SUMMER READING LIST 2015
Exams have concluded, and the students are packing up
belongings and making their way home for the summer. I can only hope they are
taking some books to read over the hiatus, but that is anyone’s guess.
And so as in past years I have come up with two wonderful
books to keep you company over this three-month siesta. The first is simply titled The Gun. On the cover is a picture of an AK-47 and you would think
that this is the exclusive subject matter of this tome. But you would be fooled
unless you opened the cover. This marvelous tract is more than just a book
regarding the AK. It is a history of the machine gun from the earliest times
before Gatling and Maxim and then on to Browning, some lesser notables and
finally Mikhail Kalashnikov.
What makes this
fascinating reading is the long resistance to the machine gun and the role it
could play in battle. Hard to believe but the Germans and the Russians saw the
value of the fully automatic weapon and how to use it long before the Americans
and especially the British. The Brits wouldn’t catch on to the fact that
charging emplaced Maxims (WW I) in long rows was simply not a good idea. The
Americans put Gatlings to good purpose by the creativeness of a Lieutenant Parker
who used them at the Battle of San Juan Hill to more or less keep the heads
down of Spaniards who were firing from an elevated entrenched position onto the
Rough Riders below.
C.J. Chivers builds up the suspense beautifully for about
175 pages and then comes the creation of the AK-47. What I found enjoyable was
the myth busting employed by the author. For example Mikhail
Kalashnikov did not design this
weapon by himself. It was really designed by committee. And then when it became
successful a slew of Commies wanted to take credit for the development despite
the fact that they had never held one, no less fired it. A few more interesting
tidbits; the AK is a medium range weapon, of about 350 meters. It has sloppy
tolerances, so much so engineers had to find ways to make it malfunction. It
has few parts, so an uneducated peasant from just about any country in the
world can disassemble it and get back to fully operational in a very short
period of time. Most disconcerting is
the cartridge it fires. The 7.62 x 39mm is a devastating round. Chivers, who’s
a veteran U.S. Marine captain, makes the gruesome discovery that you would be
more likely to survive a roadside bomb before taking a bullet from the AK. Most disconcerting indeed!
My second pick for
Summer 2015 is yet another in a long list of beautiful books written by hunter
extraordinaire Tony Sanchez-Arino. If you have not discovered this fine
gentleman then it is time you do so. Tony is a “tell it like it is” or in this
particular book like it “was.” This is truly a walk down memory lane for Tony
who is now in his eighties. This recollection of hunting stories is so superb
and timely. I have a difficulty not wanting to just read the book straight
through, but I would rather savor it a wee bit at a time.
Mr. Arino makes no
bones about hunting. His tally is most impressive including 127 black rhinos,
167 leopards, 340 lions, 1,317 elephants and 2,092 buffaloes. But what sets him
apart from so many others is his matter-of-fact writing style in which he
calmly describes the risks inherent in hunting African big game. The one and
only time where he thought he was going to meet his maker via a Cape buffalo (“A
Little Respect for the Poor Buffaloes) is carefully described in honest detail.
In fact, Tony makes it clear that it was a consecutive number of small mistakes
that added up to a colossal blunder that nearly took his life. It is well worth
reading this chapter several times to see how the innocuous can cost you
Tony also pulls no
punches with the corrupt governments of Africa. Come to think of it, there is
not a single country on the entire continent that is thriving. His encounters
of incompetence, corruption, and never to be downplayed, poaching, is enough to
make anyone’s blood pressure creep up a little.
In short, the Africa that he knew, no longer exists and it will not
return. A very sad story indeed.
blogger has his books and three months of “sabbatical” left to go. So get some
brain food and enjoy!
Chivers, C. J. The Gun. 1st ed. New
York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
Tony. Between the Congo River and the White Nile. 1st ed.
2015. Long Beach, California, Safari Press.