Featured Release Of The Week: Divided We Fall by David French

In light of last week’s US Supreme Court rulings upholding the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and striking down Roe v Wade, and the fact that the middle of this book contains two prognostications for how the US could completely come unglued and each of those decisions last week plays into one of them, I’m doing something never before done in the history of this blog and bringing back a former Featured New Release and making it this week’s Featured Release post. Thus, this week we are again looking at Divided We Fall by David A French.

Looking through French’s tweets and writings on his site, it appears that there is much we will disagree over on many policy issues – I’m not exactly quiet about being an avowed Anarchist and 2nd Amendment Absolutist. (Pretty much an entire Bill of Rights Absolutist really, but there is at least some commonality with French on at least some of those points, apparently. :D)

But ultimately, I think we largely agree that the partisanship America is seeing right now is destroying it – and we seem to be edging ever closer to the moment of no return.

Indeed, with last week’s events in mind, they immediately triggered memories of the two most chilling and traumatizing chapters I’ve ever read in any book, anywhere. As it turns out, French actually posited in his “Calexit” chapter here – where he describes a fracture of the US from the left – that by a 6-3 SCOTUS decision, California would be transformed into a “shall issue” State for gun licenses. This has already happened, as California has already dropped its “good cause” requirement for obtaining a concealed carry license. He *also* pointed to Roe V Wade being overturned in his “Texit” chapter, where he describes a fracture of the US from the right.

I said two years ago when I first wrote my Goodreads review of this book that “Quite simply, I’ve yet to encounter a more important book for every American to read *immediately*, and *particularly* before you vote in the General Election this fall.” I thought then that this book should get quite a bit of attention, that it mattered and could help save this nation.

Given the events of the last week – not to mention the last 20 months or so since the publication of this book – I maintain this position with even more voracity. We’ve seen demonstrations all over the place. We continue to see both sides blatantly lie about the other side. We continue to see the hate and vitriol expanded on both sides to truly chilling degrees. If you care about saving this nation, if you care about preserving the American experiment even so much as another decade, you *need* to read this book and take its recommendations to heart.

And maybe, *maybe*, *together*, we can still save this land.

#BookReview: Gun Barons by John Bainbridge Jr

Could Be An Entertaining – And Equally Informative – History or Discovery Documentary Series. I went into this book expecting something more along the lines of Nathan Gorenstein’s The Guns Of John Moses Browning or Jeff Guin’s War On The Border… and got a touch of an amalgamation of the two. Like the Gorenstein book, this book is focused on the lives of a select group of men that became icons of gun manufacturing in the US… and how they got there and what their legacies became. Like the Guin book, this book also tells the surrounding history and places these men’s live solidly within their historical context, mostly between the Mexican-American war in the front half of the 19 century and the US Civil War and Reconstruction in the back half of the same century. Unlike the Gorenstein text, you’re not going to find a lot of technical discussion of the exact details and features of the guns in question here – though you *will* find quite a bit about the various lawsuits and threats of lawsuits that helped some of these men and hindered others of them. Overall, a solid look at the men and the early days of their empires whose names last even into the new Millennium. Very much recommended.

This review of Gun Barons by John Bainbridge Jr was originally written on May 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Oceans Of Grain by Scott Reynolds Nelson

Remarkable History Of Wheat As Agent Of Change. This is one that I could make a case for either 4 or 5 stars for, and because of the doubt I ultimately sided with 5. The reason here is that while there is indeed considerable time spent on how American wheat of the Civil War/ Reconstruction era (and later) destabilized Europe and eventually led to the late 19th/ 20th/ 21st century histories we know and are actively living, there is also quite a bit establishing the history of wheat being a similar disruptor throughout all of recorded human history. Thus, while the description of the book paints it mostly as a tale of the past 150 ish years, it is actually a tale of the entirety of human existence and instead of the lasting points being about the more recent history, the lasting points (at least for this reader) are more about the overall history. Which was the crux of my internal debate. In other words, no matter the focus or points retained, this is a truly remarkable history of a particular commodity that gives a more complete understanding of major world events, particularly over the last 150 ish years. Very much recommended.

This review of Oceans Of Grain by Scott Reynolds Nelson was originally written on February 20, 2022.

#BookReview: This Earthly Frame by David Sehat

Mostly Solid History Of Official Religious Life In The United States. Sehat manages to trace the history of official religious life in the US fairly well from its pre-Founding roots through its current fights over religious liberty. There are a couple of glaring weaknesses – the largest being his claim that Natural Rights theory originated in the Christian Church (it was actually created outside of the Church as a challenge to the Church’s position that rights come from God). But as with that particular case, most of these tend to only exist in areas where a rare person might actually know the particular topic particularly well – as this former Libertarian Party of Georgia official and candidate happens to do re: Natural Rights theory. 🙂 Otherwise, a solid if slightly dry – though nowhere *near* as dry as other treatises of its type – history that would be beneficial for many Americans (or those seeking to understand America) to read. Recommended.

This review of This Earthly Frame by David Sehat was originally written on February 18, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Free Speech by Jacob Mchangama

This week we’re looking at a particularly timely – though not *quite* complete – look at the history of one of the most important human rights – up there with the rights of property and of defending said property. This week we’re looking at Free Speech by Jacob Mchangama.

One Of The Most Thorough Histories Of The Field I’ve Come Across. This is exactly what the title here says – easily one of the most thorough histories of the concepts of free speech I’ve ever seen, from their earliest incarnations into where the two competing versions came into their own in Athens – more unlimited, though not without certain hypocrisies – and Rome – more elite controlled and even, as the title notes, into the realm of social media, Donald Trump, and even (with a few scant sentences) COVID-19. Timed a bit interestingly (and without any way to know beforehand) so close to the Neil Young / Joe Rogan spat over Spotify, this is truly a strong history for anyone who claims to promote the ideal, one that shows that pretty well everyone who does or ever has has been a hypocrite to some degree or another regarding the topic. Indeed, if any real critique can be had here, it is that Mchangama, even while noting the cenorious actions of social media giants of late, fails to note that corporations can have a chilling effect on the free speech of their employees and those they do business with (hello, Spotify and too many businesses to list here). Though he does at least touch on the idea as it relates to modern academia and yes, cancel culture. There are also a few throwaway lines late re: “fact checkers” and COVID “misinformation” that are more YMMV level on, but which in the end aren’t substantial enough to warrant a star deduction over. This is, again, absolutely a book that anyone who claims to love free speech should absolutely read. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: How Free Speech Saved Democracy by Christopher Finan

Exactly What It Claims To Be. This is a book written by a “Progressive” (not liberal, there is a difference that is crucial in these discussions) that mostly focuses on using the Progressive dog-whistle of their version of “democracy” and showing how fighting Conservatives has “saved” that version of “democracy”. In other words, a balanced look at the whole of the Free Speech issue in America… this is not. But it also never really claims to be, so it can’t really be faulted for this. It just could have been so much better if it *had* been more balanced and thus more complete. Still, progressives will love this version and even those adamantly opposed to the “Progressive” political agenda will likely find useful knowledge here, potentially even some they were unaware of. Thus, this is recommended.

This review of How Free Speech Saved Democracy by Christopher Finan was originally written on February 5, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Library by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen

This week we’re looking at a seemingly comprehensive and dense yet readable history of the idea of the library and its various incarnations throughout human history. This week, we’re looking at The Library by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen.

Comprehensive History. This is a fairly dense (yet readable) comprehensive history of humanity’s efforts to store its written words. We begin all the way back in ancient Mesopotamia with some discussion of even their clay tablets, and we come all the way through the digital and eReader era (which the authors are a bit more pessimistic about than this reader, who is admittedly a technologist). While other areas such as China, Africa, India, (modern) Australia, and Columbian era Middle America are mentioned at times, the vast majority of the focus of the discussion here is Euro-centric, with detailed discussions of American library systems once the discussion advances to the relevant time periods. Indeed, as it turns out, the “modern public library” as Americans know it today? Did not exist prior to WWII in any real form at all, though through the efforts of business titans such as Andrew Carnegie (discussed in much depth here in the text), the earlier forms of it were beginning by the late 19th century. Truly a fascinating book, but also truly a very long one. Anyone remotely interested in books and reading should probably at least consider reading this, as it really is a remarkable history of the book, its uses, and its storage. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Loserville by Clayton Trutor

Intriguing Look At Atlanta And Professional Sports History. As I sit to write this review, the Atlanta Braves are less than 90 minutes from First Pitch on Game 5 of the 2021 World Series – and with a 3-1 lead over the Houston Astros, Atlanta stands a chance at winning the series in front of the home town crowd before the sun rises again, its first in 26 years. And yes, I’ve made it a point to read this book – which I’ve had on my ARC Calendar for seemingly a couple of months now – this particular weekend, for exactly this reason.

Here, Trutor does a phenomenal job of showing the full history of the first decade of professional sports in Atlanta, with all five of its major league teams at some point in the late 60s to early 70s – my parents’ own childhood, on the exurbs of the very town in question. Indeed, Trutor speaks of the *development* of things that were well-established by my own childhood in the same region in the 80s and 90s, such as the Omni, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the Georgia Dome, and even Underground Atlanta (which apparently had been redone by the time of my childhood, as it wasn’t nearly so infamous then). He then does a great job of showing how while Atlanta was the first Southern City to acquire these franchises, there were (and are) several other Southern Cities that have largely followed Atlanta’s model over the decades since… with similar results, for the most part.

There are arguably two weaknesses to the version of this text I read: On a style side, the final chapter, covering in broad strokes what happened in the other Southern Cities that tried to follow Atlanta and how they turned out over the years, is a bit of an abrupt ending. Apt, but abrupt.

The other is that Trutor tends to argue that race played quite a bit of a role in the development of Atlanta Sports and what I came to know as the Geography of Atlanta. I wasn’t alive during the periods Trutor mostly covers, so I can’t speak to those periods as the Native Georgian I am. But I *can* speak to one move Trutor covers, if briefly – the Braves’ move from Turner Field to SunTrust (now Truist) Park over the last decade, where fans are finding their seats as I type this to hopefully watch their hometown baseball club win the 2021 World Series. I was actually there for that one, and as one of those fans on the northern Perimeter I can attest to a lot of the fears about safety and finding a good (yet not overly expensive) parking spot at Turner Field. (Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where I saw my first Braves games as a child and even a monster truck rally or two, was demolished right around the time my age began having two digits in it, so I can’t speak to issues there.) I can also attest that the new Battery design is much more conducive to getting me to spend money in the area immediately around the park, which is something the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium / Olympic Stadium / Turner Field site has never offered. But these are observations from a native who has been to the relevant areas throughout his life – vs a Vermont-based academic.

Even with these differences though, Trutor’s work here is truly well written and solidly documented – roughly 20% of this copy was bibliography, and the prose here is enlightening and engaging without ever going too deep into “academic speak”. Fans of Atlanta and Georgia sports or history are absolutely going to need to read this book, and indeed fans of major US sporting in general should fine quite a bit here to be illuminating. Even people who decry “sports ball” will find an utterly fascinating read about a little-documented series of events that has come to shape, in parts, the entirety of American professional sporting. Very much recommended.

This review of Loserville by Clayton Trutor was originally written on October 31, 2021.

#BlogTour: Meet Me In Madrid by Verity Lowell

For this blog tour we’re looking at an interesting FF romance that dives into some areas not usually seen in romance novels, but which does have a couple of major flaws. For this blog tour we’re looking at Meet Me In Madrid by Verity Lowell.

Interesting FF Romance Brought Down By Preachy Politics And Blatant Racism. As a romance, this book works. It starts out as a “forced” (ish) proximity before turning into a bridge-the-gap, all revolving around two female academics at different points in their careers. Not for the “clean” / “sweet” crowd, as others have noted there is a fair amount of sex in the first four chapters alone. Also falls into the trap of describing both women as very buxom, which is a bit of a cop-out to my mind designed to get those of us with… “active imaginations”… more into the book. But that point is but a minor quibble. The preachy politics, and in particular the blatant racism, is the reason for the star deduction here. Let me be perfectly clear. My standard is this: If you reverse the [insert demographic in question] and keep everything else absolutely identical, would anyone cry foul? I believe this book fails that test in its characterization of its singular straight white male character, and thus the star deduction. But still, on the whole this is a mostly solid book, and thus it is *only* a singular star deducted. Fans of the romance genre generally should enjoy this one, fans of FF romances in particular will probably thoroughly enjoy this one, and it does indeed dive into areas not frequented, particularly academia and art professors. Thus, this book is recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio and contact links, and a link to buy the book.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Meet Me In Madrid by Verity Lowell”

#BookReview: Firepower by Paul Lockhart

Comprehensive History. This tome – and yes, at 600+ pages of dense yet readable text, “tome” certainly applies – is easily the most comprehensive history of guns and firepower I’ve ever come across. Covering nearly 600 or so years from the mid 15th century’s initial adoption of guns in scale to medieval Europe (thus breaking the hold of the pikemen) to their ultimate forms in WWII era Europe and the beginning of the age of rocketry, this book covers all of the great innovations in all level of firearms from small arms to artillery to naval and, finally, air, cannons. Those looking for exacting details on particular developments will probably want to look for more specific books about the particular development you’re interested in, but as an overview of the field, this book truly does a phenomenal job of showing the various developments of firearms and how they shifted the way nations make war – thus shifting the very way nations work, period. All of the high points most anyone who knows anything about guns knows are here, and there is actually quite a bit here that this reader – who generally considers himself decently well-versed in history – had never heard of, such as the naval battle at Turkey in the middle of the 19th century that saw the first heavy use of explosive shot and thus signaled the beginning of the end of the wooden naval ship. Utterly fascinating work, if long. Still, truly very much recommended.

This review of Firepower by Paul Lockhart was originally written on September 13, 2021.