Since I started my Old Jarhead Blog in 2008, I have used it to recommend books I have read that I thought were worth reading. I read a lot and recommend a lot. I don't recommend everything I read, but I chose carefully, and if a book isn't doing it for me, I have no trouble giving up on it--life is too short. These books range from Good to Must Read, IMHO. some fit in both History and politics, so I made a call. ~Bob
Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 by Mark Moyar. http://www.amazon.com/Triumph-Forsaken-The-Vietnam-1954-1965/dp/0521757630/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400263927&sr=8-1&keywords=Triumph+Forsaken%3A+The+Vietnam+War%2C+1954-1965+by
Excellent history from this Oxford-trained historian.
A Question of Command. By Mark Moyar
A book review I wrote has been published in Leatherneck Magazine. I have been disappointed that Dr. Moyar has not rapidly followed up his excellent history of the early years of
Triumph Forsaken, with the promised
second volume. But after reading A
Question of Command, all is forgiven. It is a valuable addition to military
history in general, and to the history of insurgent or irregular warfare in
particular. That alone would make this book a welcome addition to the library of
any historian or military leader. But A
Question of Command is far more than a history book. Given the wars of the
foreseeable future, it’s a service to the Republic. Moyar uses meticulously
researched case studies of nine insurgencies to provide a must-read guide for
military leaders dealing with insurgencies on the ground, from squad leaders to
theater commanders, and for politicians and bureaucrats directing the effort. I
wish I could afford to buy a copy for every member of the president’s cabinet and
the congress. Vietnam
Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965 by Michael Burleigh
This terrific book was given to me from my best friend from high school. By a British author, it is well-written, well-researched and well-balanced. It will be especially appreciated by military history buffs and political junkies, as it deals with not only the many conflicts in this period, but the international political decisions around them, how the "cold war" developed, and exposes the seeds of our present troubles. Those who tend to view history through a strict right- or leftwing prism will find details here to confirm their beliefs and details they will need to dismiss to prevent cognitive dissonance. Burleigh is even-handed in parceling out praise or sharp criticism to the historical figures involved, and does not go easy on the British ones, including icons such as Churchill. He is unsentimental about colonialism, detailing both the savagery of the "civilized" colonial powers and the brutality of the governments and leaders the colonials displaced. I rate this a must-read. This is not to suggest I endorse every opinion he expresses. In many areas, I do not have access to the facts he draws on. In areas I have read a lot about, like
there are other interpretations that should be considered
The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor. By Jake Tapper
I received "The Outpost" for Christmas and put it near the top of my reading pile. While it was long, it was not disappointing. Tapper gives an excellent, well-researched account of brave and good men put in a difficult, if not impossible situation by bad decisions--some going as high at theater command and the White House. Given the details and the outcomes, it is hard to disagree with his conclusions. Tapper is a journalist, with all the negative connotations of "agenda driven-propagandist" that today attach to that word, so I was pleased that he presented the story in a very straight-forward manner and had an obvious respect, perhaps affection, for the troops he was writing about. That sat well with this old Jarhead. It's been 30 years since I last wore the uniform, so I'm out of date, but as far as I could tell he got the military details and nomenclature right. (Though he reported one man promoted to "Private Second Class." I had never heard that term used for an Army E-2.) That the combat outpost that is the subject of the book was poorly sited should have been obvious to anyone, as it was to an Army E-4 involved in planning at the start of the book. The old infantry maxim is, "Take the high ground, or they will bury you in the valley." And "valley" hardly describes their situation. I spent August and a few days in September of 1967 with a Marine Combined Action Company heading a Radio Relay Team at Khe Sanh. But we were very close to and well supported by the main Khe Sanh Combat Base. It was pretty quiet, and I had the good fortune to rotate home about four months before Tet (They was scared to attack while I was there!) CAC-O got hit hard at the start of the siege, but because the location was far better, the troops first class and well-trained and the defenses good, they inflicted a lot of casualties on the NVA for almost none in return, and evacuated to the main base by foot. Even so, it was a hairy situation that I'm both sorry and glad to have missed. No Marine infantry fire team leader would have located an outpost in the situation described by Tapper. The terrain photos alone show it was a disaster scheduled to happen. When the bad guys can shoot down at you, you know you are in a bad place. That they steadily lost control of the surrounding area should have alerted someone that trouble was guaranteed. And I would trust the local
Vietnam troops with us at Khe Sanh
far more than the ANA described in the book. After reading it, I doubt that any
hearts and minds can be won in that culture, only rented temporarily. I highly
recommend this fine account of combat action.
Apache: Inside the Cockpit of the World's Most Deadly Fighting Machine. By Ed Macy
A terrific combat memoir by a Brit chopper pilot in
Afghanistan. The details on the
Apache and flying it are fascinating, but the combat scenes are riveting. I
literally couldn't put it down for the last few chapters, read late into the
night. Well written; military history buffs will love it.
Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War. By Bob Greene
When Chicago Tribune writer Bob Greene’s father was dying, he met BGen Paul Tibbets, USAF (Ret.) Tibbets, I hope you know, led the AAF group that dropped the atomic bombs on
Japan and flew the Enola Gay, named for his mother, to Hiroshima. This is his story of both Tibbets
and his dad, a WWII Infantry officer, and their generation looking at a changed
in their twilight years. Greene does a fine job of capturing their thoughts,
emotions and the world view of what has been called “The Greatest Generation,”
which saved the world. (Alas, it needs saving again.) I found especially moving
the many tributes to Tibbets from people thanking him for saving their lives,
because they, or the fathers and grandfathers, were scheduled for the invasion
where we expected a million American casualties. With even Japanese women being
trained to fight with sharpened sticks, the casualties among the Japanese would
have been far higher than those caused by the bombs. When at U-Mass, I took a
course in the history of Vietnam
from a very sharp but far left professor of Asian history. (I was the only Vietnam
vet in the course, so I had to defend myself every day.) He insisted we should
not have dropped the bomb, that Japan
was about to surrender. But a few years ago, classified documents were released
in Japan that say that even after the first bomb, they were determined to fight
to the last Japanese. I highly recommend this moving and readable book.
Coolidge by Amity Shlaes
This long, but well-written book has a wealth of historical detail from the first thirty years of the last century, for the
US in general and Massachusetts in particular. When I was in
the Massachusetts Senate, the painting of Coolidge, a former Senate President,
hung in the chamber. Until the leadership remodeled the place and, probably
uncomfortable under his stern gaze, moved him to the Senate reading room.
Imagine a President who cut the budget, reduced the size of the Federal
Government, cut the national debt from a major war by one-third, reduced the
size of the military, cleaned up scandals from his predecessor, was of
unquestioned integrity, who stood on principle even when it hurt him
politically, who decided not to seek reelection when he was a sure winner
because he believed in limited service, who foresaw the crash of 1929 and
thought that Hoover’s policies (expanded and made worse by Roosevelt) would
make it far more severe and long lasting, and who met with his budget director
frequently to see if they could cut a few thousand dollars more in waste. Then
imagine a president now both smart enough and open minded enough to read this
book and benefit from it. It will be argued those were simpler times, but the
challenges were as daunting, as this book makes clear. The men and women were
different, with a different view of the role of government versus individual
freedom and responsibility. It can be argued that Coolidge, not Reagan, was the
last conservative Republican president. (Grover Cleveland was the last conservative Democrat
president.) I highly recommend this fine historical biography.
The War That Made
: A Short History of the
French and Indian War. By Fred Anderson
Thanks to audio books, this was another chance to expand my historical knowledge while on the road. Most Americans know little more about this war than they do about the War of the Spanish Succession. (Okay, a large number of Americans don’t know what decade the Civil War was in, or who we fought in WWII.) But understanding the French and Indian war (Or The Seven Years War as it was called in
Europe) is a key
to understanding the causes and outcome of the American Revolution. This book
is well-written and has a lot of fine detail, especially about the education of
George Washington as a military leader. Despite my familiarity with the
conflict, I learned a lot.
Dark Invasion: 1915:
Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in by Howard Blum America
this interesting history was a birthday gift from my brother, Tom. Except for the Zimmerman Telegram, I knew almost nothing about
Germany's sabotage campaign against a
States in WWI. It included many ship and
ammo plant bombings and a couple of attempts at germ warfare--which killed some
people. Well written and well researched, this one is for the history buff.
The Zimmermann Telegram by Barbara W. Tuchman
I’ve loved everything I’ve read by the late Barbara Tuchman, so when I saw this audio book at my library, I grabbed it, though it was written 24 years ago. Tuchman is not only a fine historian, but the kind of writer who makes history read like a political thriller. And the period before the
entry into WWI was certainly a thriller. With Europe hanging in the balance,
the Germans offered Mexico
an alliance. If they’d attack the US
in the event of war, Germany
would help her with the reconquista
of Texas, New Mexico
dream that has never died. The Germans in their arrogance never suspected that
the British had broken their codes—and amazingly didn’t suspect it in WWII
either! The political, military and diplomatic maneuvering between Germany, Britain,
the US, Mexico and, yes, Japan made for a fascinating.
The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000. By William H. McNeill
This book, given to me by a friend while I was recovering from my lung transplant, is an excellent, rather oblique look at how rulers and societies have organized military power, both to protect what they had and, as often to take what others had. It traces the intersection of military power with economics and resources, and how both technological development and social change have changed the projection of power, until war became completely industrialized in the 20th century. History buffs, especially military history buffs, will greatly appreciate it.
In the Company of Marines: A Surgeon Remembers
James M. Finnegan, MD Vietnam
When I read that Dr. Finnegan had died last year, I asked my wife for his book for Christmas. I'm glad I did. My Christmas was delayed by my lung transplant, but I received it on Saturday, 1/11 and finished it Sunday evening. Jim Finnegan left in his third year of residency to volunteer for the Navy if he could serve with Marines. This took him to
Vietnam to the Third Marine
Division, and eventually to Khe Sanh with the 26th Marines (my outfit) to
command Charlie Med through the 1968 siege, where he earned the Purple Heart
and the Bronze Star with "V". He arrived after I was fortunate enough
to rotate home in September of 1967, but I went through Charlie Med myself (for
appendicitis!). His account of how he and three other doctors treated over 2,500
casualties during the siege, saving hundreds of Marine lives (probably
including friends of mine), doing triage and operating under almost constant
rocket, artillery and mortar fire is inspiring. The book has a few typos (the
bane of writers) and could have been edited tighter, but that does not detract
from the power of his story. His admiration and affection for Marines shines
from every page. He says he can never be a Marine, but I would have assured him
that Marines consider the Navy Doctors and Navy Corpsman (That's
"Core-Man," Mr. President, not "Corpse-Man") who care for
us in combat to be a part of us. Following the war, he became a noted Thoracic
Surgeon, making me feel even closer to him, as one just saved my life. I'm sorry
this good man is gone.
The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of
Sicily to the Gates of by Alex Kershaw Dachau
A fine account of WWII combat and one of the Army’s best company and battalion commanders. This book will be of great interest to those interested in WWII, military history or leadership.
Generation Kill by Evan Wright
Wright is a reporter (For Rolling Stone!) who was embedded with the 1st Marine Recon Battalion on the drive from
While some of his statements and views make me cringe as a Marine, his courage
in going with the Marines who were, in the words of one officer, at the pointy
point of the spear cannot be doubted. I think he does a fine job of capturing
the dialog of Marines at war, and describing the confusion, mistakes, and small
daily horrors that take place in the midst of the large horror and fog of war.
He describes heroism and boredom, competent and incompetent leadership. As a
Marine Vietnam vet, I’m not surprised to learn that not every Marine officer or
senior NCO meets our ideal of leadership, though I am surprised to find them in
an elite outfit like recon. They were usually transferred to units like support
or the communications outfits I served in. As a recovering politician, I’m also
well aware that reporters can color the impression they create in readers’
minds by both the incidents they chose to report and the words they select to
do so, often without realizing their biases are involved. (“The Senator
reported” and “The Senator claimed” mean pretty much the same thing, but the
latter creates the thought that you can’t really trust him.) Therefore, I’d
give more weight to the reader reviews on Amazon by Marines who served in First
Recon in the war than to mine. Wright also thinks that today’s troops are
entirely different from Marines of the past, but I don’t agree. There are
perhaps more profane than we were in Vietnam, certainly more than the WWII
Marines, and their cultural references to movies, music, TV and the Internet
are different, but you could pretty much drop any of them in a Marine unit at
Khe Sanh or on Okinawa, and he would function fine, fitting in except for BS
sessions on the culture. Still, I enjoyed the book, and, stupid as it is, as an
old Jarhead, it made me wish I’d been with them.
Preparing for Victory: Thomas Holcomb and the Making of the Modern Marine Corps, 1936-1943. By David J. Ulbrich
I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Ulbrich at the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation dinner in April of 2012, where he received a writing award for this fine history. I was thus looking forward to it, and it did not disappoint. While General Holcomb had a fine combat record in WWI, which gave him credibility for the great service he rendered the Republic in WWII, this is not a combat history. But it is a great story of leadership, political acumen and administrative ability, as the Commandant developed the doctrine and the structure that allowed the Corps to expand so greatly and meet the challenges of a global war. If I have one quibble, it is that Dr. Ulbrich, being I suppose an academic, feels it is necessary to frequently point out that Holcomb’s attitudes towards race were those of his time, when nearly everyone was a racist by today’s standards. Today we are shocked and appalled by racist attitudes except in left wing black leaders, where anti-white racism is considered a virtue. Nevertheless, this fine history fills an important gap in the military history of WWII, and deserves wide reading by Marines, historians and military history buffs.
A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War by Victor Davis Hanson
I’m a long time fan of Hanson’s political columns, which I often link to from my Old Jarhead blog, so I’ve naturally started reading his books. This history makes sense of this war in a way no other has to me, by organizing it not chronologically, but by topic, such as sieges and navel warfare. Given that the war raged for 27 years, was wide spread, killed a horrific proportion of the Greek population and broke all the rules—hence the title—Hanson’s excellent writing brings clarity to a murky subject. Those interested in military or ancient history will love it. But this excellent volume also has lessons for our own age about war and the hubris of leadership.
What It Is Like to Go to War. By Karl Marlantes.
Marlantes is the author of the acclaimed Vietnam War novel,
Matterhorn, which I have not read, but will add to my
list. He is a Marine combat infantry officer who holds the Navy Cross, among
other decorations. His outfit was, if you’ll pardon language from the time,
often “in the shit.” Thus he has earned the right to his opinions, regardless
of how you feel about them. He draws on his extensive combat experience to
develop this painfully honest—perhaps brutally honest—and insightful
exploration of the morality and psychology of war, violence and killing, and
the effects on the warriors and on society. Marlantes is unsparing of himself,
of actions he regrets or is ashamed of. He also makes specific recommendations
for dealing with these issues, with veterans and with future warriors.
's March to the Sea by Noah Andre Trudeau
A highly-recommended book for military history and Civil War buffs. This is a well-written, balanced account of this pivotal campaign, drawing on hundreds of primary sources, including numerous quotes from letters, journals and memoirs of soldiers on both sides, as well as southern civilians caught up in the whirlwind of war. With a masters in history and a long, though not exclusive interest in “the late unpleasantness,” I knew the broad outlines of
march. But this book had extensive details I did not know, so I learned a great
deal. I will look for more works by Trudeau as time permits.
Emma's War by Deborah Scroggins
A well written, fascinating and at times sickening account of the 1980s-1990s portion of the genocide in Darfur and long civil war in the Sudan, not only between the largely-Arab Muslim north and the black Christian and Animist south, but among the various factions, including a violent tribal-based struggle within the southern rebels. Though
Sudan became independent, the multi-sided fighting rages today.
Americans only take note when the starvation gets bad enough to warrant TV
coverage--if American Idol isn't on--but there is no reason to suspect the
suffering and death has lessened. Scroggins, a journalist who reported on Africa first hand, builds her story around Emma McCune, a
wild-child British aid worker who married the Sudanese warlord of one of the
southern factions and became such a partisan in the internecine tribal feud
that it was called "Emma's War" by the locals. Who should read this book?
Anyone who thinks that slavery was an American phenomena that ended in 1965.
(The Muslims contemptuously referred to all the southern blacks by the local
word for "slave.") Anyone who thinks there is real hunger and poverty
Anyone who thinks that in the Sudan--or any conflict like this in the Third
World, there are any good guys with clean hands--including the US, the UN and
the NGO aid organizations. Anyone who thinks that Shari'a law is a benign
cultural and religious expression. Anyone in a position to try to make policy
for Africa, by the government or by a
charitable organization. Anyone who wants a broader understanding of this and
At All Costs: How a Crippled Ship and Two American Merchant Mariners Turned the Tide of World War II. By Sam Moses.
I enjoyed this wonderfully-told story on audio book during my commutes. It's a must for the WWII or Navel History Buff. Operation Pedestal, the convoy that saved
for the allies despite losing nine of 14 merchant ships, was arguably a turning
point in the war. Yet it is a little known tale of great heroism. One hopes
that we can find such men for the challenges of the future.
War Shots. Norm Hatch and the
Marine Corps Combat Cameramen
of World War II. By Charles Jones U.S.
http://www.warshotsbook.com/ (For autographed copy)
Okay, I had a bias. I couldn’t wait to get my copy, and then to read it. I came to this book expecting to love it and I did. In April, my wife Bonnie and I were invited to the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Awards Dinner, where I received an award for my book, Old Jarhead Poems. Sitting next to me was Chip Jones, the author, who also received a writing award War Shots. And sitting next to Bonnie was Norm Hatch! Maj. Hatch is in his 90s now, has some mobility challenges, but I wish my mental acuity was equal to his. Talking with him was a treat. This is a guy who rubbed shoulders with the pantheon of WWII Marine greats, and, from the stream of Generals stopping by our table to speak to him, is considered at least a minor deity himself by the leadership of today’s Corps. Hatch got an Academy Award for short documentary in 1944 for his
Tarawa filming under fire.
Then, two weeks later, I was watching a story about Tarawa
on the Military History Channel, and there was Hatch being interviewed. I only
wish I had read this book before I met him. I learned a great deal about the
combat cameramen of WWI, as expected, but also new details about Tarawa and Iwo Jima, including the controversy over the flag raising
photo, which Hatch helped to resolve, as one of his men shot the movie of it
going up. He was also in Nagasaki
right after the war, a very interesting chapter, and made a documentary that
helped the effort to save the Marine Corps from extinction in that post-war
political fight. Hatch was not only incredibly brave, but very resourceful and
competent. This book will be appreciated by every Marine, by WWII buffs, and by
those interested in military history, the movie industry or human courage. The
term “Greatest Generation” has been over-used, and we have some pretty great
people defending America
today, but Norm Hatch is a great Marine, and this book made me very proud to
have met him and worn the same uniform.
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the
Navy's Finest Hour. By James D.
I listened to this as an audio book in the car, and often found myself wanting to drive around to keep it going. Hornfischer has a wonderful ability to cover the big picture while having a fine eye for details and individual stories. Though far less well-known than Midway, the Battle of Samar was arguably the US Navy’s most gallant action in WWII. Perhaps it has been glossed over because that otherwise excellent leader, Bull Halsey, got sucked out of position, making the sacrifice necessary. If you are interested in that conflict, in military/navel history, or in American heroism, you won’t want to miss this well-written book. We still have such men defending the Republic out on the far flung battle lines, but it’s an open question if we have enough of them to face down a crisis of WWII magnitude. And I fear one is coming.
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson
I got hooked on
when a friend recommended Civilization:
The West and the Rest. I followed that up with the equally interesting The War of the World, and I recommend
both. Next up was The Ascent of Money.
It’s very different from the others, but illuminating and I learned a great
deal about how not only money, but stocks, bonds, credit, mortgages and other
financial developments came to be—and the crucial role they play in
civilization and our current standard of living. I also learned that a lot of
the things that got us into trouble in 2008, credit default swaps, securitized
mortgages and the like, are beyond me. And that our prosperity is not only
beyond my control, but, frighteningly, apparently beyond the control of the
supposed experts making the big decisions. I highly recommend this
entertaining, well-written, informative and, alas, unsettling book.
The War of the World by Niall Ferguson
a Scots historian now at Harvard, when a friend introduced me to his last book,
Civilization: The West and the Rest, which I previously recommended.
That led me to search out other works by him, and I expect to read more after
this one. Ferguson
is a fine writer with the ability to capture the essential quote or detail to
illuminate his point. He was going to write a WWII book, but decided that had
been done. Instead, he looked at the violence of the 20th century, not only
wars, but genocide, pogroms and man-made famines like Stalin's that killed
millions to bring ethnic areas like the Ukraine to heel, viewing it as one
long, world-wide war. It is hard to say I liked this book, because it is hard
to like such an extensive catalog of man's inhumanity, but I appreciated
the way he drew the themes together, discussing the causes of the violence in
the bloodiest century in history. It remains to be seen if our current century
will be better, but certainly a thorough understanding on what happened in the
last one is necessary if there is to be a change. This book is a great place to
This is one of those books that just gets better and better, until at the end I found myself gleaning the chapter notes for comments and anecdotes not included in the text. This is the story of William E. Dodd, a naive
Chicago historian who became FDR's
ambassador to Germany
from 1933-1937, during Hitler's rise and consolidation of power. It's also the
story of his feckless and promiscuous daughter Martha, who had lovers ranging
from a Communist diplomat from the USSR to the head of the Gestapo.
Dodd didn't fit the mold for diplomats of the time, preferring to live simply
on his salary. He also was willing to speak out against the growing terror of
the Nazi regime, rather than keep silent to observe the diplomatic niceties.
This earned him the wrath of the foreign policy establishment, known as the
Pretty Good Club. Dodd may have been naive, but he was able to discern that,
no, indeed, we couldn't "do business" with Hitler, and spent the last
years of his life speaking out to warn America of the danger of Nazi
Germany, to the detriment of his health and scholarship. For those who are very
familiar with WWII, but not the years that led up to it, this book will be eye
opening. There are warnings here for our times, when too many people think that
great evil cannot come on us, as it did in the 1930s. In 1934, New York Jews
held a mock trial of Hitler, to the protests of Germany. Our government basically
said, sorry, First Amendment and all that. One wonders what the government's
reaction today would be to a mock trial of, say, Mohammad?
Must Read: Mohammad & Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy by Emmet Scott.
Having read and recommended Bryan Ward-Perkins The Fall of Rome, I was most interested to read this book, which takes aim on Ward-Perkins. While I recommend both, this controversial update of Henri Pirenne’s theory that it was the rise of Islam that destroyed classical civilization in
is in my view the most important and on the mark. I confess that there were
tedious bits for the non-academic at the start, but stay with them, as they are
a necessary foundation to the riveting final four chapters, the conclusion and
the epilogue, which are must-reads for those who want to understand today’s
world and the millennium-old clash between western civilization and Islam.
Basically, Scott lays out a solid case that it was the closure of Mediterranean
trade route by Muslim raiders, and the destruction of the lowland, coastal
agricultural system that supported advanced economies, as the peoples in the
south of Europe had to retreat to defended hill top towns to escapes the
attentions of Islamic slave raiders that provided the death knell for classical
civilization. Some telling quotes from the book, which bring to mind our
present world: “Aside from the aristocrats themselves, there were armies of
bureaucrats and courtiers surrounding the (Roman) Emperor, huge numbers of
soldiers, and a vast number of unemployed plebeians, who had to be supported by
a social security system, which the Roman’s named the “dole.” … With the
decline of the city as a political power, the great majority of this population
would naturally have disappeared. (PP. 80-81). (Be carefully what you wish for,
OWS!) “Under the protective shield of Rome, the farmers, artisans, and intellectuals…had
grown to despise the calling of the soldier, and to see the defense of the
country as someone else’s business. … The civilian populations of Anatolia, of Syria, of Egypt,
and of North Africa were vast, but they were
completely unused to war. After the defeats of the Imperial forces (by the
Muslims), there existed no tradition of military training or activity which
could have facilitated independent local action against the invaders.” (P. 172.
“Islam is virtually unique among world religions in that its primary scriptures
advocate the use of military force and its early expansion—indeed its expansion
during the first six or seven centuries of its existence—invariably involved
military conquest and the use of force.” (P.185) “…there was continual and
almost uninterrupted war between Muslims and (European) Christians since the
first attack on Sicily in 652 and Constantinople in 674. In the great majority of these
wars, the Muslims were the aggressors. … it is estimated that between the
sixteenth and nineteenth centuries alone (Muslim pirates) captured and enslaved
in excess of a million Europeans.” (P. 187) This book will broaden your
understanding of the ancient world, the foundations of our civilization, and
the on-going clash with Islam. I rate it a “must read.”
Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson
A wonderful book you should add to your reading pile.
Ferguson is a Scots
historian now at Harvard. This is a terrifically researched exploration of why
a few petty squabbling states in Europe,
against all odds, came to dominate the world. The author has a great ability to
pull the illuminating fact or pertinent quote from the morass of history. He
also explores why South America, which was by far the richer set of colonies,
is now far poorer than North America. (Hint:
widespread property ownership and property rights.) Fergusson says Western
Civilization had six “killer apps” that led them to dominate the world:
competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society and the
work ethic. He makes a solid case that these six factors not only led to
western dominance, but the high standard of living in western society, pursued
today by the rest of the world. Some of the bits were worth the price of the
book. Martin Luther’s defense of publishing the Koran in order that Christians
could see “how entirely cursed, abominable and desperate a book it is.” John
Locke’s attempt to ban lawyers in Carolina.
The author proclaiming the US Constitution “the most impressive piece of
political institution building in all of history.” His note that Tocqueville
identified the essential difference between the American and French
revolutions, a preference for liberty in ours and equality in theirs (a warning
to us today). His insight that the threat to the west comes not from radical
Islam, “but from our own lack of understanding of, and faith in, our own
cultural heritage.” He points out that Asians now work far more hours than
Americans, and we more than Europeans. That
the Chinese Communists party had a report “specifying three requirements for
sustainable economic growth: property rights as a foundation, the law as a
safeguard and morality as a support” is telling. And Ferguson’s comment that,
“mass immigration is not necessarily the solvent of a civilization, if the
migrants embrace, and are encouraged to embrace, the values of the civilization
to which they are moving” should inform our immigration debate. And this: “”It
is important to remember that most cases of civilizational collapse are
associated with fiscal crisis as well as wars. All of the examples discussed
above were preceded by sharp imbalances between revenues and expenditures, as
well as by difficulties with financing public debt.” Are you listening, Washington? (No, alas.) Ferguson asks if we can
maintain western civilization and western dominance. That’s an open question. I
read the hard copy, but my wife listened to it on disk in the car. Ferguson reads the book
himself, but adds in wonderful accents on the quotes. Do yourself a favor and
read this book.
I read this fine account cover to cover on Christmas day, and will look for more of Wert’s histories. It’s clear, informative and well-written, using contemporary sources. Though I hold a Masters in history and have read countless Civil War books, I learned a lot. I highly recommend this to the Civil War buff.
My wife and I like to use our drive time to listen to books on tape, but finding one we both like can be a challenge. We both loved The Zookeeper’s Wife. When the German’s invaded
in 1939, much of the Warsaw Zoo was destroyed, the animals killed of looted.
But the Zookeeper and his wife joined the Polish underground, and turned the
Zoo into a refuge for people, mostly Jews, but also members of the resistance.
This is an uplifting story of courage and compassion in the midst of horror and
inhumanity. About 300 people passed through the Zoo during the war, and all but
a few survived. There was a great quote in the book from a Polish philosopher.
If you have a secret and keep it, it is your prisoner. If you let it slip from
your tongue, you become its prisoner. We highly recommend the book.
Carnage and Culture by Victor Davis Hanson
Having long been a fan of Hanson’s clear, focused political columns, often linked in this blog, I was delighted to stumble across one of his history books. In Carnage and Culture, Hanson considers European and American battles against non-western forces from
to Tet. He links western military success to our institutions and culture,
including the rights afforded citizens no where but the west, and the ability
of free markets to create, innovate and build weapon systems. Some of his
quotes alone are worth the price of the book. Referring to the flyers at
Midway, many of whom sacrificed their lives in that great victory, Hanson
writes, “One wonders if an America
of suburban, video-playing Nicoles, Ashleys, and Jasons shall ever see their
like again.” He also reports that, “In the first two years after the fall of
Saigon (1975-77) there were almost twice as many total civilian fatalities in Southeast Asia … as all those incurred during the ten
years of American involvement.” That and his comparison of the rules of
engagement in Vietnam
to WWII will especially resonate with Vietnam Vets. He also writes that
(Capitalism) is a peculiar Western practice that acknowledges the self-interest
of man and channels that greed to the production of vast amounts of goods and
services through free markets and institutionalized guarantees of personal
profit, free exchange, deposited capital, and private property.” The
economically-ignorant OWS crowd might well wonder what they would do without
credit cards, laptops, smart phones, not to mention food and clothing, if they
destroy the system that has created a surplus of goods and freedom from want. I
highly recommend this book.
My wife and I maximize our drive time by listening to books on tape, and this was the latest. Washington's Crossing is an entertaining, informative and well-written account of the American Revolution in the pivotal years of 1776-77. Though I have an MEd in history and have been a Revolutionary War buff since my teens (which I some days think were just after the Revolution), I learned a great deal from this book, especially about the "forage war" which took place after Trenton and Princeton, and took as great a toll on the British and Hessians in a serious of small actions as a major victory over them would have done. This book will educate you about the war, stir your patriotism, and remind you what a fine thing these men passed to us through their courage, sacrifice and dedication. And it will burnish your admiration for the Father of our Country. It remains to be seen if we can pass this Republic intact to future generations. But Washington's Crossing will inspire you to keep fighting.
Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General by British Major General Mungo Melvin
General Melvin obviously set out to write the definitive biography of Manstein and in my view has succeeded. This will now be the standard work on Manstein, against which all others will be judged. At over 500 pages, it is for the serious historian or the dedicated WWII/Military History buff, not the casual reader looking to pass a few hours. Given the complexity of the Eastern Front, the inclusion of clear, easy to understand maps is a plus. Melvin has both the professional ability to understand and judge Manstein’s decisions, and a fine ability to clearly convey them to the reader, even to readers like myself who never commanded anything larger than a 3-man radio relay team. Melvin clearly admires Manstein’s operational genius, but pulls no punches on the Field Marshal’s willingness to turn a blind eye to Nazi terror to protect his own career. Like so many German officers, Manstein was not a Nazi, but made his peace with them, a peace that led to atrocities in his area, for which he was convicted of war crimes in 1948. He fought Hitler on operational decisions, but not on moral ones, and felt he could not join the attempt on Hitler’s life without betraying his troops who were fighting the Russians. It is interesting that many in
Britain opposed the prosecution of
Manstein, and no less a figure than Churchill made a token contribution to his
defense. The reader is left to wonder if, raised in the Prussian military
tradition, you would have sacrificed career and perhaps family and life to
oppose Hitler’s murderous policies. Some did, Manstein did not. We can only
hope we would have acted differently in the same circumstances.
The Fall of
And the End of Civilization by Bryan
The Fall of Rome was recommended to me by a friend who had read my book, The Coming Collapse of the
: and what you
can do to prevent it. Dr. Ward-Perkins has done truth and scholarship a
service with this short book, doubtless at some discomfort in modern academia.
He is scrupulous in research and in not going beyond the extant evidence, but
he dispels the PC notion that Romans welcomed the barbarians and together they
fairly-peacefully transformed American
laying the foundation for today’s early-retirement, high-vacation E-utopia. I
have a master’s in history, but am far more of a dilettante than a scholar in
the field, so I found the fact-base focus on the distribution of high-quality
Roman pot shards as opposed to infantry tactics in key battles a bit dry. But
Dr. Ward-Perkins draws many compelling factors together. His description (p136)
of how specialization contributed to the collapse of living standards and
population when the decline and fall forced people to a localized, subsistence
economy was frightening. Most Americans are ill-prepared to survive in such a
world, where our highly-compensated, specialized skills will be of little use,
and I fear that it may well be coming. But, as he points out in his chilling
closing, people in the late could no more
imagine that things wouldn’t go on forever as they always had, than most
citizens of the West can today. Both Europe and Roman
Republic America have been invaded, if you
will, by people from—in the PC phrase—less complex cultures. While they carry
no battle axes (unless sold to them by the ATF, I suppose), neither are they
met by the Legion’s shield-wall, short swords and pila. I suspect that Dr.
Ward-Perkins looked on the recent riots in Britain
and realized that the UK,
Europe and America
have created homegrown Visigoths and Vandals in our cities. I fear this is not
so much an interesting book about the past as a picture of our future.
Never Without Heroes by
C. Vetter Lawrence
A fine history of the Marine Third Recon Battalion in
by an officer who served with recon and led patrols. This book is well-written,
with a lot of attention to personal details, from the heroic to the
humorous...to the tragic. The men of Third Recon earned four Medals of Honor,
13 Navy Crosses, 72 Silver Stars, and numerous Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts.
They took many casualties and inflicted many more on a tough, professional
enemy. The book had a personal note for me, an account of a rocket attack I was
on the receiving end of in July of 1967, with details I didn't know. As a Radio
Relay Team Chief, I was lucky enough to be in a much safer billet with Regt. HQ
than these guys, but this book made me proud to have worn the same uniform. It
will be appreciated by all Marines, everyone interested in military history or
small unit operations, and those who appreciate human courage.
Noble Warrior: The Life and Times of Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC
Readers of my blog will know that I read a lot of books. Because I choose carefully, I recommend about half of them to other folks. This is the best book I have read in at least a year, probably longer. It’s an autobiography, but because the General wisely selected two competent co-authors/researchers to assist, it has a much wider perspective than usual, and is free of the self-aggrandizement too common in memoirs. Marines, Vietnam vets, and military history buffs will be enthralled by the account of Captain Livingston leading his beloved Echo Company of 2/4 (the Magnificent Bastards) in a bayonet charge at the battle of Dai Do, a fight that arguably saved the Dong Ha Combat Base from being overrun, thus giving a great strategic and political victory to the Communists. His was one of two Medals of Honor earned in the battle. Anyone who thinks the fighting in
Vietnam was less intense than in
other wars, or the troops less courageous, should read this book and be
educated out of their error. For anyone interested in the dynamics of
leadership, General Livingston could bottle and sell the stuff by the case. Then-Captain
Livingston was a self-admitted “hard ass,” insisting on physical training even
in the field, and grooming standards and combat training when “resting” in
“rear areas.” (Marines will understand why I put those things in quotes.) He is
the kind of officer the troops grumble about until they have been in and survived
combat. Then they respect and love him forever. The many interesting sidebars
with comments from his troops, peers and commanding officers, which greatly add
to the book, make it clear how respected and beloved General Livingston was and
is by his brother Marines. General Livingston gives full credit to his troops
and superiors, a trait of modesty that seems to come with America’s
highest decoration for valor. They all say they wear it for their comrades, and
the General is no different. There is strikingly little of the “I-I-I-I” in
this book you hear so often in the speeches of politicians safely in Washington, sending
better men and women to war, and taking credit for their victories. The book
has several additional value-added bonuses. General Livingston played a major
role in the final evacuation of Saigon,
interesting and bitter reading for any vet. He was involved in fighting the
Communist insurgency in the Philippines,
and probably narrowly escaped assignation. He served as an officer and in a
civilian capacity in New Orleans,
and has important insights into the tragedy that befell that city during
Katrina. Lastly, his comments on the current military and political situation,
and concerns for the future, should be read by all serving officers, but more
importantly by policy-makers in Washington.
Marines like me, who were fortunate enough not to be assigned to rifle
companies in Vietnam, will always wonder if we could have measured up to be one
of Jim Livingston’s Marines. Perhaps, if he “kicked us in the ass” (his phrase)
enough, but we will never know. The phony veterans who keep popping up, and the
many who never darkened a recruiting office door to try to serve, they do know,
and must, as Shakespeare said, “hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
that fought with” Livingston at Dai Do. Every Marine who reads this book will
be proud to have worn the same uniform as General Livingston.
Strength & Honor by Terry L. Garlock
This excellent book was recommended to me by my friend and fellow Marine Vietnam vet "Del" Del Vecchio, whose story is first in the book. I regret it took so long to work it's way to the top of my reading pile. It's a wonderful collection of individual stories from vets, all with the clear ring of truth, that should be read by every
Vietnam vet and the people who care
about them, but everyone who wants to know what that war was truly like and by
anyone interested in the realities of combat. Vets should be warned this book
will arouse a great deal of emotion: laughter, grief, pride and, yes, anger.
There is a terrific piece by a B-52 pilot. Having watched an Arc Light strike
east of Khe Sanh, I appreciated learning how they were delivered. Garlock was a
chopper pilot, and the book is heavy towards chopper stories, but I have no
problem with that. Everyone who served in Vietnam has a special place in
their hearts for the helicopter crews we depended on. WWII may have been the
greatest generation, but America
needs to know how great the generation they sent to Vietnam was--and those who
mistreated vets on their return deserve to live in shame. There are many more
stories out there that deserved to be collected and known.
A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester
We listen to books on tape (or CD now) in the car, to increase our reading time. My wife and I both just finished this on a trip. It's a terrific, well-written overview of that age, with lots of detail about the intramural warfare and murders of Christian by Christian over blasphemy and apostasy and doctrine, much like some other religion we can't mention does today. Great coverage on Magellan's voyage and how it changed the world. We both recommend it. I've loved everything I've read by
Manchester, including his WWII Marine memoir,
Shade it Black by Jess Goodell
A friend sent me an autographed copy of “Shade it Black,” which I read in a day. As a Marine Vietnam Veteran (of no particular distinction), I have to say that Jess Goodell is a better Marine than I am, because she bravely performed a duty I don’t believe I could have done, working in Mortuary Affairs and dealing every day with the horrific dead of modern combat. That duty wounded her as deeply as any veteran who lost a limb, but it was a wound unseen and largely unacknowledged. I would not recommend this book to someone of fragile sensibilities. PTSD is very real and very painful. Unfortunately, because it is not a visible wound, it is also possible to fake it, as detailed in the great book about phony
Vietnam vets, “Stolen Valor,” which
I highly recommend. And agencies or providers in the money flow have no
incentive to expose the fakes, which means they suck up resources needed by
veterans like Goodell. Cash flow is probably why the CDC and the VA have such a
different estimate of real PTSD among Vietnam
veterans, and why so many groups raising money put out inflated phony claims of
the suicide rate among Vietnam
vets. Having in the past sent several hundred dollars to a woman Marine I knew
to escape from an abusive marriage (she paid back every penny), I was
disappointed to read that Goodell’s comrades offered her so little support
after she left the Corps. This book may also make you rethink the
politically-correct idea that women can be injected into the macho male
environment of combat without adverse conditions. Thank you, Jess, for your service
to our Corps, to your fellow Marines and to our Republic. Semper Fidelis
Semper Cool by Barry Fixler
A friend sent me a copy of Semper Cool, and I read it in 24 hours. It made me proud to be a Marine, and to have served in the same regiment as Cpl. Fixler, the 26th Marines--though I was lucky enough to be with HQ and to rotate home from Khe Sanh in September of 67, before things got bad. All Marines will appreciate Barry Fixler's no-BS account, but so will anyone who wants to know what it was really like at the sharp end, warts and all. Too many memoirs make the writer sound like Rambo. Fixler's has the ring of truth, of a fine combat Marine doing a tough job, making mistakes, and coming through. Be warned there are gritty accounts of both the horrors of battle, and the excesses of young warriors on leave. And the language is what you would expect of men in combat, not suitable for polite company. There's a lot of humor, too, the kind of stories only a Marine could tell. You won't regret buying this book for many reasons. I was especially pleased to see he was donating his royalties to a charity to help vets as I am doing with my book, Collapse. I hope he gets the sales he deserves.
Road of 10,000 Pains: The Destruction of the 2nd NVA Division by the
1967 by Otto J. Lehrack U.S.
If you want to know what close infantry combat was like in
this oral history of the bloodiest campaign of the war will tell you. Because
it jumps from points of view, it’s not great for reconstructing what happened when.
But it’s superb for sharing in what the grunts went through. This took place
when I was mostly in-country, but I was safely elsewhere, thankfully.
Brute--the Life of Victor
by Robert Coram Krulak,
This is a terrific biography of the man it calls, with justification, "the most important officer in the history of the United States Marine Corps." Brute Krulak was my commanding general when I was on Okinawa and in
though, thankfully, Cpl. Hall never did anything brave or disastrous enough to
come to his attention. We all knew he was a demanding perfectionist, a
brilliant thinker and very short--God help the Marine who looked down at him
during an inspection. Are you interested in WWII? It was Brute who pushed
development of the Higgins boat, which Ike said won the war. Brute was the
driving force behind the "Chowder Society" which saved not only the
Marine Corps, but prevented the imposition of a military strongman who reported
only to the president, a threat to American democracy. Korea? Brute told the Army that a
Marine brigade could sail in five days, when the Army was being pushed
back--and delivered, saving the Pusan Perimeter. He was high in the councils
planning the Inchon landing for Macarthur, and
pioneered helicopters and vertical envelopment, a revolutionary tactic the Army
would adopt from him for Vietnam.
He developed the strategy of protecting villagers with CAP units and was the
only senior general to tell Lyndon Johnson his and Westmoreland's strategy was
failing--which cost him a fourth star and the position of Commandant of the
Corps--which his son would later hold. Nor does the book neglect Brute's
hero-size flaws. The only glaring error I noted was the author saying the
Marines lost more men on Iwo Jima than the
Japanese. We took more casualties--30,000 to 22,000. But most of the 22,000
were dead, while the Marines and Navy personnel had about 6,800 killed. That's
still a horrible butcher's bill, but not more than the enemy paid in
"lost." Still, Coram is a fine writer--I finished the book in two
days. And I highly recommend it.
A Patriot’s History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen
I found this book when looking for a one-volume
history to recommend as part of my “Reading List for the Educated Voter.”
(Linked below) At 830 pages, this book takes a time investment, but is well
worth it, if you haven’t reviewed US History since college. Or never. It’s a
good book to buy for you high school and college students—if you can get them
to read it! I have a Masters in History and read history for pleasure, so I
picked up many small details I consider to be errors in fact, which hopefully
will be corrected in future editions. But they didn’t impact the broad
conclusions. The authors are academic historians, and do not gloss over the bad
patches, such as slavery and the treatment of the indigenous population (what
we used to call “Indians” before PC took hold.) On the other hand, the book was
free of the Marxist cant and genuflections to leftist chimeras so prevalent on
campus today. They do an excellent job of achieving balance, for example,
criticizing FDR for depression-extending economic policies while praising his
wartime leadership and diplomacy. Certainly the last chapter on the Bush
presidency and the War on Terror will be disputed by the left, but it brings
balance to the narrative they push in a sycophantic media. The book is well
written and clear, not difficult to understand, which is a benefit. You can
read the mixed reviews on Amazon for more details—you’ll be able to discern the
world views of the writers!
Sowing the Wind: The Seeds of Conflict in the
By John Keay. I’ve recommended this before, but given what is going on there, if you and Obama and Clinton haven’t read it, now might be a good time. A broad look at an area we will be engaged with for a long time. This is an excellent one-volume history of the Middle East, from 1890 through the
in 1956, with an epilog to bring us up to date. The catalog of crime and
invasion, contention, execution and insurrection, siege and betrayal of
Hashemite vs. Wahhabi, Sunni vs. Shia vs. Kurd vs. Turk, Allies vs. Ottomans,
Britain vs. France, Zionists vs. Muslims, and other groups great and small
would give a tourist pause, never mind a diplomat or soldier.
Leatherneck Legends: Conversations with the Marine Corps Old Breed by Col. Dick Camp USMC (Ret).
I just finished Leatherneck Legends: Conversations with the Marine Corps Old Breed by Col. Dick Camp USMC (Ret). (Col. Camp is a distinguished combat Marine himself, and a terrific writer.) Part memoir, part history, the book follows five Marine icons from WWI through
in their own words, from interviews, histories and their writings. They are Lem
Shepherd, Roy Geiger, Eddie Craig, Ray Davis and Bob Barrow. While this is
well-plowed ground for those interested in Marine or military history, there
were a lot of new details and stories that made it a great read.
The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don'ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life by Charles Murray
This wonderful book was given to me by my friend Chuck to read in the hospital, which I did in under two days, despite time out to be poked by various healthcare professionals. Its major drawback is that it was published in 2014, and I really needed it in 1969. This is the perfect gift for your college students or recent graduates, provided they are literate and can read and comprehend above the newspaper level, which has dropped from 8th grade reading in recent years to The Little Engine That Could level. It assumes the reader is in his/her twenties, bright and looking to get ahead. There are pretty much three sections, one on developing a successful career, one on becoming a great writer, which I wish I had read 25 years ago, and a final one on having a good life. There was little I disagree with, and I’m probably wrong where I do. I highly recommend this book.
Economics and politics
Must Read: Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
I learned more from this book than any other book I have ever read--and I had economics in high school and it was covered in my college political science classes. Sowell is not only brilliant, but writes well for the average reader.
Must Read: Race & Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination? By Walter E. Williams
Dr. Williams, like Dr. Thomas Sowell, grew up poor and black (Williams in the
projects) to become a nationally-known economist. They both have put a lot of
focus on the intersection of economics, race and culture. This well researched
and documented book contains his data-driven conclusions on the subject, and
details how government interventions, sold as benign, have too often
disadvantaged blacks and other minorities, while protecting white racists in
unions and in the trades and professions. It also offers alternate
possibilities for what is seen as racism which are thought provoking. I highly
Up From The Projects by Walter Williams
The autobiography of economist Walter Williams, PhD. A short book that I finished in two nights, despite three business conference calls. Well worth reading. William grew up poor and black in a
Philadelphia housing project, has become a
leading educator, economist, columnist and opponent of racism. That would be
the liberal racism that says we need lower admission standards and lower
grading standards for blacks, because they are mentally challenged and can’t
compete with whites. An inspiring story.
Must Read: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. By Jonathan Haidt
I suppose the best compliment is that throughout this insightful and well-written book, I kept wishing the author was present so I could discuss, and often argue points with him. (And I suppose he was glad to be far away.) To be fair, many of the points I wanted to argue he addressed and resolved further on. Haidt is a self-described left-wing academic and atheist, though of Jewish heritage. He is a Kerry and Obama supporter, a bias he is very open about and references throughout this work. But he is also an intellectually honest man and—so rare on today’s campuses—open to diversity of thought, the only kind of diversity that really matters. A “Moral Psychologist,” Haidt makes a very solid academic research effort to understand the moral foundations of both conservative and liberal political thought, as well as why religion is important in human societies. The book held my interest throughout, and will be of great value to thinkers on both the right and the left of our political divide, who will gain understanding of why they hold the views they do, and why others hold different views. Shouters and haters, not so much. Read through the reviews on Amazon. This book is well worth your time.
: A History. By Thomas Sowell America
Dr. Sowell looks at the history and integration in to American life of several ethnic groups, such as Jews, Germans, Irish, Mexicans, blacks, etc., as well as the intersection of the cultures they brought with them and the cultures they developed in
America. Published in 1981, much of
the data has been outdated by demographic and immigration changes, but his
insights into these issues are timeless. For example, his research indicate
that the eastern European Jews were the most destitute and illiterate of the
immigrant groups, and scored low on IQ tests, leading commentators to say that
the idea of the Jew as intelligent was a myth. Of course, now they are among
the most economically and academically successful of ethnic groups in America,
with IQs, college degrees and percentage holding professional jobs far above
the national average. Based on contemporary thinking of progressives, this must
be because these poor, literate Jews discriminated against native white
Christians to get ahead of the rest of us!
Applied Economics by Dr. Thomas Sowell
Also excellent, though not as comprehensive as Basic Economics. Sowell is an internationally-known economist, with updates from recent events in politics and the economy. It’s written for the general public, so is easy to read and understand, but is very helpful on understanding why things have happened as they have—or will happen. I think you’ll find the 50 pages on the economics of healthcare worth the price. The sections on the housing crisis, the economics of slavery and the economics of discrimination were also quite interesting. Sowell preaches “Stag Two” thinking, pushing readers to think beyond the immediate to the longer term effects of political and economic decisions.
Must Read: Coming Apart: The State of
1960-2010 By Charles Murray America
Excerpt: Despite the subtitle, this is a book about class, not race. The author is looking at a lot of data that suggested the upper class that runs the country, which he calls the Narrow Elite and the Broad Elite, is increasingly wealthy, increasingly takes in both liberals and conservatives with high IQs and is increasingly isolated from the experience of the rest of America. He focuses on whites because that Narrow Elite is overwhelmingly white. He also focuses on the white lower class, so the comparison will not be between a white upper class and a minority lower class. He looks at a lot of data suggesting the white lower class is being destroyed by several trends: decreasing industriousness and ability to hold jobs among males, decreasing participation in civic organizations or churches, decreasing marriage rates, decreasing rates of trust and neighborliness, and sharply escalating non-marital birth rates, all trends that suggest the destruction of both happiness for these folks and what he calls the "American Project." Interestingly, after detailing the rolling disaster that is over-taking the white lower class, he presents data that suggest the minority lower class is not much different, contrary to what many might expect. This reinforces my long-held belief that race doesn't matter, culture matters a great deal. I do not think this is a "liberal" or a "Conservative" book. He says he is neither, but is a libertarian, rare among social scientists. He carefully points out in what I think is a balanced way how liberals or conservatives might draw differing interpretations from the data than he does. Most frightening for me is that the short book I published a year ago, The Coming Collapse of the American Republic, does not include
coming apart along class lines--his title thesis--among the top four problems
facing our country. Add this log to the staggering camel's back.
The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925. By Herbert G. Gutman
This well researched and extensively documented history, published in 1976, presents a far more positive and uplifting view of black people living under the evil of slavery than the current standard, and in my view condescending and racist view of blacks, then and now, and that today's pathologies in the black community are a result of slavery, which destroyed the black family. Unfortunately, despite extensive, data-driven research, it has failed to change the national understanding of slavery and blacks. I think this is because there is great political value to the race-baiters and big-government politicians in keeping the majority of black people convinced they are eternally the victims of the legacy of slavery, and can only depend on government programs and special preferences to get ahead or even get by, because slavery has left them unable to compete with whites. It must be said that Professor Gutman's research is often presented at tedious length, and the history buff, as opposed to the working historian, may want to skip the extensive pages of genealogies created from plantation and Freedmen's Bureau records he uses to hammer home his points. But Gutman conclusively demonstrates that, despite the evils of families being broken up by sale of a partner or child, the vast majority of slaves lived in dual headed-households, that a large majority formed long lasting marriages, that they formed kin networks across plantation lines (similar to west African kin networks), that a majority of slave children were named by their parents, often for a relative, living or dead, and that a great many adopted surnames before the end of slavery, often unknown to the slave-owner and not based on his name. He also demonstrates that slaves had their own culture, that was not imitative of planter culture as often assumed. For example, in slave culture, marrying blood cousins was taboo, while it was widely practiced among the elite white planter class. Most slaves were not promiscuous, living in the moment, unable to form personal bonds because of slavery, as too many think today. They were a resilient and adaptable people in the face of great headship and evil. Blacks, Gutman's research shows, had a stronger family structure in 1866 than Americans of any color have today. Most telling, the vast majority of slave children grew up in dual-headed households, despite the breakup of many families by sale. And when death or sale broke up a household, the children were very often taken in and raised by kin or friends, despite how little they had. Contrast that with today where 70% of black babies, about 50% of Latino babies and about 30% of white babies are now non-marital births (and growing every year--whites are catching up), which is highly correlated with poverty, poor education and behavioral problems. Despite the extensive tables, the book also contains countless personal and inspiring stories from the records and letters that would make you weep. The one that stuck in my mind was a petition of recently-freed slaves to the Freedmen's Bureau, asking for help dealing with the white landowners (who weren't inclined to be over-generous with workers they used to "own"!). These former slaves wrote that, "We are a working class of people." Would they consider contemporary Americans, black or white, a "Working class of people"? One wonders if the blacks folks in slavery or immediately after abolition would not feel contempt for our culture today for squandering what they longed and labored to hard to obtain.
I've ordered copies of this book to give as gifts; it has over 2,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. Dr. Carson, a brilliant neurosurgeon, has long been prominent in the medical world. Recently he burst into the political world when he was invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast. He refused to let Obama's handlers read (and presumably censor) his speech in advance. His criticism of Obamacare made him an instant darling of conservatives, and calls for "
for President" began to be heard. But Carson is, or was as of the writing of this
book, a long-time independent, and he condemns the behavior of both parties. He
is clearly a fiscal conservative who believes in limited government and
self-reliance. But his views on many social issues such as immigration,
healthcare, racism and the safety net might take some of the shine off his
luster for social conservatives. Never having held public office, he also has
what I think is a charmingly-naive faith in the power of logic, common sense
and morality to move politicians to work to solve problems for the common good.
Speaking as a former five-term state senator, in politics, if it wins the next
election, it's moral and common sense to do it, for both sides. An example is
his statement that if more anti-Nazi Germans would have spoken out against
Hitler, the holocaust could have been avoided. but those who did, like Hans and
Sophia Scholl, were executed. Likewise, he says as do many that the moderate
Muslims need to speak out against the jihadists. But, again, every day
moderates who speak out are murdered. It's why a man with a six shot revolver
can often hold off an unarmed crowd of a hundred--he can't kill them all, but
no one wants to be the first to rush him. Never-the-less, I would vote for Dr.
Carson for public office given the chance, even though I would disagree on some
policy issues. He projects an ethical basis and a deep religious conviction,
which are attested to by his works, and there is no doubt that his intellect
and work ethic is in the 99th percentile. His story is moving. Like Thomas
Sowell and Walter Williams, Carson grew up in
abject poverty, in his case in the Detroit
and Boston Ghettos, where his mother, who was functionally illiterate worked
menial jobs to put food on the table, but insisted on a solid education for
Carson and his brother. She made the boys read and write reports on two books a
week, which they never realized she couldn't read. For a treat, she'd save
enough money to take them to the fair--enough to get in, that is. There was no
money to ride the rides or buy an ice cream cone. Carson, blessed with that intellect and work
ethic, overcame poverty and racism to become very wealthy from his surgery,
books, and public speaking. He and his wife Candy have funded the Carson
Scholars Program, which offers an opportunity to get better educations to kids
with the intellectual potential but not the funds. He has a new book out, One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save
America's Future, which I look forward to reading. Carson on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Carson
Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli's Iron Rules Are As Timely And Important Today As Five Centuries Ago by Michael A. Ledeen
Michael Ledeen is a terrific commentator and policy analyst whose work I link to in my Old Jarhead blog from time to time. Thus when I recently stumbled across this book, I grabbed it. It was written at the end of the
era, so the “current examples” are a few years old, but cover lots of
depredations worth remembering. If you haven’t read Machiavelli’s The Prince, you should do so for its own
sake, as well as to better understand this fine book on leadership in the real
world. I first read The Prince in
1970 or 71 when it was assigned in a government class on Modern Political
Thought at U-Mass by a brilliant political science professor from Pakistan.
He asked, “What qualities does Machiavelli recommend a prince have, that you
wouldn’t want in a US
President?” Then as each of the starry-eyed U-Mass students put forth
objections, he eviscerated them. Lovely stuff. This would have been of great
value for leaders to read in the run-up to the 2008 fiscal crisis. Ledeen
quotes Allan H. Meltzer’s “Moral Hazard Goes Global”: “Where [there are]
guarantees that some or all of an institution’s losses will be shifted to
taxpayers…while gains will be kept by the institution’s owners, the institution
will be led to take excessive risks.” Boy, did we pay for not understanding
that, from Fannie Mae where Jim Johnson and Frank Raines got rich off our
wallets to the too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks that we bailed out. This is
well worth reading.
Ever Wonder Why? And Other Controversial Essays. By Thomas Sowell
I was picking up a copy of Walter William's excellent Race and Economics in Half Price Books, and stumbled over this Sowell book, a twofer! This is a collection of Sowell's pre-2006 columns, which he felt had enduring relevance. they are organized by topic: cultural issues, political issues, economic issues, racial issues, etc. Everyone is worth reading for his insight and ability to communicate clearly. But, like Georg4 Orwell's barnyard communists, "some animals are more equal than others." You won't regret the time spent reading these gems.
Lords of the Levee: The Story of Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink. By Llyod Wendt, Herman Kogan and Bette Jore.
This book published in 1943 was reissued a few years ago. It's a fascinating political history of two early
Chicago "Community Organizers,"
Democrat First Ward Aldermen John Coughlin and Mike Kenna, in the late 19th and
early 20th century. If you want to understand how Chicago Way politics became as they are
today, this is a great place to start--and excellent entertainment as well.
Vote fraud (50 cents per vote was the going price to pay "floaters"
to come into the ward and vote multiple times), corruption and legislative vote
selling (called "boodling" by the press), protection payoffs from
gambling and bawdy houses to fund the Democrat machine--it's all here. In those
days, it was out in the open. Now they try to keep it hidden from feds and the
press, which still does weekly stories that would turn our stomachs, except
those of us who live in have become inured
to corruption stories. We read them, complain, and forget. And one-party rule
goes on. This was the age of "reform" Governor John Peter Altgelt
(the "Eagle that is Forgotten" of Vachel Lindsay's poem), William
Jennings Bryan (Coughlin and Kenna were "free silver" men), Big Bill
Thompson, TR and at end of the story, Al Capone. If you have an interest in
politics, history and/or Cook
you'll want to read this book.
White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Race Riots to
By Colin Flaherty America
first black attorney general, famously said the United States was “a nation of
cowards” on matters of race, because most people won’t talk openly about racial
matters. (Perhaps “Eric Withholder” would be a better name, as he continues to
stonewall Congress over releasing documents about his department’s “Fast and
Furious” program which killed hundreds of Mexicans and two US Agents.) To
refute Holder, comes now the brave Colin Flaherty, with this book about black
on white violence in America.
Do not expect his reward to be a medal for bravery from the DOJ for discussing
these matters. So far, his reward has been to be vilified as a racist, the
usual fate of anyone who candidly discusses race without agreeing 100% with the
progressive meme on race. I fear he is likely to suffer worse, from IRS audits
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Ali suffered genital mutilation as a child, was sent to an arranged marriage, escaped to
became a citizen and a member of parliament. She risked her life to make a
movie exposing Muslim mistreatment of women; the producer, Theo van Gogh was
murdered on the street by a Muslim for the movie. Of course, this made her
anathema to the left, who think that not paying for birth control for yuppie
college students is a "War on Women," but excuse murder, oppression,
stoning and other barbarous treatment of women by Muslims because "all
cultures are equally valid." Ali is a real feminist. This is inspiring.
Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones. By Greg Campbell
I have never bought a diamond. When I married late in life, at age 46, I explained to my bride that the Scottish tradition was for a silver antique Luchenbooth Brooch. This saved our now-joint finances many thousands of dollars, and, since she had a nice diamond ring from her mother (for which people doubtless give me credit), she was fine with that. Having read this book, I’m very glad. It details the Diamond War in
Sierra Leone. Frankly, there wasn’t
much to choose between the horrors of the rebels, the horrors of the government
troops, and the horrors of the UN “peacekeepers.” Would you buy that pretty stone
if you knew that people were murdered, people had their hands cut off in the
terror campaign, children were forced to become child soldiers or prostitutes,
and the country was destroyed, all to control the diamond mines, and the
criminal smuggling—many thousands of them? Diamonds not only funded arms for
these groups, they funded al Qaeda, providing them a ready source of laundered,
easily moved and converted wealth to carry out attacks on us. In addition to
helping fund terror, you probably paid too much if you bought a diamond. The
book goes into the history of the diamond industry, and how De Beers controls
the market, manipulates prices and created the myth that a man should expect to
pay two month’s salary for an engagement ring. (So propose only when you are
out of work.) De Beers also is famous for “A Diamond is Forever.” So, alas, is
amputation, as thousands of beggars in Freeport
can attest. A political-thriller movie of the same title was apparently based
on the book—I have not seen it. The author, a journalist, takes George Bush to
task for intervening in Iraq,
but not Sierra Leona. It is difficult for me to see what national interests we
had there, and the world would have accused us of wanting to trade Blood for
Diamonds instead of Blood for Oil, regardless of our motives. (We won in Iraq—at
least temporarily—but that oil thing hasn’t worked out so well.) Still, I
highly recommend this book.
Ameritopia: The Unmaking of
by Mark Levin America
With Liberty and Tyranny, Mark Levin established himself as a major current political thinker, able to convey complicated concepts in clear, concise language. Therefore, I was looking forward to finding the time to read Ameritopia. It did not disappoint, and should be required reading for anyone to serve in public office, not in place of, but in addition to
and Tyranny. Levin reviews utopian political thought, from Plato to Marx, and
contrasts it with the political thought of Locke, Montesquieu and de
Tocqueville, which are so foundational to our limited .
Levin demonstrates with frightening precision how far the Republic has strayed
from the principals that guaranteed our freedom and prosperity. I wish I had
this book when I was wading through these writers while majoring in political
science at the government Republic , though
many of my professors were ivory tower utopian statists. Some of the quotes are
gems. From Montesquieu: "When legislative power is united with executive
power in a single person or a simple body of magistracy, there is no liberty,
because one can fear that the same monarch or senate that makes tyrannical laws
will execute them tyrannically. Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is
not separate from legislative power and from executive power." One immediately
thinks of Czars, Executive Orders, ignoring Congress on the War Powers Act, and
the attack on the Supreme Court. Levin points out that, " University
of Massachusetts America has become a society in
which the people are wise enough to select their own leaders, but too incompetent
to choose the right lightbulb." Indeed.
Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for
How We Can Get More of It. By Arthur C. Brooks America
Excerpt: I heard the author speak at a conference a few years ago, was very impressed, and bought the book. But I proceeded to let it get buried in the reading pile under history, economic and political books. Thankfully, I finally read it—it’s a terrific book. Brooks is an economist and academic, and this book is data driven by population surveys, both in the
around the world. He draws conclusions from the data, which you may not like.
People wedded to a viewpoint that cannot be moved by data, left or right, are
likely to hate it. There are many surprises here. Brooks looks at the data on
what makes people happy or unhappy: religion, political views, marriage, jobs,
incomes, charitable involvement, and so on, across demographic groups. This
should be read especially by policy makers who might do well to understand what
is likely to preserve and increase national happiness. My own take, which I put
on my Old Jarhead Blog, has always been, “With all due respect to Tom
Jefferson, ‘pursuing happiness’ doesn’t work. But if you commit yourself to
things you care about more than yourself, such as family, job, non-profit
cause, church or temple, community, or service to your country, happiness will
find you.” Nothing here changed my mind on that point, though the data
surprised me in some areas as they did Brooks. Arthur C. Brooks is Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and
Government Policy at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and
The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the
Against Fate. By Robert D. Kaplan
This is a wonderfully-written book that will make you look at a lot of issues in a new light. It is about the intersection of geography with history, geopolitics, national interests and power. Though I have a master’s degree in history and am well read in the field, I also learned a great deal about non-European history. Particularly
India and the Middle East, though of course in one book it could only
take a broad brush approach to these things. Unfortunately, Kaplan gave me
several new worries about the future, and I was already pretty pessimistic.
This is a high level review of geo-strategy, and should be read by policy
makers at all levels. It requires some focus; certainly not light
entertainment. The most interesting section was the last. Kaplan argues that Mexico, with a long border with the US, is far more important to us than Iraq, Afghanistan
and the Middle East. Given that Mexico and Central America have a rapidly
developing population—now at 50% of the United
States—and a native US
birthrate below the replacement level, he argues that we cannot afford to have Mexico
become a failed narco-state on our border. Everyone involved in the current
immigration debate would do well to read this and look at the big picture view
Leadership Defined by Col. Don Myers, USMC (Ret)
Some people who never served in the military will doubtless be put off by the fact that the author is a Marine. Col. Myers draws on his experience in the Corps for examples, but also on a successful career as general manager of a large company and of a school for troubled boys after he retired from the Marines. Anyone in a position of leadership--or who aspires to one--in any organization can benefit from the wisdom in this short, well-written book. It would certainly be of value to executives in my field of association management, as Myers has clearly laid out methods for getting the most out of a team. And that's the real secret of success in any field. The book made me regret that I never had the opportunity to serve under Col. Myers during my time in the Corps. And that several of my bosses in both the Marines and in the civilian world had clearly never read it.
The Terrorist Next Door by Erick Stakelbeck
A friend sent me this book on Friday. Bang, there went the weekend, I
'm writing this Sunday
night. Erick Stakelbeck is a courageous investigative journalist who has
researched the threat of radical Jihadism both in the United States and abroad. Armed
with only a notebook or a camera, he has met with some of the most dangerous
terror supporters in the world. And he has extensively detailed the danger in
this readable, but frightening book. In my book, The Coming Collapse of the American Republic, I include a short
review of the Jihadist threat as one of the four existential threats combining
to destroy our country. The Terrorist
Next Door is an in-depth examination of this particular danger. Stakelbeck
was able to do the in-person investigations worldwide that were beyond my
resources. I wish I 'd had his book
as a resource when writing Collapse.
Radicalization and the Islamist threat are far more wide-spread in our country,
and the danger from terror-supporting states more grave, than the politicians
would have you believe. As I write, there is one negative review on Amazon,
which, because his conclusions and facts are so well documented, has to attack
Stakelbeck personally. Because of the other challenges we face, especially the
looming financial collapse I detail in my short book, we will be hard pressed
to find the resources to deal with the Jihadist threat, at home or abroad. Time
is short, and the threat grows unchecked every day. I urge you to read this
book, to recommend it to your friends, and to send a copy to your Congressman.
Children of Jihad by Jared Cohen.
Cohen was a gutsy Jewish grad student and Rhodes Scholar at
Oxford. He traveled to Iran, Lebanon,
and other Muslim countries. There he befriends young Muslims. He reports on
those meetings and their views. This is not a one-dimensional portrait or
anti-Muslim book. The hope many of them have for a freer society and economic
opportunity, and their at least passive resistance to the theocrats who rule
them comes through. But so too does the fanaticism many have imbibed since
children. Easy read, about $10 on Amazon, not hard to read.
Excerpt: I wish I could buy a copy for every member of Congress, the President and the Secretary of State--and get them to read it. Required reading for an understanding of this aspect of the challenges facing us. Islamic Imperialism is well written and well researched. It starts with the advent of Islamic conquests of other peoples and brings it forward to the struggles in our current day. It also reveals how many "Islamic" leaders used Islam as a handy rallying point and cover for their personal ambitions. We must find an answer to the Islamist threat if we are to survive.
Israel and Europe may be lost, and America is in
Don’t Tell Me Words Don’t Matter by Joel Pollak
I had this book on my shelf since I supported the author, Joel Pollak, in his campaign for congress in 2010. In my professional view, Joel ran a brilliant, but underfunded campaign in a hopelessly D+25 district. He’s one of those folks you meet that you know after a few minutes are brighter than you. As a Harvard law grad, not to mention a degree in Jewish studies from South Africa, I was more worried about clarity and writing for a general public, but this book is clear, easy to read (I finished in under a day), and well written. Nor does it miss the literary touches—I especially liked “pixels sliding across a teleprompter,” and will certainly plagiarize the phrase sometime in the future. This is a conservative review of the 2008 election. Pollak is a conservative and was a McCain volunteer, so conservatives will like the book more than liberals. Pollak calls them like he sees them, and doesn’t hesitate to call out McCain’s and Bush’s strategic, tactical and policy errors as much as those of Obama and the left. I highly recommend this short but very readably history of the 2008 election, and what it means for our future.
This short collection—I read it in under two days—has several excellent essays each worth the price of the book.
Shakedown by Ezra
I read this 200-page book in two evenings. While it’s about the Human Rights Commissions in
and their assault on free speech, it’s a great warning for us, since the
statists want to restrict free speech here in the name of controlling “hate
speech,” as they define it, (and have done so on university campuses). I firmly
believe if they get the power to do so, this will all happen here. As SCOTUS
nominee Kagan said, “Free Speech has to be balanced against the societal
costs.” The HRCs in Canada
had never lost a hate speech case. If you were charged, you were found guilty
and punished. Reading how they destroyed people and businesses, I’m surprised
there was not violence. They do not have to follow any rules of evidence or due
process like a real court and accept hearsay evidence. HRC employees go on
Nazi/White Supremacist websites and make racist statements, then charge the
responders with hate speech. For one HRC, all the hate speech complaints but
two have come from one person, who is an employee, and has been awarded money
for being serially offended. I knew Canada didn’t protect free speech
like we try to do, though it’s in their charter of rights, but found the
stories in the book unbelievable. Interestingly, while they have tried many
cases of hate speech against Muslims, no case of hate speech against a
Christian has ever gone to trial. Thanks to the Levant
case and the Mark Steyn/McCalls case, covered in the book, they are making
progress in restoring the right of free speech. Among the cases covered was the
woman who couldn’t wash her hands as required by McDonalds because she had a
skin disease. For firing her, McDonalds had to pay her $50,000 in addition to
the severance and disability she had received. Another restaurant had to pay
$5k to a woman who was fired because she had hepatitis. Never mind Arizona—boycott Canada.
Kicking the Sacred Cow by James P. Hogan
Is about controversies and suppression of evidence in science, which I have just re-read and think is a “must read.” I doubt all the heretics and suppressed claims are true, but find it very interesting that in supposedly “fact based” science, too often scientists who don’t agree with the current orthodoxy are vilified, attacked and suppressed. Climategate wasn’t the only “gate” in science.
The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Healthcare by Clayton M. Christenson.
models of changes in other industries that if applied to healthcare would fix a
great deal of the problems we have. You
can read about it at Amazon. I wish everyone in the debate in Harvard
Business School Washington—both sides—would read it.
It’s short, clear and very readable. It has excellent, short explanations of the causes of the Great Depression, the current economic meltdown and much else, such as federalism, the Free Market, and the origins and economic challenges of the Welfare State. Put it on the top of your “must read” pile.
If you are a political junkie, I recommend two great collections of political humor and stories by my Senate Floor Leader, the late Sen. John Parker: The Fun and Laugher of Politics and If Elected, I Promise. Both are long out of print, but you can often find them used on Amazon.com for not much money, especially the first one, which was published in the 1970s. No, you cannot borrow my signed copies.
DVD Recommendation: The Third Jihad
Though this video is four years old, I watched it for the first time with friends this weekend, and highly recommend it. It is by an American Muslim, a doctor and veteran, who loves Islam. This is, as he says, not an anti-Islam film, but a video exposing the threat to the lives and freedoms of everyone--not the least the millions of Muslims who are so often the victims of the extremists-- of the radical jihads and political Islam. He is one of the few with the courage to speak out and deserves respect and a hearing.
The links below have recommended books as well, including an extensive reading list on racism at the end of my essay on the subject.
Reading list for the war on Terror
Reading List for the Educated Voter
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
This novel was recommended in The Week news magazine by a "best books" list contributor. I had not read anything else by the author, Edward Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winner. It is a story of a little-known facet of American history, Southern free black slave owners before the Civil War and emancipation. (According to "Black Slave Owners" by Joseph Holloway on http://slaverebellion.org/index.php?page=the-black-slave-owners, there were 3,000 free black slave owners in New Orleans in 1860 and over 400 in Charleston, SC in 1830.) Americans, thanks to our "education" system, and a media and political class vested in creating a feeling of helpless victimhood in black Americans, tend to believe that slavery was purely a phenomenon of whites owning blacks for a few hundred years in the American south. In fact, as Dr. Thomas Sowell points out in his excellent essay, "The Real History of Slavery," every people were enslaved at some point, most often by folks just like them, and every culture accepted slavery and practiced it, until our much-maligned western culture turned against it. For example, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, which legally abolished slavery way back in 1981, has recently agreed with the UN to actually try to eradicate slavery. Sowell points out that during the same period when 500,000 African slaves were brought to what became the
United States, a million white
Europeans were kidnapped into slavery in Muslim North Africa. And there are no
records of the millions of blacks taken into slavery by Muslims. I have read
that white slaves were still being sold in Cairo 20 years after Lee surrendered to
Grant. Getting a feel for this different perspective is one reason to read this
novel. But the author's ear for dialog, eye for detail and command of the
language will be the envy of other writers and a joy to readers. He creates
life stories and a sense of place that make it had to accept that this is
fiction. You can't help but believe that "this is the way it was." So
it works on many levels. The only off-kilter note was his assertion that blacks
didn't take surnames until after emancipation, a very small quibble. This is
amply refuted, along with much of the demeaning but politically-valuable
contemporary myth of blacks as helpless victims of slavery, in The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom.
But, like that well-researched history, this novel presents blacks in slavery
as a resilient and adaptable people coping as best they could with a great
evil, and struggling to hold family together--doing a better job than a large
percentage of Americans today, despite far easier conditions. I highly
Blog readers may recognize Chet Nagle’s name, as I often link to his essays, ever since a fellow Marine linked me to him. When I discovered he had a novel out, it went on my Christmas list. I took it on a business trip last week, a mistake as I got far less sleep than needed on a couple of nights. Nagle is a former Navel aviator and intelligence agent in the
East, and it shows in the details and his knowledge of the
subject. Plus he can grab you with his writing. This thriller is a great, but
scary read, as we will likely be facing some version of this plot in the next
decade. I sent him a critique, as he requested, but, boy I had to get picky,
down to four typos I noted, not to gush over the book. I recommend it. It would
make a great birthday gift for your Congress Critter.
The Woolsorter’s Plague by Chet Nagle
I was hooked up with Chet Nagle by a Marine buddy, via e-mail. Though we’ve ever met in person. I’ve enjoyed our electronic friendship. Nagle is the real deal, a former Naval Aviator and intel operative for the CIA, who knows his stuff. I greatly enjoyed his first thriller, The Iran Covenant, so I was looking forward to the release of his new book about a terrorist attack on
It more than lived up to my expectations—The
Woolsorter’s Plague is an order of magnitude better. Nagle has a fine ear
for dialog, which is a key to great novels. He has the connections to get the
fine details right. I couldn’t turn out the lights when I got into the last few
chapters of heart-pounding action. What made it so frightening was it’s
plausibility. Nagle isn’t only entertaining readers—he is warning all of us. I
think you’ll be glad you read this one. Washington, DC
Caliphate by Tom Kratman
I took this scary little Science Fiction novel with me over a weekend, visiting relatives, and stayed up very late Sunday morning finishing it at about 4:00 am. If you like SF adventure and are worried about the future of our world, check this one out. Kratman is a fine writer, and it was more gripping as it went on. Set 100 years in the future, when
America has become of necessity a
military empire facing the Muslim Caliphate of Europe, it lifts from today’s
headlines to create a scary buy plausible future.
A Desert Called Peace By Tom Kratman
The first of the Carrera series (se others below). Kratman is a retired Army LtCol and a terrific author. His novels are escapism and entertainment, but with a message for our times. I highly recommend him.
Carnifex. By Tom Kratman
As readers of my Old Jarhead Blog know, my personal reading is focused on history, politics and economics, professional reading on management and healthcare. But sometimes I need a break, and nothing is better for that than one of Tom Kratman's military science fiction novels. Of course, Kratman is not entirely a "break" from reading about politics or the military, but he is enthralling. Carnifex is a sequel to A Desert Called Peace" and like all good sequels, it can stand on its own. But if you haven't read Desert, you'll be doing yourself a favor if you read it first. Kratman is a retired Army LtCol, and one would expect his mastery of the feel of close infantry combat to be good. But in this book, he shows equal understanding of war at sea and in the air. His detailed plotting and fully believable characters will hold you through this long novel, full of the twists and turns of a global conflict on several fronts. It is the Earth and all our problems, including the "War on Terror," set on a distant planet, centuries in the future. But the "War on Terror" (or perhaps better the "War against Salafist Jihadism") on Nova Terra is being fought by some men who are as ruthless as hard as the terrorists in defense of family and freedom, despite the hand-wringing of the usual collection of progressives. This is the third Kratman novel I've read. The first was Caliphate, which I also recommend, about the war here after a terror nuke strike on the
have others waiting for when the non-fiction pile shows a little light--or the
brain needs a change of pace. One is surprised that he can turn out novels so
rapidly, at such a high quality of writing. After reading his books, rich with
his philosophy of leadership, this old Marine would have been proud to sever
under Kratman's command. Whether I would have measured up to his standards is
another question, beyond knowing at this stage of my life. Lastly, the Author's
Afterword in Carnifex is a bonus, and
worth alone what you will pay for the book. Send it to your Congresscritter.
The Lotus Eaters. By Tom Kratman
I think of Kratman's Military Science Fiction and near-future military adventure novels as a chance to escape from a focus on politics. I continue to be amazed at his attention to detail and knowledge of the training and logistics that go into a successful military operation. But they really aren't. Woven through the well-constructed plots and gripping details are thoughts on the philosophy of war and governance that far exceed what you can get at today's university for intellectually stimulation. But readers so inclined can ignore them and concentrate on the story. In "The Lotus Eaters," Kratman starts most chapters from a book that, alas, I don't think exists, because I want to read it. It is "Historia Filosofia Moral" published in 466 on Terra Nova, the world Kratman has created to refight Earth's battles. Chapter 22 starts with this quote from this book: "Neither reason nor emotion can be taken in excess. Reason, in itself and standing alone, is a totally inadequate basis for maintaining a society. This is, indeed, the great flaw of the intellectual--far more so than his obsession with sex, his arrogance, and his selfishness--and why he is as much a danger to society as an asset and an ornament. Reason cannot tell the typical voter why he should not grant himself X largesse from the fisc when the penalty will not be paid until generation Y, a century down the road. That necessary restraint comes from an emotional commitment to future generations, and to the culture, values and traditions of the society of which the voter is a part. Indeed, once the practice of robbing the fisc is well established, reason must lead the voter to "get mine, before it's all gone.".... These excerpts are alone worth the price of the book, but do yourself a favor and start with the first volume of this series, "A Desert Called Peace." ~Bob
The Amazon Legion by Tom Kratman
Lifted from today's headlines, Kratman brings the woman in combat debate into context. People advocating for "fairness" may not like the ugly reality, as LtCol Kratman depicts it. War is not pretty and not a game.
Come and Take Them by Tom Kratman
The hardcover version will be released November 5th, but the Kindle edition of this fifth installment in the "Desert of Peace" series is available now. Neither LtCol Kratman nor Duque Carrera will think much of my self discipline. When I get a new Kratman book, I usually save it until I need an adrenalin and mood boost from my non-fiction reading schedule, but I started this one the day I got it. I plead that I'm old and unwell and wanted to be sure I finished it--a Kratman novel is not to be missed. He started his writing career at "great," and like a fine craftsman, gets better with each new effort. Rather than a sequel, this book runs roughly parallel to "The Amazon Legion," no mean literary feat. Having tried my hand at a little fiction, and had trouble keeping my main character's name straight, I am awed by Kratman's ability to weave almost unlimited strands of the plot together. No one writes better military fiction depicting the horror of close combat. Even better, Kratman has as superb grasp of weapons development, training and logistics, and manages to make them integral to the story. For many military fiction writers, these things happen by magic, like the six-gun in the B-western that fires 50 shots without reloading. Kratman's novels work as adventure escapism, but are even better for people with the interest and G-2 to think about the philosophy and morality of war, why people fight, and the issues confronting our country today. If you have read "A Desert Called Peace" and the other entries in the series, you will get this book. If not, do yourself a favor and start with that.
Countdown: The Liberators. By Tom Kratman
Well, this is a revolting development. I haven’t finished Kratman’s excellent A Desert Called Peace series, but got turned on to his Countdown series, of which this is book one. Though I have both a very good military history and an excellent political book started, this came when I needed a little escapism. And make no mistake, this adventure fantasy is escapism. So I started it—and finished it without taking up the others. I’ll now have to order the next two. Sigh. If only books came with the extra time to enjoy them. I know, and have recommended, Kratman as a writer of wonderful military science fiction. This book is more of a thriller, set in the too-near future to really be called SF. It is a future that is easily discernable from the converging lines of our deteriorating civilization today. More and more, Kratman reminds me of my favorite escapist novel writer, W.E.B. Griffin, in his terrific characterization of people you’d like to know well, and people you’d stand in a long line in the hot sun to get a shot at. But his plotting and presentation, especially about planning and executing military operations are, if anything, more detailed and authentic than
If Griffin can
be called a historical novelist, Kratman is a future=history novelist. He
understands how warriors talk, think and act. Kratman is a retired Army LtCol,
but has a terrific grasp of all aspects of war: air, land and sea. If you want
to see what an unpleasant future will look like, and what men and women of
courage will have to do to cope with the brave new world that’s, alas, coming,
you can hardly do better than to enjoy one of Kratman’s novels.
Countdown: M Day By Tom Kratman
I know, I usually give you recommendations on great non-fiction in history, politics and economics. I’ll get back to it, have just needed a little escapism lately. I was happily about a quarter into Victor Davis Hanson’s excellent history of the Peloponnesian war, A War Like No Other, when this book, the second in the series, came in the mail, along with the third one. No problem, I thought, I’ll put them in the pile and think about what’s next after Hanson. But I was going away for the weekend, and a paperback was easier to
Countdown: H Hour By Tom Kratman
Since I usually recommend non-fiction history, political and economic books, I was going to skip reviewing this novel. First, I’m a little annoyed with Kratman, in that he doesn’t seem to be able to write these things as fast as I can read them. He was an officer, after all, and I expect a little more attention to my edification. Second, I reviewed the first two books in this series, so I’m running out of superlatives. If you read both of those, chances are you will read this one without my recommendation. And while it can stand alone, I recommend you read the series in order. But Kratman does such an entertaining job of describing realistic military violence, and has such a frightening, reality-based world view of how civilization is collapsing as we watch, that I had to put in another plug. In his “Afterword” (which covers ground he talked about in his science fiction novels, but should be read by every American) he says he is asked if he expects things will really get as bad as depicted in these action novels of the near future. His response is that he expects things to get much worse—that the books only depict the early stages of what is happening to our world. I wish I didn’t think he was right. As with his other novels, there are some running gags, one-liners and historical and literary quotes that make the book an especially great value.