Title: Essential Militaria
Author: Nicholas Hobbes
They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist-"
- Union General John Sedgewick 1864
The Good: War and the struggle for military supremacy has existed ever since one caveman jabbed another with a pointy stick. In this book Hobbes gathers important dates, speeches and strange but true facts spanning the length of recorded history from the Greeks to the present.
I liked the diversity of the time periods covered. It provided variety both geographical and in terms of the equipment as well as the development of war.
One usual drawback to military books is the risk of slipping into the beige of boring. This isn't the case with Hobbes as he provides readers with a host of facts bizarre and ridiculous enough to keep your attention. For example, did you know that in 1898 a war started over French pastries, sort of. Apparently Mexican leader Santa Anna took some from a restaurant in Mexico and in return, France sent warships to extract reparations for French business losses during recent rebellions. The resulting conflict was called the "War of the Cakes". There was also Operation Mongoose, where attempts on the life of Fidel Castro included booby-trapping a seashell. Supposedly it would explode if he lifted it from the seabed while diving. This brought up a whole host of questions, as you can imagine, about the illogicalness and stupidity of it all. Oh and remember this, dressing as a German housewife is one way to escape a castle.
The Bad: The organization in this book is non-existent. When skimming back through the book for examples I couldn't find what I was looking for. It would have been nice if Hobbes had presented the information in chronological order. It would have been nice to have all the facts about WWI in one place.
The Ugly: As can be expected with most books on the military and war, there are some violent and gruesome parts. If you're on the squeamish side you may want to avoid Animals in War, Torture Techniques, Ill-Treatment of Prisoners and A History of Biological Warfare.