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Search tags: American-Elsewhere
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review 2018-01-16 04:34
More entertainment than science.
 Atomic Adventures: Secret Islands, Forgotten N-Rays, and Isotopic Murder - A Journey into the Wild World of Nuclear Science - James Mahaffey,Keith Sellon-Wright

That is, the author was more interested in telling amusing stories than explaining science, though he had a go at it ever so often, but didn't leave me feeling notably enlightened. Which is fine. I'm more interested in amusing stories than knowing what a proton does, and for the most part the stories were pretty good. He did some times get sidetracked into non-science stuff that was less interesting, and he was perhaps a little to flippant about serious matters that might kill us all.

 

The highlights of the book were the nuclear rocket experiments and other adventures that mostly weren't likely to kill us all, but hit the amusing mono-focus that science/engineering types can get into, and also explosions! The assassination part was less intrigue-laden and interesting than I thought it would be, and was mostly very sad. I'm never going to understand quantum entanglement. As far as I can tell, it's witchcraft. Liked the interstellar travel bit at the end, even if none of it works.

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review 2018-01-12 04:14
An American Lamb in Europe by Rob Colton
An American Lamb in Europe - Rob Colton

This thing with the Russians is really starting to piss me off. Another "theme"  that seems to be popular lately.

 

Need an average bad guy? Grab a Russian! Need a brutal murderer? Grab two more! Mobsters? Hey, they are a bunch a dime, why not pocket another six and store them in a cool place, until you need another psychopath? What, Russians are the only nation with the homicidal maniacs on the loose?

 

I am so fed up with this BS! 

ONE STAR

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review 2018-01-10 18:53
My eighty-sixth podcast is up!
Lincoln’s Sense of Humor - Richard Carwardine

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interviewed Richard Carwardine about his excellent book examining the role humor played in Abraham Lincoln's life (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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review 2018-01-08 17:54
The Oregon Trail: An American Journey
The Oregon Trail: An American Journey - Rinker Buck

This is Rinker Buck's account of how he and his younger brother, Nick, (and Nick's dog, Olive Oyl) traveled the Oregon Trail, from Missouri to Oregon, by covered wagon and mules, in 2011.  It hadn't been done since 1909.

 

 

Buck seems to have been inspired by a combination of a deep melancholy and a desire to recreate the best summer of his childhood, when his father loaded up all his children (he would eventually have eleven) onto a covered wagon and toured New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Their trip even made the pages of Look magazine as "Covered Wagon Days - 1958."  His father hung a sign, reused in 2011, apologizing for the inconvenience, but they wanted their children to "SEE AMERICA SLOWLY."

 

 

Rinker was lucky that his brother Nick came along, as Nick is both an expert horseman and apparently can fix anything, both skills much needed on this journey.

 

Also included are historical accounts of the pioneers and the origins of the Oregon Trail, from George Washington to Brigham Young, and a map, which is not quite as useful as one would hope.  Many places are mentioned that aren't marked.

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review 2018-01-07 15:54
More interesting for tone than content.
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story - Martin Luther King Jr.

There are probably better books about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and that year in civil rights, there are certainly better books about Dr. King himself. This one is long on polemics, and short on logistical details an personalities involved.

 

However, what made this book absolutely fascinating to me was the way that Dr. King was positioning it and himself in the political dialogue at the time. The introduction indicates that some of that was to do with editorial guidance from the publisher, such as the frequent "I'm defiantly not a communist!" comments when he's talking about his political background. More of the book is Dr. King himself selling his movement and non-violence and the SCLC to the general public, and you can watch him choosing what incidents and comments to include, what to deal with frankly, what to elide. the last hour and a bit of the audiobook was suggestions for where to go after bus integration, and you can see him lining voting rights in his sights.

 

If he were writing today, I think it would be a very different book, because he would be arguing to a different popular opinion, though of course it would still be filled with the same integrity and pride as this book, and hopefully also with the same victory. It made me very interested in other accounts of the boycott, and in King's later books.

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