Steps Test: Reflections on the Financial Crisis
by Timothy F. Geithner
Published in May 2014
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Former Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s biography paints the story of an unimpressive bureaucrat swept away by the sheer power and magnitude of the 2008 financial crisis.
Geithner was the child of an employee of the Ford Foundation and an artist who grew up travelling across Asia. As an adult, he became a dull and obedient bureaucrat who worked hard, followed all of the rules, and made his way to the top of the financial hierarchy.
Geithner describes his time at the Federal Reserve of New York, and later at the Department of the Treasury. He comes off as a fearful and anxious individual, easily stressed and indecisive. A common reoccurring theme is that he cannot help but imagine that his own actions played a role in the crisis, although he argues that the crisis would have been far worse if not for his actions.
I was slightly disappointed that the book didn’t go into the economics of the Department of the Treasury’s decisions. The book was did paint a great portrait of the minds of the people in the government’s boardrooms.
Forgery and Counterforgery
Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics
by Bart D. Ehrman
Published in November 2012
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
This textbook covers the history of the forgery of early Christian writings. Bart Ehrman provides convincing evidence that many of the early Christian writings have been forged. He gives numerous examples of anachronisms, self contradictions, abrupt changes in writing style, and changes in style.
For example, the writings of St. Paul appear to have been altered or fabricated by later Christian scholars in order to provide evidence in favor of their side during later doctrinal debates. Many of the paragraphs have an inconsistent writing style, and blatantly contradict St. Paul’s earlier writings.
The author also explains many trains Ironically, many of the forged texts warn about the dangers of forged texts. Also, a lot of texts were repeatedly lost and rediscovered. One text was lost for several centuries, then rediscovered by a farmer in a pot or vessel in Turkey.
The case for the historical unreliability of Christian texts as sources for the history of late antiquity is very well defended by this book.
I found it to be very difficult to follow because I lack the proper background knowledge about early Christianity, so quit reading it halfway. I may return to it (or similar books) when my understanding of early Christianity is stronger.
The Origin of Satan
The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics
by Elaine Pagels
Published in 1995
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
I didn’t enjoy reading the book, so after reading roughly 10% of the book, I decided that it wasn’t for me.
The main reason why I didn’t like the book is because I found that the tone was condemnatory - the author was making moral judgements about the demonization of “the other.” Modern moral sentiments are anachronistic when analyzing historical behavior, and I wanted to learn more about the transition away from Christianity, not read criticism.
This isn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t for me.
By Publics Gaius Cornelius Tacitus
Published between 70 AD and 120 AD
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
I read most of the Annals, likely 75%, before moving on.
Tacitus is very clear compared to other authors from the same period, but is difficult by modern standards. He is especially difficult to read and understand without a solid knowledge of the historical context of Tacitus.
Its extremely dry reading, and a real snoozefest. One doesn’t read Tacitus for fun, one reads Tacitus to learn history.
I don’t feel like I’ve learned a lot. There are many interesting tidbits, the most interesting being that Tacitus mentions that the Egyptian Empire once included Scythia (modern day Ukraine) and Bactria (modern day India), which seems like a very bold claim. It makes me wonder if there is a lost empire that predates Rome that we cannot see.
Modern historians have doubts about the voracity of Tacitus as most of his work was suddenly rediscovered during the renaissance seemingly out of the blue.
Praetorian: Rise and Fall of Rome’s Imperial Guard
by Guy de la Bedoyere
Published in February 2017
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
I really enjoyed this book - although the history maintained a clear narrative, it was very well sourced. The writing was clear and academic, and all of the basics check off.
The Praetorian guard were imperial bodyguards, who are often compared by modern authors to intelligence agencies. Guy de la Bedoyere does an excellent job at correcting these anachronisms, and systematically narrates the history of the guard.
This book was very education for me because it helped me understand how historians piece together history about a specific topic.
I recommend this book, but only to people who know enough about Roman history that they already know, going in, what the Praetorian guard is.
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