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reviewed The Long shadow: The Legacies of the .... December 06
The Long shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth CenturyThe Long Shadow
With the assassination of a mid level royalty in a mid level city in Eastern Europe, entangling alliances and inept political decision making sent the world spiraling into the first major 20th Century …
reviewed The Invention of Air. December 05
The Invention of Air
After reading Johnson's latest, How we got to now,  I found this book from 2008 on the shelf in my excellent local public library, and discovered that it contains a tightly argued statement of …
reviewed How we got to now: Six innovations th.... November 26
How we got to now: Six innovations that made the modern world
Johnson is a master of popular science writing (see The Ghost map and Everything bad is good for you as examples) and hits this minor classic with the perfect blend of science, history, and and the "intercrossing&qu …
reviewed Fields of blood: Religion and the his.... November 24
Fields of blood: Religion and the history of violence
Armstrong traces the relationship of the spiritual to the justification and use of violence through the history of human patterns of civilization from nomadic to agrarian to the modern nation-state.  …
reviewed The Humor code: A Global search for w.... November 17
The Humor code: A Global search for what makes things funny
Comedy, like pornography, is notoriously hard to define, but you know it when you see (or read, hear, or watch) it.  McGraw, a psychology professor,and Warner, a journalist, wrote this book to try …
reviewed The Map thief: The gripping story of .... November 15
The Map thief: The gripping story of an esteemed rare-map dealer who made millions stealing priceless maps
E. Forbes Smiley is the subject of Blanding's true-crime tale of missing maps.  While he was once a big-time dealer in rare early maps of North America, and widely respected for his scholarship …
reviewed Smoke gets in your eyes & other lesso.... November 13
Smoke gets in your eyes & other lessons from the crematory
Death means the end of life.  It means separation from loved ones, the end of life's work, entrance into eternity.  It is universal, it is inevitable, it is all of these things so central …
reviewed A Laodicean (Penguin Classics). November 12
A Laodicean (Penguin Classics)
In a retrospective edition of his collected works near the end of his life Hardy classed A Laodicean as one of his "Novels of Ingenuity" and not one of the "Novels of Character and Environment."  …
reviewed The Transformation of the world: A Gl.... November 09
The Transformation of the world: A Global history of the Nineteenth Century
Historians sometimes talk about the "long" 19th Century, marking its start with the bang of the Age of Revolution in America and France in the late 1700s and staggering to a bitter end in the …
reviewed Sketches of young gentleman and young.... October 13
Sketches of young gentleman and young couples with Sketches of young ladies by Edward Caswell
This slim volume is nearly as interesting for its history as for its literary value.  Published under the pen name Quiz, Sketches of young ladies was written and published first by the now nearly …
reviewed Money: The Unauthorized biography. October 12
Money: The Unauthorized biography
Martin's expose of money may take readers by surprise.  It isn't about coins and bills and inflation, although those are elements of the story.  And it isn't a dry recounting of …
I have seen the future: A Life of Lincoln Steffens
A well-turned phrase often repeated can become the word picture representing a person's life.  Unfortunately for Lincoln Steffins his phrase was one of the most wrongheaded and easily ridiculed …
reviewed The Trumpet-Major. October 04
The Trumpet-Major
Combining the powerful writing style of a great author with the explosive ingredients of the French Revolution (Dickens's Two Cities) and its Napoleonic aftermath (Hardy's Major) is apparently …
reviewed Birdmen: The Wright brothers, Glenn C.... September 25
Birdmen: The Wright brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the battle to control the skies
The history of the Wright brothers and the invention of powered flight has been well-covered and usually from the position of admiring the brothers' ingenuity, persistence, and engineering prowess.    …
reviewed The Fifties. September 24
The Fifties
My title for this review works both ways.         Halberstam writes in classic narrative history style when tackling a subject as a broad as a decade.  He doesn't …
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of journalism
Teddy Roosevelt has always been such a ridiculously heroic figure in American history, and from my high school history classes I dimly associate the muckraking journalists of what Goodwin calls this Golden …
reviewed Jerusalem: City of longing. August 15
Jerusalem: City of longing
I went to the library with a newer book on the history of Jerusalem on my wish list, but when I got to the shelf and saw how many pages it was I realized I didn't want to tackle it.   Then …
1177 B.C.: The year civilization collapsed
Cline uses archeology, inscriptions, contemporary document caches, and ancient historical text (including the Bible and Homer's Greek history/legends/myths of the Trojan War) to explore who, what, …
The Story of the Jews: Finding the words 1000 BC - 1492 AD
Schama has been a popular and prolific narrative historian covering topics as diverse as the French Revolution, American history, and now this history of the Jewish people.  I've read all three …
Why science does not disprove God
Aczel sets and completes a simple challenge in this book well described by his title.  He doesn't try to prove that God exists, or that science and religion are different and non-intersecting  …
The Edge of the precipice: Why read literature in the digital age
This slim fast-reading collection of essays tackles the title question from many perspectives along two main tangents.      The place of ink on paper reading vs pixels on screen …
Life's imponderables: The answers to civilization's most perplexing questions
Other than the fact that I review every book I read, I might have skipped writing a review of this omnibus collection of "Imponderables.". But I do review everything, and I also realized this …
reviewed Death dance: True life and death adve.... July 13
Death dance: True life and death adventures from Alaska to Africa
Nolan is a wildlife biologist, filmmaker, guide, and adventure junkie who has worked for years in Alaska and Africa.  Along the way he has written down stories he has heard from his friends and companions …
Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
You know how in a Dickens novel pretty much every thing works out happily in the end?  Yeah, that doesn't happen here.  Hardy followed up his "comedy in chapters" (The Hand of …
reviewed Beatles vs. Stones. June 28
Beatles vs. Stones
The title might suck you in like it did me in this intertwined thumbnail parallel sketch of the careers of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  After all, I am just old enough to remember when that …
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