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.

June 16, 2013

Soldiers of Misfortune: The Somervell and Mier Expeditions by Sam W. Haynes

Filed under: Favorites,History — Randolph @ 8:19 pm

Soldiers of Misfortune: The Somervell and Mier Expeditions by Sam W. Haynes

This book tells the history of the Republic of Texas as seen through the backdrop of the Mier Expedition. There is much to this story that we aren’t taught and never learn. It was a time full of turmoil with a lot of politics that molded the Republic’s history.

The book starts just prior to the Somervell expedition to explain why the Mier expedition happened. The story continues to the return of all but one of the Mier prisoners, at a time when the Republic’s joining the US was all but certain.

Sam Houston played a dominant roll in the book, and is portrayed as a level-headed, although very political player. He was restrained, and tried to avoid conflict with Mexico, a fight he felt Texas could not afford nor could win. Texas was in debt, and did not have a standing in the world that enabled her to borrow. Fortunately, Mexico was not in better shape, trying to keep many rebellious states in line and having its own monetary shortfall, and a Congress that did not support the military as Santa Anna desired.

Untold events that played major roles in the history include Thomas Jefferson Green, who captured Santa Anna for his own prestige and violated the peace treaty won at San Jacinto. This lead to Santa Anna’s authorized raids on San Antonio, trying to provoke Texas.

Sam Houston tried to keep Texas out of the war in spite of a vast majority of Texans wanting to invade Mexico. He assigned an inexperienced politician to lead the army, then tied it up sitting, or moving in unproductive manners to encourage defections.

Texas was full of individuals and adventurers. These people could not train effectively, they could not follow orders, and were prone to acting on impulse. Sam Houston was fighting an uphill battle to keep Texas out of a war, and treated the Mier soldiers as independent, he would not work to have the prisoners released. This provided fodder to his political enemies.

Sam Houston played England, the US, and Mexico against each other, each wanted Texas as part of its territory. He skillfully manipulated each to achieve his goal of Texas becoming part of the US.

In the end, the prisoners were released, with help from an English ambassador. Although forgotten by most Texans, they were eventually rewarded with back pay as soldiers of Texas, thus being officially recognized.

This is a great book for anyone even slightly interested in Texas history or politics. The turmoil and politics of the time are portrayed well.

June 5, 2013

The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks

Filed under: Science — Randolph @ 8:32 pm

The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks

This book is mostly a study of three cases of vision disorders. The book explores the effects of the degenerative disease in terms of brain function and vision loss, and the coping strategies of the people suffering the loss. One of the studies follows a person who actually feels he benefited from his vision loss.

I had hoped it would explore the neuroscience side of the issues more. The details are still interesting, although the studies seemed to get long and repetitive. The final chapter of the book does discuss the neuroscience more.

Generally, I didn’t think this book was as good as some of his previous works. This isn’t one I’d recommend to the average person.

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