Now that we’ve wandered around in the fiction section — let’s make a change.
John Adams by David McCullough
This biography of a United States founding father is the second Pulitzer Prize winner for this respected author.
John Adams – lawyer, farmer, patriot, and president — is revealed in narration and portions of his words. He and his wife had a lively exchange of letters. Plus when he was either in the Continental Congress or on missions to Europe he had official correspondence.
So when you’re looking for some American history, well-written, and able to hold your attention — browse your bookstore or library for this volume.
He signed neither the Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution. It is very likely he never lived within the authority of the United States of America.
So why the title? He, and his young step-son, selected the site and founded what was to become one of the larger cities in the American Midwest. St. Louis on the western bank of the Mississippi River.
Trade. Business. Fortune. These were the forces which drove a lot of exploration in North America. So traveling the great river north to establish a fur trading post would have been a natural thing.
They chose the site for the trading post, village, city well. Moving south from the marshy, low lying land of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, they established it on a bluff, with access to the best transportation system available without the hazard of frequent floods.
Pierre Laclede stands tall and proud beside the city hall in downtown St. Louis.
Today’s book has the honor of being the first autographed book I purchased.
The author was not present that day. He’d been to the store recently and I was fortunate enough to pick up the last copy in stock.
Flight of the Enola Gay by Paul W. Tibbets
If you have an interest in World War II and the beginning of the Atomic Age, this is a must-read.
As an autobiography, this book necessarily focuses on the background, training, and experiences of one man. The fact that this military pilot was selected to fly the first atomic bomb makes it unique.
You may need to go hunting for this one. I’d suggest you start at the library and then check the used bookstores or the gift shops of museums with flying or military themes.
My mother didn’t understand why my brother wanted to take me to this movie.
This was a few years before I read the book. And I didn’t know much about what we would see. But — it’s hard to turn down a chance to go to the movies when a young teen.
Exodus by Leon Uris
I read the book a year or so after the event above. Like many good books — I learned a lot. Some of it delved into topics never discussed around the dinner table. Like many people, my parents didn’t often talk about recent history except for their own personal participation. (And the occasion and company had to be right for some of that.)
While the movie is good — I own a copy and have watched it multiple times — I recommend the book to obtain depth and background. For it is the characters past (and our own) which shape personalities and guide decisions – both positive and negative.
A modern classic
Careful – you might learn something.
Before you think I only have serious history books in my home — here’s a fiction selection.
Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds
I was an adult before I discovered this novel of the Revolutionary War. As I turned the pages I kept thinking — This is good. The best I’ve read in ages.
Adventure, danger, and little slices of domestic life in 1770’s New York are within these pages. Men go to war. Women are left behind, easy prey for Indians. Or perhaps not such easy prey when they gather within a fort. This tale has stood the test of time.
Check your local library or bookstore.
Several years ago, on vacation, I ended up in a bookstore.
While this is not a rare occurrence, it does not always lead to the discover of a gem. Today’s choice, for the letter C:
The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam
I purchased it to increase my knowledge of the Korean War. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Well written. Pleasant to read. Sufficient maps.
It remains on my shelf as a reference. I have no doubt that I’ll continue to consult the index when a particular place or personality from that chapter of American history is mentioned.
This volume prompted me to look for others by this author. I found them at the library. Unfortunately, this was after his death. But I do urge others interested in 20th century American history to try at least one of his volumes.
Available wherever fine books are sold. Also at many libraries.
The Brandywine by Henry Seidel Canby.
Several years ago, on my first (and so far, only) visit to Delaware, I found this to be an enchanting small river. This historical study of the river makes a good read either before or after your introduction to the water rushing from Pennsylvania through Wilmington, Delaware to the larger Delaware River.
My only caution to the reader is to stay aware of the copyright date – 1941.
The shores of the river have been changed by man in these last decades. And while the river itself continues to wind through the land – the use of the land has changed from forest and scattered agriculture to sub-divisions and industry. (Not that industry is a new thing to the river. It’s water has powered many mills of many types through the years.)
History took place here. In the 18th and 19th centuries. And the 20th if you include the building boom which has taken place since publication. This book gave me a reminder that this nation is filled with moderate size rivers of great local importance.
Available at major on-line retailers and special order from your favorite bookshop.
Posted in Blog
Tagged History, rivers
While drinking a hot cup of tea a few days ago, my gaze lingered on one of my bookcases. (Yes, I have more than one. Writers are readers.) A skim of titles got me to wondering. And then I started a list.
I ask you to join me on an alphabetical list of titles I have enjoyed through the years. It will be a mix of fact and fiction, old classics and newer titles. It would be great it you would find a title or two (or more) to your own liking.
So pour your own favorite beverage and sip as you read my Tuesday morning postings.
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. Copyright in 1955, this is a detailed account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The author contacted many of the remaining survivors and they were a rich source of information — in addition to other documentation. My edition includes a plan of the boat deck and the passenger list.
Where to find? On-line retailers, special order at bookstores, or local libraries.
Growing up on a farm had advantages. (Also disadvantages, but we’ll save those for another time.)
We raised dairy cows. Cattle have a large appetite. And since Wisconsin has a season called WINTER, much of the year hay was included in their diet. Raking was one of the jobs I was frequently given during haying season. (Beginning in late June and continuing to two, sometimes three cuttings.)
My father, or sometimes an older brother, would mow the alfalfa (or clover) and it would dry as it laid in the field for one, two, or three days. They I would be assigned to rake it. It one of these:
This was a job for sunny days. I’d drive the tractor and putt along the field from one end to the other, the rake swishing the hay into a long, loose windrow ready for the baler. A large straw hat, long sleeves, and long pants protected me from the hazard of sunburn. Bumping over gopher holes made me thankful for a padded seat. But it was fun! Time to think. Sing. Daydream about the future.
Did you have a favorite chore or job while growing up?
Posted in Blog
Tagged History, Seasons
This summer I’ve visited several historical houses and sites. Part of this if due to a love of history. The other part is the writer in me doing research for a future project.
A great number of houses on the frontier contained a clock. It makes sense. American clock makers knew their customers. And produced a sturdy, quality product. They also knew that as settlers moved West – into the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri river valleys – telling time would be important. Here the villages would be small, farms isolated, and the tower clocks of churches and town halls non-existent.
As they tick-tocked day and night in a place of honor on the mantle, they provided a pleasant view and perhaps a bit of a status symbol.
This wooden movement shelf clock was built prior to 1835
by one of America’s best – Seth Thomas.
Posted in Blog