Have you ever written a book review?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What are you Reading, and Why?

What people reads fascinates me. It always has. So forgive me as I take a small detour out of our own business and into . . . yours (so to speak).

I was at baseball practice for my son yesterday, and one of the parent coaches asked what I did for a living. When I told him, he proceeded to tell me how much he enjoys books, and so the discussion centered around what we were both reading, and why. Another parent chimed in, and an interesting discussion followed. I thought I would bring it to the blogosphere.

So, if you are inclined, list the current book you are reading (or just finished or are about to begin), and a couple others you recently finished, explain briefly why you picked each one up, and how you rate it. (For the sake of ease, let's use the Amazon 5-star system.)

Here are my books:

Current: The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (vol. 2 of The Liberation Trilogy), by Rick Atkinson. These books are masterfully written, groundbreaking studies. Avoid if you do not like deep discussions about strategy and tactics. I picked it up because I love to read about WWII, I loved his first volume in the series, and I did not know as much about Sicily and the Italian Campaign as I should have. I pause nearly every page to marvel at his ability to turn a phrase. His first volume won the Pulitzer. Find out why by picking it up. *****

2. Break On Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison, by James Riordan. I read it because the author is a friend and we are co-writing a techno-historical thriller screenplay. (We have very serious interest from a major Hollywood producer who has read it, called a meeting, and discussed it with us in person. Keep your fingers crossed, please). Jim and I swapped books, and I promised to read this one. It is a fascinating story, very well told. I never liked The Doors, but have a better appreciation of their music now. ****

3. The Reach of Rome: A History of the Roman Imperial Frontier, 1st-5th Centures AD, by Derek Williams. I read a lot of ancient history, and have a fairly extensive library on the subject. This title covers the hubristic attitude of Roman emperors, and how the establishment of its borders helped knock down the empire and eventually impact the modern Western world. Fascinating. ****

So, what are you reading, and why?

-- tps


Gary W. Moore said...

I am reading the novel "Blood Kin" by Ceridwen Dovey. It is a masterully told story of a military coup in a nameless country. I am having trouble putting it down.

John said...

I am reading Edgar Lee Masters by John and Margaret Wrenn. It is an academic biography of the writer, mostly focusing on the various forces that converged on his life to prompt the writing of the Spoon River Anthology. I'm reading it because it is relevant to the research I'm doing for my book. Masters was from the same geographical region of Illinois that I am from, and his writings and life have been very important to my research. ****

I recently finished Annie Dillard's The Writing Life. Mainly I like just about anything Dillard writes. I picked this one up because I find reading about writing to be inspirational when I'm in the trenches, working on my own writing. *****

One of my favorite non-research recent reads was Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy. This was just an incredible book. Very tone driven and rich with imagery. McCarthy is a great American novelist, and reading him is always a treat. *****

Eric Wittenberg said...


I've got two books going.

First is Robert Jordan's Infrequent Glory, a history of the Philadelphia Phillies, which no long-suffering Phillies fan should miss. I'm also reading John Ferling's excellent Almost a Miracle, on the Revolutionary War, which is just another manifestation of my recent blitz of reading books on the Rev War. Atkinson's book is after that, and then the book on the Napoleonic Wars that you just published.


Sarah Keeney said...

Hi Ted,

I just started The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Someone compared it to Jane Eyre, which I enjoyed, so I thought I would give it a try. I’m only a couple chapters in, but the description of books in the old book shop where the main character works would make any book lover drool. After that I plan to read Hallam’s War by Elisabeth Payne Rosen. We were lucky enough to get a galley from the author, and it looks great. It will be released next month.



Phil LeDuc said...

I'm reading -
1) "The Midwife's Tale" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Read for a monthly lunch/book discussion group. Readings are primarily in the area of colonial/revolutionary America.
2) "Winner Takes All" by Christina Binkley. Begun as airplane reading for a trip to Las Vegas last month. Billions of dollars backing even bigger dreams and egos.
3) "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall" by William Riordan. A classic! Where else could you learn the difference between honest graft and dishonest graft? "I seen my opportunities and I took 'em."

Reenactorman said...

A simple equation: book reviews = free books (always go for the hi-$$ ones). Thus I am currently working on Dennis Brandt's regimental history of the 87th PA, From Home Guards to Heroes. A very interesting read considering this particular regt was not organized for active field campaigning but rather for guard duty along the B&O and others, thus its make-up bore a striking resemblance to several CW reenacting units i can think of, the first being my own...

B. Forbush said...

Hi Ted
Having just become acquainted I thought I would respond to this interesting post. I read a lot of material for research purposes. I'm currently reading/transcribing the CW letters of a Harvard Grad (HU 1858). The 300 letters are so detailed; they are a bit out of my depth so I picked up James McPherson's 'Battle Cry of Freedom' to brush up on period politics & political figures.

From the library I recently picked up James Norman Hall's 2 vol. history of the WWI Lafayette Flying Corps. I hope to own an original copy of that one day. Also from the library William Goldman's 'Five Screenplays.'

Any Scribner's Classic illustrated by N.C. Wyeth is a favorite, & I always have an anthology of short ghost stories around for fun.

dw said...

I'm finally finishing "Nature Noir," by Jordon Fisher Smith, a book I got half way through, then set aside for a year (actually lost, and then recently found again). I heard the author interviewed on the radio, which piqued my interest.

Also finishing Richard McMurry's "Atlanta: Last Chance for the Confederacy," which I began last month in preparation for a trip there, and am determined to see through to the end, now that many of the actual landscapes are fresh in my mind.

When those two volumes are done, I'm looking forward to a long session of fiction, starting first with a 4-in-1 volume of Updike's "Rabbit Angstrom" novels. After seeing references to these for 20 years, and not having read any Updike previously, I'm interested in filling in that gap.


Mark Wilensky said...

Having recently finished "Everyday Life in Early America" by Hawke (*****), I'm deep in "Hanging Captain Gordon," by Soodalter, "Bum Bags and Fanny Packs, a British-American Dictionary," by Smith (***), "Fusiliers," by Urban, and "Pearls Before Swine," by Pastis (a guilty pleasure). My son and I are laughing through "Earl the Squirrel," by Freeman (*****) and "Uno's Garden," by Graeme Base. In other words, the usual.

Steve Basic said...


Hope all is well. Right now am reading to books on the Civil War. Finishing up Russ Bond's fine book on The Great Locomotive Chase. Am also reading David Detzer's book "Allegiance" in preparation for the muster our CW Chat room will be having in Charleston, SC in June.

I also love reading Westerns, and have always been a fan of the old Double D Series of Westerns that I first found when I was a kid at the library. Some fine Westerns authors, such as Ray Hogan, Lewis Patten, and Cliff Farrell to mention a few. :)

Regards from the Garden State,


Kevin McCann said...

I finished "Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams's Extraordinary Post-Presidential Career" a week ago. Now I'm reading "Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America." Both are excellent biographies and, like John, are relevant to research I'd doing for a book of my own.

Colt Foutz said...

A popular blog, Ted, and no wonder. Book people love to list what they're reading!

Anyone on Facebook can do this with the Amazon bookshelf application, which also allows you to write reviews.

But, for the record, right now I'm reading:

1. Sons and Lovers -- D.H. Lawrence
2. Native Son -- Richard Wright
3. The Believer Book of Writers Interviewing Writers
4. Writers Dreaming -- Naomi Epel
5. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt -- Aimee Bender
6. The Journals of Joyce Carol Oates

I usually work several in and out of the rotation at once, particularly during the semester, when I'm reading for pleasure as well as class and for research, etc.

Great that John is reading Edgar Lee Masters -- I studied with his son, the writer and memoirist Hilary Masters, at Carnegie Mellon University. John, be sure to read Hilary's Last Stands: Notes From Memory. It's a classic example of the memoir form. And do a search for some of the errors in Margaret Wrenn's book.

OK. I'll close this before I wax rhapsodic.