The Time Travelers Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century
by Ian Mortimer
Published in October 2011
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
I had very low expectations for this book because it is written in the style of a tourist guidebook for time travelers. I thought that the history would be simple, and the writing pedantic and condescending. Also, this is a book for novices to the Middle Ages who have little or no background to the period, not amateur historians. Nevertheless, I had heard good things about this book, so I decided to read it anyways.
Boy was I wrong. This book is an amazing started guide to the late Middle Ages, and is suitable for both initiates as well as adepts of medieval history.
The book is written in the style of a guide for time travelers, and is mostly in the second person. Despite this, it was very well written. The time travel aspects aren’t the main focus of the book, and the style was well used to draw contrasts to the modern world. I think that the format added to, rather than subtracted from, the history. Similar attempts I have read at making “time traveller’s guides” turned out really badly, so I suggest not letting bad experiences with those temper your will to read this book.
The information conveyed primarily centers around daily life in the 14th century. Chapters cover different topics ranging from travel, to food, to telling the time, to manners. It is fairly extensive, and gives a good idea of what daily life in the late Middle Ages would be like.
The historiography is also very good. Many popular history books such as “How the Irish Saved Civilization” or the endless stream of “Hitler books” have terrible historiography. They do not cite sources, don’t mention archeology, and mix conjecture with data. This book has very good historiography considering its broad appeal. It covers a specific period from 1300 until 1400, so doesn’t mix information from different eras. It also does a good job at hinting to the reader where the information comes from (which, like most books covering the period, mostly comes from Chaucer).
I especially liked the chapter about the markets. I had simply no idea what kind of goods and services would be available in a medieval market. Ignorantly, I clung onto the RPG-esque idea that I could have gone to a flea market to buy foods and armor. Instead, I would have been able to buy ingredients such as spices, or armor materials such as leather. I found learning about how supply chains worked in the 14th century to be very interesting.
I recommend this book as a starter for anyone who isn’t familiar with the period, but wants to dive into the history.
The Hollow Earth: The Greatest Geographical Discovery in History
by Raymond Bernard
Published in 1964
Thibault’s Score: 1/5
I lost IQ points while reading this book.
Every now and then, I like to keep my ideas fresh by reading something really weird and conspiratorial that I find ridiculous. I read authors like Graham Hancock and Anatoly Fomenko, both of which I found interesting and mind expanding even if I disagree. This book was not a well researched alternative view, it was the mad ravings of a crackhead.
This book was written at the height of the New Age era by Walter Siegmeister under the pseudonym Raymond Bernard in 1964. Walter Siegmeister was a founder of the new age movement, and an alternative medicine “expert” who died at the ripe old age of 62. He supported the idea of an “alternative reality” and advocated a one world communist government.
This book attempts to explain the “proven” phenomenon of flying saucers by arguing that the earth is shaped like an apple, and has two massive holes at either pole. These holes are the entrance to an underground world which is home to plants, animals, and alternate human civilizations. These underground alternate human civilizations have a lot of technology like flying saucers. He argues that this underground world would be able to resist nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The book opens with an account of Admiral Byrd, who was the first man to fly over both the North Pole and the South Pole. Byrd says in his journal that, after flying over the North Pole, saw “iceless land, lakes, mountains covered with trees, and even a ‘monstrous animal.’” This could have well been Canada, and he might have seen a bear or seal.
This account (which was likely of Canada) is the only evidence in the first half of the book. From that the author extrapolates underground civilizations with flying saucers. I don’t know about the second half of the book, because I stopped reading it.
I want to stress that I am not giving this book a 1 star because I think that the content is crazy. Reading highly alternative and esoteric authors is very important. I am giving this book 1 star because it isn’t well researched and is poorly written.
Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street
by John Brooks
Published in 1969
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Business Adventures is a collection of 12 true news events written as narrative stories set in the United States of the 1920s through the mid 1960s. The stories come into two categories: legal and regulatory history, and business history.
The legal and regulatory histories are quite dull, and include a very cursory overview of the US income tax. I’ve already read a lot about the income tax in the United States, and found this particular story to be kind of annoying to read because he leaves out too many critical details. I suggest skipping over all the chapters dealing with regulators instead of businesses.
The rest of the book is pretty interesting. I enjoyed the chapters dealing with the Ford Edsel and the Texas Oil Inside Trading the most. The chapter on the Ford Edsel deals with Ford’s greatest failure, where they waste millions of dollars on a massive marketing campaign that proved useless. I enjoyed hearing about the endless waves of useless market research that included doing opinion polls to see if people would associate automobiles with sexual terms.
I enjoyed this book, and recommend it to people who are already interested in business.
by Ludwig von Mises
Published in 1944
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
In the last days of WW2, Mises wrote a book about the creeping government bureaucracy that he saw as a result of the war effort. He feared that the bureaucracy would persist after the war, and slowly become totalitarian. America was at war with fascist socialism in Germany and Soviet socialism in Russia, but at home, was also falling prey to the same forces.
The book exposes the problems of incentive and give an overview of the socialist calculation problem. Mises makes it clear that non-market forces act in fundamentally unnatural ways, and must therefore constantly be supervised by semi-totalitarian controllers. The behavior of these controllers becomes increasingly totalitarian as the bureaucracy struggles to survive.
In the Shadow of the Sword
by Tom Holland
Published in 2012
Thibault’s Score: 5/5
This book is the best history book that I have ever read, hands down.
I recommend this book more than any other history book that I have read so far.
It is a book that gives detailed context for the rise of Islam, and instead of covering the events surrounding Islam proper, outlines the times right before.
Fantastic read, 10/10
Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources
by Martin Lings
Published in October 2006
Thibault’s Score: 5/5
This was one of the most interesting books that I’ve read in a very long time, and I strongly recommend it.
The book is basically a collection of many of the early Hadiths, the earliest of which were written hundreds of years after his death. If you are unfamiliar with the Koran, and the concept of the Hadiths, then I do not recommend this book.
I now seriously wonder if ancient Muslims were influenced by aliens.
There is a lost of really interesting stuff in here, and I learned a lot about the life of the prophet. I will use the rest of this review to relate three odd and interesting stories.
The first story that really caught my attention was a possible alien abduction followed by open heart surgery. One day, one of Mohamed’s relatives comes down from the road, shouting for help. Mohamed’s father hears this, and asks what the problem is. The boy explains that two strangers, dressed in white, have found Mohamed on the side of the road, and have cut him open. Mohamed’s father in law goes down, and finds a Mohamed who is shaken but fine. Mohamed explains that two strange men, dressed in white, teleported him to a distant universe. There, they cut out his heart, and removed an object from it. The men then returned him. When Mohamed is found by his father he has no marks on his body, save for a small crescent shape on his neck in between his shoulder blades. (Alien Implant site?)
There is another passage of the narrative that also suggests aliens: the story of how Mohamed found out he was a prophet. Mohamed and his companions are travelling across the desert when some Christian monks spot them in the distance. The monks notice that as they travel, a grey cloud is floating overhead. The cloud stops when Mohamed’s party stops, and continues when they continue. (Flying saucer using camouflage / stealth technology?) The monk realizes that this is a sign, and takes the travelers in. He then proceeds to dine them, and while they are distracted, cross references the ancient texts he has preserved to see if any of them are the prophet. He then realizes Mohamed is the prophet, and checks for the crescent shape on his neck. He proclaims Mohamed as the prophet, and the party swears an oath. Interestingly enough, the first thing that the monk says upon discovering that Mohamed is the prophet is “watch out of the Jews”.
The last passage that caught my interest is at the end of the narrative, when the Hadiths describe Mohamed’s unsatisfiable sexual appetite. The Koran only allowed for four wives, yet Mohamed exempted himself, and took a fifth. He also purchased Greek sex slaves, including two tin girls. His wives and concubines were constantly jealous of each other, and would fight. Mohamed clearly is immoral, and violates his own advice. This goes a long way to explaining the uncontrollable bouts of lusts that I’ve noticed have been expressed by Muslims on the internet and in the streets of Europe. Perhaps, if they had followed the religion of a more chaste and more self controlled man, perhaps their culture wouldn’t be so barbaric today.
Either way, there is much to be found in studying the Hadiths for Muslims and for Kaffir alike. I strongly recommend this book regardless of whether you believe in aliens or not, or whether you think Mohamed was a hypocrite or a great man.
Lost to the West
by Lars Brownworth
Published in June 2010
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Lost to the West is a simple and straightforwards narrative history of the Byzantine Empire. Its a story I’ve already heard on the amazing Byzantine History Podcast as well as Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
The book is not very academic, as it doesn’t properly disclose sources and evidence. It is, however, a great primer for non-academically minded novices interested in learning the basics about the Byzantine Empire. Like all long term histories, the scope was quite broad, and sections feel very rushed. If I didn’t already have an extensive knowledge of the characters and events, I would have found myself getting lost. I felt like he didn’t spend enough time discussing certain important events, although he was limited by the length of the book which he was writing.
I recommend this book as a refresher for anyone who previously studied the Byzantine empire and needs a good refresher.
Charlemagne: King of the Franks
by Cameron White
Published in December 2015
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
White’s biography of Charlemagne is one of the most unremarkable and unmemorable history books that I have read in a long time. He uses language understandable by lay persons and attempts to keep his biography as short as simple as possible.
Its been a week since I finished the book, and I can hardly remember any details about the book, or recall any insights that I have learned. I already knew most of the details presented in the book, and my memory of the writing has blurred with all of the books I’ve read discussing Charlemagne.
This book gets a 3 for its lack of mental stain in my mind.
Darth Maul Shadow Hunter
by Michael Reaves
Published in January 2001
Thibault’s Score: 1/5
I’ve been wanting to get back into Star Wars, so have decided to watch all the movies chronologically as well as read some of the fan fiction along the way.
I always wanted to learn more about Darth Maul, and now I have learned that all the fan fiction written about him sucks.
Darth Maul Shadow Hunter makes the previous book that I read, Lockdown, seem like Shakespear or Dostoyevski.
The main character, Lorn Pavan, is a data broker and information salesman. He is a cheap Han Solo knockoff and a male Mary Sue. His protocol droid, 5YQ, is a fun character vaguely reminiscent of Data but doesn’t make a lot of sense.
There are several supporting characters: Darsha Assant, a female Jedi Padawan. Like Lorn Pavan, she is also a bit of a Mary Sue, but the case isn’t as bad with her because she is flawed and emotionally anxious.
Finally, there is Darth Maul, who is actually used pretty well, serving as comic relief. This was odd, but it worked very well for this book. The novel is a series of unfortunate events, where Darth Maul is forced to assassinate an ever growing pool of people to keep a secret.
I read about halfway before snoozing off, and a lot of the details are fuzzy to me.
I thought this book was pretty stupid, but I haven’t yet lost faith in Star Wars fan fiction - while these two books were rated poorly on Amazon and Audible, I haven’t yet tackled any of the books that have gotten extensive praise.
Darth Maul: Lockdown
by Joe Schreiber
Published in January 2014
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
When I was in Middle School and High School, I would read a lot of Star Wars fan fiction. I haven’t seen the new Star Wars movies yet, and now that 9 is releasing, I plan on watching them all in Chronological Order. I also noticed that I haven’t reviewed a lot of fiction. I checked, and the only fiction book I’ve read in the last 2 years is a short story by HG Wells. I’ve also been a bit stressed out lately, and wanted to read something a bit more light for a change.
I used to really, really, really enjoy Star Wars fan fiction, and was exposed to many interesting philosophy and sci-fi ideas through my reading. I want to prepare for my movie binge by rediscovering some of the best Star Wars fan fiction and read some of the key books.
I wanted to start with Darth Maul. In The Phantom Menace Darth Maul is a 2d character with no personality. In the comics, he is much better fleshed out character with many interesting desires and motivations. I enjoyed reading many of the Darth Maul comics as a kid, so decided to start my Star Wars fan fiction binge there. I was throughly disappointed.
Unlike the other Sith, Darth Maul is utterly devoted to his cause and completely loyal to his master. He wishes nothing more than the advancement of the Sith’s grand plan, and the fulfillment of his mission. Lockdown does a great job of making Maul into an interesting character. It doesn’t turn him into a Mary Sue, but preserves his badassness.
Lockdown’s first half was really good. There were a lot of intriguing and compelling characters. The plot thickened, and I found myself coming up with all of these different and elaborate theories about the identity of Darth Maul’s contact.
There also was this creepy space bug living in the station that was really good. but wasn’t properly used by the author.
When I read fiction, the most important parts are the beginning and the ending. This book had a great beginning, but a stupid ending.
If the ending had been as good as the first half of the book, I would have given it 4/5 stars. However the ending was horrible. A bunch of random Sith cultists, lightsabers, and Jabba the Hutt appear for no particular reason. They ruined the ending, turned it from a really epic story of survival into a disappointing fan fiction mess of incoherent characters.
I only recommend this book to die hard Star Wars fans, but don’t think that it has much appeal for normal audiences.
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