I was at Borders a few nights ago and I picked up 'Warhammer 40,000: The Killing Ground', 'The Art of Clint Langley: Dark Visions from the grim Worlds of Warhammer', 'The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road: 1567-1659' by Geoffrey Parker, 'Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain's Asian Empire' by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper and 'The grand Strategy of Philip II' by Geoffrey Parker.

I finished 'The Lover' by Marguerite Duras a few days back. I have just started on 'Battles of the Thirty Years War: From White Mountain to Nordlingen 1618-1635'. I am also in the midst of a few other books including 'God is not great: How religion poisons the world' by Christopher Hitchens.

What you are guys reading?

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Read: "The Contest of Christian and Muslim Spain 1031-1157" by Bernard F. Reilly. At the beginning of this time period the muhammadans were on top in their occupation of Spain/Portugal. At the end, the Christians were in the drivers seat in taking back their lands. Portugal would split off from Leon-Castille to become a new Kingdom. Aragon had finally become a power to be reckoned with. The author covers the economic, military, Religious, Social, and Political changes by both sides that would lead to a Christian victory in spite of muhammadans reinforcements from North Africa. This would take to 1492. Very Good and Recommended.

Read; "The Succession to Muhammad: A Sturdy of the Early Caliphate" by Wilferd Madelung. This is a comprehensive and original study of the early history of muhammadanism. It covers the 30 years from the death of muhammad in 632A.D.. This is the period of the four 'Rightly Guided' caliphs, the civil wars that led to muhammadanism splitting into Sunnite and Shi'ite factions and the founding of the Umayyad caliphate. Later it split even further. Very Good and Recommended. Note: Can be very deep and dry.

"The Long Sunset" by Jack McDevitt. A SF novel on the Hutch Hutchins book series. The world is shutting down any space exploration to discover new worlds and Alien life out of fear it could lead "bad" aliens back to Earth.  A message is picked up from 7000 light years away and a mission with Hutch is sent to investigate. What Hutch and her crew find is totally unexpected. Just Okay.

I've recently started "A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War" by Joseph Loconte.  It explores how WWI influenced both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis in their choices of topics and worlds to describe.

Read: "Strange Music" by Alan Dean Foster. A Pip & Flinx SF novel. It has been awhile since the last Pip & Flinx book. Flinx is off on another adventure to a water world inhabited by sentient like-seal people. They communicate by singing to each other. This world has primitive tech but someone in violation of Commonwealth laws is importing advance weapon tech and stirring up a possible all out war among its people. Flinx is sent in undercover to find this individual and bring him/her back for justice. Very Good and Recommended.

Read: "Muslim Expansion and Byzantine Collapse in North Africa" by Walter E. Kaegi.This is a military history of the above. Who "lost" Christian North Africa? Who won it and how? The author tries to explain this in this book. Covers all the usual suspects. The muhammandan conquest was so though that no indigenous people are left as in the Middle East for example.  There are practically no written records by these peoples, therefore not a lot to explain this. The author speculates on the probabilities. Very Good and Recommended.

Read: "The Empire That Would not Die: The Paradox of Eastern Roman Survival, 640-740" by John Haldon. It should not have survived, but since it did, against all the odds, the questions are How and Why. The author attempts to explain this by going through all the info(scarce). A system analysis of why some social systems collapse and others beat the odds is carried out here. Included is a military, political, environmental, climate, religious, interests of elites and commoners, and Murphy's Law. That the Roman Empire in the east survived is fact, against the muhammadans brutal attempts to exterminate it from the face of the earth. Deep and dry but worth the trip. Very Good and Recommended.

"Warning Light" by David Ricciardi. A political/mystery novel on a rookie CIA analyst sent to Iran on a special mission that was supposed to be a cake walk. Best laid plans, etc... A page burner all the way. Excellent and Highly Recommended.

Read: "Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955A.D. to the First Crusade" by Anthony Kaldellis. The story of East Rome's comeback after the disasters of the 7th Century. It would expand with the conquest of Bulgaria in the west and the retaking of lands held by muhammadan Arabs in Syria and in the east, lands held by the Armenians. It would be a major state in the Med but by the late 11th Century all would come crashing down. There would be economic problems, internal dissent, and new enemies that attacked all about the same time: Normans in the West, Steppe tribes across the Danube, and the muhammadan Turks in the east. Very Good and Recommended.

Read: "The Eurasian Way of War: Military Practice in Seventh-Century China and Byzantium" by David A. Graff. A book from the series: Asian States and Empires Series. This book is a comparative study of military practice in Sui-Tang China and the Byzantine Empire between 600 and 700AD. It covers all things military: weapons, battlefield tactics, logistics, campaign organization, military institutions, and the grand strategy of empire. While there are differences, this books highlights what these empires had in common, even tho, thousands of miles apart. This book is also, a rebuttal of Victor Davis Hanson's books on the "Western Way of War" being superior to all "others" ways of war. Very Good and Recommended.

"Al-Riddah and the Muslim conquest of Arabia" by Elias Shoufani. After the death of muhammad, in 632AD, Arab tribes throughout Arabia, except the ones close to Medina-Mecca, revolted to regain their Freedom. There were tribes further away that had never submitted to muhammad and there fore not in revolt. But the muslims used this revolt of some as a smoke screen to conquer these Free Arabs and the rest of Arabia. The word Al-Riddah  means apostasy, so this rebellion is the "War of Apostasy" to muslims to this day. Abu Bakr was muhammad's successor, and the savior of muhammadanism.There was serious infighting among the muslims after muhammad's death for the "leadership" of muhammadanism. It was Abu Bakr who gain the leadership and pushed for all out war to crush the "rebels" and gain control of Arabia. He saved muhammadanism. Muhammad may have invented muhammadanism, but Abu Bakr prevented it from becoming a footnote in the history books. Very Good and Recommended.

Read: "The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans, 1081-1108" by Georgios Theotokis. A military history of the Normans of South Italy attempting to conquer Byzantium. The author examines the clash of two different "military cultures", the Normans and the Byzantines. Covers both sides different tactics and strategies to fight these wars. In the end, the Normans lost for now. Later they would try again in the late 12th Century but outside the scope of this book. Very Good and Recommended.

"Byzantium's Balkan frontier: A Political study of the Northern Balkans, 900-1204" by Paul Stephenson. This is Byzantium's Balkan relations with all the Slavic and non-Slavic peoples; including Serbs, Croats, Bulgarians, Hungarians, and the West. Very Good and Recommended.

"The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD661-750" by G. R. Hawting. This was a crucial period in muhammadan history. The Umayyads had been the most ardent resisters of muhammad during his life but after his death, succeeded in taking power and setting up their capital in Syria. The book does not cover international relations of the Umayyad's but the internal problems leading to civil wars and their fall. But in this period began the process of muhammadanism's transformation into a religion and culture in its classical form. Very Good and Recommended.

Read: "Septimius Severus in Scotland: The Northern Campaigns of the First Hammer of the Scots" by Simon Elliott. Severus was one of the great Imperial reformers of the Roman Military system. This is an in-depth study of his rise to power and his leading an army against the peoples of what is today Scotland. This was in response to their attacks on Roman Briton. This counter-attack was so devastating that peace was secured for 80 years. Very Good and Recommended.

"Sarcophagus: Their Mistake Wasn't Finding it, but Bringing it Back" by Ben Hammott. A novel on an ancient Mayan city in the Amazon Jungle found by archeologists from England. Among the artifacts and gold is found a sarcophagus with warnings; don't touch. Of course this is not heeded. Something is still Alive after all these centuries. Just OK.

"Aztec: The Story of Cortes and La Malinche" by Colin Falconer. A novel on the great woman whom was Cortes's translator, confidant, and mistress. Without her help, Cortes probably would not have succeeded in the conquest of Mexico. The stupidity of the Aztecs of this time did not hurt either and reminds me of today. Outstanding and a must read.

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