Current Reading - May 2021

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Current Reading - May 2021

1jztemple
Edited: May 1, 2021, 2:16pm

Finished a very good Into the Jaws of Death: British Military Blunders 1879-1900 by Mike Snook. In spite of the use of the word "blunders", perhaps suggesting some sleazy tell-all book, this is a very serious look at British (and British led) military defeats during the time period. The author wrote what I consider the best Isandlwana book I've read, How Can Man Die Better: The Secrets of Isandlwana Revealed and in this book he uses the same detailed, insightful style.

2rocketjk
May 2, 2021, 2:10pm

I finished The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee. Although the title doesn't suggest this books as history per se, McGhee runs down the racist, anti-Black roots (i.e. "history") of many of the major societal problems in America today, examining at the same time the ways in which these policies have also greatly harmed whites along the way. Her thesis, as per the title, is that working and middle class whites have been sold a "Zero Sum" philosophy: if Blacks "win," whites, by definition, "lose." So, for one easy example, welfare programs that would help many more whites than Blacks must be bad nevertheless, because Blacks are "takers" who don't deserve taxpayer help. Never mind the number of poor whites who would be lifted as well.

McGhee uses as her operating metaphor (as per the book's cover art) the history of public swimming pools. During the middle part of the 20th century, communities across the country, including across the South, had built public swimming pools. They were symbols in many cases of civic pride, gathering places for often thousands of people. However, when the law mandated that these pools be integrated, community after community closed the facilities, often filling the pools in and covering them over, rather than comply with that new law. So not only were Blacks kept out, but tens of thousands of white people lost their public swimming pools as well.

The Sum of Us examines the history of the housing/mortgage crisis, environmental racism, redlining, voting rights, disengenuous "color blindness" and several more issues, which all come under McGhee's microscope to convincing effect. There is also a chapter on the psychic toll that racism takes on whites called "The Hidden Wound," the title taken from Wendell Berry's 1968 book of the same name.

3dypaloh
Edited: May 2, 2021, 3:09pm

In his biography of Jackie Robinson, Arnold Rampersad wrote:
“The NAACP took on (Pasadena, California, where Robinson grew up), over segregation of the swimming pool in Brookside Park…a superior court judge, setting aside arguments by the city that “swimming offered the opportunity of certain intimacies like marriage does and the races should be separated,” placed the NAACP petition on the court calendar…When the plaintiffs…years later, won their case, the city closed the pool to everyone.”
I guess that proved no court could prevent Pasadena from embracing absurdity in its legal arguments. Impressive, too, how when pushed to the brink, Pasadena could muster a bizarre determination to serve all its citizens badly.

4rocketjk
May 2, 2021, 3:12pm

>3 dypaloh: Great example, and I mistakenly identified this in my post as a something that happened in the American South. Perhaps it was predominantly in the South, but clearly from your post not exclusively.

5dypaloh
May 2, 2021, 9:01pm

>4 rocketjk: Just checked our city library’s web site to see if they have The Sum of Us. It is attracting attention. All 30 copies are checked out and there are 73 holds placed by readers waiting to get it.

By the way, I didn’t think you were identifying the problem as southern only (“communities across the country” makes that plain). I posted because I know you’re a baseball fan and might find the Pasadena example interesting.

6rocketjk
May 2, 2021, 10:29pm

>5 dypaloh: I hope you get to read the book soon. I will be very interested in your reaction.

7Shrike58
May 6, 2021, 7:32am

Finished Empires of the Sky yesterday evening, a very good examination of the Zeppelin as technological symbol and practical reality.

8jztemple
May 6, 2021, 5:01pm

>7 Shrike58: Glad to hear it is good. I've got it on my wishlists.

9jztemple
May 12, 2021, 9:43am

Finished an interesting A. G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball: The Promise of American Sport by Peter Levine. Spalding was one of those over-achiever types, one of the best pitchers in the game, team manager and owner, sporting goods entrepreneur and one of the best known Americans of his time. The book is well written and moves along nicely.

10jztemple
May 12, 2021, 9:48am

I also recently finished How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman. The author is a serious reenactor who lived as a Victorian for many months, including working on a period farm for a year, so she really has first hand knowledge. Not a book for everyone, but very interesting.

11princessgarnet
May 12, 2021, 3:40pm

>10 jztemple: I borrowed and read that from the library. I've also read her second book How to Be a Tudor, published in 2016.

12Shrike58
May 13, 2021, 7:23am

Knocked off It's Delightful! It's Delovely! It's... DeSoto Automobiles. I mostly bought it for the images and, on those grounds, I was satisfied. Not sure that the author has as much grasp of Chrysler management policy (or lack thereof) as would be needed to give one an effective history of the marque.

13ulmannc
May 14, 2021, 8:08pm

I went through 3 books about Colorado railroading, primarily Denver and Rio Grande Western. They are listed here.
Denver and Rio Grande Western Superpower Railroad of the Rockies
Trackside around Denver 1955-1979 with Jim Ozment
Trackside around Pueblo, 1955-1970 with Stuart J. Sutton
I found Trackside around Denver was the most readable, had the best photo captions and pictures were excellent. The writing had some style and not just fact lists!

14jztemple
May 17, 2021, 12:12am

Finished a fascinating Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle: The Little Big Horn Reexamined by Richard A. Fox. A participant in a 1980s archeological survey of the Custer (later Little Bighorn) Battlefield National Monument, Fox wrote this book a decade later to examine the results of the survey, the existing historiography of the battle and other information to theorize what may have actually happened on that day in 1876.

16Shrike58
May 18, 2021, 8:17pm

Finished The Trouble with Women Artists, which wasn't hard since the book turned out to be rather slight; call it the danger of putting in a hold request without first glancing over said book.

17princessgarnet
Edited: May 18, 2021, 10:18pm

Finished Toil & Transcendence by Fr. Charles Connor
His 3rd book on the history of Catholicism in America.

18jztemple
May 19, 2021, 11:43am

Completed a relatively interesting Paradise for Sale: Florida's Booms and Busts by Nick Wynne and Richard Moorhead. A bit too short to do a thorough job covering all the booms and busts.

19ulmannc
Edited: May 20, 2021, 1:49pm

I completed The American River of El Dorado which is part of the Rivers of America series. The focus is on General Sutter and gold prospecting and mining in California. It's an average read and periodically I started skipping sections. How many ways can one pan and use a cradle to mine gold?!

20ulmannc
May 22, 2021, 3:12pm

I completed Arkansas A Guide To The State except for the various tour directions. This is part of the American Guide Series.

21Shrike58
May 24, 2021, 6:43am

Over the weekend I finished up Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe; or at least as much as I'm going to at this time. Pretty good, but Herrin's study is, dare I say it, like a mosaic, due to how few secular records have survived of the city's administration.

22Shrike58
May 29, 2021, 7:47am

Knocked off Confederacy of Ambition, something of a case study of the "Manifest Destiny" generation; not quite as interesting as I thought it might be.

23jztemple
May 29, 2021, 10:35pm

Finished a very interesting Steam, Politics and Patronage: The Transformation of the Royal Navy, 1815-54 by Basil Greenhill and Ann Giffard. The book is about the transition of the Royal Navy to steam, with a focus on an ancestor of one of the authors who was involved in a lot of the changes as a shipboard officer. Lots of little details about the implementation of steam power in warships including the change from paddles to screws, development of engines and how steamers were used both as support vessels and as combat ships.

24rocketjk
May 31, 2021, 12:59pm

I finished The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe's extremely engaging and detailed history of the Mercury Space Program. I'm not quite sure how/why I'd never read this before. Maybe it was my life-long aversion to reading best sellers, and this book was huge when it was first published in 1980. At any rate, I'm very glad I finally got to it.

25jztemple
Jun 1, 2021, 12:13am

Completed an interesting Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects by Neil MacGregor. Lots of great photographs and illustrations and plenty of interesting details on Shakespeare's time.

26Glacierman
Jun 2, 2021, 6:59pm

>24 rocketjk: That was a darn good read.

27princessgarnet
Edited: Jun 2, 2021, 10:10pm

Lincoln's Wartime Tours from Washington, DC by John W. Schildt
This local history book chronicles Lincoln's trips to battlefields and various cities and towns in MD and VA as well as further afield during his presidency.

28ulmannc
Jun 3, 2021, 10:50am

I finished reading Artists of Wyeth Country. This book just came out a few weeks ago. It has an interesting take on artists in the Chadds Ford PA area. The Sanderson Museum (I'm the volunteer curator) shared some photos to the author.

29ulmannc
Edited: Jun 6, 2021, 4:46pm

I finished going through California A Guide to the Golden State. I read the the first part with history, geology, architecture, etc in detail and then glance through the various numbered routes.