Some of you might remember one of my Five Bookish Links posts in which I posted a link to a piece that appeared in Small Wars Journal. In the article, James King asked members of INTELST forum, a group of almost 4000 current and former Military Intelligence professionals what they thought are the best books for intelligence analysts. What I neglected to mention in my post is according to King “while the list is composed of mostly non-fiction there are a few fiction books. One of these fiction books, Ghost Fleet, was nominated more than any other book on the list.”
If there’s a consensus among 4000 military intelligence experts the novel Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War should be required reading then this is a novel I need to read. Luckily for me, I was able to borrow a downloadable copy through my public library’s Overdrive portal. Inspired by King’s recommendation I quickly went to work on the Ghost Fleet and because it’s such a page-turner I blew through it in only a few days.
Ghost Fleet takes place approximately 10 years in the future. China is ruled by the Directorate, a junta of military strong men and civilian business leaders. Believing the United States stands in the way of China’s continued ascendency as a world power, and confident in their nation’s technological and military prowess the Directorate authorizes a sneak attack on American forces in East Asia and the Pacific. Just as the Germans enlisted the declining power of Austria-Hungary as their junior partner in World War I, the Directorate adds Russia as its junior partner attacking US bases in Japan, Guam and Hawaii. Before long America’s Pacific-based Aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines have been destroyed, its spy and GPS satellites have been shot to pieces and Hawaii is under Chinese occupation.
Alas, this is not your grandfather’s World War III novel. When the call goes out for assistance at America’s hour of need it’s answered by a diverse cast of heroes. A former Sudanese “Lost Boy” now Silicon Valley mogul recruits the best and brightest minds in the business to take down China’s IT infrastructure. A flamboyant Aussie biotech billionaire (a kind of ethnic Indian version of Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban rolled into one) who, styling himself a modern-day privateer, seeks America’s blessing for his efforts to pillage Chinese military assets. A university-based Chinese-American female scientist whose expertise in designing massive batteries is a potential military game changer. As Hawaii suffers under Chinese occupation a gang of American servicemen and servicewomen calling themselves the North Shore Mujahideen engage in high-tech assisted hit and run attacks on the Islands’ occupiers. Lastly, a female serial killer, as beautiful as she is emotionally damaged, has been haunting the bars and beaches of Honolulu brutally murdering Chinese occupiers one by one.
To dismiss Ghost Fleet by saying it’s not high-class literature misses the point. Not only is it an exciting page-turner but those in the know have praised the book to high heaven. When an American Admiral proclaims the book is “a startling blueprint for the wars of the future and therefore needs to be read now!” if for that reason alone I’ll recommend Ghost Fleet.
Tony Judt is one of those writers I’ve wanted to read, yet never have. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always wanted start with his multiple prize-wining Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 but I’ve been scared to do so since it’s well over 800 pages. Even my attempts to read his shorter books like The Memory Chalet and Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century ended in failure because I had to return both books to the library before even starting them.
As you might remember from my previous post, I’ve been hankering to read some quality 20th century history. Therefore, during my recent flurry of book borrowing I decided to once again give Judt a try. In my quest to greater understand the 20th century a few weeks ago I secured a copy of Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century from my public library.
Instead of a conventional history book devoted to a selected time period that proceeds in tidy chronological order Reappraisals is a collection of essays, mostly in the form of book reviews for publications like the New York Review of Books and New Republic. Rest assured, these are not puff pieces but thoughtful and intelligent reflections on the notable personalities and key events of the last century.
Reappraisals isn’t light reading. Judt was erudite as hell and his writing reflects a rich and sophisticated vocabulary. While one might expect to find chapters on Pope John Paul II, Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair in a book like this, perhaps only the extremely well read weren’t surprised to see lengthy essays on the life and significance of French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, Austrian-French novelist Manès Sperber and Polish philosopher and intellectual dissident Leszek Kołakowski. But for readers who want to learn and be intellectually challenged this book is ideal. Judt’s chapter length discussions on pivotal events like the Cuban Missile Crises, Six Day War or Fall of France are done with considerable depth and opinion. Reappraisals is definitely the thinking person’s guide to the 20th century.
After taking last year off, I’m pleased to announce my triumphant return to Nonfiction November. Ha ha! I’m baaaaaaaaaack!
Ok, enough of my silliness. Since I’m lazy, I’m going engage in a bit of self plagiarism and use my 2015 Nonfiction November post as a template for this year’s post. It feels like cheating but who cares.
What was your favorite nonfiction read(s) of the year?
Again, just as in past years this is a tough question. Interestingly enough, even though I’ve read some pretty good nonfiction in 2017, this year feels like a bit of a down year, nonfiction-wise, when compared to previous years. But keep in mind, last year some of the best nonfiction I read all year I read in November and December. As of right now, my three favorite nonfiction books of 2017 would be:
However, there’s three nonfiction books I’ve yet to finish and each of them has the potential for making my year-end Best Nonfiction List. They are:
What nonfiction book(s) have you recommended the most?
Again, another tough question. The book I’ve probably recommended the most this year would be Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. If had to designate a runner-up I would nominate Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal. In addition to those two outstanding works of nonfiction I’ve probably recommended at least once this year each of the following books:
What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
Ouch, probably the toughest question of all. Right off the top of my head I can probably think of three reading goals. One, I want to read as much 20th century history as possible, with an emphasis on the period roughly 1970 to 1990. Two, because you really can’t understand the first half of the 20th century without reading up on the last half of the 19th century I’m hoping to read stuff like Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger: A History of the Present. Three, some of you might remember in one of my earlier posts I mentioned Tara Isabella Burton’s article in The Atlantic “Study Theology, Even If You Don’t Believe in God” and why theological studies are so important as a field of study regardless of a person’s religious outlook. Inspired by her words I plan on reading more books dealing with religion.
What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
My purpose is three-fold. One, I wanna see what kind of nonfiction books other book bloggers have enjoyed and in the process add some great books to my always expanding to be read list (TBR). Two, I’d love to discover at least a few new book blogs and get in a habit of reading them on a regular basis. Three, by participating in this year’s Nonfiction November I’d like to give my blog a little more exposure and if I’m lucky pick up a new subscriber or two.
Since 2003 my local public library has sponsored an annual Everybody Reads program. Even though I’ve never attended any of the related events like the discussion groups or lectures nevertheless I’ve read and enjoyed the different books my library has selected over the years, be it The Kite Runner, The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World or The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. While it might have taken me a few years to get around to reading some of the selections like The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier and Midnight at the Dragon Cafe none of these books left me disappointed.
In early 2016 the library went with Cristina Henríquez’s novel The Book of Unknown Americans for its annual Everybody Reads selection. Last year, upon hearing that news I had every intention of reading it but I was probably up to my eyeballs in other books so I soon forgot. Then last week I found myself at the library and came across a slightly dog-eared paperback copy of The Book of Unknown Americans. Feeling this was as good a time as any to finally read it, I helped myself to it. After burning through Henríquez’s novel in mere days I’m happy to say once again, my local public library chose a fine piece of fiction for its Everybody Reads program.
The Book of Unknown Americans is set in an apartment complex in Delaware that’s populated almost exclusively by immigrants from across Latin America. The main story revolves around two teenagers. One is 15-year-old Maribel Rivera, newly arrived from Mexico and strikingly beautiful, her struggle adjusting to life in America is made worse thanks to a traumatic brain injury. The other youth is Mayor Toro, originally from Panama and the son of a family whose middle class origins belies its current predicament of working immigrant poor. The first time Mayor spies Maribel in a neighborhood discount shop it’s love at first sight. Later, as he gets to know Maribel and witnesses her vulnerability the more protective he becomes of her. But beauty can be a curse as well as a blessing, as the guileless Maribel catches the eye of a local young ne’er–do-well. Their brief encounter will set in motion of chain of events that in the end will profoundly impact all their lives.
The Book of Unknown Americans has inspired me to read other novels dealing with the immigrant experience. Specifically, I’m thinking Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of Butterflies and How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents as well as Oscar Hijuelos’ The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. My guess is in the future you’ll be seeing these novels as well as others like them featured on my blog.
If you could see my living room right now, you’d see I’m surrounded by piles of books. Sadly, only a fraction of these books I’m trying to read, the rest are books I merely wish I could be reading. Included in this overflowing array is a giant tower of library books stacked next to my couch that’s begging my attention like an ignored young child who silently stares into the eyes of a parent in hopes of grabbing that parent’s attention. So, will all this reading material at arm’s length you think I could resist the urge to grab more stuff from the library? Of course not! Looks like Linda at Silly Little Mischief has the link this week. Here’s what I picked up the other day.