Tom Copeland has read:
The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by and commented:
Interesting thesis - that the fall of Rome was driven by the expansion of the Huns.
Good overview of history of computer crime. Some decent tips at the end for keeping personal information safe - or at least safer. Pretty depressing all in all sadly!
Interesting thoughts about how technology helps to create winner-takes-all scenarios.
Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II by and commented:
Great stuff! I hadn't realized that the B-29 had so many problems initially. Lots of interesting shipbuilding bits.
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by and commented:
Good bits here about how to establish baselines for making predictions.
Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by and commented:
This is a wonderful little book - great anecdotes, lively writing, and a straightforward message about the difference between strategy and goals.
Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific by and commented:
Good tour of the region and the different cultures and economic landscapes. Interesting points about "area denial" regarding the South China Sea.
The Forever War by and commented:
Quick read, classic sci-fi.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by and commented:
Very readable, good anecdotes, and makes a lot of sense.
Good history of how CIA and DoD roles have recently gotten mixed and matched.
Homage to Catalonia by and commented:
Just what you'd expect from Orwell. Honest, self-deprecating, a great read.
Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm: The Evolution of Operational Warfare by and commented:
I like the approach this book takes - examining a certain aspect of various campaigns. I've found that technique to be helpful in technical matters, i.e., seeing how 4-5 different API clients handle authentication. Interesting material, good stuff.
Contains interesting bits about his concept of "sovereign obligations". Reminded me a bit of Connectography when it discussed weakening of national borders especially with regarding to Internet-based crime.
Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by and commented:
A valiant attempt at explaining a lot of modern life. I feel like I've read other books recently that predict the demise, or at least the wane, of the nation-state.
Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism by and commented:
Excellent writeup of the modern conflicts in the Middle East and suggestions as to which of the options would be least worst to pursue.
Ready Player One: A Novel by and commented:
This book got me thinking about how hard it would be to write some of these classic games. The artwork might be available already in the form of open source spritesheets. That'd be an interesting project!
Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla by and commented:
A thoughtful dig into the complexities of winning city warfare vs destroying the cities. Contains a very good writeup of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
On Call in Hell: A Doctor's Iraq War Story by and commented:
Another story from the second battle of Fallujah. One common thread I've been seeing in recent books is that senior leaders need to do senior leader things - see the overall picture, make the big plans, ensure that strategic needs are met. A high ranking officer who coordinates effectively can save a lot of lives.
Technically solid and thoughtful. Very good writeups of the nuts and bolts of Stuxnet - DLL wrapping, techniques used to prevent detection, time periods of operation, etc. Definitely worth your time.
There was an interesting bit in here about how the point of deception is to make your enemy do something, not think something. That is, you want the enemy to leave a point unguarded, or to move troops somewhere, or something. So the operational commander needs to tell the deception group what he wants the enemy to do, and the deception lead needs to figure out what to make the enemy think so that they'll do that.
The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking by and commented:
Interesting combination - an overview of informal logic, and an overview of how to sway a crowd and bamboozle your debate opponents. Has a nice analysis of the intro to John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty".
Body Language by and commented:
This book didn't seem to overreach, e.g., it said "sometimes crossed arms are just because it's a cold day."
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by and commented:
Good anecdotes throughout. Takeaway is to stay calm, accept the situation, and make up your mind that you will do what's necessary to stay alive.
Interesting stuff, a nice change of pace. Some of the evolutionary psychology stuff seems non-falsifiable, but, still, good information.
Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror by and commented:
Perhaps more interesting than any review I could write is Michael Scheuer's "review of reviews" here https://www.lewrockwell.com/2005/02/michael-scheuer/imperial-hubris/. He strikes me not as an appeaser, but as a patriot disappointed in the path his country has taken.
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by and commented:
Pretty brutal how it spread through the Army camps, and the bit about Wilson getting influenza at the negotiations was something I'd never heard before.
Nice to see kudos for the USCG!
In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa by and commented:
A brutal book and a rough read. My Dad spent two years in Sierre Leone with the Peace Corps back in the 60s so I grew up seeing pictures from the Bo district. If he were still alive I think he would have been interested and saddened by this one.
Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert by and commented:
A poetic book about a difficult area. Seems like it was painful for him to write the part where he gets used to help smuggle some weapons.
Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization by and commented:
Some bold predictions about the end of nation state-level conflict. I think he foresaw some of the terrorist attacks we've seen in the past 5-6 years, although perhaps he would have predicted even larger ones.
War Trash by and commented:
I hadn't realized this was fiction until I got to the end. Hard to know how realistic it is, although it sure had me fooled.
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by and commented:
Fills in the transition from Mao to the modern era nicely. He certainly brought China a long way in 15 years.
The White Tiger: A Novel by and commented:
A gripping story about modern India. I'd like to talk to someone from India who's read this and hear what they thought about it.
Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War by and commented:
Kind of reminded me of Tom Clancy's "Red Storm Rising" except with newer tech. Some of the same "missile offense vs missile defense" themes. Good use of drones, which is what you'd expect from Singer given his earlier book "Wired for War".
The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel by and commented:
A brutal walkthrough of the misery of North Korea. A tough read, but a good one.
The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East by and commented:
Having been both a soldier and the prime minister of Israel gives Chaim Herzog a unique perspective from which to write this book. One interesting thing was his position that by executing air strikes deep into Egypt, Israel drove them into the arms of the Soviets. So it was a tactical success but a strategic failure. This reminded me the CIA station chief's opinion in "Charlie Wilson's War", that is, that the US should not try to help the Afghans defeat the Soviets but instead just give them enough to tie up the Soviets in place. The personal anecdotes are really something; he'll say in a matter-of-fact manner "at this point an attack was launched to disable the SAM battery; the author of this book participated in that assault".
Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan by and commented:
Interesting reading a later edition with a preface that talks about changes since it was written. This reminded me of "War at the Top of the World" by Eric Margolis when it talked about how demanding just staying in, let alone fighting in, Afghanistan is.
A thorough overview. The bits about the British experience in the 1800s are particularly gripping, as one would expect.
Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character by and commented:
IIRC, "Quartered Safe Out Here" has some counterpoints on Paul Fussell's comments.
Good stuff. Kind of heavy with the redacted sections, but that's a point he's trying to make. I like the opening anecdote when he talks about his first day in USAF boot camp and how he realized "whoa, I've been wasting my life."
An interesting mix of boots-on-the-ground war journalism and geopolitical discussions. The bits about the Kashmir conflict were all new to me. This book was written in 2000; I think some of his predictions have not quite played out. For example he suggests that in the US the federal government will get weaker and the states will get stronger. I think the opposite has happened.
Charlie Wilson's War by and commented:
A profane but lively story. The comparisons to Harry Flashman are a nice touch.
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon by and commented:
I had never heard of General Schriever and of the story of the development of the ICBM and IRBM systems. Lots of interesting anecdotes about how things came together. Since this is a biography, maybe it over-emphasizes the effects of individual personalities on history - but maybe not! The right person in the right place with the right motivations, and next thing you know, there's a balance of power.
American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by and commented:
Shows the difference that a great executive can make. Interesting to see how someone not from the auto industry overcame resistance. Also some good stuff on the bailout period.
The bits about SCADA/ICS were especially disturbing. Hard to imagine that getting remedied without some big incident happening first.
Little Brother by and commented:
Has some nicely done explanations of crypto concepts like asymmetric encryption and web of trust.
The Sand Pebbles by and commented:
This felt like a mix between "Tortilla Flats" and "Mister Roberts". Obviously the author has spent time on a ship; was a quick read. Did feel a little over the top in some places.
Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu by and commented:
I had heard many times about "the disaster at Dien Bien Phu", and this book unwrapped the story for me. What I appreciated about this book was the personal nature of it; the author interviewed many of the combatants. You can hear him mourning as the ring closes around the French soldiers and as their counterbattery fire goes silent.
The Very Best Men by and commented:
Good character studies from a interesting part of the CIA's history.
A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency by and commented:
I really enjoyed the format of this autobiography. When you think about Richard Helms, what are the things you would want to ask him about? Nosenko. Bay of Pigs. Laos. Church Committee. Angleton. Kennedy assassination. And so on. This book has a short chapter about each one, laying out his involvement and the conclusions he drew from it. It's an effective format and of course Helms' take on things is great.
The Circle by and commented:
Kind of over the top, and throws the baby out with the bathwater, but still, makes you think. I will say that in the dot coms where I've worked, especially during the fast growth times, my experience has not been of God-like scientists using nano-bots to convert mud into spaceships. Instead, it's been a constant organic struggle to invent and implement major changes while continuing to add new features and keep up with the inbound volume.
Interesting anecdotes - apparently after a heavy snow the Soviets would drop in agents without parachutes so they would not be spotted. If any members of the team were injured on landing, the remaining members were instructed to shoot him. Another good quote - "The USSR's counterintelligence system was inefficient, but it was not ineffective."
Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America by and commented:
What a disaster! Sounds like he competed with Ames to see who could be our Kim Philby.
My Share of the Task: A Memoir by and commented:
Just a totally dedicated and hard charging guy with a nearly impossible task in Afghanistan.
The stories of the special ops involvement in the tanker war are fascinating. Not an upbeat or hopeful book, but an honest and informative one.
Really heavy stuff; you can see Campbell getting burned out over time. By the end of the book the tone was way different than at the beginning. Is it just the pace and stresses of modern urban warfare, or is that generally near the upper end for combat effectiveness?
The Defense Of Duffer's Drift by and commented:
I can see why this is on so many lists now! I read the first chapter to my oldest son and he quickly devoured the rest. Thinking of giving it as a gift to a friend who served in that part of the world.
Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton - Cia's Master Spy Hunter by and commented:
Makes a strong case for Angleton having set US counterintelligence efforts back due to his paranoia.
Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage by and commented:
Really interesting. The litany of service members who approached the Soviets to sell secrets is pretty depressing!
At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA by and commented:
A good one! You can tell that Tenet really cared about the people working for him. Some of the intelligence "inside baseball" organizational stuff is a little dry. One of the stories is about after he resigned - President Bush called his teenage son to say that his father had done a good job. That jives with other stories I've heard about President Bush as well; another thoughtful leader.
A fascinating description of a long KGB career. This is the first book I've read that speaks kindly of Kim Philby, although I guess that makes sense. Amazing that Kalugin survived all the intrigues!
The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by and commented:
A quick but painful read. Comments about capitalism (i.e., the black market) cropping up in various circumstances were interesting.
Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency by and commented:
This book filled in some gaps for me about some incidents, like the USS Pueblo and the USS Liberty. I felt like it came down a little hard on President Bush for his initial reactions to the 9/11 attacks; I remember that morning thinking "wow what a terrible accident" at first. Good description of the scale at which the NSA operates. And the computing capability has only gotten bigger since then!
What a story. Who would have thought a guy could turn his life around like that? The bits about how he soaked up information from the other guys was interesting; being able to learn from others - without being annoying - is a real talent.
Really helps to understand the relationship between these two figures. Like other books from an American perspective, it makes me want to go back and read Churchill's WWII series; this book gives you a feel for all the tensions involved. As Churchill said, "the only thing worse than fighting a war with allies is fighting a war without allies!"
The Book of Honor : The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives by and commented:
Lots of interesting stories about the paramilitary side of the CIA. Spans from WWII up to about the late-1990s. A quick read, but a good one!
War in the Middle Ages by and commented:
Pretty academic at times, but very thorough and the sections on trebuchets and counter-battery artillery are really interesting.
Africa: A Biography of the Continent by and commented:
Some of Joseph Conrad's descriptions make more sense after reading about the scourge of schistosomiasis and hookworm; those sound like terribly debilitating diseases. This book was published in 1997; having read this I now hope to find something more recent to see what's changed.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by and commented:
I had many interesting discussions with my teenage children over the course of this book; I recommend it on that basis alone!
A History of Russia by and commented:
Slow going at points, but sweeping and insightful.
Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam by and commented:
"Intervention is a presidential choice, not an inevitability." Makes a strong argument that Kennedy would not have escalated the war in Vietnam.
Leading Change by and commented:
If nothing else, this book does a good job of representing how hard it is to make major organizational changes.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by and commented:
Jim Collins is a good writer who has obviously thought a lot about what makes a company successful. He makes some solid points about characteristics of a good company - focus, discipline, etc. I wouldn't say there's a formula in this book, but it's got a bunch of good case studies and profiles and generally contains a lot of wisdom.
Catch-22 by and commented:
One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by and commented:
I gave this as a gift to a friend who's a retired USMC O-6. He enjoyed it, although he noted that the criticism contained therein usually isn't too healthy for an officer's career!
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by and commented:
Golly what a twist. No wonder it's a classic!
Rifleman Dodd by and commented:
Wow, what a story.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by and commented:
Another classic; if you're reading Solzhenitsyn start here and keep going.
Dune by and commented:
Great story, great science fiction, great to see it showing up on the MCoE list!
Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by and commented:
Interesting claim that suicide terrorism is against occupying armies only.
Interesting conclusion - that intelligence is "of secondary importance" in war.
A fine survey of combat experiences over time; reinforces the continued need for 11B.
Crime and Punishment by and commented:
Another Russian classic; so nice to see it show up on a list!
Dead Souls: A Novel by and commented:
A classic Russian novel and a very fun read. This one is well worth your time.
Another Bloody Century: Future Warfare by and commented:
"War and warfare will always be with us" - given current events in Ukraine, Colin Gray's thesis suddenly seems much more true!
Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945 by and commented:
Something to read along with Fraser's "Quartered Safe out Here". Viscount Slim is humble and insightful.
Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton by and commented:
The sections on Rommel's advance and on D-Day are full of interesting bits. Well worth a read.
All Quiet On The Western Front by and commented:
Simply a classic; not much more to say that would do it justice.
Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II by and commented:
My wife gave me this book a few years ago; a truely classic account of jungle warfare.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb by and commented:
Very thorough. Discusses the tremendous loss of life due to the policy firebombing of Japanese cities.
The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World by and commented:
Always interesting to read something from the British perspective. Some good thoughts on a needed force transformation.
Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War by and commented:
A difficult read, but illustrates what can happen when leadership fails.
Well written and thorough. Changed my mind regarding the "Iraq has nukes" motivations for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Short, lively, and a strong indictment of the "development by dumping in more aid" system.
Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by and commented:
Not bad, although the constant capitalization of "Flyboys" gets a little annoying.
The last line sums it up well - terrorism isn't a problem you fix, it's a problem you manage. I think the only complaint I have about this book is it's filled with the jargon of the CT professions. You know, a deputy undersecretary of whatever talking about how you've got to "synergize the boots on the ground with the hearts and minds while drinking three cups of tea" and all that. I suppose it's accurate; just seems annoying.
Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, 1941-1942 by and commented:
This was a story I had never heard of; I asked a couple USAF guys in my church about it and they were all familiar with it though. Good stuff.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by and commented:
Just an amazing survival story.
Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by and commented:
I've read quite a few books that described surface actions, and with most of them I really haven't been able to get a good picture of what happened. But the diagrams and explanations in this book were clear and straightforward and laid out the scenarios so that I could follow them. Contains a good defense - or at least backstory - on the Navy's actions and contributions at Guadalcanal.
The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat by and commented:
A quick read about 'the forgotten war'. 3 Medal of Honor winners in one battle; quite a story.
Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds by and commented:
Good story about a pilot who fought both in WW II and Vietnam. His story of how he avoided promotion to general is a great anecdote.
A good read; if you like this one you'll also like Gary Berntsen's 'Jawbreaker'.
Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III, A War Game Scenario by and commented:
I read but didn't really enjoy this book... the whole 'war gaming is important' thing was kind of lost on me. Meh.
The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence by and commented:
A long and sad story about a bunch of different African countries' post-colonial experiences. A good survey.
Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by and commented:
A dense read, but good. Lots about Soviet espionage efforts.
The Shackled Continent: Power, Corruption, and African Lives by and commented:
A quick read, and a good one!
The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by and commented:
Another good one by Alistaire Horne. A sad story, but an excellent read.
In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan by and commented:
A highly detailed book covering the past 30 years or so of Afghanistan's history. Paints a bleak but realistic picture.
Australia: A New History of the Great Southern Land by and commented:
A sweeping history of Australia. Some of the political maneuvering descriptions were a little slow, but overall, quite worthwhile.
This book explains the story behind the surge - who supported it, who opposed it, and why it was a good move but may not be able to win the war. There's a good discussion on how the war aims have been slowly racheted down from "democracy in the middle east" to "secure and sustainable". Ricks talks about how Gen. Odierno's tactics have evolved over the course of the war. Good stuff!
Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander's War in Iraq by and commented:
A great day-by-day read of Col Mansoor's tour in Iraq. His schedule gives you an idea of the pace of life for those deployed to Iraq; from coordinating street patrols to logistics snafus to meetings with local elders, never a dull moment. A great read.
Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by and commented:
A well documented study of the early days of the Iraq war. Comes down especially hard on L. Paul Bremer; from this account it seems that he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rumsfeld also comes in for a pummeling. Generally, don't look for kind words in this book for anyone above O-5. But definitely worth a read.
I plodded through this book, but it was kind of a struggle... lots of unfamiliar names and political turmoil and whatnot. A scholarly work, but I found it slow going.
Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by and commented:
This book has a few chapters reveling in the technical achievements of today's UAV producers and noting the decline of the traditional jet fighter pilot's career path. These are good fun, but just as interesting are the followup chapters where he asks questions like 'is a UAV pilot actually a warrior?' and 'how does warfare change when one side is in absolutely no danger of being harmed?' Definitely a worthwhile read.
This book outlines Lord Moran's experiences in WWI and the effects of that war on those around him. It's bleak, dark, and fatalistic, which probably makes it a good reflection of that war. The descriptions of the soldiers moving about as shells fall randomly makes you wish they had a CRAM. It's a sad and thoughtful read.
The Future of Freedom by and commented:
Fareed Zakaria makes an interesting distinction between liberty and democracy, and he explores this difference in a variety of fields - politics, law, religions, etc. His views on the influence of democracy on religion were interesting - some churches have become so seeker friendly that they have excised the bits of the Bible that deal with sin, the need for forgiveness, and other jarring topics. This book is worth reading if only to annoy James Carville, who recently said that he'd like to "take a football bat" (whatever that is) to Zakaria.
Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by and commented:
Definitely a change from the usual reading list fare... it reminded me in content, if not in style, of Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner". The bits about Castro reissuing money (and stealing everyone's existing savings) are well done.
How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by and commented:
This is a quick read and a fun one... it reminded me of some of PJ O'Rourke's globe-trotting books. It punctures some of the optimism found in Thomas Friedman's books in that it shows how the freight train of globalization can be derailed by local corruption.
The Old Man and the Sea by and commented:
Somehow I'd never read this book before... it's a classic, of course, and a good read.
The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century by and commented:
I really enjoyed the parts of this book where Barnett talks about the Pentagon's "briefing culture". A white paper won't do, since the O-8's aides can just summarize it for him - you have to have a lively, entertaining, and insightful brief to get access to the upper reaches of the Pentagon. This book was written in 2004, and Barnett made some bold predictions. He thought that Kim Jong-il would be toppled by President Bush, but here we are in 2010 and Kim Jong-il is sinking South Korean ships. Barnett also predicts that the U.S. will add some more states from bits of Mexico... that remains to be seen. The book's thesis is that there is a "functioning Core" and a "disconnected Gap", and we need to encourage more of the former and less of the latter. It's an interesting strategic proposal. One more thing I learned from this book - a great phrase from J.R.R. Tolkien: "Hope without guarantees". A wonderful thought!
The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century by and commented:
Col Hammes does an excellent review of what he calls "fourth generation warfare"; including brief studies of Vietnam, the Russian conflict in Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestine conflicts, and the Sandinistas. He doesn't mention the French-Algerian war, but that certainly has all the earmarks of this type of conflict. One point he made was that even though the Russians adopted a scorched-earth policy and indiscrimate bombings and shellings, that wasn't enough to ensure victory. So savagry doesn't always equal victory. This book is notable in that Col Hammes actually has the boldness to offer some suggestions on how we can better fight these wars. Generally, he wants less focus on high-tech gadgetry and more focus on winning the media ratings war, hearts and minds, and an overhaul of the DOD rating system and bureaucracy. It's worth a read for this aspect alone.
Leading in a Culture of Change by and commented:
This small book had some good insights - mostly about emotional vs coercive leadership, empowering folks, etc. It didn't get too soft and squishy; e.g., it acknowledged that sometimes someone has to select and direct. Not bad, and it's a quick read.
A quick read and a good one. The things he talked about reminded me of my USCG experience and areas where I fell short. But the same principles still apply when working with folks outside the military. Great stuff!
Thomas Friedman is a lively writer and is enthusiastic about green jobs and energy efficiency and all that. One of his primary source in this book, however, is the IPCC, who is now in the process of admitting that their data was not as rock-solid as they had claimed. Friedman also offers solutions like a huge gas tax to make solar/wind more cost-effective - which is easy for him to say, but not so great for the E4 struggling along on $2K per month. There's also Friedman's "China for a Day (but not two)" where he bemoans the democratic process which prevents the technocrats from imposing their will on the ignorant masses. So despite his engaging style and the many interesting anecdotes, I don't think this was a good selection.
A pretty good overview of India and China's recent rise in power. Outlines the major challenges facing those countries, too - e.g., corruption and pollution. Unfortunately, her recommendations for how the U.S. can keep pace are all about big government - more money for Dept of Education, spending lots of money on government research centers, etc. Anyhow, the bit about China buying up lots of U.S. debt was especially relevant... would be interesting to see a 2nd edition in 5 years or so.
A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by and commented:
I wasn't even aware of this conflict before reading this fascinating account of France's slow and painful disengagement from Algeria. What an epic story - this will take you a while to get through but it's well worth it. The only change I wish for is for the author to have added footnotes supplying translations of the many French phrases he uses; but fortunately it's usually possible to infer their meaning from the context. A classic counterinsurgency story; don't miss it.
A Bell for Adano by and commented:
This is a wonderful little story of an American major who oversees the small Italian town of Adano after the Allied invasion. It reminded me of Lederer's "The Ugly American"; it's even better, I think. The only character who seemed a bit overdone was General Marvin, the villain. Reading this was a nice break from the usual blood and guts of the USMC list. This was an inspired selection indeed.
Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by and commented:
This book is filled with interesting stories about the founding of the American Navy. The building of the first ships (including the difficulties in floating one of them), Stephen Decatur's burning of the captured Philadelphia, the naval engagements in the War of 1812 - it's all great stuff. Finally you'll know the full story of "to the shores of Tripoli"!
The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror by and commented:
This is a great read as Bernard Lewis effectively boils down the issues facing Islam. One thing he notes is a difference between Christianity and Islam - in Matthew 22 Jesus says to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" whereas there's no similar concept in Islam. This book is one you could re-read once every few years and still get good value.
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by and commented:
This is a massive Civil War reference; it covers everything from details of all the major battles to the political maneuvering that Lincoln did to deal with his cabinet. It will take you a while to plow through this, but it's worth it.
Patton: A Genius for War by and commented:
This is an epic survey of Patton's life. One thing I found interesting was how Patton managed his career. He knew that in order to make flag rank he needed powerful allies, and he actively sought these people out even if it meant jumping the chain of command. The story of how he got to be Pershing's aide-de-camp in the Mexico campaign is a fine example of this.
The Kite Runner by and commented:
This was a brutal book - towards the end of it I found myself turning pages hoping to find something good happening to the protagonist. It's definitely worth a reading, if only for understanding how terrible the Taliban have treated the people of Afghanistan.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by and commented:
One of the players mentioned in this book is Nick Swisher, who now plays for the Yankees. I'm a big Yankees fan so it's interesting to look at Swisher's stats with this book in mind. For example, Swisher hasn't been hitting so well (June/July 2009), but he's still got a high OBP due to all the walks he gets. One thing Michael Lewis does well is relate the baseball chatter around the clubhouse and between the manager and scouts. It really rang true for me; it reminded me (on a much lower level) of the comments made by my college manager and pitching coach.
The Ugly American by and commented:
I expected to dislike this book just from its title - I thought it'd be all about how bad Americans are, etc. To the contrary, it weaves together a bunch of vignettes about several different Americans and their actions in and around a fictional eastern country. The scenarios and characters are reasonably believable, although the truly ugly Americans might be a little overdone. Definitely a classic about the difficulties of spreading democracy and fighting totalitarian ideologies - those tasks are hard enough without shooting outselves in the foot.
Face of Battle by and commented:
This contains in-depth studies of several major battles - Waterloo, the Somme, Agincourt. John Keegan is a great historian, of course, but in this book he also details the human aspect of these battle. There's the exhaustion of the soldiers, the details of the terrain, the weapons; it's great stuff.
Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by and commented:
This is a classic day to day description of MacDonald's WW II experience. I recently read James Brady's "The Coldest War" and it reminded me of Company Commander. The soldiers are presented not so much as good or bad but just as people with their own personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.
In The Company Of Heroes by and commented:
You'll especially enjoy if you've already seen the movie "Blackhawk Down"... this fills in a lot of the blanks. In the last part of the book, Durant talks about the flak he received from various folks saying that he shouldn't have spoken on film for the Somalis. Not sure what the SERE trainers say about that... but I think the idea is to stay alive.
Touched with Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific by and commented:
One thing I like about this book is that it gives you a great feel for the remoteness and size of this theater. At one point Bergerud describes how a person could have lived inland on one of the South Pacific islands and never have realized that there was a world war going on. The descriptions of the jungles, the Golden Staircase, and the conflicts between the tribesmen and the Japanese are all great stuff too.
The Good Shepherd by and commented:
On a personal level, anyone who has stood a long watch will sympathize with the description of the time that Capt Krause spends on the bridge in this book. The cold, the boredom with the underlying tension, the inability to leave the bridge to make a head call - it all adds up. This is a superb story of sub vs destroyer combat and one that bears rereading.
Ender's Game by and commented:
This is the first book in the Ender series. I've read the sequels "Speaker for the Dead", "Xenocide", and "Children of the Mind" and this first book is by far the best. It's a little preachy at times, but overall a great story with an unexpected ending.
The Cruel Sea by and commented:
A classic story of WWII naval warfare. Like "The Good Shepherd", it captures the exhaustion of being at sea.
The Second World War, Volume 1: The Gathering Storm by and commented:
In one of his many memorable quotes, Churchill said, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it". "The Gathering Storm" is the first in Churchill's superb series on WW II, and I think it's the best of the lot. I'm an American, so it was especially interesting to read a survey of WW II from a British perspective.