Books I’m reading

I read four or five books at a time. I have one in each room of the house. The Kindle is for the bedroom and reading in bed. That one was “Ship of Fools” by Tucker Carlson.

That is very good but got me depressed a bit. The best review on Amazon was:

Don’t drink wine and read this book, you’ll get angry and make posts on social media that are completely accurate and your friends will hate you.

I feel pretty much like that.

I’ve been reading “Militant Normals” by Kurt Schlicter. It is less depressing and quite good.

Then there is the audio in the car which is now, “Revolt of the Elites” by Christopher Lasch. It was written in 2016 and published in 2017 so has nothing so far about Trump.

Today, I finished “Citizen Soldiers” by Stephen Ambrose which describes the war from Normandy to the end. It’s not just a narrative of the war but has chapters on POWs and about crooks and deserters. There was a lot of “Combat Fatigue” which got Patton into trouble. It was best treated close to the front and 90% of the soldiers returned to their units or at least went back to some job.

I am also reading a couple of books on the back patio, one of which is “The Sleepwalkers” which is about the advent of World War I, and it will be 100 years since the Armistice in two weeks.

The other books is, “Vatican” by Malachi Martin, which I read years ago but am rereading it. I am stimulated to read it by the antics of Pope Francis who seems to be the leftist Pope Martin warned about.

29 thoughts on “Books I’m reading”

  1. I have a stack of “too reads” but I have not seen that one.

    I started “After Google” on the Kindle. I have the audio but the audio version is harder to follow.

    I am also going to start a review of Physics and Calculus, which I knew 60 years ago. We’ll see how I do. I’ve been doing Kahn Academy to remember some Algebra and preCalc that seems to have faded a bit,

  2. I read The Virtue of Nationalism by Yoram Hazony, and I also follow him on Twitter. He has been relentlessly attacked by Leftists who just automatically assume nationalism is equivalent to fascism. It obviously isn’t. We have a world that consist of nations, and it didn’t get that way because of evil. Otherwise, all of us as citizens of nations would be evil, and we aren’t.

    A related argument that comes up frequently is that nationalism didn’t come about until the French Revolution. Therefore, nationalism must either be a modern innovation that should be quickly replaced by the next progression in human history, or, conversely, it’s so modern that it can’t be said to stand the test of time of the past 5000 years of political history.

    Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying that I’m now reading The Byzantine Republic by Anthony Kaldellis. For a couple reasons: I’m a big fan of the Byzantine Empire, and Kaldellis makes the case that the Roman Empire had a strong sense of national identity that became fully developed during the later pluralistic Eastern Roman Empire, also known nowadays as Byzantium. Nationalism, rather than being a singular quirk of a particular time and place along the continuum of progress, is a phenomenon ingrained in discrete human social dynamics, but it’s only manifested under certain conditions in just and well-ordered societies.

    I’ve got another book in the bullpen, The Political Principles of Robert A. Taft by Russell Kirk. I’ve noticed Max Boot lately grandstanding about leaving the Republican party for the Democrats because he believes the GOP lost their moderate, Eisenhowerian roots. I think his history is faulty, and he conveniently forgot about the GOP’s cautious, small government foundation.

    In Scaramucci’s book, he recounted a great story from Jay Winik’s On the Brink (another book I need to read). Reagan was running for governor and had just received the endorsement of the ultra-right John Birch Society. Lyn Nofziger and the other advisors rushed to see Reagan in order to urge him to denounce the group and avoid the political outrage. Reagan calmly asked them, who was endorsing whom? It was the Birchers acknowledging that they accepted Reagan’s views, not that he accepted theirs. It was going to be this moral certitude and inner strength that would pull disparate segments to Reagan and unite them into a whole.

  3. Someone please close the italics that were left open…

    “nationalism didn’t come about until the French Revolution.”
    I dunno if this is literally true, but clearly it came to the forefront in the early 19th century and tore Europe to pieces over the next century and half.

    On that topic, has anyone read the recent multivolume Napoleon biography by Broers, and have thoughts on it, or recommend any particular other biography of him?

  4. I have just finished a biography of de Gaulle. I have a couple of books on Napoleon’s campaigns but not a biography.

    I have read a bit about the French Revolution, and just finished “Fatal Purity” a rather sympathetic biography of Robespierre,

    I have been to his tomb but no biography. Multivolume ? The only multivolume biography that I have read, aside from Sandburg’s “Lincoln,” was a biography of Jackson that was excellent. That was about ten years ago,

    I’ll take a look at it.

  5. “I dunno if this is literally true, but clearly it came to the forefront in the early 19th century and tore Europe to pieces over the next century and half.”

    You, my friend, need to read Hazony’s book before you tackle anything on Napolean. It was the nationalism that sprung out of the Peace of Westphalia and Concert of Europe that maintained a reasonable amount peace in Europe. The catastrophes of subsequent world wars were caused by industrialized imperialism.

  6. Grurray: I heard Hazony interviewed recently on EconTalk. I thought it was one of the worst interviews I’ve ever heard Roberts do, as he seemed completely unfamiliar with the topic of nationalism. I’m not at all sure what you mean re: Westphalia, since the signatories to that were in general not nation-states.

  7. I am also reading “The Sleepwalkers” and I find it to be excellent. So much of recent history seems to be a consequence or repeat of the conflicts in this book. The politics of it all, the use of the media, and the personality conflicts seem very familiar. History repeats.

    Great book!

  8. Hmm… I listened to that EconTalk interview and thought it was pretty good, although he can be a little dry in his delivery. Hazony has a different definition of nationalism than most people who are used to our globalist system and assume countries must be sanctioned by international governing authorities arbitrarily tracing lines on a map.

    Here’s what he wrote about the Thirty Years War:

    The Thirty Years War, ending in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, is often said to be a “war of religion” fought between Protestants and Catholics. But this is not quite right. The war actually pitted the emerging national states of France, the Netherlands, and Sweden (nations that were, respectively, Catholic, Calvinist, and Lutheran) against German and Spanish armies devoted to the idea that universal empire reflected God’s will, and that such empire alone could bring true well-being to mankind. It was in the Thirty Years’ War that the concept of a universal Christian empire, which had held sway over the West’s political imagination for thirteen centuries, was decisively defeated.

    He’s somewhat critical of Germany specifically (and the concept of Christendom implicity) throughout the book because of their expansionist tendencies. I think a defense in depth strategy was necessary because of the geography of the Northern European Plain. The problem with defense in depth of a multinational empire is the possibility of what they call in network architecture a failure cascade. Such as with multi-care pileups or pandemics. The over-connectedness allows problems to spread too quickly and unpredictably.

    The solution is a balance of power of competing nations. They maintain a healthy separation while their give and take generates prosperity. If competition is good for the free market, then it’s just as good for international politics.

  9. I’m re-reading Conservatism:An Invitation to the Great Tradition by Roger Scruton. It is a short–155 pages of text–historical overview of modern conservatism from Locke and Hobbes to Hayek and Friedman, among others. It is well written without philosophical jargon and would make a nice gift to an open minded liberal–if such creature exists today.

  10. Then there is the audio in the car which is now, “Revolt of the Elites, ” by Christopher Lasch. It was written in 2016 and published in 2017 so has nothing so far about Trump.

    Wrong dates.

    Copyright © 1995 by the Estate of Christopher Lasch First published as a Norton paperback 1996.

    So it is no surprise that Christopher Lasch had nothing to say about Donald Trump.

    Wiki: Christopher Lasch

    Christopher “Kit” Lasch (1932–1994) was an American historian, moralist, and social critic who was a history professor at the University of Rochester. Lasch sought to use history as a tool to awaken American society to the pervasiveness with which major institutions, public and private, were eroding the competence and independence of families and communities. He strove to create a historically informed social criticism that could teach Americans how to deal with rampant consumerism, proletarianization, and what he famously labeled the “culture of narcissism”.

    His books are well worth the readin- or listening.

  11. Why read depressing crap? It is just one author’s opinion, and you were apparently warned ;-)

    I am reading 2 books at this time – Downfall which is about the last year of Japan and lots of alternative history (operations Olympic and Coronet) – didja know that in anticipation of the first invasion wave the Pentagon ordered 500,000 purple hearts? Which are still being used and in inventory – take that – revisionists!)

    And The Empath’s Survival Guide by Judith Orloff. As an MD I think you would think a lot of what she says is bunk, but she is also an MD and practicing psychiatrist. A lot of my life I have felt that I was a bit different and this book explains a lot for me – although what she says “soaking up people’s emotions” seems a bit too new-agey to me. But I seem to be able to project myself onto others and know what they are going through. It’s an interesting read in any event.

  12. I read “Downfall” several years ago. To avoid depression, I am reading, for the 20th time probably, another Rafael Sabatini novel. This one is Ballarion. It is just escapism but has some history, too.

  13. I apologize for being harsh with you reading selection. It certainly isn’t any of my business and I suspect from the years I have vicariously known you, you would think a book about empaths is pretty ridiculous.

  14. A few suggestions from recent reading & rereading:

    “After the Prophet” by Lesley Hazleton (2009) — about the Shia-Sunni split in Islam. A balanced, highly readable account of some fairly sad events which echo down to the present day. When Shia today in Bahrain remember the tragic murder of Mohammed’s cousin Ali in the festival of Ashura, the gutters literally run red with blood from the faithful’s self-inflicted wounds.

    “Patton, Montgomery, Rommel” by Terry Brighton (2008). One of the few books that I literally could not put down — reading the whole thing in one sitting, as chores went undone and meals went uneaten.

    “The Chief Culprit” by Viktor Suvorov (2008), presenting the hypothesis that Stalin had been trying to start a European war for many years, in the belief that Communist states would rise out of the wreckage. The style of the book is very Russian — never use a sentence where a paragraph could fit. Suvorov makes the case that Stalin was only weeks away from attacking Germany when German forces beat him to the punch in 1941. While the author does not dwell on the potential alternative history, one can’t help but wonder what the world would have looked like if the USSR had got the initiative and had succeeded in pushing the Germans all the way into the English Channel. I came across this book while seeking to understand why the English declared war on Germany over the German invasion of Poland from the west — but failed to declare war on the USSR for its nearly simultaneous invasion of Poland from the east.

    “Events Leading Up To World War II”, Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress (1945), printed pursuant to House Resolution No. 425. This was another document consulted in a search for understanding of the peculiar English failure to hold the USSR accountable for invading Poland. It is fairly dry and full of diplomatic irrelevancies (April 12, 1942 — “Iran severed diplomatic relations with Japan”), while providing some insights into why Germany ultimately invaded Poland. (Danzig, along with Polish reluctance to negotiate). But this dry recitation has certainly increased my impression that FDR was a very nasty war-mongering piece of work.

  15. My apologies again — the above Anonymous is me. Not the first time I have made the mistake of hitting “Submit Comment” before entering my name.

  16. It’s weird that autofill is starting to work for email and website.

    I’ve read a couple of Suvorov’s books, including that one. I’m not so sure but it is interesting as alternate history.

    The “Patton, Montgomery, Rommel” sounds interesting.

    On the English and the beginning of the war, I think Pat Buchanan is right in his “Unnecessary Wars” thesis that Chamberlain’s Polish Guarantee was an almost fatal mistake. Not much else of that book do I agree with but it did get me to read an Edward Grey biography.

    His point is that England and France could do nothing to help Poland and maybe Hitler might have gone after Stalin and left the West alone.

    Remember that in WWI the Germans only attacked France as a preliminary step to attacking Russia which they feared.

  17. Mike,

    The French were itching to avenge their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and they had allied with Russia specifically for this purpose. Germany started mobilizing after the Russian declaration of War against Austria and since France would mobilize Germany if they mobilized against Russia, the Germans had to mobilize against France too. Once these mobilizations were started, the path to war was set. The German plan was to finish off France first, then turn against Russia. It turned out the Germans overestimated Russian capabilities and they were able to defeat them with fewer troops than they estimated. I think one big mistake they made was not committing more troops to the Russian front at the first and defeating the Russian faster.

  18. Mike — re Buchanan’s hypothesis that Chamberlain’s Polish Guarantee was an almost fatal mistake, President Hoover had the same assessment prior to the outbreak of WWII. I can’t really recommend Hoover’s long-delayed publication “Freedom Betrayed” (2011) as a good read. However, Hoover does record his unsuccessful efforts to persuade the western Europeans to stay out of the way of Germany’s eastward thrust. Hoover saw that conflict between Germany and the USSR was inevitable, and the best outcome would be for Stalin & Hitler to wear each other out without involving the West. By declaring war on Germany over Poland, England & France forced Germany first to move west to protect its rear before attacking the USSR.

    Hoover did not flinch from pointing out that the same England which declared war on Germany to protect Polish independence & democracy then abandoned Poland to the tender mercies of the USSR at the end of the conflict. Hoover also had a very low opinion of FDR’s conduct of US policy before and during WWII.

  19. The French were itching to avenge their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and they had allied with Russia specifically for this purpose.

    One of the books I had about the start of the war emphasized the French perfidy. Also, according the “Sleepwalkers,” the French were funding Russian and Serbia loans. Most of those loans were used for armaments bought from French dealers.

    The French were far from innocent. Britain should have let them stew, which is Buchanan’s point. The Grey biography is deadly dull but I am going to stick with it far enough to see how many valid points Buchanan makes.

    I shocked a British friend (retired army) one time by saying we should have stayed out of WWI and then added, they should have stayed out, too.

  20. I finished Albert Speer’s book inside the third Reich a few months ago and he confirmed something I had always believed: That Hitler did not believe Britain and France would declare war after he invaded Poland. And why should he believe it? They did nothing with Austria and Czechoslovakia.

    But according to Albert Speer, Hitler was in a depression for a few weeks after war was declared.

    Of course, invading Russia with Britain not vanquished was his colossal error.

    With some alternative history the European war could’ve been over before Pearl Harbor.

  21. In Hoover’s long-delayed book, he points a finger at FDR for encouraging the English and French to declare war on Germany over Poland. Hoover’s book, along with some other publications, certainly provides ammunition for the viewpoint that FDR had been dishonestly inveigling to get the US into war for some time.

    It is worth remembering that the Allies declaration of war on Germany was followed by the Phony War, when the Allies did little beyond apply sanctions to Germany. Perhaps this was an early example of what we now call Virtue Signaling? The Phony War continued until Germany invaded France.

    As an aside, another of the many oddities of World War II was that, following Pearl Harbor, Germany felt treaty-bound to declare war on the US. However, Japan did not declare war on the USSR, which was then at war with Germany, and continued to maintain neutrality towards the USSR.

    In his slightly disappointing book “The Second World Wars” (2017), Victor David Hanson postulates that WWII was in fact a number of separate conflicts.

  22. Apropos “The Sleepwalkers,” Tirpitz had a very different take in his memoirs on such questions as Germany’s naval armaments and war guilt than you will find in most of the popular histories. For example,

    “Every nerve was to be strained, however, to prevent this local and limited Balkan war from spreading to Europe. In spite of the most energetic endeavors on the part of the Chancellor, however, to maintain peace among the Great Powers, the world-war broke out. Consequently the question arises, how in spite of Austria’s indubitable right to satisfaction, and to a clearing out of the Serbian nest of conspirators, it has been possible for the enemy, regardless of all the efforts of the German Government to keep the peace, to convince almost the whole world of Germany’s guilt in the world-war?”


    “The blood-guilt of those responsible for the Russian mobilization is not lessened by any bungling on the part of our Government. In spite of the agreement which had been established at the eleventh hour between us and England, the Russian mobilization had made war inevitable unless a miracle happened. Longer hesitation on our part would have delivered our territory to the enemy, and would have been inexcusable. In reality the Russians had been mobilizing since the 25th, and this advance did us considerable harm when the machines of war began to move.”

    Lord Bertie, the British ambassador to France at the outbreak of war, had a similar take in his diary before war was actually declared. Of course, he changed his tune once the war was underway.

  23. Lord Bertie was an active participant in an anti-German and pro-French section of the FO.

    I still think that Pat Buchanan has a point about Edward Grey, if not Churchill, in responsibility for the war.

    The French were by no means innocent in the Russian-Serbia militancy. Germany feared Russia and the French were building up Russian logistical capability with railroads and armaments. There was an element of revanchism in the French behavior.

    Barbara Tuchman has had a lot of effect in shifting all blame to Germany. The Germans, unfortunately, behaved as Germans once the war began. Their behavior in Belgium was enough to turn the world against them for the next 100 years.

  24. Tirpitz thought Belgium leaned towards the entente, and approval of a French/British march through the country was not out of the question. However, he wrote,

    “Belgium was a matter for the gravest misgiving; this could only be allayed if our policy clearly convinced the world, with redoubled caution and skill, that we were politically on the defensive. If, however, we gave ourselves the false appearance of being the aggressors politically, then the invasion of Belgium, which was actually a pure emergency measure, appeared in the fateful light of a brutal war of violence. The enemy received overwhelming material for slandering us, if after the ultimatum to Serbia, after the refusal of Grey’s proposal of a conference, after a formal declaration of war on Russia and France, we proceeded to march through Belgium.”

    He had some interesting things to say about the U.S.:

    “America is a world-conquering Power, a fact which our democrats refuse to realize. The outward superiority of our enemies brought the Americans from the very first day to the conviction that we should not win, and they defined their attitude towards us on this principle.”

    and the Japanese:

    “The Japanese are rapacious and greedy of power. In this respect they are a primitive people; they want to have everything. But now that they have obtained the dominating position in Eastern Asia it would be foolish of them to quarrel with America about the South Sea Islands or the racial question.”

  25. The Schlieffen Plan was written in 1906 and the rule was that the sleeve of the German soldier on the right should “brush the channel” as he passed.

    Von Moltke the younger, is blamed for changes.

    Some critics contend that Moltke’s weakening of the Schlieffen Plan led to German defeat. The records show that Moltke, who was concerned about Russia, moved 180,000 men east before the war.[5] Many thousands more men were transported from the crucial right wing to the left wing facing France in Alsace and Lorraine. Most controversially, on 28 August, Moltke sent two corps and a cavalry division to reinforce Ludendorff and Hindenburg, just before the epic victory at the Battle of Tannenberg. The series of moves has been viewed by some historians as responsible for much of the strategic failure of the Schlieffen Plan as enacted in 1914.

    Hitler, in an era of more mobility, avoided the Schlieffen Plan and attacked French through the Ardennes.

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