Reading list, 2012
- De Re Militari (On Roman Military Matters) by Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus.
A 5th Century training manual for the organization, weapons and tactics of the Roman Legions. Vegetius’s “De Re Militari” was the only major work of Roman military science to survive from classical times. It was widely studied in the Middle Ages and was a key source for Medieval warfare and siege tactics.
- De Agri Cultura (On Agriculture) by M. Porcius Cato Maior and M. Terentius Varro.
Cato (M. Porcius Cato) the elder (234–149 BCE) of Tusculum, statesman and soldier, was the first important writer in Latin prose. His speeches, works on jurisprudence and the art of war, his precepts to his son on various subjects, and his great historical work on Rome and Italy are lost. But we have his De Agricultura; terse, severely wise, grimly humorous, it gives rules in various aspects of a farmer’s economy, including even medical and cooking recipes, and reveals interesting details of domestic life.
Varro (M. Terentius), 116–27 BCE, of Reate, renowned for his vast learning, was an antiquarian, historian, philologist, student of science, agriculturist, and poet. He was a republican who was reconciled to Julius Caesar and was marked out by him to supervise an intended national library. Of Varro’s more than seventy works involving hundreds of volumes we have only one on agriculture and country affairs (Rerum Rusticarum) and part of his work on the Latin language (De Lingua Latina; Loeb nos. 333, 334), though we know much about his Satires. Each of the three books on country affairs begins with an effective mise en scene and uses dialogue. The first book deals with agriculture and farm management, the second with sheep and oxen, the third with poultry and the keeping of other animals large and small, including bees and fishponds. There are lively interludes and a graphic background of political events.
- Maskerade by Terry Pratchett.
There are strange goings-on at the Opera House in Ankh-Morpork. A ghost in a white mask is murdering, well, quite a lot of people, and two witches (it really isn’t wise to call them “meddling, interfering old baggages”), or perhaps three, take a hand in unravelling the mystery.
- 1984 by George Orwell.
- The Deceiver by Frederick Forsyth.
Kirkus Reviews: “Forsyth’s stalwart tribute to the spies who came in from the cold: four thriller-novellas featuring the intrigues of British superagent Sam McCready. With the cold war over, the Foreign Office has decided to retire its veteran spies, beginning with McCready, the “deceiver” – head of Britain’s disinformation desk since 1983. McCready balks, demanding a hearing at which his assistant relates four of McCready’s most daring exploits.”
- The Folklore of Discworld by Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson.
Amazon: “One of the most interesting and critically underrated novelists we have … The Folklore of Discworld – co-authored with the eminent folklorist Jacqueline Simpson – emphasizes his irreverence and drollery.”
- Звездни Дневници (Bulgarian translation of The Star Diaries) by Stanislaw Lem.
Kirkus Reviews: “The Polish SF writer’s Star Diaries is a crazy-quilt collection of pieces written, according to Kandel, “over a period of twenty years” and published in 1971. They present the voyages of Ijon Tichy, an incomparable and apparently indestructible fathead who is to the future what J. Wesley Smith (of the immortal cartoon “Through History With…”) was to the past. Tichy bumbles and stumbles around the cosmos running out of gas between stars, sneaking around in cybernetic drag on a planet of mad robots, trying to duplicate himself (in a tail-chasing time loop near a “gravitational vortex”) long enough to do a two-man rudder repair job, botching up the course of human events in a history-salvaging operation. Lem veers between joyous slapstick, freewheeling satire, and insanely involuted logical paradoxes – with surprisingly serious excursions into issues of will and faith. Funny, unexpected, tantalizing.”
- The Roman Mother by Suzanne Dixon.
Amazon: “The traditional Roman attitude to mothers and motherhood is traced back to its Republican origins. “A most useful addition to recent books on Roman women”, JACT Review. This book should be of interest to students and teachers of Roman history and women’s studies.”
- No Comebacks by Frederick Forsyth.
Amazon: “Here are ten suspenseful, serpentine stories of betrayal, blackmail, murder, and revenge… all culminating in shocking twists of fate. Within these pages live a wealth of characters you will not soon forget… people whose lives become irrevocably trapped in a world of no comebacks, beyond the point of no return – from the manipulators and the manipulated to the ultra-rich capable of buying and selling human lives, to the everyday man manoeuvred by circumstances into performing deadly acts of violence.
- The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen.
- Temple of The Grail by Adriana Koulias.
- Spook Country by William Gibson.
Amazon: “Tito is in his early twenties. Born in Cuba, he speaks fluent Russian, lives in one room in a NoLita warehouse, and does delicate jobs involving information transfer.
Hollis Henry is an investigative journalist, on assignment from a magazine called Node. Node doesn’t exist yet, which is fine; she’s used to that. But it seems to be actively blocking the kind of buzz that magazines normally cultivate before they start up. Really actively blocking it. It’s odd, even a little scary, if Hollis lets herself think about it much. Which she doesn’t; she can’t afford to.
Milgrim is a junkie. A high-end junkie, hooked on prescription antianxiety drugs. Milgrim figures he wouldn’t survive twenty-four hours if Brown, the mystery man who saved him from a misunderstanding with his dealer, ever stopped supplying those little bubble packs. What exactly Brown is up to Milgrim can’t say, but it seems to be military in nature. At least, Milgrim’s very nuanced Russian would seem to be a big part of it, as would breaking into locked rooms.
Bobby Chombo is a “producer,” and an enigma. In his day job, Bobby is a troubleshooter for manufacturers of military navigation equipment. He refuses to sleep in the same place twice. He meets no one. Hollis Henry has been told to find him.
- The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 by Chris Wickham.
Amazon: “The world known as the ‘Dark Ages’, often seen as a time of barbarism, was in fact the crucible in which modern Europe would be created. Chris Wickham’s acclaimed history shows how this period, encompassing people such as Goths, Franks, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, was central to the development of our history and culture. From the collapse of the Roman Empire to the establishment of new European states, and from Ireland to Constantinople, the Baltic to the Mediterranean, this landmark work makes sense of a time of invasion and turbulence, but also of continuity, creativity and achievement.
- Count Zero by William Gibson.
Amazon: “Turner, corporate mercenary, wakes in a reconstructed body, a beautiful woman by his side. Then Hosaka Corporation reactivates him for a mission more dangerous than the one he’s recovering from: Maas-Neotek’s chief of R&D is defecting. Turner is the one assigned to get him out intact, along with the biochip he’s perfected. But this proves to be of supreme interest to certain other parties–some of whom aren’t remotely human.
Bobby Newmark is entirely human: a rustbelt data-hustler totally unprepared for what comes his way when the defection triggers war in cyberspace. With voodoo on the Net and a price on his head, Newmark thinks he’s only trying to get out alive. A stylish, streetsmart, frighteningly probable parable of the future and sequel to Neuromancer”.
- The Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC – 150 AD by Chris Webber.
Amazon: “Herodotus described the Thracians (who inhabited what is now roughly modern Bulgaria, Romania, the European part of Turkey and northern Greece) as the most numerous nation of all – apart from the Indians – and said that they would be the most powerful of all nations if they didn’t enjoy fighting each other so much. There may have been a million Thracians, divided among as many as 40 tribes.
Ancient writers were hard put to decide which of the Thracian tribes was the most valiant; they were employed as mercenaries by all the great Mediterranean civilizations. Thrace had the potential to field huge numbers of troops, and the Greeks and Romans lived in fear of a dark Thracian cloud descending from the north, devastating civilization in the Balkans. The Thracian way of warfare had a huge influence on Classical Greek and Hellenistic warfare. After Thrace was conquered by the Romans, the Thracians provided a ready source of tough auxiliaries to the Roman army.
Chris Webber gives an overview of Thracian history and culture, but focuses predominantly on their warfare and weapons. The latest archaeological finds are used to give the most detailed and accurate picture yet of their arms, armor and costume. He identifies and differentiates the many different tribes, showing that their weapons and tactics varied. The resulting study should be welcomed by anyone interested in the archaeology and history of the region or in classical warfare as a whole.”
- Soul Music by Terry Pratchett.
Amazon: “When her dear old Granddad — the Grim Reaper himself — goes missing, Susan takes over the family business. The progeny of Death’s adopted daughter and his apprentice, she shows real talent for the trade. That is until a little string in her heart goes “twang.”
With a head full of dreams and a pocketful of lint, Imp the Bard lands in Ankh-Morpork, yearning to become a rock star. Determined to devote his life to music, the unlucky fellow soon finds that all his dreams are coming true. Well almost.
In this finger-snapping, toe-tapping tale of youth, Death, and rocks that roll, Terry Pratchett once again demonstrates the wit and genius that have propelled him to the highest echelons of parody next to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.”
- Time Is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak.
Amazon: “The story opens in a distant future on earth – so distant, in fact, that space travel is only a memory of the past. After countless attempts, man has begrudgingly acknowledged itself defeated by the insurmountable difficulties of travel to the stars. But, in the attempt, mankind has rediscovered and refined a long-lost talent – paranormal kinetics, a form of telepathy by which gifted individuals – called “parries” – can “travel” to the stars and experience with their minds all that other worlds have to offer. Fishhook, a corporation set up to develop, market, sell and profit from the myriad wonders the telepathic travelers find has succumbed to the greed of a monopoly. It now secretly works at promoting a global belief that these abilities are somehow abnormal, twisted or, even worse, represent a perverted, evil magic as opposed to a normal but seldom used human talent.”
- Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front by Joel Salatin.
Amazon: “Drawing upon 40 years’ experience as an ecological farmer and marketer, Joel Salatin explains with humor and passion why Americans do not have the freedom to choose the food they purchase and eat. From child labor regulations to food inspection, bureaucrats provide themselves sole discretion over what food is available in the local marketplace. Their system favours industrial, global corporate food systems and discourages community-based food commerce, resulting in homogenized selection, mediocre quality, and exposure to non-organic farming practices. Salatin’s expert insight explains why local food is expensive and difficult to find and will illuminate for the reader a deeper understanding of the industrial food complex.”
- Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin.
Amazon: “From farmer Joel Salatin’s point of view, life in the 21st century just ain’t normal. In “Folks, This Ain’t Normal”, he discusses how far removed we are from the simple, sustainable joy that comes from living close to the land and the people we love. Salatin has many thoughts on what normal is and shares practical and philosophical ideas for changing our lives in small ways that have big impact.
Salatin, hailed by the New York Times as “Virginia’s most multifaceted agrarian since Thomas Jefferson [and] the high priest of the pasture” and profiled in the Academy Award nominated documentary Food, Inc. and the bestselling book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, understands what food should be: Wholesome, seasonal, raised naturally, procured locally, prepared lovingly, and eaten with a profound reverence for the circle of life. And his message doesn’t stop there. From child-rearing, to creating quality family time, to respecting the environment, Salatin writes with a wicked sense of humor and true storyteller’s knack for the revealing anecdote.
Salatin’s crucial message and distinctive voice – practical, provocative, scientific, and down-home philosophical in equal measure – make “Folks, This Ain’t Normal” a must-read book.”
- Making Money by Terry Pratchett.
Amazon: “Amazingly, former arch-swindler-turned-Postmaster General Moist von Lipwig has somehow managed to get the woefully inefficient Ankh-Morpork Post Office running like… well, not like a government office at all. Now the supreme despot Lord Vetinari is asking Moist if he’d like to make some real money. Vetinari wants Moist to resuscitate the venerable Royal Mint— so that perhaps it will no longer cost considerably more than a penny to make a penny.
Moist doesn’t want the job. However, a request from Ankh-Morpork’s current ruling tyrant isn’t a “request” per se, more like a “once-in-a-lifetime-offer-you-can-certainly-refuse-if-you-feel-you’ve-lived-quite-long-enough”. So Moist will just have to learn to deal with elderly Royal Bank chairman Topsy (née Turvy) Lavish and her two loaded crossbows, a face-lapping Mint manager, and a chief clerk who’s probably a vampire. But he’ll soon be making lethal enemies as well as money, especially if he can’t figure out where all the gold has gone.”
- Knight: The Medieval Warrior’s (Unofficial) Manual by Michael Prestwich.
Amazon: “The knight is the supreme warrior of the Middle Ages. Fully armored and mounted on a magnificent charger, he seems invincible. Honor and glory await him as, guided by the chivalric code, he fights with lance and sword.
This carefully researched yet entertaining book provides all the essential information you need to become a successful knight in the later Middle Ages, during the period of the Hundred Years’ War. Should you go on a Crusade? Which order of chivalry might you consider joining? What is required when you go through the ceremony of knighthood?
Here are the answers to these and many more questions plus practical advice on topics such as equipment, fighting methods, and the conventions of warfare. But the knightly life is not all battles and sieges: there are also tournaments and jousts to enjoy and the world of courtly love.
Based on contemporary lives and descriptions, this book — written by a leading medieval historian — paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be a medieval knight. 30 color and 60 black-and-white illustrations.”
- The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine by Simon Price and Peter Thonemann.
Amazon: “To an extraordinary extent we continue to live in the shadow of the classical world. At every level from languages to calendars to political systems, we are the descendants of a ‘classical Europe’, using frames of reference created by ancient Mediterranean cultures. As this consistently fresh and surprising new book makes clear, however, this was no less true for the inhabitants of those classical civilizations themselves, whose myths, history, and buildings were an elaborate engagement with an already old and revered past filled with great leaders and writers, emigrations and battles. Indeed, much of the reason we know so much about the classical past is the obsessive importance it held for so many generations of Greeks and Romans, who interpreted and reinterpreted their changing casts of heroes and villains. Figures such as Alexander the Great and Augustus Caesar loom large in our imaginations today, but they were themselves fascinated by what had preceded them. “The Birth of Classical Europe” is therefore both an authoritative history, and also a fascinating attempt to show how our own changing values and interests have shaped our feelings about an era which is by some measures very remote but by others startlingly close.”
- Costumes of the Greeks and Romans by Thomas Hope.
Amazon: “For over 150 years considered among the finest, most accurate, most useful renderings of authentic costumes from these early civilizations. Carefully copied from ancient vases and statuary, these engravings combine unusual clarity of style with unquestioned authenticity. Over 700 illustrations depict all classes and occupations.”