Thursday, September 27, 2007

Book Blog

Many of you are familiar with my obsession fascination with a website called Library Thing (LT) - provider of my supremely awesome Blog Widget for Recently Read Books. In the true tradition of The Best Just Got Better, I signed up for a program they have called Early Reviewers. The deal is that publishers come to LT and offer up free copies of their books and LT goes through and "matches" the books offered to readers based on what's already in users libraries - sort of a smart selector for book reviews, "if you read x, you might like y". The selected readers then review the book and offer their review back to the publishers for publicity purposes all for the fair price of a free book that usually is not yet published. This past month I scored my first free book. Aside from a few political books in my catalog, I'm not certain how I matched to it but as I am always up for new (and free) books from any genre complaints were the last thing on my mind. The book is called Red Zone Blues (subtitled A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge) and is written by Asia Times journalist Pepe Escobar. It was a pretty decent book and I thought I might as well share my review here and if anyone else is interested in reading it, I'd be more than happy to pass it around (which is also true for any and all books I own so if there's something in my catalog that you want to borrow let me know - I'm working on adding an "own" tag to distinguish books that are in my actual possession versus ones I've borrowed from friends or the local library). Anyhoo, before I get too rambley, here's my Red Zone Blues Review:
Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge is an insider's look at the past, present and future state of life, war and politics in Iraq. Parts of the book are highly critical of American foreign policy, yet Pepe Escobar focuses not on the US military, but on the Iraqi people. Stories are told of the leaders of the factions fighting for power as well as the heart-wrenching narratives from everyday people struggling to live within and around the war zone.

Each brief chapter of the book presents a different point about the conflict or current Middle Eastern politics. I found this format to be a bit distracting, as I had expected a more cohesive account. Although he warns readers that he is writing the "Blues" about the horrid state of Iraq (and constantly reiterates the popular idea that US occupation in Iraq must come to an end), Escobar could have provided his own suggestions or solutions to restoring Baghdad to stability. With the opportunity to present his own editorial, he instead chooses to remain amid the dismal facts and offers no hope for Iraq's future. Perhaps his stance is best summed up in a quote from one of his interviews stating, "[s]ome think it's better for the Americans to stay, otherwise there will be civil war. Others think they should leave. There is no united opinion."

Escobar's writing provided thought-provoking insights with every turn of the page. I most enjoyed the human perspectives and reading the interviews that Escobar, at times, risked his life to conduct. Whether or not readers agree with Escobar's views, I would recommend this book to anyone strictly for the factual information about US foreign policy and the current state of the Middle East. Red Zone Blues is an intense but satisfying book and the straightforward journalistic style will cause many Americans to evaluate, and possibly re-evaluate, their views on the war.
And I should add the disclaimer too that I'm still learning the ropes for writing good book reviews. My style and format tend to vary a lot but any feedback or polite critiques that people want to provide is more than welcome.

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