Wednesday, June 01, 2005

What I'm reading lately…

Sex with Kings : 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge by Eleanor Herman. "Kings had flings and extramarital relationships through much of European history, and in her first book, Herman offers, with relish and dry wit, a delightful overview of their sexual escapades... History made as buoyant as fiction."

That's about the sexiest thing I've read lately, because I'm exploring a new literary tangent. I recently finished a book called The Burma Road : The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II. Now, I generally prefer the 1600s-1900s for my pop-history reading. But this book awoke in me a curiosity about both WW1&2, neither of which I know much about. So I went over to Half-Price Books – a very, very dangerous place for me to go - and perused the Military History shelves. I bought:

The First World War: A Complete History by Martin Gilbert. "Profusely illustrated and containing 50 maps, it is both entertaining and endlessly informative in aiding the reader in understanding the specifics of how this first great tragedy of our century occurred."

The First World War by John Keegan. "In a riveting narrative that puts diaries, letters and action reports to good use, British military historian Keegan delivers a stunningly vivid history of the Great War."

Myths and Legends of the First World War by James Hayward. "While incorporating details of wartime life, this book gives a refreshingly different perspective by looking at the rich crop of legends that sprang from the battlefields. Many of these myths still persist in the public consciousness even today."

I figured I'd start with WW1 and move onto WW2 later. Then I wandered into the "Espionage" section and my interest was caught by:

The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh. "The author explores the impact of cryptography, the creation and cracking of coded messages, on history and society. "

Code Breaking: A History and Explanation by Rudolph Kippenhahn. "Astrophysicist Kippenhahn attempts to introduce the general reader to the history of cryptology… more a collection of anecdotes and explanations than a standard history book, but interesting and hugely informative reading."

Secret Messages: Concealment Codes And Other Types Of Ingenious Communication by William S. Butler, L. Douglas Keeney. "Authors Butler and Keeney breezily survey the history of codes, ciphers and other forms of covert communication from smoke signals and Morse code to fraternity ties, gang colors and carefully stitched quilts, to name just a few."

And then I made myself leave, because I don't need to be bringing any more books into my house until I first take some out. It's getting a little scary in my office. The walls are covered, floor to ceiling, with shelves, and the shelves are all full. There's a sort of a path from the door to my desk, and a few little empty spots on the floor here and there. But mostly, there are stacks and stacks of books. When my cat knocks one of them over, it's like dominos - a whole line of them goes down. It's definitely time for a bibliographic purge around here.

Of course, that means going back to Half-Price Books, what a pity. But when I sell, I do try to leave there with fewer books than I came in with. Hey, it's progress.

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