The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

by David Halberstam

The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam

Meh. Longest. War. Ever. Or so this book would have me believe. The actual title of this book should have been. I Hate McCarthur, and Here is Why, oh and also, His Entire Geneology, and the Failings of His Ancestors. I was prepared to like this book at the outset, and was bitterly disappointed. Read More »

Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution

by Joel Richard Paul

Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution by Joel Richard Paul


I know some people don’t like non fiction. They get bogged down in the dates and the details, and if it doesn’t pertain to their immediate circumstances… they just don’t care. I am not one of those people. I LOVE non fiction. I like obscure settings, and obscure people. The older, the better. Sadly, Unlikely Allies seemed to be history light. Read More »

Always Magic in the Air: The Bomb and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era

by Ken Emerson

Always Magic in the Air by Ken Emerson

I have a slight confession. I don’t usually read the preface, introduction, or forward in books. I find that if I’ve never read the book I get too many spoilers. If the preface is written by someone I find interesting, I will go back and read it at the end. Most of the time; however, I am content to read the book and have done. I read Ken Emerson’s introduction, and I am glad I did. Read More »

Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander In Chief

by James M. McPherson

Tried by Way: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson

In modern parlance I would consider myself ‘a fan’ of Lincoln. From the many biographies I’ve read, to the bajillion hour Ken Burns Civil War Documentary that my nocturnal newborn and I watched, Lincoln stands out as an all around good guy. More importantly, he wasn’t a hypocrite which in these days of political intrigue and outrage, is a pretty amazing fact. The only problem with Lincoln is the in flux of information about the man. Read More »

The City of Falling Angels

by John Berendt

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

I like to think that if John Berendt and I ever met, we’d go to some cafe somewhere (in this little fantasy I live in a place that actually has cafes in the European sense and not in the Route 66 sense) and talk. We’d tell stories about the people we’d met. We’d laugh about the things we’d seen. We’d be friends. I would imagine that the differences in our beliefs and life experiences would not separate us, but we would feel a comradarie that only people who love people can understand. Read More »

Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests, and Captivity in the 17th-Century Mediterranean

by Adrian Tinniswood

The Economist said this was a novel about how a biography and social history can ‘work magnificently together’. No, no, no, Economist. No. Social history can NEVER work with biography. That is the law. When you try to view the actions of a bunch of Barbary Pirates through the lenses of a social or political theology (if you will) of the 21rst Century… well, you are going to get someone’s ideological crusade. Adrian Tinniswood would have done well to stick with writing about country homes. Read More »

Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System

by Roberto Saviano

According to the cover, this ‘novel’ is now an award-winning film. I have a hard time believing they could make a film from the contents of Saviano’s novel. It isn’t a story so much as an expose that has no actual narrative. Though I found it interesting, highly interesting, it would be better served for a magazine article, and not a book. Read More »

Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne

by James Gavin

Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne by James Gavin

Initially, I wanted to give this book a bad grade, but I realized I really wanted to give Lena Horne a bad grade. The book was good. Well written. Well balanced. Well researched. I just don’t like Lena Horne. I thought she wasn’t a talented singer and really didn’t understand the fuss. Stormy Weather confirmed my feelings. Read More »

Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War: A Story of the Three Greatest Generals of the Greatest War

by Terry Brighton

Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War by Terry Brighton

I am not sure why historians can’t seem to choose shorter titles, but they can’t, and as a result we know what they want their book to be about from the cover. For some reasons over the past year or so I’ve read several WWII books. Both fiction and non fiction. None have focused at all on the North African theater of war, so the novel was refreshing in that aspect. Read More »

Don’t Mind if I Do

by George Hamilton and William Stadiem

Why did I want to read about the life of the darkly tanned old Hollywood lothario? Why, not? And that pretty much sums up George Hamilton’s philosophy on life, at least according to himself. Before picking up this book I knew very little about George Hamilton. After reading it, I don’t necessarily feel like he is an old friend, but it was a fun read. Read More »

The Vikings: A History

by Robert Ferguson

This book took me forever to read, and I am not a slow reader. One of its chief problems is clear lack of thesis or theme. It follows the vikings throughout what we consider the viking age. Though most books follow the conquest of Great Britain, and possibly the new world–this novel followed the viking’s conquest of every place at every time. Read More »

American Priestess: The Extraordinary Story of Anna Spafford and the American Colony in Jerusalem

by Jane Fletcher Geniesse

When I picked out this book highly discounted I knew nothing about the American Colony. It sounded vaguely familiar, almost as though in my internet ramblings, I’d stumbled across a wikipedia article… but after having read the history, I am certain that I’d never known about the group that went to Jerusalem to await the second coming. The book chronicles the life of Anna Spafford who would transform from a poor Norwegian Immigrant to a powerful ‘religious’ leader in Jerusalem. Read More »

Exploration Fawcett: Journey to the Lost City of Z

by Col. Percy Fawcett

Exploration Fawcett: Journey to the Lost City of Z by Col. Percy Fawcett

In 1925 Col. Fawcett disappeared in the jungles of Brazil. He was looking for a legend called the Lost City of Z. In the 1950s his youngest son Brian Fawcett published his father’s manuscript that had been intended for publication after the expedition for the City of Z. Finally, finally, finally, a biography worth reading about someone who actually DID something. Read More »

The Professor of Secrets: Mystery, Medicine, and Alchemy In Renaissance Italy

by Willaim Eamon

I know very little about modern medicine, much less ancient medicine. I go to the doctor only when necessary and am not ashamed to say, that I still don’t trust them. That being said, of course I thought my neurosis would be placated by reading a book about alchemy back in the day, and by back in the day I mean the 1570s and doctor Leonardo Fioravanti. Read More »

Hunting Eichman: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi

by Neal Bascomb

A well researched, carefully crafted account of a series of events leading to the multiple escapes and captures of Adolf Eichmann, Nazi war criminal. The prologue begins with the tension of Mossad agents waiting for Eichmann to arrive in order to kidnap him and transport him to Israel, the only nation willing to prosecute him for his crimes. Though the tension is evident from the first page, the novel takes you back to Eichmann’s past as an SS officer in charge of implementing the ‘Final Solution’. Read More »

Thunderstruck

by Erik Larson

Erik Larson has done it again. Larson has a way to bring history to life. He spins a tale of murder and a tale of progress showing that man can evolve in evil and in technology at the same time. Read More »

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

by Sloane Crosley

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… if you write memoirs, or essays about your own life, or an autobiography, you should definitely have done something in your life worth writing about. Sloan Crosley has done nothing worth writing about. Read More »

A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924

by Orlando Figes

Perhaps it is the Political Scientist in me… but I REALLY enjoyed this book. Orlando Figes is not only an expert in Russian history he is THE expert and his novel could be used both as a textbook in a Russian history or Political Science class or works equally well when just read by someone with an interest in Russia, or the history of communism in Russia. What sets this book apart is that Figes uses the words of the people themselves to describe conditions and explain complex situations instead of relying on overused and sometimes unsubstantiated political theory. Read More »

On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined

by David Roberts

A book that didn’t need to be written. Read More »

Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends

by William “Wild Bill Guarnere and Edward “Babe” Heffron with Robyn Post

I’d already read Band of Brothers, by the time I picked this book up, so I was fairly familiar with the history and the stories that were retold. Two of the most engaging ‘characters’ of Ambrose’s tale were indeed Wild Bill and Babe so it was interesting to see the past through their perspective. Read More »

The Monster of Florence: A True Story

by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

Confession, I enjoy true crime. I do. I once went to a writing seminar when they spoke of the appeal of escapist literature. A study had been done which said that people tend to read what they are missing in their lives. Teenagers read fantasy, house wives read “Twilight”, etc etc etc. If this theory holds true, I enjoy true crime because there is not enough crime in my life. Read More »

Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR’s Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors

by James D. Hornfischer

One: unnecessarily long title. Two: seriously, after writing that title I am exhausted. That being said, this book is well worth reading. I have only a passing interest in WWII history (gasp) as I feel I’ve read it, heard it, seen it all a hundred times over. What I enjoyed about this book was that the author tried to keep the focus narrow in an arena that hasn’t received much media attention. Read More »

My Lobotomy

by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming

As I began reading Dully’s account of his youth and the lobotomy given at the age of eleven, I found myself disliking the author intensely. Granted, he has had a lobotomy so his memory was affected, but he strikes me as the textbook bratty kid with a bad attitude. Read More »

What Am I Doing Here

by Bruce Chatwin

Ah, Bruce… I think I am done with you. Maybe it was wrong to read three separate Bruce Chatwin books in a two week period, but I couldn’t help it. They were loaners from my uncle who needed them back in a hurry. Unlike other travel memoirs What Am I doing Here is a series of essays. They follow no general pattern that I could discern. Read More »

Who Killed Iago: A Book of Fiendishly Challenging Literary Quizzes

by James Walton

Yes, I did read this book. What can I say? I really love bargains at the bookstore and I really like books. I can think of, perhaps, four of my friends who would actually be willing to do these quizzes, but it was  a fun read none the less. The premise of the book is great. Read More »

The Undercover Economist

by Tim Harford

I like a good book about economics.  I particularly like Harford’s style of sneaking the economics in there and not bogging the text down with a bunch of technical economics terms. He gives the reader just enough to be able to converse with some authority afterward, but not enough to start pitching his own economic theories. Read More »

The Songlines

by Bruce Chatwin

Another travel memoir, but this time with a thesis, that all men are born to wander as it is their natural state. Bruce Chatwin writes of his travels to Australia to learn more about the songlines. It appears that Mr. Chatwin did his homework before he goes, because those he come into contact with seem impressed by his knowledge about the culture. In a later book I read that one of the reviewers called the book unbelievably pretentious, and I agree.  Read More »

In Patagonia

by Bruce Chatwin

A little back ground is in order. I am actually half Chilean, and have spent a little time there over the years. I also lived for a while in Brazil. This helped me in my pursuit of a second major field of study at university. Yes, one major was not enough. I double majored in Political Science and Latin American Studies. As a result I feel fairly confident in my knowledge of Latin American history, culture, politics and religion. So when my uncle (also an avid reader of anything he can get his hands on) lent me his battered copy of In Patagonia, I was excited to see what Mr. Chatwin would have in store. Read More »

Under the Covers and Between the Sheets

by C. Alan Joyce and Sarah Janssen

I had high hopes for this book. High hopes that were not met. Don’t get me wrong, the facts were interesting and a few of the anecdotes amusing, the problem is that the audience of this book is going to be book lovers, avid book readers. And avid book readers are going to already know everything in this book. Read More »

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage

by Nicholas Wapshott

One thing you mus know about me before I continue…  I LOVE Ronald Reagan. In the early 80s, I was an elementary school kid. President Reagan fascinated me then, and he fascinates me still. My husband has even expressed relief that Ronald and I were born decades apart because I would have married President Reagan if given the chance. As a self proclaimed Reagan devote, I’ve read a book or two about Reagan in my day. Read More »