Jim’s Bedside Table

Once again my bedside table has gotten so full of books that my eyeglasses case and alarm clock are threatening to move to some other bedside table. Lets see what’s on there.

1916: A Global History by Keith Jeffery3716864

When I picked up this book originally I thought, “oh goodie, another World War I book,” but this book purports to be a lot more. Sure, World War I plays a big part of it; you cannot write a global history of the year 1916 without it. But this book also covers things like the Easter Rising in Ireland, and revolts in Central Asia, and the war in Africa. I have high hopes for this book.

The mud-filled, blood-soaked trenches of the Low Countries and North-Eastern Europe were essential battlegrounds during the First World War, but the war reached many other corners of the globe, and events elsewhere significantly affected its course. Covering the twelve months of 1916, eminent historian Keith Jeffery uses twelve moments from a range of locations and shows how they reverberated around the world. As well as discussing better-known battles such as Gallipoli, Verdun and the Somme, Jeffery examines Dublin, for the Easter Rising, East Africa, the Italian front, Central Asia and Russia, where the killing of Rasputin exposed the internal political weakness of the country’s empire. And, in charting a wide range of wartime experience, he studies the ‘intelligence war’, naval engagements at Jutland and elsewhere, as well as the political consequences that ensued from the momentous US presidential election. Using an extraordinary range of military, social and cultural sources, and relating the individual experiences on the ground to wider developments, these are the stories lost to history, the conflicts that spread beyond the sphere of Europe and the moments that transformed the war. GoodReads

3741655The Tale of a No-Name Squirrel by Radhika R Dhariwal

How could a person not want to read a book with a cover that awesome? And there are drawings in the book!

Squirrel never expected to be anything other than a slave: the last animal slave in Bimmau. That is, until he is invited to a high profile wedding and takes a sip of the forbidden ceremonial wine, unlocking a mysterious riddle. The riddle reveals that there is a key which has the power to grant Squirrel his freedom (and a name!), but also could enslave anyone in Bimmau. Disastrous if it falls into the wrong hands! Squirrel and his friends find themselves in a race to find Brittle’s Key before the army of crows gets to him…and before the mysterious Colonel finds the key first. GoodReads

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan3712736

Anything with Silk Road in the title I have to have. Ever since I first heard about the Silk Road as a child I wanted to go back in time and walk across Asia from China to Constantinople. This one caught my attention because it correctly uses the plural: roads, since the Silk Road was in fact multiple roads.

It was on the Silk Roads that East and West first encountered each other through trade and conquest, leading to the spread of ideas, cultures, and religions, and it was the appetites for foreign goods that drove economies and the growth of nations. From the first cities in Mesopotamia to the emergence of Greece and Rome to the depredations by the Mongols, the transmission of the Black Death, the struggles of the Great Game, and the fall of Communism–the fate of the West has always been inextricably linked to the East. By way of events as disparate as the American Revolution and the world wars of the twentieth century, Peter Frankopan realigns the world, orienting us eastward, and illuminating how even the rise of the West five hundred years ago resulted from its efforts to gain access to and control of these Eurasian trading networks. In an increasingly globalized planet, where current events in Asia and the Middle East dominate the world’s attention, this magnificent work of history is very much a work of our times. GoodReads

3699712The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books in which the Ukraine features tangentially. So between that and current world events I thought I should know more about the place.

Ukraine is currently embroiled in a tense battle with Russia to preserve its economic and political independence. But today’s conflict is only the latest in a long history of battles over Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign nation. As award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy argues in The Gates of Europe, we must examine Ukraine’s past in order to understand its fraught present and likely future. Situated between Europe, Russia, and the Asian East, Ukraine was shaped by the empires that have used it as a strategic gateway between East and West—from the Romans and Ottomans to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, all have engaged in global fights for supremacy on Ukrainian soil. Each invading army left a lasting mark on the landscape and on the population, making modern Ukraine an amalgam of competing cultures. GoodReads