This amazingly detailed and colorful account of the Little Bighorn battle transformed my impression of Custer's Last Stand. I have picked up the LastThis amazingly detailed and colorful account of the Little Bighorn battle transformed my impression of Custer's Last Stand. I have picked up the Last Stand only in its mythological context, as part of the American collective history. Philbrick brought it into full focus, and put it into multiple greater contexts. He shows it as part of Custer's battalion's history, comparing it to past battles and the commanders' histories. He shows the battle as part of the Lakota people's history, and tells as much of Sitting Bull as a leader. And, of course, he puts it in the context of the history of the Lakota, and the American imperialism that decimated Native America.
One of the aspects I especially appreciated was the way Philbrick goes from military to Native perspectives throughout the book. He doesn't just tell us what the soldiers saw, but tells us what it was like from the Lakota side. Philbrick has included Native American testimonials and recollections, as well as their pictographs illustrating the battle. The combination of perspectives makes this historical battle three dimensional, and even more understandable.
This was, again, a book I read out of curiosity on the subject, so that I could understand what is now an American myth. It is an amazing reconstruction of the few days surrounding the battle, as well as detailed histories of the key figures participating in it. And, as a solid modern historian, Philbrick takes every individual's story with equal weight, regardless of whether they were Native American, or Caucasian. It's a fantastic book on a pivotal event in American history - highly readable, fascinating, well-written. ...more
I love books about history, and I really enjoyed this one. Yes, it was a little overly...magical. But it was about a historian unraveling the story ofI love books about history, and I really enjoyed this one. Yes, it was a little overly...magical. But it was about a historian unraveling the story of her ancestor, a healing woman from colonial New England. It was about the historical research techniques needed to trace a book through hundreds of years, along with the lives that went with it. And it was a chilling re-examination of the Salem witch trials - and the good women who died in them....more
This was an amazing recap of the men who shaped the Constitution, and the ideas which went into the document that still manages America. So much politThis was an amazing recap of the men who shaped the Constitution, and the ideas which went into the document that still manages America. So much political theory went into that document, so many debates, so much re-working, so many issues, it's amazing it was ever written. It's amazing the country didn't dissipate under the original Articles of Confederation instead of producing a Constitution. For anyone with even a passing interest in constitutional law, or American history, who wants to understand better the men who influenced the philosophy of America, this is the book to read. I may send a copy, personally, to some of the right-wing nutjobs out there (FOX News personalities, I'm looking at you), because this may help them understand the Constitution they claim to know so much about....more
This book was a fantastic, myth-busting account of the sad story of Bonnie & Clyde. It turns out they stole to get by from day to day, not to liveThis book was a fantastic, myth-busting account of the sad story of Bonnie & Clyde. It turns out they stole to get by from day to day, not to live in high style like the American consciousness seems to think they did. It was meticulously researched, and looked at their crime sprees from a totally different angle. They were kids who were trying to find a way to earn money, because they were dirt-poor, because they were the first generation of city-raised farm kids descended from farmers with failed crops. Bonnie & Clyde, in collective memory, thanks to movies made about them, are remembered as being glamourous and exciting. The reality was much more practical, and much more sad....more
What if blacks from Africa had modernized first...and enslaved whites from Europe instead?
What if the layout of the world was different, and lent itseWhat if blacks from Africa had modernized first...and enslaved whites from Europe instead?
What if the layout of the world was different, and lent itself better to African colonization of the New World?
What if, in Londolo, there was one slave, one English woman from the Cabbage Coast, who had the (illegal) reading and writing skills to tell her story?
What if a reader of Caucasian descent had to read about European culture, only generalized and debased to provide a justification for white slavery?
During slavery's heyday, argument after argument ensued. It was argued that Africans enslaved each other - but how is that different from selfdom? It was argued that Africans were scientifically different, sub-human, on the basis of the shape of their heads...but the same arguments can be made against Europeans. The justifications for slavery ring hollow in history books now, but in Blonde Roots, they ring home. Europeans are depicted as uncivilized savages, who should be grateful to be taken to the civilized world, rather than be left to wear their ridiculous clothes, eat their terrible food, decapitate each other for offenses against their King, and treat each other with contempt.
Blonde Roots is also a horrifying reminder of the cruelties that went on during slavery: the hellish conditions of transport, the torturous punishments, the loss of loved ones and families. It is filled with loss, torment, death, and outright horror - all of which is based on true events. Yet, at the end of it, the narrator, Doris, is so charismatic, and her story so compelling, that the book itself was absorbing and a joy to read.
It's hard to be shaken and transfixed by a novel all at once. "Blonde Roots" is not only an imagining that strikes us in our hearts and minds, but a brilliantly written and crafted narrative. Evaristo has written a true classic....more
This book was just bully, thank you. It was a good overview of Roosevelt's progressive policies. It made sense of the myth of Theodore Roosevelt thatThis book was just bully, thank you. It was a good overview of Roosevelt's progressive policies. It made sense of the myth of Theodore Roosevelt that is part of American culture to this day. And it also helped clear up some of my perceptions of turn of the century American history. It's an entertaining read - but that's because Roosevelt was an awfully entertaining guy. I hope some of his common sense, progressive legacy returns in our new, current president....more
This is the biography of Lincoln from his birth on the then-frontier, to his arrival in the White House on the eve of the Civil War. This book, for beThis is the biography of Lincoln from his birth on the then-frontier, to his arrival in the White House on the eve of the Civil War. This book, for being as educational as it was, had a great narrative, and a wonderful story that was told as much in Lincoln's own words as it was the author's. It is also a marvelous tutorial on American history west of the Appalachians in this period, telling the story of the rise of Illinois as a state, as well as its most prominent citizen. "One Man Great Enough" also goes into great detail to explain the depth of the slavery issue - and ONLY the slavery issue - as a cause of the Civil War. It was his distaste for slavery that drove Lincoln, and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise by the Kansas-Nebraska act and Dred Scott decision that pushed him in politics to the presidency. It is the story of Lincoln, of course, told through his own words and the words of his friends, colleagues and rivals, but it is also the story of America in an interesting time. I feel I greatly increased my understanding of America another level through this book, and highly recommend it to all fellow citizens - immigrant or not....more
This is an amazing book, researched in great detail, describing the reign of Elizabeth I through her foreign policy, especially when it came to her prThis is an amazing book, researched in great detail, describing the reign of Elizabeth I through her foreign policy, especially when it came to her privateers. Elizabeth needed money to defend a vulnerable England against Catholic Spain, while aiding and abetting the Protestants in Spanish-owned Low Countries. Only through her relationships with Europe's Protestants could England maintain trade across the Channel. Where better to take the money than from Spanish treasure ships? This book describes the journeys of Elizabeth's pet pirates, like Drake and Frobisher (who I seriously thought only ever discovered the Arctic, and had no idea had also been on slave-stealing trips to Africa), from the ships and how they were supplied, to the reactions of the Spanish as they were raided. It covers the lost Virginia colonies, which were not so much lost as left to their own devices in between privateering raids and defense against the Armada. "Pirate Queen" covers every step of Elizabeth's path through history, and how she used every single tool at her disposal, including her privateers, to keep her country defended. A truly outstanding and fascinating read for anyone even remotely interested in the subject matter....more
This book was fantastic. It was engaging, fast-paced, cleverly written, and well-researched. Much of it is set in the Lake District of England - a parThis book was fantastic. It was engaging, fast-paced, cleverly written, and well-researched. Much of it is set in the Lake District of England - a part of the world I've never been to, but from which I have ancestry going back hundreds of years. McDermid brings together rural legend, local history, literary myth, and the story of the mutiny on the Bounty into a gripping story I couldn't stop reading until I saw it through. It's a murder mystery, a quest for a lost Wordsworth poem, an an ode to Cumbria - all in one. I really do recommend it as a highly entertaining (without being shallow) book....more
I thought this book was wonderful (if a bit cliched in places). In 1848, the West is changing, from the riots in Paris that lead to a dozen revolutionI thought this book was wonderful (if a bit cliched in places). In 1848, the West is changing, from the riots in Paris that lead to a dozen revolutions across Europe, to the San Francisco Gold Rush. And Andersen manages to capture it all, from the February Revolution in Paris, to the American frontier. In it, we follow Ben Knowles as he travels from France back to his native England, and then to New York. Ben has always dreamed of being an American, and we see New York through his eyes, in all of its rapidly changing urban glory. As the newest technologies and social trends come to the city, Ben adjusts to being an American, and the peculiar lack of identifiable ideology that goes with that.
Of course, eventually Ben leaves New York, in search of his romantic love interest (sexual mores of the day are well covered as well), in the company of one bohemian friend, and another friend whose experience in the Mexican-American war has made him half insane. The four main characters then go through America, encountering the utopian communities, Mormon migrations, and frontiertowns as they go. They sail down the Mississipi and over the Ithmus of Panama to get to California, and take their places in the hills of the state for the gold rush. There is much made of San Francisco, its ghost towns of abandoned ships, the brothels and stores set up to serve the gold rushers, and the trend towards permanence that is starting towards the end of 1848. In the course of their travels they also encounter some of the the most famous characters of the day, including Abraham Lincoln, and a survivor of the Donner Party. That's what made the book a bit cliched to me - can these four people really know everyone and be present for every event in 1848? But it was a very well researched and presented book, with a not completely unrealistic plot that takes the reader through a year of more change than we could have imagined. ...more
I, Claudius is one of my favoritest books of all time. Since I just finished watching Rome: Season 1 on DVD, I figured I'd re-read the book that picksI, Claudius is one of my favoritest books of all time. Since I just finished watching Rome: Season 1 on DVD, I figured I'd re-read the book that picks up where it left off. Now, I have the tail end of Season 2 to help me visualize Graves first few chapters - although there's definitely some conflicts between his work and the HBO series. I haven't re-read this book in forever, not since leaving my own copy in a West Texas motel room in 1999, so I pounced on the copy in my local library. I may have to Netflix the DVDs of the series next....more
I haven't read Girl with the Pearl Earring, so I have no idea if this was worse or not. However, it didn't strike me as fascinating. I read it more ouI haven't read Girl with the Pearl Earring, so I have no idea if this was worse or not. However, it didn't strike me as fascinating. I read it more out of idle curiosity than actual fascination. The plot was unfocused, the characters cliched, and the most interesting parts of the story were left as background. With all the fascinating aspects to focus on in Georgian England, I felt the setting - and William Blake - were far out of focus, sacrificed to a meandering plot. ...more
The amount of research and material in this book is phenomenal. It's as big as, and reminded me of, Jared Diamond's Collapse. AND it ties together a lThe amount of research and material in this book is phenomenal. It's as big as, and reminded me of, Jared Diamond's Collapse. AND it ties together a lot of really fascinating new thought in anthropology. It totally changed the way I look at the fields of archaeology and anthropology as they relate to the Americas, and gave me a very different impression of how developed this world was before the vast majority died in pandemics...more