|Since he’s our Manager, Tim is fond of trying to herd cats. He denies that’s why he left Omaha, spent years wandering around the west, first studying astrophysics and then more squarely focusing on history, gender theory and writing. He’s been in the book business for years, first at Borders and now at Eagle Harbor Books. Tim is also our head adult book buyer. In his non-existent spare time, he walks the land, cooks, fusses too much with music, and designs new cities. Yes, designs new cities. In addition to history, he focuses on current affairs and politics, although he’s keen to get carried away in discussions about all things science and tech.|
Histories of post-Roman Europe almost always focus on the Mediterranean, particularly as the Renaissance approaches. While the Mediterranean world was a hotbed of trade, conflict, and development, the northern reaches of Europe are often neglected by mainstream scholars. Here Pye exposes the vitality of North Sea trade during the Dark Ages, and the technological and social advances that trade drove. Diverse and detailed without losing itself in the verge, Pye’s book shines a light on an influential portion of history. ~ Tim
Why pick up yet another volume that deals with Nazis and their defeat? This is not a narrative in the traditional sense: collected here are journal entries, letters, minutes, transcripts and press releases, presented in chronological order from Hitler’s birthday in 1945 to the fall of Berlin and the end of the war in Europe. In those few days, we are treated to a dazzling and bizarre array of viewpoints and attitudes, each a ground level window into the Third Reich in its last days. Everyone from Nazi draftees captured by Soviets to Hitler himself is given a voice, painting a vivid and cacophonous portrait of a collapsing empire. ~ Tim
Trained as an historian, I share his distrust of relying on “mere” physical remains to tell a story, but if any book can change like minds, it would be 1177 BC. In this fascinating study of the so-called “First Dark Ages,” Cline takes the remnants of a world largely relegated to myth, ties them together with a keen eye and the help of some of the era’s few written records, and creates something special. In so doing, he paints an eerily familiar portrait of a burgeoning international civilization rapidly undone by war, climate change, famine, and social upheaval. ~ Tim
When stories of the Classical World are told, one civilization looms large, but whose story is left untold. We will never know who the Celts were—their steadfast refusal to commit Druidic knowledge to writing ensured that—but Robb’s book allows a greater understanding of them through how they organized their world, and provides a tantalizing glimpse of a civilization that once spanned most of Europe. Robb sheds some light on their impact on European human geography and history, despite efforts by the Romans and their successors to erase them. Part travelogue, part historiography, Robb’s book is engaging, fascinating, and thought-provoking. ~ Tim
Though it looms large in history, information on the Norman invasion of England is sparse, the primary source being the Bayeux Tapestry, itself likely commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half-brother. Norris has attempted to recreate the events leading up to and immediately following the Conquest, using sources as close to the events as possible. With an absorbing narrative, he manages to use these oh-so-brief glimpses into a world almost ten centuries past to recreate memorable characters and complex events. Part narrative history, part historiography, and part investigative journalism, his fascinating tale sheds new light on the tangled early history of the English nation. ~ Tim
In the English-speaking world, the Habsburg Empire is at best a great unknown, at worst an object of ridicule. And yet, for centuries their influence spread the breadth of Europe, and even touched the New World. Danubia is a new attempt to shed light on this neglected world. Rather than focus on “pure” history, Winder crafts a delightfully personal story of the various Habsburg personalities that sprawled across Europe from the mid-15th to the early 20th centuries. Purposefully uneven, yet thorough and engaging, dryly witty and often humorous, it adds a much-needed human touch to an important part of European history.
Nuclear technology is a tough topic to tackle, evoking strong passions on all sides. Nelson traces its evolution from Curie to Fukushima, interweaving science with biography and dabs of history to create a compelling and accessible story. He deftly touches on nuclear power’s Janus-like tendency to bless and curse in equal measure: bombs that create peace but waste resources, power plants that destroy regions but deliver power more efficiently than any other. An excellent treatment of a hot-button subject.
When stories of the Classical World are told, one civilization looms large, but whose story is left untold. We will never know who the Celts were—their steadfast refusal to commit Druidic knowledge to writing ensured that—but Robb’s book allows a greater understanding of them through how they organized their world, and provides a tantalizing glimpse of a civilization that once spanned most of Europe. Robb sheds some light on their effects on European human geography and history, despite efforts by the Romans and their successors to erase them. Part travelogue, part historiography, Robb’s book is engaging, fascinating, and thought-provoking. ~ Tim
This pithy treatise diagnoses the ills facing American military culture and rippling out into society. Retired US Army colonel Bacevich draws upon his experiences and those of his son, also an Army officer, who died as a result of military policy. Concise and scathing, it is a fusillade against inept military bureaucracy, examining how an allprofessional military succeeded in severing any meaningful link between the American public and its armed forces. The result is a corrupt, inadequate, but hugely profitable military industry, and a citizenry unconcerned with its troops beyond hollow patriotic declarations. Essential reading for any who seek to understand American military policy over the past half-century. ~ Tim
A lovely rendering of the latter centuries of the Roman Empire in the West, this book does a good job of debunking Gibbon’s thesis of a society rotting from within and the coup de grâce of barbarian hordes. Heather gives us a more nuanced picture of societies morphing and the withering of the Roman bureaucratic apparatus. Heather can wander at times, but he paints the picture well, avoiding the melodramatic moralizing of Gibbon’s epic tome. An accessible, highly readable survey of modern views on Rome’s “fall.” ~ Tim
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One of my favorite fantasy novels, Bradley’s reimagining of the classic King Arthur tale is easily the most absorbing and believable I’ve read. Mists is a complex book that deals with numerous themes and presents many twists and turns along the way. The story is long, but the detail is so fine and the characters so well drawn that it kept me turning the pages. More than being just a good story, it provides ample meat for contemplation on issues from religion to gender to war. ~ Tim
Although Iain Banks is best known for his Culture series, this stand-alone is almost more engrossing. Banks’ trademark style is here in full force, dropping you into an unfamiliar world where finding your bearings is half the fun. A (mostly) hard sci-fi space opera of the highest caliber. ~ Tim
After starting with de Lint’s most recent stuff, I finally went back to the one that made a name for him in the fantasy genre. It may take a little while to really get going, but the momentum is relentless—by the end, I was flying through the pages. A great starting point for anyone interested in contemporary fantasy and its literary potential. ~ Tim
Astronomy has always been a passion of mine, but I don’t think I’ve come across a book that does a better job of conveying the wonder it inspires. The subject may seem almost mundane to some, but Berman deftly demonstrates the sun’s (literal and figurative) centrality to our existence and the mystery and awe that often surround it. A fascinating, accessible book. ~ Tim
There is so much information packed into this little book. Although it draws on linguistics, much of its content is historical—it’s a history of English as much as a technical discussion of its structure. If you have the slightest interest in why English is the way it is, read this. It’s short, accessible, and engaging. ~ Tim
A fascinating book that sheds light on the many divisions, political and cultural, that exist in the U.S., this is the most convincing analysis of American regionalism I’ve read. Rather than the recent tendency to ascribe regional differences to economic factors, Woodard investigates cultural histories, providing thorough, nuanced explanations. His biases are obvious, but that doesn’t detract from the soundness of his look at American cultural trends. ~ Tim
Why do we find certain things arousing? This book may be very NSFW, but it examines a basic and increasingly prominent force in society. In contrast to previous surveys on the topic, the authors trawled the internet, drawing upon a billion searches to capture a unique glimpse of what people look for when they want to be aroused. On the surface the answers may seem to reinforce stereotypes—men are visual, women emotional—but there’s much more to it. If you are at all interested in human sexuality, this is hard to put down. ~ Tim
Few have written about Russia’s transition away from monarchy in such an engaging, insightful manner. Benefiting from Lieven’s existing expertise on Russia, as well as newly available archival material, the book provides many new insights on Russia’s political turmoil and the descent into World War I. A tragic, engrossing tale with repercussions to this day.
Histories rarely include much of the 70% or so of the Earth that’s covered in water. There’s good reason for that: no one really lives there, but a great deal happens there. This ambitious book looks at a wide swath of civilization, from early riverine developments five thousand years ago to the great world wars of the last century. Paine manages to include not only individual civilizations, but also the global network slowly built as sailing technology improved—and how that network influenced language, commerce, and culture.
The world is ending, and you have a front-row seat for it all. Blurring the line between speculative fiction and fantasy, this exceptional novel blends immersive world-building with potent characterization and deft takes on contemporary issues. Be sure to give it time, as initial disorientation soon dissolves in the face of addictive storytelling and an ever-escalating race to conclusion. Easily one of the best-written novels in the genre, it will leave you pondering its many mysteries and characters for weeks after the final pages pass.
Most military sci-fi casts the main character in the mold of the classic Hero. Hints of that are here, but it’s refreshing to see something told from a basic enlistee-level grunt, even as it spans from urban slums to the stars. Realistic detail, moral struggle, and suspense make for a delicious read.
An oldie but a goodie. Short, no-nonsense mystery with plenty of lovely atmospheric detail regarding monastic and rural Welsh life in the 12th century. The characters are full, real, and flawed, and their relationships are the backbone of this story.
What happens when war leaks outside of the clear bounds we pretend exist? What does this do to democracy? And, more importantly, what does it do to us? Fine reportage from this era of perpetual low-level war, ever-present but far removed from our day-to-day lives.