I want to start recording my thoughts on the books I read or listen to (audible)- here are the first “reviews”:
The Next 100 Years by George Friedman- The author proposes how geopolitics will unfold over the next century. He says the U.S. will continue to dominate as the world’s main Superpower. New regional powers will emerge and the U.S. will support or suppress them to maintain its hegemony. These regional powers will be a Polish bloc, Turkey, Japan, and Mexico (not China, Brazil, Iran and India, which seems to be the current popular belief.)
The author believes that the main threat to U.S. dominance would be the amalgamation of a Eurasian superpower. At first Russia will threaten to be this (again), and then the author predicts Turkey will return to Ottoman form. Meanwhile Japan will want to expand (again) after China’s rapid growth collapses and Beijing is weakened. The author predicts that Japan and Turkey will form an alliance and conflict will ignite with a surprise attack in space. At the end of the century Mexico will actually be a power to be reckoned with, especially since a large part of the U.S. population will be Mexican.
All this may sound a bit far-fetched, but the author actually makes a convincing case for his predictions, and also reminds you that people 100 years ago would never have been able to predict the order of the world today. It was a fascinating listen, especially for all the statistical trends and emerging technologies used to support his predictions, like Space-based Solar Power.
Sabriel by Garth Nix-The first two or three chapters were a struggle to dive into, but eventually I was immersed in this strange magical world where the living are haunted by the dead (undead) until they are put to death properly by “anti-necromancers”. Once you get an idea of how the rules of the world work, and its history, its actually really cool and very original! Definitely a must-read if you want to get an idea of the high-quality fantasy literature that is out there. I’m eager to read/ listen to the rest of the series.
God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens- The author recently passed away, and I don’t know if he or Steve Jobs got more status updates on facebook from my friends when it happened. Regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), I think everyone should read this book. As for the author, who narrates the audiobook as well, I wish Americans could sound as articulate and sophisticated as Christopher Hitchens (especially our politicians). He might sound like a snob sometimes, but you can’t deny he’s also very sharp.
Pyramids by Terry Pratchett- Somehow I’ve never read a book by this famous author. Too bad for me! It’s refreshing to be treated to a fantasy novel with witty humor and a very visceral way of describing details to the reader. The author doesn’t quite explain why everything happens, but its enough information for you to visualize the ideas, which keeps the story moving at a nice pace. One of the hilarious characters is a super-smart camel, another is a professional listener; the main character is a pharaoh-prince trained to be an assassin (‘cus the royal coffers are running dry paying for all those expensive pyramids).
The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithridates by Adrienne Mayor- This was a bit long-winded. It was insightful to learn about Mithridates. I wanted to learn about him because of the parallel between the Roman Empire and the United States. Mithridates created a regional empire from his base in Anatolia by poisoning his rivals (including his mother and siblings) and massacring tens of thousands of Roman citizens. He pushed as far west as Greece, and it was there his luck failed and his momentum was destroyed. Forced to go on the defensive, eventually he was so desperate and on the run as to plan a circumvention and surprise attack on Rome around the Black Sea and through the Carpathians where they would never expect him to emerge. Unfortunately, he was mutinied in the Caucasus before this could happen. Bummer.
My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl- His children’s books all had his unique sense of humor and so does this one, though its for mature audiences. Loved it. Laughed out loud reading it. The story is just ridiculous.
The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson- What? Swedish Historical Fiction? I am so happy that this book exists. I guess they made some film of it in the 60’s, but they really could make a new trilogy out of this book. I have a soft spot for Scandinavia and one of the reasons is because of its Viking history. This book illustrates the life of a Viking named Orm, who’s epic adventures take him all over the known world around 1000 A.D. You really get a sense of the way that things were back then (in comparison we have it so easy and are so weak today)… it instantly became one of my all-time favorite books (and all because I hesitantly picked it up at the airport in Oslo or Gotenborg because it had a cool cover illustration of Vikings and I needed to use up the rest of my Kronors- random awesomeness!!)