Sunday, September 27, 2009
The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you have ever wondered why it is that we learn in American History that the country was founded with Puritan ideals, yet the basics of tolerance and civil liberties are in conflict with the intolerance of the Puritans, then this book is for you!
It is no secret that I am a sucker for well-written history books. I have always felt that my education in the history of my own country, let alone the world, was not good enough. This may not have been the fault of my teachers as I was most likely much more engaged by my science and math classes, but some of the dry texts that we read did not help matters. I am also not fond of the short attention span textbooks that my son is required to use, but I do think that he is getting a broader view of history than I did. To fill in the gaps, I now actively seek out books that both inform and keep my attention. Russell Shorto has succeeded on both levels.
After reading The Island at the Center of the World, I realize that I previously knew very little about New Netherlands. I don't even recall learning that Henry Hudson was working for the Dutch when he "discovered" Manhattan. Those gaps have been filled in grand style. This was a thoroughly enjoyable yet well-researched book. Shorto has a gift for bringing energy and life to what could be dry details. By focussing on the people and their interactions, he breathes life into the dusty pages of long-untranslated records. If he has any failings it is perhaps that he reaches a bit far to personalize those who left little record and there are some repetitions. Still, the flaws are few and are easily overlooked. In terms of style, he doesn't quite reach that of David McCullough, but I will not hold that against him.
This book is well worth the time and answers many questions that I have had about how we managed to value tolerance when our supposed founders epitomized intolerance and bigotry. The answers lie within these covers.
View all my reviews >>
Sunday, September 13, 2009
City of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense by Ariana Franklin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a fabulous book! The author deftly drew me into 1922 Berlin and the intrigues surrounding the alleged Anastasia. I wasn't at all sure what to expect from this book, but I was pleased with what I found. The writing was wonderful as was the plot development. Some of the twists were fairly easy to predict, but others caught me completely off guard. I do enjoy a mystery where the author is able to surprise me.
View all my reviews >>
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Saturday, September 05, 2009
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I spent the first half to two-thirds of this book wondering if I actually liked it. I never hated it, mind you, I just wasn't sure if the problem was the book or me. It wasn't easy getting close to Julie. She (or the version of her she displays in this memoir) is quite prickly. Since I can be prickly myself, I can respect that. However, I was reading this while quite sick and it seemed that my own crankiness over being sick was magnified while reading the angst-ridden musings of someone whining about turning 30. This was definitely not a subject over which I could give much sympathy. One of the downsides of having a (wonderful) husband four years older than myself is that I am never allowed the luxury of wallowing in self-pity over hitting a milestone birthday because he has already done it.
Okay, I could cut Julie a little slack on the age angst. I still found myself wondering what it was that this much younger person could teach me about life or food. Perhaps that is why Julia seemed less than impressed with the Julie/Juliea Project. It turns out that I think Julie knows quite alot about both food and life. She certainly had strength to put herself out on display for a year while attempting a truly crazed act of obsession. Again, I know about crazed acts of obsession, so I can relate. Blogging can be quite narcissistic, and Julie certainly indulged herself there. Still, I think that Julie had to get to the point where she was becoming more comfortable in her own skin before I could get comfortable with her portrayal of herself. Thus, the last third of the book was much more satisfying than the first two-thirds. In the end, the feast was worth the trek. I hope it was for Julie as well.
No, this won't be on my list of favorite books read in 2009 (if I actually manage to compile such a thing), but it was an enjoyable enough read. It was rather obvious that this was the author's first book, but it took quite a leap to make that first book a memoir. Audacious and probably a bit self-centered, but that's not always a bad thing.
View all my reviews >>
Thursday, September 03, 2009
There, I admit it. I don't know why, but I have never liked sipping my food. I don't mine sipping a good wine or a pint, but I don't want to sip my meal. It seems vaguely unwholesome to admit to not liking soup. Certainly, chicken soup is supposed to be comfort food and everyone suggests soup when you are sick. Okay, so I will concede that a grilled cheese sandwich isn't much without some tomato soup for dipping, but beyond that I don't want any stupid soup!
Perhaps it is the connection with illness that gets me. I'm sure I was fed lots of soup as I recovered from myriad illnesses as a child. Maybe that was why I reacted when Mr. Engineer suggested soup for lunch. Yes, I am sick. Yes, some hot liquid would probably help. Does it have to be soup???? Ugh. I do not like being sick and I do not like soup!
For the record, I did eat the stupid soup, but I didn't enjoy it. I am feeling better, but I'm sure it is because of the antibiotics and steroids (and the week spent mostly in bed) and not the soup.