Meeting Report

October 1, 2010

Book Reviews

Ten of us met for the rare treat of presenting and listening to book reports. There were seven reports spanning a very wide range of topics.

The first report was by Anna Andrews, who told us about One Dark Night by Rochelle Dreeben (ISBN-13: 978-0967037639), which is a true account of the escape of a mother and daughter from a Nazi concentration camp. Sadly, the paterfamilias, who boosted them over the camp fence, remained behind to be killed by his captors.

Next came Carl Seratt, who spoke about Legionary, the Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Handbook, by Philip Matyszak (ISBN-13: 978-0500251515). Much of the charm of this book lies in comparing the similarities and differences between the way ancient and modern armies have functioned.

The third book, presented by Wayne Luney, was Banquet at Delmonico’s, by Barry Werth (ISBN-13: 978-1400067787). It is about the acceptance of Charles Darwin's ideas by the intellectual and business elites in the United States in the 1870s, and also the reception of Herbert Spencer during his visit to America and the rise of social Darwinism among the same elites.

Next, Esther Franklin presented George Gershwin: His Life and Work, by Howard Pollack (print edition ISBN-13: 978-0520248649), which was in audio book form. This was a fascinating glimpse into the world of one of America’s most talented and prolific composers. Esther also played an excerpt from the audio book, which vision problems require her to use for most of her “reading.”

Then Roger Zabkie gave his report on Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, by Andrew J. Bacevich (ISBN-13: 978-080509141). This work, by a Boston University professor who is also a retired US Army colonel, is an alarming critique of the steady evolution of United States foreign policy since WWII, and the “shipwreck” that awaits us if we do not alter our course.

The sixth report, given by Pete Holmquist, was on Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle, by Adam Cohen (print edition ISBN-10: 159420196X), also an audio book. This was a very fascinating compendium of the sweeping actions taken by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration almost immediately upon taking office in 1933. With a compliant Congress and an electorate rocked by extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, FDR was able—and willing—to enact an unprecedented array of “alphabet soup” legislation which most likely saved the US from revolution.

Finally, Bill Potts presented The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (ISBN-13: 978-044657922). As is usual with Jon Stewart’s material, this book is a mixture of humor, satire, and startling fact, stirred to perfection and baked until well done. Its premise is that visiting aliens may learn about us from the book, as the human race will most likely be rendered extinct by the time they arrive. Even if their arrival comes soon.

Thus ended an enjoyable evening of literary exploration. We all brought and took away ideas worth pondering.

Report prepared by Roger Zabkie, Secretary

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