Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 19-21

19) The War that Ended Peace: the Road to 1914, by Margaret MacMillan.

One of the many, many books on WWI coming out of late because of the war's centenary, this one looks at the twenty years or so leading up to the war, how the alliances among Britain, France, and Russia and between Germany and Austria-Hungary were built up and hardened to the point that fighting any one became fighting all, and the many crises that could've led to war but somehow just missed it. It still seems almost a uniquely pointless war, but I feel like I have a better understanding now of the tensions and instabilities that made it, if not inevitable, very difficult to avoid. That said, it could've been shorter and still gotten the point across--my eyes were starting to glaze over by the end as yet another not-competent-enough foreign minister of one power or another was introduced.

20) Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects, by Neil MacGregor.

This relatively quick read looks at a series of objects found in England around the turn of the 17th century--a rapier and dagger set, a glass goblet, a communion chalice, a clock, etc.--for how they illuminate the world of Shakespeare's plays. I enjoyed it and thought it gave interesting insights into the lives and mindsets of the English people as they were beginning the transition from a kingdom somewhat on the fringes of Europe to a great seafaring empire.

21) Rita Book #6: An entry I dreaded based on the cover art and back cover blurb that turned out to be the best book I've judged so far because it took tropes that normally leave me rolling my eyes and made them work.

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