This is almost perfect mix of history (and history that is virtually unknown to most Americans, I think, despite the importance of this period) and mo...moreThis is almost perfect mix of history (and history that is virtually unknown to most Americans, I think, despite the importance of this period) and modern storytelling. Horwitz looks at most of the major voyages of exploration and colonization before the Pilgrims came to Mass. in 1620: the Vikings in Newfoundland around 1000 AD; Columbus; then the Spanish in FL and the SE and the SW US (including Coronado going all the way up to Kansas in 1542, and Cabeza de Vaca's bizarre journey from FL all the way down to Mexico); the French Hugeunots in FL; then wrapping up with Roanoke Island and Jamestown and back to the Pilgrims.
The people that Horwitz talked to in New Mexico, in Kansas, in Georgia and Virginia - and what they say about history, what they do to re-enact it, what they believe in spite of all evidence to the contrary - it's just fascinating. And the actual history is pretty amazing, too. Combine the two (with a bit of Horwitz's personality thrown in for good measure) and you get a great book.
This is a wonderful introduction to US colonial history (or ethnohistory, if you're interested in the Native side of things) - and it's one of the most readable history books I've read in years. The chapters break up easily into nice sections, so it isn't overwhelming. It's fun. Although I learned more details in my classes on this stuff, I don't think I snorted and laughed so much.
Nice index and further sources section, too. And his ending - on what history means to us as Americans - ah, just a delight to read.(less)
I liked this a lot, but I like Diane Ackerman's writing anyway (though I've only read the nature stuff before this). I think some would be annoyed by...moreI liked this a lot, but I like Diane Ackerman's writing anyway (though I've only read the nature stuff before this). I think some would be annoyed by her rambling asides on zoo life and animals and the freaky Nazi obsessions with hunting and 'pure' animals and the origins of penicillin from a mouldy cantelope in a Peoria grocery store.
Anyway, this is the true story of the middle-aged couple who lived in the zookeeper's villa in the Warsaw zoo, and how they weathered WWII and hid several hundred escaping Jews in their house and the zoo grounds. It is a pretty good history of Poland in WWII and the Warsaw Ghetto, too.
Alternately disturbing and inspiring, with some fascinating little stories, like the pet badger that used their toddler son's potty chair, and the Jewish entomologist and how his insect collection helped several families escape the gas chambers - a very good historical read. (less)
Immensely enjoyable non-fiction survey of British foibles, from sex education and (and "public" - which actually means private) schools - and the two...moreImmensely enjoyable non-fiction survey of British foibles, from sex education and (and "public" - which actually means private) schools - and the two are creepily linked - to British journalism (the author is a journalist married to a Brit), houses, teeth, politics, the House of Lords, social class, homosexuality, the aristocracy, hedgehogs, cultural beliefs (stiff upper lips), and more.
My only criticism is that it ended a bit abruptly, though with some nice personal memoirs about Lyall's family.
Definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in the differences between British and American culture, or non-fiction that isn't too ponderous, that's full of weird little facts.(less)
Very good, but the language is often overly academic (it is was a history dissertation before it was re-worked into a book). I think it could have bee...moreVery good, but the language is often overly academic (it is was a history dissertation before it was re-worked into a book). I think it could have been edited a bit more heavily to bring it to a wider audience.
Anyway, it looks at witchcraft trials - mostly from 1640-1700 in CT and MA - and analyzes the economic and family background of the witches (most were older women without husbands or brothers, who had inherited either money or land, and thus had a measure of independence most women didn't have), the gender rules that Puritans had during this period (the accused often broke these rules with their prideful or non-submissive behavior), who the accusers were (most often neighbors and/or relatives, and very often relatives involved in lawsuits over inheritances).(less)
I really enjoyed this history of the Puritans in Massachusetts (with an emphasis on Winthrop, Williams, and Hutchinson). Vowell goes into their religi...moreI really enjoyed this history of the Puritans in Massachusetts (with an emphasis on Winthrop, Williams, and Hutchinson). Vowell goes into their religious ideals, their wars with the Natives (very sad and violent, but not unusual), and how we think about Puritans today - the Brady Bunch and Happy Days and school programs feature prominently in this section. I loved this, but hated the lack of chapters and not having an index. I didn't mind Vowell's scattershot approach and meanderings at all, though. Her writing is funnier than hell, which helps.
I was a little disappointed that she didn't mention "The Witch of Blackbird Pond", which was the first thing I think I ever read about Puritans. (less)
Recommended by a blogger at the Ann Arbor library, and rightly so - McWhorter is a funny writer and a historical linguist. I'm a little shocked at how...moreRecommended by a blogger at the Ann Arbor library, and rightly so - McWhorter is a funny writer and a historical linguist. I'm a little shocked at how well he writes, given the fact that he studies linguistics, in fact. Anthropologists in general do not write well for the general reader (with the exception of Robert Sapolsky, whom I adore, and Kent Flannery, who has written a few truly funny paragraphs that are stuck in the middle of boring-to-anyone-outside-the-field archaeological monographs).
So anyway, McWhorter describes the mid-400 AD period when Old English speakers (Angles and Saxons and Jutes) met the Celts, and we got all kinds of weird Celtic things in English, like the "meaningless do". I never realized how much we use the word "do" without it doing anything.
And then we've got the Vikings prancing in and dropping words and truncating our grammar about four centuries later. Which makes it hard for us English speakers to learn Dutch or German or Swedish.
And he pulls in Twain and Monopoly and Clue and Chaucer and Shakespeare and the Norman Conquest and Phoenicians in the first millenium BC and it's all so clear. And even when he disagrees with other linguists, he's funny and yet respectful. I can't get over it. I was only mildly interested in the topic, but now I want to read whatever else he's written. (less)