What are you reading?

Adrian

Civis Illustris
Started reading this book. Damn, this guy - Irving (Spec Ops 3rd RB) , he's a f*cking terminator. No wonder they nicknamed him "The Reaper"

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Started reading this book. Damn, this guy - Irving (Spec Ops 3rd RB) , he's a f*cking terminator. No wonder they nicknamed him "The Reaper"

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In case you're not familiar with this obscurish anecdote. The Oderbruch front sector right before Germany's final collapse was filled with trainees, many children fighting in trenches and dug-outs, they were given sweets as opposed to baccy. By day they were under siege by Ilyushin fighter bombers and artillery (called midday concerts), by night; shell barrages. Most never moved far due to dysentery being rife, no clean water and little food as well as Russian snipers and raiding parties. Hard to imagine. But these young recruits had their own sniper in this sector too, one who dressed in an undertaker's suit and wore a top hat and a golden German Cross. He was as mad as a hatter but tolerated due to his 130 kills. Apparently his nest was in the ruins of a barn.

I've tried to find out a bit more but I suspect one has to read German or Russian to peel away at the more obscure and bizarre stuff that went on.
 
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Adrian

Civis Illustris
Started reading this book. Wow! This dude - Green Beret sergeant Roy Benavidez; he should be listed in Ecyclopaedia Britannica under entries "Badass Motherf*ucker" and "Modesty". America can be proud having The Quiet Professionals
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Maybe you should read both Latin and English at the same time. I mean you compare both and with the help of the English translations that give you the general meaning, you try parsing the sentences.
I enjoy doing that with the Latin Vulgate (latina vulgata) and the English Bible (KJV or NIV).
 

Agrippa

Civis Illustris
Just finished reading Boris Johnson's The Churchill Factor. Got the impression that Boris Johnson is establishing his status as 'alter' Sir Winston. :think:
 
About to either start Robert Andrews' Napoleon the Great (I'm guessing a rather romantic romp due to already knowing Andrews' estimations on Napoleon) or restarting Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, as I think I'm better prepared to read it.

Currently on the hunt for a riveting book on Robespierre too.
 
Just on Bonaparte. His record is extraordinary in the field. Sixty battles, with only seven losses (mostly near the end) and seven stalemates. Astonishing.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
The end was a bit said, but with about five to six million dead, he could at least comfort himself with racking up such a magnificent total, particularly in an age when technology hadn't made it so easy to get the numbers up.
 
I think it's unfair to lay all the blame on one man's shoulders. I personally find it a little simplistic to treat history as a vacuum and point to a full guy. We can trace the bloodshed back to 1792 for starters, not to mention the various coalition roles in the continental bloodletting.

But if you must then I would add, you shouldn't let the likes of Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia off the hook so easily, Etaoin.
 
There's been more books written about Napoleon than there have been days since his death. I suppose this trend will continue, for better or worse.
 

R. Seltza

Magnus Oculus
I've recently finished reading this book:
The Drunkard's Walk book cover

This book explains how we largely underestimate how most things about our lives are the result of chance. People are aware of this to an extent, but this book helps to instill a greater sense of appreciation for it.

This book highlights that one of the most important factors for success is not giving up. Success & perseverance go hand-in-hand. With the influence of randomness, many successful people simply just rolled the dice more often. Successful individuals & their admirers often attribute their success to brilliance, skill talent, etc. when in reality, luck played a larger role than they'd suspect. This is quite a humbling book to read. Every successful person ought to read this for a good ego-check.
 

Adrian

Civis Illustris
Just on Bonaparte. His record is extraordinary in the field. Sixty battles, with only seven losses (mostly near the end) and seven stalemates. Astonishing.
Bonaparte was definitely a great commander and a brilliant tactician (and skilled polititian nevertheless).
If you like reading about famous military commanders, I could recommend Barry Strauss' Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership. (I think Alexander The Great was by far the greatest military strategist; Hannibal was by far the greatest unconventional tactician of all time). If you like reading about strategy alone - you have to read Carl Clausewitz's On War - compared to him Sun Tzu was an amateur.
 
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Bonaparte was definitely a great commander and a brilliant tactician (and skilled polititian nevertheless).
If you like reading about famous military commanders, I could recommend Barry Strauss' Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership. (I think Alexander The Great was by far the greatest military strategist; Hannibal was by far the greatest unconventional tactician of all time).
Just looking on Amazon at the large excerpt about this book. His use of contrasting and categorization has a classical feel to it; the ten qualities looks interesting. I suppose Divine Providence (10), although out of their hands as such, is a key category nonetheless. I'm guessing with Caesar in Gaul there's an element of him making his own divine providence, although that might come under the category Branding (9).


With the sort of books you're reading at present you might like Operation Certain Death. It was a combined operation (Paras and SAS) against the West Side Boys in Seirra Leone. It's a good read.
 

Godmy

Sīmia Illustris
With my new Kindle, after finishing reading Mika Waltari's the Egyptian (1945) in the October, and being quite amazed by it (=you don't know the ancient Egypt or its "authentic feel" until you read the book; although I read it in the Czech translation, because I found out the most widespread English translation around is an abridged version, unfortunately; the Czech translation was awesome though), I started reading another of Waltari's historical Novel, this time taking place in the 16th century Europe (mainly Germany & Italy), The Adventurer / Mikael Karvajalka (1948) - which I finished reading today.



I wrote a review on it on Goodreads:

It is more or less The Egyptian in the late middle-ages / onset of renaissance, it is written in the same style (as a sort of narration / retro-spective diary by a man at the end of his journey, documenting his life since childhood). If you are not an expert on the European history of the 16th century (1502 till, in the first book, 1527), you will be at the end of it. There are too many analogies with The Egyptian, which, however, the fans of The Egyptian will like. It's like: you've just finished The Egyptian and you liked it so much that you wouldn't mind reading it again, but perhaps not right away. What to do in the mean time? Read Mikael Karvajalka! (The Adventurer). I was mostly impressed by the vast author's knowledge of the history. I know that authors do tend to do research and that they may appear smarter (or more learned) than they would truly be, on the other hand, you can say where the author is just fluent in the subject, where the pieces of history woven into the story seem as a natural part of their plan, and Waltari is certainly the latter case! Just like he was able to write The Egyptian in only two months of daily intense work, which however omits that he had been seriously interested in the ancient Egyptian culture for decades before he started writing it, having seen ancient Egyptian expositions in the musea around the world, thus coming to the point where he was simply so educated on the subject that he could just sit and write quite fluently without being forced to do much studying on the subject, without taking pauses to get the surrounding history more or less correct. He was prepared, he had done his homework. And you will get the same vibe from Mikael Karvajalka books.

I read this book in my mother tongue (Czech) where the title has been translated (or rather rendered) as "Krvavá lázeň" which means literally "Bloodbath" - and I have to say that this is very very on point! Compared to Sinuhe, The Adventurer presents so much more gore and despair that it is hardly imaginable prior to reading the book. But it never feels as self gratuitous: it always represents a true piece of the history, a series of unfortunate events that happened in Europe not very far apart both geographically and time-wise. The first book already counts with the existence of the sequel and it is structured towards to a sequel, therefore it may feel like it ends prematurely, the main hero is around 25 years of age and we already know he tells the story an old man, he even gives us a glimpse of what is to happen, but the book simply ends there. So, any review like this one, may feel premature.

I certainly recommend reading this one, if you're a fan of Waltari, certainly, if you've just finished The Egyptian! I'm looking forward to the sequel!

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- the main character is just way too similar in how he thinks (=perhaps because it is, in a sense, Waltari himself again): he first becomes something like a "priest" (a learned man) just to become a sort of "doctor/medic" ultimately
- his parentage is unknown and even though, unlike in The Egyptian, the identity of his parents bares no importance, it shapes the main character's development and "uprootedness"
- he more or less either is or feels like an exile, rarely if ever he returns to where his original home was
- his female love affairs often remind you of those of Sinuhe's: bunch of deceitful/malevolent women, then one or two "true loves" that end up tragically, a potential offspring that the main character never becomes truly a father of
- his development and relation in regards to religion: at first he's very into the main dominant religion - being absolutely persuaded about its truth, later on he is seduced by the "true / reformed" forms of the religion that seek to uncover the 'true face of the God' (just like Atonism in The Egyptian), ultimately - by seeing the cruelty all around himself - he is tempted by nihilism and altogether atheism (to which he however doesn't fully subscribe and has a regress at the end towards faith)
- like Akhenaten in the Egyptian, there will be some well intentioned religious visionaries who clash very painfully with the reality, resulting in carnages
- he has a faithful companion that he sometimes loses, only for him to reemerge later. That reminds us a bit of Kaptah. Even though here the companion is a muscle, not the main brain - but he and Kaptah have a similar relationship towards the alcohol in the least.
- at one point he becomes interested with other "sciences" of that time (astronomy, astrology), just like Sinuhet
- the funny euphemisms Waltari's historical persons use when they either want to curse or describe someone cursing: the ancient language - the ancient way of describing that curse makes it often quite laughable.
- anyone, who doesn't mind a bit of real political incorrectness when viewed through the prism of the 21st century, will be reasonably entertained by it in this Waltari's book. But again, it doesn't feel out of place, if anything, it feels natural to the mindset and ethics of that age. It makes it both quite shockingly entertaining and believable in the same time.
 
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Godmy

Sīmia Illustris
This is in Polish?
Yes, and even the sequel (I haven't read yet), translated to Polish by Zygmunt Łanowski (who also translated The Egyptian <- if you haven't read that yet, I recommend it first :) ).


(but it seems, The Egyptian was translated to Polish from the Swedish translation (the first translation of this book) which already was a bit abridged from the Finnish original, although not as abridged as the English version (which it abridged the already abridged Swedish version); the Swedish abridged version was sanctioned by Waltari though... but still, if you can read it in the original length right from the Finnish that could be better... But, I think they only abridge some longer passages.)


Btw. Waltari reportedly studied Theology (before WW2), which kind of explains his interest in these subjects and his vast historical knowledge on certain subjects (+ Latin nuggets here and there in this book), but I think also the main character in this (and the previous book) are a bit of reflection of himself and they show that his own relationship with the religion (or the Church) wasn't very easy at all :D I have yet more to read on Waltari himself and his life, I'm saving that after I'm done with most of his chief historical novels. He certainly was the "geek" :p

Waltari reminds me of Umberto Eco as a writer a little bit.
 
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