Мои отзывы на книги. Часть 1. My book reviews. Part 1.

автор: Денис Песков

Эти отзывы я, в основном, оставлял на Amazon.com и Goodreads.com Решил просто перепостить тут -ведь вам, наверное, интересно узнать книги, которые я оценил на 5 баллов 🙂

The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist  by Franz De Waal^

Highly informative, insightful and enlightening to anyone interested in human nature. A very humbling yet thought provoking account of how much of this intangible matter — morals — we share with primates. You will also learn that a tremendously big part of our individual and collective behavior apparently started in apes. It robs us of our perceived uniqueness, but simultaneously enriches us with a widened realization of a bigger and more complex picture. And this is just a tiny sliver of many other wonderful revelations that are kept for your in store in this treasure trove of a book! A must read.

Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War by Rodric Braithwaite

Overall an excellent effort! Bravo! I read criticisms by those who rated the book low and found that they contradict each other: one thinks it’s shallow, another — too detailed, one lacks personal accounts, another complains about their unnecessary abundance.

My humble Muscovite’s impression is that it is a well-balanced take on the extremely important, but bitterly disputed matter. The author doesn’t just through you into the midst of the battle for the last 100 miles to the city, but first he sets stage, which helps to get a bigger picture. It’s impossible to understand the battle without knowing that much (or that little, If you wish) of background facts and processes, you are reading about the larger-than-life clash of two very unique states. You need to go back to the events happened as early as 1905 Russian Revolution and tell about recent archive discoveries of Post-Communist 1990-es.

Personal narratives from people from all layers of society serve an essential tool too. They add depths, and human touch, because emotions and feelings there are timeless and easy to relate to. Without them the narrative could turn into dry enumeration of divisions, pieces of artillery, types of tanks and kilometers trudged through. I think if you look for that kind of story you better turn to one of Osprey’s books.

I am impressed by how a Western author treats the material. His tone is respectful and attentive. Here and there he gives a legendary glossed version of a fact (a one we were taught in Soviet schools) and then recites recent attempts to debunk it, making the book interesting even to Russian readers. He doesn’t try to sensationalize though. His summation of the story of tortured Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, who was made an icon in the USSR is indicative:
«In all the confusion and rumour-mongering, however, one thing remained beyond doubt. A young girl did die gallantly, though perhaps pointlessly, at the hands of the Germans».

What I found even more valuable is his appropriate cross-comparison snippets of British experience of similar ordeals: The London Blitz, rationing, wartime losses etc. When put in perspective, it all helps to grasp the magnitude of what was happening in those months. It also shows that many weird and sometimes brutal measures were echoed by or firstly introduced by similar or comparable actions in Great Britain (like requisition of domestic pigeons). This helps to demonstrate that it’s not Russians, who were quirky, but the time itself called for abnormal and sometimes illogical (by peacetime standards) actions.

P.s. Believe it or not, but Mr. Zeldin mentioned in the book as a promising young actor of «The Swinemaiden and The Shepherd» still acts at 96.