I am an avid eclectic reader.
Eri Hotta is an independent scholar specializing in Japan international relations. Hotta was born in Tokyo. She received her BA in history from Princeton University, master and Ph.D. from Oxford. She taught at Oxford from 2001-2005. What led me to read this book was it offered the view point of Japan leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack. Hotta makes two central points, 1). Japan’s leaders and its people were influenced by a belief that Japan was destined for international greatness---going to war was a gamble. 2). Japan’s policy making process by 1940 was not open and parliamentary but Japan was not a dictatorship. Decision involved preliminary bargaining interaction with a complex administrative structure. The Japanese constitution allowed the military to advise the Emperor independently of the rest of the government. The author pain staking guides the reader through a convoluted mesh of personalities and principles. Hotta provides a brief history of Japan so the reader can understand what is happening in the eight months leading up to Pearl Harbor. Reading the book led me to learn something about Japanese politics and how Japan’s admiration for the United States began to turn sour in the first part of the twentieth century. A Hotta point out the Japanese language tends to be vague which led to problems with negotiation with the U.S. Secretary of State. Even though Hotta explains about Japanese history, government and politics she lays the blame for the war directly on Japan. Laurel Merlington did a good job narrating the book. If you are interested WWII history this book would interest you.
Von Luck was born in 1911 in Flensburg, the son of a naval officer and descends from an old military family. Von Luck joined a Cavalry regiment in the 100,000 strong Reichwehr in 1929 but was soon transferred to the motorized infantry. In 1931 he came under the tutelage of Erwin Rommel. By 1936 he was a company commander. He served in every battle from Poland, Russia, Africa and France. He was a battalion commander under Rommel. He was captured by the Russian at the end of the war and put into a punishment camp in Kiev. He was released in 1950 and repatriated to West German. He obtained a job working for a coffee company. In 1960 he was on the staff of the British Military Camberley Staff College. He instructed students about the German Tank corp. in various battles in WWII and in particular the battle at Normandy. He did the same for the Swedish and French military. He made a military staff training file with Major General “Pip” Roberts. Von Luck died in January 1997.
Through Von Luck’s memoir you can obtain a rare perspective of the German soldiers and get to see a unique behind the scenes look at the German Army during WWII. Von Luck writes with an easy to read direct style. He offers no excuses and begs no forgiveness for serving his country. He fought because he was a soldier. The book contains hundreds of anecdotes and observations that bring the story to life. If you are interested in World War II this is a must read book. Bronson Pinchot narrated the book.
Over the past four years I have read many books on World War One. This year (2014) marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI and many books are coming out about WWI. I have read quite a few of them already. This book, “1914: The Year the World Ended”, is by the Australian Historian Paul Ham. The book is mostly about how the world went to war and very little about the battles. Recently a number of books by other writers have covered the same ground and done so in a much more enjoyable fashion. Ham tells the story leading up to the war from Austria-Hungarian, Russian, German, Serbian, British, French and Ottoman perspectives. The author follows the ebb and flow of diplomacy in Europe in the years leading up to The Great War. He highlights the feeling of inevitability of war going back a decade that served to cloud everyone’s judgment. He points out that 1914 was a pivotal year in human history. It led to the Russian Revolution, the cold war and was the seed that allowed Nazism and World War II to grow. It changed societies and countries around the globe. It was the beginning of the end of empires and monarchies as the world had known them. At the end of the book Ham relates briefly some of the battles but only covered one “the miracle on the Marne” in any detail. Despite some flaws the author performs an important role in attempting to distill historical work for the broader audiences. As there is a number of books out on this subject I wish Ham would have covered the role of the Australians played in World War One, I think that would have make a more unique book. Robert Meldrum did a good job narrating this 23 hour book.