Books to Read:
The Pope’s Elephant—Silvio Bedini
This was my favorite book all year. It’s a historical account of a baby white elephant that the imperialistic king of Portugal sent to Pope Leo X–he also included a trained hunting leopard that could ride on the back of a horse. Leo fell in love with the elephant, who was trained to bow in his presence and trumpet as he walked into the pen which Leo had specially built behind the Vatican. Raphael sketched it and Da Vinci’s villa in Vatican City looked down on the papal menagerie. The book is hilarious and entertaining and at the same time a illustrative history of the Church. For instance, Leo sold indulgences partly to cover the expenses of Hanno, the cause which Luther later used to start the reformation. I also named my puppy after it.
Great book. Probably should have read it earlier (when TheExec first recommended it). I haven’t decided if the premise of the book is undermined by the fact that the author’s came to it based on proprietary research that they refused to make public–the exact kind of thing they say companies should get away from doing–but whatever. It takes “Wisdom of Crowds” to a new level without being gushing or absurd or nerdy.
Gonzo Marketing—Christopher Locke
Old but awesome. It’s by one of the Cluetrain authors. The premise is strong–that marketing and creation online need to follow Hunter S Thompson’s style of actively being engaged with the story as it happens–but the book is overwritten. And I mean really overwritten–like 100x worse than I am. He makes a cool analogy with Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” and the way corporations look at internet communities.
The Greco-Persian War—Peter Green
Robert recommended this one to me. It is an incredibly clear and analytical history of the war that preceded the Peloponnesian war in Greece. It gives Themistocles his due and frames Thermopylae as the relatively minor part of the conflict that it was. If you read this you can probably fool people into thinking that you read Herodotus. For me, it was the best contemporary telling of Greek history that I have read.