The History Book Club discussion

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Lindsay, this is your thread for 2018. I have included the link to the required format thread and an example. If you had a 2017 thread - it will be archived so when you get the opportunity move over your completed books and formats to the 2018 thread - but we will allow time for you to do that.

Please follow the standard required format below - I hope you enjoy your reading in 2018. Here is also a link for assistance with the required guidelines:


Our Required Format:


1. My Early Life, 1874-1904 by Winston S. Churchill by Winston S. Churchill Winston S. Churchill
Finish date: January 2018
Genre: (whatever genre the book happens to be)
Rating: A
Review: You can add text from a review you have written but no links to any review elsewhere even goodreads. And that is about it. Just make sure to number consecutively and just add the months.


message 2: by Lindsay (last edited Mar 22, 2018 06:05AM) (new)


1. The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton by Michael Crichton Michael Crichton
Finish date: January 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: A
Review: This book was a wonderful mix of very detailed research, trial transcripts, and fictional embellishment. Crichton did an excellent job of bringing out the social and economic circumstances of Victorian England that all came together to set the stage for the perfect robbery.

message 3: by Lindsay (last edited Mar 22, 2018 06:44AM) (new)

Lindsay 2. The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel by Ann Howard Creel Ann Howard Creel
Finish date: January 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: C-
Review: This is about a girl and her sister forced by necessity into the illegal rum running business during Prohibition. Unfortunately the author failed to make any of the characters likable and at times it moved terribly slow. A few good descriptions of Prohibition era NYC but I'm sure you could find that in a better story elsewhere.

message 4: by Lindsay (new)


3. The Woman Who Smashed Codes A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone by Jason Fagone Jason Fagone
Finish date: February 2018
Genre: Biography
Rating: A
Review: Such a fascinating woman, it is hard to believe that her documents and history were basically forgotten for years. Her intelligence and drive are inspiring and her influence on World War II is remarkable. I definitely recommend this for everyone, but especially for a woman looking for a role model.

message 5: by Lindsay (last edited Mar 22, 2018 06:44AM) (new)

Lindsay 4. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler by Octavia E. Butler Octavia E. Butler
Finish date: February 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: A-
Review: A relatively short but emotionally difficult book about a black woman and a white man who are transported back to the mid-1800s South. A- instead of A because at the tail end of the book the characters' actions were not discussed or contemplated as much as earlier in the story, and I feel like it made the big events at the end less fulfilling. It also took me a few days of thought after I finished reading to feel ok with how it ended.

message 6: by Lindsay (last edited Mar 22, 2018 06:44AM) (new)

Lindsay 5. Women of Will The Remarkable Evolution of Shakespeare's Female Characters by Tina Packer by Tina Packer (no photo)
Finish date: February 2018
Genre: History / Literature
Rate: B
Review: This was an interesting review of Shakespeare's entire cannon and how his portrayal of women changed over time. Some of the author's explanation for that seems too heavily based on her personal experiences as an actress and not based enough on Shakespeare's text or what is known about his life. If you are a huge Shakespeare fan or an actor, you will enjoy this, but you definitely need a strong basis in Shakespeare to start with to stay engaged.

message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Good Lindsay

message 8: by Lindsay (last edited Oct 08, 2018 11:53AM) (new)

Lindsay APRIL

6. How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill by Thomas Cahill Thomas Cahill
Finish Date: April 2018
Genre: History, Ireland Challenge
Rating: C -
Review: The title of this book did not accurately indicate its content. The first third of the book was exploring the "attitude" of those living through the fall of the Roman Empire, but contained so many extraordinarily long quotations from Plato that at times I thought I had picked up the wrong book. But then the works of Plato were not revisited or tied in with the remainder of the book. The second third was exclusively about the life of Saint Patrick and how the Irish, prior to his influence, were barbarians with few redeeming cultural qualities other than "Irish spirit."

The last third of the book finally got into how the Irish actually "saved civilization" by transcribing and disseminating books and reteaching literacy to the masses. Of course this was closely linked to the spread of Christianity, as those scribes and teachers were monks, mostly. Although the author expounded heavily on how Christianity took on a quite different form in Ireland than it did in Europe, he never actually explored why that was, other than to again vaguely point to "Irish Spirit." No explanation of whether Saint Patrick actively promoted the looser version of Christianity, or any other historically based theories. Just essentially "gee those silly Irish."

I won't be going back to this author. History can be such an enjoyable topic, but Cahill managed to suck all the joy out of it.

message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Good Lindsay - sorry that the author was dry.

message 10: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay 7. Fire and Fury Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff by Michael Wolff Michael Wolff
Finish Date: April 2018
Genre: Politics
Rating: B
Review: I'll admit that this book was heavily tainted with confirmation bias for me. I still, in April of 2018, have a hard time believing that Donald Trump was elected President. At times while reading I felt almost a maliciously gleeful sense of "I knew it!"

Some of the events and conversations recounted in this book make perfect sense and would be almost impossible to refute given the public record - all the tweets, newspaper stories, congressional testimonies, ect. But at other times, I strongly wondered how much of certain quotes were accurate and how much were piecemeal and potentially filled with the author's guesses. Particularly the lengthy quotes of Bannon, allegedly uttered during small private dinners or in the presence of only one person. Given Bannon's hostilities towards, well, everyone during his amorphous White House career, it was hard to buy Wolff's accuracy at times (unless, I suppose, Bannon went directly to Wolff after his firing as part of a full on revenge campaign against Trump).

Wolff lays out in the Author's Note as well as he can without revealing all of his sources where and how he got his information, including directly listening in from, as he put it, his "semipermanent seat on a couch in the West Wing." But never having read a book so incredibly dependent on anonymity, I had a hard time reading it without several grains of salt.

message 11: by Lindsay (last edited May 14, 2018 06:42PM) (new)

Lindsay MAY

8. The Plantagenets The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones by Dan Jones Dan Jones
Finish Date: May 2018
Genre: History
Rating: A
Review: This was my first Dan Jones book, and now I will most definitely be reading his other works. What Jones has figured out is how to tell history like a story, not a study. Albeit very long and spanning a vast historical period, Jones presents the material in a straightforward yet detailed manner, making real people out of long disintegrated bones. He avoided tangents and speculation, carefully choosing where to elaborate and where to just focus on the action. It was one of the most engaging histories I've ever read and I'm looking forward to reading more from him.

message 12: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay 9. A Higher Loyalty Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey by James Comey (no photo)
Finish Date: May 2018
Genre: Autobiography, Politics
Rating: A
Review: Comey lead a fascinating career which would be worth the read by itself, however, the big selling point was his side of the story against Trump. Without giving away spoilers, I'll say that he articulated his truth and his positions in a straightforward, intelligent, and strongly moral fashion. I enjoyed it very much and would highly recommend it to anyone who would enjoy the account of a man deeply dedicated to public service and anyone looking for a plain but brutally honest description of the current President.

message 13: by Lindsay (last edited Jul 05, 2018 06:10AM) (new)

Lindsay JUNE

10. Periodic Tales A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc by Hugh Aldersey-Williams by Hugh Aldersey-Williams Hugh Aldersey-Williams
Finish Date: June 2018
Genre: Science, History
Rating: C+
Review: Aldersey-Williams takes an exhausting walk through the periodic table in this admirable but not well executed book. It is just a pure information dump. There is some absolutely fascinating information but it was poorly put together, meandering in an illogical way and sprinkled with the author's own experiment replications that were, to say the least, weird. If a good editor had gotten their hands on this book, it would probably improve by a whole letter grade.

message 14: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay 11. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller by Madeline Miller Madeline Miller
Finish Date: June 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: C-
Review: I know this book is very popular, but I cannot see it. It was so painfully slow. It was told entirely from the viewpoint of Patroclus, and the author didn't let him grow as a character. Half of his narrative was just gawking at how gorgeous Achilles is. The supporting characters were all more developed then the main characters and there was barely any action until the last twenty pages. I took the rest of Miller's books off my "to be read" list, it was such a boring experience.

message 15: by Lindsay (last edited Jul 05, 2018 06:29AM) (new)

Lindsay JULY

12. The Professor and the Madman A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester by Simon Winchester Simon Winchester
Finish Date: July 2018
Genre: History
Rating: B-
Review: This was interesting, but could have been much shorter. The story itself is relatively simple, so the author definitely stretched for "filler" in some places. I enjoyed the etymological examinations of certain words that Dr. Minor was able to define and cite entirely on his own.

What knocked this down from a B to a B- was the very end of the book when the author took on a very self-righteous tone and spent several pages saying, essentially, "good thing a man was murdered and good thing there was no decent method for managing schizophrenia, because then we wouldn't have the dictionary." I find this to be a highly insensitive, and, frankly, stupid statement. No one's life is worth less than a book. Had Dr. Minor not been mentally ill, had his poor victim not been murdered, the dictionary still would have been completed by the thousands of others working on it. It just struck me as such a haughty and illogical point to make.

message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Great progress

message 17: by Lindsay (last edited Oct 08, 2018 11:43AM) (new)

Lindsay 13. As Always, Julia The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto Food, Friendship, and the Making of a Masterpiece by Joan Reardon by Joan Reardon (no photo)
Finish Date: July 2018
Genre: History, Pop Culture
Rating: A
Review: What a book. It’s a slow read, as it should be. Julia and Avis are formidable, warm, intelligent, resourceful, and sharply politically intelligent. They’re loyal to each other in a way that will make you want to call your best girlfriend and tell her you love her.

They defy all the stereotypes of a ‘50s housewife. They were informed, sometimes shrewd, power players behind their husbands and in their own right. Their daily struggles are so familiar. And on top of it all they carried out the nine year fight to publish their masterpiece. It also portrays the tender partnerships - and definitely equal partnerships - between the ladies and their husbands, as the men rallied around the women to lift them up to the spotlight.

Avis’ voice in particular became special to me and by the close of the last letter, I felt as though I’d lost a friend.

message 18: by Lindsay (last edited Oct 08, 2018 11:48AM) (new)

Lindsay 14. How Dare the Sun Rise Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana by Sandra Uwiringiyimana (no photo)
Finish date: July 2018
Genre: History, Current Issues
Rating: A
Review: This book is difficult to read, and there is just no way around it. What she went through is horrifying. Her descriptions of the conflict, the refugee camp, the attack, her relocation, are all simple and bare, but they don't need to be embellished in order to shock and sadden. She is not sensationalizing anything. She is telling you what she's survived and what it took to get her to the moment in her life where she could put it down on paper. I highly recommend it to everyone. It certainly puts things in perspective.

message 19: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay AUGUST

15. Recitation by Bae Suah by Bae Suah Bae Suah
Finish Date: August 2018
Genre: Fiction, Korea Challenge
Rating: D
Review: This was not my kind of book. A long, complicated, and often incoherent stream of consciousness from an amorphous narrator. I'm not entirely sure what it was even about, other than very long paragraphs about what travel does for the soul. I’m glad I read it, to break out of my normal genres and to introduce myself to one of South Korea’s highly acclaimed authors. But it was definitely not my flavor.

message 20: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) Lindsay wrote: "13. As Always, Julia The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto Food, Friendship, and the Making of a Masterpiece by Joan Reardon by Joan Reardon (no photo)
Finish Date: July 2..."

Great review! Added to my TBR.

message 21: by Lindsay (new)

16. The Cold Cold Ground (Detective Sean Duffy, #1) by Adrian McKinty by Adrian McKinty Adrian McKinty
Finish Date: September 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, Ireland Challenge
Rating: A
Review: I decided to finish my Ireland Challenge by getting a hold of a modern Irish author, and now I've found a fantastic author and character to follow.

McKinty developed a tightly woven mystery that drove me crazy trying to solve. The backdrop of 1981 Ireland during the religious conflict created perfect sustained tension. Duffy is not a cookie cutter rogue cop - he's nuanced and flawed and moral but avoids all the stereotypical traps. When you thought you knew where things were going, they suddenly weren't. I'll definitely go read the next one.

message 22: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay 17. Princesses Behaving Badly Real Stories from History—without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie Linda Rodríguez McRobbie
Finish Date: September 2018
Genre: History
Rating: C
Review: Picking this up, I figured it may be aimed toward younger girls - giving them a role model, breaking stereotypes, all those wonderful things. I thought I would enjoy it anyways. I did not. The author's tone borders on condescending even for the target audience, and about a third of her 'princesses' are American heiresses in about the 1920 range who turned into spoiled party girls by marrying rich Europeans. Yes, the book clearly says "princesses behaving badly" but I didn't expect it to be so heavy on the Paris Hiltons of the world while giving so little time to the '"warrior princesses" that the Forward spends so much time praising.

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