My bride and I enjoyed going to a used book sale last Thursday that we have been attending for about the last fifteen years. We spent $38.00. As usual Don the spendthrift purchased most of the books:
1. My bride purchased A Guide Through Narnia by Martha G. Sammons (1979) (Essays on C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” – but it was with the travel books, so I was expecting more of a Narnian gazetteer for travelers), The Bride Wore Pearls by Liz Carlyle (2012) (Historical romance novel set in the Victorian era; our Anglo-Indian heroine’s costume in the cover art is late Regency, though, and she hops into bed with our quasi-Masonic hero about half a dozen chapters in; not worth finishing), Lose 200 Lbs. This Weekend by Don Aslett (2000) (Another of his “de-clutter your life” books) and Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide (1999) (The most recent they had there — presumably the collectors are hanging onto anything more recent; what I really needed was a print version of info I’d already found online about the collectible figurines I’m selling on eBay, plus tips on how to pack them for shipping).
I purchased all the rest:
2. The Battle: A History of the Battle of Waterloo by Alessandro Barbero (2003)-I like the fact that the author begins his book with quotes from Wellington indicating what folly it was to attempt to write the history of this battle.
3. Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown (2015)-Speculation on the origin of nine medieval chess pieces.
4. The Arms of Krupp (1968-paperback 1970)-William Manchester’s history of the German family of weapons manufacturers.
5. The French and Indian War by Walter R. Borneman (2006)-The French and Indian War has been attracting more attention recently by scholars, which is a good thing. The various French wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth century had an enormous impact on the colonies that would become the United States. Our first steps toward a unified nation were taken as a result of these conflicts, and many of the men who led our forces in the American Revolution learned the trade of war in the greatest and last of these struggles.
6. The Achievement of Samuel Johnson by W. Jackson Bate (1955)-A look at the writing and thought of one of my favorite literary curmudgeons.
7. Bomber Offensive by Noble Frankland (1970)-One of the myriad Ballantine buck books on World War II that I gobbled up as a teenager.
8. Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally (2003)-One of the brief Penguin Lives where established authors write a short life of some famous individual. The authors usually have no special expertise as a biographer of the subject they are writing about. As one might expect, this experiment has produced mixed results.
9. Leadership in War by Sir John Smyth (1974)-A look at British generals in World War II by a Brigadier General and holder of the Victoria Cross. (The Brit equivalent to the Medal of Honor.)
10. Patton: A Study in Command by H. Essame (1974)-A well written look at Patton by a British Major General who commanded a brigade in World War II.
11. Aristotle For Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy by Mortimer Adler (1978)-I have long been a fan of the work of the late Mortimer Adler. A leader of the revival of interest in Saint Thomas Aquinas in the twenties, he founded the Great Books Program. He spent his life explaining to moderns in the West their intellectual heritage. A non-observant Jew, he long was attracted to Catholicism. Baptized as an Episcopalian in 1984, the faith of his wife, he was baptized into the Faith in 1999, two years before his death.
12. English History 1914-1945 by AJP Taylor (1965-paperback 1970)- The late AJP Taylor was a blinkered leftist all his life in politics, but he was also a first rate historian. Although I usually differ from his conclusions, he did not twist his history to fit his politics.
13. To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World by Arthur Herman (2005)-Herman writes polished histories on a broad range of topics ranging from Senator Joseph McCarthy to Plato and Aristotle. He writes from a broadly conservative perspective.
14. The Death of a President: November 1963 by William Manchester (1967)-Go here to read my post about the efforts of the Kennedy clan to stop the publication of this book.
15. Marlborough by Correlli Barnet (1974)-The seminal work on John “Corporal Jack” Churchill will probably always be the exhaustive multi-volume bio produced in the thirties by his famous descendant, Sir Winston Churchill. However this look at the general who “never fought a battle he did not win and never besieged a city he did not take” is a worthy short effort that I greatly enjoyed as a freshman in college.
16. Out of the Storm: The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther by Derek Wilson (2007)-I have never read a good bio of the arch heresiarch, and there are hordes of bad ones, usually exercises in hagiography which have no grasp of the period. We shall see if this book breaks my streak.
17. Henry II by W.L. Warren (1973)-The twelfth century was a fascinating time to be alive. The Crusades had introduced Western Europe to the larger world, with mammoth impacts in trade, culture and exposure to the writings of antiquity, via Greek and Arabic translations. A time of rapid change, in many ways similar to ours in that respect, it set the stage for the revolutionary Magnificent Century of the 13th. This look at Henry II, infamous to all Catholics as a result of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, is a good recreation of this world, and of the monarch who both shaped and was shaped by it. Henry made permanent changes to the English legal system, but overall most of his work to create a long lasting Anglo-French empire was wasted effort. It didn’t help that he was hated by everyone including his wife, the awe inspiring Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his children, who included Richard the Lionheart and John the Worst. The memorable description of Lord Byron: “mad, bad and dangerous to know” fits Henry, the first Plantagenet King, perfectly.
18. Henry VII by S.B. Chrimes (1972)-The founder of the Tudor dynasty who ended over four centuries of Plantagenet rule, Henry VII was far from the golden savior of England that Shakespeare depicted in Richard the Third. Greedy and cautious, after his gamble at Bosworth Field that paid off in the throne of England, he spent the rest of his life attempting to avoid risk to his crown. Contemporaries found him a bit dull and uninspiring, but a preferred option to the colorful chaos that preceded him.
19. Catherine the Great by Robert K.Massie (2011)-The Bolsheviks were quite fortunate that they did not confront a ruler as formidable as Catherine in 1917. Her drive, intelligence and determination were well portrayed by Bette Davis in the film John Paul Jones. Her performance may be viewed in the clip below starting at approximately 3:00:
20. Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by HW Brands (2008)-A liberal biographer’s take on a liberal president. I will read it if I find time to do so.