Tag Archives: history

Mini Reviews

I’ve recently read a few nonfiction books, but just didn’t have enough to say about them for full reviews.  So here’s my mini reviews:

Title: A History fo Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Present

Author: Jason Thompson

Publisher: Anchor Books 2008

Genre: Nonfiction — History

Pages: 382

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 960s; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library Loan

This is the type of history books that I should be reading.  This volume is a much more comprehensive history of a culture, people and country.  I enjoyed the depth and readability.  Good read.  And I learned much about the rise of Islam in the area (definitely a lacking area of my historical knowledge).

Title: Blue: 350 Inspiring Ways to Decorate with Blue

Author: Lisa Cregan

Publisher: Hearst Communications 2011

Genre: Nonfiction — Home decor

Pages: 272

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 740s; Fall into Reading; Color Coded — Blue

How I Got It: Library Loan

Such pretty pictures.  I would love to add more blue into our decor, but it seems the boys’ room is the only place I can get away with it.

Title: The Green Book

Publisher: Three Rivers Press 2007

Genre: Nonfiction — Enviroment

Pages: 204

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 330s; Fall into Reading; Color Coded — Green

How I Got It: Library Loan

Tips to live a greener lifestyle.  Okay introduction book, but some of the ways to green your lifestyle area bit hard to do without owning a business or at least your own house.  The testimonies from celebrities seemed a bit wonky to me.

Title: Active Liberty

Author: Stephen Breyer

Publisher: Alfred Knopf 2005

Genre: Nonfiction — Law

Pages: 164

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 340s; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library Loan

A great slim but dense volume on the differences between active and modern liberty and their applications.  I am a huge Constitutional Law geek.  I love reading about interpretations and applications of the various sections of the Constitution.  And Breyer definitely knows his Constitution.  I’ve never quite looked at it his way, but it was a nice analysis.

Title: Minigami

Author: Gay Merrill Gross

Publisher: Firefly Books 2005

Genre: Nonfiction — Paper Craft

Pages: 144

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 730s; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library Loan

I loved looking at all the pretty pictures, but origami is harder than I thought it would be.  I tried to do some of the designs and they weren’t that clean looking.  I imagine that practice would make cleaner designs.

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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Book Reviews


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Ten Discoveries that Rewrote History by Patrick Hunt

Title: Ten Discoveries that Rewrote History

Author: Patrick Hunt

Publisher: Plume 2007

Genre: Nonfiction — History

Pages: 226

Rating:   5/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 930s

How I Got It: Library Loan

Renowned archaeologist Patrick Hunt brings his top ten list of ancient archaeological discoveries to life in this concise and captivating book. The Rosetta Stone, Troy, Nineveh’s Assyrian Library, King Tut’s Tomb, Machu Picchu, Pompeii, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Thera, Olduvai Gorge, and the Tomb of 10,000 Warriors—Hunt reveals the fascinating stories of these amazing discoveries and explains the ways in which they added to our knowledge of human history and permanently altered our worldview. Part travel guide to the wonders of the world and part primer on ancient world history, Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History captures the awe and excitement of finding a lost window into ancient civilization.

I loved this book!  A beautiful blend of storytelling and archaeology, I sped through the pages eager to read about the next big find.  To be fair, I already knew about each of these discoveries, but Hunt create such a great narrative I couldn’t resist reading.  The discoveries themselves are breathtaking.  Who didn’t dream of being an Indiana Jones style archaeologist at some point in their childhood?  The people behind these discoveries were just that.  I loved reading the stories behind the discoveries and the impact on history.  A great short introduction to amazing finds in archaeology.

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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Book Reviews


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The Lost Millennium by Florin Diacu

Title: The Lost Millennium: History’s Timetables Under Siege

Author: Florin Diacu

Publisher: John Hopkins 2005, 2011 (2nd edition)

Genre: Nonfiction – History

Pages: 237

Rating:   3/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mixing it Up — History; Dewey — 900s

How I Got It: Library Loan

We measure history—its defining moments, landmark documents, and great figures—by dates. The French Revolution began in 1789, the Magna Carta was originally issued in 1215, and Julius Caesar died in the year 44 BC. What makes these dates correct, though? Is it possible that there is a massive gap in the historical record and that the calendar we use today is off by about 1,000 years? Sparked by a chance meeting at a conference in Mexico more than fifteen years ago, Florin Diacu sets off on a journey into the field of historical chronology to answer these fascinating questions.

This book reads like a detective story, describing in vivid detail Diacu’s adventure back in time as he explores the shocking theory of a lost millennium. He meets a colorful cast of characters along the way. Chief among them is Anatoli Fomenko, a Russian mathematician who supports drastically revising historical chronology based on his extensive research in ancient astronomy, linguistics, cartography, and a crucial manuscript by Ptolemy. Fomenko, however, is not the only one to puzzle over time; Isaac Newton, Voltaire, and Edmund Halley, among others, also enter into this captivating quest.

I usually love history books (any history book), but I found this one to be too dense for my liking.  I found Diacu’s questions on chronology fascinating, but the writing felt clunky to me.  I had to read and read some of the passages to get a real sense of his intent and methodology.  Maybe I have been spoiled with story-like history books (Mayflower, The Great Mortality, The Ghost Map) that I am now a foreigner to dense historical papers.  Whatever my problems, I just did love this book.  And while Diacu has his doubts about some of the revisionist theories of chronology, I find much of it too confusing too care.  This book is only for the deep academic and possible mathematicians…


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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Book Reviews


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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Title: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Author: Seth Grahame-Smith

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing 2011

Genre: Paranormal; Alternative history?

Pages: 336

Rating:  5 /5 stars

Reading Challenges: Vampire; Support Your Library loan; Book2Movie

How I Got It: Library Loan

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

I love these mixes of history and fantasy.  I think I’ve found my second favorite genre (after zombies, of course).  This book reads like a historical biography.  Except in this case, Smith added the elements of vampires throughout the history of Lincoln’s life.  If I didn’t know any better, I would think this was nonfiction.  Every addition feels unnatural.  I loved the pacing, breaking his life into “boy, vampire hunter, and president.”  Through it we get a sense of Lincoln (even if half of it is make believe).  I’ve never been a huge fan of Lincoln’s; I prefer the Roosevelts and Jefferson.  But this book made me a fan.  I heartedly recommend!

Movie Review: 
I finally got around to seeing the movie.  A was pretty disappointed.  While the book has a gravity, the movie makes it too cheesy, too modern.  That ridiculous fight scene among the horses was almost too much to watch.  But I will admit that I loved the scene in the plantation.  It was a very modern fight scene done well.  The character of Will was a great role.  I loved the inclusion.  I was very upset that the movie excluded so much from the book.  We only got to see Abraham’s struggle at the end, after the Civil War started.  Random note: How amazing was Alan Tudyk as Stephen Douglas!  An uncredited role, but so great.


Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Book Reviews, Movies


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The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

Title: The Ghost Map

Author: Steven Johnson

Publisher: Penguin 2008

Genre: Nonfiction – Science (epidemics)

Pages: 320

Rating:   4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mixing It Up — Science; Dewey — 600s; Mount TBR

How I Got It: I own it!

 A thrilling historical account of the worst cholera outbreak in Victorian London-and a brilliant exploration of how Dr. John Snow’s solution revolutionized the way we think about disease, cities, science, and the modern world. The Ghost Map takes place in the summer of 1854. A devastating cholera outbreak seizes London just as it is emerging as a modern city: more than 2 million people packed into a ten-mile circumference, a hub of travel and commerce, teeming with people from all over the world, continually pushing the limits of infrastructure that’s outdated as soon as it’s updated. Dr. John Snow-whose ideas about contagion had been dismissed by the scientific community-is spurred to intense action when the people in his neighborhood begin dying. With enthralling suspense, Johnson chronicles Snow’s day-by-day efforts, as he risks his own life to prove how the epidemic is being spread. When he creates the map that traces the pattern of outbreak back to its source, Dr. Snow didn’t just solve the most pressing medical riddle of his time. He ultimately established a precedent for the way modern city-dwellers, city planners, physicians, and public officials think about the spread of disease and the development of the modern urban environment. 
Epidemics have always fascinated me.  I also thought that was the one area of medicine that I would have enjoyed.  Instead, I became a social studies teacher.  Thankfully, I still get to read about epidemics through books like The Ghost Map. 
Johnson blends historical narrative, science, and social commentary to create a very readable account of a devastating epidemic.  I have read some science history texts that have bored me to tears.  Too many of them focus solely on the science, not mentioning the human effect.  Johnson uses both sides to tell a remarkable story.  And it’s one that I haven’t heard before.  It definitely opened my eyes to the way society and specifically city living has changed the microbe world.  I would definitely recommend this book to the geeky historical minds out there. 
On a side note: while reading the book, I experienced a nasty stomach bug for about 24 hours.  I was convinced that I had cholera and obsessed about it for about half a day. 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Book Reviews


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U.S. Presidents Reading Project

I found this great idea for a reading challenge, but decided to change it to a perpetual reading challenge.  I was trained as a U.S. History teacher, so reading about the Presidents sounds like great fun to me.  I plan on getting started after the New Year. 

The rules are simple:

1. Read at least one non-fiction book about each of the U.S. Presidents
2. Take as much time as you need
3. Have fun learning about U.S. history and its leaders
4. And if you like buttons for your blog, feel free to add this one provided by the fabulous Michele at A Reader’s Respite. Thanks, Michele!

That’s it! If one book about each president sounds a bit like “too much information” to you, feel free to choose books that talk about more than one president at a time and count it for each one. Tailor this project to suit your personal level of interest. Maybe you just want a passing knowledge of each one. Maybe you found a couple presidents interesting enough to read two or three or more books about them. Maybe you’ll discover so many avenues you’d like to explore that we’ll need to start an American History Reading Project. 🙂 The possibilities are endless!


  1. George Washington (1789-97)
  2. John Adams, 1797-1801 (Federalist)
  3. Thomas Jefferson, 1801-9 (Democratic-Republican)
  4. James Madison, 1809-17 (Democratic-Republican)
  5. James Monroe, 1817-25 (Democratic-Republican)
  6. John Quincy Adams, 1825-29 (Democratic-Republican)
  7. Andrew Jackson, 1829-37 (Democrat)
  8. Martin Van Buren, 1837-41 (Democrat)
  9. William Henry Harrison, 1841 (Whig)
  10. John Tyler, 1841-45 (Whig)
  11. James Knox Polk, 1845-49 (Democrat)
  12.  Zachary Taylor, 1849-50 (Whig)
  13. Millard Fillmore, 1850-53 (Whig)
  14. Franklin Pierce, 1853-57 (Democrat)
  15. James Buchanan, 1857-61 (Democrat)
  16. Abraham Lincoln, 1861-65 (Republican)
  17. Andrew Johnson, 1865-69 (Democrat/National Union)
  18. Ulysses Simpson Grant, 1869-77 (Republican)
  19. Rutherford Birchard Hayes, 1877-81 (Republican)
  20. James Abram Garfield, 1881 (Republican)
  21. Chester Alan Arthur, 1881-85 (Republican)
  22. Grover Cleveland, 1885-89 and 1893-97 (Democrat)
  23. Benjamin Harrison, 1889-93 (Republican)
  24. William McKinley, 1897-1901 (Republican)
  25. Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-9 (Republican)
  26. William Howard Taft, 1909-13 (Republican)
  27. Woodrow Wilson, 1913-21 (Democrat)
  28. Warren Gamaliel Harding, 1921-23 (Republican)
  29. Calvin Coolidge, 1923-29 (Republican)
  30. Herbert Clark Hoover, 1929-33 (Republican)
  31. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933-45 (Democrat)
  32. Harry S. Truman, 1945-53 (Democrat)
  33. Dwight David Eisenhower, 1953-61 (Republican)
  34. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961-63 (Democrat)
  35. Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1963-69 (Democrat)
  36. Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969-74 (Republican)
  37. Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr , 1974-77 (Republican)
  38. James Earl Carter, 1977-81 (Democrat)
  39. Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981-89 (Republican)
  40. George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993 (Republican)
  41. William Jefferson Clinton, 1993-2001 (Democrat)
  42. George W. Bush, 2001-2009 (Republican)
  43. Barack Hussein Obama, 2009- (Democrat)

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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Reading Challenges



The Mental Floss History of the World by Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand

Title: The Mental Floss History of the World

Author: Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand

Publisher: HarperCollins 2008

Genre: History

Pages: 416

Rating:   5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Support Your Local Library

I am such a sucker for history reference style books.  The entire “Don’t Know Much About…” series is a real treat for a history/trivia master such as myself.  I saw this little gem sitting with the new releases at the library and I couldn’t resist.  The factoid style trip through the entire history of the world combined with the snarky tone of Mental Floss magazine… a real winner in my book.

We know that 99% of “history,” as they teach it, is mind-numbingly boring.  And we’re sorry about that; we can’t change what happened in your youth.

But this book is about to make history, by making history interesting.  Why?  because history is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride with all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster.  You want action?  We got action.  Sex and violence? Plenty of both. psychopathic mass murderers? Psychopathic mass murderers run history! And the best part is, it’s all real.

Now that’s my kind of introduction.  And it is all true.  I hope that I didn’t teach “boring” history, but added all those fun little stories of history.  This complete (well fairly complete, at least the good stuff anyway) history of the world was a fun romp complete with asides and extra factoids.  I would definitely recommend to any history buff or history Buff (hee hee!) or anyone who thinks history is boring.  Sass and Wiegand will show you… it’s really really fun!

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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Book Reviews


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