Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horowitz

In the radio interviews Tony Horwitz did last year for his latest book, Midnight Rising, he made the claim that the raid on Hapers Ferry, Virginia led by John Brown could be seen as the first battle in America’s Civil War.  An interesting proposition, I thought. While his book is a very good read, it’s much more of a straightforward account of John Brown’s later … Continue reading Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horowitz

The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964 by Jon Margolis

It’s an odd thing for an author to disavow his chosen title in the introduction, but that’s just what Jon Margolis does in his account of America in 1964, The Last Innocent Year.  A nation like America cannot seriously consider itself to have ever been innocent, according to Mr. Margolis.  After all, America began as a slave society determined to exterminate the people who got … Continue reading The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964 by Jon Margolis

The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

Have you ever known the ending from page one and still been unable to put the book down? Since Italian novelists Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s novel The Ides of March is about the last few days of Julius Ceasar’s life, we all know how the book is going to end, at least we all know how Julius Ceasar is going to end.  The challenge for the … Continue reading The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

The Shipwrecked Man by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

In 1527, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca served as treasurer on an ill-fated expedition to the Florida Peninsula.  Early on, the expedition was shipwrecked near what is now Tampa Bay.  Cabeza de Vaca tried to convince the expedition’s leadership that they should remain on the shore until rescue arrived, but the thirst for gold and the mistaken belief that there were Spanish settlements nearby resulted … Continue reading The Shipwrecked Man by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

Warlock by Oakley Hall

Oakley Hall populates his novel Warlock with an entire town full of characters, the way Charles Dickens does, or more apropos the way Pete Dexter did in his western Deadwood.  While there is a central plot with its handful of major characters, Mr. Hall takes the time to bring each minor player to life, enough to fill his small Arizona town of Warlock with a … Continue reading Warlock by Oakley Hall

Parititions by Amit Majmudar

It’s very difficult for me to imagine let alone understand the animus that led to the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947 following the withdrawal of British authority from the subcontinent.  The violence that accompanied partition defies understanding.  One can only ask how could this happen without the expectation of an answer. To his credit, Amit Majmudar does not seek to explain that violence … Continue reading Parititions by Amit Majmudar

Looking for the Next School Wide Read

Finding a book suitable for grades six, seven and eight is not easy. The difference between a seventh grader and an eighth grader is dramatic, but the difference between a sixth and an eighth grader is stunning. This year we did our first school wide read, Chew on This by Charles Wilson and Eric Schlosser, based on Mr. Schlosser’s best-selling book Fast Food Nation.  Each subject area read several … Continue reading Looking for the Next School Wide Read

Sunday Ramble: Travels, Art and Jane Austen Challenge

C.J. and I visited Los Angeles this past week to see the James Kerry Marshall retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the same show we saw last summer in Chicago.  We’ve become big fans of Mr. Marshall’s work. It was a mad-cap three-day trip–drive down, day in L.A. and drive home–but we managed to visit three bookstores while we were there.  We stayed in … Continue reading Sunday Ramble: Travels, Art and Jane Austen Challenge

Sunday Ramble and Two Books I Didn’t Like. Sorry.

Visited the local Friends of the Library book sale yesterday, in the rain, where C.J. and I managed to spend much more than we intended.  He got several art books and a couple of books full of house plans while I nearly completed my Jane Austen collection. Can you name the book I still have to find. I’ve decided it’s a good time to re-read all … Continue reading Sunday Ramble and Two Books I Didn’t Like. Sorry.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu Translated by D.C. Lau

For many years now, I have taught Daoism as part of my 7th grade history unit on China.  I wish I could call back my previous classes and correct all the mistakes and misrepresentations I have made over the years.  Fortunately, what 7th graders take away from a lesson on Daoism isn’t all that deep, so I probably haven’t done much damage. Still.  It’s symptomatic … Continue reading Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu Translated by D.C. Lau

Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson

It was a little un-nerving to be reading Blood Done Sign My Name right now.  America really should have moved beyond this issue by this point in time, the opening years of of the 21st century.  William Faulkner got it right when he said, “The past isn’t done with us; it’s not even past.” Blood Done Sign My Name is Timothy B. Tyson’s memoir/reflection on racism … Continue reading Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson

A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland

If you’re a reader but not an English major, or just anyone who’d like to fill in the holes in your knowledge of the subject, you could do worse than John Sutherland’s A Little History of Literature.  Divided into 40 short chapters, Mr. Sutherland’s book covers all the greatest hits from Beowulf to Borges and most of the main topics covered in graduate schools from What … Continue reading A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland