A war book recommendation: Spoils by Brian Van Reet

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2zIJOL0.
Yet Spoils is undeniably engrossing all the same – and smart, too, embedding in its structure a sharp appraisal of the conflict…
Book description from Google Books:
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence “An electrifying debut” (The Economist) that maps the blurred lines between good and evil, soldier and civilian, victor and vanquished. It is April 2003. American forces have taken Baghdad and are now charged with winning hearts and minds. But this vital tipping point is barely recognized for what it is, as a series of miscalculations and blunders fuels an already-simmering insurgency intent on making Iraq the next graveyard of empires.In dazzling and propulsive prose, Brian Van Reet explores the lives on both sides of the battle lines: Cassandra, a nineteen-year-old gunner on an American Humvee who is captured during a deadly firefight and awakens in a prison cell; Abu Al-Hool, a lifelong mujahedeen beset by a simmering crisis of conscience as he struggles against enemies from without and within, including the new wave of far more radicalized jihadists; and Specialist Sleed, a tank crewman who goes along with a “victimless” crime, the consequences of which are more awful than any he could have imagined.Depicting a war spinning rapidly out of control, destined to become a modern classic, Spoils is an unsparing and morally complex novel that chronicles the achingly human cost of combat.
The book is rated 3.93/5 at goodreads.com, from 341 ratings. See 91 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iSABrw.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iT484h.

A war book recommendation: He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by S Jonathan Bass

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h64vIk.
Bass unearths the heretofore undocumented story of Caliph Washington and his trek through the depths of Jim Crow justice. The complex lives that populate his jailhouse journey from segregation through civil rights braid the movement’s gains and limitations into a red thread tracing the current crisis of race and criminal justice.
Book description from Google Books:
Caliph Washington didn’t pull the trigger but, as Officer James “Cowboy” Clark lay dying, he had no choice but to turn on his heel and run. The year was 1957; Cowboy Clark was white, Caliph Washington was black, and this was the Jim Crow South.As He Calls Me by Lightning painstakingly chronicles, Washington, then a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the “lightning” of the electric chair. Twentieth-century legal history is tragically littered with thousands of stories of such judicial cruelty, but S. Jonathan Bass’s account is remarkable in that he has been able to meticulously re-create Washington’s saga, animating a life that was not supposed to matter.Given the familiar paradigm of an African American man being falsely accused of killing a white policeman, it would be all too easy to apply a reductionist view to the story. What makes He Calls Me by Lightning so unusual are a spate of unknown variables–most prominently the fact that Governor George Wallace, nationally infamous for his active advocacy of segregation, did, in fact, save this death row inmate’s life. As we discover, Wallace stayed Washington’s execution not once but more than a dozen times, reflecting a philosophy about the death penalty that has not been perpetuated by his successors.Other details make Washington’s story significant to legal history, not the least of which is that the defendant endured three separate trials and then was held in a county jail for five more years before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1970; this decision was overturned as well, although the charges were never dismissed. Bass’s account is also particularly noteworthy for his evocation of Washington’s native Bessemer, a gritty, industrial city lying only thirteen miles to the east of Birmingham, Alabama, whose singularly fascinating story is frequently overlooked by historians.By rescuing Washington’s unknown life trajectory–along with the stories of his intrepid lawyers, David Hood Jr. and Orzell Billingsley, and Christine Luna, an Italian-American teacher and activist who would become Washington’s bride upon his release–Bass brings to multidimensional life many different strands of the civil rights movement. Devastating and essential, He Calls Me by Lightning demands that we take into account the thousands of lives cast away by systemic racism, and powerfully demonstrates just how much we still do not know.
The book is rated 3.87/5 at goodreads.com, from 52 ratings. See 21 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h9dWqh.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2ixeF53.

A war book recommendation: The Weapon Wizards: How Israel Became a High-Tech Military Superpower by Yaakov Katz

A critic review (source Washington Times) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iyP4c1.
With many of Israel’s military technological innovations employed by its American military counterparts (and with the U.S. military industry also involved in joint development programs), this book offers welcome insights into welcome achievements.
Book description from Google Books:
“A lively account of Israel’s evolving military prowess…if The Weapon Wizards were a novel, it would be one written by Horatio Alger; if it were a biblical allegory, it would be the story of David and Goliath.” —The New York Times Book ReviewFrom drones to satellites, missile defense systems to cyber warfare, Israel is leading the world when it comes to new technology being deployed on the modern battlefield. The Weapon Wizards shows how this tiny nation of 8 million learned to adapt to the changes in warfare and in the defense industry and become the new prototype of a 21st century superpower, not in size, but rather in innovation and efficiency—and as a result of its long war experience. Sitting on the front lines of how wars are fought in the 21st century, Israel has developed in its arms trade new weapons and retrofitted old ones so they remain effective, relevant, and deadly on a constantly-changing battlefield. While other countries begin to prepare for these challenges, they are looking to Israel—and specifically its weapons—for guidance. Israel is, in effect, a laboratory for the rest of the world. How did Israel do it? And what are the military and geopolitical implications of these developments? These are some of the key questions Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot address. Drawing on a vast amount of research, and unparalleled access to the Israeli defense establishment, this book is a report directly from the front lines.
The book is rated 4.26/5 at goodreads.com, from 145 ratings. See 19 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iwB9TC.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h6x7kw.

A war book recommendation: Spoils by Brian Van Reet

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2zIJOL0.
Yet Spoils is undeniably engrossing all the same – and smart, too, embedding in its structure a sharp appraisal of the conflict…
Book description from Google Books:
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence “An electrifying debut” (The Economist) that maps the blurred lines between good and evil, soldier and civilian, victor and vanquished. It is April 2003. American forces have taken Baghdad and are now charged with winning hearts and minds. But this vital tipping point is barely recognized for what it is, as a series of miscalculations and blunders fuels an already-simmering insurgency intent on making Iraq the next graveyard of empires.In dazzling and propulsive prose, Brian Van Reet explores the lives on both sides of the battle lines: Cassandra, a nineteen-year-old gunner on an American Humvee who is captured during a deadly firefight and awakens in a prison cell; Abu Al-Hool, a lifelong mujahedeen beset by a simmering crisis of conscience as he struggles against enemies from without and within, including the new wave of far more radicalized jihadists; and Specialist Sleed, a tank crewman who goes along with a “victimless” crime, the consequences of which are more awful than any he could have imagined.Depicting a war spinning rapidly out of control, destined to become a modern classic, Spoils is an unsparing and morally complex novel that chronicles the achingly human cost of combat.
The book is rated 3.93/5 at goodreads.com, from 341 ratings. See 91 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iSABrw.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iT484h.

A war book recommendation: The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior by Robert O’Neill

A critic review (source Washington Times) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2hcBoD6.
Written from the vantage point of a warrior who was there, “The Operator” is an interesting and insightful book about some of the most historic moments in modern American military history.
Book description from Google Books:
New York Times Bestseller A stirringly evocative, thought-provoking, and often jaw-dropping account, The Operator ranges across SEAL Team Operator Robert O’Neill’s awe-inspiring four-hundred-mission career, which included his involvement in attempts to rescue “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell and abducted-by-Somali-pirates Captain Richard Phillips and which culminated in those famous three shots that dispatched the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.In these pages, O’Neill describes his idyllic childhood in Butte, Montana; his impulsive decision to join the SEALs; the arduous evaluation and training process; and the even tougher gauntlet he had to run to join the SEALs’ most elite unit. After officially becoming a SEAL, O’Neill would spend more than a decade in the most intense counterterror effort in US history. For extended periods, not a night passed without him and his small team recording multiple enemy kills—and though he was lucky enough to survive, several of the SEALs he’d trained with and fought beside never made it home. The Operator describes the nonstop action of O’Neill’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, evokes the black humor of years-long combat, brings to vivid life the lethal efficiency of the military’s most selective units, and reveals firsthand details of the most celebrated terrorist takedown in history.
The book is rated 4.34/5 at goodreads.com, from 2810 ratings. See 568 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2hcBw5y.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iFYbrh.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A war book recommendation: Breaking the Silence: Untold Veterans’ Stories from the Great War to Afghanistan by Ted Barris

A critic review (source Globe and Mail) can be read at: https://tgam.ca/2h9ZRsN.
The one drawback was that the wartime anecdotes are not formatted chronologically…That said, Barris is a natural storyteller. Whether he is bringing a veteran’s exploits to life or detailing his own experiences, Breaking the Silence is an entertaining and informative read.
Book description from Google Books:
“Never talked about it.” That’s what most people say when they’re asked if the veteran in the family ever shared wartime experiences. Describing combat, imprisonment or lost comrades from the World Wars, the Korea War, or even Afghanistan is reserved for Remembrance Day or the Legion lounge. Nobody was ever supposed to see them get emotional, show their vulnerability. Nobody was ever to know the hell of their war. About 25 years ago, Ted Barris began breaking through the silence. Because of his unique interviewing skills, he found that veterans would talk to him, set the record straight and put a face on the service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform. As a result of his work on 15 previous books, Barris has earned a reputation of trust among Canada’s veterans. Indeed, over the years, nearly 3,000 of them have shared their memories, all offering original material for his books. Among other revelations in Breaking the Silence, veterans of the Great War reflect on an extraordinary first Armistice in 1918; decorated Second World War fighter pilots talk about their thirst for blood in the sky; Canadian POWs explain how they survived Chinese attempts to brainwash them during the Korean War; and soldiers with the Afghanistan mission talk about the horrors of the “friendly fire” incident near Kandahar. Breaking the Silence is a ground-breaking book that goes to the heart of veterans’ war-time experiences.
The book is rated 3.85/5 at goodreads.com, from 20 ratings. See 2 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iDuWFt.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2hccoMA.

A war book recommendation: The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior by Robert O’Neill

A critic review (source Washington Times) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2hcBoD6.
Written from the vantage point of a warrior who was there, “The Operator” is an interesting and insightful book about some of the most historic moments in modern American military history.
Book description from Google Books:
New York Times Bestseller A stirringly evocative, thought-provoking, and often jaw-dropping account, The Operator ranges across SEAL Team Operator Robert O’Neill’s awe-inspiring four-hundred-mission career, which included his involvement in attempts to rescue “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell and abducted-by-Somali-pirates Captain Richard Phillips and which culminated in those famous three shots that dispatched the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.In these pages, O’Neill describes his idyllic childhood in Butte, Montana; his impulsive decision to join the SEALs; the arduous evaluation and training process; and the even tougher gauntlet he had to run to join the SEALs’ most elite unit. After officially becoming a SEAL, O’Neill would spend more than a decade in the most intense counterterror effort in US history. For extended periods, not a night passed without him and his small team recording multiple enemy kills—and though he was lucky enough to survive, several of the SEALs he’d trained with and fought beside never made it home. The Operator describes the nonstop action of O’Neill’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, evokes the black humor of years-long combat, brings to vivid life the lethal efficiency of the military’s most selective units, and reveals firsthand details of the most celebrated terrorist takedown in history.
The book is rated 4.34/5 at goodreads.com, from 2785 ratings. See 564 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2hcBw5y.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iFYbrh.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A war book recommendation: Passchendaele: A New History by Nick Lloyd

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2izZb0j.
This story, told from both sides but with more emphasis on the British perspective, is as emblematic of the futility of World War I as any other. Yet there is an object lesson to be learned here…
Book description from Google Books:
The Third Battle of Ypres was a ‘lost victory’ for the British Army in 1917. Between July and November 1917, in a small corner of Belgium, more than 500,000 men were killed or maimed, gassed or drowned – and many of the bodies were never found. The Ypres offensive represents the modern impression of the First World War: splintered trees, water-filled craters, muddy shell-holes. The climax was one of the worst battles of both world wars: Passchendaele. The village fell eventually, only for the whole offensive to be called off. But, as Nick Lloyd shows, notably through previously overlooked German archive material, it is striking how close the British came to forcing the German Army to make a major retreat in Belgium in October 1917. Far from being a pointless and futile waste of men, the battle was a startling illustration of how effective British tactics and operations had become by 1917 and put the Allies nearer to a major turning point in the war than we have ever imagined. Published for the 100th anniversary of this major conflict, Passchendaele is the most compelling and comprehensive account ever written of the climax of trench warfare on the Western Front.
The book is rated 4.32/5 at goodreads.com, from 59 ratings. See 11 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h9hSr9.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h9hWqT.

A war book recommendation: The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h5ce9y.
…fast-paced narrative history depicted with irresistible verve, bloody battle scenes and moments of laugh-out-loud wit.
Book description from Google Books:
An instant bestseller, this major new history of the knights Templar is “a fresh, muscular and compelling history of the ultimate military-religious crusading order, combining sensible scholarship with narrative swagger” – Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem   A faltering war in the middle east. A band of elite warriors determined to fight to the death to protect Christianity’s holiest sites. A global financial network unaccountable to any government. A sinister plot founded on a web of lies.Jerusalem 1119. A small group of knights seeking a purpose in the violent aftermath of the First Crusade decides to set up a new order. These are the first Knights Templar, a band of elite warriors prepared to give their lives to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Over the next two hundred years, the Templars would become the most powerful religious order of the medieval world. Their legend has inspired fervent speculation ever since.  In this groundbreaking narrative history, Dan Jones tells the true story of the Templars for the first time in a generation, drawing on extensive original sources to build a gripping account of these Christian holy warriors whose heroism and alleged depravity have been shrouded in myth. The Templars were protected by the pope and sworn to strict vows of celibacy. They fought the forces of Islam in hand-to-hand combat on the sun-baked hills where Jesus lived and died, finding their nemesis in Saladin, who vowed to drive all Christians from the lands of Islam. Experts at channeling money across borders, they established the medieval world’s banking network and waged private wars against anyone who threatened their interests. A vindictive King of France set his sights on their fortune. He instructed his lawyers to mount a damning case against them, built on deliberate lies and false testimony. Then on Friday October 13, 1307, hundreds of brothers were arrested, imprisoned and tortured, and the order was disbanded amid lurid accusations of sexual misconduct and heresy. They were tried by the Pope in secret proceedings and publicly humiliated. But were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state? Dan Jones goes back to the sources tobring their dramatic tale, so relevant to our own times, in a book that is at once authoritative and compulsively readable.
The book is rated 3.84/5 at goodreads.com, from 237 ratings. See 46 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h5ci9i.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h5QH0r.

A war book recommendation: He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by S Jonathan Bass

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h64vIk.
Bass unearths the heretofore undocumented story of Caliph Washington and his trek through the depths of Jim Crow justice. The complex lives that populate his jailhouse journey from segregation through civil rights braid the movement’s gains and limitations into a red thread tracing the current crisis of race and criminal justice.
Book description from Google Books:
Caliph Washington didn’t pull the trigger but, as Officer James “Cowboy” Clark lay dying, he had no choice but to turn on his heel and run. The year was 1957; Cowboy Clark was white, Caliph Washington was black, and this was the Jim Crow South.As He Calls Me by Lightning painstakingly chronicles, Washington, then a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the “lightning” of the electric chair. Twentieth-century legal history is tragically littered with thousands of stories of such judicial cruelty, but S. Jonathan Bass’s account is remarkable in that he has been able to meticulously re-create Washington’s saga, animating a life that was not supposed to matter.Given the familiar paradigm of an African American man being falsely accused of killing a white policeman, it would be all too easy to apply a reductionist view to the story. What makes He Calls Me by Lightning so unusual are a spate of unknown variables–most prominently the fact that Governor George Wallace, nationally infamous for his active advocacy of segregation, did, in fact, save this death row inmate’s life. As we discover, Wallace stayed Washington’s execution not once but more than a dozen times, reflecting a philosophy about the death penalty that has not been perpetuated by his successors.Other details make Washington’s story significant to legal history, not the least of which is that the defendant endured three separate trials and then was held in a county jail for five more years before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1970; this decision was overturned as well, although the charges were never dismissed. Bass’s account is also particularly noteworthy for his evocation of Washington’s native Bessemer, a gritty, industrial city lying only thirteen miles to the east of Birmingham, Alabama, whose singularly fascinating story is frequently overlooked by historians.By rescuing Washington’s unknown life trajectory–along with the stories of his intrepid lawyers, David Hood Jr. and Orzell Billingsley, and Christine Luna, an Italian-American teacher and activist who would become Washington’s bride upon his release–Bass brings to multidimensional life many different strands of the civil rights movement. Devastating and essential, He Calls Me by Lightning demands that we take into account the thousands of lives cast away by systemic racism, and powerfully demonstrates just how much we still do not know.
The book is rated 4.00/5 at goodreads.com, from 47 ratings. See 18 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h9dWqh.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2ixeF53.