Vietnam War: A Captivating Guide to the Second Indochina War (2017) by Captivating History is a short history of the Vietnam War. I got it for free on Amazon. It was worth the price and worth my time.
I learned quite a bit about the war, in particular the way it was waged by the US is a pretty ad hoc fashion and how the US set up the post French Vietnamese government without much care.
For people who really know about the Vietnam War presumably there is a lot that the book misses and gets wrong, but it seems it’s a pretty good introduction.
World War 1: A History from Beginning to End (2016) by Henry Freeman is a short, 50 page history of WWI.
The book doesn’t contain any great insights but for anyone looking for something more than a wikipedia page but less than the typical five hundred page history it is useful. I certainly learned quite a few things about WWI and will probably go back and read it in future. It’s a bit like one of the short introduction to books but it is even shorter.
The book does exactly what it describes and is worth the time required to read it.
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens (2017) by Eddie Izzard is Izzard’s autobiography. Izzard is a fantastically funny comedian who is also a transvestite.
The book covers Izzard’s life growing up with a very able accountant father and the tragic early death of his mother from cancer. After her death Izzard went to boarding schools and found things hard there. He realised at a young age he wanted to perform and loved Monty Python.
He didn’t get into Cambridge and go through the footlights but instead arranged a show at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, then dropped out of University then performed in the street and then became a stand up and eventually became the incredible success he is today. On the way he also ‘came out’ as a transvestite.
Izzard’s comedy is great, a clever mix of observation and surreal humour. He’s also had a remarkable life. Yet the book doesn’t really successfully glue all that together. For anyone who loves Izzard it’s worth a read but somehow the whole is less than expected from the sum of the parts.
Sheilas, Wogs & Pooters: An Incomplete Biography of Johnny Warren and Soccer in Australia (2002) by Johnny Warren, Andy Harper and Josh Whittington covers Warren’s great career as a very successful football player and Australian soccer manager, commentator and promoter and provides a simultaneous history of Australian soccer from the late 1950s until the early 2000s.
Warren was in Botany on a street that would, incredibly, provide three representatives of Australia in various sports. He somewhat randomly started to play soccer and was superb at it from a young age, playing in much higher divisions as a junior. As a young man he played for St George-Budapest and encountered European and South American players and styles which had a big impact on him. He also met Les Murray, the great SBS broadcaster while playing for them.
The book goes through the era of clubs made by post-war migration in Australia. The state based competitions were dominated by ethnic Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Jewish and Macedonian based teams.
Warren went on to represent Australia from 1964 until 1974, playing as an attacking midfielder. He also captained the team and was later part of the team that qualified for Australia’s first World Cup, that of Germany in 1974.
After playing he went on to manage and then promote soccer and helped the establishment of the NSL in the late 1970s. He coached Canberra and also helped to bring the New York Cosmos out for exhibition games in Australia.
Warren had written as a soccer journalist since the 1960s. He then joined up with Les Murray and became part of the soccer broadcasters at SBS that did so much for the game in Australia.
As well as being autobiographical the book successfully intertwines a history of the game in Australia, Warren’s love of the game as an international game and a history of the Australian national team in Warren’s era.
For anyone interested in Australian soccer this book really is a must read. In conjunction with The Death and Life of Australian Soccer it provides a great view of Australian soccer in the post war era. As well as providing the autobiography of Warren the book provides more details of the teams while Warren played and highlights the huge role that SBS played in popularising soccer in Australia.
Cosmic Engineers (1950) by Clifford D. Simak is a fun, short, quickly paced sci-fi story that has quite a few clever concepts and ideas. It was originally published as a short story in 1939. It’s a bit pulpy, but some of the ideas that crop up seem to have been revisited many times. While this might not be their first airing it’s still earlier than I’d thought some of the ideas had appeared.
It’s not great, but it’s fun and worth a read.
Snow Country (1937) by Yasunari Kawataba is a fine, moving and skillfully crafted story set in Western Japan.
Shimamura, a wealthy man from Tokyo meets Komako, a geisha. They fall in love, but he leaves and returns in years following.
The craft of the story, and the great translation I read, is really something. Short and well worth reading.
Coraline (2006) by Neil Gaiman is a delightful, creepy tale of a girl who goes through a door to a weird, eerie world that threatens her life with her parents. It’s short, simple and very well done. It’s very much worth a read.