Books, 2019

You might also be interested in my booklists from 20142016, 2017, and 2018.

A World At Arms

Guadalcanal

How the North Won

The Way Things Work

The Ants

Twilight of the Mammoths

The Prose Edda

The Spanish Civil War

The Fall of Paris

Popski’s Private Army

Neptune’s Inferno

Storm of Steel

War and Peace and War

Marauders of the Sea

The Voyage of the Beagle

Why We Age

Infrastructure

The Sky People 

The Compleat Enchanter

Zotz!

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92 Responses to Books, 2019

  1. teageegeepea says:

    I remember reading Storm of Steel in highschool and found his mindset incredibly alien. I suppose the past really is another country, as is Germany of course.

    • LemmusLemmus says:

      I read it a few years back and found it strange, too (despite being German, but born long after Jünger). He goes on at length about how he admires French culture and has amicable conversations with the French people, and then he goes back into the trench and shoots at the French, merrily, one might say. I didn’t get it.

      Then it dawned on me: He sees war like sports. You might admire the other team and like their players, but you’re still going to try to put the ball in the back of their net. That’s how the game is played, and you’re playing your role.

      • Dylan says:

        You’ve got this backwards. Sports is like war. The latter is the original and quite natural viewpoint.

        You don’t need to hate someone to kill them. You’re probably making better decisions about who to kill and why if emotion isn’t involved, or at least not such a negative one.

      • tanabear says:

        Yes. This is how many people in the past viewed war and battles, as a sporting endeavor. I got the same impression from reading Theodore’s Roosevelt’s “The Rough Riders” and George Custer’s “My Life on the Plains”. War is sport. It is just a little more risky and dangerous than others.

      • Stephen M Stirling says:

        My father-in-law was an infantryman in WW2 (2nd Infantry Division, Normandy to Pilsen): he didn’t dislike Germans either.

        As he put it, the ones he fought were “just another bunch of poor unfortunate bastards like us, doing what they were told and trying to stay alive”.

        He was the BAR gunner in his squad, so he was often put in charge of prisoners. His unit, like most, had two sets of orders: “Take them back to the trucks” (when there was time and effort to spare) and “Take them down to the end of the road” (For when there wasn’t.)

        The second set had an unspoken codicil: “and shoot them”.

        Nothing personal, just part of the job.

    • shadow on the wall says:

      This mindset – war is glorious thing and also great fun – was common before 1914. Afterwards, not so much. In 1920 when Storm of Steel was published, this attitude would be as alien to most Germans as to us today.

  2. NumberOneCustomer says:

    Speaking of The Spanish Civil War, I’ve been learning a bit of Spanish history while watching this (almost certainly Time Patrol inspired) series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_ministerio_del_tiempo

  3. Steve Johnson says:

    Recently there’s been a re-release of the original 1929 translation of Storm of Steel.

  4. David Roman says:

    Hugh Thomas is just not a good choice for a book on the Spanish Civil War (take this from a guy with a blog on the subject): he’s outdated, biased and fairly ignorant of Spanish-language sources. In English, take Stanley Payne any time.

    • NonLinear says:

      What’s your opinion of his “Conquest”?

      • David Roman says:

        I haven’t read it, it doesn’t have to be bad or unreliable just because Thomas wrote it. It’s easier to master the sources on the Conquest, since they are fewer. The problem with the Spanish civil war is that there’s so much stuff, so many data points and testimonies, and it’s so close in time that the temptation to make political points relevant to our age is very strong.

    • Gringo says:

      Stanley Payne is especially good at describing the years preceding and the causes of the Spanish Civil War. I find the causes of and the events preceding the Spanish Civil War more interesting than the war itself.

      Thomas does discuss the murder of the right-wing Parliament leader Calvo Sotelo in the

    • gcochran9 says:

      You have a blog. Well, that’s a convincing argument.

      • David Roman says:

        I thought that better and humbler than stating that I’ve read thousands of books and academic papers on the subject, visited battlefields, wrote a book on the war, have two grandparents who fought in it, and I personally covered multiple trials and debates on the subject for the Wall Street Journal. Honestly, dedicated bloggers are underrated.

    • JMcG says:

      I read Thomas’ book years ago and found it plodding and one-sided. I read Antony Beevor’s Battle for Spain recently and found it much more even handed.
      He was quite willing to state that if the election in Spain in 1936 had gone the other way, the lefties would have revolted instead of the other way around.

      • Of course they would have says:

        Communists weren’t averse to using violence, especially since 1936 was just 19 years after the October Revolution. In Greece, where they had never won an election, they ignited a civil war and fought to the bitter end like idiots.

        If the October Revolution hadn’t been successful, would fascism have gained that much traction?

        • gcochran9 says:

          Running the Army is a real good start for a coup, which can degenerate into a revolt or civil war if not immediately successful. Having the same number and quality of supporters spread out in different occupations is not as good a preparation.

      • JerryC says:

        I enjoyed Beevor’s book as well. He is clearly sympathetic to the Republicans but doesn’t gloss over the Republic’s flaws.

        • David Roman says:

          He’s a good writer, just not very knowledgeable on the subject, and he still errs on the Republican side, every single time. A good example is his pathetic treatment of the Franco-Hitler summit in Hendaye. There are multiple sources showing how Franco refused to join the war despite Hitler’s plea to do so (to name a few, Guderian’s and Serrano Suñer’s memoirs) but Beevover still picks the moronic “progressive” reading that Hitler, who was anxious to get Muslim Bosnians into the war, didn’t want Catholic Spain and rejected Franco’s offer to join. Not only that, he claims to have found new sources to back this view (he hasn’t). This is a debate that can be solved, literally, with a Google search, since Hitler’s and Franco’s letter exchange on the subject in early 1941 (in which Hitler clearly begs Franco to CHANGE HIS MIND AND ENTER THE WAR) is freaking online and translated into English to boot. For example here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler%27s_Letter_to_General_Franco_(6_February_1941)

          • gcochran9 says:

            I read the section in Beevor’s book about the Franco-Hitler summit. It bears no resemblance to anything you have said.

            • David Roman says:

              Beevor: “In the end a protocol was drawn up stating that Franco would enter the war when requested, that Gibraltar would be given to Spain and vague affirmations were made about compensating him with some undefined African territories at a later date.” This Is exactly backwards. The document states that Spain will decide when and if it enters the war.

              • gcochran9 says:

                A. Hitler wanted Spain in the war, but not at the cost of enormous military aid (which Franco asked for) and not at the cost of huge territorial concessions ( that conflicted with Mussolini’s ambitions, and to some extent Germany’s)
                B. Franco didn’t want in at all – which is why he asked for the impossible. Canaris was Hitler’s envoy to Franco on Operation Felix, invasion of Gibraltar- and from Hitler’s pov, Canaris might not have been ideal. That’s a joke, son.

                Like all the European neutrals, Spain had to worry about German invasion if they didn’t cooperate, particularly early in the war. Less so after the Germans had invaded the USSR. They all had to worry about what would happen if Germany won ( most would have absorbed into the Reich) and, later, what would happen if Germany lost.

                There is not anything in Beevor’s book that suggests that Hitler didn’t want Spain to enter the war, nothing that suggests that Beevor “picks the moronic “progressive” reading that Hitler, who was anxious to get Muslim Bosnians into the war, didn’t want Catholic Spain and rejected Franco’s offer to join.”

                So skedaddle.

      • Stephen M Stirling says:

        Democracy works best when nothing really important is at stake, which is to say when there’s widespread agreement on basics.

        If the sides are evenly balanced, and both feel fundamentally threatened if the other side wins, nobody will accept a vote. That’s when they kick over the table and pull a gun.

  5. dearieme says:

    I vote for Popski. My father didn’t like war books, having seen too much war for his taste, but he made an exception for this one. I liked it too.

  6. Lennart Edenpalm says:

    Thinking fast & slow by Daniel Kahneman should be on this list, as well as on any list.

  7. benespen says:

    I really enjoyed the Sky People and its sequel the Crimson Kings. Which I assume is why Stirling never wrote any more books in that series. He never follows up on the ones I like.

    • gcochran9 says:

      That’s a you-centric view. I’m the one he’s threatened to beat up, and I also liked them.

    • Conquistadors was fun. Cross-time adventures, and no warrior lesbians to be found anywhere. Instead I suppose he’s working on his increasingly tedious “aliens decided we didn’t deserve technology anymore” series.

      • shadow on the wall says:

        Why not, these things were selling like hotcakes. From neo pagan hippies to traditional catholics, everyone who loves to hate modernity (from behind the computer screen, in warm house and with full belly) enjoyed it.
        16 books so far.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emberverse_series

        Stirling’s latest series is straight alternate history. No time travel, no aliens, no wizards, no vampires, but hot bisexual warriors galore.

        https://www.goodreads.com/series/213944-tales-from-the-black-chamber

        TL;DR: Theodore Roosevelt becomes president for the second time in 1912, and proceeds to clean up America for good, while the Germans win WWI and do the same for Europe.

        Dystopian timeline if you are in Europe, utopian in America (at least according to author’s taste).

  8. Whatifer says:

    Speaking of alternate history, is there any fiction or non-fiction book with plausible alternatives on key events that might have led to different outcomes of WW2 as a whole or in part?

    I recently saw the Man in the High Castle series (horrible overall, save a few good scenes lol). I also read the book and found Dick’s writing rather dull and uninspiring, his novel ideas notwithstanding. The fact that the whole story is based on an impossible premise didn’t help either.

    • Rob says:

      I watched it and liked it quite a bit. I was amused at how thick they laid on the genocidal aspects. I think people watched and thought Nazi America, eh? Seems like a decent place to live, all things considered…I mean if you’re not black, Jewish, Irish, disabled…

    • shadow on the wall says:

      LOL. Alternate history is about WW2 – more precisely, about finding some way to make Hitler win WW2.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothetical_Axis_victory_in_World_War_II

      Many thousands of alternate history writers both professional and amateur tried for decades. There is no one even slightly plausible timeline that will see Hitler triumph.
      Millions of posts on alternate history forums wasted debating the issue, for no avail.

      https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/

      The more you learn about WW2, the more you understand how Hitler legitimately was the luckiest man that ever lived.
      His rise to power was string of funny, low probability accidents.
      So was the Western campaign in 1940 and Eastern campaign in 1941. One side just kept rolling the dice and getting all sixes. All that could go right went just right.
      And it was still not enough. Maybe all the luck in the world does not matter at all if you, your movement and your cause are stupid.

      • gcochran9 says:

        It is not particularly difficult to come up with a plausible timeline in which Hitler won. I could do it without working up a sweat.

        • shadow on the wall says:

          When you point of divergence is Nazis not being Nazis and Hitler not being Hitler.
          But this is cheating 😉

            • shadow on the wall says:

              https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum
              Alternate History Forum is the largest alternate history community, with strict standards that are enforced. For example, S.M.Stirling was found guilty of genocide and banned for life.

              https://forum.axishistory.com/viewforum.php?f=11
              Axis History Forum is large WW2 history community, hardcore military history nerds with ultra strict standards (detailed knowledge of history expected, zero tolerance for fascist and Nazi apologetics).

              Consensus of both communities is that Axis victory in WW2 is close to ASB.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_space_bats

              Show your work, post your timeline on Alternate History forum or Axis History forum, and watch it to be demolished.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Surely fictional genocide?

                I stand by what I said. You can believe me or not. There are people whose opinion I value enough to show my work, but you’re not one of them.

              • Halvorson says:

                It would have been trivially easy for Mussolini to transfer enough troops to North Africa to successfully rush Egypt in 1940 and press forward all the way to North Iraq’s oil fields. Being a moron though, he decided to ruin his opportunity by rushing headlong into France, hoping that his blood sacrifice would convince Big Brother Hitler to grant him some useless land in the southeast.

                I like this scenario the best, because it seems to require the fewest number of changes to the mindsets of the big participants.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Unfortuantely for your theory, Italians were not unkillable demons of battle, and someone had invented logistics.

              • josh says:

                Pretty please with sugar on top?

              • Rob says:

                “I stand by what I said. You can believe me or not. There are people whose opinion I value enough to show my work, but you’re not one of them.”

                But you do have a blog…Might make an interesting post.

  9. benespen says:

    I hadn’t yet been willing to take a chance on Black Chamber given the Emberverse, but maybe I’ll do so. Conquistadors was another one of my favorite Stirling books, along with The Peshawar Lancers, I found it rather fun.

  10. shadow on the wall says:

    Surely fictional genocide?

    https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/filling-stirlings-pockets.63477
    Here is the thread that got S.M.Stirling banned.

    https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/filling-stirlings-pockets.63477/page-6#post-1095103
    Here is the exact post #106, where Judge Ian pronounces the judgement.

  11. Robert Sykes says:

    If you are interested in what happened to the mammoths et al., you might like Martin Sweatman’s “Prehistory Decoded.” Its really about the monuments at Gobekli Tepe, but he advances the impact theory.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The impact theory is profoundly stupid. Look, for it to work, you would have to have sufficiently high overpressures/thermal radiation all over both North and South America. While mysteriously skipping islands, off Alaska and in the Caribbean, because megafauna survived there for thousands of years. Until people showed up.

      • Robert Sykes says:

        Well, charcoal layers and tectites and shocked diamonds are widespread, worldwide. The proposed meteorite coincides with the start of the Younger Dryas. And Clovis disappears at the same time. So, the impact theory might be wrong, but it is not stupid.

        Much of human history is driven by meteor and comet strikes.

        • gcochran9 says:

          It’s stupid – and the ‘evidence’ is crap as well.

          I would guess that influence of comet and asteroid strikes on human history – not counting strikes like Chixculub that happened long before humans – has been exactly zero.

  12. Andrew Oh-Willeke says:

    So much military history! Couldn’t do it.

  13. merveille says:

    It is not particularly difficult to come up with a plausible timeline in which Hitler won.

    WW2 was German-Russian war, and was decided on the Eastern front, all other fighting was sideshow at best. If Germans managed to defeat the Bolsheviks and control everything from Atlantic to Urals, the English and Americans could do nothing at all.
    Was there a way for Germans to win in the East?

    Yes, there was, by striking hard and employing blitzkrieg tactics in full before the Bolsheviks could fully mobilize.

    The was was lost in August 1941, when Hitler diverted his forces to Kiev. Big mistake, Moscow was nearly defenceless at the time, and Moscow was the key to victory. Political center, population and manufacturing center, central hub of whole Russian rail system. If Moscow fell, Bolshevism would be decapitated in one stroke once and for all.

    See “Hitler’s Panzers East” by Russel Stolfi.

    http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v15/v15n6p38_Bishop.html

    http://militera.lib.ru/h/stolfi/index.html

    • gcochran9 says:

      Determination and will could have created a supply line. From panje carts. Sure.

      • shadow on the wall says:

        The old saying about amateurs, professionals and logistics.

        I recall one workable plan for Nazis to win in the East, proposed by Charles Stross long ago on old time alternate history forum.

        Step 1: Skip building big shiny battleships

        Step 2: Build few hundreds of thousands of these things

        Old fashioned steam trucks and steam tractors.

        Benefits of steam trucks:
        Unlike internal combustion engine trucks, they do not need oil. Unlike horses, they do not need fodder – and oil and food are things Germany always is of short supply.

        Simple, long obsolete technology, easy to manufacture.

        Steam engines have large torque – exactly what you need in deep mud or snow.

        Drawbacks:
        They are slow, ugly, backward, not cool at all.

        Of course, this timeline requires Hitler and Nazis to plan ahead, control themselves enough to avoid spending on useless, but BIG SHINY AWESOME stuff, know something about logistics, economics, engineering and geography of the lands on the East they are supposed to settle.
        So this is another timeline where Hitler is not Hitler and Nazis are not Nazis.

        • R. says:

          Stalin himself has said in private that he believes they’d have lost if not for allied help. According to Khruschev’s memoirs.

          Probably far easier for nazis to somehow persuade US, UK to stay out than anything else.

          • shadow on the wall says:

            Stalin himself has said in private that he believes they’d have lost if not for allied help. According to Khruschev’s memoirs.

            If Khruschev actually said it, it was another of his lies designed to make Stalin look bad (as it it was ever needed) and to make himself good in comparison.
            If you do not believe Stalin’s propaganda, you do not have to believe Khruschev’s one either.

            Lend-lease started to arrive in quantity in 1943, long after Moscow and Stalingrad.

            Lend-lease to USSR by year, in thousands of tons
            https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-28600d28fbdcccda1678a9dd0595971e

            Probably far easier for nazis to somehow persuade US, UK to stay out than anything else.

            This train left the station in March 1939.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_occupation_of_Czechoslovakia

            Only six months afther Hitler got his Munich treaty, and guaranteed the rest of Czechoslovakia, he tore the treaty apart and occupied it anyway.

            After this day, it was clear to western Allies that Hitler is someone who cannot be trusted in any circumstances.

            • JMcG says:

              Unlike Stalin? Finland? Molotov-Ribbentrop?

              • shadow on the wall says:

                These things have nothing in common with Munich. Soviet Union hadn’t broke any treaty with Western powers (because it didn’t have any).

                At the time, as far the opinion makers knew, Germany was developed industrial country right there in the middle of Europe, while Russia was medieval land far away. It makes sense to be far more concerned with one of them than the other.

                The inter-war period was not like Cold War. In the inter war time, people feared Soviet Union, but as a source of communist subversion, not for its military might. The fear was Soviet comissars bearing sacks of gold inciting revolution in the Western countries, not Red Army moving west.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I’ve only wargamed that 40 times.

    • Warren Notes says:

      No comments on Zotz!? I do plan to read it. Loved the 1962 movie with Tom Poston – he was born to play the role. Sure, William Castle is remembered by most as a hackish and gimmick-obsessed director (see THE TINGLER), but he did like to have fun with movies.

  14. engleberg says:

    Allebrooke spent the first half of the war frantic to get a million tons a year moving through the Mediterranean. I don’t know if blocking the Suez canal would have won the war for Hitler by itself, but Allenbrooke would have hated it. Skipping the North Africa war would have deprived the British Army of a useful training war.

    Telling the Eastern Front German generals 'Sure, go ahead and retreat any time it will entrap some Russians or you want a breather. One, many, a thousand Tannenbergs!' might have won the war right there.
    
  15. Tommy Atkins says:

    Hey Greg,

    Any thoughts on the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto?

    Seems to be one of if not the great mystery of the past decade.

  16. BB753 says:

    The military coup by generals Sanjurjo and Franco would have failed, as the majority of the Spanish Armed Forces decided to remain loyal to the Constitution, had not Martinez Barrios, the prime Minister (Azaña being the president), decided to arm the comunist and anarchist militias. These mobs then proceded to shoot clergymen, nuns, militant catholics and random bourgeois, which swayed part of the army to join forces with Franco. Essentially, the red rampage sparked the Spanish Civil War, in a replay of the revolutionary uprising of 1934, which also turned south for the commies.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Diego Martinez Barrio – must have been quick on the draw, since he was only Prime Minister for a few hours.

      “he was appointed Prime Minister on 19 July 1936. As part of his intention to avert war, his cabinet ignored the left-wing of the Popular Front; however, he would last just a few hours, and resigned later the same morning after an unsuccessful appeal to Nationalist General Emilio Mola to avoid war”

      It’s possible that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. There’s a first time for everything.

      • BB753 says:

        My bad. It was Largo Caballero.

        • gcochran9 says:

          You’re full of it. The thing started on July 18th: Largo Caballero didn’t get in until September 4th. Maybe you’re thinking of Jose Giral, who replaced Quiroga.

          Essentially, the pronunciamento sparked the Spanish Civil War. Obviously there were favorable conditions, like the murder of Calvo Sotelo. but an attempted coup makes a pretty good match.

          As for massacres in the early days of the war, both sides committed plenty.

          Many people make the mistake of trying to identify the ‘good’ side: there wasn’t one.

  17. BB753 says:

    This is a short summary of Spanish historian Francisco Gijón’s book. You can turn on the subtitles if you don’t understand Spanish.

    • shadow on the wall says:

      58 minutes is not short.

      Do you imagine – do you really imagine – that someone will dedicate a hour of his life to watch how some talking head moves his mouth and autotranslated subtitles are sloowly unrolling?

      If his thesis is so important, there surely is some summary in written form. Surely?

      • shadow on the wall says:

        Never mind. I found this guy’s website.

        https://franciscogijon.wixsite.com/home

        The book that will discover to you to what extent everything that they have told you about the 20th century has been a fiction based on real events.

        We will show you that to get out of the Matrix the problem is not the color of the pill, but to know if the one that gives us the opportunity to choose between the red and the blue is a camel or a pharmacist and, in both cases, if you do not know You are saving a third pill that you do not want to share with you.

        This guy does not want to spread his word – he wants to sell his warez, in this case some conspiracy theories. I can enjoy good conspiracy, but I doubth there is anything new and creative here.
        Soros? Really? Soros world conspiracy had been done ten thousand times.
        I do not think this guy can offer anything original.

        Free myself from the Matrix only for $8.46? I think I will pass the offer.

        • BB753 says:

          Never judge a book by its cover or its title. His books are filled with footnotes and bibliography. He’s a serious historian.

          • shadow on the wall says:

            Never judge a book by its cover or its title.

            There are millions of books out there, but only one life. One needs to pick and choose.

            His books are filled with footnotes and bibliography. He’s a serious historian.

            As it seems, also serious microbiologist, expert on AIDS. True renaissance man of our time.

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