Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Weekly book post

Now that I'm settling in to my new day job, I've decided to shoot for three blog posts per week, on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The Sunday post will be whatever is on my mind, usually writing or research-related, or a guest post. Thursdays will be food and cooking, as I try to work my way through at least one new recipe from every cookbook I own. And Tuesdays will be my reading updates.

So, here's what I've read since the last time I blogged my reading. It's a bit heavy on the nonfiction and research books, partly because I'm working out my hero's backstory of service in and around Upper Canada during the War of 1812 and partly because my library holds list suddenly spat out a pile of nonfiction all at once.

1) The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, by Donald Hickey

A fairly in-depth history. It focuses on the American point-of-view but was still useful for giving me an overview of how the war played out. At the risk of letting my contemporary political views show a bit, the War of 1812 comes across as depressingly reminiscent of the Iraq War in some ways--the party in power pulled the country into it for rather dubious reasons and damned anyone who disagreed as traitors, for example.

2) Crown and Calumet: British-Indian Relations, 1783-1815, by Colin Calloway

As the title says, a book all about relations between the British and Native Americans from the end of the American Revolution through the War of 1812. Fascinating, at least for me, because it's an aspect of Native American history I'd never run across before.

3) Love Story, by Jennifer Echols

A YA romance where the hero and heroine work out their feelings for each other and complex history together over the course of a writing seminar as college freshmen. I enjoyed it, as I always do Echols' books, though I have to admit I would've liked to see a longer last chapter or an epilogue or something just to sort of enjoy the couple together after all they went through to get there.

4) This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, by Drew Gilpin Faust

I was lucky enough to take Drew Faust's class on the American South 1607-1861 lo these many years ago as a Penn undergrad, so when I saw this book mentioned on a blog (more than likely Ta-Nehisi Coates' place), I sought it out. It's a depressing read--naturally, since it's a book about death--but I couldn't put it down all the same. It's about how the massive carnage of the Civil War changed how Americans related to war deaths in particular and mortality in general. One of the many things that struck me was that in the 19th century, a dead soldier's family wouldn't have found any consolation in hearing that their son/husband/brother died so suddenly that he didn't have time to suffer. Instead, they valued the "Good Death," wherein the dying person knows what's happening, accepts it with a show of faith and resignation (so consoling to the family as reassurance they'll see him again in heaven), and passes on loving messages and words of wisdom for those left behind. So when soldiers did die instantly, their friends would write their families these reassuring messages about how Joe saw this coming, he had a premonition and was perfectly resigned to the possibility and had been living a good and prayerful life, and so on.


  1. Republic of Suffering is an amazing book.

  2. Yes, I expect to be pondering it for a long time to come.