Seife, Charles. Zero: the Biography of a Dangerous Idea. New York: Viking, 2000.
Reason read: another choice relating to New Year’s resolution. Everyone wants to reset the clock. Zero symbolizes just that.
No other number can do so much damage, so says Charles Seife. He tells you this as he is explaining the Golden Ratio, how Winston Churchill is equal to a vegetable, and how you can make your very own wormhole. Mathematics, religion, philosophy, art, engineering, history: they all connect to zero. Mathematics is a more obvious element, but take religion: Shiva, one of the three gods in the Hindu triumvirate, represents nothing because Shiva’s role is to destroy the universe in order to perpetually recreate it. Seife goes deep to illustrate the importance of the zero and how, historically, it created as well as calmed chaos. Zero is historical and humorous, informative and even a little emotional.
Lines I liked, “To add insult to injury, the ultimate Pythagorean symbol of beauty and rationality, was an irrational number” (p 37) and “But the sand reckoner was destined to meet his fate while reckoning the sand” (p 52).
As an aside, does everyone know the music of Josh Ritter? I couldn’t help but think of his song, Lark, when reading Zero because he mentions “Golden ratio, the shell.”
Author fact: Seife has an M.S. in Mathematics from Yale University. Are you surprised?
Book trivia: Zero is the only book I know that starts with the chapter 0 instead of a preface or introduction.
Nancy said: Pearl lures you in and makes you curious about Zero when she says, “[Seife] offers a mathematical proof that Winston Churchill is equal to a carrot” (p 256). Okay, you got me.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Zero: This Will Mean Nothing To You” (p 256).
Irons, Peter. A People’s History of the Supreme Court: The Men and Women whose Cases and Decisions Have Shaped Our Constitution. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.
Reason read: in celebration of the Constitution.
We begin, as they say, from the beginning. The year is 1787 and the controversies of the day are slavery and racial segregation, free speech and a woman’s right to end her pregnancy. What year are we in now? Aren’t we still battling against racial discrimination? Aren’t we still fighting for free speech and women’s rights? What’s that saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same? It is disheartening to think we have been railing against crooked judges since the beginning of the Supreme Court. Its inception had a rocky start. Rutledge was deranged and Wilson was jailed for debt, just to name a few examples. It makes you realize the abuse of power really is timeless. McKinley was able to place a brilliant conservative justice with an incompetent one. Sound familiar? Fear and intimidation has not changed. Since the beginning of the Supreme Court there have been men who serve as chief justice who cannot separate personal bias from judicial duty.
On the other hand, time marches on and some things do change. At the time of writing, Irons’s world consisted of a Supreme Court that had been mostly all white and mostly all old men. We have made some strides to having a diversified Supreme Court. So…there is that. Also, consider this: in the 1920’s a woman had her own minimum wage. Isn’t that special?
I could go on and on. Last comment:Even though this is geared towards a tenth grade reader, it is an important book. Everyone should take a stab at it. If not to see where we are going, but to see where we have been.
Author fact: Peter Irons called Howard Zinn a mentor. Additionally, Irons was arrested in 1963 for refusing to serve in the military. If you were a conscientious objector, you had to have a religion to cite as your reason for not fighting.
Book trivia: for the longest time A People’s History of the Supreme Court has been used as a law and history textbook across the country.
Nancy said: Pearl called A People’s History of the Supreme Court “readable” (p 136).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Legal Eagles in Nonfiction” (p 135).
Sturm, Izaak. Filling in the Pieces: a Survival Story of the Holocaust. New York: Gefen Publishing, 2019.
Reason read: an Early Review book from LibraryThing.
The expectations put forth to the reader in Rabbi Hier’s introductions are many. There is the promise we won’t be immune to heartbreak and triumph. We will be powerfully reminded of the atrocities of World War II. We will be provided with a clear-eyed view of human behavior throughout this disturbing time. We will have insight into both the world of the perpetrator and survivor alike. We will be reminded that the Holocaust must be remembered and not denied, forgotten, or repeated. We will learn from the author’s persistence to survive. Above all else, we will be touched. All of that is true. Expectations such as these and then-some are met in Sturm’s courageous words.
Introduction by Rabbi Marvin Hier.
Preface by Moish (Mark) Sturm, Izaak’s son.
Favorite element of the book: There is an attention to detail as if history depends on Sturm getting it exact (like the precise year of his birth). Footnotes are plentiful.
Book trivia: the photographs are generous, both in color and black and white.
Confessional: for years and years my senses would avoid anything involving Hitler and the atrocities of World War II. I didn’t want to see, smell, taste, feel, or hear anything about that horrific time. Stories of lamps made from human skin would keep my young imagination reeling as my heart beat out of my chest in pure terror. I have reoccurring dreams of bombs being unceremoniously and carelessly dropped over Monhegan. I still wake in the middle of the night listening to the drone of engines in the sky. Nightmares still creep across my eyelids and I often wake up in a cold sweat thoroughly convinced someone could be coming to take my teeth with pliers at any minute.
Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.
Reason read: the Korean War officially ended in July.
The interesting thing about the Korean War is that most were reluctant to call it an actual war. Those that admitted to it being a conflict were convinced it would be over in no time. What started in June of 1950 as a “clash” between North Korea and South Korea turned into a war of attrition when China and the Soviet Union came to the aid of North Korea and the UN and United States joined the South. Despite a treaty being signed in July of 1953, to this day, technically the conflict has not been recognized as over.
While Halberstam portrays the well-researched historical events with accuracy and thorough detail, his portrayals of key U.S. figures such as Generals MacArthur and Bradley, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and President Truman read like a fast paced political thriller. The larger than life personalities practically jump off the page.
As an aside: I suppose it would make sense if I thought about it more, but the Korean War was the first time air-to-air combat was conducted. Before then planes were mostly used to drop bombs and transport men and supplies.
Best line to quote, “Sometimes it is the fate of a given unit to get in that way of something so large it seems to have stepped into history’s own path” (p 258).
Author fact: Halberstam was born in April and died in April.
Book trivia: The Coldest Winter was published after Halberstam’s death.
Nancy said: Pearl called Coldest Winter the “best book for the nonhistorian on the Korean War” (Book Lust To Go p 127).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Korea – North and South” (p 125). I am willing to bet Coldest Winter would have been in More Book Lust’s chapter “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112) if it had been published in time. MBL was published in 2005 and Coldest Winter came two years later in 2007. It would appear Pearl is a fan and has read everything Halberstam has ever written.
January started with my first official appointment to a chiropractor. I mentioned elsewhere that he wasn’t really confident he could put me back together, but that’s there and not here. Not being able to run has given me more time to read…much more than I realized. You can get a lot done with an extra 4-5 hours a week! With that being said, here are the books:
- Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright. This story stayed with me for a really long time.
- Tea From an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan. I think I was most disappointed by this one because I saw the ending a mile away.
- On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I listened to this on audio and I still can’t stop thinking about it.
- Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich. I read this one in a day.
- Wake Up, Darlin’ Corey by M.K. Wren. Another really short book.
- What Did It Mean? by Angela Thirkell. I gave up on this one after 120 pages. Boring!
- Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals by David Laskin.
- War Child by Emmanuel Jal. Probably the most raw and captivating story of the month. Read in a weekend.
- Traveller’s Prelude by Freya Stark
- Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman. No one does history like Barbara. (AB/print)
- Last Cheater’s Waltz by Ellen Meloy. She has a wicked sense of humor.
- Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle by Dorothy Gilman. The last Pollifax mystery I will read. Read in a day.
- Brain Food: the Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Health by Lisa Mosconi. This took me a really long time to read. You may have seen it on other lists. There was just a lot to it.
Tuchman, Barbara. Practicing History: Selected Essays. Read by Wanda McCaddon. Ashland, OR: Blackstone Audio, 2009.
Reason read: Tuchman’s birth month is in January.
Right off the bat I have to admit some of my cds skipped while listening to the audio version of Practicing History so I missed some parts. Then, and this is even more embarrassing, I found myself tuning out from time to time. McCaddon’s voice had that Charlie Brown’s teacher effect on me.
Unlike Nero Wolfe of West Thirty Fifth Street by William Baring-Gould, which I believe should be read after completing the Rex Stout mysteries, Practicing History should be read before Tuchman’s other books. The first part of Practicing History, “The Craft,” is Tuchman’s way of explaining how she wrote her books without giving too much away. She makes it possible to look forward to reading The March of Folly and Proud Tower with anticipation.
The second part of Practicing History, called “The Yield” presents various topics from different articles she has written over the years (Japan, the Spanish Civil War, Woodrow Wilson and the Six-Day War in the middle east). The third and final part of Practicing History includes editorials on the Vietnam War, Watergate and how we can learn from history if one would only listen. We have a hard time doing that as a nation. Why start now?
Tuchman always writes with sharp wit and humor. Practicing History is no different and does not disappoint.
Favorite quote, “To a historian libraries are food, shelter, and even muse” (p 76). I like this sentence so much I thought I was going to stop there. But, then I found this one: “Women being child bearers, have a primary instinct to preserve life. Probably if we had a woman in the White House and a majority of females in Congress, we could be out of Vietnam yesterday” (p 264). Swap Vietnam for any war torn country in the middle east and that statement is true today.
Author fact: I have seven Tuchman books on my Challenge list. After finishing Practicing History I will be halfway through the list.
Book trivia: Because these are simply Tuchman’s essays there isn’t an index or bibliography to support the narrative.
Nancy said: Nancy said Tuchman explains her thoughts about her craft in Practicing History (p 225).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter, “Barbara Tuchman: Too Good To Miss” (p 224).
Brands, H.W. Age of Gold: the California Gold Rush and the New American Dream. New York: Doubleday, 2002.
Reason read: May is history month.
January 24th 1848 is considered the date of the birth of the gold rush.
Age of Gold takes a thorough look at a slice of American history. Beginning in 1848 Brands introduces the reader to people from all walks of life, uncovering every story from land and sea across several continents. Part One describes in detail the first adventurers to travel from every corner of the earth to seek gold. It is here John Fremont is introduced for the first time. Part Two is an introduction to the frenzied hunt for gold: panning, picking, cradling, digging, mining, sifting, sluicing. Part Three sees the birth of California’s borders and governing body. San Francisco becomes the first city in the state.
Confessional: When I first heard Natalie sing “Gold Rush Brides” I wondered what she used for inspiration to write a song about the gold rush from the point of view of the women on the trail. Some time later Natalie read a passage from Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey collected by Lillian Schlissel before performing the song. I can’t help but think of this book in comparison to Age of Gold.
Author fact: Brands also wrote bestseller The First American (also on my Challenge list).
Book trivia: Age of Gold includes a great group of photographs.
Nancy said: Nancy called Age of Gold “wide-ranging and engaging” (p 20).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “American History: nonfiction” (p 20).
Preston, Diana. Lusitania: an Epic Tragedy. New York: Walker & Company, 2002.
Reason read: on May 7th, 1915 the Lusitania was torpedoed on her 101th journey from New York to Liverpool, England. This reading is in honor of that horrific anniversary, 102 years later.
1915 – the year when everyone was in competition to see who could build the biggest, the fastest, the safest, the most stylish luxury ocean liner on the Atlantic. In the meantime, war was underway so another group was trying to build the fastest, the safest, the most stealthy and deadly underwater vessel called a U-boat. On May 7th, 1915 these two ocean vehicles would come together and make controversial history and spark one of World War I’s biggest mysteries. In 1915 the British vessel the Lusitania was the fastest passenger liner on the ocean. It was rumored to be able to outrun any U-boat enemy. However, what is fascinating about Diana Preston’s version of events is the amount of suspense she builds in the telling. I found myself questioning what I would do if I was set to board a British passenger ship, knowing full well its country was at war and the enemy had just issued a warning to passengers (to me!) stating they would attack my mode of transportation. In addition, I had options. There were neutral American boats going the same way.
I enjoyed Preston’s Lusitania so much I sought out documentaries about the May 7th, 1915 sinking to learn more.
Cache of worthless information:
- Admiral Lord John Arbuthnot “Jackie” Fisher would have been a solid contender on Dancing with the Stars.
- Admiral Lord Charles Beresford had a hunting scene tattoo across his buttocks “with the fox disappearing into the cleft” (p 19). Thank you for that image, Ms. Preston!
- Businessman Elbert Hubbard’s wife’s preoccupation with potted plants got on his nerves.
Quote to quote, “A disaster always seemed necessary to bring about safety improvements (p 59). Isn’t that always the case?
Here’s another interesting quote, “A group of bellboys had spent the night before sailing electrocuting rats…” (p 133).
But, the most devastating quote to me is, “The German government regretted that the American passengers had relied on British promises rather than heeding German warnings” (p 334).
As an aside, I enjoy when a book educates me further on things I wasn’t aware I needed to know. Reading Lusitania prompted me to look up Leonardo Da Vinci’s underwater suit. I wanted to know more about Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. His portrayed him as a dashing man.
Author fact: There is a saying out there, “stick to what you know” and Preston certainly subscribes to that point of view. She has written four other books about the sinking of the Lusitania. None of these, nor any other Preston books, are on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: at first glance Lusitania: an epic tragedy is a hardy 438 pages long. In reality, its text is more like 380 pages once you remove all the awesome photographs, maps and diagrams. There are 80 photographs, 5 maps, 7 illustrations and 5 diagrams in total.
Nancy said: Nancy called Preston’s account “fittingly moving” (p 76).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 900s” (p 76).
Halberstam, David. The Fifties. New York: Villard Books, 1993.
Reason read: November is clean up month. The last month to finish books started during the year.
The 1950s. The greatest generation. To put it into perspective, Churchill announced America was poised to be the most powerful country in the world by 1950. The 1950s also gave birth to the microwave oven, Lucy and Desi, desegregation, Holiday Inns, the photocopier, McDonald’s restaurant, the credit card, the polio vaccination, hip=shaking Elvis, the discovery of DNA, the color TV…I could go on and on but Halberstam does that for me brilliantly in The Fifties. He covers everything from inventions to politics; from fads to phenomenons; from people to places.
One of the best things about The Fifties is the insight into personal lives. For example, who knew that General Douglas MacArthur was a mama’s boy? She “took up residence in a nearby hotel for four years” (p 80), while MacArthur was in school. Or that Lucille Ball was adamant about her real Cuban husband playing the role in I Love Lucy?
As an aside: you can’t launch into the 1950s without backing up and talking about the mid to late 1940s. Expect a little history lesson before the history lesson.
Author fact: Halberstam’s coming of age happened during the 50s. This era is “his” generation.
Book trivia: As one would expect, there are photographs. Just not enough of them.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p). Nancy Pearl mentioned this is one of her Halberstam favorites.
I am trying to move into this month without cracking up or breaking down. I’ve lost the run temporarily and even a small interruption sets me back. You know it is with a mental stability that isn’t quite that solid. I don’t want to say anything more than that.
Here are the books. Nonfiction first:
- Living Poor: a Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen – in honor of the month Ecuador’s civil war for independence ended.
- Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn – (AB) in honor of the holidays and how much they can stress you out. I’m reading this and listening to it on audio.
- The Fifties by David Halberstam – in honor of finishing what I said I would.
- Baby Doctor by Perri Klass – in honor of National Health Month.
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton – in honor of National Education Week. This should take me a lunch break to read.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – in honor of Gaiman’s birth month.
- Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – in honor of November being an election month (and is it ever!).
- Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright – (EAB = electronic audio book) to continue the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.
- A Toast To Tomorrow by Manning Coles – to continue the series started in October in honor of Octoberfest.
- Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill – to END the series started in May in honor of Rocket Day.
This is the LAST month of the gigantic list! Yay! Hopefully, I can remember how I used to blog the books before this huge list! As an aside, I have finished training for the marathon so I won’t have that obsession after next month (14 DAYS from now).
Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan In a Strange City by Laura Lippman By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman Recognitions by William Gaddis Maus by Art Spiegelman Lady Franklin’s Revenge by Ken McGoogan Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Diaz Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan A Good Doctor’s Son by Steven Schwartz Drinking: a Love Story by Caroline Knapp Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout Treasure Hunter by W. Jameson Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Jan) The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat In Xanadu by William Dalrymple The Assault by Harry Mulisch Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore Greater Nowheres by David Finkelstein/Jack London Alma Mater by P.F Kluge Old Man & Me by Elaine Dundy Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy Good Life by Ben Bradlee Underworld by Don DeLillo Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton Fires From Heaven by Robert Jordan Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce Herb ‘n’ Lorna by Eric Kraft Polish Officer by Alan Furst– Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan Walden by Henry David Throreau Reservations Recommended by Eric Kraft Selected Letters of Norman Mailer edited by J. Michael Lennon Chasing Monarchs by Robert Pyle Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur Bebe’s By Golly Wow by Yolanda Joe Lives of the Muses by Francine Prose Broom of the System by David Wallace Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan Little Follies by Eric Kraft Literary Murder by Batya Gur Bob Marley, My Son by Cedella Marley Booker Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery Southern Mail by Antoine de Saint- Exupery Measure of All Things, the by Ken Alder Two Gardeners by Emily Wilson Royal Flash by George Fraser Binding Spell by Elizabeth Arthur Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan ADDED: Castle in the Backyard by Betsy Draine Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan Where Do You Stop? by Eric Kraft Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren Murder on a Kibbutz by Batya Gur Flash for Freedom! by George Fraser Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma Petra: lost city by Christian Auge From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser What a Piece of Work I Am by Eric Kraft Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson Ruby by Cynthia Bond
Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan Murder Duet by Batya Gur Flashman in the Great Game – George MacDonald Fraser At Home with the Glynns by Eric Kraft Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme New Physics and Cosmology by Arthur Zajonc Grifters by Jim Thompson Snow Angels by James Thompson
So Many Roads: the life and Times of the Grateful Dead by David Browne
Short story: Drinking with the Cook by Laura Furman Short Story: Hagalund by Laura Furman Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin Not so Short story: The Last of Mr. Norris by Christopher Isherwood short story: Jack Landers is My Friend by Daniel Stolar short story: Marriage Lessons by Daniel Stolar Light in August by William Faulkner Not so Short story: Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood A Comedy & A Tragedy by Travis Hugh Culley
Feed Zone by Biju Thomas Leaving Small’s Hotel by Eric Kraft Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan by John DeFrancis Faster! by James Gleick
Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett Families and Survivors by Alice Adams Inflating a Dog by Eric Kraft
Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett
Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser
Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving Petty by Warren Zanes
Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Homicide by David Simon Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (AB)
Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett
Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser
A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernandez (ER) Crows Over a Wheatfield by Paula Sharp Time Traveler: In Search of Dinosaurs and Ancient Mammals from Montana to Mongolia by Michael Novacek
- ADDED: Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giaordano (recommendation from my sister)
- ADDED: Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (needed an AB)
- Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman
- Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser
- Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett
- ADDED: My Confection by Lisa Kotin (ER)
- ADDED: Hatchet Job by Harold Adams
DNF = Did Not Finish; AB = Audio Book; ER = Early Review; DNS = Did Not Start; EB = E-Book
Dunnett, Dorothy. Queens’ Play. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1964.
Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
Queens’ Play is the second book in the Lymond series starring “cool, daring, strangely haunted” Francis Crawford of Lymond. [By the way, don’t you just love that description of him? Not my words, though.] The year is 1550 and Mary, Queen of Scots is now a precocious seven years old. Actually, she’s not in this enough for me to call her precocious, I’m just imagining her that way. She has been sent to France as the betrothed to the Dauphin. Francis (or Lymond as he is sometimes called) goes “undercover” to follow her and protect her. There are a lot of other people who have designs on the throne and she is constantly at risk. As “Thady Boy Ballage” Lymond has dyed his hair jet black and poses as the companion to an Irish prince. He doesn’t stand on the fringes of politics and just watch for enemies. True to Francis form, Thady prefers and enjoys being in the thick of it, causing most of the trouble. He still drinks like a fish and plays just as hard as he protects.
I thought the cheetah/hare hunt was pretty outrageous and not nearly as fun as the rooftop scavenger hunt.
A word of warning – there are a great many characters in Queens’ Play and while Dunnett introduces you to the main players (three pages worth), there are more. I have read that Queens’ Play is the “slowest” of all the books in the Lymond series. For that I am grateful because I don’t want to give up quite yet. I still have several books to go!
Quote I liked for some weird reason, “Strong wine and stretched muscles disregarded, Lymond strode to the window and stayed there, gripping his anger hard until he could speak” (p 165).
Author fact: Dunnett was also an artist.
Book trivia: Queens’ Play is the second book in the six-book series.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lines That Linger, Sentences That Stick” (p 142).
Fraser, George MacDonald. Flashman’s Lady. New York: Penguin, 1988.
Reason read: to continue the series started in April in honor of Fraser’s birth month.
If you are keeping track we are now ten years into the biography of Harry Flashman. This is the sixth packet of papers and introduces events between 1842 – 1845 which were previously missing in earlier manuscripts. Like an earlier packet, this installment was edited by Flashman’s sister-in-law, Grizel de Rothschild and includes journal entries from Fashman’s wife Elspeth. I think it’s hysterical that Grizel cleaned up his “rough” language but left in his exploits with other women (because Flashman always gets his girl, whether she be an African queen or his own lovely wife). And speaking of Elspeth, Flashman has to turn his attention to her (more than normal) when she is kidnapped by a pirate who wants her for himself. Along the way (by way of Madagascar), Flashman is held captive by the ruthless Queen Ranavalona and forced to be her love slave (but of course).
Laugh out loud lines (warning: they are both a little crude): “…her udders were almost in her soup” (p 51) and “For a moment I wondered if having his love-muscle shot off had affected his brain…” (p 144).
Author fact: at the time of publication Fraser was living on the Isle of Man.
Book trivia: the footnotes are not as annoying this time around and there is a great deal of attention paid to the game of cricket.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “George MacDonald Fraser: Too Good To Miss” (p 93).
McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. Read by Jonathan Davis. New York: Recorded Books, 2007.
Reason read: I am cheating a little with the reading of this book. It’s in two volumes and over 900 pages long. There is no way I can finish a 900 book in 30 days so I’m stretching it a little: in May I’m reading it in honor of May 26th, 1865 being the day conditions of surrender were offered to E. Kirby Smith. In June I am reading it in honor of June 2nd, 1865, the day Smith officially accepted those conditions. Another reason for May: the first officer was killed on May 24th 1861. Another reason for the May-June reading: the battle of the Pines took place from May 31 to June 1st, 1862.
Every single time I start to write a review for Battle Cry for Freedom I come up with the same damned word – “comprehensive”. It seems as if everyone and their brother uses this same word when writing a review. I guess it’s an appropriate word because it definitely fits. Said another way: if the era, the climate of the times before, during and after the Civil War was an inanimate object it’s as if McPherson studied it from every possible angle; getting on his knees, using a ladder to stand over it, circling around and around it to describe every little thing he sees, careful to leave not a single observation out. The end result is a comprehensive (there’s that word again) view of what our fledgling country looked like. You’ll meet Fire Eaters, Know Nothings, Butternuts, Copperheads, Knights of the Golden Circle, Whigs and the Free Soil Party in addition to the usual suspects like Robert E. Lee, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and John Brown, just to name a few. You’ll see the country from an early economic and sociological standpoint. Industry and religion find their way into patriotism and what it meant to be independent.
Best parts: learning that some military maneuvers were so successful they are still taught in military schools to this day. I also enjoyed reading about how women went from being wives who were just supposed to comfort their returned from battle husbands to respected nurses on the battlefield (thanks to Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, to name two).
Book trivia: Battle Cry won a Pulitzer.
Lines I liked, “The United States has usually prepared for its wars after getting into them” (p 312). Yup. This quote gave me a chuckle since I just finished walking 60 miles for Just ‘Cause, “Few of these southern soldiers had made a one-day march of twenty miles…(p 406).
Author fact: McPherson is an professor emeritus of U.S. History at Princeton. As an aside, my grandfather graduated from Princeton and gave me a stuffed leopard he insist I name after his alma mater. I wonder if I still have “Princeton” somewhere?
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the super straightforward chapter called “Civil War Nonfiction” (p 58). Duh.
Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: an Indian History of the American West. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970.
Trail of Tears. Manifest Destiny. Phrases and words we have heard before, definitely learned about in high school but, I’m guessing, the origins of which we haven’t given much thought. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee has a subtitle of “an Indian History of the American West” and what a sad history it is! Before each chapter in the book is a snapshot of what shape the country was in that historical moment. A great deal was going on as it was during the American western expansion and the discovery of gold, starting in 1860 when the Navaho leader, Manuelito, was beaten down until surrendering to the white man. It’s a shameful book to read. So many broken promises. So many different times a white man approached a tribal leader with negotiations and treaties that only ended in bald faced lies. This was a difficult book for me to read.
Reason read: May is History Month and boy, is this some ugly history!
Author fact: Dee Brown’s real name is Dorris Alexander Brown and he died in 2002.
Book trivia: The portraits of each tribal chief is pretty amazing. Many thanks to the Smithsonian for the courtesy of reproduction. Tosawi or Silver Knife of the Comanches is my favorite.
BookLust Trivia: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American History: Nonfiction” (p 21).