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Old 12-01-2012, 03:36 PM   #1
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Currently Reading: The Historical Non-Fiction Edition

I bet most of us read a lot of historical non-fiction and like to discuss it, so let's share what we're currently reading and what we think/thought of it (hope there's no such thread already but I can't remember seeing it while I've been here).

Me, I'm currently reading The Last Mughal: The Fall of Delhi, 1857 by William Dalrymple. So far it's providing an extremely vivid image of colonial India and is a real joy to read. Let's see if it manages to live up to what it's promising.

And you?
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:07 PM   #2
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I just finished War to the Knife: Bleeding Kansas 1854-1861. It was an interesting book mostly because of the vivid first-hand accounts that were included. The writing in between, unfortunately, wasn't much to write home about (so many said-isms!).

I read it because one of my characters goes there during Bleeding Kansas, and also because I have relatives who were there at the time (in Lawrence, on the free-soil side).
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Old 12-03-2012, 09:12 PM   #3
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Recently finished book on James A Garfield...

Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield and I am currently reading Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man

The former was a bit "lighter" in content than the latter, which reminds me of Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." But I did enjoy learning more about how Garfield became the "dark horse" candidate for the Republican Party and about the political processes of that time. The Seward book is a terrific journey through the pre-Civil War political scene in America.
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Old 12-03-2012, 09:46 PM   #4
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Just completed Janet Lee's War Angels, and in the middle of Dorothie Feilding's letters and Mairi and Elsie Go to War. Got Jonathan Walker's The Blue Beast in the mail, which is about generals and leaders and their secret mistresses during WWI.
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:15 PM   #5
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Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield and I am currently reading Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man

The former was a bit "lighter" in content than the latter, which reminds me of Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." But I did enjoy learning more about how Garfield became the "dark horse" candidate for the Republican Party and about the political processes of that time. The Seward book is a terrific journey through the pre-Civil War political scene in America.
I saw Seward in the bookstore and really wanted to read it, but have a few other books above it on the to-be-read list.
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:18 PM   #6
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Got Jonathan Walker's The Blue Beast in the mail, which is about generals and leaders and their secret mistresses during WWI.
Sounds good! *makes note*
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:00 AM   #7
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Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City by Gwendolyn Leick
Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Jean Bottero
Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria by Georges Contenau
The Babylonians: An Introduction by Gwendolyn Leick
Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat
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Old 12-04-2012, 09:34 PM   #8
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I saw Seward in the bookstore and really wanted to read it, but have a few other books above it on the to-be-read list.
It is unlike "Team of Rivals" in that it does not offer biographic sketches of the many historical characters around Seward (such as Thurlow Weed, Horace Greeley, et al.), but I am learning a great deal about the antebellum USA.
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Old 12-04-2012, 09:39 PM   #9
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I'm re-reading The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk for researching my next m/m historical novel.
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Old 12-04-2012, 09:47 PM   #10
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Like ish'tar's, I have alot: here we go:

Gateway to a vast world
by Deng, Ming-Dao.

Jesus wars : how four patriarchs, three queens, and two emperors decided what Christians would believe for the next 1,500 years
by Jenkins, Philip, 1952-


The lost history of Christianity : the thousand-year golden age of the church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and how it died
by Jenkins, Philip, 1952-

Occult Japan : Shinto, shamanism, and the Way of the Gods
by Lowell, Percival, 1855-1916.

Seven bamboo tablets of the cloudy satchel
by Deng, Ming-Dao.

Tao te ching : a new translation
by Laozi.

Truman and the Hiroshima cult
by Newman, Robert P.

The last samurai : the life and battles of Saigo Takamori
by Ravina, Mark, 1961-


The burning mountain : a novel of the invasion of Japan
by Coppel, Alfred.


Constantine : Roman emperor, Christian victor
by Stephenson, Paul.

Terry Jones' barbarians
by Jones, Terry, 1942-

The fugu plan : the untold story of the Japanese and the Jews in World War II
by Tokayer, Marvin, 1936-

A plague upon humanity : the secret genocide of Axis Japan's germ warfare operation
by Barenblatt, Daniel.

Rubicon : the last years of the Roman Republic
by Holland, Tom.

Samurai : the story of Japan's great warriors
by Turnbull, Stephen R.



The samurai sword : a handbook
by Yumoto, John M.

The Samurai swordsman : master of war
by Turnbull, Stephen R.
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:37 AM   #11
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I'm re-reading The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk for researching my next m/m historical novel.
Peter Hopkirk's books are extremely readable, but my fave is the one about spies during WWI - I can't remember the title (and I'm too lazy to go dig it out )
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:41 AM   #12
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Peter Hopkirk's books are extremely readable, but my fave is the one about spies during WWI - I can't remember the title (and I'm too lazy to go dig it out )
Yes they are, my copy of 'The Great Game' is dog-eared and much loved.
I haven't see that one. I have all his 'Asian' ones. I only bought 'The Great Game' because I'd been on a guided Silk Road tour. When we were in Bokhara, we went to see The Ark and the place where Connolly and Stoddart were executed. While we were there, our tour guide, read an appropriate extract from the book and I was hooked.

I've been wanting to write a 'Great Game' novel for ages and I came up with a corker of an idea yesterday, and started the research. I can't wait to get stuck in.
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Old 12-05-2012, 01:52 AM   #13
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Yes they are, my copy of 'The Great Game' is dog-eared and much loved.
I haven't see that one. I have all his 'Asian' ones. I only bought 'The Great Game' because I'd been on a guided Silk Road tour. When we were in Bokhara, we went to see The Ark and the place where Connolly and Stoddart were executed. While we were there, our tour guide, read an appropriate extract from the book and I was hooked.

I've been wanting to write a 'Great Game' novel for ages and I came up with a corker of an idea yesterday, and started the research. I can't wait to get stuck in.
I've read a bunch of Hopkirk's books. The Great Game was helpful when I was writing about REH's El Borak pulp-adventure stories.

Right now I'm reading lots of Texana. I just finished Robert Utley's Lone Star Justice about the Texas Rangers in the 19th century. Currently I'm reading Donelly Brice & Barry Crouch's book on the Texas State Police, The Governor's Hounds.

Don't confuse the Rangers with the State Police, btw. The Rangers were a paramilitary organization with a rather informal structure in the days of the Republic & pre-Civil War statehood. Their main job was fighting Indians and the occasional border uprising.

The Texas State Police were created in Reconstruction to tackle the spiraling violent crime of the era (1870-73). As Federal troops were pulled away to deal with military issues (as opposed to KKK terrorism) the State Police stepped into the gap. The force was inter-racial and a number of black men served on the force. When the Republicans lost power they were abolished by the "Redeemers" (the un-Reconstructed Dems).

The Rangers were re-established in 1874 and took up Indian-fighting and battling bandidos from Mexico. But they also moved into more conventional law enforcement, chasing train robbers (Sam Bass), outlaws & rustlers (eg John Wesley Hardin), and putting down feuds and vigilante mobs. They're still around, but are more of an investigative force. They come under the Department of Public Safety, which also covers the State Troopers who patrol the highways (but are not really called the State Police).
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Old 12-12-2012, 02:42 PM   #14
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I'm stuck in India - currently reading The Fishing Fleet: Husband-hunting In The Raj by Anne de Courcy and Robert Warburton's memoirs Eighteen Years in the Khyber.
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Old 12-12-2012, 02:45 PM   #15
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Yes they are, my copy of 'The Great Game' is dog-eared and much loved.
I haven't see that one. I have all his 'Asian' ones.
I meant On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire

And I loved The Last Mughal. If anyone is interested I wrote a review of it on my blog.
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Old 12-12-2012, 02:47 PM   #16
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Yep, have that one and 'The Last Mughal'. Darymple is a brilliant writer. 'From the Holy Mountain' is another good one, although it's more of a travel book, with some history thrown in for good measure. Some rather disturbing history.
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Old 12-12-2012, 09:44 PM   #17
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John Keay's When Men & Mountains Meet and The Gilgit Game are both very good works looking at the Great Game in the Pamirs in regards to exploration & secret service activities.

Right now I'm reading The Journey Through Wales and Description of Wales by Gerald of Wales (an appropriate name). Interesting travelogue about Medieval Wales.
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Old 12-14-2012, 11:04 AM   #18
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Currently reading up on as many accounts and biographies regarding the RMS Titanic as I can find. That should explain the WIP's name from my counter.
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Old 12-16-2012, 08:37 AM   #19
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I'm currently reading Staying Power: the history of black people in Britain by Peter Fryer, for research for my book. Chock full of information.
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:39 PM   #20
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I'm reading Robert Warburton's memoirs "Eighteen Years in the Khyber", written in 1899, about his time as a political officer stationed at the Khyber pass on the border between present day Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:46 PM   #21
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I'm currently reading The Brownsville Raid by John D. Weaver. It's about an incident in 1906 when someone shot up the town of Brownsville, Texas. The locals blamed troops of the 25th Infantry, a black unit. The troops denied any involvement or knowledge. Pres. Roosevelt decided that the troops were covering for the guilty parties and disbanded the unit.

It was a highly controversial event, to say the least.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:36 PM   #22
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These all sounds so gooooooooooood!! I love good historical non-fiction. I haven't had the chance to read anything non-related to photography over the term but I'm going to try and make up for it. I just started a book called The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum... it has a tendency to jump around and get sidetracked but it's interesting.

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Right now I'm reading The Journey Through Wales and Description of Wales by Gerald of Wales (an appropriate name). Interesting travelogue about Medieval Wales.
Ah, good old Gerald of Wales! My undergrad thesis was mostly on medieval Wales so I know that book pretty well.
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Old 12-23-2012, 06:43 AM   #23
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I'm halfway though The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 by Bernard Bailyn.

Unfortunately the book is due at the library in a few days and I'm bogging down in his very detailed accounts of the complex problems encountered by early British and Dutch colonists. The research is prodigious but I'm afraid the casual reader will become overloaded. This is too bad as Bailyn reveals a harsh reality that is quite a contrast to the version I was fed in school.
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Old 12-23-2012, 07:29 AM   #24
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I'm reading Mountains of the Pharaohs: The Untold Story of the Pyramid Builders by Zahi Hawass. I'm finding it utterly fascinating. I've had to study general Old Kingdom Egyptian history for my degrees, but I'm a New Kingdom gal, so that's where my focus has been. It's really interesting to get some more in-depth information from an excavator there. And Dr. Hawass is a very interesting writer! Plenty of technical stuff of course, but the beginning of each chapter he also has these little flights of informed historical fiction where he posits a possible scenario relating to the chapter's topic. It's a very interesting academic style, for sure!

I'm finding it difficult to read non-fiction with the little-one under foot, so I've got slow-going, but I'm determined not to return it to the library until I finish it! Luckily, Egyptology isn't exactly a field in much demand so no one has requested it or anything and I can just keep renewing it.
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Old 12-23-2012, 08:47 AM   #25
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I'm also reading Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild,about the British abolitionist movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It's so readable. It's not dry at all. I'd say that the writing style is almost novel-like in places.
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