Current reading - March 2020

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Current reading - March 2020

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Mar 16, 2020, 2:25pm

I finished Soldiers of the Faith: Crusaders and Moslems at War by Ronald C. Finucane. This is a clearly written and (to me, anyway) interesting book about the crusades. Finucane's purpose was not to provide a chronological narrative of the the several crusades that took place over several centuries during the Middle Ages, but instead to provide, to the extent possible from this far remove, a look into what it was like to take part in the events, looking, as the title suggests, from the perspectives of both European Christians and the Moslems they went to do battle with. Finucane began with an overview chapter laying out relatively briefly the timeline, goals and results of the various crusades to provide a context. But then he presents a series of explications of the different factors of the events, showing the patterns that held true throughout the centuries and differentiating between the various eras when appropriate. So we get insights into "Enlisting for the Crusades," "The Journey," "God's Armies," "Fighting and Dying," "Searching for God: Christian Enthusiasm, Moslem Beliefs," "Christian-Moslem Interactions," "Minorities at Risk: Women and Jews" and, finally, "Decline of an Ideal." Finucane didn't romanticize or admire any of this, but instead tried to present a clear-eyed view of it all. His writing was not particularly graceful, but was, as I mentioned up top, clear and straightforward enough to allow for a relatively unfettered reading experience.

Mar 16, 2020, 11:06pm

I finally got through Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era by Norman Friedman. Extremely technical book, but if you are an enthusiast like me, it is well worth it. The text is small enough, but the captions and the footnotes are tiny, but I solved this problem by getting the Kindle version on sale and switching back and forth.

Mar 21, 2020, 9:10am

As for what I've read this month I might give a special shout-out to Post-war Japan as a Sea Power, as the Japanese Naval Self-Defense Force essentially gave the author a free hand to talk to whoever they wanted; the key point is whereas the Ground Self-Defense Force was a clean break with the old Imperial Japanese Army, the post-1945 naval leadership has been able to salvage a usable past.

A book that was rather weird was Wade McClusky and the Battle of Midway, in that it seemed more polemical than that subject required; then again, this might be part of a last-ditch effort by McClusky's family to get him a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Mar 27, 2020, 4:41pm

Finished A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens by Lawrence E. Babits. This is an academic study of the battle based on primary sources and frankly was rather a dull read.