Current Reading

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When it comes to reading for amusement I am a plodder, taking my time on each page as if I am dining on a very good meal.  As a result perhaps, I have always read quite a few books at the same time, doing a few pages each day.  Here are some of the books I have been enjoying lately:



1.  Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure by Markos Kloos-To my surprise I find that I enjoy reading books on Kindle and I am beginning to devour e-books.  A good series by a new author.  Think Star Ship Troopers meets welfare state, with the protagonist helping to lead a revolt against a bleak system that uses the military to keep welfare recipients in huge enclaves and the world and space are trapped in endless Orwellian wars between two major power blocs.  Then the aliens invade.

2.  To Honor You Call Us by Paul Honsinger-Horatio Hornblower in space!  When the best of ships travel faster than light, but the men are still iron men wielding cutlasses!

3.  Charles V– William Robertson-Largely forgotten now, Robertson was the second best historian in Britain in the Eighteenth Century after Gibbon.  His opening chapter tracing the history of Europe up to the time of Charles V is a masterpiece examination of the forces that formed sixteenth century Europe.

4.  The End-Hitler’s Germany 1944-45-Ian Kershaw examines a fascinating question:  why did most ordinary Germans stand by the Third Reich to the bitter end?

5.   The Evolution of Strategy-Beatrice Heuser-A look at the concept of strategy in military affairs from antiquity to the present.  A bit dry but I can attest she has mastered the sources.

6.  Full Circle-Ferdinand Mount-How modern life increasingly resembles that of the classical world of Greece and Rome.

7.  The Great Debate-Yuval Levin-Levin taps Burke and Paine as the fathers of the modern conservative-liberal split.  I don’t buy the argument, but the book is well written.

8.  Operation Barbarossa-Christian Hartmann-A short but insightful history of the Russo-German war that dominated World War II in Europe by a German historian.

9.  Edmund Burke, The First Conservative-Jesse Norman-The author is a British Conservative MP.  I agree that Burke was the first modern conservative, as opposed to merely a reactionary, in the English speaking world.

10. Franco’s Crypt-Jeremy Treglown-A first rate book on Spanish culture and historical memory since the onset of the Spanish Civil War.  Notes the surprising freedom that many artists enjoyed under Franco to criticize his regime.  A refreshing change from the ignorant rantings that usually substitute for research when it comes to Spain under Franco.

What books have you been reading lately?  List them please in the comboxes.

More to explorer

Bob Hope and the Mayflower Compact

Under the Julian Calendar in effect at the time, the Mayflower Compact was signed on November 11, 1620.  Under the Gregorian Calendar


  1. I renewed my village library card and read two books recently well-reviewed in the WSJ.

    Both, were better (I learned things and obtained new perspectives) than expected.

    “The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin provides a fairly good overview of the northern (High) Plains Indian Wars up to the late 1860’s. I read many books concerning Custer. This was a good read and quickly provided additional insights into events on both sides up to the Fetterman Massacre. I had known of Red Cloud, but not of his generalship or that he was the only Natiiove war eladre to defeat (US sued for peace and gave up lands, closed trail to MT mines, and later reneged, of course) the US Army in a war. The authors reveal a young Crazy Horse, who fought with R/C, and how Sitting Bull stayed away from Red Cloud’s wars. I thought it an even-handed treatment of the Whites’ wars of conquest (make safe the immigrant/miners’ trails) and the Natives’ torture/warrior culture.

    The other is “Lawrence in Arabia” by Scott Johnson, for me a must read prior to ‘The Seven Pillars . . .’ which I’ve rea sefveral times. It gives insights into five (Jewish, German, British, and French, American/oil) forces that played in the ME side show during WWI. It is especially good in revealing the generals’/piliticians’ lunacy that costs ten million lives. The authors quote T.E.L. ” . . . what they gained by ignorance, they lost by stupidity.” E.G., the Raj army in its distastrous attempt to relieve a surrounded force at Kut (Iraq) evacuated a captured fortress because it was taken before schedule. The Turks manned the place and slaughtered the Brit/Indian troops later sent in. The Raj lost more troops than the surrounded force, which was forced to surrender. It’s not deep, scholarly but it provides insights into war; such as the more losses in lives and treasure the more both sides wanted to double down and increase war goals – the Ottoman Empire being the “Great Loot.” Pure insanity. That insight is worth the read.

  2. I have the audio book on Lawrence in Arabia T Shaw. It is a good introductory story, although the author has a bad habit of standing in judgment of the past with present day attitudes. His knowledge of the warfare of the period strikes me as superficial, and he betrays no inkling of knowing about contemporary research in that vast topic. I don’t think he truly understands Lawrence, but then again no author writing about Lawrence, including Lawrence, has managed that perhaps impossible feat.

  3. Thank you for the friendly mention of my new novel, “To Honor You Call Us.” I hope you found the portrayal of people of faith in this book (as well as the next which is out in a few weeks) realistic and considerate. By the way, your review is quoted on the sales page for the book, which I hope provides a bit of visibility to this excellent publication.

  4. These are just a few of the books that I’ve read recently and would like to recommend.

    1942: The Year That Tried Men’s Souls by Winston Groom
    A riveting chronicle of America’s most critical hour. On December 6, 1941, an unexpected attack on American territory pulled an unprepared country into a terrifying new brand of warfare. Novelist and popular historian Winston Groom vividly re-creates the story of America’s first year in World War II.

    Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley
    Flags of Our Fathers (2000) is a New York Times bestselling book by James Bradley with Ron Powers about the five United States Marines and one United States Navy Corpsman who would eventually be made famous by Joe Rosenthal’s lauded photograph of the flag raising at Iwo Jima, one of the costliest and most horrifying battles of World War II’s Pacific Theater.

    Flyboys by James Bradley
    This book details a World War II incident of the execution and cannibalism of five of eight American P.O.W.s on the Pacific island of Chichi-jima, one of the Ogasawara Islands (Bonin Islands).

    The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf By Mark Frost
    This narrative chronicles the birth of the modern game of golf, as told through the stories of once and future champions Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet. Weaving their stories as his narrative, Frost creates a uniquely involving, intimate epic; equal parts sports biography, sweeping social history, and emotional human drama.

    Playing the Enemy by John Carlin
    Nelson Mandela’s decade-long campaign to unite his country, beginning in his jail cell and ending with a rugby tournament.

    Radiating Christ by Raul Plus, S.J.
    Everybody knows that the Christian is bound, as far as possible, to be a living Christ, another Jesus Christ. But to be a Christ for one’s own personal benefit is not enough; we have to Christianize those around us … in a word, we have to radiate Christ.

    The Grunt Padre by Fr. Daniel Mode
    This is the story of a Catholic Priest and a Naval Chaplain who served his Marines but it is also their stories that make it so real.

    Did Pope Pius XII Help the Jews? By Margherita Marchione
    This book offers a summary of the life of the 262nd Successor of Saint Peter, His Holiness Pope Pius XII. It helps us understand why his contemporaries were convinced that the wartime Pontiff was a man of faith and of charity.

    The Myth of Hitler’s Pope by David G. Dalin
    The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis is a book written by American historian and Rabbi

    The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive World History by Robert Royal
    From the Catholic martyrs at Auschwitz to Oscar Romero; from Ita Ford and her companions to the recent murders of Christians in India, it is estimated that more than one million Christians died for their faith in the “century of progress” we have just experienced.

    John Adams by David McCullough
    The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling biography of America’s founding father and second president that was the basis for the acclaimed HBO series, brilliantly told.

    D-Day: June 6, 1944 — The Climactic Battle of WWII by Stephen E. Ambrose
    the chronicle of the Allied invasion of Normandy, published on the 50th anniversary of the historic event. Eminent military historian Ambrose draws on previously unavailable government documents and more than 1,200 new interviews to tell the tale.

  5. Strange Defeat by Marc Bloch. Bloch was a French historian and officer who wrote this short book (with some minor later revisions) fight after the Fall of France in 1940. Part memoir and part examination of conscience, it is an impressive reflection thus far.

    Bloch later joined the Resistance, but did not live to see the liberation, sadly. He was captured, tortured and executed by the Gestapo in June 1944.

  6. I have a similar pile–so long as it does not tumble out a confined area, it’s all good. 🙂

    I’ve been on something of a 1940 kick of late–I have these irrational bursts of interest and I dive in. First was Julian Jackson’s “The Fall of France” is an excellent overview, even if it’s not a sustained narrative a la Horne’s “To Lose a Battle.” Jackson points out that French historiography has almost entirely ignored the Battle of France, even though Vichy and the Resistance have been extensively addressed. Horne’s book is next in the hopper after I finish Bloch.

    I also picked up a book about Charles de Gaulle’s political thought, and it’s an intriguing look at the man. He seems to have been worried about the effects of corrosive individualism inherent in modern democracies, which makes him a relevant read.

  7. In regard to the fall of France I can understand why the French ignored it. Other than de Gaulle and a few other stalwarts, none of the French come out looking good from that debacle. Unlike World War I with its Union Sacree, with World War II France went in extremely divided, with both the extreme Right and the extreme Left not wanting to fight the Nazis. A really honest and hard look at that defeat serves no political interests, and the good French studies of the fall of France probably await a time when France is more unified and the old political battles are as distant in time as the Thirty Years War. France is not alone in this tendency of course. The next truly honest history of our involvement in Vietnam that I read, with the possible exception of Dunnigan’s Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War, will be the first one I have read.

  8. I have not read The Great Debate but find your not taking its premise, that Burke and Paine were “the fathers of the modern conservative-liberal split”, interesting. My sense is that the split derives from our revolution, aka War of Independence and the thoroughgoing Revolution in France. Their respective reactions to the infamous latter event defines them. The Utopian Paine was drawn to the French Revolution like a moth to a flame and nearly burned by it. The (almost Catholic) Anglican Burke was more perceptive. Of the new leaders of the now orphaned Eldest Daughter of the Church, the “murderous atheists, who would pull down church and state; religion and God; morality and happiness”, Burke said, “When they smile, I see blood trickling down their faces”. Neither Burke or Paine fathered the modern conservative-liberal split but was not the split born in one and the other?

  9. To a certain degree, but there were gradations. For example, many opposed to the French Revolution opposed all change and wanted the Old Regime to endure. Burke was not of their number. Some supporters of the French Revolution were proto-Totalitarians but Paine was not of their number, indeed he was almost executed by Robespierre. Although Paine and Burke were opposed on the French Revolution they were quite close on many of their political attitudes, and their differences do not track well in regard to Conservative-Liberal differences today which fundamentally derive from disputes about the role of the State and the role of the individual. If Paine were alive today I rather think he would be more of a libertarian rather than a leftist, and if Burke were alive today I think he would be a conservative but not adverse on principle to using government power to accomplish needed reforms, although doubtless he and Paine would both be stunned by the growth of government.

  10. Thank you Don: You are doubtless more extensively read on the topic. I am pleased to benefit thereby. I view my fellow Norman-Irishman Burke with admiration and the French Revolution with revulsion. Burke said, “It is not France extending a foreign empire over other nations: it is a sect aiming at universal empire, and beginning with the conquest of France”. I read his remark as prophetic. About 1886, in his (Heh Heh) “El Liberalismo es Pecade”, Don Felix Sarda y Salvany observes, “For the past hundred years Liberalism has striven to paralyze the action of the Church, to render her mute, and especially in the old world to leave her merely an official character, so as to sever her connections with the people”. On through the Twentieth Century and to the present day, the French Revolution seems the inspiration of Communism and its Liberal-Progressive-Secular Humanist cousins. I should be like you, more a plodder at my reading. A glance at my shelves reminds me that I have at least a half-dozen books I’m presently reading, or should I say, not reading.

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