Monday, August 22, 2011

Alexander McCall Smith: The Sunday Philosophy Club

On whim I picked this up @ ICPL, and I found it a delightful read (and it has nothing to do with WWII). If you know Smith from the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, you'll find that his manner transforms well to his native Scotland. Ms. Dalhousie, the protagonist, is a rather appealing character. She edits the Journal of Applied Ethics, having studied philosophy at Cambridge, and her comments on life, philosophy, and any manner of subjects are light and engaging. You rather feel that you'd enjoy knowing this woman (and feel badly that the love of her life--who hardly seems worthy in retrospect--passed her by). Smith has a way of making his characters engage you, much like Precious Ramotswe does in the No. Ladies Detective Agency series. (Does Smith have some special insight into women?). Anyway, an engaging and fun read. No action packed adventure, just lots of careful people assessment, hypothesis development and testing (and discarding), and appreciation of this small slice of humanity. I'll read another one!

John Lukacs: The Hitler of History

After reading about the events of 1938 leading up to the Munich Conference of that year that gave the world "appeasement", I went back to the great historian John Lukacs's consideration of Hitler in this book. (I'd read it about a decade ago on a trip to Montreal with Iowa Guru & Africa Girl. Memories associate well with places.) As with virtually all of Lukacs's work, it bore re-reading. Lukacs treats Hitler for what he was: a human being, a politician, and even--perhaps--a statesman. After all, Hitler had political aims in his war (and WWII was his war, Lukacs argues). As with most of Lukacs's work, it's hard to summarize because he throws out nuggets of insight here and there like he's blithely sowing seeds along a garden path. This is a book about other books and historians as much as Hitler himself, and this, too, makes it different, interesting, and well worthwhile.