Wednesday, December 29, 2010

#bookaday -- Mary Lee's Pile #5, #6

The War To End All Wars
by Russell Freedman
Clarion Books, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

by Laurie Halse Anderson
Atheneum, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

#bookaday #3 (Sugar Changed the World), #5 and #6 have me thinking hard about myself as a nonfiction reader. I loved Sugar Changed the World, and hungrily read every word of the book. Okay, maybe "hungrily" is an adverb better used to describe how I ate the cinnamon rolls in the picture, and not so much how I read the book, but my point here is that I didn't read The War To End All Wars with that kind of eagerness. Truth be told, I mostly skimmed it. But why? Lack of background knowledge? I had about the same amount for Sugar. The chronological format? Maybe. The Red Flags of Textbook Reading may have been raised in my brain by the chronological telling in the first part of the book and I was not able to recover control when Freedman switched to topical chapters. However, I think what made the difference for Sugar Changed the World was that Aronson and Budhos worked so hard to link their information to the stories of real people -- first to their own family stories, but then to the stories of real people. Yes, yes, The War TEAW is filled with Real People, filled to the bursting with every important name of every important player in the whole shebang. And that's the difference. Names vs. Stories. And that seems to be the difference for me as a reader. I happily dug into Revolutionary War history with Laurie Halse Anderson's FORGE: Story.

On a separate note, as I look for big themes that connect my #bookaday reading, I notice that I have read two books that describe total train wrecks: Keeper and The WTEAW. I yelled (inside my head) at Kathi Appelt all the way through Keeper as disaster led to disaster, but I couldn't put the book down knowing that resolution of some kind would come by the end of the novel. Reading about how assassinations and misunderstandings and messages delivered too late resulted in the development and use of weapons of mass slaughter and the paving of the way towards the jittery ("Current Terror Level: Yellow/Orange") way we live now, was hard. Really hard. So maybe that's why we need Freedman's book now more than ever -- there's not just one author who can turn around this story of our country's/world's destiny. We all need to study what did and didn't work in the past and find a better path toward the future.

I was going to take a day off the heavy stuff today and read something a little bit lighter, but after writing the words in that last paragraph, I'm thinking I'll go ahead with my plan.  Next up for #bookaday #7 -- THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK.

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