I'm trying a book diary... Feels like a primary school exercise.
May 2013 -
April 2013 - Righteous Victims by Benny Morris. The most comprehensive account of the Middle East conflict, but I think it loses it a bit after Sadat comes to Jerusalem and the conclusion was a bit weak.
January 2013 - The Chosen Few - Eckstein and Botticini - An amazing book about Jewish demographics between the first century CE and the 15th century. The authors argue that in the second century the Rabbinical leaders of the Jews took a decision to make literacy compulsory, even ordering that illiterate Jews be boycotted. As a result there was a massive movement of Jews into Christianity (which made no such demands) while the structure of Jewish occupations switched to a focus on trade, manufacture, money lending and other occupations where literacy was an advantage. In particular there was a massive movement of Jews out of agriculture.
a lot of the material they use is based on the Cairo Geniza.
26 December 2012 - Five to Rule Them All - David Bosco - Few people seem aware that the UN Security Council pretty much runs the UN. I got his book because I felt I needed to better understand how it works, at first look I thought it was a mistake (I got it from Amazon) but its proving a real eye-opener.
9 December 2012 - The Most Human Human - Brian Christian - Nettie passed this on to me, apparently she got it following Fabiano's recomendation. A brilliantly original book and an excellent insight into making conversation by analyzing how computers fake human chat.
30 November 2012 - Bible and Sword - Barbara Tuchman - A re-read, I read this years ago. This time I particularly noticed the superb conclusion explaining why the British took over 'Palestine'. she thinks the Balfour Declaration was basically a justification for conquest. The British needed a strong justification for such a contested land and their real interest was protecting Suez and the route to India. Its interesting how many different explanations one gets for the Balfour declaration (anti-semitic influences, desire for Jewish support, Weizmann's chemistry, evangelical influences). I think the variety of explanations reflects how many different needs the declaration met and that juxtaposition is what led to it being made.
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Hope I grew up knowing very little about my birth grandmother - not even her name - although I knew that she had been killed in the Holoca...