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text 2018-01-21 14:05
The War that Ended Peace - Reading updates
The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 - Margaret MacMillan

I meant to read this book in 2014, but may have gotten side-tracked with other books about WWI in that year...

 

I'll keep a running post for reading updates for this book as it will encompass too much information to deal with in one post and I would like to keep notes while reading - and I would like to keep the notes in one place.

 

 

Chapter 1 - Europe in 1900:

 

Good points so far: 

 

MacMillan tries to set the scene by introducing the reader to Europe and the world of the early 1900 by giving an overview of different aspects of life: politics, economics, art, social issues, interaction between different nations - not just the European nations that would be immediately connected with the First World War, but also relationships with Asia, America, Africa, and between the different colonies. 

I am missing an overview of the relations to the different parts of the Ottoman empire and Russia but as far as providing an introduction is concerned this is a good overview, including some statistics (unusually for me, but I hope there are more of them).

 

All in all, so far a much more levelled, engaging, and multi-faceted approach to the subject than The Guns of August.

 

Questions and Issues:

 

It may be because this was an introductory chapter, but the tone of the chapter was quite general. I hope this develops in depth and complexity as the book goes on.

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review 2018-01-21 08:24
The One-Cent Magenta
The One-Cent Magenta - James Barron

I have always thought postage stamps were neat.  I admit I'm the ass in the post office line asking if I can see all the current stamps when I get to the counter, so I can pick out the coolest ones.  (This, by the way, is unheard of in Australia; I've only found one post office where the lady is nice enough to let me pick my own stamps.)

 

But I have never collected stamps.  The hobby holds no appeal for me and never has. What I am hooked on, is rarity.  The idea that there are only x number of something in the world sucks me in, no matter what x is.  I understand the collectors that want to own what no one else owns; I don't have the ego for it, but the idea of owning something that is completely unique is a seductive one.

 

That's why I bought this book on a whim.  That and the cover.  James Barron is a New York Times journalist, who stumbled on the story of the one-cent magenta stamp at a cocktail party; the article he wrote about it led to this book, where he chronicles the path this odd-looking stamp took on it's way to becoming the world's most valuable stamp, selling at auction in 2014 for 9.5 million USD, to Stuart Weitzman, he of the red-soled shoe empire.

 

This is where journalists who write books shine, especially for someone like me, who knows almost nothing about stamps or philately.  Let's face it, stamps do not lend themselves to page-turning drama, and philately needs all the help it can get if it's to appeal to those outside the bubble.  Barron succeeded beyond my expectations.  I completely enjoyed this book and spent all day reading it.  His journalistic style brought the stamp's history to life, and even though he has a bit of fun with the eccentricities of "Stamp World" as he calls it, I thought he did a brilliant job describing the passion and dedication of the hobby in a sympathetic way.

 

I'm thoroughly surprised and delighted at how much I enjoyed this book.  

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review 2018-01-19 20:16
Well Researched and Written
The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel

I had marked the movie on Netflix to watch and then I remembered hearing that this was a book. I decided to read the book since I feel that books are often better than movies. I borrowed the audio version so that I could work on other things while listening to the book. Very early in the book, the author was talking about his criteria for someone to interview in his quest for the truth. His academic qualifications and then he said, he still believes that the Cubs will win the World Series. Given that this had just happened, I really laughed at this quote. 

It was interesting to hear about all the people he interviewed where they were and how much he learned from each one, showing that there are others outside of the Gospels that write about what they saw for the time of Jesus and the time after. 

I really did enjoy this book and I know that I will be telling my sister-in-law about it.

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text 2018-01-19 20:00
Reading progress update: I've read 80 out of 304 pages.
Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon - Michael Patrick Cullinane

So far Cullinane has been focusing on the memorialization of Roosevelt in the decade after his death. It's interesting stuff, but I think he missed an opportunity by not preceding it with the interaction between how TR was remembered after his death with the image Roosevelt constructed of himself during his long public career.

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review 2018-01-19 04:34
Podcast #87 is up!
Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of the American Century - Hendrik Meijer

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Hendrik Meijer about his new biography of the 20th century United States senator Arthur Vandenberg. Enjoy!

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