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.
Tyler Trafford was a reporter in Calgary Alberta Canada. Following his mother's death in 2004 he inherited a Campbell soup cardboard box from his Mother. It was crammed with letters, a journal and photographs that revealed a history of his mother he never imagined. His mother was a beautiful girl from a rich family in Montreal whose Mother was controlling. She met a young pilot from Norway who was training at a nearby base. His name was Jens Muller, the love letters were from him. He went down over German and was a P.O. W. he was with a group that escaped. A movie was made about the escape called "The Great Escape" Muller was one of the few that made it out. I will not spoil the story but Trafford wrote the book about how he puts his mother's life as a young woman together. It does show how decision made can effect our life forever. Mike Vendetti does a good job reading the story.
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.