Posts tagged ‘history’

April 20th, 2015

Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough

by Gwen



“During an eighteen-month period in 1971 and 1972, the FBI reported more than 2,500 bombings on U.S. soil, nearly 5 a day.”

I was born in 1971. So there were 2,500 bombings happening while I was, um, doing whatever it is that babies do. That number shocked me. It’s easy to fall back into thinking that terror in the U.S. started in the last say, twenty years; we’re wrong. The massive difference, that is important to point out, is that most of those bombings in the 70’s had few injuries and even fewer fatalities.

Being in diapers and learning my ABC’s, “the Underground” wasn’t on my radar as a kid and while I’ve heard the name Weather over the years, I certainly had no idea what they stood for or just what their point was before reading this. Burrough’s book gave me a better understanding of the period…and it wasn’t just about protesting the Vietnam War. In fact, it usually wasn’t about the war much at all. That was the big takeaway. I look back and figured that everyone was busy bitching about the war, but there was a lot more going on, like civil rights, Puerto Rican independence, and more.

Days of Rage is well written and breaks up the various underground groups well, really well considering some of these groups were overlapping or active during the same time periods. However, it is far from a flattering portrait and I’m pretty sure that that isn’t Burrough’s fault. The various underground groups were a ragtag bunch; some idealistic, some angry, some drug-addled, etc. It’s hard to fathom this period in our great history where things  were so freaking bad that groups of people thought they had to start bombing and planning to kill people just to get their point across. (with the exception of the obvious mainstream things like the Revolution or the Civil War)

The book was interesting and well done…the subject, or really that should be plural, was just lousy. Burrough’s says it well here…

“In the end, the untold story of the underground era, stretching from 1970 to 1985, is one of misplaced idealism, naiveté, and stunning arrogance.”

Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence by Bryan Burrough

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (April 7, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1594204292
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204296

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature


July 25th, 2010

The War Lovers by Evan Thomas

by Gwen


Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst and the Rush to Empire, 1898

This isn’t the Teddy Roosevelt that you studied in high school. Teddy Roosevelt, you know the guy that said, “speak softly and carry a big stick” and called everything “Bully”. Teddy, was the Rough Rider that went on safari to Africa after his presidency, bringing back loads of game that are still stored in the Smithsonian. You see a completely different side to dear old Teddy in The War Lovers.

You see, T.R. was a product of his time and at that time, society and even most scientists still believed that all races were not equal. Both Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge regarded blacks as inferior, but they fought for them to get equal rights as citizens. Honorable for the time? Sure, but totally self-serving when it came to invading Cuba in 1898, which is the subject of this book.

Roosevelt, Lodge, & William Randolph Hearst were all after the same thing in 1898, freeing Cuba from Spain. The difference is that they were war crazy for different reasons and honestly, it is debatable whether any of their reasons were good for the future of America. Flying the flag of Manifest Destiny, these three concocted, finagled, went behind peoples backs, and just plain conned America into a period of Imperialism that really hasn’t ended to this day.

What’s amazing about The War Lovers was the interactions. The people knew how to talk with beautiful language, even when they are busy putting you in your place. Many of the quotes made me laugh out loud. It was so full of their words that it was like living history. It is what made the book special, the intimacy that Thomas develops by using letters back and forth to each other and speeches from the stump.

The book was shocking in its portrayal of Roosevelt. I was disgusted when I read his views on people of color until I really started to put it in the context of the day. That attitude was the norm, it would have been strange for him not to be a racist then.

Should you read it? Well, like I mentioned, the quotes made this book not only interesting, but entertaining. It was thought provoking and I couldn’t help compare that period to the time right before we invaded Iraq the second time. The whole country was stirring, we wanted revenge, we were arrogant enough to think that the people of Iraq rather have us rule than Sadaam. Only future historians will be able to responsibly judge us and I fear what their verdict will be.

The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst and the Rush to Empire, 1898 by Evan Thomas

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031600409X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316004091


June 5th, 2009

Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land by Nina Burleigh

by Gwen

There are some non fiction books that you learn from and make you a better contestant on Jeopardy and then there are non fiction books that really make you ponder and question how you, yourself, see and think about things. Unholy business is one of the later and a pretty good one at that.

Nina Burleigh’s book traces the tale of the James Ossuary and the trial that is still under way. An ossuary is a limestone box for containing bones and the James Ossuary has an inscription that when translated reads, “”James son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus”. This may not seem important until you think about it for a minute. If authentic, it could be the first archaeological evidence for the historical existence of Jesus.

Biblical archeology is not the Indiana Jones type archeology that you usually picture. It is awash with hucksters, moral dilemmas and more. After all, you are not just studying history, you are sifting through time and a subject which many hold near and dear to their hearts and minds. Wars are fought over the differing opinions of religion and the archeologists are locked in the struggle as well. For every person that is looking to prove that what is in the bible actually happened, there is someone that wants to prove that it is all fiction or that their religion is the only “true” religion and of course, there are those that are just wanting to make a buck with the whole situation.

The people that Burleigh interviewed for her book came from all sides and by doing so, she gives you an amazing picture of not only the illegal trade in objects, but of biblical archeology as a whole. Unholy Business made for some interesting discussions at my house and we are not what I would call religious. If you are, it just may make you look at your faith from a new angle.

Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land
by Nina Burleigh

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Collins (October 21, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0061458457
ISBN-13: 978-0061458453
Amazon: $18.15 new