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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Oh Joy! (really!) - Another Book Meme

Mac, at mulier-fortis tagged me on this one, because she knows I really enjoy book memes!

1. What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?

Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. Most Americans are familiar with the Washington's Crossing portrait, but in the schools there is little time for in depth study given in the typical High School survey course. They are told this victory by Washington and his troops in a raid on Trenton was "pivotal" because the army was at its low ebb, but generally, the details stop there. Fischer has a very engaging style painting a portrait of a vibrant Washington, as opposed to the mental picture most US kids have of "a dead white man who means nothingj\ and whose face is on the dollar bill." Background is given to Washington's life and his place in history as well as the tactical problems he faced. It covers the time from when the British retreated from Boston, through the travails and disaster of trying to defend New York City and the Hudson - and covers the low ebb with retreating from same in the winter of 1776. The whole cause of freedom could have easily fallen apart had not Washington taken the bold move that he did. Further the author goes in how right from the start the army was a "ground up" deal, requiring more democratic co-operation to get things done than a traditional European army. One little detail of note: if you watch WWII movies of D-Day landings and the like the officers and men in charge had white markings on the back of their helmets, because officers were supposed to take command and "lead from the front." The practice started when Washington had his officers put white markings on the backs of their campaign hats. The tradition was followed up until well through WWII.

This book does not read as a dry history but a terrific narrative PLUS all the details a history geek would want to know. "What was the route march like? Where would that march be today? What exact troops were engaged? What's the deal with the ice and him standing in the boat? Yeah, right." The footnotes are every bit as interesting as the text, and as one who has a history degree I can tell you that is a rare occurence! For a sample of the 1st chapter you can see here.

2. What is one of your favourite childhood books?

(like I can stick to just one - the following stand out)
Sinbad and Me by Kin Platt, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Cheaper by the Dozen, by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and his sister Ernestine Carey, and Life with Father, Life with Mother and God and My Father by Clarence Day. All these books can be enjoyed by adults and children. The first is a good mystery story wrapped up with pirates, ghosts, numismatics, and classic American Architecture. The 2nd is about a young Irish/American family and their life in early 20th century Brooklyn. The 3rd is the family life of a family which had 12 children - dad was one of the foremost industrial engineers of his day and a pioneer in the field of Time and Motion Study. The 4th is an American classic about the family life of a late 19th century US stock brokers. Reading the latter two books makes you wish you'd known their families. I still regularly read all four books to this day.

Also big were Story of a Soul which I first read when I was about 11 and The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Von Trapp. Also perennieal reads for me. The former I've discussed before, and the latter I first read when I was nine - it was the first book I ever read aimed at adults. SOM had just come out and there was new interest in the book it was loosely based on. I really loved it, and still often give it a read. I'm going to cheat a little and also throw in Tom Brown's School Days, which I ran across in the public library when I was 14, even then already somewhat of an Anglophile. For some reason, I liked the idea of these kids having to study all that difficult Greek and Latin, and STILL do the similar school boy tricks done today to make the work as easy as possible. I loved the fact that new boys were made to stand on tables and sing - else drink beer with sslt! [Oh, one would see a zillion pound lawsuit today.] Unforgettable characters. I like it for the details of daily life. Some time later I came across the "Flashman" series but that wasn't until college.

Oh, and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Upper middle class quirky kid has a dossier on her classmates and people she observes. What happens when your classmates grab your notebook and read it! Unforgettable Characters and observations.

3. Do you have a favourite book of the Bible?

It depends on my mood. My favorites are the 4 gospels - I like all 4 for different reasons. John for his developed theology, Luke for his mentioning the "outcasts and unimportan people" including women, Samaritans, children, etc. Matthew and Mark for their narrations. Ditto "Acts" for "the rest of the story."
In the Old Testament I'm rather partial to the story in Tobit. Any book where a dog is mentioned positively, especially in that culture gets a gold star. I'm also partial to Psalms and if I'm in a quirky mood it's always fun to open Proverbs at random! I have to say I also like Genesis and Exodus - what fun to make up imaginary conversations among those figures!

4. What is one book you could read again and again?

Hey, that sounds like a question from the other meme! I stilck with Witness by Wittaker Chambers and Story of a Soul by St. Therese.

5. Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?

Imitation of Christ. But for reasons I'd prefer not to go into here, I'm not reading it this year, but will go with the gospels for their message of hope.

Bonus question: If you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent?

A WHOLE BOOK?! Actually, I did have a pretty good idea for a book last summer. I don't want to go too much into the concept, because I haven't seen it done before. But let's just say it would involve all 50 states, a lot of time and legwork, but it would be a fun read, and if I did it right Ken Burns could do a mini-series. Where's that cut of "Dream On" from Aerosmith? Blurb.....Bill Bryson. 'Cuz, if he liked it I will have "arrived." It would be both informative, and kitschy Americana in a good way. A while back I had an off Broadway revue in mind re: some characters in Broadway and Times Square. I have a better hope of getting the book done instead of the revue! Nothing earth shattering but something you could put butts in seats for with a reasonably small cast, a la Forever Plaid. I'd need to come up with a recurring "hook" there to hold it all together, and that's as far as I've gotten mentally! If my friend Stephen Farrow liked it I'd be happy, even if it never got produced!

I tag whomever wants to do this meme and has time!

(I am tempted to add more links in to this post, but I woke up sicker than a dog with a dry throat and a slight fever. Thanks for nothing, St. Blaise --- okay, that's mean ... perhaps if I hadn't had the blessing I'd even be sicker with the plague or some such.)


Anonymous said...

Hope you are feeling better...really couldn't face the meme today!

la mamma said...

Get well soon, Gem. I was wondering what would happen to everyone's throats this year, with 3rd Feb falling on a Sunday. It was all hypothetical for our household, though, as we're all ill already.

Happy Lent,

La Mamma.

Adrienne said...

I was busy with a retreat for the kidlets and never got my throat blessed. Maybe it was for the best:)

Take care and get well soon!!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read some of your childhood favorites. I can't wait to get them and see if my kids will enjoy them!
Thanks and hope you feel better soon.

gemoftheocean said...

Thanks all for the good wishes. I crashed last night about 9:30-10ish and actually got 8 hours of sleep or so, which is a miracle lately.

Entropy - all the books I mentioned are very emjoyable for kids or adults. Harriet is a little more kid oriented, but still it's a modern "classic." For those of you who've read Cheaper by the Dozen - I still bathe "the Gilbreth way."

Cathy said...


It's like getting the flu shot! Stay awayyyyy from the St. Blaise blessing!



gemoftheocean said...

Ma, the worst of it is I already had this blasted cold already. I should have enough immunity built up against it.

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