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What is your favorite period in history, and your current favorite book in it?

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Showing 1-25 of 38 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 3, 2013 6:12:53 PM PST
IGS says:
What is your favorite period of study and your favorite recent book on the subject?
Lets do it this way, pick a century of say 100 year period and a book that you really enjoy about the period. (Fiction/non-fiction okay)
I will admit to having a passion for the French Revolution and t6he Napoleonic period. It was the WWII of its era. The characters are those of legend, only they are really. It was the last period where top commanders needed massive physical bravery to do their job.

A recent favorite ... surprisingly, a work of fiction (which I normally despise, DESPISE). "The Battle" by Rambaud. It covers two days, May 21 & 22 of 1809 in a bend of the Danube. The setting, the Battle of Aspern-Essling, a minor battle, but it was Napoleon's first repulse in 10 years. I had read Surgeon Larrey's memoirs so I understood what these battles were like. But this book, originally started by Balzac, is even more visceral. This book gives a very deep understanding of how it was. The vignette where Napoleon's, perhaps best friend, Marshal Jean Lannes is killed is quite well written. It has stuck with me a long time. Rather like the last line in Solzhenizen's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denitzovich" or the scene at the gate with Hector and Astyanax in the "Iliad". It's a really good book. It deserves all the awards it won.

What is your favorite?

Again, this is a bit of an attempt to clean up the garbage that has polluted this board of late by a number or posters, or more likely a few, posing as many. I even suspect some are paid to involve themselves in "pi$$ fights" .
And "pi$$ fight" shall be defined as any Neo-Nazi, pro-Israel, Anti-Israel, Neo-Nazi,Islamo- ... pro-Zionist, Anti-Zionist discussion involving Al, cattle prod, puppy, LAD, Ostrova, Kessler, Schwartz, and regrettably Rachel in right wing mode. There are others but can we PLEASE give it a rest? WE don't need 10 threads so Neo-Nazi truther's can go at it with pro-Zionist Nazi fanatics. I don't care, never did. Quit pi$$ing on everyone else's threads. I am going to add a bunch of these threads in the hopes a more interesting sort will, arrive!

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 7:59:15 AM PST
IGS says:
Bump, Holocaust, don't care, Nazism, don't care, ... hate speech and politics elsewhere please

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 8:42:42 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 9:10:17 AM PST
Lientje says:
I'm reading a book right now (about half way through) which I find fascinating. It is called The bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric, who later won a
Nobel Prize for Literature. The river Drina is in the Balkan area of the world, an area which has more or less been in constant turmoil. and the story revolves around the lives of the people who live near the river, starting with the reason why the bridge was built and going forward through to the then near present. It was written in the mid 1940's. The time frame is several hundred years. In the larger picture it is a history of the wars between the Turks and the Slavs, but in the village itself the Various groups of people which also includes Christians and Jews live side by side struggling and attempting to live together.

I have spent vacation time in that area, but outside of reading many guide books , I have read only one other book covering this piece of
land. That was Rebecca West's massive book Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Penguin Classics) which was also much more judgmental than this one is. I hope to follow through with more after I finish this book.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:12:44 AM PST
JR Fleming says:
Thanks for the topic.....

I've always been fascinated by the period from about 1700 to 1765 in Colonial history. You've got the maturing of the English colonies, The French and Indian War (Seven Years War), the growing conflict between Enlightenment (Age of Reason) and the First Great Awakening and a young George Washington.

Recently finsished "The French and Indian War" by Borneman which is a good overview.

The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America (P.S.)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:19:36 AM PST
Lientje says:
JR Fleming: Have you read The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery
I just finished it. It gives a whole other side to this man, one I had never heard of before.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:23:15 AM PST
Debunker says:
Just started "Braddock's March; How the Man Sent to Seize a Continent Changed American History" by Thomas Crocker.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:29:29 AM PST
JR Fleming says:
No, I haven't and will check it out. Thanks for the rec. I have always thought that most histories of the Revolution do not give a full picture of Arnold.
As a teenager I read Kenneth Roberts book (fiction, but well researched) "Rabble in Arms" which portrays Arnold before the treason, when he was one of our best generals.
Also recommended is "Northwest Passage", also by Roberts and is about Major Robert Rogers of Rogers Rangers fame.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:30:09 AM PST
JR Fleming says:
Yeah, that is in my list of books to read.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:40:26 AM PST
JR Fleming says:
Forgot to mention....
One of the best books on the F & I War is by Fred Anderson...

Crucible of War

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 10:01:20 AM PST
Debunker says:
That's quite good. Parkman's "Montcalm and Wolfe" is on my shelf but I've not yet read it.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 11:25:34 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 11:26:16 AM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
I'm interested in the Nazis with all of the strange characters, their beliefs in things like mythology and the occult, and the death camps. I've read these two books:

Mein Kampf

The Mind of Adolf Hitler

I have Hitler's Second Book here and a few others about Adolf but haven't read them. I may never read them since I don't read many books about contemporary history.

You mentioned the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn will be remembered by many as the greatest writer of the 20th century. Way back when I was in college I felt an attraction to Solzhenitsyn's books and I read many of them twice. I felt a strange and intimate bond with Solzhenitsyn when I read his books and I don't think I've ever felt that type of bond with another author since then. Whether I would feel the same way today if I read his books again I don't know.

The First Circle


Cancer Ward

By far the historical time period I'm most interested in is the very ancient past including even the realm of mythology. Here's Edgar Cayce's take on the Trojan War:

Mythic Troy: The Complete Story Legend Archeology and Intuition

Cayce claimed that in a past life he had been an eye witness when Achilles tied Hector to his chariot and dragged him around. Hector was still alive at first but then his head smashed against a stone pillar and his brains got bashed out. Carrion birds swooped down and ate the brains.

Cayce said Hector was not the universally popular and beloved prince of Troy that some people think Homer implied. Rather Hector was despised by many people as being a tyrant and some of the people within Troy conspired with their hero Achilles.

Edgar Cayce's Atlantis

The Giza Power Plant : Technologies of Ancient Egypt

Initiation in the Great Pyramid (Astara's library of mystical classics)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 11:46:07 AM PST
R. Largess says:
OK - My all time favorite book is Michael Grant's "The Climax of Rome". Rather misleadingly titled it's about Rome's near-collapse in the third century, due to a range of problems including major new military threats requiring vast spending, ruinous inflation to the point of the collapse of the currency, and a flawed system of imperial succession that led to decades of emperors-by-assassination. I am fascinated with how societies work, and how they solve (if they do) their problems - not just abstractions, but what really happened. Why didn't the Roman Empire show the resilience of the contemporary Chinese Empire? But Grant's book is filled with more things - a brief survey of the codification of Roman Law, of the kaleidoscope of Roman religions, of the use of the Emperor's image on the coinage as a tool for communicating his agenda, and much more. After 20 readings, I could pick it up and read it now with as much enjoyment as ever.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 11:54:45 AM PST
Susanna says:
IGS, I recently got a surprising insight to the French Revolution through a Gothic novel. Hey, whatever works! Classic formula: young destitute woman becomes governess at haunted French castle with handsome yet brooding lord...anyway, what surprised me was how many landowners were beheaded simply for falling into the landed class. I was unaware that people were murdered not for some offense they had done, or for mistreating the workers for example, but simply for being rich. That would be akin to me going to the wealthy side of town and shooting someone because they have more money than I do. I realize it was on a national scale, but...hey...wait a all sounds a bit modern, that one wealthy percent feeding off the labor of the wage slaves..., doesn't it?

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 12:12:05 PM PST
IGS says:

There is a book out there called "The Terror", it is not for the faint of heart, but ... as an explicit reminder that revolutions get out of hand, it does the trick. The book has pluses and minuses, but the nature of the executions is quite well described. It is had to get your head around 40,000 executions in the space of a year, most generally in and around Paris. It was not confined to the rich ... anyone ... could be next. It was a year or pointless savage collective insanity. I still don't really understand it. The Terror is an apt name.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 12:31:04 PM PST
Susanna says:
40,000! I had no idea! Yet it is held as the great event which ushered democracy into western Europe, and the US!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 1:42:16 PM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
R. Largess says:

[After 20 readings, I could pick it up and read it now with as much enjoyment as ever.]

You're read the same book 20 times ?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 3:28:57 PM PST
R. Largess says:
Yes, I've read most books I really like repeatedly. What's the old saying "The best time to read a book is right after you finished it", i.e., when the questions it raised, and the questions you have about it, are still fresh in your mind. And I'd add to that, that you can't really understand a book until you've taught it - it's the only way to read it enough times to really know it.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 3:51:10 PM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
R. Largess says:

[Yes, I've read most books I really like repeatedly.]

Well you have a point. I can think of a handful of books that I found most interesting. I have in fact read some of them twice and I may read some others again. I have changed during those intervening years also.

For every good book there are thousands of crappy ones and I've read my share. Not that reading books I don't agree with is always a total loss. If nothing else it helps me understand what I don't agree with.

But 20 times. If I could find a book I like that much this would be a true treasure.

Are you an English or literature teacher ?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 5:13:09 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 5:24:03 PM PST
R. Largess says:
JM - Actually, yes, in high school. For years and years I taught some things like Macbeth, the Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn, Wuthering Heights, and understood them better every year. It was great knowing them by heart! But an important part of it was sharing them with others. But there's plenty of scholarly books that I dip back into constantly because I'm fascinated with the subject. And some things are hard, and need a lot of slow work to understand. At Boston College the Italian Dept. has a program where they invite a different Italian scholar every month to read a canto of the Divine Comedy in Italian then give a talk on it and a discussion. Since there are 100 cantos and they do about 8 a year, they've been doing it for about 12 years, and they're on Canto 31 of the Paradiso now so they're almost finished. I feel like I'm only beginning to understand it and I'm regretting missing two thirds of it, as well as the fact it's ending. I'm only now appreciating how much help I need in understanding a lot of things - where I've only scratched the surface of the rewards they offer.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 5:37:18 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 5:39:04 PM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
R. Largess says:

[JM - Actually, yes, in high school.]

I've never taken the time to read much of what I guess is called literature. Most of the books I read are designed to just convey information.

I have read Homer's Iliad bloodbath story. Homer is the only author I have ever read that can describe someone getting their liver sliced in half in a poetic way.

I have a copy of Dante's Inferno here and The Odyssey which I think is part 2 of Homer's story.

Having a background like yours would be very helpful if you are a writer yourself. The great Stan Lee who created Spiderman and the other Marvel heroes has a background in literature, history, and mythology and he wove themes from all of those areas into his stories. The Incredible Hulk is a combination of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a lot of psychology built in.

DC comics also gets a lot of their ideas from mythology.

The writers who created Bugs Bunny and his pals also pulled in a lot of those same themes.

I can imagine that when you try to teach something the kids will come up with questions that you never thought of. That's probably true for most any subject. I have heard other people say that also who then wrote their own books about subjects like computer programmer or UNIX. It was only after they taught the subject that they truly understood it.

Then there's always that one pain in the ass student who knows more than you I guess.

As I said if you have found a book that you enjoyed reading 20 times this is truly a valuable treasure. As long as we can find things we enjoy doing I'm not sure it matters if anyone else doesn't feel the same way.

Posted on Mar 5, 2013 8:30:49 AM PST
R. Largess says:
Well, first let me say that "The Climax of Rome" is a unique book. I love Michael Grant and have read many of his books, but here he surpasses himself. But if you're interested in trying him, and you're not already up on everything Roman, the place to start might be his first book "Gladiators". It's out of print, but amazon has some copies for 2 or 3 bucks. I find it interesting that our contemporary America has the same sadistic taste in entertainment as the Romans - what's a movie without killing? - but we congratulate ourselves that it's just faked, they had to have the real thing. And the problem with literature is it's no good if it's too hard and bores you. Spidey and Bugs are better than the Aeneid if you love them and don't love it. The place to start with literature (for American males) is "Tom Sawyer" and the place to start with great literature is "Huckleberry Finn"

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 8:36:28 AM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
R. Largess says:

[The place to start with literature (for American males) is "Tom Sawyer" and the place to start with great literature is "Huckleberry Finn".]

Didn't the author of one of those books have a mean streak where he wanted to put someone's *&^%$#@^ in a vice ?

Which one didn't want anyone to publish his books for at least 100 years ?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 8:49:04 AM PST
R. Largess says:
I agree, "The Bridge on the Drina" is great. A couple of other writers who deal with the phenomenon of the centuries of Turkish rule over the Balkans are Ismail Kadare (Albanian) and Anton Donchev (Bulgarian). The latter is the story of two brothers - one of whom is given up by his father to the Turks for the devshirme - the "child tribute" to become slaves or Janizzaries in the 1600's. He returns as a Janizzary commander to Islamize his native village, and gain revenge on his father, brother, and old friends. Powerful book! But out of print, and the cheapest used copy amazon offers is $45. Yow! Maybe the library could get it for you?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 8:52:51 AM PST
R. Largess says:
If you like Bugs and Spidey you'll like Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer!

Posted on Mar 5, 2013 3:48:54 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 5, 2013 3:51:51 PM PST
1874Sharps says:
Hey, IGS,
Thought I'd check in and see what you are up to. Great post!

One of my areas of interest is the 13th century and esp. the Mongols. A modern army set down in the Dark Ages. The best book I've found is a fiction called "Till The Sky Falls." by Cecelia Holland. It follows the Mongol invasion of Europe (one of the greatest feats of arms in military history) from the point of view of a general in the Mongol army who is a Merkit, but from his incredible abilities as a soldier has reached a place of leadership in the Mongol army, working as Subutai's master of reconnaissance. (In the wonderful book "What If?" MS Holland has a chapter about one of the greatest what if's? in history: what if the Great Khan hadn't died and the Mongol army, at the gates of Vienna, wouldn't have had to return to Mongolia to elect the next Khan. There was almost nothing to stop the mongols and I believe that they could have captured all of Europe and what was left of the middle east and Africa.)

I'll pick up "The Battle" as you've got me born again on Bonaparte!
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Discussion in:  History forum
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Initial post:  Mar 3, 2013
Latest post:  Sep 1, 2014

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