Nothing cheers up a room or warms the heart (and hands) like a crackling fire. And the chopping of wood, the stacking of a woodpile, and theFrom Anne:
Nothing cheers up a room or warms the heart (and hands) like a crackling fire. And the chopping of wood, the stacking of a woodpile, and the building of a fire all bring one a great sense of accomplishment. But you are probably doing it all wrong, and just in time for fireplace season, Norway is here to help.
Lars Mytting’s Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way was recently translated into English. This is the definitive firewood book in Norway, spending almost two years on the nation’s bestseller list and inspiring a television program, “National Firewood Night.” Of course, this book is filled with practical information: the best trees for firewood, the correct age of a tree for felling, as well as different splitting techniques. But there is also the philosophical, such as thoughts on the relationship between man and fire and if your woodpile says something about your character. The whole book, such length on such a topic as firewood, seems a little particular. But it is also sort of beautiful too. Mytting is passionate about fires and this book is definitely a labor of love. And why wouldn’t Norwegians take firewood seriously? In Lillehammer, the average temperature in January is 16 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mytting writes, “Here it comes. The cold time. The great time…Winter’s here.” Norwegians are not the only ones who experience “the cold time.” Remember, on December 1st of last year, there was a high of 15 degrees. But we get through it. And if you would like to build the perfect fire to help you through “the great time,” Norwegian Wood will coach you through it from the right tree to the best wood stove. Norwegian Wood will also help you through any winter, as any of Murakami’s novels are good company for trying times....more
I am currently reading Sarah Vowell’s latest book, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, which now has added relevance in light of the saFrom Anne:
I am currently reading Sarah Vowell’s latest book, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, which now has added relevance in light of the sad news from Paris. In a statement yesterday, President Obama said, “France is our oldest ally. The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again.” And Lafayette’s shoulders were the first in this friendship; they were right there next to George Washington.
In Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Vowell focuses on Lafayette’s time in the Continental Army starting with how he got there. Lafayette, a French aristocrat, wasn’t even 20-years old when he embarked to America and had to trick his family and King Louis XVI to make the journey. He pretty much ran away. Before setting sail across the Atlantic, he went back to apologize when he heard how angry everyone was, but he wasn’t really sorry. He then “disguised himself in a courier’s get-up, made a U-turn for Spain, and sweet-talked an innkeeper’s daughter he had flirted with en route to point his trackers in the wrong direction.” Why would he do all this? It was a mix of identifying with the American cause and looking for adventure.
Vowell argues that Lafayette came to the colonies thinking he would find a united army fighting for a common cause. This assumption was far from the truth. Congress couldn’t agree on who should run the Continental Army, much less on how to pay to supply the army. The troops were in shambles, barely trained and without shoes or clothing. And there was a great deal of in-fighting among Washington’s staff. But Lafayette found a place for himself, so much so that the only thing Americans could agree on was Lafayette. He became a beloved national hero, even though he wasn’t our “national.”
Like always, Vowell is very funny. Her writing blends her love of the subject, personal anecdotes of her research process, and of course, sarcasm....more
Rachel Cusks’ most recent work, Outline, follows an English author’s time in Athens teaching a creative writing class. The novel is broken up into tenRachel Cusks’ most recent work, Outline, follows an English author’s time in Athens teaching a creative writing class. The novel is broken up into ten chapters, each centering on a different conversation the main character has with her friends, her students, and the people she meets during her time there. The main character herself is somewhat anonymous to the reader, rarely discusses herself directly, but things about herself and her life are revealed in these exchanges. You don’t get the normal narration of what the character thinks and feels except in relation to who she meets. You get an “outline.” If you like deep character studies and self-reflective narration, or even a complicated and evolving plot, then this isn’t your book. This is very much not your book. However, I found Outline palette-cleansing. The conversations are thoughtful and well-conceived and there are some interesting stories related to our narrator that will keep you on your toes. In one chapter, her writing class goes around the room and tells a story that involves an animal and one such story is riveting (I’m not going into detail here because it was one of the most surprising and heartbreaking segments of the book). If you are looking for a quick, yet literary and provocative read, then I recommend you check out Outline....more
There are many books on infant development that contain pages and pages of text. Authors use word after word after word after word to explain the scieThere are many books on infant development that contain pages and pages of text. Authors use word after word after word after word to explain the science behind this and the philosophy behind that. These books are great. They are fascinating and I want to read them someday. But if you are a new parent, your attention span is limited. You are tired, overscheduled (or unscheduled), and if you have extra time, it’s probably not devoted to reading anything extensive. However, there is a natural curiosity to know what is happening and what is coming up next. It is an exciting time of rapid development with changes occurring weekly. That is why I really like DK’s Watch My Baby Grow. This book provides week by week (for the first month) and month by month information on developmental milestones during the first year. But, like any DK book, it also has a lot of visuals, charts, and photographs. It provides a perfect mix for a tired, but curious mind.
The book follows the growth of one baby, Melisa, through her first year. The editors took a picture of Melisa at regular intervals to depict her development. The photographs are beautiful and well-laid out with Melisa in a white infant bodysuit amongst a white background. For scale, a white rabbit stuffed toy was placed next to her for each shot. The photographers had specific photos they wanted to capture in their depiction of infant development. Not all of them worked and there are little blurbs about what they wanted to photograph and why they were babyunable to do so. You will also find dedicated sections on newborn life, the development of the senses, physical and intellectual growth, communication, and personality.
Watch My Baby Grow is a fun and rewarding book....more
Europe during World War II is the setting of many novels and it’s really no surprise. Such horror, fear, and devastation create an environment ripe fo
Europe during World War II is the setting of many novels and it’s really no surprise. Such horror, fear, and devastation create an environment ripe for personal conflicts, long odysseys, and overcoming trials on an unimaginable scale. And, as with anything, there are novels that use this setting to their advantage and others that fall flat. Anthony Doerr’s latest work, All the Light We Cannot See, works with the period very well and you would do well to check it out.
For the most part, the novel intertwines the stories of two young individuals from different sides of the conflict. There is Marie-Louise, the visually-impaired daughter of the locksmith and keeper of keys for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Her father’s position aides in her curiosity about the natural sciences and she loves to read Jules Verne. Before the occupation of Paris, she is forced to flee with her father to Saint-Malo and there is the possibility that they are carrying one of the Museum’s most prized possessions. Or is it a decoy? Marie-Louise’s story is paired with Werner’s, a German orphan with an innate understanding of radios and radio frequency. His ability opens the door for him to attend an elite military school to work on special radio projects and prepare for working with radio units in the field. Of course, this leads him to Saint-Malo on a mission to find French resistance fighters using radio transmissions, right before the allies began a bombing campaign on the port city.
There are many surprising links between Marie-Louise and Werner before this Saint-Malo connection and Doerr reveals them skillfully. I also appreciated how Doerr played with time in the narrative, starting with the bombing of Saint-Malo and weaving in the back story steadily. Many novels work this way, but his was well-paced and structured.
Set in Washington State during the turn of the century, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist gently unfolds the consequences of trying to make up for the paSet in Washington State during the turn of the century, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist gently unfolds the consequences of trying to make up for the past. Two teenage girls, both pregnant, appear on William Talmadge’s apricot and apple orchard looking for food. The girls remind Talmadge, a middle-aged, lonely, withdrawn man, of his sister, who disappeared as a teenager while foraging in the forest. The loss and love of his sister pushes him to provide for the girls, Della and Jane, and they take the help as long as it is provided from a distance. As Della, Jane, and Talmadge slowly become more at ease with each other and find themselves somewhat dependent on one another, armed men from the girls’ shared past show up at the orchard looking to collect the girls. Their appearance sets in motion another tragedy for William Talmadge. The majority of The Orchardist is how Talmadge, and those around him, cope with the consequences of what happens on that day.
It is a beautiful book, well-written with interesting characters. And the narration and the setting allow you to get really lost in the story–a perfect book for the start of the summer. However, if you want to start reading The Orchardist now (and you should!), I recommend reading inside. The gnats are horrible this time of year and they bite!
For me, the most memorable parts of Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a coming-of-age novel set in the tenements of Brooklyn, involve food. WhenFor me, the most memorable parts of Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a coming-of-age novel set in the tenements of Brooklyn, involve food. When I think about that book, my mind jumps to the scenes when Francie Nolan buys half-priced stale bread from the bread factory wagons or when Francie’s mother tells her how to get the butcher to supply them with fresh ground beef. Food was important. The good times for Francie’s parents are described when they both had steady jobs and were able to eat roast beef with noodles.
I often thought about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn while reading 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman. 97 Orchard describes the food cultures of five different immigrant groups that resided in a tenement located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan: the Germans, Irish, German Jews, Russian-Lithuanian Jews, and Italians.
Ziegelman provides details on the staples of each group’s cuisine, the history and recipes of important dishes (such as gefilte fish), and how the food was received in the United States. For the most part, their food was not accepted. Those involved in the settlement houses tried very hard to move immigrant groups away from their food culture by adopting an American diet. The food of Southern Italians was deemed unwholesome because it contained too many vegetables. Thankfully, the Italians weren’t too keen on American cuisine and actually spent a great deal of their money on importing ingredients from Italy.
If you are interested in food or history, I highly recommend 97 Orchard. It is “as good as bread.” --Anne
In American Terroir, Rowan Jacobsen travels throughout North America to taste the flavors of the continent. And it’s all about flavor. “Terroir,” a teIn American Terroir, Rowan Jacobsen travels throughout North America to taste the flavors of the continent. And it’s all about flavor. “Terroir,” a term usually associated with French wine, is applied to apples, honey, maple syrup, oysters, and chocolate, among other foods. Jacobsen takes a look at the terrain (and waters) that has made the flavors of these foods special.
For example, terroir is very important to the cheeses (Bayley Hazen Blue and Constant Bliss) from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. The flavor of the cheese really depends on the Ayshires grazing the Green Mountains. Of course, cheese-making is more complicated than that and Jacobsen discusses how Jasper Hill has a distinctive process. But, all cheese starts from milk. If you didn’t have that type of breed grazing on that particular terrain, the taste would be entirely different.
Jacobsen’s prose is funny and playful, yet informative. My favorite chapters are on honey, chocolate, and foraging in the forests of Quebec to find chanterelles, daylily buds, and cattails. I am now on the look out for interesting honey (blueberry honey sounds very enticing) and am very intrigued by Mesoamerican chocolate. If you are interested in food, I recommend checking out American Terroir. --Anne
Whenever I saw someone reading Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca or saw it sitting on a shelf, I always said to myself, “I need to read that.” I’ve been toldWhenever I saw someone reading Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca or saw it sitting on a shelf, I always said to myself, “I need to read that.” I’ve been told by many that I need to read it. DuMaurier’s novel is always compared to Jane Eyre, which is one of my favorites. I’m happy to say that I finally picked it up and I have to ask, “What took me so long?”
One would think our narrator is lucky to marry Maxim de Winter. She marries above her station, no longer needs to remain as a paid companion to that gossipy rich American woman, and is now the mistress of the famous Manderley estate. Sure, Mr. de Winter seems a little sad and lonely, but who can blame him? He lost his wife, Rebecca, in an unfortunate boating accident less than a year ago. However, it seems to be a little more than that. It’s as if the bright, beautiful, intelligent Rebecca hasn’t left Manderley after all. Her things are still in every room. Her bedroom remains the same as the day she died. And all the servants seem to be comparing our poor heroine to their former mistress, especially the creepy Mrs. Danvers.
Rebecca is a page-turner, so make sure you pick it up when you know you have the time to devote yourself to this book. You won’t want to do anything else. --Anne
Louisa May Alcott grew up surrounded by some of the most influential people in American philosophy and literature, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, HenrLouisa May Alcott grew up surrounded by some of the most influential people in American philosophy and literature, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Peabody, and of course, her father Bronson Alcott. Her mother, Abby May Alcott, of a prominent Bostonian family, worked for emancipation, woman’s suffrage, and other social reforms. Even though she is surrounded by great minds and rich cousins, Louisa grew up in a family with a pretty dire financial situation. Her father owed a number of people money (including neighbors and relatives) and most of his own ventures, including a commune and a number of schools, failed miserably.
In Harriet Reisen’s biography Louisa May Alcott: the woman behind Little Women, we see Louisa strive to move her family out of poverty, pay back the loans, and elevate her family’s situation. The fear of debt pushed Alcott to write, even though a number of editors told her not to bother. But she started making her own money with adventure and romance tales.
In Reisen’s biography, we are provided a glimpse into the life that influenced many of Louisa’s books. To some degree, all of Louisa’s works contained autobiographical content. Some her romance novels contained characters based on people in Concord. Little Women, Work, An Old Fashioned Girl, and Under the Lilacs all contain storylines from her own life. I appreciated Reisen’s connections to Louisa’s works when describing particular situations and people.
It was an interesting read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys biographies or Alcott’s books. --Anne
After publishing her first novel (Alexander’s Bridge), Willa Cather had a moment straight out of Little Women. She wrote a story about an aristocraticAfter publishing her first novel (Alexander’s Bridge), Willa Cather had a moment straight out of Little Women. She wrote a story about an aristocratic man that was torn between two women and, to the disappointment of Cather, her novel was not received well by critics. She was told by Sarah Orne Jewett she needed to write what she knew and she turned to her childhood on the Nebraska prairie for inspiration.
I would like to thank Jewett for that advice because the next novel Cather wrote was O Pioneers! and it’s wonderful. It is a novel that I keep coming back to again and again. The heroine, Alexandra Bergson, becomes the head of the family’s farm when her father dies and devotes her life to making the farm prosperous. When other families desert their farms, she stays. She tries new breeds of crops, new technologies, and new farming techniques. But the story isn’t really about farming, it is about the immigrant experience, life on the Nebraska plains at the turn of the century, and love. Above all, it is about the courage and determination of our heroine. Even when facing the strangeness of a new land, the harshness of life on a farm, and the burdens of small-town life, Alexandra remains strong. --Anne
We rarely hear personal stories out of Darfur. We might hear or read brief reports that include a snippet from someone being interviewed, often relayeWe rarely hear personal stories out of Darfur. We might hear or read brief reports that include a snippet from someone being interviewed, often relayed through a translator. These stories are never an in-depth look at someone who watched his village burned, lived in a refugee camp in Chad, brought journalists over the border into Sudan to report the situation, or captured by the Sudanese government and accused of being a spy. Daoud Hari’s memoir covers all these experiences and makes The Translator an extraordinary book.
Daoud Hari’s knowledge of the English language enabled him to aid Western journalists in translating interviews with both refugees and rebel fighters in the Darfur region. You may remember the incident where Paul Salopek, from National Geographic and the Chicago Tribune, was imprisoned by the Sudanese government. Daoud Hari was with him on that assignment. He was Salopek’s translator.
I have to commend Mirron Willis for his reading in the recorded version of the book. For a text filled with disturbing imagery and situations, Willis kept enough distance from the moment, but still conveyed feeling. --Anne
In Things I’ve Been Silent About, Azar Nafisi writes about growing up in Tehran. Regardless of living in a country that is undergoing revolutionary chIn Things I’ve Been Silent About, Azar Nafisi writes about growing up in Tehran. Regardless of living in a country that is undergoing revolutionary change, Nafisi’s parents steal the show in this memoir. Her mother, Nezhat Nafisi, although somewhat overbearing, is a complicated person who is living in the past, but ahead of her time as a member of the Iranian parliament. Her father, Ahmad Nafisi, was mayor of Tehran before the Revolution and offers a perspective into the political establishment under the Shah.
It was Nafisi’s father who started her life-long love of literature, regaling Nafisi with stories from the Shahnameh. After Reading Lolita in Tehran was published, I read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education criticizing Nafisi for focusing on Western literature, while ignoring works from Iran. At times, I felt that this new memoir was answering that charge. Throughout this book, Nafisi emphasizes that Iranian literature has a special place in her life. As a result, a new world of poetry and prose has been opened up to me and I plan to pick up a few titles she discusses.
Naila Azad’s reading is very moving. Her voice, a little dark and haunting, is a perfect match to Nafisi’s strange and extraordinary story. --Anne
1. They are called the "carpenters of the sea" because their clicking resembles the sound of a hammer.
2. AlthoughThings I now know about sperm whales:
1. They are called the "carpenters of the sea" because their clicking resembles the sound of a hammer.
2. Although they dive deep for food, they can get the bends.
3. In 1820, one rammed the Essex of Nantucket, causing the whaleship to sink and its crew to resort to cannibalism to survive more than three months at sea before rescue (only eight survived).
The third piece of whale trivia is the subject of In the Heart of the Sea: the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. I decided to pick it up after reading (and thoroughly enjoying) his book Mayflower. Even though the topic of In the Heart of the Sea is very grim, I could not stop talking about it for weeks. Like most of early 19th Century America, the Essex both fascinates and troubles me. For example, the problems of the Essex seemed to be rooted it its captain, George Pollard, and his decision making abilities. When the ship was knocked down by the storm in its early days at sea, he wanted to go back to Nantucket to make repairs. But Owen Chase, the first mate, wanted to push ahead and make repairs at its first provisional stop. Pollard caved. When they were deciding where to go after the ship was destroyed by the whale, Pollard wanted to sail the small whale boats to the Society Islands and the Marquises, which were the closest. But Chase was afraid the natives were cannibals (ignorance is bliss) and Pollard caved again. Instead, they sailed to the coast of Chile, which was over 2,000 miles away. It’s unnerving that these decisions made all the difference.
Throughout the book I found myself questioning my own ability to survive such circumstances. Would I be like Mr. Chase and have the determination to work til the end to get the boat to rescue? Or would I be like Thomas Nickerson and spend the hours before my rescue laying in the boat waiting to die? Lucky for him, they were rescued before he did. But most of the crew was not so lucky. They became food. The cast aways even invoked the "custom of the sea."
Philbrick’s discussion of Nantucket, its history, Quaker roots, and heavy dependence on the whaling industry is also extremely interesting. I was rather surprised by the resident’s reaction to the survivors of the Essex tragedy. Philbrick won the National Book Award for In the Heart of the Sea in 2000. --Anne
In 1620, one hundred and two Pilgrims arrived on the Massachusetts coastline. They intended to create a new political and religious settlement in theIn 1620, one hundred and two Pilgrims arrived on the Massachusetts coastline. They intended to create a new political and religious settlement in the new world that was separate from the Church of England. However, their plan was easier said than done. Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower follows the story of death, determination, and regional power play that is the true story of the Pilgrims.
Philbrick focuses on two people, first generation Governor William Bradford and second generation Captain Benjamin Church. Both Bradford’s and Church’s lives provide an understanding of the challenges facing Plymouth Colony, highlighting the most significant issue: its relationship with the Native tribes. What started out as a somewhat accordant understanding in the 1620′s, the relationship between Plymouth Colony and the neighboring tribes turned into a brutal war in the 1670′s. Philbrick does not give a one-sided narrative. He provides an understanding of the various tribes in the region, such as the Pokanoket, Narragansett, and Nauset and their relationship to each other. He also discusses the role of individuals in the region, including Squanto, Massasoit, and Metacom.
This is a great book. Philbrick writes an interesting narrative that keeps the pages turning to the end. With Thanksgiving in a few weeks, pick up a copy of the Mayflower. Interestingly enough, the Pilgrims would have hated the idea of a yearly Thanksgiving. Days of Thanksgiving were earned. In times of bad fortune, they had state-sanctioned days of fasting. Imagine days of fasting every time the Dow goes down. --Anne
I’ve been meaning to read John Adams for a long time. Now that the HBO miniseries is out on DVD (I haven’t seen it yet) and I recently read a biographI’ve been meaning to read John Adams for a long time. Now that the HBO miniseries is out on DVD (I haven’t seen it yet) and I recently read a biography on John Quincy Adams, I felt a little more pressure to pick up the book. I’m glad I did.
Adams was the most prolific writer of the Revolutionary generation, penning letters, journals, and newspaper editorials. McCullough used these primary texts not only to describe a fascinating life, but to show the personal thoughts of an important man involved in the Revolution against Great Britain and the formation of the United States. McCullough is a great storyteller, but his use of these materials makes the biography even more personal. Adams becomes more than just an historical figure; he becomes a human being that I can relate to. (Except I’m not so concerned how I’ll be viewed in the eyes of history).
The most interesting aspect of the book is his (at times rocky) friendship with Thomas Jefferson. If you think politics is divisive today, you should take a look at the formation of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties in Adams’ time.
Rather than reading John Adams, sometimes I would listen to the audio version, narrated by Nelson Runger. I highly recommend it. Runger is a great narrator, who speaks clearly but lively. --Anne
Ever since the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, gave his "A Model of Christian Charity" sermon, everyone from President KennEver since the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, gave his "A Model of Christian Charity" sermon, everyone from President Kennedy to Governor Palin have invoked the image of a "city upon a hill" to describe America’s role in the world. In The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell takes a look at the speech, as well as how the Puritans, with Winthrop as governor, live up to it. After several religious evictions, cruel and unusual punishments, and a bloody war with the Pequots, Winthrop’s Boston, his "city upon a hill," isn’t really the harmonious communal society he was calling for. Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, once said, "Let us thank God for having such ancestors; and let each successive generation thank Him, no less fervently, for being one step further from them in the march of ages."
Although the subject of the book may seem a little gloomy, Sarah Vowell brings her humorous observations and references to current popular culture to table. So it’s a quick, fun read. Some Vowell fans might be disappointed that she keeps moving in an historical direction, instead of writing her eclectic essays of The Partly Cloudy Patriot and Take the Cannoli. But Vowell has always showed an interest in history and The Wordy Shipmates is the result of a natural progression. --Anne
Poor Dan Kennedy! After years of being a devoted rock fan, he finally lands his "dream" job in marketing at Atlantic Records. In the eighteen months hPoor Dan Kennedy! After years of being a devoted rock fan, he finally lands his "dream" job in marketing at Atlantic Records. In the eighteen months he is there, he has to come up with new ways to promote products using the company’s recording artists, watch the company bought out by a group of investors (mass layoffs ensue), and become completely disillusioned with the music industry. (Kennedy also receives a pink slip after the buy out).
In Rock On: An Office Power Ballad, Kennedy offers a small, but funny glimpse into the on-goings of a major recording label, and it looks pretty bleak. He shows us the company’s inability to acknowledge new technology, its current lackluster roster of artists, and its need to sell, not just the single/album, but other unrelated products as well. All this, plus the ridiculous salaries of the executives are taken on by Kennedy, but in a superficial way. Instead of providing insightful, historical and cultural reasons for the industry’s problems, he offers his own quirky musings. Kennedy sort of takes a "boy, that’s too bad" attitude. However, that’s the point of the book. It’s meant to be more entertainment than knowledge. I enjoyed it. It’s a quick, fun read. But if you are looking for a well-thought out, in-depth statement about the present state of the recording industry, this is not the book for you. --Anne
John Quincy Adams was destined to be president. The son of a founding father /president, an experience diplomat, a successful Secretary of State, andJohn Quincy Adams was destined to be president. The son of a founding father /president, an experience diplomat, a successful Secretary of State, and a man full of ambitious ideas for America, Adams was extremely qualified for the job. Unfortunately, his presidency is viewed as an utter failure, the victim of partisan politics (as well as the fact that he didn’t win either the popular or electoral vote…but no one did in the 1824 election).
However, he was able to make it all up during his post-presidency, which is the focus of Joseph Wheeler’s Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade. It’s an interesting read that covers Adams’s seventeen-year term in the US House of Representatives and his fight against censorship and the expansion of slavery into US territories. A vocal critic of the Jackson and Van Buren presidencies, Adams sought to protect the Constitution from expanding presidential power. On top of his moral crusades, he also argued the Amistad case in front of the US Supreme Court, as well as had a large hand in creating the Smithsonian Institution. If you enjoy biographies, politics, and/or American history, I highly recommend Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade. --Anne