Nicolas loves to read History and Science Fiction, when he is not working. He also enjoys children's literature, being a former children's librarian. The picture you see is not him, but one of his favorite historical figures.
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Woodstock and Altamont run like a thread through any history of rock and roll. One began the romance of the rock and roll subculture, the other brought it to a sobering and violent conclusion. Author Joel Selvin traces the evolution of the "free concert" idea, its influence on the British Rock scene, and what ultimately drove the Rolling Stones to make a series of disastrous decisions that led directly to the death of Meredith Hunter. Selvin is unsparing in pointing out the many mistakes that were made before, during, and after the debacle at Altamont and what the concert meant for the world of Rock and Roll. This book is a must read if you are interested in the 1960s, music history, or just a story of Woodstock's dark counterpart.
As the birthplace of democracy, Athens has a sacred place in the Western political imaginations. However, Athens had an on and off relationship with the democratic system, playing host to oligarchies and empires, and eventually being subjugated by the ambitions of Alexander the Great. Through the political history of Athens, we can see the strengths and weaknesses of a purely democratic state. One that required constant civic participation from each citizen, but one that could also turn on its greatest men when they failed to live up to expectations. A state that could make leaders of ordinary men, but one that was easy prey for demagogues. Athens provides a unique lesson in the perils and strengths of the democratic system, which makes it worth a read in the year of one of the most contentious elections in US history.
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As Voltaire once said, the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor, roman, nor an empire. In the strictest sense, he was correct. However, the Empire, much like the modern United Nations, defies easy categorization and common sense to a certain degree. This is not a book for the beginner; it assumes a basic familiarity with the history of the Empire, its ruling dynasties, and the medieval and early modern European history in general. The book is not organized chronologically, but into 4 sections: Ideal, Belonging, Governance, and Society. This structure allows the author to delve more deeply into aspects of the Empire that would otherwise be uncovered in a strict chronological history, but does make the book a bit more complicated. For all the work it takes to read this book (and it can be work), this is a history that is integral to understanding the evolution of the continent from Chistendom to Europe.
The Bronze Age continues to mystify many people and seems, much like the Roman Empire or Song China, like something vague and shadowy. The only civilization most of us are familiar with from this period is the Egyptians! Author Eric Cline does a great job at enabling the reader to draw parallels to an age which is similar to our own (international trade, multi-polar, etc.), despite the passage of millennia. When the world essentially collapses (spoilers!), that similarity made me stop and think about how that could happen to our modern international system. A fascinating read with a great deal of relevance to the current world.
It may seem odd to write a recommendation for a 13 year old book that covers a 16 year old financial disaster, but Enron is a special case. Much like the Columbine shooting, Enron is subject to persistent myths that shape how the public views the disaster even today. Enron's fall was not the product of the two mustache twirling villains, Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow, tying investors to the tracks until they get hit by the train. It is a much more complex tale of market greed and inflated expectations, lax regulation and ethical lapses. The Smartest Guys in the Room presents a the tale in a way that lays (no pun intended) bare the complex and disturbing truth of what happens when corporations game the system, the market rewards them, and the government won't stop them. A cautionary tale for our times.