Hey trivia buffs, ever wonder why Michigan is in two pieces, why Oklahoma has a panhandle appendage, or why California and Texas aren’t rectangular shaped? How the States Got Their Shapes, by Mark Stein, will give you the answers and a unique view of American history.
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Robert Middlekauff’s The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763 – 1789 is a well-researched history of colonial life and politics during the American Revolution. Middlekauff describes the social, economic, and political conditions that led to the War for Independence in this worthy read for both history buffs and the curious layman.
Battle Cry of Freedom describes the political and social environment that led to the Civil War. A glimpse into the human experience of both soldiers and civilians adds greater depth to the flowing, easy-to-follow prose. Considering the writing style and the scholarship, it is no wonder that James M. McPherson won a Pulitzer Prize for this book.
Journalist Sebastian Junger describes the experiences of a platoon of American troops with whom he was imbedded in the remote Korangal Valley of Afghanistan. Junger describes the constant danger and discusses how soldiers cope with nonstop fear and being alert to respond at any time. Soldiers encounter an inhospitable environment, no privacy and the inability to maintain personal hygiene. Junger describes the bonds that form among the troops under these adverse conditions. Then there is how the physical and mental stress affects soldiers when they attempt to return to civilian life.
This is a story of survival, fortitude and maintaining a sense of purpose. War is a testament to personal strength and dedication, written in a fast-paced prose with all the emotion and imagery of the experience. As with his previous books, Junger has written an excellent work of nonfiction.
The Shawshank Redemption is a tale of courage in the face of adversity, hope in the midst of despair. Tim Robbins plays a convicted murderer, Andy Dufresne, who’s efforts at maintaining a sense of self have a powerful impact on his fellow inmates, especially “Red” Redding, played by Morgan Freeman.
Mostly Good and Competent Men, written by the late journalist and historian Robert P. Howard chronologically describes the strengths, weaknesses, and foibles of the governors of Illinois and the resulting successes and failures of their administrations. In a succinct readable style, Howard links together biography, politics, and history in his review of each of the thirty-seven governors who served during the 170 years from 1818 to 1988. This book sheds light on the personalities and events that contributed to the shaping of modern Illinois. The author’s journalistic writing style makes the story of Illinois’ governors informative and easy to read while on the train or over lunch. It’s a book that you can learn a lot by reading a little bit at a time.
In Jennifer Government, a story of capitalism running amok, corporations control world affairs and governments operate for profit. When one company resorts to murder, agent Jennifer Government must prevent a full-scale war. This fast-paced and twisting story is both a fun read and a cautionary tale of greed and power.
Ever wondered what travel was like before standing shoeless at security gates, crowded seats with no elbow room, and “meals” consisting of pretzels and a swallow of soda? If so, check out Travel By Pullman by Joe Welsh for a look at travel when it was civil, pleasurable, and relaxing.