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Archive for 'History'

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It (1999) Gina Kolata I’d been wanting to re-read Flu for years, however, I the digital version never went on sale. But when the Covid-19 pandemic started, it went on sale one day, and I snatched it […]

Passionate Minds: Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire, and the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment

Passionate Minds: Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire, and the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment (2006) David Bodanis In France (and Europe) ~1706-1749 Unless you are a geek or a mathematician (or perhaps astronomer) you probably have never heard of Emilie du Chatelet. Not because she lacked achievements, but because she achieved those things as a […]

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love (1999) Dava Sobel I read this a long time ago. Possibly soon after it came out. So when I needed some non-fiction bedtime reading, I decided to read it again. This book is based upon Galileo’s “124 surviving letters from the once-voluminous correspondence he carried […]

The Doctor Wore Petticoats: Women Physicians of the Old West

The Doctor Wore Petticoats: Women Physicians of the Old West (2006) Chris Enss The stories in this book are very interesting–it’s a look at the women who were the pioneers of medicine in the old West. The problem is that the writing is pretty terrible. Each women is introduced with a somewhat fictionalized tale of […]

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth (2011) Helen Castor This was my most recent “read before bed” book, so it took me quite awhile to finish, and I can’t say that a lot of it will stick with me, but it was interesting. The book looks at queens who attempted to rule England […]

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

A History of the World in 6 Glasses (2005) Tom Standage I got this as a kindle deal, and was absolutely delighted by it. It’s a look at how six beverages–beer, wine, liquor, coffee, tea, and Coca Cola–changed the world. There were so very many fascinating historical tidbits, I’m afraid that on multiple occasions I […]

Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History

Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History (2010) Diana Wells Well. That only took about six months to read. Maybe more. That’s not to say it wasn’t interesting, and that I didn’t learn lots of fascinating stuff. But it was very good bedtime reading. I have to say, one of the things I’ve come to […]

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History (2011) Bill Laws I like to read non-fiction books. First, I like learning stuff, and second, non-fiction is generally good to read before bed, since it tends to lack suspense and surprises. Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History cover a lot of plants, focusing on […]

Elizabeth Street: A Novel Based on True Events

Elizabeth Street: A Novel Based on True Events (2006/2010) Laurie Fabiano Laurie Fabiano’s grandmother and great-grandmother were amazing, remarkable women. This is a retelling of her great-grandmother Giovanna’s life, with pieces of the author’s interactions with her grandmother (Giovanna’s daughter) added in, and details, where they would have been unknown so many years later (such […]

The Fearless Mrs. Goodwin

The Fearless Mrs. Goodwin (2011) Elizabeth Mitchell This had the potential to be a fabulous story: Mrs Goodwin was the first woman to become an official New York City police detective. She worked undercover helping to take down not just fake spiritualists and others who preyed on women, but also dangerous criminals. Instead, the writing […]

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (2010) Sam Kean This was a fun book. Although I was initially a little unsure, once we got to the part where he explained the big bang and it completely made sense […]

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge (1972) David McCullough I picked up this book while perusing the “Buy 3 get a 4th Free” table at a book store, and it looked interesting, and I like to read about history, so I figured, why not? When the perfected East […]

Faro’s Daughter

Faro’s Daughter (1941) Georgette Heyer Max Ravenscar is one of the most wealthy men in London, but seems to care little for high society and fashion. Yet, as trustee of his nephew’s fortune, a call from his sister to keep Adrian from marrying the niece of a woman who runs–of all things!–a gaming house, send […]

The Anatomy of Deception

The Anatomy of Deception (2008) Lawrence Goldstone Ephraim Carroll is a young doctor studying under the great William Osler (a doctor who would go on to be one of the founding professors at Johns Hopkins). Osler is a somewhat controversial doctor, who embraces the newest medical techniques including sterile surgery, and autopsy as a method […]

The Grand Sophy

The Grand Sophy (1950) Georgette Heyer Horace Stanton-Lacy needs to get his daughter married. He also needs to go to South America on a diplomatic mission, thus he Sophy to stay with her aunt in London, where he hopes she can be introduced to society and find a good match. The Ombersley house, however, is […]

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (2003) Azar Nafisi Azar Nafisi lived and taught English literature in Tehran during the upheaval of the Islamic Revolution. Her memoir is not only of her memories of that time, but of how attitudes towards women changed, and how not just she–but also her students–used English literature […]

The Poisoner’s Handbook

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York (2010) Deborah Blum I think that anyone who enjoys mysteries has to be at least a little bit fascinated with poisonings and forensic medicine, and The Poisoner’s Handbook looks at the beginning of forensic medicine and the circumstances that allowed […]

A Beautiful Blue Death

A Beautiful Blue Death (2007) Charles Finch A Beautiful Blue Death has come up for awhile now as a recommended book for me, and there is good reason for that: I love historical mysteries. Charles Lenox is a gentleman who likes to dabble in the investigation of crimes. Being a gentleman, he has the time […]

To Kingdom Come

To Kingdom Come (2005) Will Thomas The sequel to Some Danger Involved find Barker and Llewelyn involved in a case involving the IRB. Fearing that Scotland Yard and the Home Office will be unable to solve the problem, Barker proposes that he and Llewelyn go undercover and attempt to help bring catch the criminals. The […]

Shinju

Shinju (1994) Laura Joh Rowland It’s 1698 and Sano Ichiro is a yoriki, or magistrate who is assigned the case of a shinju–or ritual suicide to two star-crossed lovers. Although he is pushed to close the case, something about the deaths bothers Sano, and he is determined to discover the truth of the deaths–no matter […]

Farthing

Farthing (2006) Jo Walton Wow. That was far more depressing than I expected. It’s 1949, and Great Britain remains independent after its “Peace with Honor” with Hitler. The war between Hitler and the Soviet Union continues on, but in Britain labor unions are starting to emerge to ask for better pay and working conditions. The […]

Spook

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005) Mary Roach As much as I enjoyed Stiff, I found Spook disappointing. As a scientific look at life after death, excluding the last couple chapters, it read more as a debunking than a presentation. Of course that’s partially because several chapters deal with things like ectoplasm exuding from mediums, […]

The Buried Pyramid

The Buried Pyramid (2004) Jane Lindskold I spent the first two thirds of this book mildly wondering why it was classified as a fantasy. Then the fantasy kicked in, but I’d given up caring whether it was fantasy or historical fiction long before. I just wanted to know what happened. Jenny Benet has been orphaned, […]

Labyrinth

Labyrinth (2005) Kate Mosse This book could be classified in any number of ways. There are elements of fantasy, mystery, suspense, romance, and history. As such, I thought it worked best as an historical novel, because this was the strongest part of the book. The story of Alais and Guilhem and Sajhe was the most […]

The Dante Club

The Dante Club (2003) Matthew Pearl Based on historical facts combined with a murder mystery, The Dante Club tells how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J. T. Fields worked to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy into English. Unfortunately, the administration at Harvard University–for which Holmes and Lowell both work–is opposed to […]

Elizabeth & Mary

Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens (2003) Jane Dunn I like to read books about history because my knowledge of history is–at best–poor, and I always like learning more. For instances, the sum total of my knowledge of the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots was that Mary thought the secret codes […]