Remember, way back in April when I said I didn’t know which of those 25 books I was going to talk about at MLA? Well, I finally picked ten, and now I’m going to review them here! But not all ten today, that would be too much; two every day for the rest of the week.
So let’s get started!
I enjoy Simon Winchester’s books, those that I have read, and those that I haven’t always look to be very interesting. I admit that this one seemed quite intimidating–a whole book about the Atlantic ocean? And a rather large book at that! But how he chose to organize the book was really quite clever, and was probably the saving grace as far as keeping the topic under some semblance of order. The Seven Stages of Man speech from “As You Like It” was the underlying organization: each age was a specific topic, but within each topic Winchester was free to bounce about wherever his fancy took him. And that really made for some fascinating reading. This was perhaps the furthest stretch of a microhistory, but I would recommend this book if you’re at all interested history, as it touches on so much, and also if you enjoy travel writing–while not a travelogue per se, Winchester himself travels along and across much of the Atlantic, and so of course do all of the people he mentions.
Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese
My understanding of coal previous to reading this book was that it used to be used a lot, but really isn’t any more, and that’s a good thing. But oh, how wrong that idea was! We consume more coal now that we ever have–it’s how we create the vast bulk of our electricity. But because we don’t all have heaps of it in our homes, unless you have family involved in the coal or electric industries, you are probably blissfully unaware. The historical use of coal (and problems associated therewith) also go much further back that I realized. So basically, this book showed me that I don’t know anything about coal, and if I want to be a responsible global citizen, I’d best learn. It was fascinating to read, and not always a pleasant one for those of us in the first world, but probably something we ought to be more aware of and involved in. Definitely a title I’d recommend, to anyone who reads non fiction.