Friday, April 10, 2009

Some books I am reading at the moment

I am nearly done with Tom Rick's The Gamble, his follow up to the magnificent Fiasco. Although you could certainly read The Gamble without reading Fiasco, it would be a waste not to read them both. Fiasco is longer and much bleaker focusing on how the war became such a clusterfuck. The Gamble is about the coming of the surge and where we are now. While you are reading the Gamble you will want to go read the various smarties over at In Other Words (including Ricks himself) talk about the book.

I'll have more on it later (short answer: it's awesome, go read it) but most readers of the books will note the difference in the portrayal of General Raymond Odierno,the current commander of US forces in Iraq. He came out rather poorly in Fiasco. In the initial invasion, he commanded the 4th Infantry Division, which had a reputation for excessive force and was criticized by Ricks for contributing to the rise of the insurgency. In the Gamble, he is one of the great heros, taking a careful counter-insurgent approach and winning the trust and support of the pacifistic Emma Sky.

So the question I have is whether Ricks got it wrong in the first book, perhaps overemphasizing the force used by the 4th ID, or whether Odierno truly changed his approach to warfighting. I am having a hard time thinking of any other senior military leader who made such a sea change.

I am about to start the Lost City of Z, which sounds awesome. It concerns a real life Indiana Jones explorer who was lost in Brazil in the 20s. What is interesting is the blurbage firepower on the back. There are multi-sentence blurbs from Erik Larson, Charles Mann, Malcolm Gladwell, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Hampton Sides. The author, David Grann, is a New Yorker writer, which I suspect gives him great pull, but sheesh, that is the nonfiction big think bestseller crowd coming out in force.

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