Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Books of November

I generally write about the bookstores where I buy my books. Today, I am writing about the books I read this month. There were five of them:

-          How America Saved the World by Eric Hammel (Tatnuck Bookseller)
-          The Freemasons by Jasper Ridley (Tatnuck Bookseller)
-          David Crockett by Michael Wallis (The Alamo Bookstore)
-          Unstuck in Time by Gregory D. Sumner (Books and Beans)
-          Salinger by Paul Alexander (Annie’s Book Stop)

These five books boil down to three biographies and two history books. That’s pretty much the way I roll on a month-in month-out basis. If I read five books, three or four of them are biography or autobiography. And even one of the history books was primarily focused on the decisions of Franklin Roosevelt and the key military leaders in the United States during the pre-war years. In essence, it was a biography. Here then is where I bought the books and what they were about.

Tatnuck Bookseller - Westborough

That said; How America Saved the World by Eric Hammel posed a contradictory interpretation of just how prepared the United States was prior to the start of the Second World War. Common thinking holds that the U.S. pulled together after the attack at Pearl Harbor and miraculously put two million soldiers and all the armaments they needed together in less than two years. The book argues that Roosevelt and his planners held a meeting as early as 1938 that launched the country into a true arsenal of democracy mode. The detailed and comprehensive writing was very convincing.

The Freemasons by Jasper Ridley provided a history of the secret organization that sorted the myths from the truth. It was interesting to read that at every major moment in history, where someone has accused the Freemasons of ulterior or suspect motives, there turned out to be just as many Freemasons on each side of the controversy. In the Revolutionary War, where masons such as Washington and Benjamin Franklin were leading the rebels, the British were being led by men who also were masons. Once you understand the real behavior of these and other leaders in history, the Freemasons are not so hard to understand.

Books and Beans - Southbridge

At the Books and Beans shop in Southbridge I found Unstuck in Time by Gregory D. Sumner, which is a clever “biography” of the fourteen novels written by Kurt Vonnegut. As the author unravels each novel, it becomes clearer how Vonnegut evolved as a writer and as an observer of the human condition. Vonnegut was focused on the American Dream, which also evolved over the years. The theme of being unstuck in time moves through each novel developing its own inertia with each novel building on the one that went before.

Annie’s Book Stop – W.Boylston

The elusive writer, J.D. Salinger is the subject of Paul Alexander’s book, Salinger. For those who have read The Catcher in the Rye, it is fascinating to learn about the recluse writer and the events in his life which may contribute to our understanding of where his story ideas came from. It is well known as a writer’s axiom that one should write about what one knows. So, a backwoodsman might write a tale about a bear hunting excursion and a dancer might write about a round the world cruise assignment for an entertainment troupe. That all makes sense. But, how does one write about a young boy named Holden Caulfield and create a literary triumph? The biography is fascinating and illuminating. But, not all questions are eventually answered.

The Alamo Bookstore – San Antonio

While on a reunion with friends I served with in the Air Force, we visited the Alamo in San Antonio and I found a great book, David Crockett by Michael Wallis. I didn’t find the book in a rural New England bookstore, but it was one of the books I read in November; so, I am reporting on it. David Crockett was a man who became a legend in his own time. His contemporaries made him a legend for the things he did throughout his life. Today, he is sometimes reduced to a man who fought and died at the Alamo. But, in essence, that was one of the least consequential actions of his life. The real story of Crockett is more fascinating than the TV series or the portrayals in Hollywood films.