Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review: 1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar

1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar 1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar by Eric Burns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The women's suffrage movement; the beginnings of Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger's struggle to provide birth control information to women; the League of Nations proposed by President Woodrow Wilson, his stroke and how Mrs. Wilson took over some of the president's duties; Carlo Ponzi and how his name came to be associated with fraud; the musicians, writers and entertainers who became prominent during 1920: these are a only few of the stories in this book. An interesting look at the world after the end of World War I and before the financial collapse and depression of the 1930s.

I enjoyed this book because I find history is always more interesting when I know more about the people responsible for the events of that time.


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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In his new novel, Amor Towles has created a memorable cast of characters and an intriguing plot set in a period of Russian history starting in the 1920s. Add his exquisite writing and it is easy to understand why I couldn't put the book down yet I didn't want it to end. I almost feel like picking it up again and turning to the first page, just to enjoy this wonderful reading experience again.

Instead of summarizing the book, as I sometimes do, I often make a note of some of the thoughts put down by the author. On page 120, Towles writes about first impressions:

“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration – and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”

Like so many people, I loved Towles's first novel, "Rules of Civility." I cannot wait to see what he publishes next.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years

The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years by Brian Moynahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moynahan has written a book for anyone who wants an understanding of Russian history and how it evolved over the past one hundred years, from the Romanovs up until the emergence of Boris Yeltsin.

It is is an example, for me, of the old saying that travel broadens one's experiences. I purchased this book in St. Petersburg on October 10, 2010 while on a trip to that city and to Moscow. My recent renewed interest in Russia began with learning the effect that Vladimir Putin is having on our own electoral process.



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Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a recent National Geographic documentary called "Facing Putin," Russian journalist Masha Geesen was one of the speakers who explained this man's rise, his hold over the Russian people, and his actions that have consequences for the rest of the world.

As a child and young man, Putin prided himself on his role as a thug who grew up to be a KGB operative. It's a fascinating story of a person Geesen describes as "shallow, self-involved, not terribly perceptive, and apparently very poorly informed....who was indeed the person running Russia." Geesen recounts Putin's rise, the number of people who have been killed, the number of business takeovers, the number of people jailed for various reasons, and countless other criminal acts backed by Putin and those he places in power.

One of the reasons I wanted to learn more about Putin, I must confess, is the attraction he holds for one of the candidates running for president of the United States. It is a frightening scenario that Putin and his government (who are currently cited for hacking into American email accounts) would have a great impact on the future of the United States.

This is a very readable book; by that I mean it is told from a personal perspective by an experienced reporter whose familiarity with Russian history and journalistic career provide solid and important historical information.

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