Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age
by Annalee Newitz (2021)
I read this book for the book club I help organize at work. It's a good, well researched, and well written book, and the author is clearly smart and original in their contributions. Still somehow I did not loved it as much as I expected it too. It did make me want to read the fiction work by this author though.
In Four Lost Cities, Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the center of a sophisticated civilization: the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman vacation town of Pompeii on Italy’s southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia, and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia, which stood beside the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today.
Newitz travels to all four sites and investigates the cutting-edge research in archaeology, revealing the mix of environmental changes and political turmoil that doomed these ancient settlements. Tracing the early development of urban planning, Newitz also introduces us to the often anonymous workers—slaves, women, immigrants, and manual laborers—who built these cities and created monuments that lasted millennia.
Four Lost Cities is a journey into the forgotten past, but, foreseeing a future in which the majority of people on Earth will be living in cities, it may also reveal something of our own fate.
Started: Jul 01 2022 Finished: Aug 12 2022
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
There has been a lot of talk around this novel, finalists of the Nebula, Hugo, and National Book awards. Modern Library even listed it as one of the 100 best novels of all time, while there has been numerous attempts to censor this book: in 1973 for example, a school board in USA decided to burn all the school libraries copies of the book. As a result I had extremely high expectations: I was prepared to be blown away.... but I was not.
Do not get me wrong: it's a good book, with a great anti-war message. It just did not meet my over hyped expectations.
Slaughterhouse-Five is centered on the infamous firebombing of Dresden. It is the story of Billy Pilgrim a person that claims to be experiencing time in a different way: he jumps back and forth, experiencing pieces of his life in almost random order. This odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.
Started: Dec 31 2020 Finished: Jan 08 2021
The Lessons of History
by Will Durant
The book was a mixed bag of some interesting and some hair raising ideas.
The Lessons of History is the result of a lifetime of research from Pulitzer Prize–winning historians Will and Ariel Durant. It is an accessible compendium of philosophy and social progress, a journey through history, exploring the possibilities and limitations of humanity over time. Juxtaposing the great lives, ideas, and accomplishments with cycles of war and conquest, the Durants reveal the towering themes of history and give meaning to our own.
I have many issues with the book but the biggest issue is that numerous theories and historical interpretations are put forward, but we are never given any proof or even supporting evidences. At most some historical facts are briefly mentioned as definite proof. Unfortunately stating a theory as a fact does not make it so. The reasoning behind it, the series of facts that led to that conclusion are to me more interesting that the conclusion itself.
Why does he categorize "financial independence of young people from their parents" as an immoral evil while "financial independence of a wife from her husband" as good? The two line argument that he uses to characterize the first as evil can as easily apply to the second. And why is "sexual liberation" immoral while 'birth control" good and advisable? Again I am not interested in somebody stating opinions as facts, I am interested in understanding their reasoning, but none or little is provided.
I enjoy reading books from people that I agree and from people I disagree with. I like to be exposed to new ideas and new line of reasoning, but this book presents very little (or nothing) in terms of reasoning, and a whole lot of claims. This is the main source of my disappointment with this book.
Last but not least, the book is marred by numerous xenophobic, chauvinist, and homophobic claims, again stated as self-evident facts.
Started: Feb 27 2019 Finished: Mar 08 2019
Who Rules the World?
by Noam Chomsky
In an incisive thorough analysis of the current international situation, Noam Chomsky examines the way that the United States, despite the rise of Europe and Asia, still largely sets the terms of global discourse.
Drawing on a wide range of examples, from the history of U.S. involvement with Cuba to the sanctions on Iran, Chomsky's argues that America's rhetoric of freedom and human rights often diverges from its actions. He delves deep into the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel-Palestine, providing unexpected and nuanced insights into the workings of what he describes as the American imperial power on our increasingly chaotic planet.
This was the first time I read a book from Chomsky, but I was finally convinced to give it a try when i discovered it was one of the trending books at my local library. I was not disappointed: while I may not be convinced by all his arguments, he waves a though provoking and sobering telling of recent American history. I just wish the book was edited more aggressively: the book is probably a collection of stitched together essays, with tons of repetitions. There are entire chapters that are combinations of parts from previous chapters. A good editor could have cut a good 40% of the text without losing any information.
I read that the latest edition of this book comes with an afterword, where he addresses the election of Donald Trump. This was not included in my edition, but I am really eager to read it.
Started: Mar 24 2018 Finished: Apr 05 2018
L'Italia dei Comuni: Il Medio Evo dal 1000 al 1250
by Indro Montanelli (2008)
E' interessante riscoprire la storia del Bel paese raccontata in maniera accessibile e informale da Montanelli e Gervaso. Sfortunatamente, come per i volumi precedenti, un periodo storico relativamente lungo e' riassunto in un numero relativamente piccolo di pagine con il risultato ch'e' facile perdersi tra tanti nomi, eventi e date.
Started: Dec 13 2002 Finished: Dec 21 2002
L'Italia dei secoli bui: Il Medio Evo sino al Mille
by Indro Montanelli (2008)
Un'interessante introduzione alla storia italiani durante il medioevo, raccontata in maniera accessibile e piacevole. L'unico limite nasce dal fatto che un solo libro copre un periodo storico lungo e compleasso, con il risultato che a molti avvenimenti non e' accordata la necessaria attenzione.
Started: May 01 2002 Finished: May 21 2002
Storia di Roma
by Indro Montanelli (1988)
Un'interessante introduzione alla storia di uno dei piu' grandi imperi del passato, raccontata in maniera accessibile e piacevole.
Started: Feb 13 2002 Finished: Apr 15 2002
Gli uomini con il triangolo rosa
by Heinz Heger (1991)
Publisher review: Ricordo di aver letto questo romanzo per la prima volta quando apparve la traduzione inglese, nel 1981, e di esserne stato scosso: nonostante avessi letto molti libri sull'olocausto nazista, quella era la prima volta che veniva detto che esso aveva coinvolto direttamente gli omosessuali. Si tratta si di un romanzo, ma racconta in effetti vicende documentate da testimonianze autentiche. Questo lo rende diverso da tante ricostruzioni di fantasie intese piu'a tintillare la morbosita' del lettore che a ricostruire una vicenda umana e storica. Inglobando i vari documenti in una narrazione che ha la forma della testimonianza in prima persona , ne e' risultato un libro che ha colpito l'immaginazione degli oomosessuali di tutto il mondo, e ha permesso loro di identificarsi in quella tragedia apparentemente cosi' remota nel tempo e nello spazio. (Giovanni Dall'Orto, storico)
My rating: ★★★★★
The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals
by Richard Plant
Publisher review: This is the first comprehensive book in English on the fate of the homosexuals in Nazi Germany. The author, a German refugee, examines the climate and conditions that gave rise to a vicious campaign against Germany's gays, as directed by Himmler and his SS--persecution that resulted in tens of thousands of arrests and thousands of deaths. In this Nazi crusade, homosexual prisoners were confined to death camps where, forced to wear pink triangles, they constituted the lowest rung in the camp hierarchy. The horror of camp life is described through diaries, previously untranslated documents, and interviews with and letters from survivors, revealing how the anti-homosexual campaign was conducted, the crackpot homophobic fantasies that fueled it, the men who made it possible, and those who were its victims, this chilling book sheds light on a corner of twentieth-century history that has been hidden in the shadows much too long.