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Topic: What are you reading?

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Kat (polbio) -
Subject: What are you reading?
Date Posted: 12/22/2011 8:42 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I have been on a Civil War kick the past couple months. I read a couple of books about why the North won and the Confederacy lost. I also read the famous Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson and Citizen Sherman by Michael Fellman. However, I have to say my two favorite books i read this month were Embattled Courage by Gerald Linderman and Sherman's Forgotten General: Henry W. Slocum by Brian Melton.

Embattled Courage takes a look at what the definition of courage meant in the civil war and how it was portrayed throughout the war. He looks at the psychology of soldiers before, during and after the war. Sherman's Forgotten General is very well written and covers the ups and downs of Slocum's life. It includes a little of his early life and how then leads up to how he got to be Sherman's right hand man during the famous March to the Sea and of course what happened after the war. It is a great biography of a General you dont always hear a lot about.



Last Edited on: 12/22/11 8:44 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/22/2011 4:25 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
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polbio,

Another good book by James McPherson is Causes and Comrades: Why They Fought. He has read tens of thousands of letters and he uses a number of them here to let the soldiers explain why they did what they did.

One of my favorite CW books is Nothing But Victory, which is the story of the Union's Army of the Tennessee. It covers that army from its ealy days in 1861, through all the battles in the West, the March Through Georgia and then into South and North Carolina. It is well written and I learned a lot from it.

And, if you want to read something that you can use to start a lot of arguments, then get a copy of How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War.

Another good book related to the CW is Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America. This is a fascinating account and I really liked the parts which showed that a number of incidents in Uncle Tom's Cabin were based on true stories. For example, there really was a Liza who fled across the river ice with her child.

Have fun.

Tom

 

Date Posted: 12/27/2011 5:59 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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I too love reading about the Civil War, though lately I've been branching out in an effort to tend to the neglected titles in my house. One of my all-time favorite books is Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. It is not a book for someone who wants their history deep and detailed, but I love it's blend of history, travelogue, humor, and modern repercussions.

I just finished Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum. Very satisfying though it does breeze by very fast in terms of the historical depth. It turned out to be history twisted with cooking, with agriculture, with botany, with marketing. I have no idea why my favorite books are history books that blur the boundaries of the genre.



Last Edited on: 12/27/11 5:59 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/7/2012 10:22 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I just recieved Pacific Rising in the mail this morning, and I started it right away. I have loved every Simon Winchester book I have read, and this one is proving to be the same. I thoroughly enjoyed his book about the history and cultures of the Atlantic ocean that I read last year. This one is about the Pacific ocean and was written back in 1991. Since I have only been to the Pacific once, and that was when I was 10, I am very curious as to how different it is from the Ocean I grew up on (Atlantic). I am going to use this one for the Challenge and when I am done reading it, I will post a review.

Date Posted: 1/8/2012 3:08 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,135
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As a Civil War (CW) reenactor and living historian---the two are not always found in the same individual---I knew a lot of guys who were at events when the author of Confederates in the Attic showed up to interview people. They tried to direct him to the mainstream reenactors, but apparently he was only interesed in the fringe elements. As a result, this book is not very popular with the CW reenacting community.

There was also a short TV series on CW reenactors a number of years ago. It was a smear of the hobby. They went out and found the wierdest Confederate reenactor possible and built the series around him. If you watched that series, you would be afraid for your family if a CW reenactor moved in to your neighborhood.  The CW reenacting couple they interviewed probably never finished grade school--responses to questions they were asked had to be dragged out of them--and the black CW reenactor looked lost and hand-led throughout his segment.

The TV people could have done a much better job by picking almost anyone else. But that wasn't their intent.  TV - chewing gum for the mind!



Last Edited on: 1/9/12 9:36 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/8/2012 3:48 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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Thomas, isnt that how it always is? THey try to find the weirdest, most fanatical people to make it more "dramatic". It is a shame, but you see it in everything from religion to politics to history. When someone has an angle, they avoid the rational people and promote the fanatics and say "look here, this is what ALL these people are like", lol.

Date Posted: 1/9/2012 3:23 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
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Tony Horwitz (author of Confederates in the Attic) never intended to write a book entirely about historical reenactors. By profession, he's a journalist, not a historian.You're right he does heavily feature hard-core/fanatical reanactors, but he also ends up reancting with and relating more to the level-headed hobbyists. I don't think he was trying his hand at creating a traditional history book about the Civil War. He writes from a personal perspective, tackles alot of issues, and mines different eras for material - any of which could be grounds for critism in the history genre. But there are two main questions that drive the book forward... (As I remember; it's been a while since I reread it.)

  1. Why does Horwitz have a personal fascination with the Civil War?
  2. And does the Civil War still affect us now? And how? (I guess that's more like 2.5 questions.)

With that said, I'm not defending it as the be-all, end-all of Civil War books. I simply, thoroughly enjoyed reading it. IMHO, it would be a great book to introduce someone to the Civil War and hopefully hook them!



Last Edited on: 1/9/12 6:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 1/9/2012 3:40 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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As far as the OP goes, I'm still working on The Path Between the Seas. It's an intimidating 600+ pages of fine print. I did make progress this last weekend though. It's an enjoyable book, but dense enough that I'll need to keep my momentum up.  On a personal note, this last weekend, my mother told me that my great grandfather was a laborer on the Panama Canel. Maybe that little insight will be enough.



Last Edited on: 1/9/12 3:40 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/9/2012 9:47 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
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Re: The Path Between the Seas.

Almost all of McCullough's books are great and I've read Path myself.  One of my  favorite books by him is The Great Bridge, about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, perhaps because I was born in Brooklyn. But it really delves into the engineering innovations and the corruption that made this bridge possible. Fascinating.  I have not read his 1776, as I have read many bad reviews about it. Even great authors have a bad book in them.

Currently, I'm reading Danger's Hour by Maxwell Kennedy. It is about the carrier USS Bunker Hill, a fleet carrier in the Pacific which was hit by a Kamikaze. The part I'm reading right now is covering the causes of the war and the naval build-up, as well as the training of the men who flew off her and the Japanese pilot who crashed into her.

Another I am reading is The Reel Civil War by Bruce Chadwick. This is an analysis of the movies made about the American Civil War.



Last Edited on: 1/10/12 7:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/10/2012 8:11 AM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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Off to add The Reel Civil War to my TBR pile.

Update: Sweet! There was one in the system and now it's mine! (Insert manical laughter here.)



Last Edited on: 1/10/12 8:15 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/10/2012 10:17 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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lol, DW.

I have only read a couple of McCullough's books. I read Morning on Horsebacks and his childrens books about Castles and Mosques. I own Truman, 1776, and John Adams, but havent read them yet. (I may have another of his on my shelf as well.) DW, I think that is interesting that you found out that your Great Grandfather worked on the panama canal. It gives it a personal connection.

Date Posted: 1/10/2012 7:45 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,135
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polbio,

After or before you read McCullough's John Adams --- do not view the TV mini-series on this book by Tom Hanks and others.  IMO, the book is one of the best books written about the Founding Fathers, but the TV series was a disaster. I asked for the DVDs for Christmas one year and after the third DVD I put off watching it until I finally forced myself to watch the rest before posting it for sale on half.com. I didn't know about this site's sister site on DVDs then.

The TV mini-series has John Adams doing things he never did, and not doing things that he really did do. Plus it portrays him as whimp who was led about by his wife. Perhaps the producers and directors didn't bother to read the book.

Speaking of Adams, my favorite musical of all time is 1776  --- no relation to McCullough's book. The musical is serious, funny, informative and the songs are just sooooo good.  I find myself singing parts of them at weird times.

I have a massive tome on his wife called (of course) Abigail Adams by Levin, which I hope to get to this year.



Last Edited on: 1/10/12 7:46 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/11/2012 10:51 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I love that musical as well. I discovered it a couple years ago.

I started the John Adams book when I got it a few years ago, but I got side tracked with something else and never finished it. I havent read anything on his wife. I have a book called Adams VS Jefferson which I would like to get aroudn to reading. I loaned it to my sister, so once I get it back, I hope to get to it.

Talking about presidential wives, have any of you read The Trials of Mrs. Lincoln? (Not sure if I mentioned this one already, sorry if I did, lol). It is a great book about what happened to Mary Todd Lincoln after Lincoln was asassinated.

Date Posted: 1/11/2012 12:09 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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I can't believe we got on the subject of musicals, but there is a dramatic musical (not many of those laying around) called Asylum: The Strange Case of Mary Lincoln. It's a fairly new script, but rarely produced. Somehow a local director in my town decided to do it in 2008. That's the the only way I would've heard about it even being interested in theater AND history. Here's a review of the New York production (I think the original production?). I'm usually not that invested in musicals from the get-go and I'm not a music expert, so I can't judge it on merit, but it's a unique enough show that I'd recommend it for novelty's sake.

We've tried to do 1776 in my town for the last couple of summers, but alas! It's terribly hard in our neck of the woods to round up that wide of variety of male actors and expect them to also sing well. One of these years, hopefully.



Last Edited on: 1/11/12 12:11 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/11/2012 12:39 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I had not heard of that before. It sounds like it is basically similar to the Trials of Mrs. Lincoln. Her son had her committed to an asylum because of how extravagant she was, and she started selling her clothes to make money which humiliated him. He feared her behavior would tarnish his dads memory/reputation. She wound up hiring a set of lawyers (husband and wife team) to plead her case.

Date Posted: 1/11/2012 2:49 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,135
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Of course musicals are somewhat off topic, but I added it in reference to a member's mention of the book John Adams. plus my opinion of  the DVD series supposedly created from that book.  I then mentioned 1776 as a good musical represtation of Adams' work in the Contentinal Congress.

Speaking of Mrs Lincoln... How many of you know that she suffered severe head injuries when she fell from a carriage? She was out making one of her regular visits to wounded soldiers in the hospitals around Washington when this happened. She almost died from this injury. We do not hear this in many histories, and certainly not in movies or TV shows.  And there was some evidence that the carriage had been tampered with.  There were conspiracy theories then too and sometimes they proved to be true. In fact, once when Lincoln rode alone from the White House to the Soldiers Home, where he and his family spent the summers, he was actually shot at, evidence being a hole in his top hat. There are some who theorize that Mrs. Lincoln's mental problems began with the head injury she suffered.

If you think this should have made the newspapers back then, then consider that President George Bush would regulaly visit the hospitals on a regular basis - several times a week - to interact with service men and women who had been injured in Iraq. Bet your local newspapers or TV station never carried that news. Bush wanted these visits quiet as he wasn't interested in generating publicity about them. But the Media also wasn't interested in making him look like a man who felt deeply about sending our soldiers in danger's way.

This is not meant to be a political statment, rather to show that the press was even more polarized in our earlier history than it is today. Many generals and politicians who did good work were portrayed falsely in the press. Even Lincoln was often called a 'monkey' in northern newspapers that were anti-administration.

There are several good books on war correspondents during the American Civil War - some I have read and others are awaiting my attention - that clearly show how the newspapers twisted the news.  One good, general book on war correspondents is The First Casualty which covers wars in the 19th and 20th centuries.  The title is taken from a statement by an American politician who said "The first casualty of war is truth."

Check out Lincoln's Sanctuary by Matthew Pinsker for details on Mary's carriage accident (page 102). The story of Lincoln's hat is in there also but I do not have a page number. However, other books also carry that tale.



Last Edited on: 3/16/12 8:40 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/14/2012 1:46 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I went to the local used book store this morning. i found four great books. 1. Personal Memoirs of John J Pershing called My Experiences in the First World War 2. U-Boat Commander a WWII memoir by Peter Cremer 3. Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars: War Letters and 4. A beautiful copy of an Everyman's Library edition Clausowitz's On War.  

Oh and Diane, THey had a copy of The Colony there as well. I didnt pick it up this time, but i will when i go back.

 



Last Edited on: 1/14/12 1:48 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/16/2012 5:11 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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Now that I'm getting into the second part of Path Between the Seas, I'll definitely have to make time this year for Mornings on Horseback. McCullough seems to write with enthusiasm about Theodore Roosevelt.

On another note, I'm worried about the copy of The Reel Civil War arriving. It was marked to be sent on Jan 14th, and tonight is the last day for the sender to mark it received in order to earn their credit. Here's hoping that they've already mailed it!



Last Edited on: 1/16/12 5:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/21/2012 5:35 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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DW, did you ever get the book? I saw Thomas has one available.

I just started Jackson's Valley Campaign. So far so good, only 4 chapters in. The book is part of the Great Campaigns Series by DeCapo Press. I have found a lot of military books printed by DeCapo. Especially Civil War. This one is interesting how it breaks down Jackson;s movements and gives details to each battle. I am reading it for the To War category.

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 2/9/2012 7:42 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I have been reading a couple of books my brother in law gave me from his military college days. I am more than half way through The Art of Maneuver by Robert Leonard. There are atleast twenty books in the box, so i have plenty to read. (like I needed more books, lol) THey are all military related, including field guides which is pretty cool.

I am also reading the Secret History of Mongols by Ugunge Onon. It is interesting. It is interesting to find the differences to what this says about Khan, compared to the historical fiction books i read. My DD is reading through two other Genghis Khan books for her report, so I am taking notes while I read. wink

 

Date Posted: 3/8/2012 1:47 PM ET
Member Since: 3/13/2009
Posts: 8,022
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Finished reading Blackfoot Lodge Tales recorded by George Bird Grinnell.  Good read if you're interested in the folklore and religion of the Blackfoot.  It also has some insight into what the tales mean in context of their culture at the end.

Date Posted: 3/8/2012 5:44 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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I got hold of an old (1928) copy of George Bernard Shaw's The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, and started reading it.  I believe I'll pursue it, at least for a while.  But I am also taking part in the Classics challenge, and my book for March is Balzac's Droll Stories.  How's that for a strange pairing?

Date Posted: 3/16/2012 8:48 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,135
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The last Civil War book I finished - earlier this week - was Firebrand of Liberty. It is about the 1st and 2nd South Carolina Volunteers USA (Colored) and their extended raid into Florida. 

Another I finished earlier this week is Give Me Fifty Marines Not Afraid to Die.  Written by the lieutenant who led the first assault of Mount Suribachi on Iwo JIma. His platoon was the most decorated Marine platoon of WW II.

The links are to my reviews of these books.

Now I'm reading Klondike Fever.

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 3/22/2012 3:31 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I just read Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester. It is a very short book (only 96) pages. As usual, it is very well written, though I would have loved to see copies of the many photographs he describes. The book is about Charles Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carrol)'s obsession with photography and the controversy of his many pictures of young girls, especially that of Alice Liddell. There is very little about how the telling of Alice in Wonderland came about since, as Winchester points out, it has been told many times before.  But the brief book defends Dodgson and tries to bring the context of his photos back to his time period, instead of the point of view of a 21st century society where child pornography is a heated issue. Dodgson's thousands of photographs contain only a handful of pictures of young girls and almost all are photographed in an artistic setting. I found it very interesting, as I previously knew nothing of Dodgson or the controversy.

Date Posted: 4/4/2012 6:02 PM ET
Member Since: 3/13/2009
Posts: 8,022
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Finished Heroes of the Dawn this weekend.  It's about Celtic history and myth.  Fascinating work!

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