Current Reading: December 2021

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Current Reading: December 2021

1princessgarnet
Edited: Dec 1, 2021, 3:18pm

Share your reads for this month!

Finished The Kings & Queens of Scotland by Timothy Venning

2AndreasJ
Edited: Dec 2, 2021, 2:00am

I just finished From War to Diplomatic Parity in Eleventh-Century China, about the diplomatic relationship between Song China and the Kitan/Liao of Manchuria. Unusually, an Imperial Chinese regime found itself compelled to formally recognize a foreign regime as an equal.

I rather liked it, but the list price is silly high - something to get 2nd hand or the library.

3Shrike58
Dec 3, 2021, 10:16am

Currently reading The Journey to the Mayflower.

4jztemple
Dec 3, 2021, 10:57am

>3 Shrike58: I looked it up, seems like a very interesting book. Let me know your opinion when you finish.

5jztemple
Dec 4, 2021, 5:09pm

Finished The Young Nelson in the Americas by Tom Pocock. A good deal of the book focused on the San Juan Expedition of 1780 which "took place between March and November 1780 during the American War of Independence when a British force under the command of John Polson and Captain Horatio Nelson landed on the coast of the present-day Nicaragua, with the aim of sailing up the San Juan River to capture the strategically crucial towns of Granada and León, located on the northwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua" (quoted from Wikipedia). Part of the rest of the book rather skimmed over his service in North American waters and also, oddly, included his service in the North Sea. And a good part of the book actually focused on a fellow participant on the expedition, Edward Despard, who was at the time a friend of Nelson. Later on Despard faced financial and other difficulties and ended up being part of a plot to kill the king and overthrow the government. The plot was discovered and Despard was tried, found guilty and executed. While a somewhat interesting story in itself, it was rather an odd choice of material to use in the book as Nelson had not seen nor apparently had any communication with Despard for twenty years before his trial. Overall however a quite readable book.

6ulmannc
Dec 4, 2021, 9:03pm

I completed Florida A Guide to the Southernmost State, part of the American Guide Series. As things go with the American Guide Series I read the general information up front and it was readable. The following sections are worth spending a bit of time: Archeology and Indians, History, Transportation, Agriculture, Publich Health and Social Welfare (not much in the 1930s) Folklore and Architecture. I skimmed the rest as I have described in the past.

7Shrike58
Edited: Dec 6, 2021, 9:15am

Finished The Journey to the Mayflower; informative, but the author spends so much time in the weeds that this was book became something of a chore. Even the author seems to find the people he's studying annoying after awhile for their incessant arguing; though there were real principles at stake in terms of social organization and obligation.

8AndreasJ
Dec 11, 2021, 3:46am

Finished Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland yesterday, about the descendants of a certain Ivar, who provided kings of inter alia Dublin, York, and the Hebrides in the Viking Age. Dry but good.

9Shrike58
Edited: Dec 13, 2021, 6:51am

Finished The Leader's Bookshelf. While it's very much a self-help book for junior officers in military service, it will also give the non-service reader a picture of the mental furniture of their military leadership. Considering that the best of the U.S. military leadership worked hard to prevent the Trump Administration from corrupting the services, you can see why books like Once an Eagle and Dereliction of Duty are apparently highly esteemed.

10Tess_W
Edited: Dec 12, 2021, 5:41am

I read Francis Marion and the Snow's Island Community: Myth, History, and Archaeology by Steven D. Smith While this book was about the "Swamp Fox" and his part in the U.S. War for Independence, it was more. I loved that this author separated the man from the myth and also told about the various patchwork of partisan cells contained within South Carolina. Even though they lost plenty of battles, they did win the war. Great read! Lots of footnotes and documentation. 352 pages

11Shrike58
Dec 13, 2021, 6:53am

I'm going to be returning to Age of Conquests sooner rather than later, as I'm out of time for the deep dive that the book demands, but this is about the best synthesis I've seen of the Hellenistic Age.

12jztemple
Dec 13, 2021, 12:35pm

>11 Shrike58: Thanks for posting about the book, sounds interesting.

13jztemple
Edited: Dec 14, 2021, 11:11pm

Finished Battle for Empire: The Very First World War, 1756-63 by Tom Pocock. A look at the Seven Years War through narratives of the far flung campaigns of that war, including India, Havana, Manila and Canada. Not a heavy duty look but fairly comprehensive never the less.

Forgot to list Jameson's Raid: The Prelude to the Boer War by Elizabeth Longford. The first third of the book is a very good look at the background to Jameson's Raid, what happened and the outcome. The last two thirds is a detective story of who knew what when, specifically focused on Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies. It got rather bogged down in the details and I gave up after giving it a gallant try. That first third is worth reading the book for however.

14WalkDogs
Dec 15, 2021, 11:59am

Currently reading Odd Arne Westad’s The Cold War: A Global History. As one would expect in a book that tries to cover the entire Cold War globally, it is rather light. However, it is still very interesting and informative. Westad brings in perspective that are not normally included in most histories. Yes, his name is Odd Arne. He is Norwegian

I tried reading John Gaudet’s Papyrus but found his style narcissistic, annoying and distracting from the story. It goes back to the library unread. I am not a fan of the writing style where the author feels that they must inject themselves into the story. I really don’t care that Gaudet sprayed himself with bug spray before entering the swamp or had his sneakers draped around his neck by their laces. I am old fashion and trained extensively in professional and scientific writing/reporting where the data is the story and the author is just an observer.

15jztemple
Dec 15, 2021, 6:40pm

>14 WalkDogs: I agree with you about authors who turn a history into a travelogue. I don't mind it in an introduction when the author uses the technique to establish how they gained the knowledge to write the story, or as interludes between major parts of the book, but more than that it becomes an annoyance, not to mention it often feels like padding. Thank goodness for Amazon previews.

16ulmannc
Dec 17, 2021, 5:03pm

I completed The Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad Western Maryland's Historic Coal Carrier.

As an aside, I was plowing through Trains Inc. Newswire and found the story about Western Maryland Scenic in November testing the last Baldwin 2-6-6-2 built in 1949. To say it is large is to put it mildly. . I don't think it is as big as UP 4014 but then gauging in the east is a lot smaller than out west. It was being tested on trackage running between Frostburg and Cumberland Maryland.

This stretch of track was built by the Cumberland & Maryland in either the 1910's or 1920's as part of their main coal drag. It was subsequently sold to the Western Maryland in 1944.

A little railroad trivia for you!

17ulmannc
Dec 18, 2021, 8:09pm

I completed skimming through Crofutt's Grip-Sack Guide of Colorado Volume 2. I only read in detail Denver and a number of the places we have been to out there. The book is a reprint.

18princessgarnet
Edited: Dec 19, 2021, 2:30pm

Finished from the library: The Last King of America: the Misunderstood Reign of George III by Andrew Roberts
New major biography about George III. There's more to George III than what's been shown of him on stage and screen.

19jztemple
Edited: Dec 19, 2021, 9:39pm

>18 princessgarnet: Did you enjoy reading it? I have the book on my wishlists.

20jztemple
Dec 21, 2021, 8:28am

Finished an interesting Globe: Life in Shakespeare's London by Catharine Arnold. It focuses on the plays, the playwrights and the theaters and was enjoyable, but expect a lot of Shakespeare quotes.

21Shrike58
Dec 23, 2021, 2:22pm

Knocked off The Black Death at the Golden Gate, what seems like a pretty good account of the reaction to the arrival of the Bubonic Plague in America.

22Shrike58
Dec 25, 2021, 1:42pm

Finished up The Apocalypse Factory, an elegiac look at the Atomic Age through the prism of the Hanford Industrial Reservation and the discovery of Plutonium.

23ulmannc
Dec 26, 2021, 4:35pm

I finished another review of Reports of explorations and surveys, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean made under the direction of the secretary of war, in 1853-4, according to acts of congress of March 3, 1854, May 31, 1854, and August 5, 1854.Volume 2. I skimmed through it but haven't summarized my notes yet.

24ulmannc
Dec 26, 2021, 7:26pm

I finished Journals of Forty-Noners Salt Lake to Los Angeles edited by LeRoy Hafen and Ann W. Hafen. it is Volume II of Far West and Rockies series.

25rocketjk
Dec 28, 2021, 3:24pm

I finished Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill by Thomas J. Fleming. First published in 1960, this history of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the American Revolution, was evidently hailed as a major success at the time, and I can see why. Fleming did a great job of laying out the contributing factors to the growing points of contention between England and the American colonies, both political and economic, as well as giving thumbnail sketches of the major players on both the English and American sides. The conditions the combatants fought under, the weapons they carried and their motivations for fighting are all clearly described as well, as are the tactics of the officers and the ways in which those tactics either worked or didn't. The battle itself is described in detail, with a flowing narrative style that puts the reader directly into the horrific, bloody action.

At times Fleming took some liberties, creating conversations between the participants that are, he explains in his afterward, recreations from the many diaries and journals he consulted. On the American side, most of the soldiers who actually took part fought bravely indeed, but many of those assembled, intimidated by the British artillery, actually stayed well away from the battle. Fleming gives a lot of credit, also, to the courage of the British soldiers, who three times charged the American emplacements in the face of point-blank musket fire. The British after that third charge, managed to get the Colonials out of their emplacements and off the hill (actually Breed's Hill, not Bunker Hill itself, as Fleming explains), but at a cost so high that they the British generals had to abandon their plans to try to break the American siege of Boston, the reason they attacked the stronghold in the first place. The British lost half their army, killed or wounded, on that day, and the question of whether American volunteer soldiers would stand and fight against the British regulars, an army considered at that time the best in the world, was settled emphatically.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the history of the American Revolution or of military history in general.

26jztemple
Dec 28, 2021, 5:57pm

Finished another couple of books, although I did skim the second one through several chapters.

The Fighting Tenth: The Tenth Submarine Flotilla and the Siege of Malta by John Wingate - Very good narrative history of the submarines based at Malta during the time when the Italians and the Germans were desperately trying to destroy the fighting capability of the islands. The book covers the submarine missions and also their trying to survive through endless air attacks. A remarkable story.

The Anglo-Saxons at War, 800–1066 by Paul Hill - A scholarly look at Anglo-Saxon warfare from just before the Viking invasions until William the Conqueror. Covers recruitment, organization, tactics, equipment and the like. Unfortunately because of the paucity of historic records the author spends a significant amount of text discussing what we don't know as well as what we do know. Not the easiest read, but would likely appeal to someone with an interest in the era.

27Shrike58
Dec 29, 2021, 1:43pm

Finished up Matilda, which aims to put the best possible spin on the life and career of the Norman empress, and is pretty convincing.