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Posts about books (old posts, page 66)

Travels with Herodotus

Travels with Herodotus

Ryszard Kapuściński

2004


many fabulous anecdotes to a life spent in travel reportage, accompanies and complemented by the Travels of Herodotus. The conjunction doesn't sit quite comfortably for me: not enough Herodotus, and perhaps not sufficiently entangled into the autobiography, but still left me wanting to read the classic.

3/5. Finished 26 May 2020.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Now We Have Your Attention: Inside Britain’s Radical New Politics

Now We Have Your Attention: Inside Britain’s Radical New Politics

Jack Shenker


A very timely exploration of the left-behind of British society and how they're coming to terms (or not) with late-stage capitalism. The actors range across the spectrum, as do the politics the various people embrace.

It's such a current book, written just before the Conservatives' crushing win in the 2019 general election, that it's hard to assess some of the observations. Momentum, the left-wing insurgency within Labour, had a hand in massively improving the party's showing in 2017, and Shenker clearly outlines their goals and strengths. But even with that, Labour didn't win – and went on to lose even more severely in 2019. Perhaps it will take time to assess whether Momentum's integration of party politics and activism can be properly harnessed to win power.

There's also what feels like a curious, sharp, turn in the last chapter to include more consideration of climate change and climate activism. It's closely argued and clearly very important, and that makes it surprising that it wasn't woven more tightly inot the rest of the argument.

4/5. Finished 10 May 2020.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

William L. Shirer

1960


Undoubtedly still the definitive single-volume history of the period, still a classic in every sense.

Some parts of the narrative haven't aged well and show signs of the times when Shirer was writing in the late 50s; other parts have been exploded by new scholarship; and still others ignited controversies that still rage (for example Shirer's basing the roots of National Socialism in thew mainstream German philosophical tradition). But bearing all that in mind, it's easy to feel the immediacy of his connection with the events he describes. If that clouds his objectivity in some case it's worth it for the sense of place and time that this book provides, differently to all the other varied histories of the Third Reich.

5/5. Finished 09 May 2020.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Children of Time (Children of Time #1)

Children of Time (Children of Time #1)

Adrian Tchaikovsky

2015


When you consider that half of this book is about a generation starship while the other half is written from the perspective of spiders, you get some idea of the breadth of ideas that have gone into it. The fact that it holds together is nothing short of remarkable, as is that it – without spoiling the plot – sets up for a "dark forest"-type ending that it then deftly avoids.

4/5. Finished 28 April 2020.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Say Nothing: A True Story Of Murder and Memory In Northern Ireland

Say Nothing: A True Story Of Murder and Memory In Northern Ireland

Patrick Radden Keefe

2018


As good a narrative history of the Troubles as any you'll find. It skips the broad brush in favour of the effects on three groups of people: the children of Jean McConville, the best-known of the "disappeared"; the coterie around Gerry Adams and Dolours Price; and the authors and interviewers of the Boston College project that captured (and partially revealed) the activities of many of the protagonists on both sides of the divide.

From one perspective this is the right level. The terror campaign – Republican and Loyalist – has had a lot of exposure in terms of the events, but less in terms of the victims (and perpetrators). It's important to realise how many of those intimately involved came to regard "the struggle" as purposeless in retrospect, and to renounce the violence they had once embraced. Martin McGuinness is the best-known example of this, but there are surprisingly many more.

From another perspective, however, it's less satisfactory in that there's a lack of closure, a continuing lack of agreement about who did what, knew what, and decided what. It will probably need another twenty years before there's a consensus, and in the meantime this is the most illuminating exploration.

4/5. Finished 03 April 2020.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)