An American Editor

May 18, 2010

On Today’s Bookshelf (III)

As always, I keep expanding my to-be-read pile. Since my last report, I have added several books, including these hardcover books:

  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch
  • Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaind MacCulloch
  • The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought by Eric Nelson
  • Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam by Fred M. Donner
  • Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court by Jeff Shesol
  • Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England by Anthony Julius
  • Secret of the Dragon (Dragonships of Vindras Series) by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
  • The Shadow of Saganami (Disciples of Honor Series #2) by David Weber
  • A Mighty Fortress (Safehold Series #4) by David Weber

David Weber is one of my favorite scifi/fantasy authors and so when I get a new book from him, I drop all else to read. Weber continues to entertain me and I enjoyed both of the books in the above list.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman used to be favorite authors in that same genre, but their last two books have ended that relationship, particularly the one listed above — that one, I couldn’t even finish, I found it dull and boring.

The remaining 6 books are nonfiction (you probably guessed that from the titles) and just recently arrived. I haven’t broken any of them open yet, as I’m still reading through earlier purchases (hardcover novels tend to get read immediately because they are quick reads for me; nonfiction takes longer, especially if the author has a lot of footnotes, as I often get sidetracked checking out books cited to see if I want to purchase them for my library).

I recently finished reading For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus by Frederick Brown (see On Today’s Bookshelf (II)). I have a particular interest in the Dreyfus Affair. I admit, however, that For the Soul of France was not a particularly engaging book — I struggled to get through it. Another book that was on my first bookshelf that I struggled to read is Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp by Christopher R. Browning. The writing style simply didn’t resonate with me. I should have known that I would find the book difficult because I also had difficulty getting through his book The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942. It isn’t that the books are poorly researched — they’re not; they are well researched. It is simply the style of writing that I found difficult.

I am currently reading A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerillas in the American Civil War by Daniel E. Sutherland, which is a well-written and interesting book from my first On Today’s Bookshelf list. I plan on reviewing the book in the future, but for anyone interested in the Civil War, here’s an advance thumbs up recommendation.

But, as I’m sure you may know, I also read a lot of ebooks. Up to this point, all of the books I have cited in the On Today’s Bookshelf articles have been hardcover pbooks I have added to my collection. Beginning with today’s article, I will also mention some of the ebooks I have purchased.

eBooks for me are a different being altogether. Rarely will I buy a nonfiction ebook. The few I have bought have been problematic, including foot-/endnote links that don’t work, not-well-reproduced illustrations and figures, and the like. Consequently, nearly all of my ebook purchases are fiction. Unfortunately for you, my taste in fiction runs in cycles (cycles that last many years) and the current cycle is science fiction/fantasy. Someday it will switch to mystery or action or some other genre (alas, never romance or vampires for those who like those genres).

In addition, because the traditional publishers tend to cripple their ebooks by overpricing them, I often buy from unknown authors, many of whom have provided me with hours of enjoyment, others of whom either bored me or annoyed me with poor everything (spelling, grammar, character development, plot, etc.).

Rather than give you a list of what I’m waiting to read, I’ll give you a list of a few titles or series that I have already read and that I enjoyed. None of these are great literature — all are good reads and inexpensive. All are available without DRM and in multiple formats from either Fictionwise or Smashwords.

  • The Chronicles of the Necromancer (a 4-book series) by Gail Z. Martin
  • The Asphodel Cycle (a 4-book series) by Celina Summers
  • Lord of Wind and Fire (a 3-book series) by Elaine Corvidae
  • To Find a Wonder by Jennifer Carson
  • The Lords of Dus (a 4-book series) by Lawrence Watt-Evans
  • The Demonstone Chronicles (a 7-book series) by Richard S. Tuttle
  • The Sword of Heavens (a 7-book series) by Richard S. Tuttle
  • Forgotten Legacy (an 8-book series) by Richard S. Tuttle
  • The Targa Trilogy (a 3-book series) by Richard S. Tuttle
  • Promises to Keep (trilogy plus sequel) by Shayne Parkinson

The last listed series by Shayne Parkinson is neither scifi nor fantasy — it is the story of a New Zealand family in the 1880-1910 era. It will be the subject of a separate review. It is not normally a genre I would read, but this is one of the best written series of books in fiction I have read in several years. I highly recommend it. It is available at Smashwords and is comprised of these 4 books: Sentence of Marriage, Mud and Gold, Settling the Account, and A Second Chance.

With summer coming, reading time may become more precious, but there is nothing like a good book to stimulate the mind.


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