All posts filed under: Recommended Readings

Books (along with a smattering of movies and plays) that I have found of interest and want to share

Towards A More Perfect Union

To a historian, the beginning of the Senate’s impeachment trial of Donald Trump seems to be an appropriate time to consider our nation’s history.. Trump has been impeached for his actions to involve a foreign country in undermining the 2020 election and—by extension—undercutting the right of U.S. citizens to choose their own leaders. We will certainly hear a great deal of fake history—both of the recent and founding fathers variety—this week. For the real deal, I turn instead to one of our country’s most prominent historians of the Civil War and Reconstruction era, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and scholar Eric Foner. The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution is Foner’s most recent book, bringing together a lifetime of scholarship around this most contentious era in our nation’s history. And in spite of its look at a period some 150 years in the past, this is work with great resonance for this day, this political climate, and the major questions of how we will advance as a nation. As Foner states in his preface, …

The Work Still Before Us

As we celebrate the life and work of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, we are reminded of how far we’ve come in terms of racial justice and equality in America. And—this year more than most—we are also reminded of how so very far we’ve yet to go. In honor of the work of Dr. King, I quoted author Michael Eric Dyson in 2019 from his book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, where Dyson argues of Martin Luther King, Jr. that America has “washed the grit from his rhetoric” in order to get to a place where he can be seen and admired by the country at large. Yet it was King who said that the country’s race problem “grows out of the…need that some people have to feel superior. A need that some people have to feel…that their white skin ordained them to be first.” Difficult words for many to hear, yet, “This is why King is so important to this generation, to this time, to this …

W.A.I.T.

On New Year’s Day, I finally saw the delightful movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as the beloved children’s television star Fred Rogers. I waited until the last day this critically acclaimed film was showing at our local theatre because we wanted to go as an entire family and needed to align multiple schedules in our short window of opportunity over the holidays. Like millions of Americans, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a part of our children’s childhood, and it just seemed right to sit down together to take it in as if watching around the television set. There is much to like about this film, from the cast to the skillful direction of Marielle Heller, from the smart screenplay to the transitional shifts taking place between the toy set and the real life scenes of Rogers and journalist Lloyd Vogel (played expertly by Matthew Rhys). Vogel is, as one reviewer notes, “a magazine writer who actually may be the one person on the planet who doesn’t love Mr. Rogers.” Rhys’ character is based …

Top Ten Posts of 2019

December is the month of the “Best of…” lists. I’ve already seen the year’s best editorial cartoons; the year’s best rappers (yes, that exists); and the ten best new restaurants in DC in 2019; along with a dozen reasons why the Republicans’ impeachment defense makes no sense. (That last one really isn’t a “Best of 2019” story, but I just wanted to include it.) As I noted the other day, there is already a “Best Books of the 21st Century” list. One slightly longer list I strongly recommend is Lit Hub’s “20 Best Works of Nonfiction of the Decade.” I’ll jump on this bandwagon by highlighting the Top Ten Posts on More to Come as selected by you—the readers—in 2019.  Here they are, in chronological order: My 2018 Year-End Reading List actually dates from December 29th of 2018, but the majority of the views came in this year. I have provided a short synopsis, with links to the longer posts, from the 21 books I read last year. Given that this one topped my list of views …

My 2019 Year-End Reading List

As 2019 draws to a close, I’m sharing my annual list of the books I’ve read over the past twelve months. As regular readers of More to Come know, since returning from sabbatical early in 2016 I’ve committed to reading more, and to seeking out a wider range of works beyond my favored histories and biographies. With that in mind, here—in the order I read them—are the treasures I found on my reading shelf this past year. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations (2006)—Craig Nelson’s excellent biography of Paine captures the relevance today of the man who wrote three of the bestsellers of the eighteenth century, topped only by the Bible. Paine’s famous opening to The American Crisis—“These are the times that try men’s souls”—was written in the winter of 1776, yet it resonates today as much as it did when Washington’s small army was fighting for its life at Trenton and Princeton. The coalition that controls America today repudiates much of Paine in following the John Adams/Alexander Hamilton approach of …

Why Sentences?

I knew I was going to enjoy Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence when the first chapter included this little gem from John Updike: “It was in the books while it was still in the sky.” The sentence comes from Updike’s famous account of what it was like to see Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox hit a home run in his last at bat in Fenway Park on September 28, 1960. To refresh my memory, I just went back and re-read Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu in The New Yorker, and was reminded once again of how it has stood the test of time as an incredible piece of writing. Fish is right to call out this marvelous 12-word description of The Kid’s final home run as something special within the overall masterpiece. His breakdown of what makes it such a powerful piece of writing begins as he notes that the “fulcrum” of Updike’s description is the word “while.” “(O)n either side of it are two apparently very different kinds of observations. ‘It was in the …

The Importance of Being Interesting

Writer, editor, writing coach, France aficionado, and family friend Janet Hulstrand produced a delightful little book earlier this year entitled Demystifying the French: How to Love Them and Make Them Love You. Having just finished this advice manual for travelers and others interested in living more successfully with the French, I found Janet’s take on how to understand these sometimes curious, somewhat frustrating, occasionally mystifying, but always interesting people to be delightful, informative, and useful all at once. I also found that Janet had—either on purpose or unwittingly, I’m not sure which—captured some wonderful life lessons from her observations about the country she’s now observed and come to love as a visitor and resident for some 40 years. The book is written as if you are sitting by the fireplace with a wonderful French wine and a good friend who is giving you a crash course before you venture out on your first trip to France. Janet’s writing is clear and, as one reviewer put it, “breezy and digestible.” She begins with five essential tips for “even …