“Team Of Rivals” is, of course, an excellent biography of Abraham Lincoln. It is readable, compelling, and original. I have no new praises to add. So, instead, I’m writing this review to compare the philosophy and politics of the Civil War era to our philosophy and politics today, on the topic of abortion.
“The Bloody White Baron” is one of those fascinating short books about a nasty little corner of the world during a nasty time. The nasty little corner of the world is Mongolia; the nasty time is the Russian Civil War. The eponymous Baron is Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg, of Estonian/German extraction, who was called the last khan of Mongolia and waged a brutal, doomed minor campaign against the Chinese and the Bolsheviks in the early 1920s. Naturally, he came to a bad end.
“The Geography of Genius” is a bit of a puzzle. The author’s stated goal is “a search for the world’s most creative places.” A search is certainly what it is; as others have pointed out, much of the book is a travelogue, and a pretty interesting one. At the same time, the author aspires to find out WHY genius arises in specific places. But he’s coy about that being the goal, probably because the goal is too large. This makes the book somewhat frustrating as social analysis. Nonetheless, Weiner has a variety of interesting observations and insights.
Although the author, Stephen Mouzon, would doubtless not be happy to hear it, “Traditional Construction Patterns” is best viewed as supplement/complement to Marianne Cusato’s “Get Your House Right.” But I do recommend the book, if only because it is one of the few books on the market (though it is quite expensive) that covers this material. If you are planning on building a house based on traditional architecture, you should definitely get this book and focus on it. If you are just interested in the topic, you should stick to Cusato.
“Suicide of the West,” subtitled “An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism,” is a classic work of political science, now fifty years old. It is much referred to by conservatives but little read by conservatives. It is NOT about how liberalism is the cause of the suicide of the West. In fact, liberals will find little to object to in this book. Nor is it an attempt, in any way, to refute liberalism as Burnham defines it (although in part this is because Burnham obviously believes it to be self-refuting). Nor is it a polemic. Rather, it is Burnham’s analysis of what liberalism is, and why it dominates thinking in the West as the West dies.
This is a neat little set of apocalypse stories. While I haven’t read the two subsequent books, my understanding is that most of these stories are continued in the later books, but they are also stand-alone stories, about the time and moments right before the end (or effective end) of the world. Some are clever, some are a bit obvious, but most are worth reading.
“The Trojan War” is an interesting contrast to some of Barry Strauss’s other works. As always, Strauss is extremely readable and offers fresh insight and analysis. In this book, however, he has to fill in historical gaps to a much greater degree. We know a lot more about Salamis, Caesar and Spartacus, some of the subjects of his other books, than we know about the Trojan War, which we know about from exactly two sources: mythic poetry, mostly Homer, and archaeology.
How can you go wrong with an architecture book where the forward is written by Prince Charles? Yes, the Prince is a political imbecile. But he is an excellent architectural expert and critic, and one of the first to push back against the fetid tide of architectural Modernism. (You can tell that he’s good on architecture from the vicious attacks on him conducted by the priests of Modernism.) He famously compared part of the new British Library to an academy for secret policemen. And the Prince enthusiastically recommends this book, which should mean something.
Since I was a small child, I have read science fiction, and lots of it. For decades, I’ve read all types, from H.G. Wells through 1930s pulp through 1950s “golden age” through 1970s trippy through modern (the latter in all its broad range from “hard” to “socially conscious”, i.e., culturally leftist stories lacking the “science” in “science fiction”). I suspect science fiction has materially shaped my own world view. I don’t know why I like science fiction, particularly—perhaps just taste, like some people like Westerns or detective stories, or maybe it’s the wide-open possibilities that science fiction tends to envision.
“Curzon” is one of those typically British biographies of dead political figures. Such biographies tend to go into great detail not just about the protagonist, but about long-forgotten political issues fought among long-forgotten men. If you are interested in the protagonist, or the period, this can be excellent, as long as the writing is good, and Gilmour’s is good. But if you’re looking for an objectively thrilling read, you should stay away.