Sunday, October 29, 2017

Two Book Reviews

Book Reviews

The Enemy at the Gate; Hapsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe by Andrew Wheatcroft
This is an excellent, well-written and balanced account of the Siege of Vienna, the last Muslim crusade (until the present day) in 1683 to bring Europe from the Dar al-Harb (House of War, countries not ruled by Islam) into the Dar al-Islam (The House of Islam) by force of arms. These efforts started in the 8th century when Muslim armies conquered southern Italy, Sicily and Spain and were only turned back by Charles Martel and his Frankish knight at the 732 Battle of Tours in France. Previous Muslim efforts at had been beaten at an earlier siege of  Vienna in 1529 and at the decisive naval battle of Lepanto in 1571, when the Holy League, led by 22-year-old Don John of Austria destroyed the Ottoman fleet, ending the threat of Muslim control of the western Mediterranean. I knew the board outlines of the battle, but this volume contains rich details of both sides, including the Christian reconquista of Hungary, which had been previously conquered by the Muslims. Wheatcroft pictures it as a clash between empires, not between civilizations, though he reports that both sides were inspired by faith, the Austrians by a belief that they were defending Christianity, the Ottomans that they were following the Qur'anic injunction to exp[and the Dar al-Islam. It tells of the key roles played by Charles of Lorraine in the defense and King John Sobieski III of Poland, who lead the relief. Also the rise of a young Prince Eugene of Savoy, who became, in Napoleon's, one of the greatest commanders in history. Where are these men now that we need them?

Semantics and Communication by John C. Condon

This excellent and informative book was recommended to me by a friend, a retired Colonel of Marines. The third and, I assume the last edition was published in 1985. While a 2017 edition taking into account language changes in the last 30 years would be interesting, I would assume Mr. Condon is longer with us, as the first edition was in 1966. Nevertheless, this book is both interesting and value. It makes you think about word choice and communication styles. Two quotes from the book I thought were real keepers, "When the person, be he scholar or average person, speaks with unswerving faith in his generalization, he has abandoned the attitude of caution that characterize the scientist at work...the words "ever" and "always" do not appear in the vocabulary of the scientist." and "Adhering to official policies, fitting each unique case into a fixed set of categories, the bureaucrat is spared the necessity of coming up with fresh ideas." This book will be of special value to the writer, the professional communicator and to those in the mental health disciplines, as it deals with the intersection of words and psychology. I highly recommend it. 

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