There are a lot of great books that I’ve read in the past that I want to give a quick nod to. Eventually, I may go back and write a dedicated entry for any I re-read them. In the meantime, I feel I owe them a few words here:
Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle
To say this book is simply about the infamous fire at the Triangle shirtwaist factory would be to sell it short. The book begins with the fire itself, covers the subsequent trials of the factory owners and, most critically, discusses how this one tragic event sparked the social changes and workplace safety reforms. The book paints a very detailed picture of 1911 New York City, physically, socially, politically and really makes you feel immersed in the story.
Frozen In Time by Owen Beattie
A great book about the famed Franklin Expedition, the British navel crew sent to scout the Northwest Passage for England in 1845, only to disappear (seemingly) without a trace. The mystery of why the best equipped ship of its time not only failed in their goals by didn’t make it home alive was answered years later, as the story of the expedition was pieced together from their graves, stories from the Inuit, and the things they left behind. The book covers it all, from start to finish.
Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
A very comprehensive look at human history and how societies developed. Diamond attempts to answer the question of why some societies came to dominate others and all the many factors at play that shaped the kind of civilisations and societies that make up our world today. Definitely the most thorough and interesting overview of the history of us one can find. It’s a large book but it’s hard to put down until you’ve finished it.
1491 by Charles Mann
There are very few books on the Americas before Columbus and there are even fewer good ones. This is a comprehensive and dynamic look at the societies and peoples that existed before the Europeans invaded and settled on North and South America. The book is absolutely wonderful and gives coverage and credit to great nations that are often overlooked in the history of victors. Everything you were taught in high school was wrong or radically incomplete and this book is the best effort I’ve seen to right those wrongs.
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
This book is the sad story of the people affected by the dust bowl. It is unique in the fact that it talks about the people who chose to stay in the face of the black storms, destroyed landscapes and bitter poverty. Worst Hard Time looks both at the big picture and also the unique story of particular individuals who lived, worked, and died during this period.
Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington
The sub heading on this book is “The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to Present.” This book is a thorough coverage of a tragic topic, written by a Harvard medical ethicist. Everyone has heard of Tuskegee, but most of the other events discussed here will be new information to the average reader.
Inside Deaf Culture by Padden & Humphries
This book is a short but very good overview of the history and development of Deaf culture America. It covers the history of ASL, the rise of Deaf clubs and theatres and the role of Deaf schools in forming the personal identity culturally Deaf people have today.
Arab & Jew by David Shipler
This insightful book tries very hard to show a balanced look at the conflict between Palestine and Israel, through history to present. It addresses the history, the social and cultural circumstances and all the other relevant factors. It looks at how children are raised with indoctrination, how social and political factors can distort the situation and aggravate circumstances. This book triumphs above all others by showings the real faces on both sides of the line as genuine people and not just the “good” verses the “bad.” The text is not uncritical, but it tries very hard to be objective; Shipler judges mistakes, tragedies and evil events by the acts themselves and not simply right or wrong by the side that perpetuated them. Although profoundly frustrating and sad, the book does seem to give a glimmer of hope that there are people out there who are looking to make compromises and work together to end the nightmarish conflict.
A Higher Form Of Killing by Harris & Paxman
This book is a chilling but fascinating look at the history of biological and chemical warfare from World War I to present. It looks at the history of their use and development and the science behind it. It also addresses recent developments and the scary directions warfare may be heading. It’s a short and very readable book.
All of these books have a well-deserved recommendation from me.
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