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text 2016-06-02 01:11
Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS - Joby Warrick
ISIS is the group that al-Qaeda denounces as extremist. It's not a fun or funny topic. However, I do appreciate this black flag:
ISIS dildo merch available at http://www.paulcoombs.co.uk/

Black Flags methodically lays out the background and rise of what we now know as ISIS, or the Islamic State. It's not because Islam is a flawed religion. It's not because Middle Eastern cultures are flawed. Much of the blame points back at American arrogance and thoughtlessness, in particular the decision to take on regime change and nation building in Iraq. The author makes the case that ISIS emerged from AQI lead by Jordanian al Zarqawi and a post invasion Iraq with all the American foibles created a fertile breeding ground for such a movement.

The first two thirds of the book covered al Zarqawi's background, the US invasion of Iraq, the subsequent insurgency and Zarqawi's death in 2006. The last third covers the "Arab Spring", Syria and the emergence of the ISIS brand. Unfortunately the ending is somewhat arbitrary as the story of ISIS is an ongoing one. Such is the case with books that feature current events. It does however give an excellent historical perspective of the past 15-20 years, and hopefully someday soon we will be able to read a true post-game analysis by this author. In the mean time, I will seek out his work at the Washington Post and other news outlets.

If you really want to understand how such a thing as ISIS can even exist, this is the book to read.

2016 reading challenge checks the box for 13. A non-fiction book you learn something new from (include self-help). I learned a fuckton from this book.

Thanks to Vivian and Emma for the cute-therapy they provided to counter program this difficult subject matter.


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review 2016-02-20 21:28
the importance of mecca for those who fear for their bodies
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Compact, powerful, heartfelt and deeply personal examination of the death of a college friend at the hands of the police. It's so easy to declare oneself "not a racist" and yet be blind to the institutionalized racism against African Americans. Coates removes those blinders for the reader. He does not water down his message, this was a sucker punch to the gut.

2016 reading challenge checks the box for 19. A book from Oprah’s Book Club

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review 2016-01-08 08:41
I never knew short stories could be this good
Fortune Smiles - Adam Johnson

An eclectic mix of short stories all having intersecting themes of escape, fear, loss and nostalgia. I've never been much of a short story lover, but this book makes me think that I just haven't read many really good ones. The author seems to have the craft down perfectly, with just the right amount of character, tension and imagery. And he knows just when and how bring it to climax. Each story had strength on it's own, but as a curated collection, their impact was enforced. I was trying to build a very clever mind map to illustrate this idea. My mind map is pretty much a fail, but since I spent about an hour on it, I feel compelled to include it. Please don't confuse my poor mind mapping skills with the quality of this book.

Reading challenge note - satisfies 2. A National Book Award winner (or your equivalent national book awards).

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