Monday, November 14, 2016

What are you reading?

A new trailing thread, dedicated to what we're currently reading.

And. . . we hope. . . with participation from you.

What are you reading right  now? Add it down in the commentary section


June 21, 2016

Give Me Eighty Men

I'm presently reading Give Me Eighty Men by Shannon Smith. It's a history of the Fetterman Fight, and a history of the history of the Fetterman Fight. I'll review it when I'm done, but I'll note that the favorable mention of the book by the authors of The Heart of All That Is caused me to pick it up, even though I'd been inclined to previously avoid it.

So far, I'm enjoying it, and its certainly raising a lot questions in my mind about the Fetterman battle, although I'm reserving my judgment on various things so far.


July 5, 2016

Red Cloud's War

I must be stuck on a theme right now.  Having read The Heart of All that Is, and having learned about Give Me Eighty Men from that, I am now reading Red Cloud's War by McDermott which I learned about from Give Me Eighty Men.  I wasn't actually aware that John McDermott had written a two volume history of Red Cloud's War until I saw it referenced, with a bit of criticism as to his treatment of Fetterman, in Smith's book but I'm enjoying it so far, having just started it today while riding on airplanes and sitting in airports. So far, I'm really enjoying it.


July 29, 2016

The Lost Mandate of Heaven
The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam

I just finished the excellent Red Cloud's War earlier this week and started on this over breakfast this morning. While I'm not far into it, so far its been very readable and very interesting as well.


I just finished this book and I'm left, yet again, wondering why the Kennedy Administration continues to  have such an golden aura surrounding it.

Besides Kennedy's personal ickiness, his administration was a foreign policy and moral wreck.  Camelot?  More like the court of AEthelred the Unready.


October 13, 2016

Blacklisted by History
The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy
by M. Stanton Evans 

A good, and very well read, friend of mine has been recommending this book to me for quite some time.  I just picked it up, and as I had been getting a lot of airport time, I'm about 3/4s of the way through it, even though its a lengthy book (in excess of 600 pages) and its incredibly dense in cited facts and sources.

Indeed, it's a hard book to describe.  It purports to be the "untold" story of Senator McCarthy, and I had some concern that it might be a revisionist essay, but it's neither really solely about McCarthy nor is it so much of an essay (although it is that) as an incredibly detailed example of investigative reporting.  Evans, who wrote the book, had a career in journalism and that shows.   Given that it is investigative journalism, basically, combined with history, and because Evans knew he was taking on the prior record, it's extremely densely packed with cites to original sources and its also somewhat repetitive.  Nonetheless, its riveting. 

What the book really is, is a history of Soviet penetration into American government in the 1930s and 1940s.  It starts well before McCarthy was on the scene and looks at a lot of data before he ever made his appearance.  It then picks up his role in exposing Communists in American government once he arrives.

I'm not finished with the book yet, but while I'll come back with my full opinions when I'm done, I'm satisfied that its not a simple hard right McCarthy fan piece.  Indeed, the friend who recommended it to me actually noted that when Evans started the book off he expected to find the opposite of what he did, which may explain in part why the book is so extraordinarily careful in slamming the reader repetitively with original sources.  And I also have to note that its slightly,  but only slightly, anti climatic (so far) in that the story in this area has really changed dramatically since 1990.  McCarthy, however, hasn't really been rehabilitated so far in the public eye.

That's a bit surprising as following the 1990 collapse of the Soviet Union and the release of Soviet records, combined with the Federal Government's release of the Army's Venona files we now knew beyond a shawdow of a doubt that Soviet espionage efforts were far deeper than previously believed. Figures like Whitaker Chambers who suffered for sounding the alarm turn out not only to be correct, but in fact the Soviet effort was far greater than was previously known to anyone but the government and its investigative arms.  Venona has confirmed that many of the people that left wing and liberal apologists maintained were innocent victims of accusations were in fact Communist operatives, just as they were accused of being.  Indeed, people who were only sort of expected turn out to be proven Communist operatives.

Evans builds on that and demonstrates that the individuals on the original McCarthy list of suspects and the amended one, some 60 or so people, were in fact generally what they were accused of being.  He also goes on to show that McCarthy clearly had sources inside at least a couple of agencies that were supplying him with up to date information so the period accusations that his stories were old news were inaccurate.

I'll leave it there, and there is more to discuss, but I'll pick that back up when I finish the book.

Update, November 14, 2016:

I finished the book noted above (some time ago actually) and highly recommend it, although it does have a very unusual style.  It's author's role as a journalist really shows, as its basically a series of essay points and explorations of evidence.

As good as it is, I still wouldn't say that its the definitive biography of McCarthy.  It's really simply an exploration of his role in exploring Communist infiltration into the US government and the opposition that he met in doing that.  I'd regard it as slightly partisan, but very well done.

I also think, however, that a full biography that's not biased would be in order, which I understand has not really been done. This book explores McCarthy's early life a bit, although not much, but completely omits anything regarding his personal life upon reaching public office.  His marriage to a much younger member of his staff, for example, isn't even mentioned.

All in all, a very good correction to the record, very well researched, and convincingly written.


November 14, 2016

The Secret War
by Max Hastings 

Hastings is extremely well known to students of World War Two and has written a number of absolutely excellent books on that topic. The former journalist hasn't focused solely on the Second World War, and recently wrote one on World War One.  At the time he wrote that book, he indicated that he was done writing on World War Two, but obviously, he wasn't.  He's noted that he's returned to the Second World War after making such statements before, doing so this time to examine intelligence and espionage during World War Two.

I must be on an espionage and fifth column kick, as the book noted immediately above is also basically on that general theme, but when I heard that Hastings had written a new book on this topic, I knew that I'd get it. Due to a series of long flights, I actually started it before I completed Blacklisted By History.

I'm still reading it and still have quite a ways to go, but so far, it meets with Hastings high standards of writing and research.  I'll detail more on it when I complete the book.


LeAnn28 said...

Goodreads updates my book reviews on my blog. Currently, I'm reading The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati (a pseudonym for Rosina Lippi). It is set in NYC in the 1880's and follows the lives of two female doctors (one a surgeon and one a physician). They are cousins and were both orphaned and came to NYC to live with an aunt. The surgeon is a white woman, while her cousin is a mixed woman (referred to as mulatto in the novel as was custom at the time this novel focuses on). It is quite interesting so far.

Pat, Marcus & Alexis said...

That sounds interesting.

I rarely read fiction, but when I do, it's almost always historical fiction. I recently read Mushashi, the great Japanese historical novel, which I highly recommend.

The irony, I suppose, of my not reading much in the way of fiction is that this blog started off as a research tool for a work of historical fiction I'm trying to write myself.

Neil Waring said...

Retired from teaching after 42 years and still cannot avoid a good education read. Now reading - The Essential 55, by Ron Clark. It is a fast and easy read with much good information.
The historian side of me is reading, and enjoying very much, Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem, by James C. Olson.

Pat, Marcus & Alexis said...

Neil, have you read McDermott's history of Red Cloud's War?

I just finished Give Me Eight Men, and just before that I read The Hear of All that Is, the new biography on Red Cloud. The author of Give Me Eight Men cites what she asserts is an error in regards to Fetterman in McDermott's book, but then she says Utley, who is a great frontier history historian, made a similiar error. That book, of course, is about correcting errors regarding the Fetterman Fight.

Having just finished Give Me Eight Men, I'm about to start a new read on something (I'm always reading something) and was debating the McDermott book. I liked his history of Ft. Caspar and I wondered what his book on Red Cloud's War was like.

Neil Waring said...

This is the first Red Cloud book for me. Seems I was always reading, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse books - everything I could find. I have read a lot of Utley's stuff and once heard him speak, great stuff. Think I will take a look at, Give Me Eight Men.

Merideth in Wyoming said...

Currently reading "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" by Sherman Alexie next will be "The Lives of Otto Chenoweth: Wyoming's Gentleman Horse Thief" by Lawrence Woods. Usually read only history, but I like Sherman Alexie.