Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Reviews

[These reviews originally appeared on]

The World's Worst Weapons: From Exploding Guns to Malfunctioning MissilesThe World's Worst Weapons: From Exploding Guns to Malfunctioning Missiles by Martin J. Dougherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exactly as the title says, this book is about the world's worst weapons. Each weapon gets its own two page spread with photos and/or drawings, a description of what made the weapon bad, information on its country of origin, and the year(s) in which it was developed or used. Several of the weapons are definitely worse than others, with some actually rising to the level of simple mediocrity. But the bad ones are truly bad (how could anyone have thought that a tank with only a few inches of ground clearance could possibly be adequate?). A wide variety of weapons are covered, ranging from ancient and medieval melee weapons to the Davy Crockett atomic recoilless gun with its suicidally short range.

Although a lot of good information is presented, the book has several typos and formatting errors. Each weapon has a data box which lists several categories such as date of use, weight, etc. On several pages the category header doesn't line up with the relevant data (e.g., the header says "weight" but instead gives you the weapon's range). A few times the flag used to show the nation of origin doesn't match the nation of origin as written in the text.

As an inexpensive book meant to provide entertainment for military history buffs, The World's Worst Weapons is a worthwhile read. It's unfortunate that an embarrassing number of obvious errors distract from the book's overall value.

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Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on AmericaGuilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America by Ann Coulter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's good be be a victim in America, argues Ann Coulter. Using a variety of media sources, polls, etc., Coulter shows that liberals have carefully created special classes that they claim to be victims of whites, capitalism, the wealthy, males, or any other politically unpopular class, race, philosophy, etc. (Coulter emphasizes that what she is talking about is above and beyond the real racism or prejudice that rational people acknowledge has actually happened.) However, in the process of trying to right the "wrongs" that these classes have supposedly suffered, liberals actually create real victims by extorting apologies, money, status, or favors out of less favored groups.

The best description of Guilty is that it's an Ann Coulter book. Coulter is excellent at preaching to the choir. If you already agree with her, as I often do, you will find her remarks funny, witty, and spot-on. Those who don't agree with her will find the book grating and her humor irritating and insulting. Coulter's style is simply too confrontational to actually convert anyone to her point of view.

I liked Guilty quite a bit, but I didn't find it as eye-opening as her earlier Treason. The evidence Coulter uses to prove her thesis will be familiar to anyone who pays attention to American politics; there's not a whole lot of new information here. The end of the book also seems to come abruptly, as if Coulter simply ran out of things to say and didn't feel like providing a satisfactory summary or conclusion. However, Coulter's wit makes Guilty an entertaining and worthwhile read.

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