Book Review | Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Spoiler alert: The Lusitania sinks at the end and the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allies. Dead Wake is the first book by Erik Larson that I’ve read, though I know his books by reputation (especially Devil in the White City, which seems like it’s been read by almost […]

Book Review | The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman

Adolf Tolkachev’s story is one of brilliant courage and heroism. That it ends in tragedy and betrayal only seems to accentuate the stakes that he faced in his struggle to tear down the totalitarian tyranny of the Soviet state. David Hoffman’s telling of Tolkachev’s story in The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold […]

Book Review | Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Oh, Jerusalem. There is no other place on Earth quite as tragic, drenched in both blood and history. And it makes for reading that cannot be put down. Here’s the short version of why you should read Simon Sebag Montefiore’s history of Jerusalem: In just under seven hundred pages, Jerusalem: The Biography is a satisfying, narrative-based […]

Book Review | Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

For a guy who literally looks like the Dos Equis man, Mark Kurlansky has managed to find some of the least interesting subject matter I could imagine and turn them into full histories. Whether it’s salt (this one), cod (1988), oysters (2005), or the Basques (1991)…well, okay. A history of the Basques sounds like it has […]

Book Review | Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century by Alistair Horne

Fascinating and with the touch of a master storyteller’s hand, if there’s one history I will recommend this Christmas season, it will be Alistair Horne’s Hubris: the Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century. Interesting and accessible, Horne’s approach is a narrative that doesn’t merely tell a story, but also examines hubris in the tides […]

Short Review | Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages by Jean Gimpel

The medieval ages were far more like our modern age than we often think. The only thing that came to my mind prior to reading this book was knights and castles. Hardly a dark age as often portrayed, the period was full of industrial innovation, and Jean Gimpel makes an interesting survey of some of […]

Book Review | Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum

Perhaps what is most fascinating about the strange episode of human history under which the communist oppression of Eastern Europe falls is that it has gone so long without a comprehensive history of how it occurred. Anne Applebaum‘s Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 appears to step into that gap, providing in-depth research and a […]

Review | The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die by Niall Ferguson

One of the most interesting books I’ve read in recent years was Niall Ferguson‘s Civilization: The West and the Rest, an examination of the extraordinary rise of Western Civilization relative to the rest of the world and the causes that seem to be at the root of its apparent decline. Ferguson’s newest book–The Great Degeneration: […]

Review | The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

In the author’s note to The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee  notes that “Cancer is not one disease, but many diseases.” It anticipates Mukherjee’s history, a look at cancer starting in the ages and proceeding forward to the modern day. It’s a 4,000 year history, and Mukherjee tells it well. The […]

Review | Lost in Shangri-la by Mitchell Zuckoff

In the closing months of World War II, twenty-four serviceman and WACs climbed aboard a military transport plane for a day of sightseeing over a recently discovered “hidden valley” deep in the interior of Dutch New Guinea. Surrounded by high, jungle covered mountains and far from civilization, the valley was home to natives undiscovered by […]