Friday, May 2, 2014

Progress so far, and another announcement

Four months into my "Great War" yearly theme, I've managed to stay true to my intention of reading one book a month on it.  Only two of the books so far have come from my original list,  as I supplemented them with a novel set in the colonial war in Africa and Louisa Thomas's Conscience.  I made an attempt at Under Fire, but found the translation difficult going. I may try again, as I've intended to read the book for years.   In spite of being technically on track, I'm not particularly satisfied with my progress so far because I've not covered any serious new territory. There's still eight months left, though, and my next couple of reads will more sharply focused.

  1. The First World War, John Keegan
  2. La Feu (Under Fire), Henri Barbusse
  3. The Great War in Modern Memory, Paul Fussell
  4. The Great War at Sea, Richard Hough
  5. To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War, ed. Vincent O'Hara et al
  6. Wipers: A Soldier's Tale from the Great War, Jeff Simmons
  7. Forgotten Voices of the Great War, Max Arthur
  8. The Eastern Front, Norman Stone
  9. Rites of Spring: the Great War  and the Birth of the Modern Age, Modris Eksteins
  10. World War 1 Companion, Mathias Strohn, editor.
  11. Collision of Empires, Prit Buttar
  12. Silent Night,  Stanley Weintraub
+  An Ice Cream War, William Boyd
Conscience, Louisa Thomas

I realized recently that I have ten titles, purchased over the last few years, that I've not yet read. Since ten is a number that commands respect, I've decided to impose a moratorium on myself. No more acquisitions until those ten are read or until they spontaneously combust.

    1. Power, Inc; David Rothkopf
    2. Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    3. The Vikings, Robert Ferguson
    4. Small-Mart Revolution, Michael Shuman
    5. The World Until Yesterday, Jared Diamond
    6. Fighting Traffic: the Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, Peter Norton
    7. Earth, Richard Fortey
    8. Age of Empathy, Frans de Waal
    9. Galileo's Finger, Peter Atkins
    10. Star Trek the Fall: Revelation and Dust, David Mack
     I'll still be patronizing my library, and heavily, I just won't be buying anything. Technically I have a lot more unread purchased books, but several dozen Trek paperbacks purchased in a box for $10 four years ago doesn't quite count.  My aim is to clear this to-be-read list in a few months, but considering how many library books  I can distract myself with, I may not accomplish anything other than saving money. Only time will tell! 


    1. I *so* know what you mean about un-read books. The one I'm just about to finish (tomorrow now as it's late here) I bought for a school project around 35 years ago!

      Oh, and as to your WW1 list - I've been acquiring books on this subject too.... and none of *my* purchases appear on *your* list.... [grin]

    2. Why do I have the feeling that both of our lists will be expanding this year? ;)

      What school project book is that? I still haven't read 'Grendel', which we were supposed to read back in 2002. That's not quite as bad as yours, though, not by half!

    3. It's the WW1 effect [grin]. Oh, I did actually notice that we have one book in common - Under Fire by Barbusse..... I'm trying to be as even handed as possible so I've acquired books by British, French, German and (I think) American participants in the war.

      The school project - if memory serves, was the question 'Why did the trench system prove so difficult to defeat'? My argument that it wasn't and that so many people died trying - and failing - because a fundamental misunderstanding on how to do so. Which meant that I only dipped into the book looking for examples rather than reading the whole thing.

    4. Well, the less time spent contemplating the trenches the better, possibly. There's little more dispiriting.

      I've a book on order which should be interesting -- it's about the Italian-Austrian war! Getting used to the geography will take some doing, though. I'm so used to the western's front's trenches and artillery shell-holes.

    5. I've just finished an overview of WW1 and got so angry with the incompetence of some of the military commanders that I had to walk away from it for a while to calm down. It's the fourth book in my review pile so I'll be doing a full review in a few weeks.

      The Italian campaigns are interesting. Substantially like the Western Front but with mountain warfare thrown in.

      The really interesting area, at least on land, looks like the Middle East with Lawrence of Arabia and all that - proper mobile warfare for a change!

      Oh, and I definitely have a soft spot for the early use of tanks. Several books on that coming up!

    6. I'll look forward to the work set in the mid-east; my own upcoming reads will be on Italy and one of the off-land theaters, either air or sea..

      Referring back to your paper, prior to the tank what could they have used to break the stalemate?

    7. sc said: Referring back to your paper, prior to the tank what could they have used to break the stalemate?

      They tried several things which worked well to varying degrees - surprise tended to work very well (short initial bombardment or none at all), the Germans perfected the infiltration technique using storm-troopers, flame throwers and the tactic of by-passing strongholds rather than attacking them - definitely an early infantry form of Blitzkrieg.

      The British proposed, but never used, the idea of amphibious landings in the Netherlands to basically by-pass the trench system. That might have worked if they moved fast enough once they landed. What everyone really needed was a change of mind-set rather than new technology or anything else.The general failure to break the static siege warfare of the western front in particular was a failure of imagination, innovation and a fear of trying something new. A few people had good ideas - unfortunately these where largely ignored.

      Oh, I almost forgot: Gas worked really well a few times but *so* well that they never had the reserves in place to follow things up properly. It basically surprised the enemy and the people who used it!

    8. I've heard of the German stormtroopers (I even modified Civilization III to include an uber-tough infantryman as a special unit for the Germans), but not the amphibious landings. I wonder if that's ever been used for an alt-history novel?

    9. The Stormtrooper idea worked really well, in fact often too well causing their own commanders to panic and pull them back in case they got too far ahead of the main force. If they had been mechanised (ie Blitzkrieg) there would have been no stopping them - as actually happening in 1940.

      I think that the amphibious assault idea came from Churchill IIRC. Sort of like Gallipoli except on a much smaller scale (probably like his Commando raids in WW2). Because the Royal Navy controlled the seas it meant that an attack in force could land anywhere at any time. There's no way the Germans could protect the entirety of the occupied coastline and still have enough troops to man the western front trenches. Unfortunately he was over-ruled.

      I can't remember much WW1 alt-history except for Turtledoves version. Most alt-hist I've come across seems to concentrate much more on WW2. I do find that rather odd in some ways. As you know I'm reading 10 alt-hist books ATM and none of my planned reading concerns WW1.

    10. Wikipedia's index for alt-history Great War accounts mentions Turtledove, and then just comic books and video games. Maybe one of us should exploit the obvious opportunity. ;)


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