Jones was a physicist who, when WWII began, was thrown into the role of scientific intelligence. The book chronicles his experiences during the war, detailing how he learned and analyzed the German capabilities and how he figured out how to counter them. There is some surprising guesswork and counterintelligence that made the book interesting.

It also delves into the relationship between him, Churchill, and various other organizations. These involved some politics and infighting, even during wartime.

After the war, Dr. Jones had the opportunity to interview some of the top Germans working with radar. He throws in their perspectives and ideas from time-to-time giving interesting new perspectives on the war.

November 10, 2016

The Great Courses: The World of Byzantium by Kenneth W. Harl

Filed under: History — Tags: , , — Randolph @ 7:46 pm

The Great Courses: The World of Byzantium by Kenneth W. Harl

This lecture series provides incredible detail into the world of Byzantium and its relationships to other civilizations over the millennium of its existence. This is a time period during the middle ages that I, and many I know, lack much knowledge.

The only complaint I have is that the information comes too fast. It really is designed as a lecture, where you can sit and take notes. Not having that opportunity, I suspect I will not retain much, but the lecture would be worth a second hearing.

October 13, 2016

Sword Song: The Battle For London by Bernard Cornwell

Filed under: Fiction,History — Tags: — Randolph @ 6:44 pm

Sword Song: The Battle For London by Bernard Cornwell

The book is set in the late 9th century England and involves several of the primary historical figures of Wessex and Mercia. The characters are well-done, they have depth and are interesting. I can’t speak to their historical accuracy, though.

The book gives a very good feel for the time period. The characters strong, their actions are immediate and often cruel by our standards. The culture really comes out.

The story hinges around the fight for London between Danish Vikings in the north and the Saxons in Wessex. King Alfred gives his daughter’s hand in an attempt to solidify his hold on London.

I found the fight scenes very detailed and convincing. Their descriptions reveal well-thought out tactics and formations. You can almost smell the sweat and gore.

I hadn’t realized it was part of a series. It makes a good stand-alone book, though. It helped to solidify my understanding of that period in English history.

June 1, 2016

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

Filed under: History,Sports — Tags: , , — Randolph @ 7:29 am

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh

In this book, a couple of baseball podcasters with just a little management experience between them get the opportunity to manage a baseball team by the numbers. They offer to manage the team using statistics, similar to those used in the major leagues. The get the opportunity in a very minor league in Sanoma, California, the Sanoma Stompers.

In the course of their adventures, they learn that statistics aren’t everything. They get resistance from players and other managers who don’t want rules from outsiders. They learn about the politics of baseball, and that some things are more important than the statistics.

At times the books is outright funny, it is insightful, and you can learn a lot about the inside activities of baseball. It is an enjoyable read for anyone interested in the sport.

August 25, 2015

Brotherhood of the Revolution: How America’s Founders Forged a New Nation… by Joseph J. Ellis

Filed under: History — Randolph @ 7:26 am

Brotherhood of the Revolution: How America's Founders Forged a New Nation… by Joseph J. Ellis

Professor Joseph Ellis tells the story of the founding of the US through the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. He details the political struggles and backstories of the events, explaining the turmoil and disagreements on many of the issues, including the issue of slavery.

This is a should-hear series of lectures for all adults in the US. It provides a good basis for understanding our constitution and the founding fathers.

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