Sunday 4 November 2012

Some Interesting Reading...

I realised as I finished a book today that it is a little while since I posted any reviews on the blog, having  restricted myself to the little "What I'm Reading..." box on the right (and even that isn't 100% correct as I normally read one non-fiction and one fiction book concurrently).

My non-fiction reading has been a little varied of late and I have read some interesting books which may prove of interest to some of you...

Over the last couple of years SWMBO has had me watching the TV series The Borgias, knowing little about the historical period it is set it all I could do was tut at the costumes of the Papal and French armies and go with the flow in the knowledge that even a bad historical drama is better than the X-Factor. After series two I decided to find out a little bit more and picked up a copy of Christopher Hibbert's The Borgias (I'd read his Indian Muting history a number of years back and enjoyed that).

Overall it wasn't bad, though the final chapters were a bit rushed. The coverage of the Italian Wars is restricted to the Papal involvement and there are no detailed descriptions of the battles but as a basic overview it was ok and I now know that all the actors in the TV series are far too old, except Jeremy Irons who is not fat enough and doesn't have a big enough nose!

From a wargaming point of view the conflict is interesting and forces raised for it could also be used as and Estilian army or similar in WHFB...

Osprey have been busy re-releasing some OOP books in e-book format and I have recently read two, Will Fowler's Allies at Dieppe: 4 Commando and the US Rangers: 4 Commando and the US Rangers and Nicholas Best's Five Days that Shocked the World.

Fowler's book is an excellent history of the build up and execution of the raid by 4 Commando on the German gun batteries that threatened the Dieppe landing in 1942. Whilst the book was extremely enjoyable it suffered from some awful numerical typos (eg. having Churchill captured by the Boers between the two Boer wars and the Vikings land at Dieppe 900 hundred years before they actually did!).  I have noticed this in a number of Osprey e-books, having a proof reader is fine, but if they have no knowledge of history this sort of thing can creep in.

Despite this I still recommend the book although it could do with some maps (I don't feel Osprey yet understand what they can do with e-books and how they can be formatted without the restrictions of physical printing).

Best's book covers the last few days of the Second World War in Europe and is a collection of inter-woven eye-witness accounts from individuals, both civilian and military (a number famous such as Sophia Loren and the Pope!), that were caught up in the events that unfolded.

It must be hard to find anything new about WWII but Best has done and some of the events that occurred are not widely know and are quite enthralling. A good read that brings a detailed human perspective to horrors of the end of the conflict in Europe.

Finally there is Richard Holmes' Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket, a fascinating book covering all aspects of the army during the black powder from organisation to recruitment to discipline to supply to... well, you name it.

There are sections on all parts of the army, the infantry, cavalry and artillery getting excellent coverage but also the smaller parts which make for interesting reading (the section on medical care is particularly grim).

My only criticism of this book is that there is so much noteworthy information in it, it is hard to retain it all! As well as a fantastic book on the army, it also gives a revealing insight into civilian life during the period as well.

If you are a Horse and Musket gamer and haven't read this, make sure you do!


  1. I read the Borgias. Interesting history but rather a dry writing style.

  2. Have several books on the Borgias - both their story and the history of the early Italian Wars is quite fascinating.

    Rafael Sabatini wrote a historical novel - Banner of the Bull - and a biography of Cesare Borgia which are well worth hunting out.