Monday, July 27, 2015

Ben's Picks

I was gonna call it Ben's Books because that alliterates and sounds punchy.  But it is wrong because they are not MY books, they are merely my book recommendations.

And I just thought of it today as I finished reading a very good book.

So what do I mean by "a very good book"?  The subject is interesting and you will feel nourished by learning stuff that is not a waste of your time, stuff that is good for you (protein and not sugar or other worthless carbs).  And the author is so engaging that his book is hard to put down.  VERY important!

So, the book that I just finished reading today is David McCullough's The Wright Brothers.  I have read other books by McCullough, and he can be very good; but he can also be not so good.  It was an effort to read his 1776 even though I am primed for books of our Revolutionary period, especially "popular" books.  Nevertheless, ...  Also, his immediately previous book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, young American artists in Paris in the middle of the 19th century, a subject in which I have little or no interest, was an absolute delight to read and revel in.

Of all the authors who write mostly about the American Revolutionary period, I am an especially big fan of John Ferling, who is always engaging and always hard to put down, despite (because of?) all the facts he puts before your eyes.  Let me particularly recommend Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation.

Of all the authors of American history who do not specialize in a period, I like H W Brands the most.  Same reason, he is immensely readable and hard to put down.  Let me particularly recommend American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865 - 1900.

Ferling and Brands are both Southerners.  Not sure what that means if anything.  Ferling is Professor Emeritus at the University of West Georgia and Brands teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.  And they both write long books.  But lest you get the impression that I am actually qualified to recommend the "best" authors of American History books for the lay reader, let me disabuse you right now.  My passion for American History (especially the Revolutionary period) is less than ten years old.  And both of these authors stand on the shoulders of giants, who are not as accessible as they are, and are not as alive.

I will update this post when the spirit moves me.  In the meantime, leave me your feedback.

Addendum: Monday, 11/16/2015
I have a new title that I want to recommend to all of you.  It is not a history book, it is a book on economics, for the interested lay reader.  I was hoping to place this recommendation in the blog post that I called The Free Market, but I seem not to have written such a blog post.  Why not?  Because I covered that subject pretty well in my book, I guess.  How I dealt with it is: I would applaud a free market if we had one, but we don't; and the reason we don't can be read about in my book and in the post called Corporate ... What?  The book is Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, by Robert Reich.  Yes, Reich is a "liberal."  But there are no liberal facts, there are just ... facts.  Some facts support liberal arguments, and some facts support conservative arguments.  A fair reading of Reich's book will enrich your perspective and your arsenal of consequential facts, as he has written a wonderful legal brief for the proposition that we are not a free market!  With references and citations up the kazoo (one sixth of the book is Notes).

Addendum: Friday, 12/16/2016
I have just finished reading a delicious book!  It is The American Political Tradition: And the Men Who Made It, by Richard Hofstadter.  I bought it when I was very young (its original publication date is 1948) but did not read it (not MY copy, a library copy) until now.  The man died in his writing prime, at age 70.  It is a damned shame as he is delightful!