Friday, December 19, 2014

Books of 2014

Thought I would list out everything I read this year and tell you about my favorites.

Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel - Gary Shteyngart - this was the second time around for me. I still think this is one of the best pieces of fiction I have read. I almost want to commit to Shteyngart being the Douglas Coupland of the 2000s. 

Egypt, Greece and Rome - Charles Freeman - This was a book for a course on the Ancient Mediterranean. Its a textbook. 

 Men Of Bronze - Kagan/Viggiano - You will most likely not geek out over this book like I did and that's ok. I LOVED this book. I want to drive to New Haven and kidnap Donald Kagan a la Field of Dreams. Do you know Donald Kagan? Can you get him to a coffee shop with me? I would do anything for you. I based two papers and an academic presentation off of the content of this book. Greece. Hoplites. Democracy.

One Second After - William Forstchen - another second time around read. Great post-apocalyptic piece of fiction. Quick read. Gets you thinking about a lot of stuff. 

The War of Art - Steven Pressfield - Another second read. I may get on a steady annual read of this book. It helps me focus on what is important. Like finishing my degree in History.

The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation - I have been on a continuous journey to change my health. I like Mark Sisson's approach. I just need to work out more. 

Turning Pro - Steven Pressfield - second in the series of The War of Art. I do love me some Steven Pressfield. 

The Western Way of War - Victor Davis Hanson - I RAN directly to Hanson as a result of reading Kagan. Love the depiction of hoplite battle. Shield on shield. Legs digging into the mud and blood. Not sure how realistic it is, but I love it. 

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 - Rick Atkinson - if you love WWII, you need to read this series of books by Atkinson. I just started the second book on Italy. I read the D-Day and forward one first. Read them in any order you like. I really just love his approach. The way he weaves together personal correspondence, journal entries, news, documents, etc. 

Antigone - Sophocles- for school. 

Its Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens - Danah Boyd - if you have kids and are really wrestling with the phone/tablet/social media thing, you should read this book. If you aren't wrestling with it, you should read this book. It will be a wake-up call either way. SUPER informative. Really helpful.

A Brief History of Ancient Greece - Sarah Pomeroy - text book for a History of Ancient Greece class.

Fingerprints of the Gods - Graham Hancock - going to re-read this one again in 2015. A) because I think my brain is still exploding from reading it. B) because the second edition is coming out and I want it to be fresh. Follow Mr. Hancock on Facebook. You will learn stuff.

One Bullet Away - The Making of a Marine Corps Officer - Nathaniel Fick - solid book. I am a huge fan of Greitens' The Heart and the Fist. Marines or SEALs. 

The Obstacle is the Way - Ryan Holiday - this was a game-changer for me. A really great introduction to the Stoics from Holiday. Set me on the path of reading Seneca. I am appreciating the Stoics. Well worth the wicked cheap kindle download. I hope this comes out in paperback so I can carry it with me.

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch - Lewis Dartnell - interesting. Very interesting. Its a manual for surviving some form a cataclysm. This is the book you take with you when the EMP hits and takes out the Eastern Seaboard or when Stephen King's killer allergy-super virus hits.

Ancient Wargaming - Phil Barker- so I am a wargamer. Little metal and plastic men on a tabletop. I love it. Shut up. Barker is the guy behind my gateway game.

Great Battles of The Ancient World Vol I and II - Garrett Fagan- this year I started listening to The Great Courses. I loved these lectures. I loved the lecture notes even more. I probably listened to this whole lecture series 3 times. I read the notes another 3. I am ticking off books from his recommended reading list. Not really a book per se. But awesome. If you are in to military history and want the list, let me know. 

Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King - not sure what made me pick this up. I haven't read King in a long time. I think I needed something fictional to read. Just to work that part of my brain. He didn't disappoint. Lots of great stories here. 

Fun As Hell - L.J. Kummer- no idea what this was about. I had to look it up. It is a Kindle Single. I am sure someone recommended it. It didnt really move me. 

A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle - I am stealing a review from Susan NYC on Amazon. She sums it up perfectly. She writes: "I love this book. Tolle describes ancient truths and applies them to life in the 21st century in a way that is inspiring and comforting. I took away from this book three simple, yet profound ideas. First and foremost, Tolle believes that we are all connected to each other and that everything we do matters and has an impact on our world. His second idea lies in the power of listening: he suggests that if we can quiet our egos long enough to truly listen, it is possible to feel a sacredness and inner harmony where everything has its perfect place. And lastly, the author speaks of the power of awareness. The moment you notice a pattern of behavior that is no longer working for you, you are a success." I need to hit this one again in 2014. I am sincerely trying to improve. Trying to be more present. Trying to be a better listener. I suck at both. But I am trying real hard.

The Peloponnesian War - Donald Kagan - more Kagan. Basically his chop at Thucydides. Loved it. You can pick this book up (as you can with Thucydides), open to any page, and start reading. Much more accessible than Thucydides. I love his translation.

Jayber Crow - Wendell Berry - this is my must read of the year. The Art of Manliness introduced me to Berry. I am resisting the urge to dive in and read everything he's written because this book has stuck with me. It rattles around in my head. Its like the fiction version of Tolle.

Twelve Tomorrows - ed. Bruce Sterling- needed some fiction. I do like the post-apocalyptic stuff. This wasn't all post-apoc. But it was 12 different views of the future. I liked it. Its important to mix it up. 

The End of the Bronze Age - Robert Drews - I am basing a paper on Drews' conclusions in this book. The paper is for my History of the Ancient Near East class. Originally, I really liked this book. As I have dug in to his sources, I find myself starting to be annoyed with Drews. 

A History of the Ancient Near East - Marc Van De Mieroop - textbook for my History of the Ancient Near East class. 

The Ancient Near East - Mark W. Chavalas- technically, I did not read all of this. But! This is an excellent collection of source documents from the Ancient Near East. Great to have as a reference book. 

A Very Short Introduction to the Ancient Near East - Amanda H. Podany- I discovered these "Very Short Introduction" books and LOVE THEM. About 2/3 of the way through the course, I went off the rails. I totally lost track of who was doing what and when. I needed to piece it all back together. This book was the perfect answer. A Very Short Intro to Alexander is next. :)

Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations - Kenneth Harl- another Great Course. Not as awesome as Fagan but valuable. 

The Call of the Wild - Jack London - this was an Art of Manliness book club recommendation. I had read this when I was young. It is so much better as an adult. So much better. It might also help that I am a dog owner now, but damn, this was a top read of 2014. Way to go Brent!

Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain - I have to thank Super Punch for the recommendation that this book was on sale for $1.99 on Kindle. I have always wanted to read this. I am late to the Bourdain cult, but I love this guy. I will finish this by the end of the year and right now it is a top book.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Farmers, Shields, and Money: An Iterative Approach to the Rise of the Greek Polis

I was selected to give a presentation at the SUNY: Empire State College's 10th Annual Student Academic Conference. The presentation combines two papers I wrote on the emergence of the Greek Hoplites and the influence that group had on the rise of the Greek polis. I am working on recording the audio of the presentation to go with the slides. Until then, here are the slides:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Further Examination of the Hoplite Debate

This is a paper I wrote for a class in Ancient Greek History. This is a continuation of the theme I explored in "A Proposed Alternative to the Hoplite Debate." I examine the thesis of John R. Hall in Donald Kagan's "Men of Bronze." I filter the thesis through Kagan's definition of the debate points and conclude by incorporating Hall's thesis (that hoplites emerged from Greek mercenaries) into my own iterative model.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Donald Kagan on George Will's Baseball Book

I was conducting a brief experiment with a tumblr focusing on history. Then I realized that I needed to actively start the process of publicly re-focusing my public presence. So.....I'm back!

I just finished reading Donald Kagan's essay/critique of politico and Cubs fan, George Will's book on baseball ("Men at Work"). Kagan's essay is called "George Will's Baseball, a Conservative Critique". 

I really just wanted to share a quote from the opening paragraphs on Kagan's friend, Yalie, and former commissioner of baseball: A. Bartlett Giamatti. Kagan says:

"From a more classical perspective Giamatti regarded baseball as a kind of Homeric Odyssey. The better is its hero. He begins at home, but his mission is to venture away from it, encountering various unforseeable dangers. At each station opponents scheme to put him out by strength or skill or guile. Should they succeed he dies on the bases, defeated. If his own heroic talents are superior, however, he completes the circuit and returns victorious to home, there to be greeted with joy by friends he left behind. But Giamatti knew the Iliad too, and as a long time Red Sox fan, he believed that the tragic epic best corresponded to baseball; thus he observed that the game 'was meant to break your heart.'"

I love this passage. It provides a form of convergence for me that is almost unreal. Kagan, my guide star (not to be too dramatic), Homer and in particular, "The Iliad", baseball nada my Red Sox. (Even though they have one three championships since he wrote this and might not be so tragically romantic anymore with the league' second highest payroll. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Proposed Alternative to the Hoplite Debate

This is the paper I wrote for the History of the Ancient Mediterranean class I took with Denise Kawasaki through SUNY Empire State University. In this paper, I took a deep look at a chapter from Donald Kagan's Men of Bronze which reviews the origins, evolution and current fighting points of the "hoplite debate". After considering all sides, I propose an alternative model based on an iterative approach.