Book Reviews: The Road to Oz and War

Thursday, August 5, 2010


The Road to Oz
by L. Frank Baum
★★★★

A shaggy man asks Dorothy for directions and soon they find themselves (and Toto too) on an adventure. Along the way they meet a dense boy named Button-Bright and Polychrome, the daughter of the rainbow king. They travel to the land of foxes, where Button-Bright's head is replaced by fox's head. Then the same thing happens to the shaggy man in the land of donkeys. The shaggy man's love magnet gets them out of a few scraps, but not all of them. Their misadventures eventually lead them to the Land of Oz, where Ozma is celebrating her birthday.

I love how Baum tends to find a way to let us revisit all of the characters we met in previous books. I'm slowly making my way through all of the Oz books (this is book 5 of 15), and this one is a sweet story.

"Why didn't you want to go to Butterfield?" she asked.

"Because a man lives there who owes me fifteen cents, and if I went to Butterfield and he saw me he'd want to pay me the money. I don't want money, my dear."

"Why not?" she inquired.

"Money," declared the shaggy man, "makes people proud and haughty. I don't want to be proud and haughty. All I want is to have people love me."


War
by Sebastian Junger
★★★★

Junger has made a name for himself with nonfiction books like The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont (both great books). His intimate writing style sucks his readers into the worlds he writes about and his latest book, War, is no exception. Junger spent 15-months following a single platoon during their time in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. He chronicles his time there, including the soldiers he meets, the obstacles they face and the even greater problems they have once the battle in over.

The book is good, but as Junger himself notes, you can't be objective about something like this. I felt that sometimes his personal experiences and struggles distracted from those of the soldiers themselves. It was clearly an incredibly personal experience for him and I don't fault him for it, but it didn't add to the book for me.

The most fascinating bits for me were Junger's discussion of the men's loyalty to each other. He talks about the bonds between them that supersede everything else. He also talks about the "good" aspects of war and the reasons why soldiers often have a hard time adjusting to civilian life. Junger's observations are keen and he cites many studies and historical examples to support his conclusions. It's a hard book to read, but a powerful one.

A similar book to this one, which I enjoyed even more, is Ernie Pyle's Brave Men. If you liked War, I'd highly recommend it.

For more, read Amy's great review here.

6 comments:

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Ooh, I think I like the Oz series, I really need to pick them up -- I really like it when an author is that creative that they can successfully take some of our favorite characters and draw off them to create a whole new world!

I still need to read the Wicked books, too!!

Avid Reader said...

I agree. I've found that the Oz books are delightful when you read one or two a year. Back-to-back they feel repetitive, but spread apart they're a treat.

You should check out Wicked, but know in advance that they are dark. Definitely good, but you'll find no saccharine stories there.

Kathy said...

I was reading the Oz stories to my kids at bedtime for a while (we have the collection in a set of 3 volumes), and we got burned out midway through the second book for exactly the reason you stated. Maybe it's time for us to pick it up again, and read one more. I hope I left the book mark in . . .

Alex said...

I have to admit it's the first time I hear about an OZ series. it got me curious.

Did you know Hollywood is thinking about a Wizard of Oz prequel with Jhonny Deep as the Wizard?

Jenners said...

I imagine that it would be hard to be impartial when covering a story like Junger does in War. I do want to read it.

Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This sounds like an intense story. I have it on my list but not sure when I'll get to it; great review.