|Sent on:||Monday, November 14, 2011 1:30 PM|
January is nonfiction month. The poll to vote for January's selection is up until next Monday morning (11/21). Descriptions below. Vote here.
1. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell, 272 pages
Starred Review. Essayist and public radio regular Vowell (Assassination Vacation) revisits America's Puritan roots in this witty exploration of the ways in which our country's present predicaments are inextricably tied to its past. In a style less colloquial than her previous books, Vowell traces the 1630 journey of several key English colonists and members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Foremost among these men was John Winthrop, who would become governor of Massachusetts. While the Puritans who had earlier sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower were separatists, Winthrop's followers remained loyal to England, spurred on by Puritan Reverend John Cotton's proclamation that they were God's chosen people. Vowell underscores that the seemingly minute differences between the Plymouth Puritans and the Massachusetts Puritans were as meaningful as the current Sunni/Shia Muslim rift. Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing (colonial history lesson via The Brady Bunch) and tender (watching New Yorkers patiently waiting in line to donate blood after 9/11).
2. The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America, by Russell Shorto, 416 pages
As the song goes, "Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam." Unfortunately, for many Americans, that is the limit of their knowledge about the Dutch colony that was seized by the English in 1664. Shorto, author of two previous books and articles published in the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine, presents an outstanding and revealing chronicle of the Dutch presence on Manhattan Island. Much of his research is based on recently translated Dutch primary sources that have languished in archives in Albany. Written in elegant prose, this enthralling story provides original perspectives on several historical figures, including Henry Hudson, Peter Minuit, and Peter Stuyvesant. Shorto also highlights the contributions of Andriaen van der Donck, an energetic, charismatic man who played an integral part in creating a dynamic, diverse, and tolerant society that appears refreshing when compared to the neighboring Puritan-dominated colony in Massachusetts. This is an important work.
3. The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, by Joseph M. Marshall III, 336 pages
Marshall's portrait of Crazy Horse builds on Mari Sandoz's 1942 biography of the great Lakota leader. Using his skills as a historian along with the oral histories Marshall collected from the children and grandchildren of contemporaries of Crazy Horse, he freshly characterizes the charismatic leader. The author of The Lakota Way (2001), Marshall seeks the man behind the legend; accordingly, less attention is paid to Crazy Horse's battlefield exploits than to his leadership qualities. Although Crazy Horse's famous taciturnity makes him an elusive subject, Marshall does a good job of bringing Crazy Horse to life by examining all his milestones: the boy's early military training by High Back Bone; his doomed love for Black Buffalo Woman; his role as leader of one of the last remaining bands wishing to retain their traditional ways. Marshall includes a few reminisces of his own Lakota boyhood, which reveal some nice parallels. A highly readable, as-accurate-as-the-record-allows study of the nineteenth-century's best-known Lakota chief.
4. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Gillian McCain, 488 pages
Though Britain's notorious Sex Pistols shoved punk rock into the face of mainstream America, the movement was already brewing in the U.S. in the 1960s with bands like the Velvet Underground and Iggy and the Stooges. Through hundreds of interviews with forgotten bands as well as the ones that made names for themselves--including Blondie and the Ramones--Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain chronicle punk rock history through the people who really lived it. Please Kill Me is a thrash down memory lane for those hip to punk's early years and an enlightening history lesson for youngsters interested in the origins of modern "alternative" music. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.