Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

1 July, 2018

I appreciate Sarah Vowell, who likes “to use whatever’s lying around to paint pictures of the past”.

She tosses in things like “Considering Independence Hall was also where the founders calculated that a slave equals three-fifths of a person…making an adolescent who barely spoke English a major general at the age I got hired to run the cash register…was not the worst decision ever made there.”

“Years before the first shots were fired, women…were quietly sticking it to their colonial overlords with their needles and pins.”  (Describing the American home-spun movement.)

She mentions the American publishers fetish for war history, but she sees American history as a history of argument.

Note to self for further investigation:

  • Christopher Densmore: “The Quaker Origin of the first Women’s Rights Convention”
  • E. Wayne Carp: “To Starve the Army at Pleasure”

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

2 January, 2018

“By the time I was fifteen years old, I had been in jail nine times.”

That’s a nice opening line for Lynda Blackmon Lowery’s “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom“.

A quick read, a good read, an important read. The story of a girl on the 1965 Selma Voting Rights march.


Daily Life of the New Americans

10 August, 2016

I may have found a new series of books for my reading pleasure.

“Daily Life Of…” Greenwood Press. Seems to be like the Very Short Introduction series, around 150 pages, geared to a college freshman, well written by an expert.

Just finished Daily Life of the New Americans: Immigration since 1965 written by Christoph Strobel (2010).



Calvin for Armchair Theologians

24 July, 2016

just finished “Calvin for Armchair Theologians”,  (previously I read “Reformation for the Armchair Theologian)…and I want to say I like this series. Much like the Very Short Introduction series, written by experts, for a lay audience. Makes me feel smart ‘n’ stuff.



Very Short Introduction: African American Religion

6 July, 2016

Once again, an well written book in the Very Short Introduction series, Eddie S. Glaude Jr’s “African American Relgion”.

A quick quote, from a Swedish traveler in ~1750, “It is …to be pitied, that the masters of these negroes in most of the English colonies take little care of their spiritual welfare, and let them live in Pagan darkness. There are even some, who would be very ill pleased at, and would by all means hinder their negroes from being instructed in the doctrines of Christianity; to this they are partly led by the conceit of its being shameful, to have a spiritual brother or sister among so despicable a people…”

Or course, it points me to others to read…so, on my ever growing list:

  • Jacquelyn Grant
  • James Cone
  • Delores Williams

The Boys in the Boat

21 May, 2016

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel Brown, was a pleasure to read. Early Seattle history, exciting sports story – I was still nervous during the final race chapter, even though I knew who won! – and a bit of a shadow story of Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s genius filmmaker/propaganda, (which I’m more curious about her, but I don’t really want to study evil.)

Highly recommend.

Mormonism a Very Short Introduction

21 May, 2016

Once again, I really like the “Very Short Introduction” series.

Currently, I’m interested in the beginnings of religious traditions. And this case, there is plenty of primary source material. I do want to read more on Mountain Meadows Massacre, more on the US government’s war with the Mormons, more on the persecution that the early Mormon church faced.


The Reformation for Armchair Theologians

5 March, 2016

Glenn S. Sunshine, “The Reformation for Armchair Theologians” was a pretty fun read.

Sunshine does a good job of introducing the times and the personalities of the theologians. However, there was  a few chapters that to me, seemed like a military history, because, you know, princes were looking for reasons to kill each other…and the Reformation was a good reason. I didn’t enjoy these so much. I wanted to know what were the theologians and preachers and pastors doing while their flocks were killing each other. Not that I have anything against reading a military history, it’s just not what I wanted, and Sunshine is not the best military historian.

What I liked was Zwingli asking, “why are we selling Swiss blood to French kings” attacking the mercenary trade. The answers of “that’s a good question” and “hey, you’re cutting into our profit margin” only led to more violence.  Funny how to really understand the Reformation, you need to understand Swiss Canton politics.

I’m looking forward to reading other books in this series. (Did I mention it was a short read?)



24 May, 2014

It’s past bedtime, but MrGrunty is singing “Sinking Deep” by Hillsong young & Free. The song he liked from last Sunday. It is so adorable to watch him learning the lyrics, and going around the house earlier today singing the melody. His favorite part is the bridge.

Today, MyBetterHalf’s little brother helped me on raised beds for a garden project I’ve been meaning to do for years.

Just finished “the Jesus Wars” by John Phillip Jenkins.
It was alright. Good to know that since the beginning, that Christians have argued, debated and fought over who Jesus is. But for me the best quote is the last sentence: “a religion that is not constantly spawning alternatives and heresies has ceased to think and has only achieved the peace of the grave.”

The Caliph’s Splendor

19 April, 2014

The Caliph’s Splendor: Islam and the West in the Golden Age of Bagdad
Benson Bobrick (2012)

A nice quick read. Blurbs aboot the book implied more of contact and relationship between Frankish Charlemange and caliph Huran al-Rashid of Bagdad. Did not get much of that, but got fascinating views of rise of Bagdad, which I should have expected, had just as much treachery, murder, political and religious scheming as any Byzantine story.

One thing humored me, Bobrick writes, “Yet in the recurrent fate of kingdoms, luxury and learning can lead to a process of decline.” Maybe the key word is “can”. He tells the story of harsh military and political conquest, followed by flourishing of arts, trade, learning. Did the luxury of Baghdad make them soft, so years later it was easy for the Mongols to sack the city, leaving a “mountain of skulls”?  That’s another book I suppose. And maybe “why do empire’s end?” is an unanswerable question.