I’ve read twenty books in 2014 and for the most part kept my promise to write a review of each one. Most of the books have been military history books, covering the gamut from World War I to the Falklands War with some pre-World War I military histories thrown in late in the year. I’ve also read some motor sport history books and a book on the history of one of my favorite bands. As it’s the last day of 2014, I thought I’d post about my favorite reads of the year. I decided to write a brief post about the five that I enjoyed the most. As I looked through my reviews, I had a hard time coming to a decision on the top five because with just a few exceptions, I read some pretty good books this year. Rarely did I come away disappointed. With that in mind, here are my top five reads of 2014 in chronological order.
Three Days in June by Jimmy O’Connell – Three Days in June was my first read of 2014 as well as one of my favorites. It is an extraordinary telling of the Falklands Islands War from the perspective of the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment. O’Connell was a member of the unit during the war so he offers a first person perspective. Primarily the book is composed of excerpts from interviews with veterans of 3 Para who participated in the battle as well, diary entries, secondary sources, and accounts from Argentinian participants woven around the common thread of radio log entries. This book is a close up, personal account of The Battle for Mount Longdon. It is a soldier’s eye view of the battle told in the language of the soldier and a book not to be missed.
One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul – I’m a long time fan of the Allman Brothers Band and thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Very much an oral history of the band constructed from interviews with all of the living members of the band throughout it’s various iterations, roadies, family members, significant others, producers, managers and the list goes on – it is probably the most complete history of the band you’ll be able to find. Paul doesn’t try to judge or give weight to any particular version of events, the reader is left to weigh the accounts and decide for themselves. The Allman Brothers Band rose and fell multiple times with a variety of members, the band faced tragedy and demons but continued to make musical magic for 45 years. One Way Out is magnificent telling of an amazing story.
The World of Ham Radio, 1900-1950: A Social History by Richard A. Bartlett – I’m constantly amazed by what I can do as an amateur radio operator; it never ceases to amaze me that I can sit at my radios and without wires or cables talk to other radio operators around the world. It excites me, and Bartlett captures that excitement in this book about the first fifty years of amateur radio. If you’re looking for book on the technical aspects of the hobby, you’ll be disappointed but The World of Ham Radio gets to what the hobby is truly all about – the social aspects, and it details how the hobby developed over the first half of the twentieth century and how the hobby influenced the world around it. If you’re an amateur radio operator I strongly recommend this book.
Beast: The Top Secret Ilmor-Penske Race Car That Shocked the World at the 1994 Indy 500 by Jade Gurss – I remember watching the 1994 Indianapolis 500 and being amazed at what Penske and Ilmor were able to with the car they developed in secrecy and unleashed upon the motor sport world during the “Month of May.” The Penske racing team and the engine builders at Ilmore were able to create a beast of a car in a short amount of time that turned IndyCar racing on its ear; Beast tells the story of how it was done and how it impacted the sport. This is an excellent book that perfectly balances the technical story with the human story. If you have any interest at all in motor spots,this is a book you want to put on your reading list.
Blackett’s War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare by Stephen Budiansky – Blackett’s War is a very different kind of military history book. It doesn’t tell the story of a particular battle or project, it tells the story of how scientists created Operational Research and changed how wars are fought. Budiansky did an excellent job with the personalities involved and in addition to showing how scientists changed how World War II was fought, he also offered a glimpse into the world of science in the early to mid 1900s. It’s a very engaging book and one that you should definitely add to your reading list if you want to look at the war and military history from a different perspective.