The History Book Club discussion

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 08, 2010 03:35PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
OK, I guess I can get started with the following:


1. A. Lincoln A Biography by Ronald C. White Jr. Ronald C. White Jr.
Finish date: January 2010
Rating: B

2. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara Michael Shaara
Finish date: January 2010
Rating A- for being a real page turner - well researched and compelling

3. No Ordinary Time Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin Doris Kearns Goodwin Doris Kearns Goodwin
Finish date: January 2010
Rating A - great book

4. I, Alex Cross (Alex Cross, #16) by James Patterson James Patterson James Patterson
Finish date: January 2010
Rating B+ - the usual Alex Cross fare but I love them.

I know I have read some others - will have to look at my Kindle.

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 08, 2010 03:45PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
I am not so sure that I will be a match for Aussie Rick (smile) but I will keep plugging away. I feel like the Saints in the Super Bowl (the real underdog). But then again..I am only creating more momentum for myself. If I read 10, 25, 50 or something in is all good.

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

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5. Staying True by Jenny Sanford Jenny Sanford
Finish date - February 2010
Rating: B- (It is more of a narrative of Jenny Sanford's life (early family, meeting Mark, and their time together) - and boy what a time. I am surprised that such a strong woman got roped in like she is not as if there were not major signs). I thought it was a page turner but not in the sense of a great mystery or a well published author.

message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 01, 2010 11:57PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
6. The Politician An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down by Andrew Young Andrew Young - currently reading

7. American Sphinx The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis Joseph J. Ellis Joseph J. Ellis - also currently reading

8. The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton - currently reading but this will be a long read

9. The First World War by John Keegan John Keegan
Finish Date: April 8, 2010
Rating: Hard for me to do; all others who know more about this subject than I did have rated this book as a must read and a WW1 critical source; so who am I to be critical. I believe that there could have been much better editing of the book; including sources, a more balanced approach to discussing the major powers involved (versus the unabashed emphasis of the Brits - though he has every reason to be proud); I would have wished for more chronology; but when all is said and done, I learned a great deal. Enough said. All I almost forgot..the maps were awful; the map editor should have been able to do a better job; dreadful maps - the few that there were.

10. The Help by Kathryn Stockett Kathryn Stockett Kathryn Stockett - also currently reading - I have been finding this one really slow...still at it.


11. The Belly Fat Cure No Dieting with the NEW Sugar/Carb Approved Foods by Jorge Cruise Jorge Cruise Jorge Cruise - this is actually a pretty effective process; it works
Finish date - March 2010 - COMPLETED
Rating - B-

message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 09, 2010 03:19PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
12. The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell Henning Mankell Henning Mankell
Finish Date - March 28, 2010
Rating - B+ (I am a hard ranker - good, kept me interested, the author combined settings and locations in the US, Europe (Copenhagen, London, different locations in Sweden), Africa (Mozambique, etc.) and Asia (specifically China - and most often Beijing). The book was quite philosophical in parts, blending the old with the new and included flashbacks with strong connections to the past to understand the current thriller parts of the novel). I guess this could be called an East meets West Swedish crime novel (smile).

Here is an excerpt from a review (not mine I might add) and I have deleted parts that would spoil the story for you:

The Chinese appear in it as more powerful, decisive and better informed than the westerners. The left-wing politics are slathered on pretty thick: Mao is a hero who made mistakes and Robert Mugabe has been heroically resisting British imperialism since 1980. In China, as in Sweden, the capitalists are the villains and the old, idealistic communists the heroes. So the capitalists kill people for private gain and the communists for the good of all. The villain in this case turns out to be.....(removed so not to spoil the story for you).

It is a considerable achievement to have woven a discussion of Chinese foreign policy into a generally gripping thriller. I'm not sure the book benefits much from it: the murders are solved, in flashback, for the reader, but never for the police, and by the end the murder looks very much like a MacGuffin rather than the axis of the plot."

Be prepared for more than a few corpses.

One book that I liked personally but I read before starting the 50 books countdown was Netherland. I would highly recommend that one (although it seems to either be a book folks love or one that bores folks with the passages on cricket) - I was in the former category and thought there was a lot of depth to the novel...would love to see this book made into a movie:

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill Joseph O'Neill

13. Caught by Harlan Coben Harlan Coben Harlan Coben
Finish date - March 2010 - COMPLETED
Rating - B (kept my interest although I thought it had a slow start - it takes place for the most part in New Jersey and the surrounding area - possibly the ending may be hard to imagine, but still worked)

Goodreads write-up (not my review): An explosive new stand-alone thriller from #1 New York Times bestseller Harlan Coben

Wendy is a reporter on a mission: She's chasing down the lowest of the low-sexual predators-and exposing them on national television. Her big break comes when she nails a child advocate who works with abused and underserved children. She's there, cameras rolling, when the cops cuff him and the guy realizes his life is well and truly over.

Three months later, the perp is off the grid, missing and presumed dead after the father of a victim claims to have killed him. Wendy, proud to have taken the man down in front of a shocked television audience, has moved on to the story of a missing girl, Erin, in a nearby suburb. The whole country is obsessed with finding this child, and Wendy should be well on her way to journalistic superstardom.

Then is all comes unhinged: Wendy gets a phone call that changes everything. A group of local fathers, out of work and not above vigilante justice, begins to take matters into their own hands on Erin's behalf. Secrets long-buried rise to the surface and Wendy begins to wonder if her assumptions that fateful night three months ago were based on solid investigative journalism-or if she has unwittingly been part of a grand manipulation aiming to destroy an innocent man.

message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Aug 26, 2010 03:44PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod

First, let me say that I have a lot of books to add; but I am adding this one first.

14. Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush Laura Bush Laura Bush

Finish date - April - August 2010 - COMPLETED
Rating - A (for what this was which was a First Lady's memoirs, I was very impressed) This was very well done, detailed, and with many revelations that most of America and the world never knew was going on behind the scenes. She also did her husband a great service with this book.

I personally always liked Laura Bush and felt that she was one of the best first ladies we have had.

This was a review from the UK Telegraph; I don't agree with some of the things that the Telegraph perceived; but Laura Bush has always been politically correct and that is one of the things I admired about her.

I think I agree more with this Wall Street Journal review:

message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Aug 26, 2010 11:41AM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
15. Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough by David McCullough David McCullough

Finish Date - August 2010 - COMPLETED
Rating - B+/A-

I really liked this book and would highly recommend it. I think in a way though not an autobiography, McCullough captured the essence of TR just as Churchill did with one of my all time favorite books, My Early Life. I think we can understand now because of this book and its focus on his family and heritage as well as upbringing what made TR tick.

My Early Life 1874-1904 by Winston S. Churchill by Winston S. Churchill Winston S. Churchill

message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Aug 27, 2010 07:19AM) (new)

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16. Diaries 1969-1979 by Michael Palin by Michael Palin Michael Palin

Finish Date - August 2010 - COMPLETED
Rating - C -

I love Michael Palin but I found this book rather boring. There were some instances when I laughed aloud like his experiences at a Japanese restaurant when he had to take his shoes off and thought that the Japanese slippers were for him and in actuality belonged to other folks eating at the same restaurant. But other than that; a bit tedious. One thing that was apparent is that the road to success and stardom was not an easy one. I think folks think this sort of thing happens overnight without the long hours and hard work he obviously had to spend. The book does give us a glimpse into his personal life. If you like diaries maybe you will like this one.

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

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17. Grant by Jean Edward Smith by Jean Edward Smith Jean Edward Smith

Finish Date - September 6, 2010 - COMPLETED
Rating - A

This book was a surprise for me. I underestimated Grant for years and this book really opened my eyes. Grant for all of his life was both underestimated and esteemed; yet we owe everything to the man who pulled off the crucial victory at Appomatox and saved the Union. He had so much influence in the passing of some of our important amendments 14th, 15th etc. Grant was so sympathetic to the cause of the Native Americans and the freed slaves and both minorities owe him everything. This book was a terrific read from cover to cover and for those folks who love to read about the Civil War, its battles, generals, commanders and locations - they will certainly find this book invaluable and an eye opener. I think it is a wonder that Jean Edward Smith created such a personal and intimate view of the country's greatest general.

This book will be the next Presidential Series read starting October 2nd. I wanted to get a head start and I could not put this book down.

message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 09, 2010 03:08PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
18. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen by Jonathan Franzen Jonathan Franzen

Finish Date - September 6, 2010 - COMPLETED
Rating - Wow - how do I give this book a rating - there were things I absolutely hated about it; but the characterization was dead on and made me dislike all of the three major characters intensely - but then again there were parts of the book which really pierce at you. - Hmm - I will give it a B because it was not a fun experience; but I feel like I did when I read Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridien which by the way will be a movie coming out next year. Some parts of this novel were absolutely brilliant (the A+ parts) - no two ways about it; but did I enjoy it. How do you enjoy being hit over the head by the intimate details of three characters you do not like very much if at all?

This book makes folks feel uncomfortable; it is like a Sylvia Plath, Saul Bellow's Herzog, Philip Roth (like) and in terms of characterization development - a bit like Tolstoy (but I loved reading Tolstoy).

Franzen rants and politicizes a bit like Tolstoy does about farming, etc. And he even likens the characters to characters in War and Peace which one of the characters is even reading. Franzen has some over the top moments when he is lecturing us on the life of birds, overpopulation, graft in military spending, etc. And these I could have done with a little less for sure.

Patty (who is really a well developed character) sort of redeems herself by the end. Walter is Walter and to me must be like the author himself. Richard is incapable of love except when it comes to loving Walter as a human being. And then there are the usual triangles, other love interests, obnoxious son named Joey and the dutiful daughter Jessica. Their life and times are unbelieveable in many respects yet the characterizations are more developed than I have seen in a long time.

I have to say that I like Cormac McCarthy's writing style better but Franzen's work is less blood and gore; but full of bleakness in terms of the lives of the characters.

This book certainly has received all of the buzz.

Blood Meridian Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy Cormac McCarthy Cormac McCarthy

Herzog by Saul Bellow Saul Bellow Saul Bellow

Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth Philip Roth Philip Roth

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath Sylvia Plath Sylvia Plath

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy Leo Tolstoy Leo Tolstoy

message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 01, 2010 11:31PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
19. The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler by Raymond Chandler Raymond Chandler

Finish Date -September 25, 2010 (COMPLETED)
Rating - B+

Chandler is always a great read. I love his style and he has an unusual way for words. This was good Chandler; the ending was just a tad pat - but you never seem to mind the journey with this master.

Brief Synopsis from Goodreads:

Raymond Chandler's fifth novel has Philip Marlowe going to Hollywood as he explores the underworld of the glitter capital, trying to find a sweet young thing's missing brother. Along the way he uncovers a little blackmail, a lot of drugs, and more than enough murder.

20. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond by Jared Diamond Jared Diamond
Finish Date: October 1, 2010 - COMPLETED

Rating: B

This was a serious, scholarly work which was easy to read and understand.

21. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon by Michael Chabon Michael Chabon

Update: This book is fabulous as an audio; I am laughing aloud at some of the dialogue - in the car - no less when I am driving. Terrific characterization development on the part of Chabon. I can actually picture these characters. So far - so good. I am getting so I like the reader more and more.

Peter Riegert is narrating the audiobook of Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which was nominated for a 2008 Audie Award in literary fiction. He also read the stories of Raymond Carver. He is growing on me and is quite good.

Finish Date: September 2010
Rating: A-

This is an exceptional book; I loved it. It is an alternate history which is a great thriller, mystery but is also loaded with humor and great dialogue. The characters jump off of the page; you find yourself believing in the alternate history absolutely. However, at the end there were a couple of things which did not even seem plausible to me in an alternate historical setting and that is the only reason that I gave it an A- versus an A. I do agree that it is considered not only an alternate history but sci fi; but even then - there were a couple of things inserted into the plot that for me did not fit.

However, I cannot wait now to see this in a movie and am delighted that I read it first.

22. The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome, #1) by Colleen McCullough by Colleen McCullough Colleen McCullough - currently reading for historical fiction book discussion

23. Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1) by Patrick O'Brian Patrick O'Brian by Patrick O'Brian - still reading

24. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I by Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon - I am actually doing the Penguin edition.

25. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer Mary Ann Shaffer Mary Ann Shaffer - just purchased - heard great things about this book

message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Could I possibly have any more books going on at one?

message 13: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) Could become a problem Bentley! I try to limit myself to one book at a time unless in exceptional circumstances :)

message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 25, 2010 08:36PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
I never do because of the overlap in the group etc. And of course there are so many interesting topics and books.

But you are giving good advice. I am steaming through the Chandler book and am ahead in Guns, Germs and Steel so all is well for now.

But you are right in most circumstances for sure.

Raymond Chandler Raymond Chandler

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond Jared Diamond Jared Diamond

message 15: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) Whooo, that is a lot going at once there Bentley! Impressive. Aussie Rick, I'm more like you - one at a time type of reader - although I'm still convinced you read in your sleep at the pace you keep. So many books, so little time, eh?

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

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
For sure but I think I am doing better.

message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 18, 2010 01:20PM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod

26, Gentlemen of the Road A Tale of Adventure by Michael Chabon Michael Chabon Michael Chabon

Finish Date: October 17, 2010
Rating: C+

This is another one by Michael Chabon. He said in an interview that his original title was "Jews with Swords" (in the medieval era - around 950 AD). It was OK - like an Arabian Nights kind of tale if you like that sort of thing.

Excerpt from New York Times Review:

The plot and voice of “Gentlemen of the Road” recall the stories found in 19th-century dime novels and the fantastic escapades invented by Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. Gary Gianni’s drawings highlight particularly thrilling moments, and with chapter titles like “On the Observance of the Fourth Commandment Among Horse Thieves” and “On Swimming to the Library at the Heart of the World,” Chabon works old-fashioned niceties into a postmodern pastiche.

The action is intricate and exuberant. After a spectacular bit of con artistry, Amram and Zelikman receive a windfall: They ride away with an adolescent “stripling,” Filaq, who happens to be in line for the throne of a legendary Jewish kingdom now controlled by a wicked warlord. Fierce of spirit and itchy of foot, young Filaq longs for his home and throne but hides a secret that may keep them out of reach. He also shows a flair for startling escapes and for raising small armies.

New York Times Book Review:

message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 20, 2010 06:14AM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Here is where I sort of am:

Good way to inspire your kids to do all sorts of things (smile).

message 19: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Nice visual, Bentley. :) Those things are fun.

message 20: by Garret (new)

Garret (ggannuch) Bently you inspired me to do a TickerFactory;

I'm almost there to the goal, but I have it easier as some of mine are children's books I read or listen to with my son.

message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 20, 2010 06:15AM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Hey Garret, anyone can do it. The TickerFactory is free. And it is fun. The music theme is apropos (smile).

You should have set up your own thread for reading goals. We will set up next year's one early in December so that we will be ready. (smile). Usually I do far better than I have done this year but I am trying to catch up if I can. I can read pretty fast but did not have as much free time this year.

Good for you and Elizabeth though.

message 22: by Garret (last edited Oct 20, 2010 08:48AM) (new)

Garret (ggannuch) Bentley wrote: "19. The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler by Raymond ChandlerRaymond Chandler

Finish Date -September 25, 2010 (COMPLETED)
Rating - B+

Chandler is always a great..."

I'll give this one a try The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon Michael Chabon Michael Chabon ... the audio version.

message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
Garret, I loved it but to each his own I always say. I loved the audio version. You would find me sitting in the car outside in my driveway listening until the end of the chapter sometimes (smile) I sent you also a PM. No worries about it.

message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Nov 29, 2010 07:25AM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
27. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama Barack Obama Barack Obama

Finish Date: October 2010 (COMPLETED)

Rating: This was another hard one to rate; for interest I would give it an A-/B+; but for writing style though grammatically correct and well written; it seemed very much like someone's first book or one of their beginning novels. If there was a grandiose word to choose; the author chose it - so I would give the style attributed to an author to be C+ (even though this book has been heralded as the best written book by a politician and one very daring and revealing memoir). But of course, folks would read this book for many different reasons; including that this author is now our current President of the United States and that this is a fairly revealing autobiography and memoir in many different ways.

I liked the book; I listened to it in audio and it is read by the President himself.
It was first published in July 1995 as he was preparing to launch his political career, five years after being elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990. It was reissued in 2004 with a new preface when Obama won the US Democratic primary for his soon to be elected to Senate race.

The book tells Obama's life story up to his entrance into Harvard Law School.

The audio book edition earned Obama the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.

I have to say that if you really want to understand President Obama; then this is the book to start with; it explains a lot. The memoir also discusses a fair amount about Obama's "then" reflections of race and race relations in America during the time he was growing up and probably how he thought during the 1994 and 1995 time frame when he was writing the book.

I learned a lot about his faith and how he came to make the acquaintance of Reverend Wright; plus so many details of his life which really are astounding and somehow led him to become the man that he is today.

I would recommend reading this book if you really want to understand the President and the influences of his life.

I think one of the convictions that I came away with was that he owes a lot to his late grandmother and his mother too. And he has been fortunate.

Obama did reflect in the updated preface that he really should have paid tribute more to those of his family members who were with him and in his life supporting him and raising him; rather than focusing on the one who was not. The absence of his father was obviously a painful situation for Obama and probably to a certain extent it still is. It must be difficult to have lost your maternal grandparents and your parents and your last close parental family member pretty much on the eve of your winning the presidency. I still remember the television commentary and photos when he spoke about his grandmother (there were tears streaming down his face).

I have to agree that the focus should have been on his mother and grandmother versus a father who really aside from DNA did not do anything for him. It is so sad when you see folks chasing the ghosts or even the living absent parent who abandoned their offspring. To a certain extent this memoir reminds me of Winston Churchill and the non relationship he had with his late father and how he tried to extol him every chance that he could.

My Early Life 1874-1904 by Winston S. Churchill Winston S. Churchill Winston S. Churchill

message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Nov 29, 2010 07:24AM) (new)

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod

28. Nothing to Envy Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick by Barbara Demick
Finish Date: November 2010 (COMPLETED)

Rating - A-

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ordinary citizens

Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.

Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.

Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects—average North Korean citizens—fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them.

Nothing to Envy is a groundbreaking addition to the literature of totalitarianism and an eye-opening look at a closed world that is of increasing global importance.


The Guardian's Review:

This book won the BBC Samuel Johnson prize for 2010 and it was well deserved.

Here is an interview with the author who was also a National Book Award Finalist:

Note: This is probably a great book to read around Thanksgiving which just happened to be the time that I read it. Believe me, all of us have a lot to be thankful for just by where we were born. This book was an eye opener.

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