Saturday, June 03, 2006

Summer Reading Ideas

Summer is upon us. For some of us this means weekends on the beach with book in hand.

A few months ago, I came across a list by Marvin Olasky of good history reads. He was recommending them for advanced high schoolers (since so few of them learn history in school), but none of them are kiddie books, so I thought my grown-up readers might be interested too. These are listed in (historical) chronological order:

David McCullough's 1776
Burke Davis's The Campaign That Won America
Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage
Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (portions)
Shelby Foote's three-volume The Civil War
Booker T. Washington's autobiography, Up from Slavery
Paul Johnson's Modern Times
J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism
first 85 pages of Whittaker Chambers's Witness (1952)
Peggy Noonan's When Character Was King
William F. Buckley's The Fall of the Berlin Wall
Noonan's A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag
Karl Zinsmeister Boots on the Ground
Karl Zinsmeister Dawn Over Baghdad
Robert Shogan's War Without End

If you check out the link, you'll see that he does speak briefly about each book.

My thoughts:
1776 is a fantastic book. It is completely factual, yet it reads like a novel. I bought it for my son and his two best friends for Christmas. (Yes, they like books; it wasn't a dorky gift.)

I read Witness last summer. It is very long, around 1000 pages of very small print. The first 85 pages were indeed meaningful. Then there was a long and somewhat dull section about his early life and experiences with the communist party. The last third or so was very worthwhile also. His conversion, his attempts to protect his family from reprisals after he defected from the communist party, his love of his farm, and his suffering as he testified against Alger Hiss were very special. Most shocking was the persecution aimed at Chambers for daring to tell the truth. So much of what Chambers said resonated with my soul. Even though his Quaker denomination differs from my experience, I felt I knew his heart. I also learned more about communist infiltration in the U.S, something downplayed by history texts.

Peggy Noonan is usually a safe bet.

For the rest, you'll have to visit Marvin Olasky's article for details. We have some of these on our shelves from Christmas, but I haven't gotten to them yet so I can't speak for them personally.


At 6/03/2006 8:26 AM, Blogger Paul Smith Jr. said...

1776 was an interesting read.

When Character Was King was the best biography of Reagan I've read and I've read a good number of them. It's really more of a character sketch, but very illuminating on what made Reagan tick.

A Heart, A Cross and a Flag I was a little disappointed in, but I thnk that's because I have such high expectations for Peggy and they weren't met.

Democracy in America and Witness are on my "need to read" shelf. I've always been impressed by Whitaker Chambers story. He abandoned Colummnism, even thogh he still believed that the Marxists were right about it being the way of the future. He went over to the side he thought would lose, because he knew Christianity to be the Truth. (And for the record, Chambers was right: Alger Hiss was guilty of being a Communist agent, despite the claims of liberals for the more than a hal century. Read about the Venona project which intercepted and translated Soviet communications.)

At 6/03/2006 4:32 PM, Blogger Mike said...

If you are into historical novels, I recommend the Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian.


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