American History-US History: An Overview of the Most Important People & Events. The History of United States: From Indians to Contemporary History of America by William D Willis

This crisp recapitulation is a great read for students of history, political science, administration and law. For others it is an interesting read to increase their understanding about the mightiest country in the world where everything is done king size.

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Title: American History-US History: An Overview of the Most Important People & Events. The History of United States: From Indians to Contemporary History of America.

Author: William D Willis

Publisher: Lean Stone Publishing

Date of Publication: 20 November 2016

Genre: History/Politics

Rating: 5/5

 

history

 

Factual, tedious and irrelevant.

This is often how readers perceive lengthy accounts of historical incidents. However, this book is anything but that. It is a detailed documentation about the rise and growth of one of the most powerful countries in the history of nation states on the face of this planet.

The account describes the Americas with an unbiased and a prismatic view. Importantly, it presents the different points of views and opinions that have risen at various instances in laying the foundation of the country. One such example is the dispute regarding the celebration of Columbus Day on 12 October in memory of a personality who was the first to land on American soil but was also a well-known tyrant and slave trader. Initially the book presents historical facts; then interactive questions are posed that make readers think about the other possibilities or how history may have been altered had things taken a different course.

The pictorial illustrations of maps demarcating the various locations of the Americas and the impact of colonisation on the land is very useful. The book is informative and profound. The detailing is accurate and one is bound to go away with a lot of new knowledge. The sections that appear at the end of individual chapters titled “Through the Eyes of an Eye Witness” helps to establish a clearer picture of the severity of the colonisation process on the people living on the North American continent. The “Fun Facts” and “Misconceptions” sections also add to the educative quotient. In many instances, full original texts of handwritten letters, advertisement blue prints and published cartoons are printed which add liveliness that is reflected in the literary manifestations of featured poems on nationalistic themes such as those by William Wadsworth Longfellow.

The book deals with a very difficult subject with ease in a simplified manner. From medievalism to creation of a New World constructed by British and other European forces, America has seen storms and braced them bravely. The Treaty of Paris marked its establishment as a sovereign nation.  But it took America a longer time to achieve true independence. With internal upheavals and disintegrations, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the rise of feminist movements demanding employment and suffrage; America is a nation that turned its bitter experiences to become a global entrepreneur and pioneer of change. It evolved from a land of aborigines to a land of immigrants that thrives on the promising American Dream. The book reveals that immigration bans are not new to the United States and laws to curb an influx of immigrants have been enforced since forever. “The United States had become a global player, and less than 120 years after its own independence, the nation had risen to prominence to rival Europe. Its relative insulation from European wars and the vast expanse of resources and land afforded the United States, along with its freedoms and wages that enticed large numbers of skilled labour, gave it such a position.” (pg 109, Constant Wars and Security, Chapter 5- The Great War and the Great Depression). The superiority of the United States over other colonies lies not only in the fact that it boldly stood through the tests put forward by its opponents but it challenged its colonizers, ousted them and rose to unimaginable heights.

While Norman Cousins believes that “History is a vast early warning system” and Mao Zedong notes that “Political power grows out of a barrel of a gun”; time is bound to acknowledge that history also often repeats itself. There are not just two sides to a story but many more. Playing a historian is a difficult position to be in and the author has fulfilled his role as an humanely unbiased narrator responsibly. This crisp recapitulation is a great read for students of history, political science, administration and law. Others may find it an interesting read to increase their understanding about the mightiest country in the world where everything is done king size.

India: History of India: From Prehistoric Settlements to the Modern Republic of India by Edward Pannell

Drawing on the exotic ambience that became the reason for invaders to want to occupy this land, Pannell presents a historical perspective from the days of “milk and honey”.

 

Title: India: History of India: From Prehistoric Settlements to the Modern Republic of India

Author: Edward Pannell

Publisher: Lean Stone Publishing

Date of Publication: 15 June 2017

Genre: History/Politics

Rating: 5/5

 

india

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”- Mark Twain

An unbiased and concise guide that delves into the very heart of the Indian subcontinent.

Opening with the inevitable enchantment that the very name has left for ages on the minds of people, Edward Pannell vows to leave no stone unturned. Drawing on the exotic ambience that became the reason for invaders to want to occupy this land, Pannell presents a historical perspective from the days of “milk and honey”. The narrative begins with the medieval era, ever since which the rise and demise of several ruling dynasties left India to be juggled from one hand to the other only to augment its magnetism. The French, Portuguese and European naval arrivals led to the British settlements leaving the final blow to the subcontinent by forcing its split into 3 parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Noting the various impressions on this land, he dissects the evolution of Indian history in a precise and factual manner. The counter events and civil revolutions are pitched with pros and cons to the original events that have several political bases. Pannell masters the art of presenting such a vivid and vibrant picture within mere 55 pages.

The language of the book is concise with short sentences that are easily understood. His apt choice of words presents the facts in a scientific and precise manner. Everything is to the point. The book follows a chronological movement of events. Images are patterned in the order in which they actually occurred. Pannell does not provide any personal detailing or added comments. The book serves as a handy guide for those interested in visiting or are already planning a trip to India in the near future. It may even be used as an introductory course book for school.

Some interesting facts included in the book are: corruption is not the only reason for India’s regression; it is the largest democracy in the world; falls in the category of one of the top 10% of wealthy nations; though a large section of the society is lives in abject poverty struggling for access to basic necessities. For those above them in the social strata things aren’t any better. They can only avail infrastructure and employment facilities that are below average in comparison to a lot of the world. Yet, India poses to be a promising superpower on the rise. The addition of “Interesting Facts” and “Pop Quizzes” at the end of each chapter makes the book more engaging. It highlights that one of the primary characteristics of India’s rich culture and heritage is its unity in the midst of diversity. It reassures of making a visit to India a unique experience that once attracted tourists because of its well established education, cultural and spiritual centres which explains the presence of eligible Indian origin workforce abroad, the spread of Ayurveda and the global practice of yoga to name a few.

The book gives an overview into everything Indian but it does not provide any travel tips though it may complement a travel guide well. Towards the end of the book is some useful information about sight-seeing in Delhi, visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra or Jaisalmer forts and Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad though the information is limited and misses out travel tips on the whole. However, the book helps in forming a connection with India to those who are absolutely alien to its rich history and culture.

Effortless, briefly enlightening and a very helpful handbook.

The Crazy in Babylon by Darrin J Friedman

This chiaroscuro is the very spirit of the novel. It delves in the darkness of the world and human nature in which the rules of the game change upon shifts of fortune. At all times it is both a monetary and a mind game.

Title: The Crazy in Babylon

Author: Darrin J Friedman

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Date of Publication: 11 July 2017

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 4/5

babylon
A top notch money broker battles depression as he tries to overcome the humiliation of a terminated work contract and an untimely divorce.

Being the best is always not easy. It comes at a price of self- sacrifice, determination, steadfastness and most importantly a steady temperament. Yale graduate Dan is well aware of the demanding nature of his work but his bipolarity will not allow him to focus through the very basic of daily activities. With events, both in his professional and personal life moving out of his favour, it is a rough ride as Dan struggles to make ends meet and regain his lost vigour.

Darrin J Friedman creates a fast paced thriller that will leave the readers asking for more. The story revolves around Dan’s personal and professional failures only to reveal the hidden darker realities of the brokerage industry. Sooner or later the incidents hint at realms of global political scenarios. With the constant intrusion of the CIA on the one hand and the underworld mafia on the other hand, Dan is in for a surprising set of mishaps that are far from putting his life together. He gets reappointed into his previous workplace on the basis of his ingenuity and diligence. Is it a sudden realisation on the part of his boss or are there more names at stake?
Becca is the biggest surprise, both to Dan and the readers. Initially she may appear to be a stupid and selfish person but Friedman instils in her the attributes of a strong lead female protagonist. Though the story revolves around Dan, it is Becca who shows great moral strength, courage and clear insights. Things take a toll as he is sent on a secret mission by the largest stake holder of the firm. A murky Bess sends along her granddaughter Becca for accompaniment as the duo move from posh locations and grand hotels, oodles of cash at their disposal and American military spying equipment. Underneath the glitz and glamour of elitism are the not so subtle hints of panopticism, surveillance, cyber-attacks, artificial intelligence, the banes of military nuclear weaponry and the difficulties of choice that harsh situations provide. With a clarity of thought, Friedman is straight forward in expressing his ideas. What is remarkable is the unbiased and open minded positions he is able to take in wheeling the entire narrative to a positive end despite dramatic and heart breaking downfalls. The scenery is not elaborated in detail except for mere mention of geographical locations such as Vegas or Washington DC. This enhances the focus on the characters and their personal histories.
Most characters are round and each is drawn distinctly from the others. They evolve as the story progresses to reveal the psychological reasons behind their behavior that is eventually shaped by their experiences. This chiaroscuro is the very spirit of the novel. It delves in the darkness of the world and human nature in which the rules of the game change upon shifts of fortune. At all times it is both a monetary and a mind game.
However, most of the characters recurrently use curse words in place of meaningful English language adjectives which after the first third may be a bit unsettling. Yet Friedman never misses to highlight the inherent goodness present in people who are hardened by the world. The plot is highly episodic and non- linear. Reminiscences glide from the present to flashbacks of the past and pining for a better future.
Dialogues are crisp and conversational. The second half of the novel races through events at a break neck speed as more characters and drastic defeats add to the climactic asphyxiations. Emotions run riot as Dan and his ex-wife feel estranged; Dan’s own drug regulated existence and Becca’s vengeful attitude caused by childhood molestation after the death of her mother. The power of a woman to woman relationship is at the heart of the novel.
It is the femme fatale Becca who brings a resolution by balancing passion and profession in a truly superhuman way. Above all, it does away with the notion of mental illness as a barrier to performing well in life. The author’s note at the end of the book is a judicious inclusion. With some added cadence and detailing of plot, the novel can be readily materialised into a major motion picture. Friedman reveals with sensitivity the bad things that happen to good people but with patience and perseverance a suitable end can be accomplished.

Informative, racy and an unpredictably jolted ride that fascinates the imagination.

Sand ‘n Ashes by Paul Tait

At all times there is a sense of honesty and desire to provide a solution as reflected in “Within us/ Rests the Demon” that is probably the moral of the entire collection. Tait asserts the notion that no society can progress towards faithfulness without self correction.

 

Title: Sand ‘n Ashes

Author: Paul Tait

Publisher: Book Baby

Date of Publication: 1 June 2017

Genre: Poetry

Rating: 3/5

 

sand

“Five o’clock in my mind
Every day
Is Saturday”

From the writer of Stray Lines, Markings in the Cave and Pirate Conductor, comes this remarkable piece of post-modern poetry. Drawing on themes of pain, death, time and unreciprocated affection, the poems are a lot beyond the ordinary mix of cosmopolitan chaos and romanticised history. Their charm lies in the balance between depicting passionate emotions within glimpses of modern reality.

The poems reflect the post-modern dilemma in trying to reconcile the excesses of developmental façade with the inner human instincts. The book opens to reveal a ‘Table of Consented’ with its oxymoronic, numeric or simply ironical titles. Brief and succinct poems are presented in three parts. There is a unique amalgamation of the sorrows of the past and the worries of the future that leads to the existence within a convoluted present. It is the emotions that lie behind this ‘present’ that is particularized by the poet. He seeks to hold onto his values and not lose faith. It is his uprightness that holds the book together.

Most of the incidents and emotions dealt within the book are very relatable. Almost all the poems present some sort of graphological deviation in a staircase or mosaic pattern. Tait uses heavy word play that not only offers dual meanings but also reflects the duplicity of the world. A few instances include “Applause Pause, Pepperoni Pepperoni-oni, Enunciate, Enunciate-ate, Kerosene Spleen”. He uses free verse without any particular rhyme scheme. The poems are more conversational and informal making them quintessentially post-modern. Hate, Faithlessness, Double facedness, Deceitfulness are few of the vices of humanity that Tait explores. Though he heavily uses wordplay to hint at several meanings simultaneously but his tone is never satirical or expletive. He candidly portrays the ills of society and his own outlook towards them seen in the line “Time lies” from Dispatch. At all times there is a sense of honesty and desire to provide a solution as reflected in “Within us/ Rests the Demon” that is probably the moral of the entire collection. Tait asserts the notion that no society can progress towards faithfulness without self correction. Tait boldly conveys the truth despite the fears of censorship lurking about in a world that faces constant policing. Contrasts are pitted and internal debates held to humanize a broken humanity. Holistically they are echoes from an aching soul best seen in Choose a colour.
Towards the middle of the book, the poems get very intense. They seem like a rant about unreciprocated love and heartbreak but nostalgia overflows in each of these. Tait takes Fragments to a whole new level where Time is personified as a woman being chased by her lover. The imagery gets denser when modern metaphors intervene such as the comparison between a racing heart and a rail road. The poems in this section are more autobiographical with notions of man’s journey in this world, path to a Christian redemption, God’s grace and man’s innate desires towards worldly things that take him away from God. All these battles are to be fought in periods of absolute loneliness during which writing is the only refuge for the poet. Snippets prevail in Fragments II. They are akin to witty raps or late 1960s heavy metal rock. Single word lines aim to reinforce the poet’s voice. Here towards the end Tait discloses his emotions without any apprehension. It has touches of personal autobiographical elements as seen in the memoir to his mother.

Short, sweet and musically modern.

Joy in a Box and Other Stories by Sally Hanan

Each story is an emotionally mature representations of human relations which makes the book highly easy to connect with. Most of the instances joy is never devoid of sorrow and vice versa. It is in the balance of both that the little joys of life are felt.

 

Title: Joy in a Box and Other Stories

Author: Sally Hanan

Publisher: Fire Drinkers Publishing

Date of Publication: 24 October 2014

Genre: Short Stories

Rating: 5/5

jiab

 

A must read collection of soul soothing tales.

It fills you on the inside completely. It makes you puff your chest up and stand tall in a crowd. At times it makes you jump high in the air. It makes you euphoric but most of all it becomes the reason for you to continue along the tiring journey of life. It is the feeling of ‘joy’ and Joy in a Box is a joyous read.
The collection encases a number of stories that are poignantly presented to charm the reader. The stories are emotionally captivating and realistic. Some of them are based on real life incidents that had been reported. Others are explications of Biblical narratives. The short stories deal with varied themes of pain that is felt at the loss of a dear one, the difficulties of overcoming the grief of a child’s disappearance, the happiness of childbirth, the shade of parental care, the quirkiness of marital relationship and teenage infatuation. Each story is an emotionally mature representations of human relations which makes the book highly easy to connect with. Most of the instances joy is never devoid of sorrow and vice versa. It is in the balance of both that the little joys of life are felt.
The varied angularity of the stories helps to give newer perspectives. The narrative is fresh, non-repetitive and swift. The stories move in a linear manner and unfold gradually. The style is simple and profound that tugs at the heart. Descriptions are vivid and detailed. The book doesn’t try to impose its views on the readers. All things unnecessary are avoided. It is the surprise endings that leave a sense of pathos. The book instils supernatural nature of faith that is personified in Jesus.

Sensitive, relevant and a mature collection providing a relaxing break from the mundanity of urban lifestyle.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Despite its title, the text presents strategy which will be applicable in public administration and planning of modern Althusserian State apparatuses. Most theories of battle advocate diplomacy and cultivation of good relationship with other nations and their leaders.

Title: The Art of War

Author: Sun Tzu

Translator: Thomas Cleary

Publisher: Fingerprint Classics

Date of Publication: First published in 5th Century

Genre: Classics

Rating: 4/5

 

aow

 

 

Words of wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth.

Originally written with ink on bamboo in circa 500 B.C., The Art of War by Tzu is of vital importance in a world of insurmountable conflict. Also known as The Thirteen Chapters, the text is laid out in 13 chapters of almost equal length. Each chapter begins with a broader title which confines straight forward postulations presented in a discrete, point wise manner. The text remains so readily comprehensible that no background to military fiction is required. A linearity of reading may be dropped to grab random points at a single go. Each point presents highly speculative sub themes requiring closer analysis. Despite its title, the text presents strategy which will be applicable in public administration and planning of modern Althusserian State apparatuses. Most theories of battle advocate diplomacy and cultivation of good relationship with other nations and their leaders. The points cover a broad sphere of planning, execution, manoeuvring and strategic tactical dispositions. Calculative speculation is considered analogous to the larger motive at hand. The text is highly didactic, argumentative and logical. Chapters of special importance include strategies of dealing with tough geographical terrain and the use of spies. With ideas such as “divine manipulation of the threads” juxtaposing “forethought”, it totally negates the notion of a Machiavellian fate working with a negative oppositional force to human endeavours. Victory is to be achieved through persistence and proper planning. Applicable at interpersonal and international levels, the text utilises the basics of human psychology to reinforce the combined impact of inner mental strength and physical endurance as the very essence of combat. The larger impression is that managerial skills can only be mastered through discipline and calm in the face of disorder. In teaching self-possession, Tzu musters the idea that the ability to utilise strengths and weaknesses of the opponent in equal proportions makes an eminent leader. Control is to be earned by clever administration, direct communication and visionary leadership.

Epigrammatic and profound.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

It creates a beautiful mirroring effect which blurs the distinction between the reader inside the book and the real reader outside. This travel is like a ride through the book and also through the vastness of life in general in which reading is the only constant companion.

Title: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller

Author: Italo Calvino

Publisher: Vintage Classics

Date of Publication: 1998

Genre: Modernism and Post Modernism

Rating: 4/5

 

calvino

 

Dodging from story to story in a periphrasis of what if(s) and would be(s).

In this experimental piece of fiction, Calvino deals with the theme of quest in a uniquely circular fashion. The book begins with an omniscient narrator addressing the reader in a welcome note to begin an unguarded reading experience of this much awaited release. Although initially it may seem that the narrator is guiding the reader towards a better understanding of the contents of the text but it is in reality a lure. The omniscient narrator is a split between Calvino and a narrative voice that further dichotomises into a narrator-traveller and the reader’s own self- reflection. It creates a beautiful mirroring effect which blurs the distinction between the reader inside the book and the real reader outside. This travel is like a ride through the book and also through the vastness of life in general in which reading is the only constant companion. Travelling at a railway station is juxtaposed with notions of time travelling in a world encased in lexical structures that entraps anyone who enters it. “Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade,” almost serves as a tagline.
Calvino engages the reader in the reading process that is both empirical and cognitive. Reading begins much before the book is opened; in the cover picture, the size of the book, the quality of pages and blurbs. The text is then more in the mind of the reader than in the words on the page. Reading is not restricted to texts alone. It also engages people just as the Reader is engaged in understanding the psychology of the Other Reader, her reasons behind choosing a particular book and estimating her tastes. Both the Reader and Other Reader have to constantly deal with the frustration of printing errors as the first section of each book they buy is repeated over and over in subsequent pages. Though the book stores guarantee to replace faulty copies, the new print editions are equally damaged. The books end abruptly at key junctures and climaxes are dashed to unfold a whole new set of characters in an unfamiliar setting with a completely different storyline. Chapters are titled alternately with numbers and names. While adding to the suspense and absurdity, it coalesces the usual spacio-temporality leading to jolts of inertia as we are thwarted in and out of tales. Though the book endlessly weaves up tales which never conclude but that should not be assumed as supposedly meaningless.
The text is episodic but contiguous. The Reader exchanges numbers with the Other Reader Ludmilla who is a voracious reader. Her phone is answered by her sister Lotaria who is of an opposite nature. She is grim and grumpy. From her the Reader learns of Ludmilla’s experiments at the Lab of Cimmerian Languages run by Professor Uttzi Tuzzi. The episodes combine comedy and satire while reflecting the difficulties of research in extinct languages or the loss of importance in the study of languages that has been replaced by scientific experimentation. The Non- Reader is a highly memorable figure who vows to never read even sign boards. This is his manner of silent protest against the indoctrination of reading as a compulsion since childhood. Another important figure is Silas Flannery and his suffering of the writer’s block. Echoing J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, this episode sets into motion the relation between the real and the illusion as also that of the writer with the reader, the audience, the publishing house and the cultural image of authorship.
Calvino’s style is analogous to the elasticity of his themes. He glides between ideas just as each incomplete story flows into another incomplete story repetitively. The suspense that is built initially is elevated and held till the very end. The last chapter being the shortest, sees the marriage between the Reader and Other Reader as this engaging process of reading and interpreting becomes never ending. Travel does not lead to physical displacement but a mobility in and out of textual nuances enclosing poetic fluidity.

A thrilling topsy turvy ride compressing the existential exuberance within the literary community and book loving circles.