What I’ve been reading

Looking back, it’s been over six months since a WIBR post.  Hmm… admittedly, my reading has been a little off (I read almost nothing during Wonderful Life rehearsals, spending my time studying lines instead), but still.  Let’s see if I can remember everything I’ve read in that time.  I’m sure these aren’t in the right order: apologies for that.

Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War, by Evan Wright.  Evan Wright is a reporter with “Rolling Stone” who was embedded with a unit of recon marines in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  This is his report of the attack.  I read this after watching the excellent HBO miniseries based on it (said series being made by the guys behind “The Wire,” my choice of best TV series ever).  The series is excellent, so is the book.  Both are factual reports of the invasion and the soldiers who made the attack, the incredible professionalism of the men doing the fighting, the screw-ups by their commanders, and all with a slight anti-war tinge that doesn’t interfere with the reporting.  I strongly recommend both series and book.

Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose.  Another case where I watched an HBO series and found it so fascinating that I had to read the book on which it was based.  This one is about one particular company of paratroopers in WWII who fought from Normandy through the end of the war.  Again, a fascinating and extremely well-done mini-series based on a fascinating and extremely well-done book.  Again, I strongly recommend both.

Wellington by Gordon Corrigan.  A biography of the Duke of Wellington.  I’ve been wanting to read a bio of Wellington since reading the Sharpe’s Rifles novels in which he is prominently featured.  The man certainly led an interesting life, having been Britain’s preeminent general during the Napoleonic wars.  But I can’t really recommend this particular biography: it is a little too short and rushes past too much of the man’s life without giving any particular insight into him.  A good biography of a great leader should tell you something about his leadership style: this one doesn’t.

The Trouble with Testosterone and Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on our Lives as Animals, by Robert Sapolsky.  Sapolsky is a biologist who writes essays of popularized science.  Over the last six months I read both of these collections of his essays and enjoyed both immensely.  Whether he is talking about particular scientific discoveries in the bio-sciences, or telling of his observations over many years doing field studies with African baboons, there’s plenty of interesting insights in these books.  I particularly enjoyed his takedown of the nature-vs-nurture argument: in Sapolsky’s telling, it’s a false dichotomy, as our genes moderate our responses to the environment, and thus nature and nurture work together.  Strongly recommended, and I’m sure I’ll read more of his essays in the future.

Drood by Dan Simmons.  On June 9, 1865, Charles Dickens was in a terrible train wreck.  Although not injured himself, in helping the injured he saw terrible things that left a dark stain on his imagination.  He died exactly five years later, on June 9, 1870.

Drood is a historical fiction of those last five years of Dickens’s life.  They introduce the mysterious and horrible figure Drood, a sort of demon somewhat reminiscent of Dracula.  Dickens was a fascinating person, larger-than-life and quite complicated, and the book is a marvelous thriller centering on him.  And the depiction of the opium dens in the sewers of London is well worth the read.

Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander, by David Cordingly.  Lord Thomas Cochrane was a British naval captain during the Napoleonic Wars.  His adventures and exploits were like something out of fiction.  In fact, he became the basis of Jack Aubrey, the hero of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series and the movie “Master and Commander.”  But after several years bedeviling the French, Cochrane was convicted of a stock swindle (though the book argues that he was wrongly convicted) and drummed out of the navy.  Needing an income, he became commander in turn of the navies that liberated Chile, Peru, and Brazil from their European overlords.

A marvelous read of a marvelous life.  Strongly recommended.

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One Response to What I’ve been reading

  1. catbot says:

    Interesting reading list! Looks like you’re reading a lot of history and biography, I’m inspired. Seems all I ever read these days is art history- which is great reading- but, I’m realizing how much you need a wider history to fit it into.

    “The Trouble with Testosterone and Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on our Lives as Animals” sounds fascinating!

    In turn let me recommend True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations With David Hockney, by Lawrence Weschler


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