What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Bungo » Fri Dec 28, 2012 4:05 am

Just finished G.J. Meyer's A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918. Great, readable 700-page history of WWI, with a good balance between the politics and the battles. Supplementary chapters interleaved with the main narrative provide useful information on various royal families, generals, and politicians, as well as topics such as propaganda, poetry, and genocide. These background chapters add interesting color and context to the book, making it very accessible and self-contained for the general reader. They also provide intermissions between the various battles, which is very welcome because so many of the battles, especially on the western front, consisted of pointless carnage with no useful ground gained by either side, which can make for pretty depressing reading after a while. This is of course not the author's fault - that was the reality of the war.

All the major land battles are covered in high-level detail: Meyer, respectful of his target readership, describes the movements at the level of armies, not divisions. Some quotes from soldiers are sprinkled in to give a taste of the grim view from the trenches. Naval battles are largely ignored except for the Dardanelles and a very brief description of Jutland. Airplanes are also mostly neglected, except for an occasional mention of surveillance, bombing, or strafing.

The main battle focus is on Germany's eastern and western fronts, and on Gallipoli. The other theaters are ignored aside from occasional mention of fighting in the Caucasus and the Middle East. This focus is generally OK with me - obviously you have to draw the line somewhere if you are going to fit into 700 pages - but it was rather jarring to reach the final chapter on the Versailles Peace Conference and find that Japan, previously unmentioned in the book, is sitting alongside Britain, Italy, America, and France. It would have been nice to have one additional chapter summarizing what happened in the minor theaters.

Also, more maps would have been welcome. The ones provided are just barely adequate for locating the general area being described, let alone attempting to follow the details of most of the battles. If a city or river is mentioned in the narrative, it should appear on one of the maps, but this is too often not the case.

The final short chapter on Versailles seemed very abrupt, especially when contrasted with the excellent 100+ pages at the start of the book detailing the events that led to the start of the war. I would have welcomed another 100 pages at the end explaining the aftermath in more detail. Fortunately, there are plenty of books on that subject. I have added Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World to my to-read pile.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Fri Dec 28, 2012 12:13 pm

Bungo wrote:Just finished G.J. Meyer's A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918. Great, readable 700-page history of WWI, with a good balance between the politics and the battles. Supplementary chapters interleaved with the main narrative provide useful information on various royal families, generals, and politicians, as well as topics such as propaganda, poetry, and genocide. These background chapters add interesting color and context to the book, making it very accessible and self-contained for the general reader. They also provide intermissions between the various battles, which is very welcome because so many of the battles, especially on the western front, consisted of pointless carnage with no useful ground gained by either side, which can make for pretty depressing reading after a while. This is of course not the author's fault - that was the reality of the war.

All the major land battles are covered in high-level detail: Meyer, respectful of his target readership, describes the movements at the level of armies, not divisions. Some quotes from soldiers are sprinkled in to give a taste of the grim view from the trenches. Naval battles are largely ignored except for the Dardanelles and a very brief description of Jutland. Airplanes are also mostly neglected, except for an occasional mention of surveillance, bombing, or strafing.

The main battle focus is on Germany's eastern and western fronts, and on Gallipoli. The other theaters are ignored aside from occasional mention of fighting in the Caucasus and the Middle East. This focus is generally OK with me - obviously you have to draw the line somewhere if you are going to fit into 700 pages - but it was rather jarring to reach the final chapter on the Versailles Peace Conference and find that Japan, previously unmentioned in the book, is sitting alongside Britain, Italy, America, and France. It would have been nice to have one additional chapter summarizing what happened in the minor theaters.

Also, more maps would have been welcome. The ones provided are just barely adequate for locating the general area being described, let alone attempting to follow the details of most of the battles. If a city or river is mentioned in the narrative, it should appear on one of the maps, but this is too often not the case.

The final short chapter on Versailles seemed very abrupt, especially when contrasted with the excellent 100+ pages at the start of the book detailing the events that led to the start of the war. I would have welcomed another 100 pages at the end explaining the aftermath in more detail. Fortunately, there are plenty of books on that subject. I have added Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World to my to-read pile.


Good review. Thank you.

Yes the other fronts, and the Eastern front itself, are often ignored (I think Keegan is better on this). The Middle East is quite important, because the impact runs all the way to the modern day. Ditto the 'starting line' for the Far East in WW2, which really began in 1931 with the Manchuria incident. Why were the Japanese where where they were?
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby lloydbraun » Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:18 pm

Just read chapters 1,2,6,7, and 9 of Bogle's new book. I love, even if I don't agree with him on every issue,that he's trying to get a conversation going about creating a new national framework for retirement investing. Bogle's brief discussion on Social Security would benefit by reading the Congressional Research Service's recent report on that topic, though both were published around the same time so he can't be faulted, and I'd like a bit more discussion of his views on economics, which he hints at but doesn't make explicit. Chapter 9 is basically a re-hash of everything people here already know. Don't take my criticisms of some parts of his book as a criticism of the man or even the book as a whole, I wish I could make everyone I care about read this book.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby randomwalk » Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:06 am

I just finished Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.

Now reading Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:15 am

Cakes and Ale, by W. Somerset Maugham. First time. The Internet is either great or a terrible distraction, as I am constantly stopping to look things up... such as the supposed real-life identities of "Alroy Kear" (perhaps Hugh Walpole), and "Edward Driffield" (a mild challenge, as the direct Google search is dominated by real people actually named Edward Diffield or Edward Driffield Lumb or Edward Townshend Driffield). A lot of sources think he's based on Thomas Hardy, but Maugham directly denied this.

Finished it. I enjoyed it immensely.

The funny thing is that he talks about writers becoming respected simply through longevity, i.e. becoming the Grand Old Man of Letters simply because his rivals die off... and the actual volume I was reading was a 1967 collection, i.e. just two years after Maugham's death at age 91, with a cover picture of a bronze bust of Maugham, having become Grand Old Man of Letters himself.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby rcsracing » Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:27 am

I got a copy of my favorite books when I was growing up - Brave New World, but this one has the "Brave New World Revisited" at the end.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby peppers » Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:09 pm

Clash of the Cultures :)
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby quicknss » Sun Dec 30, 2012 2:39 am

Just finished Arnold Schwarzenegger's biography "Total Recall" which is quite good on audiobook
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby chaz » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:32 pm

"Wildfire" by Nelson DeMille.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:45 pm

chaz wrote:"Wildfire" by Nelson DeMille.
Actually, the title is two words: "Wild Fire." Just as an earlier novel of his was entitled "Night Fall," two words.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Bungo » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:18 pm

I'm currently reading two books:

* Peter Schiff, The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy---How to Save Yourself and Your Country.

This is a mixed bag. In the first part of the book, Schiff argues that the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve have contributed to a series of three consecutive bubbles: the dot-com mania, the housing/credit boom-bust, and now, an unsustainable bubble in government spending which will result in "the real crash" indicated in the title. OK as far as it goes, but he largely ignores other causes that are inconvenient to his thesis. The most obvious problem is that he fails to explain why there were simultaneous housing bubbles in many other countries. Surely these were not caused by US government policy.

The second, longest part, consists of Schiff's outline for solving the various problems he sees as caused by government spending. This is mostly along libertarian/Austrian school lines: government bad, free market good. Some of his arguments are pretty good, others (even ones I agree with) are poorly justified with statements such as "if we eliminate such-and-such program, I think the result would be...", without any evidence or logical arguments to back them up.

His chapter on Social Security was especially poor, boiling down to a multi-page tirade amounting to "I think it's a Ponzi scheme, and unconstitutional" when obviously the courts have decided otherwise. Everyone agrees that the program is underfunded, but he immediately concludes that this means the program should be scrapped, failing to address obvious alternatives such as increasing taxes or decreasing benefits to achieve balance.

His chapter on education was quite good and thought-provoking. I don't think he came up with any of the ideas, but he does synthesize a good argument that we send too many kids to college, with poorer economic results as tuition and student loan balances spiral out of control, and that much of the blame for this rests with taxpayer-subsidized loans.

There are other chapters on health care (more "government bad, free market good" rhetoric, not quite as convincing in this case), and on the financial industry ("too much regulation" is the best he can come up with in the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown?), as well as a rather tiresome chapter on returning to the gold standard.

The third part of the book, which I haven't got to yet, discusses what investors should do to prepare for "the real crash." (Let me guess: buy gold, and invest with Euro Pacific Capital.)

Overall not an especially good book. I like Peter Schiff. It's entertaining to watch his various YouTube videos, especially the one where he defends capitalism during an Occupy Wall Street rally. I agree with him probably 80% of the time. But this book is a bit of a mess. It's more like a collection of rants, of varying quality, about what Schiff doesn't like about the government than a coherent thesis spelling out the case for why he believes a crash is coming and what to do about it. The latter is what I expected, based on the title.

* Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

This seems like a natural follow-up after reading G.J. Meyer's A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918. As the title suggests, it covers the peace conference in Paris following the end of World War I. I'm only a few chapters into it, and will comment more later. So far, it seems good but a bit disjoint in terms of timeline. The conference hasn't even begun yet, but it seems that MacMillan can't resist making comments every few paragraphs about something that's going to happen a few months down the line, or which happened decades earlier at the end of the Franco-Prussian war. I'll withhold judgment for now, but my inkling is that a more linear narrative would have worked better.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby chaz » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:47 pm

nisiprius wrote:
chaz wrote:"Wildfire" by Nelson DeMille.
Actually, the title is two words: "Wild Fire." Just as an earlier novel of his was entitled "Night Fall," two words.

Thanks - I misread the title as I was typing on this thread.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:02 pm

Your United States: Impressions of a First Visit, by Arnold Bennett, written in 1912. Available at Project Gutenberg. Been dipping into it irregularly, unlikely to read it straight through, but fascinating.
Further, there are business organizations in America of a species which do not flourish at all in Europe. For example, the "mail-order house," whose secrets were very generously displayed to me in Chicago—a peculiar establishment which sells merely everything (except patent-medicines)—on condition that you order it by post. Go into that house with money in your palm, and ask for a fan or a flail or a fur-coat or a fountain-pen or a fiddle, and you will be requested to return home and write a letter about the proposed purchase, and stamp the letter and drop it into a mail-box, and then to wait till the article arrives at your door. That house is one of the most spectacular and pleasing proofs that the inhabitants of the United States are thinly scattered over an enormous area, in tiny groups, often quite isolated from stores....

A little machine no bigger than a soup-plate will open hundreds of envelops at once. They are all the same, those envelops; they have even less individuality than sheep being sheared, but when the contents of one—any one at random—are put into your hand, something human and distinctive is put into your hand. I read the caligraphy on a blue sheet of paper, and it was written by a woman in Wyoming, a neat, earnest, harassed, and possibly rather harassing woman, and she wanted all sorts of things and wanted them intensely—I could see that with clearness. This complex purchase was an important event in her year. So far as her imagination went, only one mail-order would reach the Chicago house that morning, and the entire establishment would be strained to meet it.
He then goes on to describe further systematized wonders; the "packages of all descriptions racing after one another down spiral planes within the shaft," the "room where six hundred billing-machines were being clicked at once by six hundred young women," the employee's restaurant with its "menu of over a hundred dishes—Austrian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Scotch, French, and American; at prices from one cent up as high as ten cents (prime roast-beef)," the "the firm's private railway station..."

All of that organization, that system, and that machinery. Now go back to the envelope and the sheet of paper. Is he saying that in 1912, Sears Roebuck & Co. had not yet invented the order blank?
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:08 am

Bungo wrote:I'm currently reading two books:

* Peter Schiff, The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy---How to Save Yourself and Your Country.

This is a mixed bag. In the first part of the book, Schiff argues that the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve have contributed to a series of three consecutive bubbles: the dot-com mania, the housing/credit boom-bust, and now, an unsustainable bubble in government spending which will result in "the real crash" indicated in the title. OK as far as it goes, but he largely ignores other causes that are inconvenient to his thesis. The most obvious problem is that he fails to explain why there were simultaneous housing bubbles in many other countries. Surely these were not caused by US government policy.
[/i]

.


Generally I do not agree with Schiff. However US monetary policy *could* have global effects-- the US is c. 20-25% of the world economy, and countries that use the dollar de jure or de facto are probably at least another 10%, say? The USD is the 'currency of denomination' of world trade and finance so the normal rules don't *all* apply.

However one would still need to explain why Spanish and Irish housing boomed, say, and French and German did not. What I think is broadly true is that US monetary policy contributed to various Emerging Market booms and busts (eg Argentina 2002) and in particular Iceland-- low interest rates drove 'hot money' to seek higher returns which inflated domestic economies and led to an asset price crash (Thailand 1997). However Japanese monetary policy has been even more lax, and arguably that was of greater influence in places like Iceland (the infamous 'yen carry trade'-- borrow cheaply in yen, invest at 15% interest rates in Iceland-- it was actually possible as a retail investor in Japan to do this).

So there is a missing 'x' and even the likes of the IMF are no longer unequivocal advocates of deregulation of financial services and abolition of all capital controls in Emerging Markets. Countries like China just do not (directly) allow this kind of cross border capital flow to happen.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Saving$ » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:01 am

Boomerang by Michael Lewis. Very good book.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Bungo » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:50 pm

Valuethinker wrote:So there is a missing 'x' and even the likes of the IMF are no longer unequivocal advocates of deregulation of financial services and abolition of all capital controls in Emerging Markets. Countries like China just do not (directly) allow this kind of cross border capital flow to happen.

It makes sense that there would be some spillover from the US when there is surplus capital here. Just seems improbable to me that there was enough surplus, even after massively inflating our own housing, to do so worldwide as well.

Schiff also spends many pages harping about the role played by Fannie/Freddie, the FHA, deductibility of mortgage interest, etc. No doubt these were contributing factors, but as far as I know, none of them can explain why there were even bigger booms in many other countries around the same time, a fact that he doesn't even mention in the book.

This lack of global perspective seems surprising coming from an author who advocates investing primarily outside of the US and whose thesis is that the US government is so much more screwed up than most that it's going to collapse the economy. He almost never discusses how other countries do things compared with the US (which could have been a very interesting book), instead preferring to spend many pages offering "solutions" that are obviously never going to be enacted, such as eliminating the income tax. He has some intelligent things to say, but overall it's just Schiff calling for less government, hardly a novel perspective.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby lloydbraun » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:10 pm

It sounds like Schiff is ignoring the role of the Asian financial crisis and the role of the US dollar as the reserve currency when discussing why we didn't have inflation, although like most Austrian inspired writers he always thinks we're going to. You can definitely argue that the fed kept interest rates too long after the economy bounced back, which is very different than what's going on right now as the unemployment rate is still over 7.5%, but back in the early 2000s the U.S. housing bubble was also caused by foreign countries parking their short term money in the US because of the dollar's role as the reserve currency. This was especially true for investors from Asia who had just lived through a major financial crisis. I'm not sure exactly what caused the inflation of the European housing market as I haven't read up on it but I'd assume, based on what I've read about recent global economic history, that it was partly a result of Asian savers looking to diversify (similar to why they parked money in the US) in the wake of the late 90s crisis and the formation of the European Monetary Union, which allowed non-German EMU members to enjoy German-level interest rates and attract cheap capital from abroad, including from Germany.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby LadyGeek » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:06 pm

As a reminder, economic policy discussions are off-topic.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby protagonist » Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:45 pm

nisiprius wrote:Your United States: Impressions of a First Visit, by Arnold Bennett, written in 1912. Available at Project Gutenberg. Been dipping into it irregularly, unlikely to read it straight through, but fascinating.
Further, there are business organizations in America of a species which do not flourish at all in Europe. For example, the "mail-order house," whose secrets were very generously displayed to me in Chicago—a peculiar establishment which sells merely everything (except patent-medicines)—on condition that you order it by post. Go into that house with money in your palm, and ask for a fan or a flail or a fur-coat or a fountain-pen or a fiddle, and you will be requested to return home and write a letter about the proposed purchase, and stamp the letter and drop it into a mail-box, and then to wait till the article arrives at your door. That house is one of the most spectacular and pleasing proofs that the inhabitants of the United States are thinly scattered over an enormous area, in tiny groups, often quite isolated from stores....

A little machine no bigger than a soup-plate will open hundreds of envelops at once. They are all the same, those envelops; they have even less individuality than sheep being sheared, but when the contents of one—any one at random—are put into your hand, something human and distinctive is put into your hand. I read the caligraphy on a blue sheet of paper, and it was written by a woman in Wyoming, a neat, earnest, harassed, and possibly rather harassing woman, and she wanted all sorts of things and wanted them intensely—I could see that with clearness. This complex purchase was an important event in her year. So far as her imagination went, only one mail-order would reach the Chicago house that morning, and the entire establishment would be strained to meet it.
He then goes on to describe further systematized wonders; the "packages of all descriptions racing after one another down spiral planes within the shaft," the "room where six hundred billing-machines were being clicked at once by six hundred young women," the employee's restaurant with its "menu of over a hundred dishes—Austrian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Scotch, French, and American; at prices from one cent up as high as ten cents (prime roast-beef)," the "the firm's private railway station..."

All of that organization, that system, and that machinery. Now go back to the envelope and the sheet of paper. Is he saying that in 1912, Sears Roebuck & Co. had not yet invented the order blank?


The most important message to be taken from this is that when women in Wyoming want something, they want it intensely. That's probably as true today as in 1912.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby ruralavalon » Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:00 pm

Trouble Is My Business, by Raymond Chandler.

Completely frivolous reading. More detective stories about Phillip Marlow. Love Chandler's writing, the best metaphor (or is it simile?) so far: "He's so tight his head squeaks when he takes his hat off" :D .
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Igglesman » Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:21 pm

The Drunkard's Walk - How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow

Excellent read and a good intro to the history of statistics and probability. Nice examples in the book for Bogleheads...concepts we all know.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby randomwalk » Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:09 pm

I just finished Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima.

Now reading Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby gkaplan » Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:25 pm

I am forty pages into If the Dead Rise Not, the sixth in the Bernie Gunther series written by Philip Kerr. I continually read comparisons of Kerr's novels to those of Alan Furst, so I might have to take a look at some of Furst's works.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby chaz » Sat Jan 05, 2013 4:20 pm

nisiprius wrote:
chaz wrote:"Wildfire" by Nelson DeMille.
Actually, the title is two words: "Wild Fire." Just as an earlier novel of his was entitled "Night Fall," two words.

This novel is 706 pages, the longest since college. I'm at p.322, and it's a very good story.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby bogatyr » Sat Jan 05, 2013 6:58 pm

I'm reading One For the Books by Joe Queenan. It's basically a memoir about his addiction to books. He has good takes on bookstores, book clubs, giving books as gifts, audiobooks and so forth. Rather humorous. What I think is most interesting though is all the books and authors that he mentions that I've never heard of or hadn't considered reading. It is full of recommendations (or cautions to stay away from).
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Van » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:02 pm

Steve Jobs.

Excellent, IMHO.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby steve roy » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:12 pm

Re Raymond Chandler:

His novels -- in chronological order -- are amazing reads -- The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady In The Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye . He painted Southern California with vivid brush strokes. And a volume titled "The Letters of Raymond Chandler" is also worth reading.

Dashiel Hammet might be the originator of hard-boiled detective fiction, but Chandler is the writer with the most influence, even fifty-three years after his death.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby steve roy » Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:00 pm

Just now I'm poring through "The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell," which contains amazing stuff, like for instance this letter fragment written immediately after Gettysburg (July 5th, 1863):

... Of a sudden, from the left, ... a battery opened up on us the most terrific fire I ever witnessed. The first shell struck not more than two rods behind where I was standing. We all retired precipitately to the partial shelter of a brick barn hard by, and there remained until our artillery silenced the guns that had opened. It was awful. For half an hour it raged incessantly. Grape, canister, solid shot and shell whizzed and shrieked and tore past us. The trees nearby were torn and dismembered. A fragment of shell killed two chickens a rod from where I sat. ...


Joe Twichell was a twenty-four-year old army chaplain who enlisted as a "three year man" in July 1861, and left the army thirty-six months later. He witnessed battles, ministered to hundreds (thousands?) of wounded, and was under fire a lot, even as a non-combatant.

After the war, he became pastor at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford Connecticut. He met and became friends with Mark Twain at the beginning of Twain's literary career and remained a close chum to the end of Twain's life. (He turns up as a character in several Twain books under other names. Mark Twain found him a compelling talker but less adept "when taking up the pen.")

But Twichell was (is) sufficiently compelling in these letters. The book offers a riveting first-hand account of the war, which became the touchstone of Joe Twichell's life:

Much of Twichell's time was spent in hospitals, ministering to the spiritual needs of sick, wounded and dying men but also serving as a nurse, litter bearer and gravedigger ...


The reverend's letter recounting time spent with a union deserter executed for desertion is particularly compelling. Rev. Twichell makes it clear that he was a reluctant participant, since the man wasn't from Twichell's regiment. But Twichell was the only minister available, so he stayed with the man before and during the death by firing squad.

Powerful reading, particularly if you're interested in the Civil War.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:29 pm

The Way of All Flesh, by Samuel Butler. I keep quoting it, so I decided it was time to re-read it. It seems better every time.

To quote some investment-related bits: young Ernest, a newly-minted curate (entry-level Anglican clergyman) has fallen in with a slightly older clergyman who enlists him in a crazily-optimistic plan to "set on foot a spiritual movement" by using Ernest's inheritance of £5000--something on the order of $500,000 today--for "the foundation of an institution ... for placing the nature and treatment of sin on a more scientific basis than it rests at present." Ernest writes to a friend that
"The worst of it is that we have not enough money; I have, it is true, £5000, but we want at least £10,000, so Pryer says, before we can start; when we are fairly under weigh I might live at the college and draw a salary from the foundation, so that it is all one, or nearly so, whether I invest my money in this way or in buying a living... Pryer knows several people who make quite a handsome income out of very little or, indeed, I may say, nothing at all, by buying things at a place they call the Stock Exchange; I don’t know much about it yet, but Pryer says I should soon learn."
You can see where this is going. We learn later that
matters, however, had not gone too well with “the things that people bought in the place that was called the Stock Exchange.” In order to get on faster, it had been arranged that Ernest should buy more of these things than he could pay for, with the idea that in a few weeks, or even days, they would be much higher in value, and he could sell them at a tremendous profit; but, unfortunately, instead of getting higher, they had fallen immediately after Ernest had bought, and obstinately refused to get up again; so, after a few settlements, he had got frightened, for he read an article in some newspaper, which said they would go ever so much lower, and, contrary to Pryer’s advice, he insisted on selling—at a loss of something like £500. He had hardly sold when up went the shares again, and he saw how foolish he had been, and how wise Pryer was, for if Pryer’s advice had been followed, he would have made £500, instead of losing it. However, he told himself he must live and learn.

Then Pryer made a mistake. They had bought some shares, and the shares went up delightfully for about a fortnight. This was a happy time indeed, for by the end of a fortnight, the lost £500 had been recovered, and three or four hundred pounds had been cleared into the bargain. All the feverish anxiety of that miserable six weeks, when the £500 was being lost, was now being repaid with interest. Ernest wanted to sell and make sure of the profit, but Pryer would not hear of it; they would go ever so much higher yet, and he showed Ernest an article in some newspaper which proved that what he said was reasonable, and they did go up a little—but only a very little, for then they went down, down, and Ernest saw first his clear profit of three or four hundred pounds go, and then the £500 loss, which he thought he had recovered, slipped away by falls of a half and one at a time, and then he lost £200 more. Then a newspaper said that these shares were the greatest rubbish that had ever been imposed upon the English public, and Ernest could stand it no longer, so he sold out, again this time against Pryer’s advice, so that when they went up, as they shortly did, Pryer scored off Ernest a second time.

Ernest was not used to vicissitudes of this kind, and they made him so anxious that his health was affected. It was arranged therefore that he had better know nothing of what was being done. Pryer was a much better man of business than he was, and would see to it all. This relieved Ernest of a good deal of trouble, and was better after all for the investments themselves; for, as Pryer justly said, a man must not have a faint heart if he hopes to succeed in buying and selling upon the Stock Exchange, and seeing Ernest nervous made Pryer nervous too—at least, he said it did. So the money drifted more and more into Pryer’s hands.
Eventually Ernest's godfather intervenes, but it is too late:
I had heard from Ernest the name of the broker who had been employed, and went at once to see him. He told me Pryer had closed all his accounts for cash on the day that Ernest had been sentenced, and had received £2315, which was all that remained of Ernest’s original £5000. With this he had decamped, nor had we enough clue as to his whereabouts to be able to take any steps to recover the money.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:25 am

gkaplan wrote:I am forty pages into If the Dead Rise Not, the sixth in the Bernie Gunther series written by Philip Kerr. I continually read comparisons of Kerr's novels to those of Alan Furst, so I might have to take a look at some of Furst's works.


Whilst they share a milieu (interwar Europe and the decay around the rise of Nazi Germany-- although Kerr then takes us postwar) I am not sure they are comparable (they both do their historical research).

Gunther is first person-- your classic hard-nosed private eye fiction with a political slant.

Furst is written in the third person, jumps between viewpoints, sometimes more keen to tell us about history than to move the plot.

I would say, unfortunately, the earlier Fursts are better--- Night Soldiers, The World at Night, Dark Star, Blood of Victory. The last few I have been less convinced by. But the fact remains that I have read all of them, which tells you that he's still an author I engage with. The common threads are there: the brasserie in Paris with the bullet holes in the mirror (from the attempted assassination of a character in an earlier novel) where all the spies meet.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/f/alan-furst/

What this is really all pointing to is the inventor of the genre-- Eric Ambler. Until Ambler, English spy fiction was a sort of proto James Bond, muscular spies of a particular political persuasion roughing up baddies (Erskine Childers 'Riddle of the Sands' is still a good read, though).

Ambler invented the hapless ordinary man, caught in dealings bigger than him. In his 1930s novels, 2 of the heroes are a brother-sister pair of Russian spies (Ambler was a communist before the Stalin Show Trials of 1938).

And so, first and foremost, Coffin for Demetrios/ Mask of Demetrios. And Journey into Fear.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/a/eric-ambler/

The thing about Ambler is, he is not historic pastiche. A journalist at the time, Ambler is writing about the *real* world of the 1930s. Thus much is taken for granted which has to be described or explicated in Furst or Kerr.

The feeling is much like reading Chandler-- Chandler takes the world of 1930s LA for granted (although explicates enough for an audience which would not know it well; as examples Marlow makes casual references to 'the Negro' and 'the Jewess' -- both of which no one would use that language, now). Ambler is the same in 1930s Europe. His writing is sparse, as of the time (when the paperback had just been invented by Penguin), and so the novels are brief by modern standards (the ebook is bringing back the short novel).

I would say on Ambler, and Furst, load up your Kindle and get reading!
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:28 am

steve roy wrote:Re Raymond Chandler:

His novels -- in chronological order -- are amazing reads -- The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady In The Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye . He painted Southern California with vivid brush strokes. And a volume titled "The Letters of Raymond Chandler" is also worth reading.

Dashiel Hammet might be the originator of hard-boiled detective fiction, but Chandler is the writer with the most influence, even fifty-three years after his death.


And Playback, a much later one, does not work.

Robert Parker has written up his last manuscript.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/ray ... prings.htm

Ross Macdonald (not to be confused with John D Macdonald of Travis McGee fame) wrote Lew Archer, who is really the chronological and spiritual successor to Philip Marlow.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/m/ross-macdonald/
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby magicmom » Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:24 am

"Just A Geek" Wil Wheaton
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby rcsracing » Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:36 am

I just read "The Wealthy Barber" by David Chilton after a recommendation by a friend. Easy, quick read that I'll pass on to a future Boglehead.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Fallible » Sun Jan 06, 2013 2:19 pm

nisiprius wrote:The Way of All Flesh, by Samuel Butler. I keep quoting it, so I decided it was time to re-read it. It seems better every time.

To quote some investment-related bits: young Ernest, a newly-minted curate (entry-level Anglican clergyman) has fallen in with a slightly older clergyman who enlists him in a crazily-optimistic plan to "set on foot a spiritual movement" by using Ernest's inheritance of £5000--something on the order of $500,000 today--for "the foundation of an institution ... for placing the nature and treatment of sin on a more scientific basis than it rests at present." Ernest writes to a friend that
"The worst of it is that we have not enough money; I have, it is true, £5000, but we want at least £10,000, so Pryer says, before we can start; when we are fairly under weigh I might live at the college and draw a salary from the foundation, so that it is all one, or nearly so, whether I invest my money in this way or in buying a living... Pryer knows several people who make quite a handsome income out of very little or, indeed, I may say, nothing at all, by buying things at a place they call the Stock Exchange; I don’t know much about it yet, but Pryer says I should soon learn."
You can see where this is going. ...


And nobody can see better where it's going than Bogleheads. This is hilarious and good for a few reads. I wonder whether non-Bogleheads would see as quickly where it's all going (just the Stock Exchange mention) or find it quite as funny. Thanks for posting it.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Aristotle
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby chaz » Sun Jan 06, 2013 4:52 pm

Fallible wrote:
nisiprius wrote:The Way of All Flesh, by Samuel Butler. I keep quoting it, so I decided it was time to re-read it. It seems better every time.

To quote some investment-related bits: young Ernest, a newly-minted curate (entry-level Anglican clergyman) has fallen in with a slightly older clergyman who enlists him in a crazily-optimistic plan to "set on foot a spiritual movement" by using Ernest's inheritance of £5000--something on the order of $500,000 today--for "the foundation of an institution ... for placing the nature and treatment of sin on a more scientific basis than it rests at present." Ernest writes to a friend that
"The worst of it is that we have not enough money; I have, it is true, £5000, but we want at least £10,000, so Pryer says, before we can start; when we are fairly under weigh I might live at the college and draw a salary from the foundation, so that it is all one, or nearly so, whether I invest my money in this way or in buying a living... Pryer knows several people who make quite a handsome income out of very little or, indeed, I may say, nothing at all, by buying things at a place they call the Stock Exchange; I don’t know much about it yet, but Pryer says I should soon learn."
You can see where this is going. ...


And nobody can see better where it's going than Bogleheads. This is hilarious and good for a few reads. I wonder whether non-Bogleheads would see as quickly where it's all going (just the Stock Exchange mention) or find it quite as funny. Thanks for posting it.

But non-Bogleheads are oblivious.
Chaz

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Fallible » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:32 pm

chaz wrote:
Fallible wrote:
nisiprius wrote:The Way of All Flesh, by Samuel Butler. I keep quoting it, so I decided it was time to re-read it. It seems better every time.

To quote some investment-related bits: young Ernest, a newly-minted curate (entry-level Anglican clergyman) has fallen in with a slightly older clergyman who enlists him in a crazily-optimistic plan to "set on foot a spiritual movement" by using Ernest's inheritance of £5000--something on the order of $500,000 today--for "the foundation of an institution ... for placing the nature and treatment of sin on a more scientific basis than it rests at present." Ernest writes to a friend that
"The worst of it is that we have not enough money; I have, it is true, £5000, but we want at least £10,000, so Pryer says, before we can start; when we are fairly under weigh I might live at the college and draw a salary from the foundation, so that it is all one, or nearly so, whether I invest my money in this way or in buying a living... Pryer knows several people who make quite a handsome income out of very little or, indeed, I may say, nothing at all, by buying things at a place they call the Stock Exchange; I don’t know much about it yet, but Pryer says I should soon learn."
You can see where this is going. ...


And nobody can see better where it's going than Bogleheads. This is hilarious and good for a few reads. I wonder whether non-Bogleheads would see as quickly where it's all going (just the Stock Exchange mention) or find it quite as funny. Thanks for posting it.

But non-Bogleheads are oblivious.

They would surely have to read it all before they "got" it and even then I doubt they could fully appreciate it the way us BHers can. Actually, reading it again, one can see where it's going upon reading Ernest's "The worst of it is that we have not enough money." The naivety and vulnerability that will lead to his really not having enough money is all there.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Aristotle
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:02 am

"Faithful Place" by Tana French
“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” - Sun Tzu
"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." - Mike Tyson
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby chaz » Mon Jan 07, 2013 11:58 am

"The Lion's Game" by Nelson DeMille. 925 pages!
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Valuethinker » Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:42 pm

'Red Flags' by Juris Jurvecs

A police thriller set in a provincial town during the Vietnam War. Better probably as a Vietnam War novel than as a detective thriller (the plot twist seemed rather obvious). But quite realistic seeming on the Vietnam War and the Special Forces war amongst the Montagnards (local aboriginals) in the Highlands.

http://www.amazon.com/Red-Flags-Juris-J ... B00A19NQ7Y
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby stratton » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:18 am

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Danish detective heads the new cold case division. Pretty good.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:00 am

stratton wrote:The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Danish detective heads the new cold case division. Pretty good.

Paul


I enjoyed that one as well...unfortunately the two sequels don't hold up as well.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby stratton » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:17 pm

Blues wrote:
stratton wrote:The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Danish detective heads the new cold case division. Pretty good.

Paul


I enjoyed that one as well...unfortunately the two sequels don't hold up as well.

This is why libraries are useful. :mrgreen:

Paul
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby Blues » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:08 am

stratton wrote:
Blues wrote:
stratton wrote:The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Danish detective heads the new cold case division. Pretty good.

Paul


I enjoyed that one as well...unfortunately the two sequels don't hold up as well.

This is why libraries are useful. :mrgreen:

Paul


Aye, sir, that they are.

Started "In The Woods" last night by Tana French, the first of the Dublin Murder / Undercover Squad novels.
(I had started out of sequence with "Faithful Place" but I don't think it really matters as they aren't serial as far as I can tell.)
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby randomwalk » Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:47 pm

I just finished Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima.

Now reading The Temple of Dawn by Yukio Mishima.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby XtremeSki2001 » Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:03 am

Great book, quick read, and good to read before seeing Zero Dark Thirty in theaters.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby stratton » Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:46 am

Blues wrote:
stratton wrote:
Blues wrote:
stratton wrote:The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Danish detective heads the new cold case division. Pretty good.

Paul


I enjoyed that one as well...unfortunately the two sequels don't hold up as well.

This is why libraries are useful. :mrgreen:

Paul


Aye, sir, that they are.

Started "In The Woods" last night by Tana French, the first of the Dublin Murder / Undercover Squad novels.
(I had started out of sequence with "Faithful Place" but I don't think it really matters as they aren't serial as far as I can tell.)

I just put a hold on another Jussi Adler-Olsen book and noticed it has a different translator. I'm beginning to wonder if there are any web pages discussing what "effect" this may have on various book series.

Paul
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby nisiprius » Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:36 pm

Just finished Dennis Lehane, Live By Night. It was only OK. Nice color and background on gangsters in Tampa and Cuba during Prohibition. But it's another one of these "gangster-with-a-heart-of-gold" stories, the gangster with integrity who lives by his own code, and can be trusted, except when he can't, etc. etc.

Also just finished The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Daniel Coyle and Tyler Hamilton. I thought it was very good and very interesting. Well-written in a way that "as-told-to" and ghostwritten books rarely are. I found it convincing, and take it at face value as being truthful. (If it isn't, well, then, I was taken in). The picture of how people get drawn into doping is interesting, but the layers and layers of detail are what make it fascinating. A telling detail was his comment about how when a cyclist finally wins a bit race, the worry really begins, because winners are certain to be tested. I also found it intriguing that Hamilton was caught by test results indicating he'd been transfused with someone else's blood--and of course he hardly say "That's impossible! The test is wrong, because I never transfused anything but my own blood!"
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby papito23 » Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:56 pm

Getting through some 20th century conservationists...

A Sand County Almanac (re-read) by conservationist father Aldo Leopold. With For the Health of the Land soon to follow. So many quotables in there. Happy 125th birthday to him (yesterday). This man was not only an academic and naturalist, but a very skilled writer as well.

I prefer his tone greatly over Edward Abbey's more strident, misanthropic and anti-religious Desert Solitaire. Carson's Silent Spring never captivated me like good story-telling and nature-pondering will. Working through The Primal Place by Robert Finch and love his story-telling as well. IMO the scolding environmentalist tactic (no matter how true the science or grave the actual abuses) will never get far. For a true land ethic to develop (ala Leopold), the elegant beauty of creation must be captured in art form, as great paintings or musical compositions.

Even though I have come to see the futility of socially responsible stock screenings/ownership, I wonder about concentrating my wealth in these structures that, by themselves (absent regulation), tend to perform best by externalizing ecological costs to marginalized human and non-human communities. :? The incentives are simply not present to follow a true land ethic absent any regulation.
A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. -Aldo Leopold's Golden Rule of Ecology
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby raymclean » Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:40 pm

The Hopkins Touch, by David Roll was just released to good reviews in the WSJournal and others. It tells the stories about FDR's confident and adviser, Harry Hopkins and his improbable, behind the scenes role in getting the USA to lend/lease material to the Brits prior to our getting into WW2. If you are interested in that particular era, it is a great read. Obama's problems with the 1st Branch of government are truly mild compared to FDR's being confronted by the isolationist Congress and its warnings to stay out of any international conflicts. If Japan had not been so foolish as to attack Pearl Harbor, and then Hitler being even more foolish to declare war on the U.S., thus provoking our declarations of war, we may not have gotten into it in time to make a difference. A fascinating, dangerous time in our, relatively, recent history.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Postby af895 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:57 pm

I recently finished Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis.
On deck now:
Irrational Exuberance by Robert J. Shiller
Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam
The Buyout of America by Josh Kosman
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
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