Thursday, May 6, 2010

This Week at the Library (6/5)

Once more, I have kept my head above the water and am finished with term papers and finals for this semester. I had the good luck to do research on topics I enjoyed (history of science, the Great War, and Robert G. Ingersoll), but unfortunately I was unable to give many of the very interesting books I used in the process of reading their full due here. Still, there are a few titles I'd like to pass along...

  • From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: the Royal Navy in the Fisher Era is a five-volume set covering British navy history during the Great War. I used it while writing on Germany's use of submarines in that period. The book is incredibly detailed (there's a reason it consists of five volumes of books, each near four hundred pages), but not dry in the way I initially suspected. I used three volumes of it (1-3) in my research. The set I had access to included generaous sea-maps in the back, tucked inside the back cover. 
  • The U-Boat Wars by Edwin P. Hoyt served me well when researching Germany's U-boat use in the second war. The book posesses a curious format: while Hoyt generally sticks to a historical narrative, his style when recording specific battles reads like historial fiction. It's aimed at lay readers, and included many useful tables recording the damage done by U-boats (and the damage done unto them in return). I learned that the U-boat fleet remained active throughout the war, although by '45 technological improvements and the widespread use of destroyers implementing those improvements turned them into an irritant rather than a menace. 

In writing on the maturation of heliocentrism and its role in demythologizing the western worldview (following the contributions of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo), I drew from a few books including those I've read here in the past:

  • Ray Spangenburg and Diane Kit Moser's The History of Science from the Ancient Greeks to the Scientific Revolution, which I read two years ago. While re-reading it for background on a general "history of science" paper, I realized heliocentrism and its naturalistic implications were steadily developed through a course of contributors, and made a thesis out of that.
  • Theories for Everything, one of my first reads here.At the time, I said that it was one of those books I wish I had in my private library. It is now. 
  • Spotting It All Started with Copernicus: how Turning the World Inside Out Led to the Scientific Revolution by Howard Margolis justified my idea. I used it for tracking the astronomical models taught in universities: it fell right in line with my thesis, but I was too exhausted from note-taking by the time I spotted this book to give it a full scan. 

While I wrote on submarines, heliocentrism, Robert Ingersoll, and did two final exam papers for my History of Europe (1914-1945) and Gilded Age classes, I somehow got some leisure reading done. This past week, I read....

  • The Last Juror, an old favorite by John Grisham that uses the perspective of a newspaper writer and owner to track the history of a small southern town during the 1970s, ten years occupied by  Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement,  the rise of marijuana trafficking in the US, and a heinous murder. Easily the most interesting of Grisham's works, for me.
  • Next I read another book in the Hornblower series, this time Commodore Hornblower. The good captain is forced to navigate the Baltic Sea, maintaining and building England's anti-Napoleonic alliance. The book sees Hornblower fight on both land and sea when Napoleon invades Russia. 
  • I finally finished Hard Contact, a Star Wars novel focused on the trials of four Clone Commandos and a young padawan, who invade a planet occupied by a tyrannical overlord in an attempt to destroy a genetic virus that could be used against the Grand Army of the Republic's clone troopers. The book maintans the humor of the video game that inspired it.
  • Lastly I read David Attenborough's the Trials of Life, a book documenting the life of animals as they bear young, feed, grow and fight, court mates, build shelters, and work together. The book is completely fascinating and full of wonderous pictures.

Next week:

  • Plato's Podcasts: the Ancients' Guide to Modern Living by Mark Vernon. Has a fun title, right?
  • The Iron Heel, Jack London 
  • The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, Tenzin Gyatsao
  • Iron Coffins, Herbert Werner. 

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