Review: Everest 1953, Mick Conefrey

Rating: 4 out of 5

The story of the ascent of Everest gripped my interest in several ways – firstly, the narrative here begins more than two year before the event and comes in slowly, describing what had to be done before the ’53 expedition could happen; secondly, and more importantly, the book highlighted the importance of teamwork in challenging environments. I was also unaware of the ascent’s Coronation Day significance, but when it was revealed I was speechless. That moment, whether in London or anywhere in the Commonwealth, must have been spectacular… Continue reading “Review: Everest 1953, Mick Conefrey”

Review: Strategy, Lawrence Freedman

Rating: 3 out of 5

This is so broad… The author talks about military, political, and economic strategy, with the one guiding principle across all of these being that as soon as someone thinks they’ve come up with the next “last” strategy, it is clear they’ve managed to think up something applicable only in one very specific general setting. The repetition of this scheme across all the people the author mentions gets tedious. Towards the end, however, this is broken up more and more frequently by actually interesting examples (but the book itself starts veering towards what Kahneman has already written). Continue reading “Review: Strategy, Lawrence Freedman”

Review: Genghis Khan, Jack Weatherford

Rating: 5 out of 5

I really enjoyed this, mostly due to Mr Weatherford’s perspective in putting himself in the shoes of the people he is describing. Too many historians never give credence to the actual difficulties which would have been in the minds of the people they are describing due to their distance from what they are describing. The author’s description of why the visit to the Khan’s original homeland was helpful is, in that way, an eye-opener and one which should be emulated. Continue reading “Review: Genghis Khan, Jack Weatherford”

Review: Offa and the Mercian Wars, Chris Peers

Rating: 2 out of 5

This is in general an alright book, but entirely misleading in its title or content.¬†Offa features in the introduction and then skips back in for about ten-twenty pages in the middle of the book, after which the author goes back to describing a general history of Mercia — more on this below. The book also comes across not knowing where it wants to lie on the scholarly spectrum with plenty of references to academic work and minimal evaluation of these.

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Review: Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow

Rating: 5 out of 5

Hamilton, the arch-Federalist, is a typically maligned fellow in the history of these United States as it probably would have been called in his day. Mr Chernow has tried his best to bring him to life (and light) as well as to correct historical injustices, and in addition to the principal subject the reader is also treated to the story of his wife, Eliza, as well as the Federalist party though not in as many words. What we also see in these pages is the effort the author devoted to figuring out the motives of the various characters in the early republic as well as trying to objectively assess their contributions, and this makes for some very good reading.

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Review: Ryoma!, Ryotaro Shiba

Rating: 5 out of 5

I have been a fan of the writings of Mr Shiba for nearly a decade now — and I was overjoyed when I saw that yet another of his books had been translated into English (or, well, the first volume of one of his books…). That was the beginning of my story of reading ‘Ryoma!’, the first volume of which details the early years of a figure who was to feature very strongly in the politics of 1860’s — the end of the first volume sees the reader through to that decade in a very colourful description of Sakamoto Ryoma’s formative years. Continue reading “Review: Ryoma!, Ryotaro Shiba”

Review: Citizen Clem, John Bew

Rating: 5 out of 5

I had barely no impression of Mr Attlee before I started this book — neither did I know much about Mr John Bew though his biography of Castlereagh has been in my “To Read” list since perhaps mid-2012. What I can say after finishing this biography is that Mr Attlee probably ranks amongst the top PMs to have ever governed in the United Kingdom while Mr Bew’s style of biography is superb, with just enough humanity to make the people live the pages they are written on.

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Review: The Templars, Dan Jones

Rating: 4 out of 5

I have liked the idea of the Knights Templar from my early youth as probably many a lad interested in (military) history does/did. Not only is theirs a story filled with excitement; victories followed by defeats, and vice versa, but there’s also a very definite end-point, organised by the French King in his quest for money. This is a neater story — at least compared to the other well-known military orders — and therefore makes itself slightly more suitable to be treated as a continuous narrative. I think Mr Dan Jones delivers on this promise, but he could have done more.

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