What I Read on Vacation:

Just returned from a week-long vacation in Acadia National Park. Turns out that when you have a ten-month old baby who naps multiple hours per day you actually do more reading than hiking on vacation. Since Jonathan asked what I planned to read this summer, I figured I'd pass along what I read already. I enjoyed your suggestions as well in the Comments to Jonathan's post. This being vacation, most of the books here are designed for amusement rather than reflection.

Flyboys: I thought this was quite a compelling read about WWII in the Pacific. It has been critized, with some merit I think, as unjustly suggesting a substantial amount of moral equivalence between the US and Japan. Moreover, by the end of the book it is not clear why Bradley needs to push on that theme so heavily. Nonetheless, I found it fascinating read on historical events with which I had previously been unacquainted. I am more familiar with the war in the Atlantic than the Pacific, so a lot of this was new to me--I'd be interested in your reactions to the historical accuracy of the book and Bradley's judgments.

The Legend of Bagger Vance: A fun read. Ostensibly a golf novel, it seems to be really a riff on eastern philosophy as told through a golf game. I love reading about Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen also, who are the other key characters in the book. Much better than the movie--Will Smith was a particularly inapt choice as Bagger in the movie.

Chronicles of Narnia, Vol. 3--A Horse and His Boy: I never read Narnia as a kid, so I'm reading them now. I really enjoyed this entry.

The Junction Boys: This is a book about Bear Bryant's first training camp when he was coach at Texas A&M and the subsequent couple of seasons. The point of the book seems to have been to suggest that Bryant's harsh methods were somehow justified as a means to toughen up his team. I usually appreciate tough guys as football coaches, but I have to confess that I was so nauseated by the barbarism of Bryant's methods that I couldn't really appreciate the supposed genius of his techniques.

Nexus by Mark Buchanan: This book is from a couple of years ago and was highly recommended to me and I finally got around to it. The subtitle is "Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks." A few interesting things here, but overall I was disappointed. His applications to the social sciences, such as economics, was especially weak. Buchanan seems unacquainted with Hayek and spontaneoud order theory, and it seems like Hayek pretty much said everything Buchanan had to say, just a lot better. Overall, a disappointment.

Night, by Elie Wiesel: He was the Dartmouth Commencement speaker, so I read the book which I hadn't previously read. Interesting book that captures a unique view of the Holocaust through the eyes of a child.

Joe McCarthy, by Arthur Herman--I'm about halfway through this and it is quite fascinating. Does the seemingly impossible of trying to tell a balanced story about McCarthy and puts it in the historical, and especially political context, of the era. Not too many good guys come out of Herman's story. Unusually well written and quite readable as well.

On tap for the rest of the summer:

Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Manliness by Harvey Mansfield

drive by marathon:
A horse and his boy is #5, sir.
6.23.2006 4:18pm
anonymousss (mail):
volume 3? looks to me like you've been reading them in the wrong order. horse and his boy is fifth.
6.23.2006 4:21pm
I have held off on buying any of the new combined additions because I feel "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" should be read first.
6.23.2006 4:37pm
Though Horse and His Boy was the fifth book written by Lewis, in terms of chronological Narnia time, it falls between Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe (the 2nd book, chronologically) and Prince Caspian (the 4th book, chronologically).
6.23.2006 4:52pm
Zywicki (mail):
Interesting points on Narnia--I've been reading them in the order of the box set edition I bought last year, which place them in the order described by Norman. I knew there was a raging debate about whether one should read The Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe first anyway, but I didn't realize that there was a debate over the others.
6.23.2006 5:11pm
I had to choose between Nexus and Linked to bring on my last vacation, and somewhat randomly chose Linked. Looks like I made the right choice!
6.23.2006 5:13pm
Enjoy Sienkiewicz - there's certainly more in that series if you like that one.
6.23.2006 5:33pm
DaveHeal (mail):
re: Manliness by Harvey Mansfield, would be curious to hear what you have to say about it. Martha Nussbaum was apparently not much of a fan:

6.23.2006 5:37pm
DaveHeal (mail):
Can't seem to get the link function to supply an active link either in preview or once posted, but here's the URL for Nussbaum's review in the New Republic:
6.23.2006 5:39pm
anonymous coward:
Could you post a small excerpt from the Nussbaum, Dave? Behind the $ wall sadly. (I'm almost tempted to resubscribe to read it...)
6.23.2006 5:45pm
TomH (mail):
Where do you get a 10-month old that sleeps enough for you to read that much? Mine's broken, I have barely enough time to scan the VC :)
6.23.2006 5:54pm
Zywicki (mail):
I had exactly the same decision between Linked and Nexus. The problem is that once I was in Maine with the book I couldn't change my mind once I started!
6.23.2006 6:05pm
Diana Hsieh (mail) (www):
Paul (my GeekPress husband) and I are headed to Acadia tomorrow. So when I read the first sentence of the post, I thought, "Oh good, I'll ask for some hiking recommendations." Then I read the second sentence...

In any case, how were the mosquitos? (I'm from the virtually bug-free land of Colorado, so any mosquitos is lots of mosquitos.)
6.23.2006 6:29pm
Sasha (mail):
I'll have to agree on Horse and His Boy. It will always be #5. Lion Witch Wardrobe is #1, and Magician's Nephew is #6.
6.23.2006 7:34pm
DaveHeal (mail):
Hadn't even realized I had subscribed to TNR. Think an online subscription may have come with another one of the magazines I receive but don't have time to read. Anyways:

"So Mansfield is not overly concerned with fact. A few minutes on Google would have made these facts available to a minimally inquiring mind. Is he, then, at least concerned with logic? Only if his concern is to demonstrate, boldly, his disdain for it. After being confronted with a bewildering range of attributes of manliness--confidence, aggressiveness, protectiveness, independence, ability to command, eagerness to feel important, love of attention--we think that we are finally getting somewhere when Mansfield announces that his own definition of manliness is "confidence in the face of risk." We might have some issues with the proposal. Don't brave often feel afraid? Aristotle thinks they do, and rightly, for the loss of life is especially painful when one has a good life....

Imagine the shock to the feminine logic-loving mind, then, when within two pages the definition is, if not withdrawn, at least ignored, and quite different formulations, inconsistent with it, trot forward like eager children vying for attention. Manliness is aggressiveness, combined with promiscuousness in sex. It is the "brute spirit of aggression." It is not mere aggression, but only "aggression that develops a cause it espouses." It is "a claim on your attention." It is the "willingness to challenge nature combined with confidence ... that one can succeed." "In the end aggression is all there is." It is "stubbornness added to rationality."

Mansfield does tell us that his definition will shift as he moves, in later chapters, "from aggression to philosophical courage." But these examples are all quite close together in the early portion of the text; and the later chapters do not supply a new, coherent, contradiction-free account. Things do not get better, then. Philosophers get mentioned more often, but are never emulated. We never find Mansfield even worrying about his mass of contradictions or trying to clean up the account. On the logical principle that from a contradiction everything and anything follows, I conclude that Manliness says it all. Try that out on the back jacket."
6.23.2006 8:28pm
DaveHeal (mail):
Also, I believe I'm able to e-mail the article to non-subscribers, so if you'd like a copy, Mr. Coward (so you can avoid resubscribing), send me an e-mail and I'll get it to you.
6.23.2006 8:30pm
U.Va. 2L (no longer a 1L) (mail):
The Silver Chair has always been my favorite.
6.23.2006 9:12pm
JGR (mail):
John J Miller has an article on the controversy about the order of the Narnia books here:

He agrees that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe should definitely be read first.

There is technically not a definitive answer to which book is in which order, because both positions have valid arguments. One is the new "official" chronology that the publishing company uses, the other is the "traditional" chronology that many people also think is the proper one.
6.23.2006 10:22pm
Bill Woods (mail):
Though Horse and His Boy was the fifth book written by Lewis, in terms of chronological Narnia time, it falls between Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe (the 2nd book, chronologically) and Prince Caspian (the 4th book, chronologically).

Actually Horse falls in the beginning of the last chapter of Lion. And Caspian shows that the concept of flashback was not unknown to Lewis. And just to complicate things a little more, it was the fourth book written, and fifth published—which is why there's a reference to the story in The Silver Chair.
6.23.2006 11:37pm
Witness (mail):
"I have to confess that I was so nauseated by the barbarism of Bryant's methods that I couldn't really appreciate the supposed genius of his techniques."

Nauseated?? My suspicion that you never played football at a competitive level (based on your ill-conceived "Stillers" posts) has been confirmed.
6.24.2006 1:24am
Stuart Buck (mail) (www):
The bad thing about reading the Narnia books in chronological order is that the Magician's Nephew comes first (obviously). And yet that book doesn't make as much sense if you've never heard of Narnia before. I.e., if you've read several other books first, it is a wonderous experience to finally find out where all of this stuff came from (the lamppost, the Professor, Narnia itself). If you read the Magician's Nephew first, you wouldn't realize the significance of the lamppost, etc.
6.24.2006 1:37am
Zywicki (mail):
If its not too late--the mosquitoes weren't too bad when we were there. I was expecting much worse, and perhaps it gets worse as the season goes on. But they didn't bother us much at all.

Also, allow me to recommend a truly splendid restaurant--Fiddler's Green, located in Southwest Harbor. It is open only Thursday-Sunday. The food is really outstanding and creative, and it also has a great view of Southwest Harbor.
6.24.2006 7:24am
SenatorX (mail):
You're missing some Sci Fi!
6.24.2006 9:09am
Sasha (mail):
Reading the Narnia books in "plot chronological order" is like watching the Godfather trilogy that way. I once watched a Godfather box set like that.

For those who don't know: Godfather Part II is composed of "young Vito Corleone" scenes, which all take place quite a bit before the action of Godfather Part I (Robert De Niro plays the young Marlon Brando), and "older Michael Corleone" scenes (with Al Pacino), which are all a continuation of the plot of Godfather Part I. (Thankfully, there was no Godfather Part III in this set, but all the action of that happens at the end, so it would have been irrelevant to this point anyway.)

Now the interleaved scene format, with the Robert De Niro "flashbacks," is part of what makes Godfather Part II a great movie. Not only does it change the flow of the movie, but it also allows you to contrast the young Vito, as he started out, with the older Michael, as he became. All that is lost when half the movie is placed at the very beginning (when you don't yet know the significance of some of the stuff) and half is placed at the very end.

Anyway, Stuart Buck has it right. The order of publication is better than plot-chronological order, especially with The Magician's Nephew, which works because you're seeing the creation of a world that you already know a lot about. I didn't know there was a disconnect between order of writing and order of publication [this maps the controversy over production date vs. air date in Star Trek], but in any event, either is far superior to plot-chronological order, which apparently is entirely based on the obviously fallacious idea that it's better to tell earlier events earlier and later events later.
6.24.2006 10:17am
adam (mail):
I read somewhere that they were now letting women write books too . . .
6.24.2006 11:26am
Rush (mail):
I watched Pulp Fiction that way once, didn't seem as good for some reason.
6.24.2006 1:45pm
Bill Woods,
Thanks for the further clarifications. I agree with Stuart and Sasha that the publication-order is superior to chronogical-order, and that especially, the Magician's Nephew should not be read first. Most of the enjoyment when reading the Magician's Nephew comes from seeing the origins of the lamppost, the White Witch, the wardrobe, etc.
6.26.2006 10:59am