Category Archives: Nonfiction

“Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe”

John Julius Norwich

I’m fascinated by the period and the characters that are the subject of this book. It has some value as thin overview of the period and I appreciated the chapters about Suleiman, since I didn’t previously know that much about him, but I was disappointed at the English bias of the book and weakness of the chapters on Charles V.

“Return to Glory”

Matthew DeBord

This is the story of Ford’s effort to mark the 50th anniversary of their epic 1966 victory at LeMans by returning to the famous circuit in 2016. It’s a good book, but DeBord underemphsizes the fact that while Ford was number one overall in 1966 they were only first in their class – and 18th overall – in 2016. That fact doesn’t diminish Ford’s victory, since LeMans is a multi-class race, but Ford in 2016 is just not as good a story as Ford vs. Ferrari in 1966.

“The Wright Brothers”

David McCullough

David McCullough’s books are always a pleasure to read and this was no exception. It’s a good biography of the Wrights which doesn’t ignore the role of their sister Katherine and which details the time they spent in Europe, neither of which I knew much about. Wilbur died in 1912 but Orville lived another 36 years. The book doesn’t have much to say about those decades, and I would have appreciated it had there been more about Orville’s life after Wilbur’s death.

While checking dates for this post in Wikipedia, I came across this (Orville’s last flight as pilot was in 1918):

On April 19, 1944, the second production Lockheed Constellation, piloted by Howard Hughes and TWA president Jack Frye, flew from Burbank, California, to Washington, D.C. in 6 hours and 57 minutes (2300 mi – 330.9 mph). On the return trip, the airliner stopped at Wright Field to give Orville Wright his last airplane flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight.[153] He may even have briefly handled the controls. He commented that the wingspan of the Constellation was longer than the distance of his first flight.

By the way, this is not the first time the Wrights have appeared in this blog.

“Replay: The History of Video Games”

Tristan Donovan

“Replay” does for video games (which included arcade, console, and computer games) what “Playing at the World did for wargaming and role playing. It’s a serious book covers the well-selected set of landmark games in depth. I only wish there was an updated edition: a lot has happened in the world of games since this book came out in 2010.

“The Future Was Here”

Jimmy Maher

This book, part of the MIT “Platform Studies” series, is an in-depth look at the design of the Amiga computer, the factors that went into that design, and how the design determined what programmers could do with it. I enjoyed it even though I never owned an Amiga.

(Jimmy Maher is the author of the excellent “Digital Antiquarian” blog.)