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

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 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.

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

DNF: Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman

First off, is this not a beautiful cover? Don’t you want this to be a terrific book?  With a cover like this? It wasn’t the book, it was me. Most likely. The books two narratives are well told, it’s two lead characters interesting and three-dimensional.  I just felt I had been down this road before. In one, an 19th century American engineer has been hired … Continue reading DNF: Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman

Americans and the California Dream by Kevin Starr–Chapter I: Prophetic Patterns 1786-1850

This doesn’t count as a resolution, but on New Year’s Day I finally embarked on reading Kevin Starr’s history of California which currently stands at six volumes, last time I checked. A few years ago I read his single volume history California and loved it.  Entertaining and informative, a clear eye-ed history of the state written by a man who’s been in love with the place … Continue reading Americans and the California Dream by Kevin Starr–Chapter I: Prophetic Patterns 1786-1850

Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe by William Rosen

Some things I learned from reading William Rosen’s book Justinian’s Flea: Justinian I was as unlikely to become emperor as Theodora was to become empress. Theodora really did work in a brothel, most likely, but she had retired prior to meeting Justinian in her early twenties. That bit about covering herself in seed and letting a small flock of geese peck it all off was probably … Continue reading Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe by William Rosen

Season of the Witch by David Talbot

What struck me, most about David Talbot’s history of  San Francisco was just how violent the times were. Season of the Witch concentrates on the years between the Summer of Love, 1968, and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s.  The 1970’s are largely remembered today for disco and very, shall we say, creative fashions but this was a period of violent upheaval in America, certainly … Continue reading Season of the Witch by David Talbot

The Marrow of Tradition by Charles W. Chestnutt

The Jim Crow Era of legal repression of African Americans begins in Wilmington, North Carolina on November 11, 1898 when the white citizens of the town violently overthrew the legally elected government and installed new white leaders with a new “Wilmington Declaration of Independence”  which stated the city “would no longer be ruled, and will never again be ruled by men of African origin.” From … Continue reading The Marrow of Tradition by Charles W. Chestnutt

American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen

Did Lincoln free the slaves, or did the slaves free themselves? A high school history teacher friend of mine recently asked me this question while explaining the new writing program she’s using in her tenth grade U.S. history class.  In the program, students are given a set of historical documents to read, discuss and draw conclusions about in essay form. The point of the activity … Continue reading American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen