Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Celtic Ring

The Celtic Ring
by Bjorn Larsson

On a dark night in the Danish harbor of Dragor, Ulf receives a log-book from a lone sailor who then disappears. The log's bizarre records lead Ulf and his friend, Torben, into a dangerous winter crossing of the North Sea toward Scotland. As they pass through the Caledonian Canal, a lock-gate bursts open, nearly killing them. Fear and paranoia begin to take hold as they come to suspect that someone wants them dead. And then they notice the black fishing boat trailing close in their wake. Before long, Ulf and Torben find themselves at odds with arms smugglers, a Druidic cult, and some of the world's most dangerous waters. First published in Sweden, Bjorn Larsson's bestselling thriller has been compared by critics to Erskine Childers's The Riddle of the Sands. Larsson combines a mastery of detailed sailing language with an intriguing and momentous plot which culminates in a macabre denouement on an ancient Celtic site.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Fine Dark Line

A Fine Dark Line
by Joe R. Lansdale

It is the summer of 1958 in Dewmont, Texas, a town the great American postwar boom passed by. The kids listen idly to rockabilly on the radio and waste their weekends at the Dairy Queen. And an undetected menace simmers under the heat that clings to the skin like molasses... For thirteen-year-old Stanley Mitchell, the end of innocence comes with his discovery of the mysterious long-ago demise of two very different young women. In his quest to unravel the truth about their tragic fates, Stanley finds a protector in Buster Lighthorse Smith, a black, retired Indian-reservation cop and a sage on the finer points of Sherlock Holmes, the blues, and life's faded dreams. But not every buried thing stays dead. And on one terrifying night of rushing creek water and thundering rain, an arcane, murderous force will rise from the past to threaten the boy in a harrowing rite of passage... Vintage Lansdale, A Fine Dark Line brims with exquisite suspense, powerful characterizations, and the vibrant evocation of a lost time.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Edge of Dark Water

Edge of Dark Water
by Joe R. Lansdale

The novel is set during the Great Depression in East Texas. Teenager Sue Ellen and her friends discover the body of May Lynn, one of their friends, tied to a Singer Sewing Machine in the Sabine River. May Lynn had had dreams of running off to Hollywood to be a movie star. So the group of young people decide to take May Lynn's ashes to Hollywood to fulfill her final dream. After finding and taking a large amount of stolen money, they set out on their adventure pursued by a psychopathic killer named Skunk who is hell-bent on recovering the money for himself.

Monday, November 11, 2013


by William Weber Johnson

The book Corte’s by William Weber Johnson is a book about the character Captain Hernan Cortes who was born in Spain and lived from 1485-1547. He was the heroic explorer who helped conquer the little country of Mexico from it tyrannical Aztec leaders. As the book explains Cortés from an early age was an enterprising boy eager for exploration power and adventure, so it was no surprise when during his conquests convinced the Cuban governor into assisting him with troops to lead the expedition to Mexico in 1519. As mentioned, Mexico was being governed by Montezuma II, emperor of Aztec. After his arrival, Cortes soon learned of the Aztecs and began to make his way to Tenochtitlan, the capital city where he met with various tribes that war at war with the Aztecs and helped him conquer them.

 In November of 1519, Corte’s cleverly took hostage of Montezuma the Aztec emperor knowing full well that if he did not have any leverage against them, they would soon try to kill him. He wasn’t successful because they managed to drive him out of the city but once he had regrouped, Corte’s manages to capture the Mexican city and overthrow the Montezuma regime. After his conquest, Cortes did not return home but instead remained in Mexico City and began to rebuild it on the Aztec ruins. He then invited Europeans to come and settle there. Due to his many his conquests and battles, Cortes acquired a lot of gold and jewels which made him very wealthy and popular back home in Spain. He was therefore appointed governor and captain of New Spain (Mexico).

 Cortes was still interested in exploring, therefore in 1524, he advanced into present day Honduras where he settled for two years but by this time the Spanish government was getting wary of Cortes’ numerous conquests and decided to deport him back home to Spain. He later convinced the Spanish monarchy and they allowed him to return back to South America but with fewer privileges. In 1536, Cortés was clearly bored so he spent his last days exploring Baja Californian peninsula and the Pacific coast of Mexico before returning back to Mexico. Cortes later died in 1547. The narrative of Cortés, Montezuma, and the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire has been chronicled several times, and with explanation, since it is one of the primary events in world history. There are most likely no new facts left to uncover on the conquest, but it is a thrilling, intensely moving, and tremendous story well worth retelling. Johnson is not an acclaimed historian, but he is a well equipped writer who knows the facts, and clever enough is to let the excitement and drama of the saga to unfold by itself. At the epicenter of the narrative is clearly the two protagonists Cortes and Montezuma.

 Cortés is depicted as an enthralling combination of tireless ambition, religious fidelity, and amazing tenderness. Montezuma, also very religious, was less a proactive leader than Cortés, and his introspective nature probably warranted his doom. As Johnson illustrates, this was also an earth shattering clash of civilizations that is still evolving centuries later. This is an amazing work of popular history, perfectly designed for general readers. In this literary piece of writing generally Johnson has greatly used factual research. In fact he recommends several other sources, a number of which are out of print. The book is not revisionist; rather it seems to provide a balanced and non biased opining on Spanish and Aztecan beliefs, practices and cultures. The attention to detail is impeccable, with the provision of a narrative which flows well and is interesting. The book is not ones stereotypically boring history piece but instead a broad, descriptive analysis of Mexican history and how they acquired their independence. This book effectively transports the reader from the former Empirical regime of Montezuma II to the Spanish regime that still stands to date.

Much like Christopher Columbus, Cortés character is still subjected to public scrutiny and criticism simply because it is difficult to establish whether he was truly a hero or an antagonist. According to Johnson’s book, Cortes id viewed as a man who travelled around the globe in search of weak, undemocratic colonies to conquer, he went about his business not mindful of the natives’ cultural practices and beliefs. Although Cortes brought freedom to the Mexican state, his methods of liberation are still questioned. The book generally demands that a reader reads it first then establishes an opinion for him or her self.

 Although this book is generally for people looking to delve into the historical past of Mexico, it also appeals to those with a genuine interest in world history and enlightens the mind on global occurrences that are not often discussed. This book is adequate for analytical readers and scholars alike in perfectly illustrating how a man with twisted interests manages to conquer a territory, leaving tracks of emancipated but socially, politically and economical distraught people. This man overthrows a regime and forces his native political structures and religious views of a people. In this day an age we can draw examples of leaders with misguided interests but still a noble and worthy cause regarding their people from this book. As much as Corte’s went about operating with impunity, brutality and neglect, he was much more interested in bringing down an imperial government that did not put the wills and needs of its citizens as a priority. He did assist Mexico in attaining independence but not without a price i.e. Spanish rule. In general it is safe to say that all interpretations and judgments are left to the reader as he is after all the beneficiary of the historical piece.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 
by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury published in 1953. It is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. The title refers to the temperature that Bradbury understood to be the autoignition point of paper.

The novel has been the subject of various interpretations, primarily focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. In a 1956 radio interview, Bradbury stated that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 because of his concerns at the time (during the McCarthy era) about censorship and the threat of book burning in the United States. In later years, he stated his motivation for writing the book in more general terms.

The novel has won various awards. In 1954, it won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and also the Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal. It has since won the Prometheus "Hall of Fame" Award in 1984 and a 1954 "Retro" Hugo Award, one of only three Best Novel Retro Hugos ever given, in 2004. Bradbury was also honored with a Spoken Word Grammy nomination for his 1976 audiobook version.

The novel has been adapted several times. François Truffaut wrote and directed a film adaptation of the novel in 1966, and a BBC Radio dramatization was produced in 1982. Bradbury published a stage play version in 1979 as well as companion piece titled A Pleasure To Burn in 2010. Additionally, he helped develop a 1984 interactive fiction computer game also titled Fahrenheit 451.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Broken Spears

The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico
edited by Miguel Leon-Portilla

For hundreds of years, the history of the conquest of Mexico and the defeat of the Aztecs has been told in the words of the Spanish victors. Miguel León-Portilla has long been at the forefront of expanding that history to include the voices of indigenous peoples. In this new and updated edition of his classic The Broken Spears, León-Portilla has included accounts from native Aztec descendants across the centuries. These texts bear witness to the extraordinary vitality of an oral tradition that preserves the viewpoints of the vanquished instead of the victors. León-Portilla's new Postscript reflects upon the critical importance of these unexpected historical accounts.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Treasure Chest of Sea Stories

A Treasure Chest of Sea Stories
edited by Max J. Herzberg

A collection of short stories about life on the sea by a variety of authors. Twenty exciting, red-blooded stores of the sea, of sailing ships and iron ships, of heroism and bravery, storm, shipwreck and desert islands, tall tales and sailors' yarns. Authors include Jack London, William Holder, Richard Stern, W. W. Jacobs, James Norman and Arthur Mason among others.

The Aztecs

The Aztecs: A History
by Nigel Davies

"THE AZTECS is quite simply the best general political history of that nation now available in english...Purchase of this book is a real must for persons with a serious interest in the aboriginal peoples on Mesoamerica, Mexican history, or the comparative study of early civilizations."--LATIN AMERICA IN BOOKS.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


by Hermann Hesse

 Siddhartha is a novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel (1922), was written in German, in a simple, lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated Siddhartha to his wife Ninon.

The word Siddhartha is made up of two words in the Sanskrit language, siddha (achieved) + artha (meaning or wealth), which together means "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals". In fact, the Buddha's own name, before his renunciation, was Siddhartha Gautama, Prince of Kapilvastu, Nepal. In this book, the Buddha is referred to as "Gotama".

Monday, September 16, 2013

Daily Life of the Aztecs

Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest 
by Jacques Soustelle

Soustelle's great book about the Aztecs . . . takes us deep into the life of this great society. . . . Soustelle has the rare quality of entering into the minds of those he is studying and seeing things from their point of view. . . . [His] book is one of the best ever written about the Aztecs, his portrait of their society is a triumph of scholarship, understanding, and literary skill.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Countess

The Countess
by Rebecca Johns

 Johns's creepily enticing second novel (after Icebergs) travels to 1611 Hungary as Countess Erzsébet Báthory--aka the Blood Countess--is being walled into a castle tower as punishment for the murder of dozens of women and girls. She begins writing her life story as an exposé of the many betrayals that have brought about this--as she sees it--outrageous and unjust imprisonment. The steady, calm tone of Erzsébet's narration lulls the reader along so that the first hints of madness in her girlhood engender doubt and discomfort rather than horror, and as her lack of remorse and grandiose sense of entitlement are unveiled, a matter-of-fact self-portrait of a murderer emerges. This is a carefully researched story, gothic in tone and grimly atmospheric, with subtly handled psychology and an initially unassuming tone. Unlike most serial killer stories, this rewards patience and close reading.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Blood Countess

The Blood Countess
by Andrei Codrescu

Andrei Codrescu, NPR commentator and journalist,  has written a fascinating first novel based on the  life of his real-life ancestor, Elizabeth Bathory,  the legendary Blood Countess. Codrescu expertly  weaves together two stories in this neo-gothic  work: that of the 16th-century Hungarian Countess  Elizabeth Bathory, a beautiful and terrifying woman  who bathes in the blood of virgin girls; and of her  distant descendent, a contemporary journalist who  must return to his native Hungary and come to  terms with his bloody and disturbing  past.

Drake Bathory-Kereshtur, a Hungarian-born  journalist who has lived in the United States,  returns to his native Hungary, only to be the target for  recruitment among a patriotic group that wants to  restore the glory--and the horror--of the  Hungarian aristocracy. As a descendent of the Countess  Elizabeth Bathory, he is heir to all that is  wonderful and terrible about his country and his family's  past. Codrescu brilliantly explores Drake's  anguish, as he realizes the truth behind his gruesome  family history. But more importantly, Codrescu  also creates a convincing and historically accurate  picture of a sadistic woman obsessed with youth,  vigor, beauty, and blood_a woman with enough power  to order the deaths of 650 virgins so that she  could bathe in their blood.

The Blood Countess is a bizarre and  compelling book about the horrors of the past, shown  so effectively in the monstrous yet attractive  personality of Elizabeth, and what pull these horrors  have on those who live  now.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hotel Honolulu

Hotel Honolulu
by Paul Theroux

Scrappy, satiric and frowsily exotic, this loosely constructed novel of debauchery and frustrated ambition in present-day Hawaii debunks the myth of the island as a vacationer's paradise. The episodic narrative is presided over by two protagonists: the unnamed narrator, a has-been writer who leaves the mainland to manage the seedy Hotel Honolulu, and raucous millionaire Buddy Hamstra, the hotel's owner and former manager, who fired himself to give the narrator his job.

The narrator is at once amused and moved by Buddy, "a big, blaspheming, doggy-eyed man in drooping shorts," who is as reckless in his personal life as he is in his business dealings. He hires the writer despite his lack of qualifications, and the writer returns the favor in loyalty and affection, acting as witness to Buddy's flamboyant decline. As the hotel's manager, the writer comes to know a succession of downtrodden travelers and Hawaii residents, each more eccentric than the next. Typical are a wealthy lawyer whose amassed fortune does not bring him happiness; a past-her-prime gossip columnist involved in a love triangle with her bisexual son and her son's male lover; and a man who is obsessed with a woman he meets through the personals.

Theroux, never one to tread lightly, often portrays native Hawaiians including the writer's wife as simpleminded, craven souls. But he is an equal-opportunity satirist, skewering all his characters except perhaps his alter-ego narrator and Leon Edel, the real-life biographer of Henry James, who makes an extended, unlikely cameo appearance. The lack of conventional plot and the dreariness of life at Hotel Honolulu make the narrative drag at times, but Theroux's ear and eye are as sharp as ever, his prose as clean and supple.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Tao of Travel

The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road
Edited by Paul Theroux

Travel maestro Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar) conducts a rambling tour of the genre in this diverting meditation on passages from his own and other writers' works. Several chapters spotlight underappreciated travel writers from Samuel Johnson to Paul Bowles, while others explore themes both profound and whimsical. There are classic set-piece literary evocations, including Thoreau on the hush of the Maine woods and Henry James on the miserable pleasures of Venice. A section on storied but disappointing destinations fingers Tahiti as "a mildewed island of surly colonials"; travel epics—shipwrecks, Sahara crossings, Jon Krakauer's duel with Mount Everest—are celebrated; exotic meals are recalled (beetles, monkey eyes, and human flesh, anyone?); and some writers, like Emily Dickinson, just stay home and write about that. The weakest section is a compendium of aphoristic abstractions—"Travel is a vanishing act, a solitary trip down a pinched line of geography to oblivion"—while the strongest pieces descry a tangible place through a discerning eye and pungent sensibility: "I do not think I shall ever forget the sight of Etna at sunset," Evelyn Waugh rhapsodizes; "Nothing I have seen in Art or Nature was quite so revolting."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Black Coconuts, Brown Magic

Black Coconuts, Brown Magic
by Joseph Theroux

The first novel by Joseph Theroux, set in the fallen paradise of Samoa. Silas Wicklowe, once a medic in Vietnam, is now a doctor on a three-month assignment at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago. Wicklowe carries a double burden. Born in American Samoa, the son of a naval officer, he has returned to paradise to uncover the mysteries surrounding his dead mother and father. He's also running from his former wife. His war experience has made him impotent, thrown him into a kind of psychic fatigue. He suffers from what the Samoans call ''spirit sickness.'' He screams in the night and walks around with dead eyes. He has the Vietnam blues. Joseph Theroux is the younger brother of the writers Paul and Alexander Theroux.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Conquest

The Conquest
by Yxta Maya Murray

Sara Rosario Gonzales is a restorer of rare books and manuscripts at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. When Sara restores a sixteenth-century manuscript about an Aztec princess enslaved by Cortes and sent to Europe to entertain the pope and Emperor Charles V, she doesn't realize the power of the tale she's about to immerse herself into.

The princess, we find, is determined to avenge the slaughter of her people, and Sara is determined to prove that the book, which caused scandal when first published, was written by the Aztec princess herself, and not the European monk reputed to have penned it.

The Conquest is a beautifully written novel that offers both hope that true love does exist and that history, in all its complexity, is what drives us all toward tomorrow

Entwined within Sara's fascination of the manuscript is Sara's own life: the frustration over her inability to commit to Karl, the man who has loved her since high school; the haunting wisdom of her departed mother; and the stability of a father who sees the world in a way Sara does not, both pragmatically and unyieldingly.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Coming Fury

The Centennial History of the Civil War, Part 1: The Coming Fury
by Bruce Catton

 This one is about the complex legal issues that led to the Civil War and to the most momentous decision in U. S. history: how should President Lincoln respond to the secessions and the seizures of federal property in the South? It raises many interesting questions, not the least of which is, did he make the right decision? Was the bloodbath worth it? If Lincoln had known the consequences, would he have made the same decision? If he had let the South go, would it have brought peace? How long would slavery have continued?

Was secession a Constitutional right, as the Confererates claimed? If not, why did Lincoln recognize West Virginia’s right to secede from Virginia? Was this a hypocritical double standard? Private property was protected by the Constitution; did that include private property in slaves? Lincoln thought it did. Was he justified in suspending habeas corpus in Maryland? What is a nation? Is it a compact among sovereign states? Or is it a sovereignty over constituent states? When federals violated the Fugitive Slave Law, did that constitute recognition that the South was an independent country? 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Investment Valuation

Investment Valuation: Tools and Techniques for Determining the Value of Any Asset 
by Aswath Damodaran

Valuation is at the heart of any investment decision, whether that decision is buy, sell or hold. But the pricing of many assets has become a more complex task in modern markets, especially after the recent financial crisis. In order to be successful at this endeavor, you must have a firm understanding of the proper valuation techniques. One valuation book stands out as withstanding the test of time among investors and students of financial markets, Aswath Damodaran'sInvestment Valuation.

 Now completely revised and updated to reflect changing market conditions, this third edition comprehensively introduces investment professionals and students to the range of valuation models available and how to chose the right model for any given asset valuation scenario. This edition includes valuation techniques for a whole host of real options, start-up firms, unconventional assets, distressed companies and private equity, and real estate.

Marketing Management

Marketing Management
by Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller

"Marketing Management" is an excellent textbook on the current marketing trends. It is an enjoyable and useful book. After reading the book, one will really understand that marketing is all about understanding the customer needs and finding solutions that delight the customer. The reader will come to appreciate that marketing is a philosophy of doing business for those organisations that are going to thrive in the current highly competitive global markets.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, whose closest friend is Hassan, his father's young Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan's monarchy through the Soviet military intervention, the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Captive

The Captive
by Scott O'Dell

As part of a Spanish expedition to the New World, a Jesuit seminarian witnesses the enslavement and exploitation of the Mayas and is seduced by greed and ambition.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Red Planet

Red Planet
by Robert Heinlein

 Red Planet is a 1949 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about students at boarding school on the planet Mars. It represents the first appearance of Heinlein's idealized Martian elder race (see also Stranger in a Strange Land). The version published in 1949 featured a number of changes forced on Heinlein by Scribner's, since it was published as part of the Heinlein juveniles. After Heinlein's death, the book was reissued by Del Rey Books as the author originally intended.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chump Change

Chump Change 
by Dan Fante 

The book follows the exploits of Bruno Dante. In New York his life is a train wreck and is turned into an upheaval when he gets the call from Los Angeles that his screenwriter father is in a coma and not expected to live. The next three weeks on the streets on the streets of L.A. will change Bruno Dante's life forever. The book expresses the bewilderment of its hero and its author with rawness, crudeness, and shock, and also serves as a very beautiful and touching homage to Fante's famous father John Fante. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Founders' Second Amendment

The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms
 by Stephen P. Halbrook

 Stephen P. Halbrook's The Founders' Second Amendment is the first book-length account of the origins of the Second Amendment, based on the Founders' own statements as found in newspapers, correspondence, debates, and resolutions. Mr. Halbrook investigates the period from 1768 to 1826, from the last years of British rule and the American Revolution through to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the passing of the Founders' generation. His book offers the most comprehensive analysis of the arguments behind the drafting and adoption of the Second Amendment, and the intentions of the men who created it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Crafting And Executing Strategy

Crafting & Executing Strategy: The Quest for Competitive Advantage: Concepts and Cases 
by Arthur Thompson, Margaret Peteraf, John Gamble, A. J. Strickland III

 The 18th edition of Crafting and Executing Strategy represents one of our most important and thoroughgoing revisions ever. The newest member of the author team, Margie Peteraf, led a thorough re-examination of every paragraph on every page of the 17th edition chapters. The overriding objectives were to inject new perspectives and the best academic thinking, strengthen linkages to the latest research findings, modify the coverage and exposition as needed to ensure squarely on-target content, and give every chapter a major facelift. While this 18th edition retains the same 12-chapter structure of the prior edition, every chapter has been totally refreshed. And the chapter content continues to be solidly mainstream and balanced, mirroring both the best academic thinking and the pragmatism of real-world strategic management.

 Known for its cases and teaching notes, this edition provides an unparalleled case line up of 28 cases. (1) 25 of the 28 cases are brand new or extensively updated for this edition, (2) The selection of cases is diverse, timely, and thoughtfully-crafted and complements the text presentation pushing students to apply the concepts and analytical tools they have read about. (3) Many cases involve high-profile companies. (4) And there’s a comprehensive package of support materials that are a breeze to use, highly effective, and flexible enough to fit most any course design.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction
by Martin Gilbert

 In the early hours of November 10, 1938, Nazi storm troopers and Hitler Youth rampaged through Jewish neighborhoods across Germany, leaving behind them a horrifying trail of terror and destruction. More than a thousand synagogues and many thousands of Jewish shops were destroyed, while thirty thousand Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht—the Night of Broken Glass—was a decisive stage in the systematic eradication of a people who traced their origins in Germany to Roman times and was a sinister forewarning of the Holocaust.

 With rare insight and acumen, Martin Gilbert examines this night and day of terror, presenting readers with a meticulously researched, masterfully written, and eye-opening study of one of the darkest chapters in human history.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience

The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience
by Emory M. Thomas

This volume, first published in 1971, has made us look again at the events surrounding the Civil War. The Confederate Southerners likened themselves to the American revolutionaries of 1776. Although both revolutions sought independence and the overthrow of an existing political system, the Confederates battled for a political separation to conserve rather than to create. The result, however, was a transformation of the antebellum traditions they were fighting to preserve.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hard-Tack and Coffee

Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life
by John D. Billings

 Most histories of the Civil War focus on battles and top brass. Hardtack and Coffee is one of the few to give a vivid, detailed picture of what ordinary soldiers endured every day—in camp, on the march, at the edge of a booming, smoking hell. John D. Billings of Massachusetts enlisted in the Army of the Potomac and survived the conditions he recorded. The authenticity of his book is heightened by the many drawings that a comrade, Charles W. Reed, made in the field.

 This is the story of how the Civil War soldier was recruited, provisioned, and disciplined. Described here are the types of men found in any outfit; their not very uniform uniforms; crowded tents and makeshift shelters; difficulties in keeping clean, warm, and dry; their pleasure in a cup of coffee; food rations, dominated by salt pork and the versatile cracker or hardtack; their brave pastimes in the face of death; punishments for various offenses; treatment in sick bay; firearms and signals and modes of transportation. Comprehensive and anecdotal, Hardtack and Coffee is striking for the pulse of life that runs through it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hallowed Ground

Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg
by James M. McPherson

“[I]n a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our power to add or detract.”
—President Abraham Lincoln

James M. McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom, and arguably the finest Civil War historian in the world, walks us through the site of the bloodiest and perhaps most consequential battle ever fought by Americans. 

The events that occurred at Gettysburg are etched into our collective memory, as they served to change the course of the Civil War and with it the course of history. More than any other place in the United States, Gettysburg is indeed hallowed ground. It’s no surprise that it is one of the nation’s most visited sites (nearly two million annual visitors), attracting tourists, military buffs, and students of American history. 

McPherson, who has led countless tours of Gettysburg over the years, makes stops at Seminary Ridge, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Hill, and Little Round Top, among other key locations. He reflects on the meaning of the battle, describes the events of those terrible three days in July 1863, and places the struggle in the greater context of American and world history. Along the way, he intersperses stories of his own encounters with the place over several decades, as well as debunking several popular myths about the battle itself.

What brought those 165,000 soldiers—75,000 Confederate, 90,000 Union—to Gettysburg? Why did they lock themselves in such a death grip across these once bucolic fields until 11,000 of them were killed or mortally wounded, another 29,000 were wounded and survived, and about 10,000 were “missing”—mostly captured? What was accomplished by all of this carnage? Join James M. McPherson on a walk across this hallowed ground as he be encompasses the depth of meaning and historical impact of a place that helped define the nation’s character.

Friday, January 4, 2013

At Gettysburg

At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle
by Tillie Pierce Alleman

The experience of a little girl, during three days of a hard fought battle, as portrayed in this volume is certainly of rare occurrence, and very likely has never been realized before. Such a narrative as the following, is worthy of preservation among the pages of our nations literature. The story is told with such marked faithfulness, such honesty of expression, such vividness of portrayal, that those who lived in, and passed through those scenes, or similar ones, will at once recognize the situations, and surroundings, as natural and real.

While perusing its pages, the veteran will again live in the days gone by; when he tramped the dusty march, joined in the terrible charge, or suffered in the army hospital. The Heroine of this book, performed her part well; but it is doubtful whether, at the time, she fully realized the heart-felt thanks, and noble thoughts that sprang from the "Boys in Blue," in response to her heroism and kindness. How vividly is presented the weary march to the field of conflict; our eagerness to quaff the sparkling water, as she handed it to us, fresh from the cooling spring. We thanked her, but she did not hear the full gratitude that was in our hearts. Who but a soldier can know the welling emotions in that dying general's breast, when, perhaps for the first time in many months, he gazed into an innocent and child-like face, seeing naught but tender love and deep sympathy.

Did she not in part, take the place of those near and dear to his heart, but who, on that fearful night were many miles away? How his thoughts must have flashed homeward! And oh! the tender chords that must have been touched in his valiant soul! No wonder he looked "so earnestly" in her face. He was feasting on the sympathies that sprang from her heart and illumined her countenance. She did greater things than she knew, and her reward will follow. But we shall refer to no more scenes. They are many and varied. In their contemplation, the reader will experience his own thoughts and emotions. We have been asked to write a preface to her narrative; but we cannot slight this opportunity of thanking her in the name of the "Boys in Blue," and all patriots, for what she did. We are truly glad to have this touching and thrilling story of her experience at the battle of Gettysburg, even though after many years; and our only regret is, that many of our comrades have answered to the last roll-call, before its publication. We will rejoice in its publication, and wide circulation; for it is deserving a welcome, not only in public libraries, but in the family circle of every American. It cannot fail to interest and instruct both old and young. The book will speak for itself.

Fear in Chile

Fear in Chile: Lives Under Pinochet
by Patricia Politzer

First-person accounts of life in Pinochet's Chile—"the perfect epitaph to a violent dictatorship" (Library Journal). "Like a García Márquez novel that has suddenly, horrifyingly, come to real life" (New York Newsday), Fear in Chile is an extraordinary collection of first-person accounts of life under dictatorship. In the 1980s, shortly after Chile emerged from one of the century's most notorious reigns of terror, Chilean journalist Patricia Politzer interviewed figures including a revolutionary activist, a military leader loyal to General Augusto Pinochet, a bank clerk concerned with the status quo, the mother of one of the "disappeared," as well as a dozen other men and women from every political position and social stratum of Chilean life. The result is a broad, vivid, yet nonideological view of modern life under military rule, about which Ariel Dorfman writes, "I can think of no better introduction to my country." With the October 1998 arrest of General Pinochet in Great Britain and renewed world awareness of the horrendous crimes committed during his regime, Fear in Chile, updated with a new afterword by the author that considers the recent attempts to prosecute Pinochet for human-rights violations, offers a vivid portrait of Chile's Pinochet era.

Mornings in Mexico

Mornings In Mexico
by D.H. Lawrence

Much of D.H. Lawrence's life was defined by his passion for travel and it was those wanderings that gave life to some of his greatest novels. In the 1920s Lawrence travelled several times to Mexico, where he was fascinated by the clash of beauty and brutality, purity and darkness that he observed. The diverse and evocative essays that make up Mornings in Mexico wander from an admiring portrayal of the Indian way of life to a visit to the studio of Diego Rivera and are brightly adorned with simple and evocative details: piles of fruit in a village market, strolls in a courtyard filled with hibiscus and roses, the play of light on an adobe wall. It was during his time in Mexico that Lawrence re-wrote The Plumed Serpent, which is infused with his own experiences there. To read Mornings in Mexico is thus to discover the inspiration behind of one of Lawrence's most loved works and to be immersed in a portrait of the country like no other.