Hot reads for cold nights

I never know what I am going to read next. Somehow this week I have had five rather varied nonfiction books catch my eye. A purchased ebook to give me organized quotes from highlighting the environmental message of Peter Wadham’s A Farewell to Ice. Two library books were most enjoyed: a) The New Wine Rules (2017) by Jon Bonne has fun Rules from 1) drink the rainbow to 89) don’t save a great bottle for anything more than a rainy day. Open and enjoy. And b) The Flora of Middle-Earth (2017) by the father son team Walter and Graham Judd. Walter is an eminent professor of Botany at UFlorida and his son Graham is a professional illustrator in St Paul Mn. They spent four years exhaustively researching the plants and created an amazing field guide so you can create your own middle earth. I can’t believe I missed the NPR review of this. Two additional books were sent by friends 1) Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shananhan, MD- so much common sense that really means changing your lifestyle and 2) Forged in Crisis by Nancy Koehn, PhD Historian.

Title: Forged in Crisis by Nancy Koehn

Publisher: Scribner, 2017, 517 pp

Genre: history, leadership, crisis management

4 stars, Recommended as Library reading, I’m glad I didn’t pay money.

Author: From her bio

“Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robinson chair of Business Administration. She has coached leaders from many organizations and speaks frequently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and the World Business Forum. An accomplished author and scholar (she earned her M.A. and PhD degrees in history from Harvard), she spent ten years writing Forged in Crisis, her first book aimed at a popular audience. Her research focuses on how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth and impact. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts and is a committed equestrian.” She has written several books and case studies, previous best: Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers’ Trust from Wedgewood To Dell about six entrepreneurs.

Story:

The case studies or essays include Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Rachel Carson. This was an interesting mix and my first question was why these five, what did they have in common? I’ve read multiple great biographies on all but Bonhoeffer. At the same time, the current political climate could benefit from a wider audience reading this book.

I was disappointed in the analysis of leadership, often a page summarizing at the end of each profile (60-80 pages). They more like afterthoughts not original insight. In the conclusion, “The Power of Courageous Leadership” Koehn tells us that the most important thing that connects these leaders is “that these leaders were made, not born.” Years ago, I read John F. Kennedy’s succinct, inspirational book, “Profiles in Courage.” I can’t believe it’s too dated to read. Especially in light of the comment/conclusion “All five leaders were willing to work on themselves.” I think college lecture or motivational speaker. “The second thing that each of the five leaders learned as they navigated through great turbulence was the significance of committing to a worthy goal.” This applies to every generation, but we need tools to make the generations work together. These five also learned was the value of resilience. We definitely need more of that.

Quote:

From the introduction, leaders are “effective, decent…people of purpose and commitment who want to make a positive difference and who choose to rise: first within themselves, by claiming their better selves, and then on the large stage, by staking out the higher ground.”

THIS SATURDAY AT ROCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY!

RPL SAT

Did you miss C.H. Armstrong’s official launch party earlier this week?  No worries — Rochester Public Library has you covered!

Join us THIS SATURDAY, January 23rd, at 3PM in the auditorium to meet Rochester author, C.H. Armstrong.  She’ll do a short presentation and reading from her new novel, The Edge of Nowhere, and will sign copies of her book (copies will be available for purchase).

For more information on C.H. Armstrong and her novel, follow this link.

In the meantime, check out the Official Video Trailer for The Edge of Nowhere, and read a synopsis.

 

FULL RESOLUTION EON

The Edge of Nowhere
Inspired by Actual Events
Synopsis

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.

AVAILABLE TODAY: THE EDGE OF NOWHERE

IN BOOKSTORES AND ONLINE TODAY!

FULL RESOLUTION EON

SYNOPSIS

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.


OFFICIAL VIDEO TRAILER FOR THE EDGE OF NOWHERE


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

bloggingC.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Minnesota. A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, “Cathie”is a life-long lover of books, and staunchly outspoken on subject of banned and challenged books. The Edge of Nowhere is her first novel and was inspired by her own family’s experiences during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and The Great Depression.


PURCHASE A COPY OF THE EDGE OF NOWHERE ONLINE NOW

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Pre-Orders Open for Novel by Local Author

Rochester author, C.H. Armstrong, has recently penned her first novel, The Edge of Nowhere.  This novel has been picked up by California-based publishing house, Penner Publishing, and is set for a January 19, 2016 release.  Recently on her website, she posted information about this novel and its origins.

Armstrong, a native of Oklahoma and 23-year resident of Rochester, grew up on the stories of her familys’ survival during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and has centered her novel around this theme.  Below is a reprint from the author’s website telling more about this novel, the background, a little about the history, and the people who inspired the novel.  We reprint it here on our blog by permission of the author. Enjoy!


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FROM THE BACK COVER

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.


 

AUTHOR’S SYNOPSIS

Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene knows her family despises her.  She’s even heard her grandchildren snigger behind her back about the “Immaculate Conception of David” – her fifth child, conceived between husbands.  But Victoria refuses to die before revealing the secrets she’s held locked away for more than 50 years; the secrets only whispered about in family folklore that have made her the feared matriarch of her family.

Widowed with nine children, Victoria will do anything to provide for her children – even murder, and without remorse.  Each day brings greater challenges:  poverty, homelessness, death, starvation, degradation and disease.  Some challenges will require despicable acts to overcome. But at what cost?  Can her family understand the decisions she’s made to secure their futures?


 

THE REAL STORY BEHIND THE NOVEL

The Edge of Nowhere is a work of historical fiction inspired by the experiences of my own grandmother during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.  While it is a complete work of fiction, many of the stories contained within its pages are based upon anecdotes that have been passed down from my father’s generation, through mine, and down to my children.  Several of the key factors of the book are taken from their actual experiences, and others are the product of my imagination or exaggeration.  As a reader, you’ll have to decide which is which.  The answers may surprise you.

Four of my grandparents' combined fourteen children.  These four were their first together.  Not pictured are the five he brought to the marriage, and the five that came after this photo was taken. Front Row:  Bill and Geraldine Second Row:  Shirley and Ed (My Daddy)Four of my grandparents’ combined fourteen children. These four were their first together. Not pictured are the five he brought to the marriage, and the five that came after this photo was taken. Front Row: Bill and Geraldine / Back Row: Shirley and Ed (My Daddy). For readers of the book, these four children inspired the characters of Jack, Grace, Sara and Ethan.

The Dust Bowl that swept through Oklahoma and neighboring states was arguably the most devastating natural disaster to ever hit American soil.  Unlike a tornado, earthquake or a hurricane, the Dust Bowl lasted nearly ten straight years.  What was once beautiful green prairie and farmland of wheat fields as far as the eye can see soon became nothing but dust and dirt.  A desert of sorts.  Everywhere you looked was blowing dirt.  It got into your mouth and ears.  You couldn’t help but to inhale it deep into your lungs until you choked.  Many during this time died of what came to be known as “dust pneumonia.”  It was relentless and brutal.

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Photo Credit Dorthea Lange

Farming was the lifeblood of most Oklahomans during this time, but the soil had become so eroded that nothing would grow.  If your livelihood is farming and nothing will grow, what do you do?  How do you live?  These are the questions I began asking myself as Victoria’s story unfolded. How do you provide for your family when you’re a single woman alone with nearly a dozen children and no resources?

An important thing to remember about Oklahomans of this era is that most had no formal education.  They knew one thing:  farming.  If you’ve read Steinbeck’s epic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, then you know that many of these people moved West for a better life.  Most people were too poor to move, however, and so they stayed behind and hoped for better days.  The Edge of Nowhere is the story of those people.  It’s the story of the true Oklahoma Spirit — the dogged determination and tenacity that continues to see them through continued disasters like the Oklahoma City Bombing and the yearly tornados that destroy home and property.  It is the story of a people dedicated to the land they love and the place they call home.  An interesting side note is that many of these same families who stayed behind and endured the harsh life of The Dust Bowl are still there today.  The same lands that once had forsaken them are now being farmed by their children and grandchildren.

“Abandoned farmstead in the Dust Bowl region of Oklahoma, showing the effects of wind erosion, 1937”
Image Source: http://www.britannica.com/media/full/174462/96105

My grandmother - Edna Hall Hedrick Golden - in her later years.

My grandmother – Edna Hall Hedrick Golden – in later years.

During this era, my grandmother was left a widow with her husband’s five nearly grown children and an additional seven smaller ones for a grand total of twelve children (she would go on to remarry after this era and have two more children for a combined fourteen).  She was only 28 years old.  Soon thereafter, she lost their farm and she found herself homeless, hungry and with few resources.  She had no family to speak of, so providing and caring for these children fell entirely to her.  I don’t know what she was like before my grandfather’s death, but I know that in the years I knew her she was strong and opinionated.  She ruled her children with an iron fist and they respected her for it.  She was a legend and not many people would dare to cross her path.

So sets the stage for The Edge of Nowhere.  You have a young woman, widowed, with a combined twelve children.  You have no resources.  You’ve lost your home, your children are hungry, jobs are scarce, what do you do?  Maybe a better question is this:  What wouldn’t you do to provide for your children?  And how do the decisions you’re forced to make change the person you are?

This book is currently under contract with Penner Publishing with an expected publication date of January 2016.  While you wait, take some time to visit the PBS website dedicated to the Dust Bowl.  You can find that link here.

The Edge of Nowhere is available for pre-order in e-book format (paperbacks coming soon!) through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Kobo.  It is currently priced at a reasonable $2.99. You can preorder your e-book copy at one of the links below.

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VIEW THE OFFICIAL VIDEO TRAILER FOR
THE EDGE OF NOWHERE

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American History

Title: An Empire on the Edge Nick Bunker Publisher: Knopf Doubleday 350 p

Genre: history, American Revolution, colonies, Great Britain

4.5 stars

Author:

Nick Bunker lives in Lincolnshire, England and is the author of Making Haste from Babylon (previously reviewed here). He has been a journalist for the Liverpool Echo and the Financial Times. Bunker uses his financial background and research skills to cleverly reveal underlying causes and personal details. This book won the 2015 George Washington Book Prize sponsored by Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Story Line:

This is a probing, highly readable account of Great Britain’s internal, political and financial tensions on the eve of the American Revolution. There were a number of concurrent crises in the Empire: Europe, India, Ireland and the American colonies. Each is given an assessment, with a particularly insightful analysis of the East India Trading Company. Fascinating correspondence reveals that Britain saw the colonies as mere resources/goods for their empire or a destination for convicts. They didn’t just underestimate the people, they never understood their independent nature.  

This book does not sum up entire aspects of the revolution, but it provides another element, an indepth analysis of important factors. It is well researched from a British perspective, which helps to provide an balanced account: rounding out and adding details, providing a clearer picture with motives and mistakes (both sides). I was surprised by number of current comparisons with e-banking and 2008 financial crisis.  I enjoyed the fascinating portraits of Prime Minister Lord North, of Lord Dartmouth, King George III, General Gage and the Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Hutchinson.

They might have lost the war and lost the colonies, but Britain went on to develop the industrial revolution, global exploration, and India.

This would make a lovely Christmas present and gift for historian or revolutionary war aficionado. I encourage you to read this interesting history. RPL has a copy.

Read On:

Bernard Bailyn Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson

Robert Middlekauff The Glorious Cause 

Barbara Tuchman The First Salute

David Hackett Fischer Washington’s Crossing, Liberty and Freedom

Quote:

England never had a solid plan for administering the American colonies.

Benign neglect can lead to revolution.

Recently, I was just lucky enough to see the new acquisition at the MMAM (Minnesota marine art museum) of George Washington Crossing the Delaware (Leutze, 1850). This painting previously hung in the West Wing, and is one of only two surviving copies. The original (1848) was destroyed by the British RAF in WWII “Britain’s final retaliation for the American Revolution”. It is a very stylized, historically inaccurate painting of the beginning of the Battle of Trenton December 25/26, 1776: the boat is the wrong model, the crossing was at night, not in daylight, the weather conditions were appalling (drizzle, rain, sleet and snow), the flag didn’t exist yet (carried by James Monroe), the river is modeled on the Rhine not the Delaware, which had a narrow crossing and sheet ice. Washington is standing, which would have rocked the boat (although higher sides would have had them all standing). With the exception of Washington, Monroe and Gen Edward Hand, the people in the boat represent the cross section of the American colonies: farmers, western riflemen, Scots, women, Native American frontiersmen, African American (believed to be Whipple, but now known not to have been there (portraits modeled from American tourists in Germany).  

from wikipedia

 See also NJ state quarter 1999.

BookScapes by Helen McIver

bookpile2
Hermit in the GardenFrom Imperil Rome to ornamental gnome by Gordon Campbell
Oxford University Press (October 2012, recently on book tour in the USA)
Campbell is a noted historian, distinguished professor of Renaissance studies at the University of Leicester and has an impressive list of literature, art and history books authored and edited. (I thoroughly recommend his book “The story of the King James Bible”)
This is a magnificent historical account of Hermits, Hermitages and English Garden design, especially Georgian. Hermitages have enjoyed a minor renaissance recently, with old ones restored, new ones built and even job offers with increased tourism. I think the popularity of hobbits might have helped too. Although he claims that gnomes are a logical evolution of the hermit they are still banned at Chelsea Flower show! “Garden hermits evolved from antiquated druids and eventually declined into the garden gnome.” He illustrates four types of hermitages- religious, secular or court, Elizabethan and earlier British hermits (he often states English hermits, while showing them in Scotland and Ireland). Many early garden hermitages were in southern Europe, Italy, France around the 1400s, although the first might have been at the Roman villa of Hadrian. Campbell also recounts the fascinating history of hermitages in Spain.
18th century British grand garden design brought follies into the landscape. Follies often included hermitages with or without hermits (not religious but secular). Britain has had hermits since pilgrimages of Christianity, but I was astonished at the list of 750 cells and names of 650 hermits in the 1800s (Rotha Mary Clay). These were places of contemplation, which allowed “pleasurable melancholy” and deep thought, sometimes following a retreat after personal crisis. They were also fads/fashionable as recounted by nobility ‘pretending to be peasants”. The affinity for nature and solitude had a quite different expression in America with Thoreau and Emerson. Hermits have been romanticised but in actual fact the austere living conditions were primitive at best – and sometimes had required conditions of not cutting hair or nails (for up to 7 years). I found the descriptions both beautiful and tragic, for so many gardens and hermitages lost over the centuries.
I have space in my garden: gnomes need not apply.

Appendix has a list of interesting hermitages, several I have visited: Dunkeld, Dalkeith park, Craigieburn, Taymouth castle
Some good illustrations, mostly black and white photos and drawings in my e-copy (contents say 63 color plates, 304 pp)
Bibliography and List of Hermitages in the World (country and county) Now I must visit the Ermitage at Arleshein, Switzerland – it sounds idyllic and has the last surviving ornamental hermit.

Read on to (preferably in your garden)
Edith Wharton (short story) Hermit and the Wild Woman
Tom Stoppard Arcadia
Seamus Heaney (1984) poem The Hermit
Read as an ARC
4.5 stars

Making Haste From Babylon


Making Haste from Babylon: the Mayflower Pilgrims and their world. A New History.
Nick Bunker (2010)
I couldn’t imagine what more there could be to tell about the Pilgrims. I loved the recent Mayflower book, and tend to keep up to date with this historical era. I have even visited sites on both sides of the Atlantic. I have several relatives that came over on that ship (and many since then), so have alot of historical knowledge. And here is another book, that really DOES have more insight, and even more information. There is an excellent index, as well as footnotes to each chapter, with references should you chose to delve further. Some of them are well worth reading (e.g. the title!) but also just to see what sources he found. I understand all too well the attics he must have sifted through to find many of these documents. And saved them for posterity! It is a fairly dense read, involves a lot of economics, as well as politics, but really is fascinating. I might be biased, but I will return to reread sections of this book, and have recommended it to all my family.
NB the baby robins in the photo just launched themselves into the new world today.

David Hume, Adam Smith, James Buchan

Today, May 7th (1711) is the birthday of the philosopher David Hume, born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh was a poor city in Europe at this time, but would undergo a transformation. (Glasgow at this time had the shipping industry and was booming. Scotland would remain in upheaval for the rest of the century with the ’45 rebellion, Highland Clearances and social reform). The religious climate of the 1700s was extremely strict. Then Hume became one of the leaders of the “Scottish Enlightenment.” His friends and colleagues were very gifted and influential people including Adam Smith (economics); Adam Ferguson (sociology); James Hutton amd Joseph Black both naturalists (but the former invented geology while the latter was also Chemist and Prof of Medicine); James Watt, who developed the steam engine; Sir Walter Scott, author and poet, who wrote what has been considered the first great “English” novel; Robert Adam (world famous Architect) and Hugh Blair, (critic, and the first university professor to teach a course in English literature). (see James Buchan, Crowded with Genius, Edinburgh’s Enlightenment).

One of David Hume’s great contribution to the Scottish Enlightenment was his philosophy, laid out in his first book, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), in which he argued that it may be impossible to know anything for certain about the world. We can experience the world, but we will never fully understand it. It should be noted that this book completely failed in publication! And then the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland tried to prosecute and excommunicate Hume for his skepticism about religion.

David Hume said, “Reading and sauntering and lounging and dosing, which I call thinking, is my supreme Happiness.”

Webster’s Dictionary 1828

From the Writer’s Almanac: April 14, 2010.
It was on this day in 1828 that Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language was published. Webster wanted to put together a dictionary because he wanted Americans to have a national identity that wasn’t based on the language and ideas of England. He said: “A national language is a band of national union. Every engine should be employed to render the people of this country national; to call their attachments home to their own country; and to inspire them with the pride of national character. However, they may boast of Independence, and the freedom of their government, yet their opinions are not sufficiently independent; an astonishing respect for the arts and literature of their parent country, and a blind imitation of its manners, are still prevalent among the Americans.” And the problem wasn’t just that Americans were looking to England for their language; it was that they could barely communicate with each other because regional dialects differed so drastically.
Noah Webster grew up in Connecticut, went to Yale, and became a schoolteacher because he didn’t have enough money to go to law school. As a teacher, he was frustrated with the state of education in the years just after the Revolution. There wasn’t much money for supplies, and students were crowded into small one-room schoolhouses using textbooks from England that talked about the great King George. His students’ spelling was atrocious, as was that of the general public; it was assumed that there were several spellings for any word, which only increased the difficulties people had in understanding each other.
So in 1783, he published the first part of his three-part A Grammatical Institute, of the English Language; the first section was eventually re-titled The American Spelling Book, but usually called by the nickname “Blue-Backed Speller.” The Blue-Backed Speller taught American children the rules of spelling, and it simplified words. It was Webster who took the letter “u” out of English words like colour and honour; he took a “g” out of waggon, a “k” off the end of musick, and switched the order of the “r” and “e” in theatre and centre.
He began compiling his dictionary in 1801. Part of what he accomplished, much like his textbook, was standardizing spelling. He introduced American words, some of them derived from Native American languages: skunk, squash, wigwam, hickory, opossum, lengthy, and presidential, Congress, and caucus, which were not relevant in England’s monarchy.
His project had plenty of critics. After he announced his plans for his dictionary, one newspaper wrote: “If, as Mr. Webster asserts, it is true that many new words have already crept into the language of the United States, he would be much better employed in rooting out those anxious weeds, than in mingling them with the flowers.” Another newspaper satirically referred to the project as “a nue Merrykin Dikshunary.”
But nothing deterred Webster, and he spent almost 30 years on his project. It took three years for the dictionary to be set into type, and finally, on this day in 1828, it was published. The criticisms of it had diminished, and it was greeted with great respect. But unfortunately, it cost 15 or 20 dollars, which was a huge amount in 1828, and Webster died in 1843 without having sold many copies.
But then two brothers from Springfield, Massachusetts, stepped in: Charles and George Merriam. They bought the rights to the dictionary and the unsold copies, sold it at a low price, and changed the company to “Merriam-Webster” because Webster had such name recognition. They printed the first Merriam-Webster dictionary on September 24, 1847, for a cost of six dollars.