Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Through the Bifocals
READING. READING. READING. Not writing much right now, but soon I will. I read a great amount and I like fiction, history, economics, and kids' books (Harry Potter is for both kids and adults. I’ve read them all.). So, here is my latest reading with some notes.
FALL OF GIANTS by Ken Follet. A huge book both in scope and pages. Our oldest son Ramsey used to say that he only liked books over 800 pages. He would have liked this one.
An epic historical fiction work, this book covers the tumultuous period in the opening years of the 20th century. World War One was peering over the wall of a vibrant, rich, and yet selfish Europe. Empire was in charge of the world; but times were about to change. The working class wanted a fair share in the wealth. (Sound familiar?)
The story follows the lives of an English, American, German, Russian, and Welsh family. Each suffer severe losses due to the war and to the changing times. Collapsing empire, woman’s suffrage, labor unions, the socio-political face of Europe.
The history is well-researched; the figures like Winston Churchill and US president Wilson are vigorously portrayed. I couldn’t put it down.
1421: THE YEAR CHINA DISCOVERED AMERICA, by Gavin Menzies. Did you know about China’s huge fleets and giant boats during the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century? I didn’t, and I have read a great deal about Chinese history. This book re-creates the voyages by Chinese fleets all over the world. This is both history and conjecture, but if it is correct, then China was way ahead of Europe.
THE WORLD AT NIGHT by Alan Furst. 1940 Europe in the grip of WWII. Paris. Germans. Espionage. Realistic. Riveting. Moral issues. Is this a cautionary tale?