Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Renegade History of the United States

A Renegade History of the United States
 © 2010 Thaddaeus Russell
402 pages

"All of you, you think there's someone just gonna drop money on you? Money they could use? ...well, there ain't people like that! There's just people like me!"  (Jayne Cobb, Firefly )

In A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn delivered the hitherto-untold story of the common man, the poor and oppressed, fighting nobly for equality, liberty, and justice.  Chumps! Thaddaeus Russell's A Renegade History is a celebration of the unruly side of the common man, a tribute to those who just don't behave the way they oughta.  It's a prickly history, guaranteed to irritate to some degree just about everyone who reads it. At its best, it demonstrates how 'progress' is a subjective label, and something that happens herky-jerky, from a maelstrom of confusion and strife; at its worst, it hails man's cravenness as heroic.

The stage is set when, in the first chapter, Russell delights in how utterly depraved pre-revolutionary America was. There were more taverns than churches;  prostitution, drugs, and dancing abounded, and whatever appetites existed in man's nature could be fed. And then came the American Revolution, and there went freedom. With the war came sternness, moral discipline, and announcements that men must gird their loins not only for the martial fight against the Royal army, but for war against the sins of sloth, cowardice, and gluttony that would smother  liberty in its cradle.   After independence, the nation's leaders were not distant bureaucrats in London, turning an indulgent eye toward the shenanigans of their colonists, but influential scolds like John Adams, who strolled the harbors noting with pleasure the growing American navy, and ignoring with great dignity the whorehouses behind him. The American nation took another direction, a more disciplined one -- but ever since, there have been those who swam against the current, who attempted to turn the drums of a forward march into the beat of a ragtime dance.

Russell's offensive is two-fold, first sneering at both great men and the dignified minorities fighting for rights,  and then Russell's chapter titles give away his delight in overturning expectations -- "The Freedom of Slavery", "How Gangsters Made America a Better Place",  and "How Juvenile Delinquents Won the Cold War".   Although the Founding Fathers might, in defining freedom, look back to the hoplite-citizens of Greece and wax poetic on freedom'z ennobling effect on the human character, for Russell freedom is the ability to gorge, drink, rut, and sleep.  Slaves, he writes, were often better off than free men. To be sure, they were beaten for misconduct, but their legal status as property meant owners were bound by self-interest. They couldn't dismiss a slave, or stop feeding him for slacking on the job:  they would forfeit every dime paid, every resource given before. Compare that to the northern factoryman, Russell urges, who worked long hours to the ruin of his body, who -- if he was injured, sick, or otherwise unable to continue -- was dismissed into the cold entirely. The apparent perversity continues throughout, as when Russell honors the Mafia; their fun habits of extortion, murder, and theft aside,  they saw profit in opening gay bars in the 1970s, so more power to them.  That they were doing this for selfish motives (a la  Adam Smith's butcher) is Russell's concealed point:  humans at their worst can create an environment where people are 'better off' in general.  The obscene becomes the respectable, as when First Ladies began sporting the makeup that once  belonged exclusively to Ladies of the Night.  'Better off' will be a point of contention, however, since Russell's idea of a good life is Pleasure Island from Pinocchio.

Civilization is the taming of human nature, the domestication of it -- perhaps even its suppression. If there is any hope in A Renegade History, it is that human nature is simply too wild to remain in fetters for long: regardless of the dystopian nightmares of Orwell and Huxley, or dreams of politicians to inflict their favored order on us,  humans are an unruly race. A Renegade History is infuriating, but I knew even as I held my nose going through, utterly unforgettable. Not only are there gems to be found shifting through the garbage of history -- startling facts, like that the FBI raid on the Stonewall Inn had more to do with its Mafia-owned status than a campaign of anti-gay persecution, or that Martin Luther King's success was predicated on being the alternative to the violence already sweeping American streets -- but there's some slight comfort in knowing how contrary we are. Russell's heroes aren't protestors; they don't whine. They retaliate. They kick over tables, throw up middle fingers,  and charge off. There's ferocious energy here, the energy of a riot. But while it was  a disorderly, drunken mob that initiated the violence of the American Revolution in Boston, the prosperity that sustained them came from the peaceful, disciplined farms of civilization. It's refreshing to take a draft of the human spirit here -- there's such a kick to it --  but   as always our best hope is the path of moderation -- a little work, a little play.

The Redneck Manifesto, Jim Goad

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Map of Betrayal

A Map of Betrayal
© 2014 Ha Jin
304 pages

When  Lillian Shang touched down in mainland China, her official purpose was to teach. Unofficially, however, she was there to learn -- to uncover the truth of her father's life by tracking down the family he left behind. Daddy dearest was exposed as a top-level Chinese spy embedded in the CIA in 1980, and when he committed suicide he left behind two wives, families in two hemispheres, and a lot of questions. With the help of a journal and a few estranged relatives, Lillian discovers her father -- a deeply tortured man, torn by love for two nations. A Map of Betrayal uses the life of fictional Gary Shang to make personal the history of the Cold War, of relations between the Soviet Union, China, and the United States. In alternating chapters, Ha Jin tells the story of Shang's life and his grown-up daughter's attempt to come to terms with his legacy.  Only a young man when he accepted orders from the Chinese government to seek employment at an American cultural office and start forwarding relevant information to the Party,  Shang found the job inescapable. No matter how far it took him from home -- to Okinawa, and eventually even to the United States -- the Party insisted he stay embedded therein.  Not only was Shang forced to leave his young wife and child behind, but eventually, as the decades passed, he grew to love the American nation which adopted him as its own, even as he maintained a private allegiance to another. Shang's attempts to find a way to serve both countries, to love both families, make him an enormously sympathetic character, even for a spy of the Communist state.  Although Lillian is the narrator of the novel, Gary is truly its star, and his story -- gathered in full for the first time by his daughter -- allows his Chinese family to reconsider their own lives, especially a grandson who is also employed by Beijing's intelligence service.  A Map of Betrayal fascinates with its literary look into not only Cold War China, but the soul of a spy who loved that which he betrayed.

The Mao Case, Qui Xiaolong

[2015 Reading Challenge 5/52: Book Set in Another Country]

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century
© 2011 Thomas E. Woods, Jr
309 pages

In a game of word association, chances are that 'nullification' would not meet with flattering replies. Nullification is a word associated with the Civil War, or the Civil Rights movement, of the southern states blocking attempts at racial equality by insisting on their own right to declare a federal law unconstitutional, and thus null and void. But nullification has a richer and nobler history than its modern critics realize; in Nullification,  Tom Woods explains the legal basis of the principle, demonstrates its use throughout early American history, and points out areas in which the states have adopted it as a tool today.

Nullification's sanction, Woods argues, rests in the little-c constitution of the United States. Though today the fifty states may seem like mere departments of the national polity, in the beginning this was not so. The united States began life not as a nation, but an agreement between thirteen, and with specific purposes. Treaties from the period enumerate the individual states, demonstrating their primacy. If not the States, who may declare a given law unconstitutional? The Supreme Court has assumed that role ('judicial review'), but as part of the government, how can it be expected to police itself?  The individual States, however, have existence without the national government, and it exists, or was supposed to have existed, as their handmaiden -- not the other way around. Theirs is the right to declare the actions of Congress, the President, and the Court unconstitutional -- but theirs is likewise the responsibility to create measures for frustrating the government's knavish tricks.

This they have done, from as early as the Adams presidency til today. Nullification first came onto the scene after the Federalist congress put into effect the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made defaming the government and its officials a crime. (Defaming the government was, until the rise of baseball, the national sport, and especially loved by Jefferson, Hamilton, and their respective parties.) Straightaway governors began throwing up barriers to federal agents attempting to arrest mouthy citizens. They did the same when, during the Napoleonic Wars, President Jefferson imposed an embargo on Europe -- an embargo that might have driven American trade to its knees. The reality and the threat of nullification continued to force the hands of overambitious executives. Today, legislative sabotage continues as states decriminalize marijuana use even as the federal  government continues to insist it's a no-no.   Given that the US attorney general is now retreating from parts of the War on Drugs (starting with that odd habit of theirs of seizing  property that has been declared guilty of participating in a crime), the principle seems just as potent.

Nullification is a small book (~165 pages, not counting the documents appended to it), but is a very worthy introduction to compact theory, in which the States are legally superior and not subordinate to the national state. It's also a respectable attempt to rescue nullification from its historical taint, but loses some points given that Woods never squarely addresses the threatened use of it during the 1960s, maintaining only that nullification is a weapon that can be used unjustly as easily as it can be for justice.  I was also hoping for other kinds of nullification to be covered (like jury nullification), but Woods focused only on formal measures by the States themselves.  Altogether it's a solid intro to the subject, and I am all for throwing wrenches into the machinery.

The Liberty Amendments, Mark Levin,  all of which aim to restore to the fifty states their original power over the central government.


Casualties: A Novel of the Civil War
© 2010 David Rothstein
465 pages

The year is 1863, and Tom Connor just survived the Battle of Gettysburg. His kid brother didn't, though, and agonized emotionally he is looking forward to a Christmas furlough with his wife, Laura, in Indiana.  But war's not that simple, and instead of going home for Christmas, Tom is captured by the Confederate army and sent south, to a town that has been abandoned several times because of yellow-fever epidemics and chronic flooding: Cahaba.   The Connors have been separated by the war for years, and this latest incident is too much for Laura to take. Her childhood home ruined by war, her brother-in-law perished, and now her husband, abandoned by General Grant to whatever fate will befall him, deep in the misty swamps of Alabama?   Leaving the family store in the care of kin, Laura decides to travel to Alabama and fetch her husband out of prison.   Can one woman travel through a war-torn wasteland, evading bushwhackers and starving refugees?  Such is the premise of Causalities, a novel that uses Laura's descent from civilization into the wilderness to shock readers with the brutalities war visits not only on soldiers, but on innocents.

The tale is told back and forth, through both Laura and Tom's perspectives.  Although Cahaba doesn't have as bad a reputation as Andersonville, it may deserve it, for prisoners were housed in a frequently-flooded warehouse presided over by a man whose response  to pointed inquiries about prisoner neglect is to drone on existentially about the meaning of honor and duty in war.  Prison camps during the war were aatrocious sanitation was nonexistent, and the food was miserable if available. Starvation and disease visited the camps every night, and escapees or rabble-rousers were shot in cold blood by guards. Some of Tom's experience seems to have been drawn from Andersonville, like a gang of hoodlums preying on their fellow prisoners, and eventually being put on trial and executed by the prisoners themselves.  Laura's story is no less traumatic: while she is able to navigate through the country on the kindness of strangers, as she hits the war-ravaged south things change. Armies are active here, and leave behind them an expanse of burned-out homes and fields littered with diseased bodies. In the absence of law, gangs of highwaymen prey on villages whose men are off at war. Laura is in turn dependent on the kindness of others, and the agent of it:  after serving as a nurse after a battle, she is stricken with disease and rescued by newly-freed slaves. Laura, in her journey, will experience both extraordinary kindness and utter depravity.

Although Rothstein's characters can get a bit formal and preachy at times, the research is well-grounded. Neither side is particularly heroic, and the easy companionability between "the Yankee woman" and the southerners who she helps and helps in turn hints that the people of America are not divided, hostile camps doomed to enmity, but have been abandoned to that by willful politicos on either side.   Laura's journey touches on the major calamities of the war -- disease, starvation, raids by armed forces; families torn apart by divided loyalties, or destroyed completely by the butchery of battles like Gettysburg and Cold Harbor. Tom's quieter role would be a rude introduction to the obscenity of POW camps for any reader who has not experienced a place like Andersonville.  Although it has its limitations, this was quite good for a first-time author, and the focus on civilian life sets it apart from most Civil War fiction.

This Republic of Suffering, David Faust

[2015 Reading Challenge -- A Book Set In Your Hometown, 4/52)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter World

Winter World: the Ingenuity of Winter Survival
© 2009 Bernd Heinrich
400 pages

When winter arrives in the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere, humans take refuge in homes warmed by central heat, or bundle up in clothing. But what do creatures far smaller and more fragile than us do?   In a landscape apparently devoid of food, how do animals survive the months-along barrenness?  In Winter World, Bernd Heinrich applies his own boundless curiosity and devotion to meticulous research to the question, and draws from the work of others to tell the astonishing story of life in winter.
 Although in times past Heinrich has written books on particular animals (Ravens in Winter, Bumblebee Economics),  this work on winter covers birds, bats, bears, bees, and even critters whose names don’t begin with a bee. There are frogs, gophers, caterpillars – it’s a menagerie. Who ever thought the silent winter forest carried within it so much life? As varied as the creatures are the strategies they use to survive the long cold spell. Some, like us, adapt by creating a comfortable ‘microclimate’;  squirrels and beavers create residences for themselves that stave off some of the worse of the cold, while the snow itself provides another refuge. When it lays thick above the ground, it traps the Earth’s heat being radiated from the core upward, creating a thin layer of warmer air that animals like mice positively flourish in.  Other animals have mechanisms for  gaming their body temperature; some produce natural antifreezes that allow their body to function at subzero temperatures.

There is in short an abundance of ways animals combat the cold, Although Hendrich frequently refers to and summarizes the studies of other scientists,  Winter World isn't strictly a scientific survey. Heinrich is a naturalist, a man who earnestly loves his considerable time spent in the outdoors; from childhood on, he has spent long hours in the wilderness, for days and weeks at a time. He is a man who never passes up an opportunity to investigate nature's secrets. Stumbling upon a chipmunk that lost a fight with an automobile, he couldn't help but investigate its cheek pouches: just how many seeds could it carry, anyway? Another dead specimen, a kinglet, became the subject of another test as he microwaved it to find out how quickly it lost heat with its feathers on as opposed to without them.  Some of the naturalists he cites are just as...passionate, like the man who invaded a den of bears and decided to test their awareness, eventually snuggling with one and recording its heartbeat.

Winter World is one book I've been itching to read,  and it did not disappoint.

[2015 Reading Challenge: A Nonfiction Book COMPLETED 2/52]

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lives of the Planets

Lives of the Planets
© 2007 Richard Corfield
304 pages

            Ever wanted to take a tour of the solar system, but were deterred by that little problem of explosively decompressing once in the vacuum of space? Lives of the Planets takes readers on a tour by remote, through the history of American, Russian, British, European, and Japanese probes.  Like the moons of Jupiter, it contains a lot of diversity in a modest number of pages, being a physical exploration of our cosmic neighborhood, a history of our robotic journeying, and lectures in brief  along in the trail.  Each stop along the way presents cause for a new topic;  Richard Corfield writes on atmospheric dynamics near Venus, the origins of life on Earth, the vagaries of gravitational mechanics near Jupiter and the asteroid belt, etc.   Pluto is treated with the rest of the Kuiper bet objects.  There's a great deal of entertaining astronomical history to be found here -- history both distant (the formation of our solar system) and recent (our exploration of the same).  Actual content on the planets is harder to come by, however, and therein lies this very likeable book's weakness:  the information on the planets, if gathered together, might constitute a full essay on their own. This is an utterly delightful collection of thoughts on our exploration of the solar system, and what the search has taught us about astronomy in general, but it doesn't quite deliver as a work on the planets in particular. 


Monday, January 12, 2015

This week: supercooled birds, President Palpatine, and people causing a ruckus

We're off to a good start for 2015, opening the year up with Bernard Cornwell and two science entries, both of which (Lives of the Planets,  Winter World) will get comments as the week goes on.

Yesterday at the library I picked up:

  • The Monkey Wrench Gang, Edward Abbey
  • A World Lost, Wendell Berry
  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, Richard Feynman  (2015 Reading Challenge)
  • The Hidden Wound, Wendell Berry
  • Tearing down the Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy, Jeff Ferrell
  • The Human Zoo, Desmond Morris (2015 Reading Challenge)
  • The First Day on the Somme,  (pos. 2015 Reading Challenge)

Last week I mentioned the 2015 reading challenge, which is a literary scavenger hunt with fifty categories on it. I've made good progressed so far,  with three(ish) item taken down:  a book published this year (The Empty Throne, Bernard Cornwell) a nonfiction title (Winter World, Bernd Heinrich), and -- well, I'm not sure. Yesterday I reread The Pigman by Paul Zindel, but I haven't decided what entry it will claim:  a book that made me cry (which it did, when I was younger); a book from my childhood, or a book I can read in one day.  Surely First Day on the Somme might make the eyes damp? The books from the library today should keep me going strong, though I won't necessarily be reading everything: not only do I have two purchased books awaiting, but I have two interlibrary loan books in the works, both political. (One: Green is the New Red, on federal agencies' war on environmental groups.)

Well, happy reading!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Empty Throne

The Empty Throne
© 2015 Bernard Cornwell
320 pages

Uhtred of Bebbanburg is an impossible man. A Saxon prince raised by Danes,  he  has nonethelessbeen the architect of a great redoubt against them, the defender of Wessex a hundred times over.  A lone wolf in a court of civilized dogs, Uhtred is despised by the court, but admired by its warriors.  In his life, Uhtred has wrestled victory from the jaws of ruin a dozen times; he has presided over the ruin of armies that threatened devestation. In a country increasing ruled by religion and law, Uhtred is a pagan;  he is primal, a man loyal to blood and oaths, a man who lives life lustily. Time and again, Uhtred's irrational allegiances to people have gotten him into trouble, but they have led him to greatness. Now,after a life of strife, of love and war, he is aged, battle-worn, and sick -- but fate tasks him still.

The Empty Throne sees Uhtred struggling valiantly to defend his friends and innocents yet again, fighting not only against the energetic scheming of men now far younger than him, but against his own mortality. His body carries many wounds, some fresh, and one which refuses to hill. But the chief of Mercia has just died, and if the schemers get their way the kingdom could fall into Danish hands, and a woman Uhtred loves (always the women with Uhtred and Sharpe!)  relegated to a fate worse than death: a nunnery.  So he and his own must gird themselves up one more time and fight the good fight -- scheming, fighting, sailing -- even if it takes them into the great unknown: Wales. 

The battles in Empty Throne are more like brawls,  much smaller in scale (aside from a fleet being set on fire); the book is a prelude to the great climax of the Saxon-Norse struggles. What volume follows this will presumably see the end of Uhtred's career, too, given the many premonitions of death featured here, from Uhtred's son becoming a narrator to visions of long-dispatched foes and friends inviting Uhtred to dine with them in the beyond.  Unlike Uhtred, Cornwell's skills haven't diminished in writing:  his flair for the dramatic seems especially pronounced in these Saxon books, perhaps given the cultures'  devotion to oratory, or the sheer fun of writing Vikings.  Uhred spends most of this book wearily trying to sort schemes  while fighting pain, but even so there's humor -- witness his schooling his son in the fine art of backhanding priests.  (Uhtred has bearishly swatted clerics in virtually every book of this series; surely Cornwell's made a running joke out of it.)   Despite the contemplation of death,  there is the promise of life:  not only does his daughter Stiorra has a will of iron, like the blade she uses to dispatch a would-be assailant, but like her father she has embraced the old ways of heathenry. She's a genuine shield-maiden, and I hope she appears in the finale.)   Even once he goes to rest his bones in the hollowed ground of his forefathers (as yet unrecaptured), that spirit of Uhtred, that fierce strength, that awesome wildness -- will live on.

[2015 Reading Challenge: A Book Published This Year COMPLETED 1/52]

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: The Empty Throne

It's been ages since I did a Teaser Tuesday, but it's Tuesday and here I sit with a Bernard Cornwell quotation worth sharing.

At night, in the hall, when the hearth smoke thickens about the beams and the ale-horns are filled and the harpist plucks his strings, the songs of battle are sung. They are the songs of our family, of our people, and that is how we remember the past. We call a poet a scop, and a scop means someone who shapes things and a poet shapes the past, so we remember the glories of our ancestors and how they brought us land and women and cattle and glory. There would be no Norse song of Haki, I thought, because this would be a Saxon song about a Saxon victory.

p. 10-11, The Empty Throne. Bernard Cornwell

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

Tonight the gauntlet was laid down!

What a diverse set of challenges!   I'm excited about this considering I don't have anything big planned for 2015 (I have something enormous in mind for  2016, though). Some categories will be harder than others to nail (books with antonyms?!), but  it looks like a lot of fun!   I've produced a text version of this list and have repurposed the old TBR page for tracking purposes.  Free free to make suggestions -- especially on the titles with antonyms, trilogies, and books with bad reviews.

If you're interested, some friends of mine and I have created the 2015 Dumbledore is Dead and Prim Doesn't Feel Too Well Challenge group on facebook to talk about the books we have chosen, check on progress, that sort of thing.

Some ideas...
A classic romance
-  anything by Jane Austen, probably Sense and Sensibility so I can read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

A book from an author who love that you've not yet read
Isaac Asimov's End of Eternity, or something in Wendell Berry's Port William series

A book originally written in different language
Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers!   

A play
"Joseph Marley's Christmas Carol" or Howard Zinn's "Emma", based on the life of Emma Goldman.

A graphic novel
V for Vendetta

A book you own but haven't read
No shortage of possibilities there, beginning with  the entire case of Trek literature (that's what happens when you buy a couple of  $5 boxes full of TOS/TNG paperbacks from ebay) in my bedroom!

A book on the bottom of your to-read list
I don't know if that's more of "a book you've been meaning to read for a while now, but haven't" or "a book you swore you would NEVER EVER EVER READ" situation.   If the former, then it's technically We Who Dared to Say No to War, as it was on the bottom of my two-entry 'Future Reads' list.

Book published in the year you were born
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, possibly?

Well, I'm off to investigate the lists of Pulitzer Prize winners!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Best of 2014: Annual Year in Review

Previous yearly wrap-ups: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

What a year for reading!  As usual, a breakdown of major categories from

(Titles in bold constitute this year's top ten list!) 

Earlier in the year I started a course of reading in American literature, arranged chronologically, and made it to the mid-19th century before I lost steam.  Some classics were a chore, others a genuine pleasure; The Scarlet Letter and Uncle Tom's Cabin surprised me. I intend on picking back up where I left off, either with Little Women or Moby Dick.

In science fiction, Andy Weir's The Martian exceeds by leaps and bounds,  comic but intelligent. I also read the classic Starship Troopers, and the whole of Greg Cox's Rise and Fall of Khan series, of which the finale  (To Reign in Hell, Khan's exile between "Space Seed" and The Wrath of Khan)  was the best.

My science reading started off strong and then fell away as the year progressed;  The Red Queen, on sexual selection and human behavior,  was the standout.  Also notable: Frans de Waal's books on primate behavior and moral evolution, particularly The Bonobo and the Atheist.

Historical fiction, another staple, had a decent year; I finished off Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, with Waterloo, but discovered new authors like John Stack and Simon Scarrow. I read Stack's Roman naval trilogy through in full, beginning with Captain of Rome (set during the first Punic War), and have just started Scarrow's lengthy series on the Roman invasion of Britain, with Under the Eagle.

My religious reading picked up in the tail end of the year as I dove into one of my favorite subjects, the history of late-temple Judaism and early Christianity; Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist was exceptional,  as was Joseph Pearce's  Race with  the Devil, his story of how literature lead him to the Catholic church and helped him escape vicious racism.

A predominant theme for me in recent years has been that of 'humane living', the search for what it means to live an authentic, fulfilling life. This isn't a self-help quest, because more often than not, I'm trying to figure out what it means for a human community to be healthy. This theme encompasses both fiction and many genres of nonfiction. (Last year I referred to this category as 'Civics, Society, and Living Humanely'.)    Some of the best titles in this broad category were:

Business and economics can be a related category: I most enjoyed Ninety Percent of Everything, a look at the commercial sea freight service, Antifragile,  and The Small-Mart Revolution

History, as usual, took the lion's share of my attention, constituting almost a full third of this year's reading all by itself.  (Last year it only claimed 16%.)   A Great War reading theme constituted some of that, and while I've given it its own recap, The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front and Gallipoli merit second mentions.   I did a great deal of reading in southern history, as well, including classics like I'll Take my Stand and more modern works like Away Down South  and Confederates in the Attic.   A few history titles worth noting:

Next year will bring more classic American literature,  some titles in the realm of localism, a few more books on the Great War, and at least a little Southern history. That will do for starters!   

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Cumulative Reading List

Considering I usually struggle to get to 150, I'm somewhat pleased and somewhat terrified by my results this year. The usual year in review will follow this weekend.
Previous years:    201120122013

-- January --
1. The Red Queen, Matt Ridley
2. Stonehenge: 2000 B.C., Bernard Cornwell (Historical Fiction)
3. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, Matthew Crawford
4. Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, Wendell Berry
5. It's the Little Things, Lena Williams
6. Toward a Truly Free Market: Distributist Perspectives on on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More, John C. Medaille
7. The Liberty Amendments, Mark Levin
8. Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein (Science Fiction)
9. The First World War, John Keegan
10. Silent Thunder: in the Presence of Elephants, Katy Payne
11. The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates, Frans de Waal
12. Ship of Rome, John Stack  (Historical Fiction)
13. An Officer and a Spy, Robert Harris (Historical Fiction)
14. Poor but ProudAlabama's Poor Whites, Wayne Flynt
15. When Elephants Weep, Jeffery Masson and Susan McCarthy

-- February --
16. The Pagan Lord, Bernard Cornwell (Historical Fiction)
17. The Gift of Good Land, Wendell Berry
18. Food Rules, Michael Pollan
19. And Then There Were Nuns, Jane Christmas
20. Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front Porch Anarchists, Bill Kauffman
21. Forgotten Voices of the Great War, ed. Max Aurthur
22.  From Chunk to Hunk: Diary of a Fat Man, Fred Anderson
23. The Martian, Andy Weir (Science Fiction)
24. What's Wrong with the World G.K. Chesterton
25. Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America,  William C. Davis
26. On Desire, William Irvine 
27. A Place on Earth, Wendell Berry (Fiction)

-- March --
28. Voyage, Stephen Baxter (Science Fiction)
29. Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Niño and the Fate of Civilisations, Brian Fagan
30. dirt: the erosion of civilizations, David R. Montgomery
31. Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England, Sally Crawford
32. The Age of Empathy, Frans de Waal
33. The Simple Living Guide, Janet Luhrs
34. The Redneck Manifesto, Jim Goad
35. The Call of the Mall, Paco Underhill
36. Sycamore Row, John Grisham (fiction)
37. The Metropolitan Revolution, Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley
38. Star Trek Cold Equations: The Body Electric, David Mack (Science Fiction)
39. I'll Take my Stand: the South and the Agrarian Tradition, various authors
40. The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day
41. An Ice-Cream War, William Boyd (Fiction)
42. Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil WarTony Horwitz

43. Raiders of the Nile, Steven Saylor (Historical Fiction)
44Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity, James L. Cobb
45. The Yellowhammer War: the Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama, ed. Kenneth Noe
46. Fire on the Waters: A Novel of the Civil War at Sea, David Poyer (Historical Fiction)
47. Why We Buy, Paco Underhill
48. Waterloo, Bernard Cornwell (Historical Fiction)  
49. Human Scale, Kirkpatrick Sale
50. The Age of Revolution, Sir Winston Churchill 
51. Conscience, Louise Walker
52. A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World, William Bernstein

53.  More Work for Mother, Ruth Schwartz Cowan
54. Point of Purchase, Sharon Zukin
55. Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping,  Rose George
56. The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919, Mark Thompson
57. The Last Patriot, Brad Thor (fiction)
58. Who Killed Homer? Victor Davis Hanson
59. Captain of Rome, John Stacks (historical fiction)
60. The Burden of Southern History, C. Vann Woodward
61. Getting it Right, William F. Buckley Jr (Semihistorical Fiction)
62. The World Until Yesterday, Jared Diamond
63. The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood (Fiction)

-- June --
64. The Smoke at Dawn, Jeff Shaara (Historical Fiction)
65. Divergent, Veronica Roth (Spec. Fiction)
66. The Vikings, Rob Ferguson
67. Anthem, Ayn Rand (Fiction)
68. Global Weirdness: [..] the Weather of the Future, Climate Central
69. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving (Fiction)
70. That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis (Fiction)
71. The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis
72. Power, Inc: The Intense Rivalry Between Big Business and Government, David Kothkopf
73. The Great War at Sea, A.A. Hoehling
74. The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell
75. The Odyssey, Homer
76. American Sphinx: the Character of Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Ellis
77. No Time Like the PastGreg Cox (Fiction)
78The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenmore Cooper (Fiction)
79. Good Natured: the Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals, Frans de Waal
80. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne (Historical Fiction)
81. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
82The American Tory, ed. Morten Borden 
83. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

84. Everyday Life in Early America, David Freeman Hawke
85. George Washington's Secret Six, Brian Kilmead and Don Yaeger 
86. Common Sense, Tom Paine  
87. Jefferson: A Novel, Max Byrd   (Historical Fiction)
88. Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
89. An Edible History of Humanity, Tom Standage
90. Last Orders, Harry Turtledove (Fiction)
91. The Small-Mart Revolution, Michael Shuman
92. Insurgent, Veronica Roth (Spec. Fiction)
93. Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
94. Allegiant, Veronica Roth (Spec. Fiction)
95. ST Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Greg Cox
96. Fighting Traffic: the Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, Peter Norton
97. ST Eugenic Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh Volume II, Greg Cox
98. Castles of Steel, Robert K. Massie

-- August --
99. The Men Who Lost America, Alexander Jackson O'Shaughnessy 
100. Tending the Epicurean Garden, Hiram Crespo
101. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (Fiction)
102. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, Ian Gately
103. Thank You for Smoking, Christopher Buckley (Fiction)
104. ST Eugenics Wars: To Reign in Hell, Greg Cox (Fiction)
105. The Bishop in the West Wing, Andrew Greeley (Fiction)
106. The Age of Steam, Thomas Crump
107. The Maltese Falcon,  Dashell Hammett (Fiction)
108. ST Mirror Universe: Sorrows of Empire, David Mack (Fiction)
109. Drink: A Social History of America,  Andrew Barr
110. The Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen

-- September --
111. Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote (Fiction)
112. Wiseguy, Nicholas Pileggi
113. Earth, Richard Fortey
114. Living Downtown: the History of Residential Hotels in the United States, Paul Groth
115. Tobacco: the Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World, Iain Gately
116. The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien (Fiction)
117. Collision of Empires, Prit Buttar
118. An Honourable Defeat: A History of German Resistance to Hitler, Anton Gill 
119. The Age of Voltaire, Will Durant
120. One Second After,  William R. Forstchen (Fiction)
121. The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity, Taylor R. Marshall
122. A Day with a Perfect Stranger, David Gregory (Fiction)
123. Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition have Failed, James  Scott
124. The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, Joel Salatin

125.Remembering, Wendell Berry (Fiction)
126. They Thought They Were Free: the Germans, 1933-1945, Milton Mayer 
127. Their Last Ten Miles, Jim Harrell (Historic Fiction)
128. Civisliation: A Personal View, Kenneth Clark
129. The Roots of American Order, Russell Kirk
130. The Belt of Gold, Cecelia Holland
131. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Brant Pitre
132. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (Sadistic Ficion)
133. The Unknown War, Sir Winston Churchill
134. Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut
135. Between the Testaments, D.S. Russell

-- November --
136. A Short History of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich
137. Master of Rome, John Stack (Historical Fiction)
138. Under the Eagle, Simon Scarrow (Historical Fiction)
139. Life, Death, and Growing Up on the Western Front, Anthony Fletcher
140. No Hill Too High for a Stepper, Mike Mahan
141. Beyond Capitalism and Socialism: A New Statement of an Old Ideal, ed. Tobias Lanz
142. Varieties of Scientific Experience, Carl Sagan
143. Race with the Devil, Joseph Pearce
144. Joan of Arc: A Spiritual Biography, Siobhan Nash-Marshall
145. The Strange Career of Jim Crow, C. Van Woodward
146. Galliopoli, Alan Moorehead
147. The Wild Birds, Wendell Berry (Fiction)
148. Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, Steven Pressfield (Historical Fiction)
149. ST: Twilight's End, Jerry Oltion (Fiction)

--  December --
150. A Fatal Advent, Isabelle Holland (Fiction)
151. Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls (Fiction)
152. The Forgotten Man of Christmas: Joseph's Story, Harold Edington
153. The Handmaid and the Carpenter, Elizabeth Berg (Fiction)
154. The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Mark Twain (Fiction)
155. Sailing from Byzantium, Colin Wells
156. Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, William Cavanaugh
157. Hatchet, Gary Paulsen (Fiction)
158. Lord of the World, Robert Hugh Benson (Fiction)
159. Brian's Winter, Gary Paulsen (Fiction)
160. The River, Gary Paulsen (Fiction)
161. The Return, Gary Paulsen (Fiction)
162. Why Things Bite Back, Edward Tenner
163. Galileo's Finger, Peter Atkins
164. Homefront, 1914-1918; I.F.W. Beckett
165. Gray Mountain, John Grisham
166. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Eric Metaxas
+ Anatomy of the State,  Murray Rothbard