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« Iaido Practice 10/1/2008 | Main | Iaido Seminar - the Venue »

October 07, 2008

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Current Books

  • Johannes Kepler: Epitome of Copernican Astronomy & Harmonies of the World (Great Minds Series)

    Johannes Kepler: Epitome of Copernican Astronomy & Harmonies of the World (Great Minds Series)
    I was doing some star gazing this weekend and got to thinking about Copernicus, Kepler and Tycho Brahe. These are the individuals who, along with Galileo, revolutionized the science of astronomy. When I was younger I played with the idea of becoming an astronomer, but I quickly realized that I did not have the math skills for it. Good read, however. (****)

  • Dale L. Walker: The Boys of '98: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders

    Dale L. Walker: The Boys of '98: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders
    We were talking in class the other night about the Roosevelt legend and the effect that both TR and FDR had upon world history in the 20th Century. This book depicts the events of the Spanish American War as seen through the eyes of the First U.S. Volunteer Regeiment (Cavalry). It gives the history of the Rough Riders in Cuba (only some of the companies of the Regiment managed to catch the boat) and vividly describes the Battle of Las Guasimas as well as the charges led by TR which took both Kettle and San Juan Hills over looking the city of Santiago. Must read if you want to know what happened in the Rough Rider's "crowded hour." (****)

  • Dave Lowry: In the Dojo: A Guide to the Rituals and Etiquette of the Japanese Martial Arts

    Dave Lowry: In the Dojo: A Guide to the Rituals and Etiquette of the Japanese Martial Arts
    I wish that I had this book when I started kendo. My then teacher wasn't too big on rei-ho and the sempei were nothing but a bunch of kids who had been trained by him. This book has the answer to a number of questions that I had had during my initial kendo career. Not perfect, but I have loaned it out to karate-ka who needs some tips on what is "traditional" and what is not. (****)

  • Victor Hanson: Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think

    Victor Hanson: Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think
    Since I haven't posted book reviews doesn't mean I haven't been reading so I'm working on my back log. Besides I need to push my review of the Carpetbaggers down the queue. This book looks at the effects of three battles. The US invasion of Okinawa in 1945, the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 and the Battle of Delium between the Athenians and Boetians in the Pellopenesian War. Each of these battles changed the war warfare is conducted and each has effects which persist to this day. Delium is apparently one of the first instances of the use of combined arms. It is said that "Pagondas made use of planned tactical warfare for one of the first times in recorded history. In the previous centuries, battles between Greek city states were relatively simple encounters between massed formations of hoplites, where cavalry played no important role and all depended on the unity and force of the massed ranks of the infantry, straining against the opponent. At Delium, Pagondas made use of deeper ranks, reserves, cavalry interventions, and gradual changes in tactics during the battle." Shiloh was the first of the total war battles which were fought to the hill and pre-saged the start of more industrial slaughter such as was seen at Gettysburg and Grant's campaigns in Virginia in 1864-65. Finally, Okinawa was fought as a result of the desire of the US to secure an air base closer to the Japanese home islands and used by the Japanese as an opportunity to inflict such a huge cost on US forces as to force public opinion into effecting a negotiated peace. Well worth reading. (****)

  • Steven Pressfield: Last of the Amazons

    Steven Pressfield: Last of the Amazons
    Pressfield (as you may gather) is one of my favorite authors. Of his books, this one stands out amongst a group of stand out novels. He takes the story of Theseus of Athens and his war with the Amazons and takes it to a level which makes it completely readable. The character development is superb and the age old battle between agrarian and nomadic life is explored, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. (*****)

  • Thucydides: The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War

    Thucydides: The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War
    I hated this book when I read it in high school but I have begun re-reading the Great Books of the Western World. When I got to Thucydides I found it to be a bit dense. However, Professor Hanson's telling was much more intelligible. Essential reading for a back ground of the age old struggle between democracy and tyranny. (****)

  • Nathaniel Philbrick: Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

    Nathaniel Philbrick: Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842
    Before America turned to the West, it turned to the sea. This book gives the history of the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-42. Cast of 100s, with an extremely competent yet tragically flawed commander, the Ex.Ex. discovered Antarctica, explored the mouth of the Columbia River (which I never knew could be so treacherous before it was tamed by dams in the New Deal era) and returned with 1000s of specimens which formed the basis of the Smithsonian Museum. First rate. (****)

  • Steven Pressfield: Killing Rommel: A Novel

    Steven Pressfield: Killing Rommel: A Novel
    Pressfield (Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire) has written another novel of historical fiction. This one depicts the Long Range Desert Patrols who fought in the North African campaign in 1940-1942. This campaign was the last one fought with a bit of chivalry. This probably due, at least in part, to the fact that the elements were so severe for both the Axis and the Allies they had a common enemy, the Sahara. Thus, while the encounters between forces were oft-time murderous, there were times when both sides engaged in acts of kindness toward the other that you do not hear much about. I highly recommend this book. (*****)

  • Eric Flint: The Rivers of War

    Eric Flint: The Rivers of War
    As I finished this book Hurricane Katrina was finished ravishing the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I was struck by the primacy of this area for the development of the United States and came to realized the geopolitical reason why there was even a "Battle of New Orleans". Flint is a master of alternate history novels, and this one is great. Character development is adequate (Flint is a former labor organizer and he likes his enlisted men over officers - and it shows in his writing). First of an apparent trilogy, I would recommend it. (****)

  • John Ringo: Into the Looking Glass

    John Ringo: Into the Looking Glass
    If you can accept the premise of wormholes then this is the book for you. Marked down for being "too short" it is otherwise an interesting book with aliens appearing on Earth as a result of a science experiment gone horribly wrong. Mechanized battle suits (see Gust Front) make a reappearance. Ringo can read the soldiers heart and makes honor the central theme. I particularly liked the author's insight that no one would get post-traumatic stress syndrome from killing aliens. (****)

  • John Ringo: Watch on the Rhine (The Posleen War)

    John Ringo: Watch on the Rhine (The Posleen War)
    This is another in the Ringo created Posleen Universe (PoVer) to the initiated. Centaur-alligators invade the Earth, aided and abetted by the shadowy Darheel who try to play both sides against each other. Earth responds militarily and regenerates (as a physician I can state that would be way cool) warriors from nursing homes who have combat skills. Germany makes the decision to resurrect survivors of the Waffen SS creating a firestorm within the watermelon community (Greens on the outside, Reds on the inside). If you are going to jump into the PoVer start with a Hymn Before Battle and Gust Front before going here. Sure to offend some with it's paen to the fighting capabilities of the deutshe volk. (Epilogue hints at a revival of the Yamato spirit as well). (****)

  • Douglas Preston: Brimstone

    Douglas Preston: Brimstone
    Another classic from these authors. I've been a fan of theirs from their first book Relic. FBI Agent Prendergast is one of the great characters in the crime/horror genre and I would urge you to get your hands on this page turner (yes, it's 640 pages but I whipped through it in a day and a half). Hair-raising! (****)

  • John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps (Oxford World's Classics)

    John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps (Oxford World's Classics)
    A classic spy novel made into a great movie by Hitchcock. The prequel to Buchan's Greenmantle. (****)

  • John  Glusman: Conduct Under Fire: Four American Doctors and Their Fight for Life as Prisoners of the Japanese, 1941-1945

    John Glusman: Conduct Under Fire: Four American Doctors and Their Fight for Life as Prisoners of the Japanese, 1941-1945
    Harrowing tale of USN physicians taken prisoner during the Japanese invasion of the Phillipines during WWII. As doctors they exemplified the highest traditions of the Hippocratic tradition. Goes into detail about nutritional deficiency syndromes engendered by the diet given to Allied Prisoners during their captivity during the War. The genesis of Japanese atrocities are explored (I was surprised to learn that during the Russo-Japanese War and during WWI that Imperial Japanese troops had orders to kindly treat captives, which were rescinded during the period leading up to the Second World War) and the consequences of the Allied Powers finding out about these atrocities explained. Thus the fanatical defense of the Japanese outlying islands such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa did not dissuade the Allied Powers from their goal to achieve unconditional surrender of the IJ government, but made them rethink the method. Rather than invade the Home Islands Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs. Right? Wrong? A case can be made for either conclusion. (*****)

  • John Buchan: Greenmantle (Oxford World's Classics)

    John Buchan: Greenmantle (Oxford World's Classics)
    Resonates with the West's current difficulties. A roman-a-clef about Lawrence of Arabia. Well worth the read. (****)