Looking back, it’s been over six months since a WIBR post. Â 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. Â Let’s see if I can remember everything I’ve read in that time. Â 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. Â Evan Wright is a reporter with “Rolling Stone” who was embedded with a unit of recon marines in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Â This is his report of the attack. Â 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). Â The series is excellent, so is the book. Â 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. Â I strongly recommend both series and book.
– Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. Â 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. Â This one is about one particular company of paratroopers in WWII who fought from Normandy through the end of the war. Â Again, a fascinating and extremely well-done mini-series based on a fascinating and extremely well-done book. Â Again, I strongly recommend both.
– Wellington by Gordon Corrigan. Â A biography of the Duke of Wellington. Â I’ve been wanting to read a bio of Wellington since reading the Sharpe’s Rifles novels in which he is prominently featured. Â The man certainly led an interesting life, having been Britain’s preeminent general during the Napoleonic wars. Â 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. Â 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. Â Sapolsky is a biologist who writes essays of popularized science. Â Over the last six months I read both of these collections of his essays and enjoyed both immensely. Â 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. Â 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. Â Strongly recommended, and I’m sure I’ll read more of his essays in the future.
– Drood by Dan Simmons. Â On June 9, 1865, Charles Dickens was in a terrible train wreck. Â Although not injured himself, in helping the injured he saw terrible things that left a dark stain on his imagination. Â He died exactly five years later, on June 9, 1870.
Drood is a historical fiction of those last five years of Dickens’s life. Â They introduce the mysterious and horrible figure Drood, a sort of demon somewhat reminiscent of Dracula. Â Dickens was a fascinating person, larger-than-life and quite complicated, and the book is a marvelous thriller centering on him. Â 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. Â Lord Thomas Cochrane was a British naval captain during the Napoleonic Wars. Â His adventures and exploits were like something out of fiction. Â 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.” Â 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. Â 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. Â Strongly recommended.