Monday, December 2, 2013

Invisible Armies by Max Boot

This book's full title is "Invisible Armies, An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present". I must admit that I found this book a fascinating read. It is well written and a very good and easy read. The Romans were defeated by barbarians or irregular troops. Nomadic empires could inflict catastrophic costs on established states.

In fact irregular fighting goes back to tribal warfare. There seldom anything new under the sun. One thing that I did find very interesting is when Max Boot talked about the French in Algiers compared with the English in Malaysia.

Max Book has his own web site. He has written some very interesting articles. One article is about the case form cutting off aid to Egypt and another is a blog entry about what is being done to protect the Copts in Egypt.

There is a short review of this book on the Foreign Affairs web site. There is a much longer and more interesting review at the New York Times by Mark Mazower.

Gary Rosen of the Wall Street Journal does a short interview (6 minutes) with Max Boot Max Boot. Also Max Boot gives an interesting speech at Pritzker Military Library. He talks after introduction for about 35 minutes and then there is Q & A period.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Boot. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Big Shift by Bricker, Ibbitson

This book's full title is "The Big Shift, The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business and Culture and What it means for Our Future". This book is by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson. I seldom read books on Canadian Politics as politics in general do not interest me all that much. However, I had realized when Harper first got elected that it was because Ontario voted with the West.

For most of Canadian history I knew that for a government to get into power, it had to have votes by Ontario and Quebec. When Ontario and Quebec voted together you got a majority federal government. But things have been changing with the rise of the Bloc Quebecois and the rise of the West. The West has been wanted to get in for a long time. With Harper they did get in.

I found interesting that 20% of our populations were immigrants. This is quite high. However, what is more interesting is where these immigrants are with 3% in Nova Scotia, 11.5% in Quebec, but 28% of population of in British Columbia and Ontario. With some 70% of our population living in urban areas, it is hardly a surprise that a large portion of our immigrants also live in urban areas.

The Literary Review site of Canada has a review of this book by Yuen Pau Woo. I have read quite a bit of Canadian History and I also do not remember any elite group being called "Laurentians" either in the form of Laurentian elite or Laurentian consensus. I find this the best review. She questions some of the assumptions of the book and I think she is right to do so.

The iPolitics Site also have a very interesting and insightful review by Colin Horgan. There is also a review in the National Post by Mark Kennedy. This is more a review of what the books says rather than an assessment of what the book says.

John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker on their book at Canadian Bar Association This is a question and answer type interview. There is a short interview of Bricker on City News.

And, finally, what I found a very interesting part of the book was about the Atlantic Canadian Reality Distortion Field by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson. It talks about how Atlantic Canada thinks that the money transfer from west to east via Employment Insurance is very Canadian and logically and see nothing wrong with part time workers collecting money from the plan every year. This is a very worthwhile read.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Bricker. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Conquest of the Ocean by Brian Lavery

This book's full title is "The conquest of the Ocean: An Illustrated History of Seafaring" by Brian Lavery. Brian Lavery has his own web site.

This book has little outside of how the western world interacted with the ocean. It briefly talks about the Polynesian and the Pacific Ocean and Zheng He of Chinese fame. But I doubt of anyone in the western world has not heard of these sailors. One thing I did learn that I had not heard much about was the US military attacks by ship in the War of Independence. This was quite an interesting part of the book.

The book is easy to read and has lots of nice illustrations. You can learn things about boats and ships you may not know. It is a good book for what it covers. Brian Lavery is a naval historian.

There is a number of book reviews on this book at Good Reads. Most readers liked the book and lots commented on the lovely illustrations. There is also a review on the Literature works Literature Works site. Most of the reviews I found were quite short.

Some even mention some of the books short-comings, like on History Extra site. They mention that most of the book covers the period from 1450 to the present.

On YouTube there are short videos of Brian Lavery discussing points about his book. Go to the first one and you should be able to access the rest from that page. You can also access these videos from DK's YouTube site.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Lavery. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thinking the Twentieth Century, Judt, Snyder

The co-authors of this book are Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder. The book is written as a discussion between Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder. It is obviously a very left wing view of history, but it is a lively and interesting discussion. However, the discussion is about mostly Europe. It does touch on US, but mainly it is a discussion of Europe, so the scope is rather narrow.

I had not known about the Europe too much in the 20th century and the fact that it took until 1970 for Western Europe to get back to the same level of prosperity that they had in 1914. Basically, Western Europe suffered a 60 year decline marked by 2 world wars and unprecedented economic depression.

The book also dwells a bit on the European Jewish question. Tony Judt is Jewish and he grew up in Europe so this is not a surprising subject. Mostly nothing in the book is new and surprising to me. However, I have read a lot of history, so this maybe why.

The Guardian has a great review of this book .

See Timothy Snyder talk about this book at Cornell University. This lecture is part of a series of talks at the university called Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series at Einaudi Center's. It is rather long at 1 hour and 20 minutes. Timothy Snyder starts to speak about 8 minutes into this video. Timothy Snyder's lecture last until just after 51 minutes and then there is questions and answers period.

There is an interview with New York Times Journalist Tony Judt . It is quite interesting and is just over 7 minutes long. There is also an interesting question and answer period at Boston College in 2007.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Judt. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cooked by Michael Pollan

This book's full title is "Cooked - A Natural History of Transformation". This is an absolutely wonderful book as all Michael Pollan's books are. You do not need to be a cook to thoroughly enjoy this book. All you need is a sense of wonder and an appetite for food. He interestingly divides in book into cooking methods of fire, water, air and earth. Michael Pollan has an interesting approach to food that makes his books must read books.

Here is the Facebook page for the Skylight Inn run by Pete Jones. Here is a site that shows a picture of the Skylight Inn as described in this book.

In 'Cooked,' Michael Pollan Reclaims Culture of Cooking, an interview on PBS News Hour on YouTube. This is a longer (over 1 hour) video of Michael Pollan talking about food at UC Berkeley. Michael starts talking about 3 minutes into the video. Michael Pollan talks about Deep Agriculture YouTube by Fora.TV. This is also a rather long video of over 1 hour.

Michael Pollan: A plant's-eye view at TED. This is an older video, dated 2008, but a wonderful point to be made about life.

Michael Pollan Takes on Cooking video is at THNKR. Michael and a number of people talk about this book "Cooked". Navigating the Supermarket Aisles with Michael Pollan and Michael Moss by The New York Times. This video is showing a short conversation between Michael Pollan and Michael Moss at a supermarket. (They found Yoghurt with more sugar in it than pop has!)

10 Questions with Michael Pollan is a Times video about food. This was done just after Michael Pollan published his book "Food Rules".

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Pollan. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking by Matthew Hutson

This book's full title is "The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy and Sane". Matthew Hutson has a web site for this book. You can read the introduction to this book from this site. Matthew Hutson also has a blog on this site.

This is a great book. We all have irrational beliefs and thoughts. This can be helpful. The thing is not to let such beliefs and thoughts take over your whole life.

There is a short review of this book at Publishers Weekly and a much longer review on Jeff Sexton's blog.

Matthew Hutson's blog shows up in the Huffington Post magazine. There is an article by Matthew Hutson in the Psychology Today magazine.

There are a couple of videos to watch on Big Think. There is a MIT talk by Matthew Hutson. This second video is much long at 1 hour and 20 minutes. A lot of this talk is Matthew Hutson reading from his book and then answering questions.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Hutson. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Barbarous Years by Bernard Bailyn

This book's full title is "The Barbarous Years, The Peopling of British North America: Conflict of Civilizations, 1600 to 1675". We live in such a non-violent world compared to our pass that I think we do not appreciate how violent our pass was. The settling of North America was dangerous and violent.

I thought that the depiction of North American natives was quite good and quite sympathetic. However, I realize that there are very different views on this subject. There are also huge variations in, almost staggering, views on the population of North America at the time it was found by Europeans.

This is a great book and very readable one on how Europeans came to populate North America. If you are at all interested in the early settlement years of Europeans in North America, this is the book to read. It is not only the violence that might shock you, but also how many Europeans that died trying to settle the "new world". Ironically, without help from the Indians that might now have managed it.

There is a review of this book at See Harvard Magazine. The author of this review, Daniel K. Richter, is quite critical of Bernard Bailyn's treatment of the Indians. Alan Taylor, in a The New Republican article is also critical of the book, but is critical on how bleak a picture that Bailyn paints of this period.

I cannot find much in the way of video for Bernard Bailyn. However, there is one YouTube video of Bailyn talking about the relationship between the United States federal government and the states. Also, there is Bailyn giving the First White House Millennium Evening Lecture . This lecture is called the "Early American Experience".

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Bailyn. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Flight of the Eagle by Conrad Black

This book’s full title is Flight of the Eagle, a Strategic History of the United States. This is a great overview of American history. Conrad has a unique view of the world and the book is largely quite a sympathy view of the USA. As always this book was a very good read. It is long, but it is also quite hard to put down.

The Toronto Star book review by Tony Wong has what is supposed to be a review of this book, but really a review of Conrad Black. I guess that the Star cannot help itself. They have to admit that he is a great writer. Too bad they did not actually say much about the book except that it is a love letter to the US.

The Globe and Mail book review by Carol Chin also has an interesting, but quite critical review of Conrad Black’s book. She thinks that the book is light wait history. She thinks better books cover the same ground and Black writes from a basic faith of America’s greatness. The Globe and Mail has an interesting interview with Conrad Black and Margaret Wente, but you have to listen to a commercial first for a very short video of 2 and one half minutes.

No one is impartial when it comes to Conrad Black. He does bring out strong views from anyone he comes in contact with and anyone who reads him. This includes the review by Rafe Mair for The Tyee. He is not very complementary in his review but admits that he could not put the book down. He complains that Black is biased. The fact is all history is biased and this is why you should read lots of history from different authors with different axes to grind.

This reviewing also brings up the fact that reading the writings of Black will add to your vocabulary. He has an interesting way with language, for example when he says Obama chose as his running mate the “malapropistic” Joseph Biden.

There is book review by an American paper Washington Times. However, they farmed it out to a Canadian, Victor Fic, and it is rather mediocre. There is a much better review at The National Interest site.

There is a 10 minute interview with Conrad Black on Book TV. The full 44 minute interview is here. There is a longer one of just over 1 hour on the Agenda Steve Paikin.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Black. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

From the Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra

This book’s full title is “From the Ruins of Empire, The revolt against the west and the remaking of Asia. Pankaj Mishra has his own web site. He writes from the point of view of Asia being colonized by Europe. Of course, his view is just as distorted as some Western writers of European imperialism, but it is a fascinating book on Asian viewpoints.

There is a great review of this book at The Guardian. There is also a very interesting review at The Telegraph which also touches on the argument he got into with Niall Ferguson.

There is a radio interview of Pankaj Mishra by Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC.

Pankaj Mishra and Ian Buruma discuss Mishra's new book, From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade a YouTube video. The introduction last some 7 minutes. Ian Buruma interviews Pankaj Mishra. The interview lasts about 30 minutes and then there is a Q&A. There is another interview by Michael Woods of Pankaj Mishra at The British Library . There is a lecture by Pankaj Mishra at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Denver University.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Mishra. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Restless Empire by Odd Arne Westad

The full title of this book is Restless Empire, China and the World since 1750. There is a good review of this book at Kirkus. This is a short review, but it covers what this book is all about.

The review in the telegraph is longer and more wide ranging, but it also includes in its review another interesting China book The End of the Chinese Dream: Why Chinese People Fear the Future by Gerard Lemos. And, there is another interesting review at Origins.

This is short 3 and a half minutes video in which Westad explains his book. Another video is at Ustream however, you have to watch a short ad first. Westad started speaking around 8 and half minutes into the video. Some 15 minutes into the video is another ad and so on. I did not find this inserting of ads seamless as video did not always resume where it left off.

We hear a lot about how awful the Europeans were to China when they started to explore the world in the 18th and 19th century. But it was not the Europeans' fault of China's decline. It just happened that China was in decline when the Europeans came along. They did not help, of course, but they did not cause any decline.

What the future holds for China is uncertain. China is certainly a rising power. Europe, and especially Britain, could not handle the rise of Germany. The fighting left Europe gutted twice. Britain handled the rise of America quite well. Hopefully, America can handle well the rise of China. However, it not only depends on America, but on China as well. So far China seems to be behaving in an aggressive fashion as a rising power. But, they still have enough time to choose to co-operate with others in the east and with America.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Westad. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Double Entry by Jane Gleeson-White

This book's full title is Double Entry, How the merchants of Venice created modern finance. This book started off as a well told story and was interestingly written. However, she ends with big rant against corporations. Too bad she goes from being a good historian to being a raving idiot on a rant against corporations.

There is a good interview done by the economist on YouTube. It is only 5 minutes long.

There is a good review of this book at Wall Street Journal. This review concentrates on the history of the double entry method which is the best part of this book. This is also another good review at the Management Today site. This reviewer, Luke Johnson, ends the review with a remark on the deterioration of this book at the end. "It is a shame the book deteriorates into a left-wing diatribe, because the key story - the history of bookkeeping - is an interesting one, and well told."

One of things she talks about and about which I think one of the stupidest ideas I have heard is the one where people look at the worse possible characteristics of a corporation and use the Mental Disorder test and declare corporations psychopaths (by their very nature). Corporations are run by people. To say that we should not expect corporations to behave like a "good corporate citizen" is just giving some business leaders a license to behave badly.

I do not think that we should tie corporations up in so much read tape that they cannot function. However, it is proper to regulate them. For example, government rules about (or against) pollution is decidedly good for society as a whole. We should go after executives who falsify accounting records. (However, putting them in jail for hundreds of years is pointless, but this is a whole other conversation. I think that we can be more innovative than jailing non-violet offenders. It is too bad that we are so set in our ways that if any Judge decides to be innovative in sentencing (beside jail), we talk about cruel and unusual punishment.)

The author seems to just now be realizing that money is not everything. Yes, we do need a certain amount of money to live, but there is a limit to what we need. Of course, people look at this differently and calculate differently what they required, but after a certain amount of money or level of living, we want more than just money. We do want things like pollution control. And, the western world has moved strongly in this direction. We have done a lot to clean up our environment. Yes, more needs to be done, but we have still done quite a lot.

GDP is just money, but I do not decide to stay in Canada just because of its GDP. Life is good in Canada. No, it is not perfect and we do have problems, but I believe we will solve them.

I also do not believe in the redistributions of money. (This is just another form of plunder.) If people get money for nothing it has no value. This is what is wrong with welfare. It was a great idea that did not work. I think we need to get families that have been on welfare for 3 to 4 generations off it so we can spend more time and money on more current problems, like the homelessness problem. Our current welfare programs have done nothing to solve homelessness.

She has a chapter on "How Accounting Could make or Break the World". I think that accounting (or Double Entry Bookkeeping) cannot do everything. If you want to save the world, perhaps you should use other methods. To just view our world through the eyes of an accountant is wrong on so many levels. There is far more to life than money and accounting for it. Sorry, but to make accounting as a view to life is so short sighted.

However, a big problem I see today is that everyone wants things like pension and health case, but they want someone else to work and pay for it. At some point people are going to have to realize that if they want pensions and health care, they will have to work and pay for it themselves.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See White. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Measure of Civilization by Ian Morris

This book is really supporting evidence for his popular book of "Why the West Rules for Now". Morris chose 4 traits to measure civilization. They were energy capture, social organization, information technology and war-making capabilities.

The last two traits did not come into their own until rather later than the first two. Information technology had no effect on civilization until around 3300BCE. War-making capabilities had not real effect until 3000 BCE.

By energy capture, the author means the full range of energy captured by humans. Humans capture energy using food, whether eaten directly or given to animals. Using fuel for cooking, heating, cooling, firing kilns and furnaces or powering machines and includes wind and waterworks as well as wood, coal, oil gas and nuclear power is another form of energy capture. The last form is in raw materials. Raw materials are used in construction, metalwork, pot-making, clothing or any other purpose.

With looking at social organization, the author talks about the long tradition of research in social sciences that has shown the strong relationship between the size of the largest settlements within a society and the complexity of its social structure. This part looks mostly at city sizes to judge a society's social organization.

For tens of thousands of years, the transmission and storage of information depended entirely on speech and memory. The first unmistakable evidence for communication through material symbols goes back nearly a hundred thousand years. However, symbols of this kind remained not only rare but simple until about fifty thousand years ago, when they suddenly become common wherever we find humans. The ability to store and transmit information is a fundamental part of the concept of social development.

As far as war making capabilities, we were not very effective before 3000 BCE and our war making capabilities, sky rocketed after 1800 and then took another leap in 1900.

On YouTube there is an interesting conversation called Conversations with History with Ian Morris. Conversation is called Pattern of History. Lecture by Ian Morris sponsored by the Long Now foundation. The first 2 minutes is a short video of a plane.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Morris. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark by Mary Janigan

This book is called "Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark, The West versus the Rest since Confederation". Mary Janigan has her own web site. The site hosts a time line that is covered by the book.

When I was young, I like the history that Pierre Berton wrote. I grew out of him, but there has not been much in the way of good history books for Canadian History. This is the first Canadian History book I have read for a while that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The book provides an interested perspective on how people in different parts of our country viewed the west and what it meant to them. It is well written and easy and enjoyable to read. It gives a western perspective that being in central Canada, I had not realized before.

This book is largely about the west (Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan) fighting to control their own resources. It took forever as the Federal government wanted to use western resources to fund settlement and railways. It was not until 1930 when King was Prime Minister that western resources as finally turned over to the western provinces.

The book also goes into the rage that was felt in the Maritimes. They felt that they had bought and paid for the west and that they should be compensated for the loss of western resources. Quebec and Ontario got huge amount of land carved out of the land purchases from the Hudson Bay Company, but the Maritimes got nothing.

There are good reviews at Toronto Star, at National Post, at Winnipeg Free Press and at The Chronicle Herald (of Nova Scotia).

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Janigan. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Natural History by Smithsonian

This book is an amazing reference book to life on earth. See a video on this book at YouTube. This video seems to bring to life this Natural History book. This is a wonderful book to browse or to read. It may be big, but it is very readable.

This is a DK (Dorling Kindersley) book. If you have not had the pleasure of reading any DK books, you are in for a real treat. Their Science and Nature and History books are second to none, no matter what your age.

The Smithsonian has a YouTube site with with great videos to watch. There is a video showing a tour of this museum on YouTube. This video is just over 12 minutes, but it is just part 1 and part 2 is here.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Smithsonian. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.