15 May 2011

no frigate like a book #2

Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking by Kate Calquhoun. I love food and I love history, so this hit the spot. :) Super interesting study of Britain's culinary history, plus scads of relevant social and political history. Pictures and diagrams, too! Great for anyone who likes nonfiction.

First Family: John and Abigail Adams by Joseph J. Ellis. Quite enjoyable. This chronicle of John and Abigail's long, fruitful, and often tempestuous marriage includes lots of excerpts from their letters, which inspired me to write more often to my friends and family. (I can't say I have done a stellar job at that, but I'm trying.)

Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende. Totally fascinating, especially if you love complex character studies, which I do. Allende's novel fictionalizes the real-life Spanish woman Ines Suarez, who helped to found the kingdom of Chile. Having been born in Santiago myself, I particularly enjoyed hearing the account of the city's early days. Love, violence, and adventure aplenty. I should mention that some scenes can get pretty steamy-- colonial South American not being the most chaste of places-- so if you object to that sort of thing in your literature, you've been warned.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. Wow. I think I need to read this one again. Talk about complexity of characters . .  and so many of them! Isabel Archer is someone I'd like to meet, a woman of charming yet tragic idealism. I feel as if I only caught a quarter of the themes, but even those were gripping. And James' wordcraft is of course excellent, if convoluted at times.

To the Last Man by Jeff Shaara. This historical novel about WWI held my attention from start to finish. More than I can say for The Guns of August, which I abandoned halfway through because I couldn't keep the names or places straight. To the Last Man was a far better read for me, because I remember people, not just facts. Giving literary personalities to important figures like Pershing and Richthofen cemented them in my mind. The one gripe I have about Shaara's work is his odd use (non-use) of conjunctions. I kept wanting to grab a red pen in order to add "and" to a sentence. Here's a typical example: "The general looked around, took in the scene, handed the telescope to his orderly." I want "and" before "handed!" Oh well. Obviously, Shaara had no problem becoming a best-selling author, grammatical quirks and all. :)


  1. Have you read Michael Shaara's Killer Angels? Jeff's prose is following in the tradition of his father's, although his father was far better at it than he was. If you haven't read it, it's well worth your time.

  2. Yes, but it was a while ago, so I don't even remember Michael's writing style. :)