Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reading Updates

I came to the realization that no one, even my parents and my bf, wants to know about every book I read. That should have been quite obvious to me, I know, but oh well, I realized it eventually. I thought I would just mention a few books that I particularly enjoyed over the last few weeks, in the hopes that some history-oriented person out there might find it useful. And yes, they are all about history. And yes, they are all non-fiction. It's school's fault, what can I say. But as soon as I'm on Christmas break, make no mistake about it, I will be diving head first into a pile of fiction....well after I give my eyes a few days off.

I originally received this book as a present a few years ago, and I must confess, I stopped after 200 pages because I hated it. But, I had to read the rest for class and an amazing thing happened. At page 300, I started loving it. I don't know if it's because my classes have given me new perspective or Gordon-Reed really gets into a good grove, but whatever it is, it worked for me. Sure, I think she was too nice to Jefferson, but I'm no Jefferson fan, so that criticism is pretty common for me. The way she humanizes the Hemings family and delves into their lives and their thoughts is a truly remarkable work of scholarship. There are times I think she went a smidge too far in her conjectures (after all, there is rarely evidence about what someone was thinking, so it has to be guess work after a certain point). But overall, a tremendous job and a book I will not forget.



This book examines what life was like on a small farm in Maryland in the 17th century. What's extraordinary about this work is how ordinary the store actually is. The family is a middle class, white farming family- not usually the topic of scholarship. These people tend to blend in and disappear into the historical record and were it not for the documents produced by the estate manager after Robert Cole's death, the Cole family would have suffered the same historical fate. Not only is the sleuth work done by the authors incredible, the story is fascinating for the picture it portrays of daily life at the time.




This collection of essays about individuals in Early America is fascinating. Some focus on gender, property, inheritance, etc. but all bring a new perspective to the image we hold in our heads about what colonial America looked like. What's great about this book is that each essay stands alone, so it's easy to pick up and put down whenever it suits your fancy.





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