I guess I've read more than 100 military memoirs, mostly of World War II, but some of WWI and the Vietnam War too.
Recently I read Arthur Page's memoir of his service with the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) during the Second World War. Between Victor and Vanquished. It's remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, it is beautifully written. Page evokes people and places through his writing with ease. Secondly, it is meticulously researched and includes footnotes at the end of each chapter. These footnotes include URLs where the reference is an on line one - rare in the military history genre. Fourthly, he has written it within the past few years and if you know any veteran of WWII, you know they are now all over 80 years old. Fifthly, he has led an unusual life and therefore has an unusual story to tell - that means it is not boring..
The book is both personal memoir and unit history of the ATIS. As he tells it, he could write the unit history through no other eyes than his own. He was born in Japan to Greek and Russian parents and was sent tot he English Grammar School in Yokohama. His beloved nanny steeped him in Japanese culture and history, and at the same time learnt the King's English at school. So, he was a natural Japanese linguist, English speaker, and had Greek, Russian and French too. His small boy's love of all things military led him to study ships, arms, soldiers and aircraft which was to stand him and Australia in good stead later. With Japan's growing hatred of foreigners, he and his family fled the country, and almost accidentally ended up in Australia. Ater the outbreak of the War he and his father attempted to join up but were rejected because they were foreigners. Eventually they were permitted to join the Australian Army, but their appeals to have their Japanese language skillsutilised initally fell upon deaf ears. Eventually they found their way to the ATIS in Brisbane where their skills were put to good use. Young Arthur eventually being attached to combat units for the purpose of interrogating Japanese prisoners and vetting captured documents. At war's end he was involved in war crimes investigations, including the atrocities at Bandjermasin in Borneo.
The other book I commend after re-reading it is Steve Martin's Born Standing Up.
Martin tells two parallel stories. This is primarily a show-biz autobiography with the main theme being his early career as an entertainer, right up to the late 70's when he was the biggest comedy concert act anywhere. His early career as a magician, and a banjo player. And a banjo playing magician. Then the transition to stand-up. The secondary theme of the book is his troubled relationship with this father.
The book is not out and out hilarious right the way through (for that in a comic's autobiography read Harpo Speaks) but there are some very funny moments, and there's plenty of famous people with walk-on roles in the story. Martin worked and worked and worked and worked and toured and toured and toured and nearly gave it away a couple of times before becoming a success. I enjoyed it. But you gotta have some knowledge of American popular culture of the 1970's to make it worthwhile I guess.
"If you know that you can count on 1000 students buying your textbook (at a price you set), then you really can’t lose. You may as well pay the upfront costs because you are guaranteed a profit from sales to your own hapless students.
No bookshop needs stock it, no other university needs assign it and no libraries need buy it - the authors still come out well because it is required reading for their students. This is why, in the vast majority of cases, the only sales of these self-published books are to the author’s own students.
Academics who engage in assigning their own books to students could be viewed as exploiting their students for personal gain."
An ethical minefield for sure.
This New York Times article Don't Buy That Textbook, Download it Free tells the story of Cal Tech Professor of economics R. Preston McAfee who is making his textbook free on the web for download. And he's not the only one.
They're calling them open-source textbooks.
I know that lots of people in book publishing are trying to work out what's going to happen in the future with the impact of the internet. Nobody knows yet.
Bonus 1: I love this quote which Noam Cohen has included in the NYT piece:
Jonas Salk was asked who owned the patent to the polio vaccine and scoffed: “Could you patent the sun?”
"We cannot understand, for instance, the history of western societies – including Australia - without some knowledge of the Bible and its influence. See this article from Slate on the religious influences on Abraham Lincoln as just one example
Beyond that, the Bible has been highly influential on literature, on philosophy, and even the way we speak … turning the other cheek, road to Damascus, reaping what we sow, ashes to ashes, fall from grace and many more are all expressions taken from the Bible.
Similarly, how can we hope to understand the present and glimpse the future without some understanding of the language of science? "
and that her 2006 M.A. Thesis at the Florida State University The Obligation of Service: The Jewish Chronicle and the Formation of the Jewish Legion During World War I is available at Google Cache here.
One of my minor interests is practiacal or applied chemistry. One of the fundamentals of chemistry is the periodic table.
The crew at theUniversity of Nottingham have put together videos about the table and are working their way through making a video about every single element. It includes stuff like physical samples and simple experiments. And some of the scientists are real characters.