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★★★ Pacific and Eurasia. On war / Jacek Bartosiak

Fascinating reading. I'm quite new in geopolitics, terms as Rimland and Heartland are still quite new for me, so I guess it's easy to impress me, but the author's diagnosis sounds really reasonable – and also creepy.
The book was written a few years ago and now it's obvious how many predictions have fullfilled. I wish to know how the clash between US and China will be maganed by the new president of U.S.

★★★ Dziennik: wrześniowa obrona Warszawy / Wacław Lipiński
★★☆ Imperium chmur / Jacek Dukaj

List of all books read in 2020.
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Carradice: Nice review. Sanderson released The Emperor's Soul freely in his website when it was nominated for the best novella Hugo award. It got it. This makes a fine entry point for Brandon Sanderson. it was for me. Then, Elantris. After that, no idea. Maybe this collection can become a new entry point?

Just a side note: Sanderson mentions that The Emperor's Soul is set int the world of Elantris, but there is no need to read Elantris first at all. Things might happen in a distant nation that never appears in Elantris, for all I know. If there are connections, they must be subtle and for the enjoyment of people who had read Elantris first.
Yeah, I'd say that's a good entry point. And true, you don't need to read Elantris for it, at the point Elantris ends the empires are still almost completely separate, and so far there is no sequel.
Elantris and Warbreaker are the novels that would be entry points, both being stand-alone so far. He's saying that sequels are planned, but probably way off, if ever, with all he has going at once.
Stormlight Archive is definitely his best work though, that's just amazing stuff, when I read the first 2 earlier this year it just felt like all his other works were practice for it, you see the best elements from the rest used here (not directly, of course, being a different world, albeit in the same universe, but those concepts, in their best form, applied to this world).
Mistborn, while epic in its own right, is a fair bit simpler if you analyze it. But with Mistborn he does this quite unheard of thing or moving a series forward in time, with the first trilogy in a typical fantasy-medieval world, the following four books (I think 4th isn't out yet) in sort of a fantasy-steampunk, then supposedly he has plans to move it into a modern, urban fantasy setting, and then fantasy-space opera in the end, which is where I'd guess he plans to tie together his worlds. But since I can't stomach modern settings, I'm thinking I'll stop after this current cycle, which was why I said I don't care for those connections.
Don't know anything about his other stuff.
But I really wouldn't call this collection as a possible entry point. Or maybe it might be, but only if you skip The Hope for Elantris (takes place at the end of Elantris, another character's story during those events, so spoiling and confusing without reading that first), Mistborn: Secret Archive (starts with the end of The Final Empire and rejoins the trilogy at the end of The Hero of Ages, continuing a character's story in parallel to the events in the books, so reading it without first reading those would completely spoil the original Mistborn trilogy and also be awfully confusing) and Edgedancer (takes place between Words of Radiance and Oathbringer, Lift got very little "screen time" in WoR and seems out of place there, but this starts from that bit and shows her story between those books, so again heavy spoilers and confusing without reading them).

PS: Later edit: Wait, Eleventh Metal and Allomancer Jak are also Mistborn spoilers, so that whole section is to be avoided if you take the collection as entry point.

Timboli: I guess it is all about what sort of story appeals, as he is clearly a good writer.
His "signature" are the very... scientific magic systems, highly developed and detailed, and you can rather calculate what will happen if you know the... innards. The systems are very different between the worlds/series, but tied to each world's "shards" (think deities, but actually their energy, because they may be splintered/dead), which are connected (though you don't need to know that and at this point it's not exactly relevant).
At the same time, there are also moments when he shows true understanding of people and a lot of things they do and value. There's a lot about prejudice in Stormlight, religion is tackled in all, philosophy, ethics, customs, art, research...
Post edited November 10, 2020 by Cavalary
Ok, two months until the end of the year, so time to update my list. Since April I've read:

- Johannes Hürter, Wilhelm Groener. Reichswehrminister am Ende der Weimarer Republik (1928-1932).
A book dealing with an interesting aspect of the late Weimar republic, the tenure of Wilhelm Groener (the general who had organized Germany's mobilization in 1914 and was responsible for railway logistics during WW1) as minister of the Reichswehr (the army of the Weimar republic) from 1928 to 1932. Deals with many issues, like secret armaments, Groener's attempts to establish better relations with the Social Democrats, his role in the escalating crisis of the political system from 1930 onwards, when Groener also became minister of the interior and tried to ban the Nazi SA, which led to his removal from office. In general Groener emerges as a sympathetic, pragmatic and rational character who however made some fatal miscalculations. Definitely recommended to anybody interested in the Weimar republic.
My rating: 4/5.
- Dietrich Schotte, Die Entmachtung Gottes durch den Leviathan. Thomas Hobbes über Religion.
A book about Thomas Hobbes' views about religion, which according to Schotte were really extreme and definitely not compatible with any genuinely Christian position; basically Hobbes wanted to subject religion completely to the state and tried to redefine Christianity as purely internal belief for that purpose. A very hard read at times and I'm not sure if all the conclusions of the author are justified (I lack the knowledge in Hobbes' writings to judge that). A fascinating subject though, recommended to anybody interested in 17th century political thought.
My rating: 4/5.
- Geoffrey Parker, Emperor. A life of Charles V.
A biography of the early modern emperor Charles V. Pretty good, and one learns a lot about early 16th century Europe. It can be a bit tiresome though at times and often feels like just one thing after another.
My rating: 3/5.
- Geoffrey Parker, Imprudent king. A life of Philip II.
A biography of Charles V's son Philip II (of Armada fame). Pretty much the same applies as with Parker's biography about Charles V....though Philip II is a considerably more unlikeable character than his father imo.
My rating: 3/5.
- Birgit Beck, Wehrmacht und sexuelle Gewalt. Sexualverbrechen vor deutschen Militärgerichten 1939-1945.
A study about sexual crimes committed by Wehrmacht soldiers and how Wehrmacht military courts dealt with them. Hard to summarize, and given the nature of the sources considerable uncertainty remains (the author is pretty clear that her study can only be a first step for research about this difficult subject). Still a lot of very interesting results however.
My rating: 4/5.
- Douglas Newton, The darkest days. The truth behind Britain's rush to war, 1914.
A book about the debates among British liberals in late July/early August 1914 about British intervention in a continental war. Newton comes down clearly on the side of the non-interventionists and the book is somewhat polemical in character. Still a very interesting contribution to the debate about the origins of WW1.
My rating: 3/5.
- Alexander Grant - Keith Stringer (Ed.), Uniting the kingdom? The making of British history.
A collection of essays about the relationship between England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, from Anglo-Saxon times to the 20th century. The essays about the middle ages and the early modern period are especially good imo. Definitely recommended to anybody interested in British/Irish history.
My rating: 4/5.
- John V.A. Fine, The early medieval Balkans. A critical survey from the sixth to the late twelfth century.
What it says in the title, mostly a narrative history of the Balkans (including Greece) from the early middle ages to the late 12th century. Strong focus on Bulgaria, somewhat less so on Serbia and Croatia for which the sources are comparatively poor. Very informative, recommended to anybody interested in Balkans history.
My rating: 4/5.
- John V.A. Fine, The late medieval Balkans. A critical survey from the late twelfth century to the Ottoman conquest.
Successor to the previous volume, taking the story right up until the conquest of the Balkans by the Turks in the late 15th century. It has double the size (about 600 pages) of the previous volume, and took me a lot of effort to finish it, since Fine's approach (very detailed narrative history) becomes a bit tiresome in periods when the sources are more plentiful. Prepare to read about hundreds of different characters and dozens of principalities in ever changing constellations, if you want to read this book... Still contains a lot of interesting information however, so I'd cautiosly recommend it to anybody interested in the subject.
My rating: 3/5.
- Geoffrey Parker (Ed.), The Thirty years' war.
Nice and informative volume about one of the pivotal conflicts of early modern Europe. Brings out the European dimension of the conflict very well (especially the involvement of France, Spain and Sweden, but also the more intermittent role of lesser powers like England and Denmark). Recommended.
My rating: 4/5.
- John Keay, China. A history.
A history of China, with a strong focus on the older periods; if you're primarily interested in the 19th and 20th centuries, look elsewhere. Interesting, but tbh I eventually found it a bit repetitive. But maybe that's in the nature of the subject.
My rating: 3/5.

Almost finished:
- Steffen Patzold, Ich und Karl der Große. Das Leben des Höflings Einhard.
A book about Einhard, the courtier and biographer of Charlemagne. Nice read, but I feel Einhard as a personality can't carry the book, because not enough is known about long stretches of his life.
My rating: 3/5.
- Tacitus, Histories book 1, edited by Cynthia Damon (Cambridge Greek and Latin classics).
Tacitus' Latin is very challenging, but the notes do an excellent job of helping one to understand the text and to point out parallels and differences with other classical authors. Obviously suitable only if one has advanced knowledge of Latin, but then it's really great.
My rating: 5/5.

I also read a lot of articles about medieval history (10th/11th century), and quite a few sources (e.g. the church reformers Humbert of Silva Candida and Bonizo of Sutri, also pro-imperial authors of the investiture contest), which were interesting...but this is such a specialized subject I doubt it will be interesting to most people.
Post edited November 09, 2020 by morolf
Cavalary: And that, which you say is only a partial list, is not much, eh? :)
It's not everything, but it does represent nearly all of what I read! :)

I only meant that it wasn't as much as I have read in past years. To be honest, I don't know how many books the typical avid reader consumes in a year.

morolf: ...basically Hobbes wanted to subject religion completely to the state and tried to redefine Christianity as purely internal belief for that purpose...
After reading this, the first question that comes to my mind is how did he define religion?
Post edited November 10, 2020 by Dryspace
Dryspace: After reading this, the first question that comes to my mind is how did he define religion?
According to Schotte's book Hobbes had a theory of religion where religious belief is basically a way for humans to deal with the insecurity and unpredictability of human existence, by believing in unseen forces which can be influenced by correct behaviour (that's considerably's a complex argument, and tbh I've already forgotten much about it).
And regarding Christianity, Hobbes basically argued that the only thing that should matter to a Christian is a purely internal belief that Christ is the saviour...whereas everything else, like living in a community of believers, external cult etc. is irrelevant and subject to the regulations of the if a ruler makes decisions about religious matters, including ones about doctrine, or even decides to ban all external manifestations of Christianity, a Christian just ought to accept it...which of course comes across as pretty totalitarian.
Anyway, I can't comment that much in depth, since I haven't read much else about Hobbes (so not sure if Schotte's interpretation is correct), but pretty interesting subject.
morolf: According to Schotte's book...
Interesting, thanks for the reply.

Although he does correctly differentiate between religion and ideology (Catholicism being an organized example of the former; Christianity an example of the latter), I can't imagine how he argues his view of Christianity, except from a position of ignorance or malice. Perhaps I'll look into it at some point.
Ali and Nino

Another classic, so of course I didn't like it. Didn't particularly dislike it either, but that was mainly due to giving it the benefit of the doubt, first because I don't know how much was lost in the Romanian translation I read. There were even a number of typos and obvious mistakes, but I also wonder whether the dominating tense, which is typically a regionalism here, was the translator's choice or an attempt, possibly also in the original text, to convey that the main character belongs in a rural, rather archaic setting. Do consider the fact that some archaic terms used didn't have explanations as a problem with this edition, albeit a minor one.
Also gave it the benefit of the doubt in the sense that I took the whole depiction of the characters and that part of the world during that period as more of a caricature, the otherwise sickening closed-mindedness and prejudice on all parts, the ignorance, traditionalism or nationalism, certain to become unbearably infuriating otherwise. It does get somewhat better after a while, however, the part in Dagestan offering something of a respite and the book becoming more serious, more "real", if you will, after the move to Iran, even though those annoyances, to put it mildly, return in force.
Otherwise, the writing often seems rather like a stream of thought, running on but also rushed, more like something of a summary, even speech often seeming summarized while at times still being annoyingly flowery. And the fact that speech and description are often mixed creates confusion. The biggest problem, however, is that it's presented as a love story and I just didn't feel any emotion. Yes, the characters say that they love each other and some actions would prove it if analyzed, but I simply couldn't feel any of it. I didn't care, wasn't invested, wasn't touched, and that's a problem for any book, not to mention for one supposed to belong to a genre that first and foremost aims to trigger an emotional response.

Rating: 3/5
FBI - Fabrizio Calvi

A fascinating French non-fiction book on the famous american agency. Well-written and with visible access to important first-hand witnesses of the tumultuous history of the FBI, pre-, during and post-Hoover eras.

I don't know if it has been translated to english (or any other language), but if it has been, go and read it! ^_^

So far in 2020:
David Brin (1983). Startide Rising.

#2 in The Uplift Saga, but it stands on its own. [i][/i]

It was the eighties. Dolphins were all the craze. If you do not believe, go and watch the beginning of 2010: Odyssey 2. A decent SF film, rather satisfying, just not the timeless work by Kubrick. So, dolphins were cool, real world work was being done on trying to understand them and SF cared about them (later it has been known that some armed forces worked on using dolphins to deliver bombs, using research being one on them, which is only sad).

Right now it is dogs who are all the craze. Well, although Simak was always a dog person (City, 1952). Yet Startide Rising offers believable and interesting characters of a few different species, from neo-dolphins and neo-chimpancees to humans (mel and fem) to a variety of galactics that go from the terrible to the hilarious, often at once.

I enjoyed this fine piece of the best space opera from the period. More than Sundiver, which can appeal more to lovers of mysteries (like in, whodunnit). Some people swear by Startide Rising. It worked for me, although not at the level of some of his later works, like the very entertaining Kiln People or the awesome Glory Season.

If you like SF with adventure, protagonists who actually think and are ingenuous, and subtle humour touches, you can do way worse than read any of these books by David Brin.
The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson: 3/5

Of all Speculative Fiction, stories about ghosts and haunted houses and such are my least favourite. But I decided to read this since it's considered a masterpiece of gothic horror (by Stephen King, I think), and because I've liked the short stories by Jackson that I've read so far, The Lottery being the most (in)famous one.

It starts well enough, when we get acquainted with Eleanor Vance, who is one of three young people selected to stay at Hill House as assistants to Dr. Montague in his research of paranormal activity at the house. She has had no life of her own, having spent most of her life caring for her mother, and is now living with her sister and brother-in-law. There's some interesting dynamic with Theodora, another girl among the three assistants (Luke Sanderson, who is to inherit the house being the third one), but the story never really takes off until the final three chapters. It just isn't very exciting or frightening, but at least it better than your typical ghost story, since it's more of psychological horror story than a traditional one.
On the plus side I like that it's rather ambiguous about what really was going on
It has a few things in common with Robert Bloch's Psycho, released some months earlier, which also starts strong with an interesting protagonist, but ultimately ends up being a bit disappointing. I'll probably like the movie adaptation (The Haunting) better than the book as well.

Apart from the beginning and ending, the best part was the description of Dr. Montague's bossy wife, which felt like a parody of those who see paranormal activity everywhere, and who uses a planchette to get in contact with poor lost souls.

And as usual with reprints of classic books some asshole insists on spoiling the whole book with an Introduction. It's like they have never heard about Afterwords. Oh well, I'm old and experienced enough to avoid them by now. I much prefer to read a book as "blind" as possible.
Post edited November 20, 2020 by PetrusOctavianus
PetrusOctavianus: ...And as usual with reprints of classic books some asshole insists on spoiling the whole book with an Introduction. It's like they have never heard about Afterwords. Oh well, I'm old and experienced enough to avoid them by now. I much prefer to read a book as "blind" as possible.
Absolutely! I've always found it amazing that a summarization of the contents at the opening of each chapter used to be standard practice for novels. I always avert my eyes.

When it comes to literature, video games, or movies, I've learned that going in blind doesn't guarantee an amazing experience, but if the work is indeed good, it will ensure the most amazing experience possible.
Dryspace: When it comes to literature, video games, or movies, I've learned that going in blind doesn't guarantee an amazing experience, but if the work is indeed good, it will ensure the most amazing experience possible.
Yes, and you can always reread, rewatch or replay something to get the most our of it.
PetrusOctavianus: The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson: 3/5

Of all Speculative Fiction, stories about ghosts and haunted houses and such are my least favourite. But I decided to read this since it's considered a masterpiece of gothic horror (by Stephen King, I think), and because I've liked the short stories by Jackson that I've read so far, The Lottery being the most (in)famous one.
I haven't read this one yet, but I remember liking We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Swordsmen From the Stars, by Poul Anderson. This is a collection of three short stories/novellas Anderson sold to Planet Stories in 1951 - Witch of the Demon Seas, Virgin of Valkarion, and Swordsman of Lost Terra. They sort of straddle genres in that a surface read would give the impression that they're pure sword-and-sorcery stories in which tough sword and axe-wielding men battle monsters and there's a little bit of magic involved. But if you pay attention, you'll notice that the fantasy elements are actually quite muted and there are indications that Anderson is keeping them just within the boundaries of sci-fi. The magic isn't quite explained, but it's strongly hinted that there's a specific system behind it, either due to some kind of psychic evolution or technology. The stories are set in worlds with long histories that have been largely forgotten, but it could be surmised that they're each taking place on a planet in our own solar system: Witch of the Demon Seas is set on a tropical, oceanic world in which the sun is never seen because the cloud cover never breaks (Venus?); Virgin of Valkarion is set on an increasingly desolate planet with two moons (Mars?); and Swordsman of Lost Terra is set on a planet with a single moon, but the world has stopped rotating so one half is always in shadow, which could be Earth in some post-catastrophic future.

All three stories are very good if you're into this sort of thing. They're full of action that reflects Anderson's personal interest in "the Northern Thing" or viking or celtic war stories. Men and women living in harsh, dying worlds but committed to doing the best they can with what they've got left or going down fighting. I certainly like his serious sci-fi stories, but I do wish he had written more of this kind of thing because he was so good at it and there aren't many authors who came close to this, and this was when he was very young, too.
andysheets1975: Swordsmen From the Stars, by Poul Anderson. [...]
It sounds interesting. Did you try Broken Sword? If you like the northern theme, it might be up your alley. Also another early book.