The House of Medici: It’s Rise and Fall – Christopher Hibbert
The Medici have been getting a lot of notoriety lately, both in fiction (for example The Medici Boy by John L’Heureux, and a whole slew of novels featuring Catherine De Medici) and in television (most notably Da Vinci’s Demons). The House of Medici, although an older book, is great for people who want some background on the Medici clan without getting bogged down in the Renaissance artists they patronized. It focuses mainly on the political and business machinations of the Medici family and their domination of Florence, Italy from Cosimo through to last of the Medici Dukes in the 1700s. It also does a really good job of explaining, if not making interesting, the complex inner-workings of Medieval/Renaissance finance.
The Road to Verdun – Ian Ousby
With the up coming hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I there has been a decided up tick in books on the war. Although referred to as a battle, Verdun was almost a war within the war that went, off and on, for four years. In the end it cost the French 300,000 dead and 700,000 wounded and came to symbolize for the French all that was hopeless and useless in the war. Ousby argues that the ethos that created the carnage of Verdun can be traced to the on going conflict between the Germans and French over the territories of Alsace and Lorraine. The stories are mainly told from the perspective of the French and is a mixture of stories of the battles and there intellectual underpinnings.
Counting Coup and Cutting Horses – Anthony McGinnis
Counting Coup is not a long book, less than 200 pages of actual text, but it takes an interesting approach to studying plains Indians. Whereas most studies focus almost wholly on the conflict between settlers and Indians, McGinnis focuses on the war between tribes on the plains. McGinnis takes us into a society where the role of war is to raise the statsus of individuals through acts of heroism and the stealing of your enemy’s things (usually horses). Where the object is not to completely destroy ones opponent only to dishonor him and where keeping casualties at a minimum is valued (you get no extra status for dying honorably).