#10- So with a lot of travel this summer-HHS67 50th Reunion, Slovak cousins in visiting, the ECLIPSE from Douglas WYO, trip to Missoula MT, grand-parenting, getting ready for Brad and Annie's wedding- it has been busy times. But a person must read as well as other more personal activities, so what have I been reading that might be worth your time and effort? Some economic history, Islamic studies,mysteries and James Sallis.
Unlike the empires of Rome, China, and Islam that expanded by force of arms, the United States expanded within its geographical boundaries and then looked and moved outwards via trade, invention and honoring the rights of law-sometimes. John Steele Gordon, a historian and editor at the "American Heritage" journal, presents this big story in "An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power". Beginning with the purely financial settling of Jamestown and business colonies along the Atlantic coast, through the Revolution and establishment of the national bank and various failures, this book is a reader-friendly overview of the people and personalities who established the US business empire up to the birth of the personal computer and 9/11/2001.
Robert J. Gordon continues this exploration into American economic history in his magisterial, meaning huge, "The Rise and Fall of American Growth: the US Standard of Living Since the Civil War" that focuses by comparison, copious statistical coverage, anecdote and contemporary press coverage to illustrate why Living Standards rose monumentally after the Civil War through the turn of the Century and again, around and after World War ll. It is not hard to argue for the benefits of civic plumbing, fresh water inside the house, central heating, the local train, bus, automobile and airplane travel compared to the benefits of Facebook and Twitter. Gordon makes the case that the economic growth period from 1970 going forward will be hampered by inequality, public and private debt, demographics and international development and competition. This read, while consuming a lot of time, is worth it for the edifice Gordon builds about the compounding benefits of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Another author I have been reading for the past two years is Bernard Lewis, emeritus professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Princeton U, who at 101 years of age is still writing and building on his 70+ years of research and scholarship and 100+ publications. His book "What Went Wrong?", published about the time of 9/11/2001 but not written as an explanation or investigation, is probably his best-known book. Lewis uses original essays, criticisms, history from many languages and cultures to illustrate the decline of Islamic culture in the 15th century from its eminence in the preceding 700 years in science, arts, and warfare. The book reviews the rise of western civilization in warfare, invention, seamanship and the withdrawal of Islamic civilization leading to isolation, in-fighting and blaming. Lewis reviews the differences in Society and Culture, Secularism and Justice, Equality and Modernism to explain how we have gotten to 9/11 and where we must go.
A couple of mysteries well-worth your reading effort are Tom Bouman's debut, and EDGAR award winner, "Dry Bones in the Valley" and William Shaw's latest, "The Birdwatcher." Bouman introduces Henry Farrell, a constable at the very lowest level of policing in his rural,northeast corner of Pennsylvania that is being heavily impacted by fracking and natural gas drilling. A reclusive,old man discovers a body minus an arm and eye hidden in the forest of his property. When Farrell's deputy is found murdered in his squad car, the forces of the county sheriff and state patrol intercede, driving Farrell to exhaustion and collapse as he investigates past entanglements, romances, meth cooking as neighbors no longer trust each other or the law.
William Shaw, creator of the Breen-Tozer novels set in the London of the Beatles, offers a stand-alone, "The Birdwatcher"that introduces William South, a policeman on the Kent coast whose real love is observing and noting bird behavior. This skill places him on a case as a neighbor and fellow birdwatcher is brutally murdered in a neighboring house. South is assigned to assist a new Detective Supervisor who has transferred from London and brings her teenage daughter with her. Both mother and daughter have issues that involve South who has his own history involving murder and his abusive father.
Any year that offers a new book by Phoenix author James Sallis is a good year and 2016 has "Willnot". this book is not a mystery though it starts off with a bang-- body parts are discovered in a shallow grave in an un-named rural, small town and local doctor Lamar Hale is called by the sheriff to assist in the investigation. The story then evolves into Hale's first person account of being a hospital doctor and surgeon in a very eccentric small town with many interesting medical patients, FBI investigators, possibly AWOL military snipers searching for each other and Hale's gay partner who is taken from the classroom and forced to become a principal. The language is beautiful and the characters are as well-drawn as any in literature. This book is to be enjoyed.