Book Briefly Noted, Title Spandau: The Secret Diaries, Author Albert Speer, Rating 4.0,
Spandau: The Secret Diaries
Albert Speer, Hitler's personal architect and Reich Armaments Minister, kept a diary while he was in Spandau prison following his conviction at the post-war Nuremburg trials. These diaries provide a fascinating, hooded glimpse of the 'smartest man' in the Nazi leadership. At least, smart enough to evade the death penalty at the Nuremberg Trials.
Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts. My early view of Napoleon was as a cartoon figure: A megalomaniac who tried to take over the world. I recall looking down at Napoleon's tomb in Paris in the company of my brother Craig, the two of us mocking his immense sarcophagus and elaborate surroundings, wondering aloud why the French would semi-deify such a bloody tyrant. The typical American republican conceits aside, we were woefully uninformed about much of the life of Napoleon.
Trent: What Happened at the Council, is a well-researched and well-told history of the Council of Trent, the mid-sixteenth-century Counter-Reformation centerpiece which produced the Catholic Church's response to the Protestant Reformation. This acount is carefully grounded in the complex politics of its times, placing the history of the Council in the balance- of-power tug-of-war, not just between reform movements within and without (Protestants) the Church, but among the nascent Ottoman Empire, the English Reformation, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papal States and the French monarchy.
Book Book Review, Title What Is Life?, Author Erwin Schrödinger, Rating 4.5,
What Is Life?
I recently re-read portions Erwin Schroedinger's amazing little book What is Life?, which was a post-war stimulus for a number of physicists to switch from physics to biology and look hard for a physical understanding of living organisms.
Adam Gopnik recently asked: Does it help to know history? Â Here is the first part of his answer:
The best argument for reading history is not that it will show us the right thing to do in one case or the other, but rather that it will show us why even doing the right thing rarely works out. The advantage of having a historical sense is not that it will lead you to some quarry of instructions, the way that Superman can regularly return to the Fortress of Solitude to get instructions from his dad, but that it will teach you that no such crystal cave exists. What history generally â€śteachesâ€ť is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think theyâ€™re making it.
The full essay can be found here.
Book Book Review, Title The Origins of Modern Science, Author Herbert Butterfield, Rating 4.0,
The Origins of Modern Science
Herbert Butterfield, in his book The Origins of Modern Science, tells the story of the development of modern science by focusing on the ideational changes in what is now referred to as science from the late Middle Ages until the advent of the French Revolution, with primary emphasis on the development of the modern understanding of motion. This is a brilliant choice, as it was the development of a robust physical and mathematical model of motion that allowed Newton to unite terrestrial and astronomical physics into a universal set of physical laws describing mechanics.
Book Book Review, Title Protestantism And Progress, Author Ernst Troeltsch, Rating 4.0,
Protestantism And Progress
Ernst Troeltsch was a fin de siècle Protestant theologian who wrote Protestantism and Progress: A Historical Study of Protestantism and the Modern World. This work, along with his friend Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, both written just before World War I, are reasoned historical treatments of the influence of Protestantism on the perceived and potential progress of Western society. They provide effective contrast to the often simplistic and one-sided efforts by Protestant Evangelicals to do the same, such as Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live?