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Subject: Military History Bookshelf - October 2013 rss

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Bill Lawson
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What are you guys reading this month? I'm finishing up Liddell Harts The Real War 1914-1918 and reading



I read a couple of books on Thermonuclear War from back in the 80's while I practiced destroying mankind with First Strike. I just got Fail Safe today so the mushroom clouds will continue.
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Gary Goh
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Had to give up 3/4 into this book after struggling to stay awake throughout my various reading sessions:



Unless you are keen on statistics and are ok with repetition of facts and figures, I wouldn't recommend this book for reading otherwise. The topic is interesting, but the author approaches the subject matter by touching on different topics in the chapters though these may be inter-related, e.g. one chapter touches on the Final Solution, while another is titled "The Nazi Death Factories". Because of this literary approach, the author revisits the timeline in chronological order in each chapter, thus leading to repetition of various facts which started to get to me after 1/3 into the book.

I have started on the following book which I have been wanting to read since August, as I run through my solo introductory session of A World at War:

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Jon
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Nearing the end of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson. He is thinking about heading off to Bolivia ...



Review after I finish it.

So that means I will need to find something else to read. I am thinking of a one-two combo that I normally employ when tackling a difficult book. So read a bit of the difficult one and then read a bit from an easy one, then repeat back and forth. Hey .... it worked for The Arms of Krupp!

So, the "easy" might be Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow:



And the "difficult" might be Solar Dance: Van Gogh, Forgery and the Eclipse of Certainty by Modris Eksteins:



However, I may change my mind.
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Brian Morris
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Picked up a copy of this in hardback and then it was the free kindle book of the day a few weeks later. Excellent book. Half biography on Meade during the war and the other half is sort of a travelog of the author traveling the country to different places connected to Meade as he researched. At one point his travels end up with him hitting golf balls at a Mexican-American War era cannon.

The book reminds me of the great book Confederates in the Attic. It looks not only at Meade but how we remember him and the effects Grant's popularity at the time along with the attacks on Meade from Sickles and his group effected how we remember him to this day.

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Dave Cruces
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This one has been a blast to read. About 1/2 way done:

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Andy Daglish
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Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer and the National Book Award, in dull & understated Jonathon Cape edition. The battle of Ap Bac is described with an unusual clarity, and exposes the corresponding Wikipedia account as rendered silly by the no-point-of-view policy [though the map is useful].




Derived from a Russian PhD thesis written by a museum curator/teacher, and the basis of a 2009 NTV Russia documentary that caused big trouble in Putinland. The bombshell occurs on the last line of the third paragraph on page 158, where Soviet dead in the 15-month battle 100 miles west of Moscow, Jan 42 - March 43, are estimated at 2.3 million. Perhaps the point to modern Russians is that an estimate of the worth of their own lives is epitomised by the way this number was successfully hidden for so long. You get the impression that today the Rzhev area is a sea of military archaeology, almost entirely Soviet.

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Wendell
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Reading Mitter's Forgotten Ally. It's interesting and I'm learning something. Since I have War of the Suns on my game table it's interesting coming across names in the book that are HQs in the game.

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Skip Franklin
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And that book prompted me to buy this book at Half Price Books. http://www.hpb.com/

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Joe Thompson
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I read this over the weekend and found it very enjoyable.

I don't have room for paper books any more, so if any one in the UK fancies it give me your address and I'll post it to you.
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Joe R

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Just finished: The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark

Very highly recommended. Well researched and compelling story telling, not to mention some exquisite word pictures of the main protagonists.

Just started:

Catastrophe 1914 by Max Hastings

Very highly NOT recommended. If you read one book on WW1 or even just one on the start of WW1, then read The Sleepwalkers, not Catastrophe. Hastings' book is not well researched, not well argued (especially in comparison) and gives an incomplete view of the war's beginning. Resting on his laurels imho.

Also just started:

Guns at Last Light by R Atkinson

Seems quite well done so far, though have not gotten very far into it.

Next up is A Call to Arms by Maury Klein, the story of America's mobilization in WW2, which promises to be interesting.
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Evil Bob
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I'm about halfway through this book. Reading this book was a personal New Year's resolution as I don't devote much time to reading anymore. I'd like to get this book finished before the end of the year.

This book is amazing in that it really conveys a sense of what the battles were like back in the Napoleonic era. Deeply researched, you get an idea of all the factors involved with the reasoning behind the commanders' decisions.

I'm following my readings closely with the OSG (Operational Studies Group) series of Napoleonics games. Currently I'm tackling the scenarios from The Coming Storm: Quadrigame of the Fourth Coalition October 1806 - June 1807. These games are also deeply researched with lots of detail and surprisingly few rules. The book and games compliment each other very well.
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Kyle Seely
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bbhalla wrote:


I'm about halfway through this book. Reading this book was a personal New Year's resolution as I don't devote much time to reading anymore. I'd like to get this book finished before the end of the year.

This book is amazing in that it really conveys a sense of what the battles were like back in the Napoleonic era. Deeply researched, you get an idea of all the factors involved with the reasoning behind the commanders' decisions.

I'm following my readings closely with the OSG (Operational Studies Group) series of Napoleonics games. Currently I'm tackling the scenarios from The Coming Storm: Quadrigame of the Fourth Coalition October 1806 - June 1807. These games are also deeply researched with lots of detail and surprisingly few rules. The book and games compliment each other very well.


Certainly one of the most readable books on Napoleon I've come across.
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Rich Payne
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Currently working my way through this:



Thank God it's thin! Because it is rather dry, if fulsome in it's praise of Bonaparte. It's also hampered by the presence of only a few unreadable reprints of the original (1894) maps, so needs to be read with Google Maps/Earth open nearby. Something more modern next time I think!
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Hunga Dunga
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wifwendell wrote:
Reading Mitter's Forgotten Ally. It's interesting and I'm learning something. Since I have War of the Suns on my game table it's interesting coming across names in the book that are HQs in the game.



Me, too!

It's a really good book so far. My weakness is having to flip back to the maps pages to remember which provinces are where. My knowledge of Chinese political geography is practically non-existent!

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Con
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I have been bingeing on hoplite books recently. The pick of the bunch is Men of Bronze, a collection of papers assembled in book form following a conference. It starts off a bit slow, rehashing old arguments, but it gradually turns into something wonderful, with a lot of fresh material.

My favourite paper of the lot is “Not Patriots, Not Farmers, Not Amateurs: Greek Soldiers of Fortune and the Origins of Hoplite Warfare” by John R. Hale. He makes a very interesting case that a lot of hoplite warfare was conducted outside Greece, and that this may have shaped warfare within Greece. Greek sea-raiders plundered the coasts of the near east, and large hoplite contingents fought as mercenaries with near eastern states over a period of hundreds of years.

Hale draws an array of strong parallels with Vikings, well known of course as raiders but also mercenaries in Byzantine service. He argues for significant social, economic and political similarities between archaic and classical Greeks and Vikings. There were even some similarities in equipment.
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M Evan Brooks
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Of peripheral interest:



It delineates the one-way animus of Isaiah Berlin against Isaac Deutscher and how the former prevented the latter from obtaining a university position so that he could finish his proposed biography of Lenin (which was never completed).

I have only gotten to page seventy, but the in-fighting of the academics seems rather petty. I must admit that I was unfamiliar with Berlin, who was more of a political theorist. On the other hand, I still have Deutscher's three-volume biography of Trotsky (highly recommended) as well as some of E.H. Carr's books on the Russian Revolution.

I knew that Deutscher and Marx were Marxists, but I was surprised at the hostility that Berlin directed in a surreptitious manner. Berlin was very Establishment, and supported the US during the Vietnam War (fully subscribing to the domino theory).

From a perspective of almost half a century later, it is hard to sympathize with Berlin and his actions.

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Wendell
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Hungadunga wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Reading Mitter's Forgotten Ally. It's interesting and I'm learning something. Since I have War of the Suns on my game table it's interesting coming across names in the book that are HQs in the game.



Me, too!

It's a really good book so far. My weakness is having to flip back to the maps pages to remember which provinces are where. My knowledge of Chinese political geography is practically non-existent!



Me too but having War of the Sun on my table for the past two months has helped!
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Greg Sager
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While not, strictly speaking, military history, these two books provide insight into aspects of World War Two.
The first is “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson. http://www.amazon.com/Garden-Beasts-Terror-American-Hitlers/... This is the story of William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany. It is soon to be a film starring Tom Hanks. I just finished this book. Whoever stars as the ambassador’s daughter, will be up for an Oscar.
The second, which I’m half way through, is “Americans in Paris: Life & Death under Nazi Occupation” by Charles Glass. http://www.amazon.com/Americans-Paris-Death-Under-Occupation...
This is a story of collaborators, survivors, and heroes.
I highly recommend both books.
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Hunga Dunga
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wifwendell wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Reading Mitter's Forgotten Ally. It's interesting and I'm learning something. Since I have War of the Suns on my game table it's interesting coming across names in the book that are HQs in the game.



Me, too!

It's a really good book so far. My weakness is having to flip back to the maps pages to remember which provinces are where. My knowledge of Chinese political geography is practically non-existent!



Me too but having War of the Sun on my table for the past two months has helped!


I have the game as well. Now why didn't I think of that? I have a couple of atlases, but even though the provinces are labeled, there's so much other stuff on the maps that its hard to see the boundaries. Maybe I can find a map where the provinces use a 5 color scheme for easy identification...
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Michael Sommers
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ConG wrote:
I have been bingeing on hoplite books recently. The pick of the bunch is Men of Bronze, a collection of papers assembled in book form following a conference. It starts off a bit slow, rehashing old arguments, but it gradually turns into something wonderful, with a lot of fresh material.

What, if anything, does the book have to say about the othismos?
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joe mcgrath
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Does anyone have a recommendation for a good book on the Suez Crisis? It's an important episode in our recent past about which I am woefully uninformed. Thanks
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Mike Richardson
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With Max Hastings being just about my favourite historian, I was eagerly awaiting his latest offering (published in the UK last month), and haven't been disappointed...




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Mike E.
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Hungadunga wrote:
[q="wifwendell"][q="Hungadunga"][q="wifwendell"]Reading Mitter's Forgotten Ally. It's interesting and I'm learning something. Since I have War of the Suns on my game table it's interesting coming across names in the book that are HQs in the game.




Another book for you War of the Suns fans. The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945. Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, and Hans Van de Ven (Eds.).



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Con
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tms2 wrote:
ConG wrote:
I have been bingeing on hoplite books recently. The pick of the bunch is Men of Bronze, a collection of papers assembled in book form following a conference. It starts off a bit slow, rehashing old arguments, but it gradually turns into something wonderful, with a lot of fresh material.

What, if anything, does the book have to say about the othismos?


As most (maybe all) of the academics who have a high profile on hoplites contributed papers, pretty much every perspective on othismos is on view. Views range from battles between hoplites normally being close order shoving matches, to hoplites fighting in open order mixed in with lighter armed retainers, and the othismos push being purely figurative. Most imaginable intermediate perspectives are on view too.

The open order view is an outlier, but mainstream views vary between the traditional shoving match view and views that focus more on actual fighting with pointed weapons, and tend to suggest looser order and less rigid formations. Some of the latter say that othismos pushes happened only some of the time - not in all battles, or only at times within a battle. Others say that othismos pushbacks were about one side making the other give ground through more effective fighting with weapons.
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I read two books by Arn Durand on the SA war with Angola. Durand was a Koevoet operator in a special SA Police unit that used indigenous trackers to locate, track and eliminate cross border insurgents. This first person account is fascinating and rich in graphic detail regarding COIN tactics and the reality of a nasty boarder war. The two books read well, for the most part, but the story sometimes jumps around awkwardly as if several manuscripts were thrown together at the last minute in order to meet a deadline. Over all a fascinating account, highly recommended if you are interested in the African bush wars.




One of the better books regarding the bush wars, on par with Chris Cocks Fireforce. Kroff relates his experience as a young Parabat soldier who participated in multiple cross border operations to take on the SWAPO guerrillas in their own back yard. Kroff's battle experience also includes mixing it up with FAPLA and their Cuban advisors. A must read for anyone interested in the final days of the cold war as it played out in Southern Africa. I will read this book more than once. It is well written and easy to read.
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