Guest Reviewer: Nathaniel Philbrick on 1493 by Charles C. Mann
Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Last Stand; In the Heart of the Sea, which won the National Book Award; Sea of Glory, winner of the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize; and Mayflower, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history and one of the New York Times' ten best books of the year. He has lived on Nantucket since 1986.
I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read.
With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”
We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
Charles C. Mann
In the first authoritative biography of Alexander the Great written for a general audience in a generation, classicist and historian Philip Freeman tells the remarkable life of the great conqueror. The celebrated Macedonian king has been one of the most enduring figures in history.
He was a general of such skill and renown that for two thousand years other great leaders studied his strategy and tactics, from Hannibal to Napoleon, with countless more in between. He flashed across the sky of history like a comet, glowing brightly and burning out quickly: crowned at age nineteen, dead by thirty-two. He established the greatest empire of the ancient world; Greek coins and statues are found as far east as Afghanistan. Our interest in him has never faded.
Alexander was born into the royal family of Macedonia, the kingdom that would soon rule over Greece. Tutored as a boy by Aristotle, Alexander had an inquisitive mind that would serve him well when he faced formidable obstacles during his military campaigns.
Shortly after taking command of the army, he launched an invasion of the Persian empire, and continued his conquests as far south as the deserts of Egypt and as far east as the mountains of present-day Pakistan and the plains of India. Alexander spent nearly all his adult life away from his homeland, and he and his men helped spread the Greek language throughout western Asia, where it would become the lingua franca of the ancient world. Within a short time after Alexander’s death in Baghdad, his empire began to fracture. Best known among his successors are the Ptolemies of Egypt, whose empire lasted until Cleopatra.
In his lively and authoritative biography of Alexander, classical scholar and historian Philip Freeman describes Alexander’s astonishing achievements and provides insight into the mercurial character of the great conqueror. Alexander could be petty and magnanimous, cruel and merciful, impulsive and farsighted.
Above all, he was ferociously, intensely competitive and could not tolerate losing—which he rarely did. As Freeman explains, without Alexander, the influence of Greece on the ancient world would surely not have been as great as it was, even if his motivation was not to spread Greek culture for beneficial purposes but instead to unify his empire. Only a handful of people have influenced history as Alexander did, which is why he continues to fascinate us.
The Old Cold War: PART 1 of 2. Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129. by Norman C. Polmar and Michael White.
Despite incredible political, military, and intelligence risks, and after six years of secret preparations, the CIA attempted to salvage the sunken Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-129 from the depths of the North Pacific Ocean in early August 1974. This audacious effort was carried out under the cover of an undersea mining operation sponsored by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. “Azorian”—incorrectly identified as Project Jennifer by the press— was the most ambitious ocean engineering endeavor ever attempted and can be compared to the 1969 moon landing for its level of technological achievement.
Following the sinking of a Soviet missile submarine in March 1968, U.S. intelligence agencies were able to determine the precise location and to develop a means of raising the submarine from a depth of more than 16,000 feet. Previously, the deepest salvage attempt of a submarine had been accomplished at 245 feet. The remarkable effort to reach the K-129, which contained nuclear-armed torpedoes and missiles as well as cryptographic equipment, was conducted with Soviet naval ships a few hundred yards from the lift ship, the Hughes Glomar Explorer.
While other books have been published about this secret project, none has provided an accurate and detailed account of this remarkable undertaking. To fully document the story, the authors conducted extensive interviews with men who were on board the Glomar Explorer and the USS Halibut, the submarine that found the wreckage, as well as with U.S. naval intelligence officers and with Soviet naval officers and scientists.
The authors had access to the Glomar Explorer’s logs and to other documents from U.S. and Soviet sources. The book is based, in part, on the research for Michael White's ground-breaking documentary film,Azorian: The Raising of the K-129, released in late 2009. As a result of the research for the book and the documentary film, the CIA reluctantly issued a report on Project Azorian in early 2010, even though they tried to withhold details that were in that brief document from the public record by redacting one-third of it. In this book, the story of the CIA’s Project Azorian is finally revealed after decades of secrecy.
Once upon a time: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories. by Simon Winchester
"Variably genial, cautionary, lyrical, admonitory, terrifying, horrifying and inspiring…A lifetime of thought, travel, reading, imagination and memory inform this affecting account." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Blending history and anecdote, geography and reminiscence, science and exposition, New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester tells the breathtaking saga of the Atlantic Ocean. A gifted storyteller and consummate historian, Winchester sets the great blue sea's epic narrative against the backdrop of mankind's intellectual evolution, telling not only the story of an ocean, but the story of civilization.
Fans of Winchester's Krakatoa, The Man Who Loved China, and The Professor and the Madman will love this masterful, penetrating, and resonant tale of humanity finding its way across the ocean of history.
Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted (A Merloyd Lawrence Book). by Justin Martin
Frederick Law Olmsted is arguably the most important historical figure that the average American knows the least about. Best remembered for his landscape architecture, from New York's Central Park to Boston's Emerald Necklace to Stanford University's campus, Olmsted was also an influential journalist, early voice for the environment, and abolitionist credited with helping dissuade England from joining the South in the Civil War. This momentous career was shadowed by a tragic personal life, also fully portrayed here.
Most of all, he was a social reformer. He didn't simply create places that were beautiful in the abstract. An awesome and timeless intent stands behind Olmsted's designs, allowing his work to survive to the present day. With our urgent need to revitalize cities and a widespread yearning for green space, his work is more relevant now than it was during his lifetime. Justin Martin restores Olmsted to his rightful place in the pantheon of great Americans.
Hunting Che: PART 1 of 2: How a U.S. Special Forces Team Helped Capture the World's Most Famous Revolutionary by Mitch Weiss and Kevin Maurer
The hunt for Ernesto “Che” Guevera was one of the first successful U.S. Special Forces missions in history. Using government reports and documents, as well as eyewitness accounts, Hunting Che tells the untold story of how the infamous revolutionary was captured—a mission later duplicated in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As one of the architects of the Cuban Revolution, Guevera had become famous for supporting and organizing similar insurgencies in Africa and Latin America. When he turned his attention to Bolivia in 1967, the Pentagon made a decision: Che had to be stopped.
Major Ralph “Pappy” Shelton was called upon to lead the mission. Much was unknown about Che’s force in Bolivia, and the stakes were high. With a handpicked team of Green Berets, Shelton turned Bolivian peasants into a trained fighting and intelligence-gathering force.
Hunting Che follows Shelton’s American team and the newly formed Bolivian Rangers through the hunt to Che’s eventual capture and execution. With the White House and the Pentagon monitoring every move, Shelton and his team helped prevent another Communist threat from taking root in the West.
Hotel Mars: Building Habitats on the Moon: Engineering Approaches to Lunar Settlements. by Haym Benaroya, with David Livingston, SpaceShow.com
Designing a habitat for the lunar surface? You will need to know more than structural engineering. There are the effects of meteoroids, radiation, and low gravity. Then there are the psychological and psychosocial aspects of living in close quarters, in a dangerous environment, far away from home. All these must be considered when the habitat is sized, materials specified, and structure designed.
The untold story of the great polar explorer who conquered the world's last unknown places, before vanishing in a daring bid to rescue his nemesis.
In the early 1900s, many of the great geographical mysteries that had intrigued adventurers for centuries remained unsolved, leaving some large blank areas on the increasingly detailed maps of the world. The polar regions -- the Northwest Passage, the South Pole, the North Pole and the Northeast Passage -- despite having claimed countless lives, were still shrouded in mystery. One man would claim all these prizes within a span of 20 years.
Roald Amundsen was an adventurer and entertainer of the highest order. Larger than life, arrogant and competitive, he was also a meticulous organizer and planner, willing to learn from the mistakes of others, and humble enough to seek the advice of indigenous peoples skilled in arctic survival -- thus avoiding the early death that was so common among others who challenged the most desolate places on the planet.
But Amundsen's life was one of sharp contrasts: reviled by the British for defeating Robert Falcon Scott in a desperate race to the South Pole, he was loved by his men, hailed as a hero in his native Norway and idolized as a charming and eccentric celebrity in the United States. Drawing on hundreds of recently uncovered press clippings, The Last Viking goes beyond Amundsen's conflicted legacy, revealing a humorous, self-deprecating storyteller who had unusual opinions and dreams; a visionary and showman who won over both his sponsors and his audiences with the same verve that characterized his geographical conquests.
Malcolm Hoenlein: The Bar Kokhba revolt was a rebellion of the Jews of the Roman province of Judea, led by Simon bar Kokhba, against the Roman Empire, circa 132–136 CE. The revolt erupted as a result of ongoing religious and political tensions in Judea following on the failure of the First Revolt in 66−73 CE. These tensions were related to the establishment of a large Roman presence in Judea, changes in administrative life and the economy, together with the outbreak and suppression of Jewish revolts from Mesopotamia to Libya and Cyrenaica. The proximate reasons seem to center on the construction of a new city, Aelia Capitolina, over the ruins of Jerusalem and the erection of a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount.
The presence of a milestone, a stone marking distances, bearing the name of the emperor Hadrian discovered nearby reinforces the idea that the road was built during Hadrian’s rule. The emperor is best known for building walls around his colossal empire, including Hadrian's wall in Carlisle. Coins from the Roman era were found sticking out between the paving stones of the road. Among them, a coin depicting the prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate dating back to 29AD and a coin from Year Two of the Great Jewish Revolt of 67AD were discovered.
DAILY MAIL UK
HOW TO DETECT EXTRATERRESTRIAL SUB-ATOMIC PARTICLES: THE ICECUBE NEUTRINO OBSERVATORY AT THE SOUTH POLE
Sheldon Lee Glashow, 1979 Nobel Laureate in Physics: "A page-turning chronicle of the decades-long struggle by hundreds of physicists and engineers to create a frontier laboratory for the pursuit of the new discipline of neutrino astronomy."
The Telescope in the Ice is about the building of IceCube, which Scientific American has called the "weirdest" of the seven wonders of modern astronomy. It's the inside story of the people who built the instrument, the mistakes they made, the blind alleys they went down, the solutions they found, their conflicts, and their teamwork. It's a success story.
Located at the U. S. Amundsen-Scott Research Station at the geographic South Pole, IceCube is unlike most telescopes in that it is not designed to detect light. It employs a cubic kilometer of diamond-clear ice, more than a mile beneath the surface, to detect an elementary particle known as the neutrino. In 2010, it detected the first extraterrestrial high-energy neutrinos and thus gave birth to a new field of astronomy.
Aside from being a telescope, IceCube is the largest particle physics detector ever built. Its scientific goals span not only astrophysics and cosmology but also pure particle physics. And since the neutrino is one of the strangest and least understood of the known elementary particles, this is fertile ground. Neutrino physics is perhaps the most active field in particle physics today, and IceCube is at this forefront.
This book is mainly about people and the thrill of the chase: the struggle to understand the neutrino ever since it was "invented" by the extraordinary Wolfgang Pauli in 1930, the early researchers who helped understand it, the strange things it taught them about the nature of space and time, and the pioneers and inventors of neutrino astronomy.
First peoples in the Americas my have included European as well as Asian lineage. @nicholaswade.
A European contribution to Native American ancestry could explain two longstanding puzzles about the people’s origins. One is that many ancient Native American skulls, including that of the well-known Kennewick man, look very different from those of the present day population. Another is that one of the five mitochondrial DNA lineages found in Native Americans, the lineage known as X, also occurs in Europeans. One explanation is that Europeans managed to cross the Atlantic in small boats some 20,000 years ago and joined the Native Americans from Siberia.
Dr. Willerslev thinks it more likely that European bearers of the X lineage had migrated across Siberia with the ancestors of the Mal’ta culture and joined them in their trek across the Beringian land bridge.