Saturday, August 31, 2013


There was a period where I was fascinated by barbarians from the outside coming to destroy civilization.  In the 1980s I saw an ad for the History Book Club and it featured enough titles on outside marauders that I signed up.  My first acquisitions were on Goths, Huns and the Celts.

 1.  The Devil's Horseman: The Mongol Invasion of Europe, James Chambers (1979).  A bad day for Europe when the Mongol armies swept across the Danube on Christmas Day 1241.  Known as "the Devil's Horseman," they were lead by the illiterate military genius Genghis Khan.   Known as barbarians to Western Europe, their tactics have been studied into modern day.  One of my History Book Club purchases. 

 2.  History of the Goths, Herwig Wolfram (1988).  Once thought of a outsiders who brought down the Roman Empire, Wolfram's thesis is that the Goths were misunderstood.  A dense scholarly study originally written for a German audience.  Another History Book Club purchase.

3.  The Celts, Gerhard Herm (1976).   From the northern reaches of Europe, the Celtic warriors were feared for their painting their bodies with blue war paint and appearing as naked madmen on the field of battle.  Later known as a "Roman Nightmare," they helped bring about the fall of the Empire.  Third in the barbarian (History) book club buys.  

4.  The March of the Barbarians, by Harold Lamb, (1940).  Lamb wrote numerous books on Genghis Khan and the Mongols in the 1940s.  He blends history with great story telling.  Can't remember where I bought but a good chance from an Amherst, MA used book store.  

5.  National Geographic Society the Vikings by Howard La Fay (1972).  As barbarians go, the Vikings were lighting quick raiders.  They pillaged their way across Europe, North Africa and even into the Islamic World on the shores of the Caspian Sea.  As you'd expect from NG, great pictures and illustrations.  Bought used most likely in the State Department used book store. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Traveling Parallels

There are many goals and routes you can devise for travel.  A few have decided that following the fat part of the earth, along the equator, is the way to go.  And there there's one contrarian.

1.  Following the Equator: and Anti-Imperialist Essays,  Mark Twain (Part of the Oxford Edition (1996).  Bought new as part of complete collection of Mark Twain -- one of the best book values I've ever invested in.


2.  Equator: A Journey, Thurston Clarke (1988).  Bought used somewhere.


3.  The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam, Eliza Griswold (2010).  Not quite the equator -- ten degrees north.  This seems to be the rough dividing line between Islam and Christianity.  Griswald explores the fault line from Nigeria to the Philippines.  Bought new. 


4.  Pole to Pole With Michael Palin, Michael Palin (1992).  Palin is the contrarian in the bunch traveling up and down rather than side to side.  Companion to the BBC TV series.  Bought used somewhere.