The Nazi Hunters
Contrary to popular belief, Hitler wasn’t the only Nazi during WWII. The Nazi Hunters is a historical account of the years that followed World War II. It moves swiftly through the trial that immediately followed the Allied victory–where several of the top Nazi officials were executed. However, where most other accounts of the tumultuous post-war period follow the political attention of the time to focus on the rising threat of the Cold War,The Nazi Hunters instead takes the reader along the road less traveled, one traversed by only a few men and women hell-bent on seeing justice prevail: the Nazi hunters.
This is not a topic that I would usually have delved into for pleasure reading, but my younger brother recently was accepted into the Air Force Academy, so there’s been a lot of military talk around the house lately and it caught my attention. Whether my picking it up was a fluke or my brother’s enthusiasm rubbing off on me, I’m glad I followed through. This book was both intriguing and well written–both a plus–but what made it really stand out to me is that it so perfectly captured a time in history that so few people know about. It completely changed my understanding of WWII and helped me feel a connection to a time and events that really aren’t all that long gone–and yet already feel so forgotten.
Simon & Schuster
Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat
In twelve delightfully detailed chapters, science journalist Marta Zaraska reveals how we have become so fixated on meat in our diets. From the onset of life as microbes engulfed other microbes, the body’s demand for sustenance evolved into devouring both plants and animals. Religions, customs, rulers, topography, and geography frequently dictated the diet. Wealthier and more powerful countries tended to consume more meat—be it pork, cow, sheep, dog, horse, rat, fowl, or fish. The more carnivorous selection by the early hunter-gatherer is credited for enabling the increase in brain size. The umami component of meat seduced the consumer with its appealing protein flavor. However, plants also possess this umami essence especially in soy products, therefore vegetarians can also harvest this special quality in foods. Now with our increasing concern regarding meat consumption and its possible association with the incidence of diabetes, heart problems, cancer, and possibly obesity, dietary changes towards a plant diet seem indicated. Such a change would reduce cattle raising and reduce water demands, pollution, and global warming. Read the fascinating stories of cultural influences on eating habits, novel recipes shaping soy veggies into pseudo-steaks and burgers, and lab grown meat on petri dishes, along with the horror stories of how animals are treated. The contents are engrossing.
The Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome, A Brief History
When it comes to reading textbooks or primers on particular subjects, the key really is that the writing keep the reader’s interest, otherwise their mind is likely to wander and/or become bored with the subject matter they are reading about. Thankfully, Jack L. Schwartzwald’s brief history on the ancient Near East, Greece and Rome has an interesting and engaging voice that grabs the reader’s attention right from the beginning and keeps them going for the whole book.
This “brief history” is still a good 190-odd pages of informational text, along with an extensive bibliography and thorough index, giving the reader quick references at their fingertips. For those readers looking to read it cover to cover, the book is divided into three chapters: “The Cradle of Civilization: The Ancient Near East,’ “The Cradle of Western Civilization: Ancient Greece,” and “The Cradle of the Nation-State: Ancient Rome.” While it seems like heavy reading to digest the entire book with just three chapter breaks, especially on this none-too-easy subject, each chapter is subdivided into sections with titles to allow for breaks and digestion of the material. The shortest chapter is the first one at 30 pages, which is sad, because it is such an import period in history that lead to the foundation and creation of so much that came after, nevertheless it is clear that while Schwartzwald knows plenty about the ancient Near East, it is ancient Greece and Rome where he dedicates his true knowledge.
The history telling is straightforward, with lots of names and dates throughout the text, as the author lays out the history and events and happenings in succinct paragraphs. There is not a lot of discussion or synthesis here, as this is a “brief history” after all and nothing more. Schwartzwald is giving you the quick history of these times and places so that you can speedily digest and understand it. If you are looking for further, deeper material, that is what the bibliography is for. But in this way the book also serves as an excellent reference tool, along with the index, so that if the reader is tackling something in depth, but wants a quick refresher on a specific period in the ancient Near East, Greece or Rome, this book does the job well.
What is perhaps surprising about the book is that it is all text, with not a single picture, table, graphic, or depiction of a graphic source. While, again, it is a “brief history” and meant for a quick and thorough reading of the time period, one would expect maybe a photo or two, a Roman statue or Greek piece of architecture, or even Hammurabi’s code of laws; something to break up the text and help make it all the more real for the reader. Nevertheless, the book does its job of providing a “brief history” of the ancient Near East, Greece, and Rome, where the reader will not become lost and overwhelmed by too much, but able to digest everything in titled sections. It is an ideal book for someone taking an ancient history class and looking to get a feel for the history they are about to learn about or for the average reader wanting to learn more about the period, but not having to absorb a heavy and overwhelming tome. The people, dates, and events in the book are all laid out in chronological order, allowing the reader to take it all in swiftly and comprehensively.
67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence
May 4 1970 was your average day in Vietnam, seeing two dozen deaths of US soldiers. President Nixon had just announced the bombing of Cambodia, which led to massive protests on college campuses. Kent State University had recently come alive with unrest in town involving a near riot, which resulted in the Mayor calling in the National Guard. The university had seen the burning of the ROTC building along with rumors of a protest rally on campus on the 4th. The fuse was lit on a powder keg and the explosion was imminent. 67 shots would ring out on the Ohio campus at mid-day. When the smoke cleared & some semblance of order was restored, 4 were dead, scores wounded. The questions would be numerous, the answers almost nil. What led to the triggers being squeezed that shattered the calm of that Monday afternoon? Poor training, sleep deprivation, youth of the troops is blamed, while the establishment blamed the incendiary nature of the clash and the riotous hatred of the student led mob. Questions of outside agitation were repeatedly raised and culpability was spread on all sides.
Howard Means’ look at a horrible moment in US history is crucial to understanding the law, poltiics, basic rights and how occasionally all three clash, and how the former fail the latter. The author doesn’t pick sides in the telling of those momentous days, just shedding a flash light on history (known & unknown). Means sees this event as different than other shootings (school & protest), because of the climate surrounding it, the questions still surrounding May 4 and what lessons have been learned from it or ignored. The bottom line is May 4, 1970 still resonates in America for the survivors and those who watched.
God told me to draw these.
When reading satirical cartoons, we assume there’s an astute political mind behind them, but it’s not often we get to get to see the comics given extra weight by commentary. This book offers that, with 100 of De Salvio’s published illustrations accompanied by essays explaining their genesis (note the small ‘g’ there). Being Catholic educated, a former newspaper editor and columnist, a gifted artist and a gay man who was at Stonewall, the author/illustrator is in a unique position to invoke the tragicomic specter of homophobia. Combining laugh-out-loud humor with serious reporting, he gives readers a chance to not only revel in the ridiculousness of Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachman quotes, but also to read a serious interview with late Randy Shilts (And the Band Played on, Conduct Unbecoming).
The topics covered here deserve everyone’s attention, regardless of orientation: Teen suicide, gay-positive school programs, international policy on gays in the military, the illogic of automatically associating same-sex orientation with child molestation, right-wing extremism, Bible literalism and distortion, landmarks in LGBT legislation, the myths of recruiting and homosexuality-as-choice, and the Vatican’s perplexing stance on the matter (it’s ok to be queer; it’s not ok to act on it).
The introduction warns that some Internet searches may be needed to fully understand the subjects, and indeed references like Thomas Jefferson’s “Wall of Separation” might be unfamiliar. But go ahead and get familiar with them. Be glad that someone who knows the Constitution as well as the Bible took the time to make a point-by-point refutation of a sermon on America being a Christian nation. Even better, that it was done by someone who follows the precepts of Jesus.
By book’s end, you’ll be all aglow with the joy of lampooning–and not the mean-spirited kind, either. As the author says, “Be kind to Creationists. Remember, they have not yet evolved.”
The Collapse and Recovery of Europe, AD 476-1648
The complete collapse of the Roman Empire changed the western world forever. It was a tabula rasa of sorts, as the societies of the former Roman Empire had the opportunity to start anew and redefine the way their society existed. And this is essentially what happened for the next 1200 years through trial and error, with numerous new rulers, and many deaths along the way. The end result was the more stable nation state during the thriving Renaissance.
In The Collapse and Recovery of Europe, Jack L. Schwartzwald, author of The Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome, moves into the next arena of history, tackling this important period that was pivotal in creating, and defining, Europe as a union of individual and eventual nation states. You’ll notice there is no mention anywhere of the poorly and incorrectly named “Dark Ages,” implying that the beginning of these twelve centuries was a time of stagnation and a return to “primitive” times, when in reality, important foundation blocks were being laid, paving the way for the rebirth of science, art and culture of the renaissance.
The book is divided into three parts and periods, the first covering the glorious time of Byzantium in “City of the World’s Desire,” encompassing a millennium of a minor empire that still considered itself continuing the glory that was Rome, when in reality it was a melting pot of various cultures, including Greeks, the growing Christian faith and flock, as well as Asiatic influences from the East. But as Byzantium was basking in the shadow of its paternal Rome, it, too, eventually succumbed to foreign invasion and overthrow.
In the second part, “City of God,” Schwartzwald covers the birth and explosion of the church and Catholic faith in Western Europe, as it sought to convert the people to God, and create a heaven on Earth in the same thriving glory that was Rome, but as those high up in the faith — the popes and cardinals to name a few – fought for ideals they believed to be true to the faith, derision and schism grew, leading to fracturing and fighting and wars. The Middle Ages ended with the ultimate of struggles in the Hundred Years’ War.
The final part, “City of Man,” leads off with the end of the Hundred Years’ War, and concludes with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Here, Schwartzwald focuses on the development and birth of the nation state, which was deemed the final healthy successor to the idea that was Rome. As with the previous parts, the author focuses on the political and militaristic history of the period, but in a way that keeps the reader fully engrossed. Provided at the end of each section, are “Societal Achievements,” highlighting the great strides that were made.
The Collapse and Recovery of Europe, as with Schwartzwald’s previous book, is a very approachable and readable volume, be the reader a student, or merely someone interested in the period. Since the author is covering a vast amount of time, some 1200 years, he cannot be comprehensive with the history-telling, but he is thorough with many sections, covering the political and militaristic events and occasions in a succinct way that doesn’t bog the reader down with too many details, coupled with numerous pictures, it makes for a very pleasant reading experience. These sectional divisions also help to break up the overwhelming amount of history into digestible chunks, so that the reader can read the book one section at a time, or engorge on a larger amount of history that is still well and clearly divided to make it more comprehensible. The result is an impressive history book covering a large amount of time that is made very accessible and readable for any fan or person interested in the period.