Whimsical, Satirical, and Charming

Hidden Figures

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

In the 1880s, leisure boating took hold in Great Britain, and thus Jerome K. Jerome planned a trip to write a Thames boating travelogue. He ended up, after traveling with two friends up the river from Kingston to Oxford, with a witty, whimsical, and thoroughly charming little book. Refreshing and unrushed, an absolute charmer.

Jurgen by James Branch Cabell

He counted among his admirers H. L. Mencken, Mark Twain, and Sinclair Lewis, and wrote dozens of novels set in an arch and very adult fantasy world. Jurgen won Cabell notoriety for its supposed salaciousness – our hero is a serial seducer which did not go over well in 1919 America, but sex is not the point – satire and deft writing is as Jurgen goes all the way to Hell on his travels.

The Complete Stories of Saki by H. H. Munro

A vengeful ferret deity, a talking cat, a woman reincarnated as an otter, and the foibles of countless upper-class twits – Saki merged the strange, the silly, and the laughable in dozens of compact and memorable stories set among the toffs in Great Britain pre-WWI. Clever young boys and devious young men are his favorite heroes, but there’s a bite of nasty delight in all his work.

Military History

Fresco, Pompeii

Culture and Carnage by Victor David Hanson

Victor Hanson recreates nine battles fought by armies from the West against other cultures, from Salamis and Cannae to Midway and Tet, and ties them to a cultural superiority defined by freedom, citizen armies, group discipline combined with individual initiative, Capitalism, technology and ruthlessness. Lucid, controversial, unflinching in the telling of the true costs of war, a powerful argument that victory often stemmed from greater freedoms.

The Face of Battle by John Keegan

John Keegan’s landmark The Face of Battle brought warfare down from grand and sweeping portraits to the ground where the men, weapons, tactics and strategies determined the outcomes at Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme , challenging assumptions, myths and stereotypes along the way in exacting and lively battlefield analyses.

The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman

Opinionated, sometimes maddening but always as entertaining as a conversation with a brilliant and much-missed friend, Barbara Tuchman tries here to understand why the Trojans, Renaissance Popes, King George III and American presidents from Kennedy to Nixon and their wisemen committed to wars that were, as the title claims, follies.