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Nonfiction November - Week 4

We are nearing the end of November and are already on week 4 in Nonfiction November challenge. This week is hosted by Rebekah @ She Seeks Nonfiction. I find this weekly challenge difficult. Mainly since I read mostly historical nonfiction, and I am not sure it changes anyones world views. I will probably go a slightly different path, so, let's see where I end up.

Week 4: Worldview Changers:

What nonfiction book or books has impacted the way you see the world in a powerful way?

I went to my book shelves to check out my nonfiction books. I choose three of them that has impacted me. Maybe not changed my world views but the historical events had a great impact on many people.

The Sleepwalkers, How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark

This must be the most thorough research and writings on the first world war. Mainly centered on the origins of the war. The main event, we are told, are the shots in Sarajevo killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg. Well, as Christopher Clark shows, there are a few other events leading up to this devastating war.

"The British historian A.J.P Taylor and the American historian Barbara Tuchman wrote that ’the war was a result of rigid planning, train schedules and treaty commitments. That is, it was the final stop in a chain of events that could not stop the train, once it started’. It is a very good description and after having read Clark’s book you can see how all decisions from the persons and countries involved, although aimed at not starting a war, on the contrary, lead directly to war." (from my review, link above).

The book is called a master piece and that is no understatement. Well researched, well written, and an easy read even for the average reader. I guess it does teach us something, and changes our views on politics and politicians. My final paragraph in the review reads.

"What amazed me, was how supposedly, responsible emperors, kings and politicians acted. Many times due to small reasons of self interest, making a decision without a proper back ground, without thinking of the greater picture, a lack of knowing what the others were doing, interpreting what they were doing, rightly or wrongly. It was like these people were sitting with the map of Europe and made their next move with a chess piece. Rather scaring. "

I think this book did change my view on how the world is working.

Prince of Princes: The Life of Potemkin by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Another fantastic book about a person who seems to have been greater than life. A story about a great statesman and his relationship and love for Catherine the Great. In a way it has a bearing in what is happening today.

Potemkin was promoted to Field Marshal in 1783 and took over the control of Crimea when it was annexed. He was a powerful man in the area and founded several cities, among them Kherson and Odessa. Apart from the historically interested people today, his name is mostly associated with ‘Potemkin village’. This goes back to the time when Catherine the Great was visiting him. The time was short and he wanted to make her believe he had achieved more than he had. He thus used painted façades to fool Catherine. These façades hid the fact there was nothing behind. Maybe he inspired the movie industry?

Just a few days ago the world heard the news that when the Russians evacuated the city of Kherson they took the bones of Potemkin, buried in St Catherine's Cathedral, with them. Being the founder of the city his bones have a significance and great importance to the Ukrainians. For Russia as well, as they see Potemkin as being behind the conquest of the area in 1783.

A Rage to Live by Mary S. Lovell

I leave the war scene and go into exploration. Why not talk about one of the greatest, Sir Richard Burton. Mary S. Lovell is one of my favourite historical biographers. She writes so well, take you into other people's life, in a respectful way, and make you never want to leave. Sir Richard Burton is another man, greater than life. The achievements he did during his life time and the will to always learn new things. A brilliant mind, charismatic person, linguist, he spoke 24 languages, scholar, translator (he translated the Arabian Nights) and a daring adventurer. What is not to love here?

Reading about such people you feel rather small yourself. At the same time it gives you an insight in what man can do, if you put your mind to it. Everything seemed open to him. He was not afraid of trying new things and adventures. I guess you can say that he opened up the world to me in a way. Following in his fot steps, even if you are sitting in the sofa at home, he teases you to follow him.

Do you think there is one book that everyone needs to read for a better understanding of the world we live in?

A difficult question. I don't think there is one book that would do that for mankind. You probably have to widen your perspective with nonfiction books about different areas of society and different parts of the world. We all live different lives, and there is not one book that can make a better understanding of the world, for all people around the globe. A variety of nonfiction is the answer I think. Which should give me a big kick in the behind to start reading more than historical nonfiction.

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