This was a far more interesting history of the world, or most any history than I’ve previously read. The downside, is that I will have difficulty remembering all the individual facts. The narrative was constructed more like Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader including Harper’s Magazine Index-type lists of comparative statistics that really make you think. Much more attention is given to Asia, Africa and South America than your standard Euro-centered histories of the past. Did you know that the Khan that Marco Polo visited was the same Kubla Khan mentioned in Coleridge’s poem? I listened to this title and thus missed some formatting and organization that would have been communicated on the page. Apparently, they had sidebars that listed who-or-what was up at a given point in time, who/what was down. They also had important events listed within a given time-period. These interesting tidbits didn’t translate as readily to the audio version, they needed more verbal placemarkers, such as these highlights apply to this time period. Still I really enjoyed this book, and will look for more Mental Floss titles.
For readers of Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics
Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.
The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.
Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.
Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights details the history of the farm workers struggle that started in California with the grape workers. These workers were generally migrants who travelled northward through California as the grape harvest came in. The Filipino and Chicano workers were not paid very much and their living conditions were deplorable. In the 1960s, two dynamic leaders started organizing the workers and trying to get them better working conditions. Cesar Chavez worked with the Chicano workers and Larry Itliong worked with the Filipino. They eventually banded together to form the United Farm Workers of America Union and led a successful strike and boycott of the industry. Their efforts took many years, but they showed through peaceful, nonviolent means that they could accomplish their goals. This book is an excellent source for kids to learn about the creation of unions and the conditions workers had to endure. It offers a wonderful historical perspective on what was going on in the agriculture sector during the 20th century.
I have never heard of Pellagra or the fact that it was an epidemic in this country in the first half of the 20th century. After reading this book I am pretty happy that it is not a disease we need to worry about any longer. This book was so very interesting. I love learning about new things; I also really like reading about disgusting things. Pellagra is a disease that was around Europe for hundreds of years before appearing in the United States in the 1900s. It was believed the disease was caused by eating bad corn products which is why it affected mostly poor people in the South. They lived on grits and cornmeal and little else. Pellagra caused the four Ds: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. It killed between 1 in 10 and 6 in 10 people affected. It took almost 40 years of investigations by multiple doctors to figure out what really caused Pellagra and how to treat it. Dr. Joseph Goldberg worked on the Pellagra problem for over 15 years and was the one who discovered that it was a lack of niacin in the diet that caused the problem. Because of his work with the Public Health Services that our grain products are now fortified with vitamins and minerals to decrease the chances of diseases caused by dietary deficiencies. This was a truly fascinating book.
This text provides a lot of basic information about the formation of the asylum in Fulton as well as present day status and everything in between. Very informative if the reader is interested in some of the politics surrounding the state hospital throughout history. Lael gives a lot of factual information, including patient statistics. However, I feel that the book is lacking in one very important aspect: the lives of the patients who lived/live there. In order to give an accurate history, this reviewer feels that conditions within the asylum should have been included, not just what was happening on the outside. Though the author makes note of three patients who lived there, this is a very small and seemingly insignificant portion of the book. An interesting read, but not what this reviewer was looking for. So many of the treatments used were just glossed over or barely mentioned. This is, then, truly only a PARTIAL history of this facility.
Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi commander in charge of emptying Europe of its Jews. He commanded the transportation of Jews from their homes to the ghettos to the camps and to their extermination. He was an essential part of the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. At the end of WWII, he escaped Germany and ended up in Buenos Ares, Argentina. He lived there in freedom for 15 years before he was identified by a local girl and her Jewish father. Israel was contacted and soon a team of Mossad agents where in Buenos Ares with a plan to capture Eichmann and bring him back to Israel to stand trial. This is their story. It is a compelling story of how the Israelis tracked down Eichmann, confirmed his identity, captured him, and secreted him out of Argentina. The trial of Adolf Eichmann brought the story of the Holocaust into the public consciousness. Survivors were able to tell their stories and the world was ready to listen. This trial was a turning point in the story of the Jews. It is a powerful story and one I hadn’t heard before. Definitely worth the read.
Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman and his experiences during World War II. His son Art listens to the story in order to create this book. Along the way we learn not only what happened to Vladek before the war and how he met his with Anja, but also during the war and after they came to America. Vladek’s story is not dissimilar to other Holocaust survivors in that he survived and most of those he knew did not. He was very good at working the system and always finding the best possible way to survive. His story of survival is at times hard to read but not as hard has his present life. Vladek as an old man has lost the confidence and gusto he had as a youth. He hoards things and doesn’t get along with his second wife Mala who he believes is after his money (we don’t really learn if she was or not). He and his son Art love each other but have a hard time being with each other. You get the sense that Vladek wants nothing more than to be with his son and Art wants nothing more than to not be there because his father drives him crazy. He would drive me crazy as well, but I also felt very sorry for him. I was moved by how personal this story ended up being. I thought it was going to be just an Holocaust survivor’s tale, but it ended up being so much more. It is really about the relationship between a father and son both racked with survivor’s guilt. Vladek because he survived when so many others didn’t and Art because he never suffered. It is a deeply moving story and well worth the read.
It seems unlikely that a small island conquered repeatedly would provide the world with a global language. McCrum provides a historical review of how the English language developed, how its fluidity and subversive nature allowed it to flourish and become the lingua franca of the world. He also details all the colonizing by the Brits. I wish only one timeline of history had been provided, I got a little confused going through history periods a couple of times, while focusing on other aspects of the language development.
How They Choked explores the failures of fourteen historical figures. Obvious failures like Anne Boleyn and Benedict Arnold and George Custer are compared to some less obvious failures like Susan B. Anthony and Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison. I am not sure you can compare the failure of Montezuma to realize Cortez wasn’t a god which led to the death of his people to the fact that Susan B. Anthony failed to get women the vote in her lifetime. Some of the facts were really interesting however. I knew Amelia Earhart hadn’t learned how to read her instruments correctly, but I had no idea she wasn’t really that great of a pilot and had crashed a lot. I don’t think I even realized that Magellan hadn’t actually made it all the way around the world but had died in the Philippines. I think fans of gruesome history will enjoy this one as well as those who like to learn obscure trivia about people. Definitely not as interesting as How They Croaked, but a fun read nonetheless.
Everyone knows the story of the doomed Romanov family. How they were all murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution. How there were claims that Anastasia or Alexei still lived. How once the tsar fell the country became communist under Lenin and Stalin. What you might not have known were the events leading up to the revolution and the murders. Or how truly oblivious Tsar Nicholas was to what was happening around him. Candace Fleming does a wonderful job telling this story. She gives us insight into the imperial family through historical details and primary sources. She gives us details about what the common people were going through both before and during WWI. She also shows the politics behind the revolution and the rise of Lenin. What surprised me most about this book was how doomed the Romanov’s seemed from the beginning. Nicholas and Alexandra were so wrapped up in themselves and their children and Rasputin that they really had no idea what was happening in their country or how their actions set them on the path of destruction.
I read this for a class I took at my church this summer [we called it Summinary ]. It gives a history of liberal religion and the quest for tolerance for religious freedom. I was amazed at how often, religious change came about due to other power struggles. The Germans were chafing under Roman authority. So when Luther made his religious objections, the powers of state used the theological dispute to their advantage.
A repeated theme was reformers in one decade turning into the old guard against whom the newer thinkers rebelled in the next generation. I was surprised at how enriching I found this read.
The Triple Nickles were the first black paratroopers in the American military. During WWII many Blacks joined the military; unfortunately, they were mostly relegated to labor positions and not allowed to fight for their country. This gradually changed as an all-Black tank unit and infantry units were established. Soon Blacks were being trained as pilots at Tuskegee. It wasn’t until 1944 that the Triple Nickles were established. They trained throughout the end of the war always ready to be called up to fight. However, military brass wasn’t quite as ready to integrate as the president was. The Triple Nickles never saw combat during WWII. While the white soldiers were fighting and dying they were sent to the Northwest to be the some of the first smokejumpers. It wasn’t until they were integrated into another paratrooper unit that these brave men would see combat.
This is an important story to tell. It is amazing to me how we treated people in all walks of life just because the color of their skin was different from our own. This racism is still there today even if it might not always be targeted at Blacks. It took a lot of perseverance and courage on the part of these Black soldiers to break through the racial intolerance of the military leaders. They should be applauded.
Sure everyone has heard of the Mason Dixon line. A lot of people may know that it was used to divide the country into slave and nonslave states. Few people might know that it all started because of a boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland. I had some vague knowledge about the Mason Dixon line before reading this book, but I really had no idea about its true origins. Mason and Dixon were hired to survey the true boundaries between Pennsylvania and Maryland because no one really knew what they were. It took them years to do the survey, but the border lines are still those used today.
Obviously the information in this book was really interesting and I am a big fan of Sally Walker; however, I felt the execution of this book fell short. The first big issue is the side bars. Children’s nonfiction always has sidebar information which is usually little tidbits about different aspects of the subject discussed. I love them and wholeheartedly think they should be in children’s nonfiction. They generally add a depth to the information that was missing. However, the sidebars in this book are terrible. Instead of being nicely separated by a box or off in the margins they are just big block paragraphs in italics. To make things even worse they are always placed in the middle of text; sometimes in the middle of a paragraph that splits between pages. It was horribly distracting and a terrible way to set up a book.
The second issue was how technical this book got which made it boring! I really enjoy history and this was a story I wasn’t aware of. The bits about William Penn and George Calvert and why they founded their colonies was interesting. The story of Mason and Dixon was interesting. The long paragraphs about how you measure by the stars and what the instruments did was boring. It got so technical that my eyes glazed over. I found myself skimming long paragraphs of technical crap until the story picked up again. If I can’t take it then I am sure the intended audience of kids won’t be able to either.
I had high hopes for this book and was soundly disappointed. Thankfully I did learn something from it.
I, like many people, have a fascination for the horrible things the Nazis did in Europe during WWII. I am especially fascinated by their large-scale looting operations. I knew about the looting of art throughout Europe but had no idea just how far their pillaging went. This book looks at how the wine makers of France were subject to just as much Nazi attention as the art collections of Europe. Millions of bottles of wine were sent to Germany. The vignerons and négociants throughout France had to either sacrifice their wine to the Germans or find ways to hide it and fool the Nazis. Many buried their wines behind false walls in their caves or truly buried it under gardens and ponds. Others hid the good stuff in plain site by mislabeling it and labeling the crap as the good stuff. This book was full of fascinating information about the wine industry in France both before and during the war and the major players on both the French and German sides of the struggle. I admit to getting a bit lost in all the French names, but didn’t let that detract from my enjoyment of the story. I think my favorite part came at the end when the French and American armies were liberating France. The French Army made sure to send the Americans through secondary vineyards so that the prime ones would not be destroyed. The French Army went slow and carefully forward making sure to preserve their heritage whereas the American army simply went through the vines. I thought it said a lot about a culture that prized wine so much it was sent to the soldiers on the front and the lack of it and its destruction helped bring the French Resistance to power. Very powerful story that I would recommend to any history lovers out there.
The KKK was set up after the Civil War by white Southerners who felt they needed to protect their way of life from the Northern Reconstructionists and the uppity Blacks. They used intimidation, fear, beatings and murder to try and get what they wanted, which was for blacks to go back to being subservient to whites. Bartoletti takes a hard look at how the KKK was started, what precipitated its creation, how they grew to include so many members and what those members did. She also details the reaction to the KKK by Southern Blacks, Northern Whites and the governments of both the North and the South. President Grant was successful in disbanding the KKK, but he was not successful in creating equality in the South. It is sad that the same practices of the KKK during Reconstruction existed for many up until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The KKK was truly a terrorist group and it is pretty scary that some people today don’t see them that way.
The Age of Exploration began with Columbus “discovering” America in 1492. After his trip many other explorers set out to discover the riches America had to offer. Their expeditions brought many things to Europe: the potato and tomato, spices, gold and silver and new ways of life. These explorers changed the world in both good and bad ways. They opened up trade routes and new lands for exploration, but the native peoples suffered greatly as their way of life came to an end. The explorers were generally not friendly to the natives. They saw them as savages to be tamed with riches to be taken. They brought death and disease and destruction to the natives. This book provides a good overview of why these explorations took place, what they found and the consequences of their discoveries.
This book covers the history of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) from its inception to the present day pope. The history of the Jesuits is an interesting and controversial one. They were disbanded by the Catholic Church at one time and made many enemies throughout history. They also did a lot of good as their missions spread throughout the world and they opened thousands of schools and universities. The book is written by a Jesuit priest and his bias does show through. The Jesuits are never shown in anything but a positive light and their controversies are always glossed over. The book was interesting but I think a more unbiased look at the Jesuits would have been just as interesting if not more so.
I received this book from Netgalley.
This is an excellent overview of the history of women serving in Congress. It begins with Jeannette Rankin in 1917 and goes through the present day roster of women in the House and the Senate. It’s interesting that the majority of the women who broke ground in Congress came into their positions through a husband or father dying. The congressman died and the women were able to fill the seat. I like the fact that the book also give the political and social background of what was happening at the time of each woman entering Congress. This book is very readable and entertaining. There is not a lot of information on the different congresswomen, but it is a good starting point.
Pure Grit tells the story of the American nurses in the Philippines during WWII. These nurses join the Army and the Navy because there were a lot of opportunities, but they never expected to actually be part of the war. We are taught a lot about WWII and the battles that took place in Europe. Unfortunately, a lot of history books minimize the war in the Pacific, which was just as deadly as the European front. I had no idea that hours after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor they attacked the Philippines. I had no idea that American forces were forced to surrender and became prisoners of war. The nurses that were on the island were also forced to surrender and be placed in internment camps. The nurses continued to care for their patients both before and after the surrender with dwindling supplies of both medication and food. They agonized over leaving gravely injured patients to the mercies of the Japanese. Once the war was over the nurses received little to no recognition for their efforts and suffered life-long physical and mental disabilities. It wasn’t until recent years that their history has come to light and they have been recognized for their heroics. This was a very readable book, in fact it was hard to put down. The story is gripping and because it is true very moving. I would definitely recommend it.