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spoko

Currently reading

The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia
David E. Hoffman
The Master and Margarita
Mikhail Bulgakov, Diana Burgin, Katherine Tiernan O'Connor
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Arun Gandhi, Marshall B. Rosenberg
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Eric Metaxas, Timothy Keller
Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63
Taylor Branch
The Path to Power
Robert A. Caro
The Nature of Nebraska: Ecology and Biodiversity
Paul A. Johnsgard
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
Robin D.G. Kelley
Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War - Tony Horwitz

John Brown is an enigmatic character; more than a century after his life, it's difficult to tell whether he was a hero, a lunatic, or both. This book goes some way in illuminating the question, though to my mind, not far enough. One comes away from it with a very clear sense of why anyone might see him one way or the other, but with little sense of how he was able to recruit and retain a cohort of fighters willing to die behind him. Certainly their devotion to the cause was a factor, but following John Brown into battle must have required an incredible amount of faith in the man himself. What was it about him that these men adhered to? Unfortunately, I have little more of an idea now than I did before starting the book.

It's well enough written, and at least a few of the characters are reasonably sketched out. The intersections with prominent historical characters were intriguing as well. But the pacing isn't great, and as such I found it a bit difficult to really attach to any of the characters, including Brown himself.