Tag Archives: Bill Dahl Book Reviews

Astoria – John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire – A Story of Wealth, Ambition and Survival by Peter Stark – A Book Review by Bill Dahl

Riveting. Incomparable suffering. Courage. Stamina. Determination.

Another in a superb series of the history of the Pacific Northwest. A terribly important tale that played a seminal role in the discoveries and exploration of this geographic region – and the lust for wealth that propelled those engaged in this endeavor.

The research here is fantastic. The writing is accessible for all audiences. Frankly, this story is shocking – in far too many ways to recount here. Simply a splendid story that I HIGHLY recommend.

The human drama – the sheer determination to survive when confronted with unimaginable hardship – is a seminal contribution of this work.

 


 

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America – A Book Review by Bill Dahl

FIVE STAR REVIEW – With smoke from wildfires inundating the summer in the American West (again – 2017), this work is both timely and a historical treasure. In the late summer of 2017, with some 2 million acres currently in flames – it is difficult to wrap your head around the magnitude of the 1910 Big Burn that converged to torch a total of 3.2 million acres in the American West.

Nobody can weave history and story like Timothy Egan. PERIOD!

If you want to understand the genesis of the conservation movement in the U.S., the destructive capacity of wildfire, the history of the largest wildfire in U.S. history (3.2 million acres torched in 1910), the founding of the U.S. Forest Service, the conflict between business interests that those responsible for preserving public lands, the role of Gifford Pinchot and the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt – this book is for you.

This book is also about human behavior in the midst of impending disaster – both unsung heroes and the villains. The description of the dynamics of firestorm, what people did to save themselves and attempt to save their homes and villages, and the aftermath of this tragedy – this book is for you.

You cannot put this book down after you begin. Nobody but nobody can effectively treat a tragedy like this – in all its dimensions – except Timothy Egan.

There is so much in this book (set in 1910) that remains pertinent today: Funding for the U.S. Forest Service, wildfire prevention, conservation, environmentalism, management and suppression, politics, and the ongoing war of ideas.

Yet, it is Egan’s ability to bring to life the people who experienced this unimaginable, life altering and life ending episode that truly made this work magnificent – and resonate so profoundly with the reader.

After having visited Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Teton this summer, I cannot help but wonder, as one recent article asked: “Are we loving our National Parks to death?”

Egan’s treatment of the nuances and multi-dimensional facets of this story is simply spellbinding.

Just one of the BEST books I have EVER Devoured.

5 Star Review. PERIOD!


 

Undaunted Courage

Just one of THE BEST books one might ever read. I loved it. My only sorrow is the way it seemed to end too abruptly – with the tragic end of Lewis’s life. This is adventure writing and history at its best. I am now planning to explore the Bitteroot range. I just can’t find the words to express my deep appreciation for this work. Unequivocally outstanding!

Just wish the ending would have gone on for a few more chapters…the work and the journey -and the reader – deserved a bit more…


 

Lasso The Wind by Timothy Egan – A Review by Bill Dahl

I have a longstanding personal discipline when it comes to selecting books to read; every 5th book or so –  I require myself to read something published approximately 10+ years ago.  Thus, I encountered author Timothy Egan for the first time. Tonight, I just ordered three more of his books (I started my second Egan work last night)…

Lasso The Wind

I was absolutely – blown away – pardon the unintentional poor pun – by Lasso the Wind…I could NOT put it down. Spellbinding, literary talent beyond you wildest imagination, research to warp your mind, fantastic story-teller, unparalleled non-fiction and a contributor to American history the likes of which I have never encountered. Needless to say, I am now addicted to Egan’s work!

I typically read somewhere between 60-100 books a year. As of August 2017, Lasso The Wind is my unequivocal year to date favorite.

The way Egan weaves his storytelling and his research is – well – it’s simply unique and deeply engaging for the reader. JUST BUY THIS BOOK!!!

The history of the American West is widely and deeply inhabited by fictional myth. Egan eviscerates that B.S. in a way that leads one not only to a new, better informed understanding – but – leaves you inspired to continue to be curious about common understandings of history – and to examine the notion of “progress” that continues to lead humans to do unthinkable things to one another – and the planet we inhabit.

An absolute treasure…Trust me!!! Expect to read into the wee hours of the morning…I did. A book – and an ARTIST (author) for a broad audience. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


 

The Chickenshit Club – Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives – A Book Review by Bill Dahl

The Chickenshit Club – Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger – A Book Review by Bill Dahl. Simon & Schuster, NY, NY. 2017.

Eisinger is a Pulitzer Prize winner…among a laundry list of other investigative journalism awards. This book sears/injects an appreciation for that distinctive talent into the soul of the reader. Believe me…

James Comey, then (January 2002) U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Manhattan asked a gathering of his personnel: “Who has never had an acquittal or a hung jury?” Hands were raised in the audience before him. He replied, “Well, welcome to the Chickenshit Club!”

When you finish a book – and have an overwhelming impulse to launch the book through the nearest plate glass window – you know you have had a literary experience that is both unique – and overwhelming. This book is just that superb (and that was my reaction when I finished it). You cannot avoid the ever increasing disgust and anger that the book generates in your soul. PERIOD.

If you have ever wondered why senior executives were never prosecuted who were involved in financial crimes of the last 40 years – Read this book! Furthermore, the future of prosecuting these types of people does not bode well. The back flap of the book states: “The Chickenshit Club shows how our Justice Department has come to avoid, bungle, and mismanage the fight to bring these executives to justice – and what it will take to restore it to its former capacity.”

Honestly, that’s a half truth. What is NOT apparent to the reader is what it will take to restore it to its former capacity.” Clearly – the revolving door between the Justice Department and major law firms in D.C., Virginia and New York is culpable as an entrenched source of the ongoing energy required to maintain The Chickenshit Club.  Furthermore, the make-up of the current Supreme Court does not bode well for the prosecution of executives engaged in egregious financial malfeasance. Finally, the stance of the Trump administration on business regulation/litigation does NOT bode well for the essential enhancements that must be made.

Be prepared to take numerous VERY long walks, breathing deeply as you digest this volume. If you don’t – there will be additional costs to repair/replace the nearest plate glass window. This is a terribly, uniquely, important work. The stench this volume unearths will ever remind you of the scent of chickenshit. PERIOD!

Superb. Phenomenal. Demands ongoing dialog. Buy it!!! WARNING: Avoid Breakable Objects When Reading!!!

 


 

Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden (2017)

I have read a number of superb books about the Vietnam War. Some of my favorites include David Maraniss’s They Marched Into Daylight, Stanly Karanow’s Vietnam – A History, and Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie. I’ve read so many that I honestly paused, thinking I don’t need to read anymore about this subject. Yet, something told me that “this one will be worth it.” So, I bought it.


 

Mark Bowden’s Hue 1968 – A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam (2017 Atlantic Monthly Press – An Imprint of Grove Atlantic New York, NY — 540 pages) is UNEQUIVOCALLY one of my favorites on this topic. Bowden is the author of Black Hawk Down. Yet, Hue – 1968 may be his finest work (and should definitely garner the attention of a horde of movie producers). It’s a story that distinctly deserves being shared on the screen.

Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden

Bowden’s ability to describe the day-to-day of this historic fiasco was both captivating and unique. He displays his skills of creating context and dialog that rivet the reader in the midst of the action on each and every page. It’s uncanny. PERIOD!

 

The depth and breadth of the research that went into this work is absolutely mind boggling. Yet, the manner in which Bowden crafts the story line, and the way he introduces and breathes life and personality into the  actors is awe inspiring and makes the story what it truly is: another human tragedy displayed in the context of war. Yet, the courage, bravery, patriotism and fortitude displayed by the combatants is unparalleled – even though “the way their idealism and loyalty were exploited by the leaders, who themselves had lost faith in the effort, is a stunning betrayal. It is a lasting American tragedy and disgrace.” p. 527. Bowden tells the story of all those involved in this battle reflecting the respect and dignity he possesses for all involved.

Don’t let the 542 pages (plus appendices) scare you away from this phenomenal story. It is a page turner in every sense of the word. You simply cannot put the volume down once you’ve started the journey.

Bowden’s Hue 1968 is an even-handed treatment of this historic battle. It is not one of those lopsided volume’s that clearly has some socio-political agenda to grind. I appreciated that.

The human dimension of this work – focusing on how the day to day reality affected individuals (combatants, civilians, politico’s etc.) brings the reader into an intimate relationship with all concerned. This is a monumental task for any author – one that Bowden accomplishes throughout the book.

You cannot pick up this book without being compelled to put it down – pause – contemplate – digest – breathe deeply – then pick it up again and keep reading. The sheer intensity of the reality that Bowden brings to life demands it.

Devour Hue 1968 – A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden. You’ll be glad you did. I certainly am. It is a significant contribution to the history of the Vietnam War – and much, much more. It has pertinent lessons and wisdom for the ongoing challenges faced by humanity in the 21st century. BUY THIS BOOK!!!

Author Mark Bowden