K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches

0385541015.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Baseball is a simple game; a pitcher throws a ball towards a batter who swings either missing or hitting the ball to put it into play. K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner explores the how the importance of the pitcher and the tools he uses has grown over 150 years of the sport as strategy has evolved along with and against it.

As the title of the book says, Kepner divides the book into ten chapters focusing on the different types of pitches that have endured throughout baseball history and some that have risen in prominence but have nearly faded away by the time of publication of the book. Through interviews and anecdotes from current and past players—both pitchers and hitters—that Kepner conducted himself or researched from past articles written as far back as the first decade of the 20th Century, the story of each pitch’s evolution and the prominent players that used them is discussed through particular careers and game situations that defined baseball history.

Kepner is extensive in his research in showing the history and the importance to the game that each pitch, through the careers of Hall of Famers or players that had spectacular runs for year but not an entire career. Yet Kepner had an issue with distinguish pitches that are very close to one another in one way or another though he tried his best, it wasn’t that I was looking for a tutorial on how to pitch but definitive elements about why pitches that appear similar to the casual fan are completely different and to me he didn’t quiet accomplish that.

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches is a very good look at one of the most important positions in American sports over the course of 150 years and how the players who played the position were able to gain an advantage over their competitors.

Western Civilization since 1500

0964fb29968767759764b486577444341587343Western Civilization Since 1500 by Walther Kirchner
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Covering over 450 years of history in a little over 300 pages seems a daunting task, even more so when it begins in Europe and slowly spreads across the globe. Western Civilization since 1500 by Walther Kirchner is a survey of the rise of European global dominance from the beginnings of “modern times” to the generation after World War II when the periphery powers of the United States and Soviet Union rose to dominance.

Kirchner spends the first 20 pages doing a quick recap of Western Civilization from its Sumerian beginnings to 1500. Then over the course of the next 300 pages, Kirchner divides the approximately 450+ years of history into 20 chapters of specific “eras” whether political and/or cultural developments and happenings. Unlike Kirchner’s previous survey, there was no real “highlight” for the general reader though the significance of some cultural individuals—writers, painters, composers, etc.—that in my own Western Civ and World History classes in high school and college were never mentioned or those that were mentioned that Kirchner didn’t thus showing the difference 30-35 years makes in historical studies. Kirchner obvious adherence to the Marxist theory of history was on full display, but it did not necessarily mean a favorable view of Communist regimes or leaders. As study aid for college students in the mid-1960s there were some interesting miscues (the misdating of the Battle of Yorktown stands out), omissions (the genocidal famine caused by the First Five Year Plan), and downright lies (that the U.S. citizens were sympathetic to the British from the beginning of WWII). Given that this book is over 50 years old there is dated terminology that wouldn’t be used today, not all for politically correct reasons, that would make the reader do a double take if they didn’t know when this book was published.

Though this small volume is meant as a study aid to college students and a quick reference for general readers, to which is essentially succeeds, it is pretty old and should be used by astute history readers to learn how the study of history has changed over time.

Western Civilization to 1500

Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator

082802779x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator by Gary Land
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The man who came to personify the Review and Herald over 50 years of working on it going from one of the young pioneers to elder statesmen of the Second Advent movement. Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator by Gary Land chronicles the life of this indispensable yet very opinionated man who was influential with Adventist readers around the United States.

Land quickly covers Smith’s early life in New Hampshire including the two biggest events of that time, the loss of his leg at age 12 and his conversion to Millerism. This latter event eventually led to Smith’s joining the then small Sabbath-keeping Adventists led by Joseph Bates and the Whites, the latter Smith would impress when he submitted a 3,000-line blank verse poem about the foundation, rise, and progress of the Adventist movement leading to James White offering Smith a position at the Review and Herald. Smith did everything for the magazine from typesetting to editorials during his early years before James White took a backseat, letting the younger Smith take the lead. Throughout his tenure Smith would constantly cover Adventist doctrines and how present-day events had prophetic implications especially when it came to other Christians attempting to get through Sunday legislation on various levels of government. Yet Smith flirted with controversy throughout his time at the magazine and in denominational work from Battle Creek College to the 1888 Minneapolis meeting to confrontations with the General Conference leadership and getting admonished by Ellen White.

With a text of almost 250 pages, Land is quick and concise in his writing but not in his research as seen in his chapter endnotes. While the reader does get a very informative look at Smith’s life, there seems to be a rushed feeling with the biography. Unfortunately, this seems to be a consequence of Land working between cancer treatments to complete this and two other historical works that he finished just before his death.

Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator is the first biography of its kind in over 35 years through with a different perspective than previous books. Gary Land’s informative and concise wording gives the reader a better look at the man whose name is known in Adventist circles but his life is not.

The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt

0802126936.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt by Randall Sullivan
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The riddle wrapped in a mystery inside the enigma that is a small island just barely off the shore of Nova Scotia has tantalized and tortured people for over two centuries. The Curse of Oak Island by Randall Sullivan covers the history of the longest treasure hunt from the individuals involved in the hunt to the theories of what is or isn’t on the island including the History Channel reality series of the same name.

Building upon the Rolling Stone article he wrote 13 years before, Sullivan was invited back to the island by the producers of the reality show to write this book, appear on a few episodes of the show, and interview the Lagina brothers. Starting with the historical backdrop of the Oak Island area, Sullivan goes over the often-told discovery of the Money Pit but thorough research finds out that the named three discoverers is not agreed up as well as their biographies. Throughout his 220 year history, Sullivan goes into the numerous lead searchers as well numerous theories of who made the Money Pit and what they believed was buried in there from pirate/privateer treasure to French Royal Jewels to possessions of the Knights Templar to cultural treasures connected with Roger Bacon. The history of the last 60 years on the island which focuses on the now-deceased Fred Nolan and Dan Blankenship with their rivalry and how they joined the Laginas search as well as how the titular reality series came about is covered extensively compared to the earlier history as Sullivan had first-hand access to the participants.

Given the murky history of Oak Island, Sullivan did an excellent job and navigating everything connected with the long story of the Money Pit. However, the biggest grip I had was with the intertwining of the history and the various theories, I personally felt that it would have been better to break up the history of the search in two and have all the theories discusses in-between. Sullivan actually goes against the show’s narration of events several times in relating the history of the island and previous searchers, however he never discusses “the legend that seven must die” which is hinted at being the “curse” in the show’s open for the first four or five seasons.

The Curse of Oak Island is a fine look at the history surrounding the search of the Money Pit and the men who’ve dug on the Nova Scotia island. Randall Sullivan gave the reader an idea about the individuals who kept the search going and what they believed they were searching for while also showing the toll it took on them and the island itself. Overall it’s a fine book, but not laid out very well.

J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers

0828026629.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers by Brian Eugene Strayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Advent preacher when he joined the embryonic Seventh-day Adventist movement in 1852, John Norton Loughborough would spend the next 72 years as a preacher and administrator before being the last of the pioneers to pass leaving lasting legacy to the denomination only behind Joseph Bates and the Whites. Brian E. Strayer’s J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers is the first major biography of influential preacher, missionary, and Church historian that was a little man who cast a long shadow.

Strayer begins with an impressive family history that gives background not only to Loughborough but how he was raised, including the influence his grandfather had on his spiritual life, and how in his youth he was influenced by the Millerite message. Loughborough’s resulting spiritual wandering in the years after the Disappointment before deciding to become a “boy preacher” at age 17 among the Advent Christians then his introduction to Seventh-day movement and later conversion to Sabbath were give significant time as well. Yet 85% of the book took up Loughborough’s 72 years among the Seventh-day Adventist movement covering his time as a preacher, president of numerous conferences, missionary to fields both domestic and foreign, and finally Church historian who was the last link to the “early days” for 3rd- and 4th-generation Adventists in the late 1910s and 1920s. Throughout Loughborough’s relationships with other important and influential denominational leaders was examined including Ellen White whose admonishments were welcomed by Loughborough in contrast to other Adventist leaders some of whom would later leave and attack not only the denomination and White. Strayer covered in detail Loughborough’s fight against apostacy and his role as the first Church “historian” as well has the lasting influence he had in both areas among Adventists.

Given the place in denominational history that Loughborough, Strayer used a wide range of sources to give a thorough look at his subject including what surviving letters he could find (Loughborough burned his own) and Loughborough’s own diaries (that was saved by a nurse instead of destroyed upon his death). Unlike the only other biography of Loughborough that followed the subject’s own apologetic look at Adventist history, Strayer brought a critical eye to his subject including Loughborough’s Church history books that influenced Adventist historiography for half a century.

J. N. Loughborough is a well-written, well-researched look at the last pioneer of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. Brian Strayer showed the large footprint and long shadow this “little man” had had until this very day. This is a highly recommended biography for anyone interested in Adventist history.

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush

1400067650.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Coming to the Oval Office at a critical time in foreign and domestic affairs, the Presidency of George H.W. Bush was filled with successes and failures but guided by a steady hand. Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham brings together independent historical research and interviews from the former President and numerous family members as well as political colleagues and advisories to bring the life and career of the 41st President to readers.

Meacham begins the biography with a family history of G.H.W. Bush’s father and mother showing how their lives were shaped that would influence their second son and made him the competitive though ego suppressing individual he was. Though Meacham gave overall historical background for certain situations, this was a book focusing on the life of G.H.W. Bush and what he did throughout his life from his post-war decision to forgo an easy career on Wall Street to join the oil business to Texas and being his own man in politics and not agree with everything his father Prescott believed while serving in the Senate. A political career that had as many defeats as victories, G.H.W. Bush’s path to the White House was through public service, especially throughout the 1970s especially in the diplomat sphere that would later impact his handling of foreign affairs of his Presidency. Meacham covers the Vice Presidential and Presidential terms in detail which cover over half the book before ending with the former President’s unique retirement as elder statesman and father of a serving President of the United States and an analysis of his relationship with his son during those years.

Taking roughly a decade of research, interviews, and writing Meacham presents a thoroughly well-rounded view of the 41st President, Barbara Bush, and their relationships with their children within reason. The elder Bush and Barbara allowed Meacham a free hand in written and this is evident in their attitudes to individuals being put in print and Meacham analysis of various controversies particularly Iran-Contra scandal. If there is one drawback is that at the time of publication the 41st President was still alive with several years left to live and express his views on things, but also a biography after the subjects death allows time afterwards to fully analyze their lives and that difference was evident.

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush is a very written and thorough biography of the 41st President of the United States. Like his other biographies, Jon Meacham’s research and analysis give a vivid description of his subject and his family. This is a highly recommended biography for anyone interested in the 41st President or the particular time in the 20th Century when he was in office.

A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier

0828025622.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier by George R. Knight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the pivotal figures during the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session on the debate about the Adventist view of righteousness by faith, he become one of the most influential leaders of the church for a decade before his extreme leanings lead him into apostasy. George R. Knight’s A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier follows the life and career of one of Adventism’s most important figures for both good and ill as well as how he went from almost being General Conference President to be disfellowshipped in less than a decade.

Bringing decades worth of research and materials, Knight essentially begins his biography on Jones with his conversion to Seventh-day Adventism and the beginning of his ministerial career months later. He talent and ability got him noticed by the Whites and other denomination leaders allowing him to go to California to begin teaching at and editing denomination periodicals, including those focused on religious liberty. While in California, Jones met and studied with E.J. Waggoner forming a partnership that would last the rest of their lives during which they would oppose “the establishment” in the denomination beginning in the lead up to Minneapolis in 1888 and continuing even as they got General Conference leadership positions. After following the ramifications of the Minneapolis, Knight continued chronicling Jones’ life and career including his need to go to the extreme in his logic, arguments, and beliefs which would eventually lead to his battle against the denomination’s organizational structure that would force him against A.G. Daniells and joining the side of John Harvey Kellogg that would see both disfellowshipped from the church.

Given Jones controversial place in Adventist history, Knight was clear on which positions and theological developments that Jones championed are still with Adventists and which were too extreme officially but still have an influential strain even today. A part of this divide is how Ellen G. White reacted and corresponded with Jones on his thoughts and beliefs as well as the relationship between the two over the course of two decades. Unlike his colleague Waggoner, Jones’ family life was unfortunately not covered much but as Knight pointed out he late in his biography it was because he was never home to be a real father and husband or lived in the same state as his family during important periods in his life.

A.T. Jones gives a detailed view into the life, teachings, and career of one of the most important individuals in Adventism at the turn of the century. George R. Knight covers the ups and downs of Jones’ life as well as explaining his positions and how he developed them, but in a very readable and understandable way for lay readers without getting too technical. A highly recommended book for those interested in Adventist history.