July Crisis

28th June 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is assassinated in Sarajevo by Gustavo Princip. One month later, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Within days, Europe is at war. The bloodiest war to date, with an estimated nine million soldiers killed over the course of the four year conflict. But what happened in the month between the assassination and the outbreak of war?

The month between the assassination and the outbreak of war is the focus of July Crisis. The book looks at the decision making by the key actors across the Great Powers as Europe drifts towards war. As war gets closer, the chapters cover shorter periods of time as relations become more strained and discussions become more desperate.

July Crisis is an excellent study of the the July Crisis and very readable. It’s an outstanding and accessible book.

Rating (out of 5): *****

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Don’t lean out the window! A European misadventure

Don’t lean out the window follows the authors, who are in a band, on their tour of Europe via the inter-rail tickets they have bought. Whilst they can travel where they want in Europe, it’s not all plain sailing, leading to the second part of the title. For example, their plan to finance the trip through busking is not always universally popular. However, they do encounter some incredibly generous people.

It’s an easy to read, humorous book. The narration switches between the authors, so I did have to check who was writing at times, but this is a small gripe for an enjoyable book.

Rating (out of 5): ****

Mind boggling book of over 5000 facts

There are indeed over 5000 facts in this book, with the facts ordered alphabetically (this makes ‘T’ a very long section due to the number that begin with ‘The’). There are plenty of interesting facts, but quite a few facts are repeated a few times, often under one another. Dipping in to the book will result in an interesting fact being found and is probably better than reading it from start to finish.

Rating (out of 5): ***

Viking Panzers: The German 5th SS Tank Regiment in the East in World War II

The book, as the title implies, follows the 5th SS Tank Regiment from 1942 until the end of the war. The book is made up of reports and diary entries from members of the regiment as well as maps and a narrative. The book can become hard to follow in places where it switches from one diary entry to another and it is not clear who it is from, but it offers an authoritative history of the regiment and flows from encounter to encounter seamlessly. Not a book that I would necessarily read again, but a different perspective to usual books about the war.

Rating (out of 5): ***

Portrait of an icon

Portrait of an icon takes a brief look at some of the best known names in recent world football. Each profile is short (I don’t think any are longer than 8 pages) and focus more on quotes (from the person and others in world football) and anecdotes than statistics; an excellent approach, especially for the portrait of Pierluigi Collina.

Goals are the currency of football, so it is perhaps little surprise that the majority of those profiled are attacking players. Despite this, there are still portraits of defensive players and managers are also included.

As well as being an excellent book, it’s also the type to provoke discussion about who has been included and who has been left out. A final reason to buy this book (as if another were needed) is that proceeds go to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Rating (out of 5): *****

Air Force Blue

Air Force Blue examines the role played by the RAF during World War II. The state of the RAF prior to the outbreak of war is looked at and how the RAF was able to develop. Fighter Command and it’s role in preventing invasion along with Bomber Command and it’s role in attacking Germany are looked at. There is also a chapter on Coastal Command, who tend to get overlooked in favour of Fighter and Bomber Command.

The books is an excellent overview of how air power was key to victory in World War II and the role played by the RAF in achieving this. A very good book for anyone with an interest in World War II.