Good morning bookies! It’s bright and cool here in West Tennessee, most unusual for late August. We should be baking and we’re not.

So, Friday I was at the local Memphis Public Library book sale. I spent all morning there. I bought two books. It was dreadful. The library is now skimming off what they consider their best books and selling them on ebay. So, who is determining what books are what? ‘Why, we are!’ one befuddled woman told me. ‘We even sold a first edition the other day!”

God only knows what that book was they sold, whether it was first edition or a 20th. I can assure you this woman would not have known. But obviously whatever they had, if was not at the sale. Nothing but crap, beat up ex-library copies that have been around that sale for years now. A complete waste of time. If you’re thinking about going to a Memphis sale in the future, I wouldn’t bother. Unless, of course, you’re just looking for something to read and don’t mind the copy being a bit beat up, in which case you’ll probably find something.

*** Technically speaking, ancient tablets were the books of their time and so are germane to this blog about books. Right? Right. And it’s right in the wheelhouse of my imagination’s strike zone that the linked article describes archaeologists finding Turkish tablets more than 2700 years old, tablets that don’t just list the day to day activities of a temple, but also might verify facts concerning the Persian Empire’s expansionist tendencies in those days. Amazing people, amazing stuff. To put this in a time context, these tablets were contemporary to the founding of Rome.

Ancient Persian tablets found

*** A signed copy of Mein Kampf was recently sold at auction and, I must say, it went for less than I would have thought, 21,000 pounds, or roughly $38,000. Not only that, this copy was inscribed by Hitler to a fellow inmate at Landsberg Prison. Inscriptions from Hitler are quite rare. On the other hand, the book is more or less unreadable, the passages are so tangled and dense and rambling that one can look quite a while for coherence, without finding it. Not that anyone buying such a book would actually read it, mind you.

Signed Mein Kampf under the gavel

*** During World War II Germany created, or came close to creating, or at least thought about creating, a whole series of extraordinary, far-ahead-of-their-time weapons. The first stealth aircraft, the first operational jet fighter, the first operational rocket fighter, the first jet bomber, smart bombs with TV sets built into their nose, (and those were actually used in the war, too)…and, of course, the famed V2 rocket, the first ballistic missile, still the basis for most so-called SCUD missiles in use throughout the world. And for that particular little bit of worrisome hardware we can thank one Werner Von Braun.

Of course, after the war von Braun came to America and helped put us on the moon, so before we go getting all indignant let’s remember that while Braun might have been a Nazi scientist, he was our Nazi scientist.

That, at least, seems to be the general thought behind Dark side of the Moon: Wehrner von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race by Wayne Biddle. Von Braun was a rocket scientist, he designed and built the much feared V2 for Hitler, a weapon that killed thousands in London and Antwerp. But he was also a German and his country was at war. Like fellow scientists in the USSR, saying ‘no’ to research that could be used for weapons was not an option. If you weren’t useful, then you were taking up valuable resources.

Von Braun was a fascinating man and this might be one book I seek out to read.

A needed biography of Werner von Braun

*** The subject of the Italian resistance during World War II, the roving bands of guerillas who made life so miserable for the Germans and Fascist Italians after Italy’s surrender in 1943, is a subject almost begging for a good book to detail all of its many aspects. And, based on this review below, it still needs one. Or maybe the book that has been written just needs a better reviewer.

The headline of this book review mentions the book being biased; it’s hard to imagine the book is more biased than the reviewer. I mean, come on! How am I supposed to take you seriously when you’re using the subject of a review to launch your own political spin about modern Italian politics? This guy is obviously a leftist outraged that Italy was not allowed to become a communist country. Give me a break.

However, given the paucity of information available on this particular topic, the book does fill an important need. Now it just needs a better reader.

World War II behind the lines in Italy