Somehow, despite being on a rather tight schedule I’ve managed to finish a few books. Huzzah! Although, by the look of this list, it would probably do me good to read some fiction. ;P Christopher Tyerman: God’s War – a New History of the Crusades
Tyerman goal is to write a new introduction to the Crusades, one that also could be seen as a more modern version to the classics by Steven Runciman. He gives it a good try, but I’m not sure he succeeds. He writes well, but lacks Runciman’s style - and as introductions go God’s War
is a little messy.
While talking about the First Crusade he keeps sliding in sentences like "this law was later changed during Baldwin II". Now this will make sense if you know a little bit about the crusades, but if this is your first introduction I suspect the mention of Baldwin II is a little awkward. Seeing as you’ve just gotten your Bohemond’s and Tancred’s in order and all. (and that is no mean feat! Yes, geeky Crusader humour. Sorry..)
What Tyreman is good at is shedding the light on the economic and political aspects of the world surrounding the Crusades. He has a great analysis of how the cost of siege weapons varied largely dependent on the ease with which one could get hold of timber. In Palestine wood was scarce so siege weapons where expensive. Tyerman argues that the First Crusaders had an advantage since they could use the cheap, European timber that they had shipped to Palestine. Ergo more siege weapons and easier to take cities.
It’s aspects like these that make the book enjoyable, and I would say it is a well written and very interesting book. Just not an introduction. Christopher Clark: The Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947
This now is a great introduction! Clark follows the history of Prussia from the Brandenburgs to the fall of the Third Reich. He has a great, flowing style – and is often quite funny. The fact that he always makes it quite clear which Friedrich Wilhelm he is talking about is also a plus.
His portrait of Friedrich the Great is wonderful – as he manages to combine the large historical lines with small, personal anecdotes. Did you know that the great Friedrich apparently wrote a poem about orgasm? (Sadly this has been lost.) Or that his father, Friedrich Wilhelm I, once forced a professor to be locked in a lecture hall with several bears, while spectators shot fireworks at the bears? Personally I prefer the one with the poetic inclination.
So in conclusion;I really liked this book and heartily recommend it.Emma Hartley: Did David Hasselhoff end the Cold War – facts you need to know about Europe.
I bought this in Berlin seeing as it deals with, among other things, a little known part of German history; David Hasselhoff and his part in bringing down the Berlin Wall. His song "I’ve been looking for Freedom" (based on a German song Auf Der Strasse Nach Suden
) topped the charts for three months in the summer of 1989. Ten years later Hasselhoff visited Berlin and the Checkpoint Charlie museum and lamented that he was not featured as part of the exhibition "How the Wall came down". He felt his song had inspired the movement. *g*
The book lists other facts as well. The Norwegian fact is "In 1998, the Norwegian Prime Minister announced that he was depressed and took several weeks off work". 'tis true, 'tis true. There is also a chapter called "Finnish food is better than French", "The Twelve Stars on the EU flag are a symbol of the Virgin Mary" and so forth.
Great fun and actually quite interesting despite it's odd chapter titles.
Did this man help bring down the Berlin Wall? Well, he just might have...( Cut for Hasselhoffian evidence )