Lars Celander, How Carriers Fought: Carrier Operations in World War II. “An in-depth analysis of aircraft carrier battles in WWII and the evolution of carrier operations—from technology and strategy to life among the crew.” The book covers US, Japanese, and British carrier use in the war. Very much about the nitty-gritty of how things got done, with a lot of quantitative analysis. “Carriers evolved into ‘eggshells armed with hammers,’ destined for short but interesting lives.” One thing I had not previously appreciated about the 1942 carrier battles in the Pacific (Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, and Santa Cruz) was the longer range of the Japanese search planes. Highly recommended for those with an interest in WWII naval and air history.
Scott Carpenter, French Like Moi: A Midwesterner in Paris. An American college professor buys a condo in Paris and, though fluent in French, learns how different Parisians and Midwesterners really are, through one story after another. This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Thank you to my fellow Carleton College (where Scott Carpenter teaches) alumni for suggesting it.
Christopher Matthew, A Storm of Spears: Understanding the Greek Hoplite at War. The most important conclusion from this is how the Greeks wielded their spears. Despite all the pictures, they did not hold them over their heads with a back-handed grip. Instead, they held them with the butt of the spear tucked under their armpits. This allowed for much greater reach and strength. Lots of good experiments with re-enactors.
Dan Van der Vat, The Dardanelles Disaster: Winston Churchill’s Greatest Failure. The sequel to The Ship That Changed the World: The Escape of the Goeben to the Dardanelles in 1914, which I read years ago and really like. Again Van der Vat is looking at how a single ship made a big difference. Rather than the formidable battlecruiser Goeben, we are looking at the lowly Turkish minelayer Nusret. On March 18, 1915, the mines it laid sank 3 allied battleships, and seriously damaged 3 others and a battlecruiser. This forced the allies to abandon their plan to force the Dardanelles open by naval power alone, which was not really a good idea in the first place. As a result the allies decided to land an invasion force on the Gallipoli peninsula, which was an even greater failure.
After posting about The Prosecutor’s Fallacy I recalled a similar case with the Defense in the O.J. Simpson trial. The issue was summarized in What is your favorite problem for an introduction to probability?:
… one of Simpson’s lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, noted that even though Simpson beat
his wife, that hardly mattered, because in the United States, four million women are
battered every year by their male partners, yet only one in 2,500 is ultimately
murdered by her partner (1 in 1000), so, by the ‘reasonable doubt’ criterion, this is
irrelevant. The jury found that argument persuasive, but it’s spurious. The relevant
question was what percentage of all battered women who are murdered are killed by
their abusers, which ain’t 1 in 1000, but rather 9 in 10.
For a clear explanation of the details see Chances Are, by Steven Strogatz, which is reprinted in his excellent book, The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity.
Helen’s Daughter is about the life of Hermione, daughter of Menelaus and Helen of Troy, and granddaughter of Atreus (Hence the Amazon blurb’s reference to “the curse that haunts her family”). The author, Laura Gill, knows the Mycenaean Greek world very well and tells a gripping and realistic story about what Hermione’s life might actually have been like.
The First Heroes
The First Heroes: New
Tales of the Bronze Age. The stories are a mix of Historical Fiction, SF, Fantasy, and one of Altenate History. Fantasy comes
from the myths of the era being incorporated in several of the stories. The Greek world is well represented, but China, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt, Northern Europe and even Peru appear. Continue reading
Notes on Mycenaeans,
by Rodney Castleden
I have been interested in the Greek Bronze Age ever since I read Joseph Alsop’s
the Silent Earth back in High School (1964-1968). Mycenaeans
is a very readable and recent survey (2005) and I was quite interested in seeing what is new. Quick summary: Some more sites
have been excavated, there have been more digs at known sites, and more Linear B tablets have been
found and translated. So there are Lots of new details, but no revolutionary changes in what archeologists think and the big questions
After being snowbound for 40 hours we were finally able to get out late Sunday morning. The first event: A family trip to a bookstore. There I found and bought a copy of The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man. I had read it decades ago, back in college or even high school. The author, David W. Maurer was a long time friend and colleague of my parents. When I saw The Sting a few years later I immediately noticed how closely it followed Maurer’s book and mentioned that to my father. Dad agreed, but that was done with without Maurer’s permission or any acknowledgement of his work. As noted here, a lawsuit followed.
Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist. The author is brotherguy.
All are recommended to those interested in the respective subjects.