Summer is over. Schools have started. The cooler breezes of autumn are just around the corner. We’ve been reading the lighter summer books and some of us are ready for some slightly heavier reads.
Scientists are making interesting discoveries in the fields of quantum physics and cosmology they are making their finds accessible to the lay reader. John Barrow and Brian Greene are two authors who are doing exactly that. Reading Barrow’s The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos and/or Greene’s The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos will make you think you have landed in the middle of a Star Trek episode dealing with parallel universes or multiple realities.
Coming back to more solid ground, September is the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, which in turn gave way to the invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. The latter is the subject of two new books. Peter Tomsen, who was George H. W. Bush’s ambassador to the Afghan resistance during the Soviet occupation, has written a combination history and contemporary study of the United States’ role in a country where major powers have met with failure down through the centuries: The Wars of Afghanistan. This history is also reflected in the title of Seth G. Jones book, In the Graveyard of Nations. Readers of Charlie Wilson’s War should find familiar territory in both these books.
Another war that always seems to be with us is, of course, the Civil War; especially since the nation is celebrating the 150 anniversary of that conflict. David Goldfield writes in America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, Goldfield writes, “The Civil War was the great divide. Though elements of modern life existed before they flourished afterward.” This volume sets the war in the political and religious environment of nineteenth America. Although Great Britain was officially neutral during the war, that did not mean that British citizens take sides and enlist in both armies. Amanda Foreman, the author of The Duchess, discusses the American Civil War from the point of view of those across the pond in A World on Fire : Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War. Not only does Foreman include the British government’s policies, which almost brought the two countries to war more than once between 1861-1865, but she also narrates the experiences of British citizens who saw combat, sometimes literally on both sides.
A biography and a memoir whose subjects are famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, have just hit the libraries’ shelves. The biography is, Jane Fonda: Public Life of a Private Woman, and the memoir Dick Cheney’s In My Time. The daughter of Henry Fonda, Jane is almost better known for her political stands than she for her acting, for which she received six nominations for Oscars, but won only once. Dick Cheney, George W. Bush’s Vice President, has been a fixture on television talk shows since his controversal memoir was published recently.
The following books have no connection to each other except they have been recently published. In Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City, One Step at a Time, Mark Adams tells the story of the modern discovery of the Inca settlement(?) and/or fortress(?) high the Andes mountain of Peru. An adventure journalist, Adams decides to retrace Hiram Bingham’s steps along the steep mountain trail leading to the now famous site to see the the story he had heard about Bingham are true.
An author whose writings have appeared in such magazines as National Geographic and Smithsonian is David Roberts. His latest book, Finding Everett Ruess: the Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer, Roberts attempts to find out what happened to Ruess, who disappeared in the Navaho desert in southern Utah in 1934. He traces Ruess’ route in the desert wilderness seeking any clues to determine what happened to him.
The last book I have chosen for this edition of the blog does have an interesting title: An Anatomy of Addition: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine. Howard Markel postulates that Freud and Halsted, who is known at the father of modern surgery, saw cocaine’s medical uses without realizing they were in endangering their own lives as well as those of their patients. As Markel suggests, addiction was a meaningless term in the medical worlds either these men inhabited.
If you do not find anything of interest here, check the new book sections of your local library. Those shelves are always filled with new and interesting reads.