Burke & Wills by Peter Fitzsimons

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In the early 50’s, I used to watch a television program hosted by Walter Cronkite called You Are There. The show would re-enact famous events from history and Cronkite would report as if from an actual newscast, with reporters on the scene of the event. The show chronicled events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Chicago fire. Peter Fitzsimons writes his historical accounts as if you are there, witnessing the events as they happened. Burkes & Wills is another of his books utilizing this style.

This review is not going to address the accuracy of Fitzsimons account of the ill-fated exploration of Australia, but rather the writing itself. My review of Ned Kelly received a very negative comment when I said Fitzsimons had done an excellent job of telling Ned’s story. Since I am not from Australia, I cannot attest to the factual depiction of either of these accounts.

I can say that I love Fitzsimon’s style. Although his books are lengthy, I found myself engrossed in the telling of the story of Burke & Wills, and felt the emotion of those in this sad tale. The descriptions and detail made this reader feel as if I were there.

This book will make you laugh, cry and leave you wondering how this exploration got as far as it did. As the subtitle states, this is a tale of the triumph and tragedy of Australia’s most famous explorers.

I highly recommend this book and give it five stars.

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Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

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Nothing we didn’t know, yet still worth a read……   ***

This is an interesting book. If you already believe Trump is unfit for the Oval Office, this helps validate that feeling. If you support Trump, I doubt if you will read it, or believe any part of it.

Michael Wolff had access to to the White House and the people close to Trump. He uses first hand knowledge, conversations, and hearsay to paint a picture of a man who many believe should not be President of the United States.

This review is not going to debate the issue of competency, but rather the writing in the book. Wolff repeats himself throughout the book and tends to ramble in parts. His sentence structure tends to be long and convoluted at times. The writing felt rushed and I was expecting deeper insights but was disappointed.

There is not very much in the book that the public does not already know or suspect, with one exception. I suspected Trump was easily manipulated by others but not to the extent Wolff describes. Especially by Jared Kushner and Ivanka, and at times Steve Bannon.

This one gets three stars. It is a good read, just failed to meet my expectation.

 

Win Bigly by Scott Adams

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An almost interesting book on the art of persuasion……    **

 

The subtitle of this book is “Persuasion in a world where facts don’t matter.” Adams might as well have called it “Why I like Trump.”

In the beginning Scott Adams states that the purpose of the book is to discuss persuasion techniques and to teach the reader how to recognize a Master Persuader. He uses Trump as an example and describes how Trump was able to go from celebrity to occupying the Oval Office.

The parts of the book where Adams discussed the various qualities of a good persuader and how they are able to accomplish what they set out to do is fascinating. Regardless of one’s politics, seeing how Trump used persuasion techniques helps to understand how he succeeded. In comparison, Adams shows how the Democrats failed in the art of persuasion. After having read about these techniques, it is easy to recognize them in the current political arena.

Had Adams stopped at the descriptions of persuasion and comparing both parties success or failure in implementing them, this might be a five star read. But in what read as an almost defensive apology, Adams ends the book trying to defend why he ended up verbally supporting Trump. He undermines his discussion of persuasion by revealing his paranoia of Hillary’s tax plan and his fear of Democratic bullies as reasoning for his decision. Ironically, he states he doesn’t vote.

There is a lot of repetition and self promoting that gets old after a point. Adams kept saying he would discuss further something he wrote later in the book, which I suppose was a persuasion technique of a carrot getting me to keep reading.

This one gets two stars, and is worth reading if you can filter out the unnecessary rhetoric.

We Rise by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

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Yes, there is hope for the World and America too.    *****

 

This is an amazing book on several levels. First, it is a great resource on the effects of global warming and what the fossil fuel industry is doing to our environment. Second, it not only describes the problems, but gives practical solutions the average person can do to make a difference. And third, which is the most astounding part, it is written by a 17-year-old who has done more for environmental protection than most of us will do in a lifetime.

Martinez is a passionate, articulate spokesman for the youth of today who will inherit the decisions made by governments regarding the environment. This book is a call to action to everyone, but especially to the young.

It is well written and deserves to be read by anyone wanting to save this planet. I highly recommend it.

This one gets five big stars.

 

 

We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

powerAn eye opening treatise and a must read…..  *****

This is a history lesson, a sobering view of the country we call the United States, and an eye-opening look into how a government can oppress a specific part of its population. Coates does an excellent job of describing the struggle and overt, as well as covert,  discrimination of blacks in this country.

There are too many events from black history in this book, that I had no idea about, to list. One that stood out to me was the way the GI bill, which provided low cost housing loans, was handled regarding black veterans. Because the local banks and cities were given the power to decide how the bill was implemented, they were able to deny loans to black veterans. Coates goes into this in great detail, so I won’t.

Coates shares the articles he wrote for The Atlantic, spanning the eight years of the Obama administrationHe introduces each essay with his comments in retrospect.

This is a must read and an unsettling view of this country. Sadly, it probably won’t be read by those that need to, and based on current attitudes I doubt it would change their minds anyway

This one gets five stars.

Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster

derelictionofdutyA book that should make you angry……..  ***

If you served in Vietnam, served during the Vietnam era, had a relative who was killed or served, knew someone who was killed or served, or care anything about the senseless war that defined the sixties, then this book will make you angry.

McMaster goes into painstaking detail about the politics and incompetence that not only kept us in Vietnam, but in how the war escalated to the point that it did. Since this is a review of the book and not the war, I will, as hard as it is, keep my comments focused on the book. I will say that this was a difficult book to read as I kept getting angry about how the whole thing was handled. I was in the military from 1966 to 1969 and, as many of us did, knew this was a war we should have never been in.

My problem with the book is that although McMaster does an excellent job of providing insight into who was making decisions, the political climate of the time, and the lack of military expertise being listened to, the book is very repetitive. He explains an event, then gives a different view of the same event, but feels the need to repeat much of what he has already said.

After slogging through the minutiae and finally reaching the epilogue, I was expecting some new insight about what I had just read. Instead, it was a recap of the book, and one could almost read it alone and get the message McMaster intended.

This is an important book. It proves that we do not learn from the past, and just how much our government is capable of doing to keep the American public in the dark. For me one of the saddest quotes is from Admiral David Lamar McDonald, “Maybe we military men are all weak. Maybe we should have stood up and pounded the table….. I was part of it and sort of ashamed of myself too. At times I wonder, ‘why did I go along with this kind of stuff?'”

Yes, why did you?  Okay I said I was not going to lose focus.

This one gets three stars. It could have been better written but it is a must read.

 

Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between the Police and Black America by Jeff Pegues

jeffpeguesA well written text on a complex subject…….   ****

The issue of confrontation between the police and the black community is a major problem in this country. Understanding both sides is a necessary step to resolving a problem that has deep roots. Taking a side and blaming the other is easy and requires very little thought.

In this book Pegues presents both sides, both perspectives, and the frustration felt by all. Having interviewed several police chiefs, black leaders, and politicians, he lays out in great detail the problems facing communities. Through their eyes, Pegues gives a rational approach to solving the problem.

As a white male, I found this quite an eye opener. Especially regarding the lack of funds that police departments face in being able to hire and train good police officers. The fact that community policing would be a great step toward solving many of the problems and is hindered by funding is sad. Community policing being defined as having sufficient coverage by police to keep officers in one area where they get to know the community, Almost as astonishing was the lack of reprimands or discipline of police officers who over stepped their authority. A department that cannot remove the bad apples only perpetuates the problems.

The issue of poverty and crime in black neighborhoods is too large for this book to address, but Pegues gives a glimpse into understanding the black community’s frustration over being neglected. Add to this the abuse by law enforcement and Pegues gives us a sense of what life in these neighborhoods is like..

This is a good book to help us understand the issues, it is also a book that will make you want to know more about what can be done to bridge this blue/black gap. Here is my only criticism of the book, it lacks a clear suggestion for what the average citizen can do to help.

This one gets four stars.