With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (199) by Eugene B Sledge is an incredible memoir of fighting in the US Marines in the Pacific in World War II in some of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Eugene Sledge was the son of a doctor and was in college and could have become an officer but instead became an enlisted Marine and was in a mortar crew. After the war he went on to become a Professor of Biology.
The book describes the incredible trials and bloody nature of the war where Sledge was. The graphic and matter of fact nature of the startling events is really something. The Japanese changed their tactics from Banzai Charges to defense in depth as they retreated across the islands. The fighting was brutal.
The book is engrossing.
Five Go Away on a Strategy Away Day (2016) by Bruno Vincent is a satirical Famous Five book where they go on a corporate away day full of buzzwords and team building skills. It’s clever, I picked the book, laughed and wound up reading it through a short time later.
It’s clever, not brilliant, if you’re in the right mood it would be really amusing. Strategy away days are rich fodder for satire. It doesn’t quite really work though.
The Catastrophe Signal (2017) by Bernie Lewin is an interesting, but sometimes hard going history of atmospheric climate panels and conferences. The book goes through the panels, research and various investigations that leads up to the International Panel on Climate Change IPCC becoming the dominant greenhouse gas adjudicating panel that provides scientific justification for attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It covers the research into the effects of the Supersonic Transport (SST) on the Ozone layer, to people worried about global cooling in the 1970s to the Ozone Hole Research and panels in the 1980s and later the IPCC. It’s really very interesting, the political justification for much of the research and the early reactions of bodies like the WMO to this kind of research is fascinating. It would be rare to find anyone today who is even aware of the worry about global climate of the SST.
It is also remarkable to read about how action on Ozone was taken before there really was a scientific consensus on the effects. Again, it’s also remarkable to find that much of this action was supported strongly by conservative governments around the world.
The book is more of a valuable serious history than an entertaining read, it is, quite frankly due to the scholarly nature a bit arduous in parts. But it is also rewarding. It becomes clear that activists have driven the process for negotiations and consensus repeatedly. In different cases the outcomes have been very different. On the SST and global cooling effectively nothing happened, on Ozone steps were taken and then scientific justification was found.
Soccermatics: Mathematic Adventures in the Beautiful Game (2016) by David Sumpter is a fine read that looks at how math can be used to explain and improve football. Sumpter is a professor of Applied Math in Sweden who does quite a lot of research helping football teams.
The book looks are how graphs can be used to look at team passing. There is a very well named chapter ‘How Slime Mould Built Barcelona’. There is a section on betting markets and strategies that can be used with them. The book also has a section on how statisticians and mathematicians are being employed now by football teams.
The book is well written and has good explanations of the math involved. For anyone interested in the use of math in sport or in football the book is well worth a read.
The Sun Also Rises (1926) by Ernest Hemingway is a classic novel of the lost generation. It’s hard boiled literature. Hemingway’s sparse, low description style is easy to parody.
But the book must have really been something in 1920s America, a time when few people had been outside the US and here was Hemingway presenting life in exotic Europe, living and drinking with British aristocrats in Paris and going to see the bull fights in Spain. There is a strong overtone of what has happened in the war. The sparse description also works very well when describing being at the sea, swimming and living.
The characters in the book and the doomed love of Brett and Jake is well carried out, somehow it didn’t grab me though.
I really liked the start of the book, but then got bored a bit before enjoying the end. It wasn’t the experience that it seems to have been for some people nor was it the dull, racist, sexist and facile book it is for others.
It’s an interesting book and a good read.
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It (2016) by Steven Pressfield is an entertaining short book for writers and wannabe writers about realising what the title says and writing something that people do really want to read.
Pressfield uses his experience writing in advertising, writing novels and screenplays to give his insights into what works. He writes about how useful it was to be in advertising where people really don’t want to read what you write and also getting insight into what works in screenplays and how it can help novels.
It’s a fun short read and isn’t a waste of time for anyone who writes or thinks about writing.
The Napoleonic Wars: A Very Short Introduction (2013) by Mike Rapport is another excellent very short introduction. The book describes the wars between 1792 and 1815. The author, Mike Rapport, a senior lecturer of history at The University of Stirling in Scotland. He’s written numerous other longer history books.
The Very Short Introduction books are a bit hit and miss, some of the books that describe vague concepts are not that great, but the ones that have a constrained subject they can describe in more detail than a Wikipedia page but with fewer pages than the heavyweight history books that are more ‘complete’ are often excellent. This is one of the latter.
The wars are divided into two sections, the revolutionary wars and the Napoleonic wars. The book also describes Total War, revolutionary Wars, the impact on soldiers and civilians, the war at sea and ‘the people’s war’.
I really enjoyed the book, learned a lot and am inspired to go and read more about the Napoleonic Wars and to find similar books about The Seven Years War and The Thirty Years War.