Yesterday, I read an article about Bill Clinton in which he said he owned about 5,000 books. I was immediately wracked with envy. In my continuing quest to find more books that I have to read, what are you reading, and would you recommend it?
I’m currently reading At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch. I just started it, so I don’t have much to say yet. It’s a history of nighttime in pre-industrial Western societies. Lots of quotations and footnotes, but not too dry and scholarly. I’m looking forward to spending more time with it. Since I just started my current book, I’ll mention the last couple that I read too.
Robert K. Massie’s Dreadnought, is an absolutely fascinating account of the naval arms race between England and Germany that culminates with the start of WWI. I didn’t know much about this period, or about WWI, so this book was both immensely interesting and educational. Massie’s book covers a staggering amount of material (it starts with Trafalger), but is consistently engaging. It’s filled with mini biographies of everyone from Queen Victoria to Admiral von Tirpitz to Jacky Fischer, who came out of retirement to lead the British Navy in WWI. This book is a rather daunting undertaking, but very rewarding. I purchased, but haven’t started, the follow-up, Castles of Steel. I’m looking forward to it.
I also enjoyed Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect That Shaped the American Frontier by Jeffrey A. Lockwood. Lockwood explores a very intriguing mystery: what happened to the Rocky Mountain Locust? If you’ve ever read On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you’ve read a first-hand account of a locust plague, an account that Lockwood references. After years of swarming across much of the West, the locust disappeared mysteriously disappeared. Lockwood discovers what happened, and the book is informative without being overly scientific.
I’ve found that I don’t much enjoy fiction these days. I started Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men in the fall, but haven’t finished it yet. I have a whole pile of fiction, new and old, to read, but … I guess the times seem a little too serious for it. Has this happened to anyone else?