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BOOK HELP - Best Biographies, books on 20th Century history AND a Sci Fi


G.A.C.O.L.B.

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So here's the situation: On Saturday my little brother is driving across country to start a new job (because he's lazy. /sarc) I'm getting him a Kindle as a going away present. I've always been the big reader nerd in the family, and he's the gamer nerd (and college baseball player jock before that). Lately though we've been having a lot of discussions about history (particularly 20th Century--my favorite.) All very non-political btw

Just spoke with him right now and he said the books he'd like (he doesn't know he's getting a Kindle yet, just a discussion on books) would pertain to that very topic--20th Century history. As well as some awesome biographies on influential historical figures and cool sci fi book or two.

So what are some recommendations?

20th Century History - He said he'd like to be pretty linear on the 20th Century. Figured I'd start him at WWI and go through WW2, hit the height of the Cold War and up to or even past Vietnam. Anyone have good books they'd recommend on this period? (Please spare me "Common Sense", "The Federalist Papers", "The Communist Manifesto" and the like. He's just getting into this stuff, slow and easy.

Biographies - No clue here. Benjamin Franklin? Lincoln? Truman? Stalin? HItler? I really don't know.

Sci Fi - I was thinking maybe Dune. But I'm open to any help.

I know this thread will probably get 2 replies--10 at most (sorry mods)--but those few replies will be of immense help. So really, thanks ahead of time.

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You can never go wrong with Zinn's A People's History of the United States. It's pretty much a Marxist interpretation of American history, but, even if you don't buy into Zinn's interpretation, it's still a damn good read.

If you want to get your brother into reading historical non-fiction, skip the American politicians (with all due respect to them, their lives were boring as crap) and buy him either Selwyn Raab's Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires or T.J. English's Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution. You can NEVER go wrong with literature on the Cosa Nostra.

Finally, sci-fi. I consider Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Go not only to be the best science fiction book I've ever read but also one of the best books to come out in the past 50 years. However, if you're looking for more conventional science fiction, get your brother something by David Mitchell, preferably Cloud Atlas. While this book is composed of six pastiches, its two science fiction portions are unbelievably good.

If you have any particular questions on the books, I'll be more than happy to answer them for you.

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Some other sci-fi suggestions:

- On Basilisk Station by David Webber, the first of his Honor Harrington novels (military sci-fi)

- Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and The Cat That Walks Through Walls by Robert Heinlein are all good reads

- Stardoc by S.L. Viehl, sort of ER in Space

- Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

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Biography - Any of Feynman's popular books like Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (he's a theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize, though you'd never guess it from his easy writing style). Patton: A Genius for War by Carlo D'Este (evenhanded biography about Patton).

I've heard good things about William Manchester's biographies on MacArthur and Churchill. I'd recommend Robert Caro's biographies on Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, but I'm not sure if he would want to read about politicians and power politics.

History - Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor (Goes into deep detail on the awful conditions of both the city fighting and the fate of the German POWs. Doesn't pull any punches on the German generals.). Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed (A history of the central bank leaders before the collapse of the gold standard and the onset of the Great Depression. Surprisingly not dry for a book about financial history.).

Sci-fi - Canticle for Leibowitz (Catholic science fiction...no, really, it works, and it doesn't preach), The Forge of God by Greg Bear (Not going to spoil it. I haven't read the sequel yet...), Hyperion by Dan Simmons (haven't read the sequels yet...).

Edit: Just remembered another good sci-fi book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (as told by the participants).

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You can never go wrong with Zinn's A People's History of the United States. It's pretty much a Marxist interpretation of American history, but, even if you don't buy into Zinn's interpretation, it's still a damn good read.

If you want to get your brother into reading historical non-fiction, skip the American politicians (with all due respect to them, their lives were boring as crap) and buy him either Selwyn Raab's Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires or T.J. English's Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution. You can NEVER go wrong with literature on the Cosa Nostra. .

Ah, you know I thought about Zinn but then dismissed it. I just thought it would be better to play it straight as possible with him. But you're right, it a great read. I'm torn on it now. Love the Mafia idea too. My favorite was always "Double Cross" about Sam Giancana. Total bull**** but goddamn, it's a great read.

Anyway, am considering a biography about a Habsburg archduke after the Great War by Timothy Snyder. Just seems interesting. Plus I'm currently reading Snyder's new book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and am considering putting it on there as well. ( I honestly don't remember how it got on my Kindle or if had even heard of the author before, but I just clicked on it the other day and am really digging it now. Very interesting and well written.)

Need to look into those sci fi's you've mentioned.

As for Sci-Fi, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic. As are Ender's Game, and The Forever War.

Haven't read The Forever War but have read the other two. Loved Space Odyssey (hate the movie) and I really enjoyed Ender's Game. Great recommendations. Thanks man. I'm gonna look into Forever War too.

---------- Post added July-29th-2011 at 03:21 AM ----------

****, wow. Thanks guys. I gotta get to sleep though. Before I go, I get the sense, talking to him, that he's more interested in the why's of the wars, more than the actual battles.

I really appreciate all the recommendations. Me and my brother have a weird relationship. I think we're the same in so many ways, but our likes and interests are really different (sure it has to do with our dad raising him, our mom raising me). I think this is maybe the one thing we can stay connected through. I've moved away myself for awhile, so I know how easy it is to get lost and time flies, and you start forgetting. Our family is REALLY small--especially Mom's side--so I'd hate to see that happen. So seriously, thanks. (God i've gotten so soft :doh:)

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CITIZEN SOLDIERS - Stephen A Ambrose - Simply the best volume on WW2 I have ever read. It is not about generals and plans and strategies .. it is the war in Europe chronologically told in small stories (some only a paragraph) by the men who fought it. Ambrose is the best writer of WW2 history, and he's interviewed thousands and thousands of vets. He stiched together their stories in this book so that the entire war unfolds through their experiences. Some heroes, some cowards, some survivors, some not... just the regular Joes, the Every man's story.

An excellent (and fast) read.

Also by Ambrose - D-Day.. which is much the same, but focuses on D-Day only. It does a lot more in describing planning and strategies. But the tales of battle are all of the men. Very interesting things, things I had never known until reading it. (Like how shocked they were to find some of the German positions manned by Chinese slave laborers / prisoners sent west by Japan.)

Jeff Shaara - To the Last Man

Jeff Shaara - The rising Tide, the Steel Wave, No Less Than Victory (WW2 Trilogy)

Shaara writes historical fiction. He uses every bit of historical fact to tell the story though the eyes of fictional and real characters.

To the Last Man is a novel of WW1 that follows the war though Manfred Von Richthofen (The red Baron), Raoul Lufbery (A pilot in the American Escadrille), Roscoe Temple, an American Marine, and General John "Black Jack" Pershing.

Good reading, good accurate history, even if he makes up the words they say.

Sci Fi- definitely Dune

~Bang

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Love Ambrose Bang. My father is a big fan and turned me on to him. Read most of his books. Definitely should've already thought of him. I'm real interested in Shaara, and for myself as well. Never heard of him. Definitely going to check him out now though. And yeah, Dune is definitely going to be on there. Thanks man.

PleaseBlitz and Fanboy, definitely getting Stalingrad.

Hell, honestly, I'm gonna try to get every book everyone has mentioned so far. They all sound great. The sci fi--outside of the Dune's and the Ender Games--I need to do a little bit of research on. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a definite though, lol.

Thanks again guys. I've already started to download some of these.

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Love Ambrose Bang. My father is a big fan and turned me on to him. Read most of his books. Definitely should've already thought of him. I'm real interested in Shaara, and for myself as well. Never heard of him. Definitely going to check him out now though. And yeah, Dune is definitely going to be on there. Thanks man.

PleaseBlitz and Fanboy, definitely getting Stalingrad.

.

You'll enjoy Shaara. He's written a novel of every American conflict from the revolution on up. (Not Korea or Vietnam yet.. he just published one about the war in the Pacific ..I've got about100 pages left to go..)

His Civil War trilogy: Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels (actually by his father, Michael Shaara) and The Last Good Measure are an outstanding account of the civil war in the east (The Killer Angels is only about Gettysburg.. one of my favorite books. And outstanding read.)

Speaking of Stalingrad.. try "The War of the Rats" by David L. Robbins.. which is the same story as "Enemy at the Gates", but by a different author and from a different perspective. It's about the same duel between the snipers, but both books end their similarities right there. totally different tellings of the story.

~Bang

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