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Gates of Fire : An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (31 August, 1999)
list price: $7.99 -- our price: $7.99
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Editorial Review

Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.

Thus reads an ancient stone at Thermopylae in northern Greece, the site of one of the world's greatest battles for freedom. Here, in 480 B.C., on a narrow mountain pass above the crystalline Aegean, 300 Spartan knights and their allies faced the massive forces of Xerxes, King of Persia. From the start, there was no question but that the Spartans would perish. In Gates of Fire, however, Steven Pressfield makes their courageous defense--and eventual extinction--unbearably suspenseful.

In the tradition of Mary Renault, this historical novel unfolds in flashback. Xeo, the sole Spartan survivor of Thermopylae, has been captured by the Persians, and Xerxes himself presses his young captive to reveal how his tiny cohort kept more than 100,000 Persians at bay for a week. Xeo, however, begins at the beginning, when his childhood home in northern Greece was overrun and he escaped to Sparta. There he is drafted into the elite Spartan guard and rigorously schooled in the art of war--an education brutal enough to destroy half the students, but (oddly enough) not without humor: "The more miserable the conditions, the more convulsing the jokes became, or at least that's how it seems," Xeo recalls. His companions in arms are Alexandros, a gentle boy who turns out to be the most courageous of all, and Rooster, an angry, half-Messenian youth.

Pressfield's descriptions of war are breathtaking in their immediacy. They are also meticulously assembled out of physical detail and crisp, uncluttered metaphor:

The forerank of the enemy collapsed immediately as the first shock hit it; the body-length shields seemed to implode rearward, their anchoring spikes rooted slinging from the earth like tent pins in a gale. The forerank archers were literally bowled off their feet, their wall-like shields caving in upon them like fortress redoubts under the assault of the ram.... The valor of the individual Medes was beyond question, but their light hacking blades were harmless as toys; against the massed wall of Spartan armor, they might as well have been defending themselves with reeds or fennel stalks.
Alas, even this human barrier was bound to collapse, as we knew all along it would. "War is work, not mystery," Xeo laments. But Pressfield's epic seems to make the opposite argument: courage on this scale is not merely inspiring but ultimately mysterious. --Marianne Painter ... Read more
Reviews (452)

5-0 out of 5 stars The most important battle of the west...
Thermopylae. A simple mountain pass with spas and sheep.And it was the passageway for the Persian army to taking over Greece.Between them and the city-states stood 300 Spartan warriors.
So history says.
But the best part of the book by Steven Pressfield is he doesn't forget the rest of them.While his novel shows us the Spartan life-style - their military training and how they came to overcome their fears - he also shows us those other warriors, those allies of Sparta, such as the Thespians, soldiers who came to fight along side their fellow-Greeks.And stayed to die along side them.
Freedom always comes with a price.And if you're not willing to pay it don't complain about the chains you wear.

3-0 out of 5 stars A fun read
I was looking for a historical novel to immerse myself in over the weekend, and picked up Gates of Fire based off of the good reviews it received from readers.I thoroughly enjoyed the story.It's a page turner, pulpy and formulaic, it's a great way to escape, an action flick in print.You get a little Thermopylae 101 crash course for your time, and some broad strokes of Greek culture, religion, politics, societal forces, econmics, and family life but most of the fare served here is light.None of the characters go too deep, none of the themes overly challenging or deeply analyzed. One exception being the heroic soldier Dienekes, who yearns to understand the psychology of the warrior, he is both a thoughtful student and teacher of warcraft and the war within.The author does a good job of leading this character to some pretty good answers by the end of the tale.The General-King Leonidas is another vehicle the author uses to get to the why's in this piece of history.He makes a few good speeches through the King, and uses the Spartan King's actions to differentiate the Greek values of democracy, freedom, love, and honor with the Persian king's acts of despotism, excess, cowardice, and arrogance.The most fun in this story is spent in the Spartan training camps and on the various battle fields.Soldiers haven't changed over the millenia, they are still obscene and vulgar, heroic and cowardly, vain and humble, ruthless and merciful.I laughed out loud at the antics, pranks and course humor of the troops in the face of severe training exercises and gruesome fighting.The battle scenes were wonderfully described, combat with the technology of the time was very real, very close, very physical, very raw.Your enemy died at your feet, his blood covered you, you heard his screams and felt his life end on your sword, you were there with him at the end, or he with you.Also, if you were Spartan, your King was there on the battlefield, in the front, fighting with you.He didn't send you off to some dubious battle alone to die for his gain, he lead you onto the battlefield to fight with you for the greater good.Interesting and thought provoking ideas in this day and age.Finally, when reading a good historical novel like this I always find myself asking why.Why are we such a violent species?What makes us gang rape barely teen age girls, kill mother's and father's, march to our neighbor's city and burn it down, slit the throats of infants, enslave others for our own benefit?How was it that we evolved like this, and carry it on to this day?Maybe in a later work the author will take his 400+ pages and expand out to 800+ pages, and dig deeper for answers to the questions that an event like this asks about humanity.

Three stars for Gates of Fire.I plan to read more of this author's work.

4-0 out of 5 stars Thrilling Page Turner, Despite the Flawed Writing
This book is similar to Grisham's 'The Firm' in that both are powerful thrillers that one just cannot put down.Both books also are marred by flawed writing and flat characterization that prevent them from rising to the level of literary masterpieces (e.g. by Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, Henry James).It's like eating a really, really delicious desert - the experience is brief and soon forgotten afterward, but it's extremely pleasurable while it lasts.You also learn why the word 'Spartan' is defined in the dictionary as "Courageous in the face of pain, danger, or adversity".(It's also thought-provoking - 2500 years from now, would the word 'American' be in a dictionary, and what kind of character trait would it be associated with?)

For those who play videogames and want the same kind of pulse-pounding battlefield exprience, I'd recommend the 'Dynasty Warriros 4' on PlaySation 2.For historical readers who want more substantial fare, go for the 'Three Kingdoms' (unabrided 4-volume)books by Lu Guanzhong and Moss Roberts.

... Read more

Isbn: 0553580531
Subjects:  1. Fiction    2. Fiction - Historical    3. Historical - General    4. War & Military    5. Fiction / Historical   


Historians' Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought
by David H. Fischer
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (30 January, 1970)
list price: $15.00 -- our price: $15.00
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Reviews (12)

3-0 out of 5 stars Commendable goal, poor follow through
I used Fischer's book in my Master's thesis. I had to not only go through it with a fine-toothed comb, but I also had to look up the sources Fischer claims made fallacious arguments.Although Ficher has a praise-worthy goal for his book, he falls short of meeting this goal (L.O. Mink discusses this in great detail in his review of Fischer's book).Fischer often incorrectly attributes the label "fallacy" to some parts of texts.In order to qualify as a logical fallacy, the text *must* be making a conclusion based on evidence that does not support that conclusion.Fischer frequently labels things as fallacies that are not drawing any conclusion or even making an argument, particularly in his section on analogy fallacies.
Moreover, Fischer commits some pretty egregious errors in identifying fallacies; he mislabels a number of fallacies.In some cases, he has skewed an author's words in order to find a fallacy.
I think Fischer's book brings to light an issue in historiography that too many historians are not aware of; however, his work is riddled with errors.Hisotrians should read this text should follow on with a text on logic.

3-0 out of 5 stars Fischer Gave Name to All the Fallacies
?and then some

The study of history carries with it a load of fascinating philosophical and epistemological questions. Beyond such generalities such as "what is the nature of truth?", historians have to decide which facts are relevant to the case they are studying, what are causes in history, and how to make a narrative, a book or a mathematical model, that will capture something significant of the world.

All of these are interesting questions, but except peripherally, David Herbert Fischer doesn't discuss them. Rather, Fischer tries to track down specific fallacies that historians commit, and spell them out, apparently in order to help other scholars avoid them.

"Historians' Fallacies" is basically a collection and a catalogue of errors, some well known ones, such as "the fallacy of post hoc, propter hoc" (following, therefore caused by, p. 166) or "the pathetic fallacy" (ascribing animate behavior to inanimate objects, pp. 190-193) and some as obscure as "the fallacy of indiscriminate pluralism" (enumerating multiple causes without discrimination, pp. 175-177).

There are at least three commendable aspects to Fischer's study. First, Fischer is a fine writer, with remarkable turns of phrases: "Sir Lewis [Namier] was no enemy of chosenness in either facts or people. He was, indeed, a committed Zionist in both respects." (p. 69).

Another is Fischer's willingness to name names. Too many critics prefer uses such as "many writers", etc, but although Fischer does occasionally shy away (such as in his discussion of ad hominem attacks pp.290-293), he's willing to openly criticize some leading historians and intellectuals. Nor does Fischer satisfy himself with attacking such usual suspects as Robert Fogel, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Arnold Toynbee. Everyone who has any interest at all in American intellectual history of the 20th century will find at least some of his heroes under fire: Historians from Charles Beard to E.P. Thompson, from economist Kenneth Boulding (who was the mentor of one of my college professors) to Henry Kissinger. My favorite is the critique of Southern historian C. Vann Woodward:

"Through two revisions, the author has held his ground with a tenacity worthy of a better cause. The result is another fallacy ? the overwhelming exception. We are now told that the interpretation applies to all Southern institutions except churches, schools, militia, hotels, restaurants, public buildings, jails, hospitals, asylums, gardens, and the New Orleans Opera House" (p. 149 n).

A third highpoint of the book is that it sometimes hits the bull's eye. Under "the fallacy of semantical questions", Fischer criticizes historians who focus on labels instead of content such as the 'prolonged dispute among American colonial historians over the question "Was the political structure of seventeenth-century America 'democratic' or 'Aristocratic'?"' (p.22). If you've never read studies who committed the same offence, you will not recognize the immense desire to strangle a historian who does.

But in the attempt to describe the errors of Historians, Fischer falls to the same trap that my Business courses in college fell into ? they tried to make laws and regularities of something that if far too context dependant for that. So almost all the time, what you've got is specific instances of erring historians, with fallacies which say something like "don't exaggerate", "do careful research" and "use sound judgment".

When it comes to generalize, to give positive insight as how to go on a historian's business, Fischer's advice is invariably trivial, true-but-obvious. "Motives are usually pluralistic in both their number and their nature. Abraham Maslow writes, 'typically an act has more than one motive'. To this, one might add that it has motives of more than one kind." Oh really? (p. 214)

Maybe some of my criticism of Fischer's book is (as he might have said) anachronistic. Fischer objects to unnecessary jargon: "Ordinary everyday words like "simple" are replaced by monstrosities such as "simplistic" without any refinement of meaning" (p.285). Today, I doubt anyone would write about a simple solution while meaning a simplistic one, but maybe in the 1960s the distinction was not as clear.

Within the point by point critiques of Historians' errors, there seems to be an overarching thesis that remains implicit, but that guides Fischer's thought process: the inevitability of history, or the assumption that events are caused by the forces of history, rather then the actions of individuals.

Fischer calls the "fallacy of responsibility as cause", confusing the problem of agency with that of ethics (pp.182-183). If I understand him correctly, he seems to argue that individual leaders are not responsible to wide scale events "The cause of the failure of Reconstruction race policy muse surely be sought in general phenomena for which no free and responsible human agent can be held to blame" (Ibid.). Is Fischer really saying that there was nothing that, say, Andrew Johnson or Grant could've done better differently? Or that it wouldn't have mattered? If he does, then he robs human beings of their abilities to change the future. That's a highly controversial (and clearly metaphysical) position, and one that clashes with his call for using history as a way to teach people rationality (pp. 316-318).

Despite its frequent wit and occasional insight, Fischer's book does not quite illuminate a path for other historians to follow. Despite his claims, I don't think we're any closer to a logic of historical thought then we were before.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not Only For Historians
Fischer is a classic. It should be kept readily at hand by anyone who considers clear thought important. ... Read more

Isbn: 0061315451
Sales Rank: 130417
Subjects:  1. Historiography    2. History    3. History - General History    4. Methodology    5. Reference    6. History / Historiography   


by John McPhee
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 January, 1975)
list price: $12.00 -- our price: $9.60
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Editorial Review

While many readers are familiar with John McPhee's masterful pieces on a large scale (the geological history of North America, or the nature of Alaska), McPhee is equally remarkable when he considers the seemingly inconsequential. Oranges was conceived as a short magazine piece, but thanks to his unparalleled investigative skills, became a slim, fact-filled book. As McPhee chronicles orange farmers struggling with frost and horticulturists' new breeds of citrus,oranges come to seem a microcosm of man's relationship with nature.

Like Flemish miniaturists who reveal the essence of humankind within the confines of a tiny frame, McPhee once again demonstrates that the smallest topic is replete with history, significance, and consequence. ... Read more

Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Succulent botany and history lesson
"Oranges" (1967) was Pulitzer-prize-winning author John McPhee's third book and it begins simply 'in medias res' -- as a pungent celebration of oranges and orange juice.This is a mouth-watering introduction to the different types of oranges, and how various humans consume them.Then, in the following chapter the author takes us to the geographical heart of his story in a Florida orange grove.

All is not sweetness and orange juice in this book, which was written when LBJ was President.Frozen orange juice concentrate was make large inroads into the fresh orange market, much to McPhee's dismay.He stopped at a Florida Welcome Station on his way into the state, and was given "a three-ounce cup of reconstituted concentrate."The motel where he stayed also served reconstituted orange juice so McPhee finally had to buy himself a plastic orange reamer and a knife, and pick his own oranges from a nearby grove.

We meet the 'Orange Men' in the following chapter and learn the details of the citrus-growing industry.You might think this is the boring bit, but nothing McPhee writes is ever boring.Pomologists are an eccentric lot, most of them migrants to Florida from cold places like Kansas, Minnesota, and Great Britain.At the time this book was written, Englishman William Grierson, Ph.D, a former officer in the Royal Air Force, was "trying to keep growers and shippers interested in fresh fruit...despite the tidal rise of concentrate."He considered himself "the leader of His Majesty's loyal opposition."

We also learn from Grierson that, "a citrus fruit is, botanically, a berry" and "The sex life of citrus is something fantastic." (Citrus is so genetically perverse that oranges can grow from lime seeds.)By this part of the book you will be up to your ears in sweet and bitter oranges, grapefruits, lemons, tangerines, limequats, citrons, and Persian Limes.If you haven't already run out to the kitchen for a citrus fix, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.

McPhee wanders (as only he can) through the history of citrus, the orangeries of European nobility, the Indian River orange groves, the production of reconstituted orange juice, and throws in a riff on Minute Maid and the old-time orange barons.Go ahead, settle down and drink in this author's delicious prose.His books are much more satisfying than novels.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Book I Find Myself Returning To Again and Again.
I find myself reading this book over and over.Of the several McPhee books I own, this is my favorite.I jsut wish it had more material on blood oranges!I love blood oranges and can relate to McPhee's comments on how they scare some Americans.Every time I eat one in public I get questions about their color, but most people refuse to even try them.Their loss!
The book is fascinating, but dated.Nowadays it is easy to find orange juice that is not from concentrate.That aside, the book is wonderfully informative and will tell you more about oranges than you thought possible.Beautifully written and engaging, I have given it to several of my friends, who love it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Favorite McPhee
Oranges was my first and remains my most favorite McPhee book! I have always been a fan of non-books: dictionaries, almanacs, encyclopedia. So, McPhee's Oranges certainly resonated with me. He is one of the few authors of non-fiction who writes beautifully - even his lists are fantastic. Oranges shows in a succinct format the beauty and creativity possible in natural history writing, especially when nature is so entertwined with culture. I have recommended Oranges to my friends and colleagues who like natural history, food, and/or poetry.

Oranges is a must-read. If you enjoy it, follow up with any of McPhee's other books. ... Read more

Isbn: 0374512973
Subjects:  1. Essays    2. Nature / Field Guide Books    3. Nature/Ecology    4. Orange    5. Specific Ingredients - Fruit   


The Book of Catholic Prayer: Prayers for Every Day and All Occasions
by Sean Finnegan
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (01 February, 2000)
list price: $24.95 -- our price: $16.47
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Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Contents Wonderful - Binding Substandard
This may very well be the best prayer book in 50 years.The wealth of devotions provided, including a simplified scheme for daily prayer, will amply meet and even surpass the needs of anyone serious about developing an improved prayer life.

However, the British edition, published by Canterbury and called A BOOK OF HOURS AND OTHER CATHOLIC DEVOTIONS, is printed on superior paper and in a sturdy vinyl binding with a ribbon marker.The Loyola edition, here listed, is clunky, is printed on poor quality paper in feint print and has cheap, cardboard covers.

This is a truly wonderful prayer book, but please buy the British edition, not the American one.It will last for years and will become a true companion in prayer.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great Prayer Book
I found a lot of infomation in this book useful.Some of the infomation in the book is hard for me to understand.I do recommend this book to anyone who want to learn the different Catholic Prayers

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Prayers - All in One
As the Disabilities Host on BellaOnline, I believe you would like this book. I have many prayer books,but this book has everything for every occassion. It's a comforting book with lots of power. ... Read more

Isbn: 0829413863
Sales Rank: 252837
Subjects:  1. Catholic Church    2. Christianity - Catholicism    3. English    4. Inspirational - Catholic    5. Prayer-books and devotions    6. Prayerbooks - Christian    7. Religion    8. Religion - Prayer & Spirituality   


Noticia de un secuestro
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 June, 1996)
list price: $15.00 -- our price: $10.20
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Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars A sad reality about Colombia
Noticia de un secuestro is one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez most dry books in terms of the literary style used. It could be because the theme does not allow for much variety but just an honest recount of the truth. The book gives the reader a realistic view of daily Colombian life, a country that has struggled with guerrilla warfare and drug trafficking for the past forty years and more. The protagonists of the book are the victims of the kidnappers and throughout the book we learn about the cruel reality of these people who have changed the life of many Colombians by use of violence and cruel killings without mercy. I think the book was well written with revealing details of how the victims feel (mentally and physically) and how their families suffer when they are forced to negotiate with the drug dealers etc. for the safe return of their family members. Also, we clearly see the role that the government plays in the rescue process. The style used by the author is very journalistic, thus making the book and story very dry in comparison to his other literary works. However, perhaps this style was chosen simply because this is the reality of Colombias daily crisis. The book is excellent, has much eye-opening information and is a wonderful read if you wish to learn more about the socio-economic problems of this great South American country. Arriba Colombia.

5-0 out of 5 stars excelente obra narrativa
Noticia de un secuestro

Para: Gloria Leticia Fernández, en Cali.

Noticia de un secuestro de Gabriel garcía Márquez es un libro que se deja leer y que presenta y representa la narrativa en su forma más pura. Con un estilo periodístico claro y directo el Gabo nos hace penetrar en lo más hondo de las vidas de los secuestrados y nos hace sentir sus horrores de la manera más sutil, pues en ningún momento se centra su atención en los crímenes o torturas sinoen la vida en común de captores y capturados,ylos esfuerzos del gobierno y de sus familias para liberarlos. Una cosa parece cierta y es que la realidad supera siempre a la ficción y este relato de la vida real lo demuestra por lo novelesco quea veces nos parece y lo increíble de las cosas que pasan en Colombia sacudido como esta por el trafico de drogas, las guerrillas y las constantes luchas internas. Aun así sus habitantes aun viven y trabajan, tratan de forjarse un futuro y muchos luchan por el bienestar de su pueblo. El libro esta narrado de forma magistral como un gran reportaje en que el autor se abstiene de intervenir y es simplemente un narrador de hechos contados por otras personas. Nunca nos deja ver el Gabo sus sentimientos ni estropea la obra con rebuscados sentimentalismos que hubieran hecho de este libro un dramón insoportable. Nota: en Colombia se produjeron mas de tres mil secuestros el año pasado y la practica llamada pesca milagrosa ( asaltar gente en las carreteras sin saber bien quienes son para luego de depurarlos pedir rescate toma fuerza). Los cuerpos elite no dan abasto y el país tiene un índice de peligrosidad muy alto. Espero que mi amiga gloria que se encuentra en Cali este bien y si estas leyendo este articulo, sepaque tiene un amigo en uepa.com y que me puede escribir. Espero que este todo bien en su amada Cali y que la paz llegue pronto a Colombia, que los latinos podamos unirnos en un interés común y hacia objetivos nuevos, que todo el mundo deje de halar para donde más le conviene y que al final podamos progresar en paz.

Mis saludos al pueblo Colombiano.


This book is really interesting, because tell us the political and social problems of one of the most important countries in latinamerica: Colombia. ... Read more

Isbn: 0140262474
Sales Rank: 324331
Subjects:  1. Contemporary Politics - Latin America    2. Criminology    3. General    4. International Relations - General    5. Political Terrorism    6. Politics - Current Events    7. Social Science    8. Spanish: Adult Nonfiction   


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