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Yet More Books……


For The Common Defense (Revised & Updated) by Allan R. MillettPeter Maslowski 

In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland 

The Poison King by Adrienne Mayor

The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith  

I seem to be on another bibliomaniacal binge where my reach exceeds my time 🙂

For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America 1607-2012  is a courtesy review copy of the newly revised and updated 2012 edition.  I have referred students interested in a comprehensive look at American military history to older editions of For the Common Defense for years and I am curious about their handling of recent wars and how they applied new scholarship (Vietnam, Civil War) to explain old ones.

I am a big fan of Tom Holland already, having read his Persian Fire and Rubicon previously. Picking up In the Shadow of the Sword was a no-brainer.

The Poison King looks to be a fascinating read: Mithradates of Pontus was up there with Hannibal and the Parthians for dealing out devastating defeats to Roman power

I was sold on The Fate of Africa because it carried a robust endorsement on the book jacket from…. Ralph Peters!

6 Responses to “Yet More Books……”

  1. Tom Says:

    I read the Meredith a few years ago, and it’s excellent.

    In the Shadow of the Sword was my first Holland book. He clearly did his research research, but I didn’t think the book was well structured and thought it seriously bogged down at times thanks to some passages that didn’t drive the arc of the book forward and seemed to be included because there was better material to cover them. If you want to save time, read the first 60 and last 130 pages and skip the rest.

  2. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Hi Zen,
    I’ve read all of Holland’s work except Rubicon, (and I have it in the queue). His Persian Fire was made more fun by having the Landmark Herodotus and Thucydides close by, as he sourced both heavily. The Fate of Africa must be at least interesting to receive Peters’ endorsement. Thanks for sharing! 
    Hi Tom, Holland’s Millenium bogged down a bit, too, so thanks for the heads up.

  3. omar Says:

    I thought Tom Holland’s book was excellent until we get to the Islam part. Then it sort of peters out. (nearly half of the book is pre-islamic Persia and Rome). That may be because I knew little of the pre-islamic stuff and so found it fascinating and interesting…about the Islamic section, my main beef is that he doesnt have a lot of meat in it (yes, I am mixing up the flesh metaphors here)…thats part of his point of course; that we dont really know a lot with any certainty. But even that point is not emphasized a lot. The net result is that the story seems a bit thin. The early Islamic sources have too much unsupported detail, but thats why they are fun to read. I am not saying he should invent details, but maybe a clearer discussion of “traditional sources say XYZ, but we have no good independent confirmation of either X or Y or Z and its possible that PQR is what happened…with more flesh on PQR, having said its speculative..speculate!

  4. zen Says:

    Hey gents,
    Holland is a scholar of antiquity. The rise of Islam, Byzantium, Merovingian Gaul/France etc. are really beyond that realm, though I would expect he could do a better job with the context of their origins than a scholar of the later periods. It is hard to believe that we know less about earliest Islam from documentary sources than ancient Persia of Cyrus and Xerxes, but it seems we do. I wonder how much information was systematically destroyed for theological/political reasons ( not counting the Mongols wake of destruction)?

  5. Mr. X Says:

    Someone should write a book about Nabucco, the great White Whale of the anti-Russia lobby’s Ahabs.


  6. Eddie Says:

    The Holland book is very appealing. Frum gave it a great review a few weeks ago and I enjoyed Holland’s “Rubicon” and “Persian Fire” courtesy of earlier blog recs from Mark.
    The Meredith book is well-done. The Biafra chapter is haunting and memorable, the best testament to that early madness of post-colonial Sub-Saharan Africa I have read in the past decade.
    His work about the Boer War & South Africa’s emergence is really good too.

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