Saturday, July 16, 2016

Has it been Seven Months?

Time flies while we're having fun . . . or not.  Time has certainly flown since I made my last post, talking about the 2016 reading challenge.

I'm still working on Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life.  Well, really, I've been avoiding working on it.

But it's been a productive avoidance. 

I have taken off the challenge list the following: 

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.  I have to confess that it wasn't a personal recommendation, but a de facto one, as the book was prominently displayed at the main library in my county.  The book is Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

RBG is awesome!  What a fascinating life, and what a fascinating career in and perspective on the law she has.  The book is unusual among biographies in its format, but I enjoyed the different approach taken by the authors, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik.  I think the approach they selected, and the organization of their material, reflects well the tale of how RBG arrived at a career as a lawyer and became a justice on the Supreme Court.  The book is lavishly illustrated with photos of RBG, her husband, and her colleagues, and there are also brief analyses of some of her important cases and opinions.

In the category of A book published before you were born, I chose one I mentioned in my last post, Historical Sketches of Colonial Florida, by Richard L. Campbell, published in 1892.  A surprise to me was that it was more well-documented than most histories from that era, with a goodly number of footnotes.  The footnotes are not exactly in the format favored by the Chicago Manual of Style, which today's historians use, but they are there, and that is more than can be said for a lot of late 19th and early 20th century histories.

The coverage runs from 1528, and the early explorers, to the early 19th century, to the time when Florida became a territory of the U.S.  Scholarship since has brought out a lot more of the story, of course, and the author, as with those of most national histories published in the U.S. during that time, had an anglocentric slant.  Still, it is an interesting read for those who choose to study colonial Florida.

I have not limited myself to reading books in the categories of the 2016 Reading Challenge, however.

I just finished Rhonda M. Kohl's The Prairie Boys Go to War: the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, 1861-1865.  I do confess that I would not have read the book had I not been made aware by Ms. Kohl in an e-mail a few years ago that she was depending heavily on diaries and letters written by the soldiers, including the diary and some letters of my great-granduncle Thadeus B. Packard.  (Yes, there's only one d in Thadeus here).  Not only is this a fine regimental history, it is also the most powerful intimate examination I have yet seen of the daily lives of Civil War soldiers.  Those on both sides faced the same difficulties, and Ms. Kohl tells their story, mainly through their own words.  She describes well the diseases that took their toll, the interpersonal difficulties at times, and the sometimes less-than-stellar qualities of the officers who commanded these troops.  Her description of the arrogance and lawlessness of General George Armstrong Custer, whose punishments of misbehaving soldiers were clear violations of military regulations, might make some readers think that he got exactly what he deserved at the Little Big Horn.

I am nearly finished with a delightful history of reference books, You Could Look it Up: the Reference Shelf from Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia, by Jack Lynch, who is now the head of the Department of English at Rutgers University, Newark.  He tells the stories of the devising of some of the world's most famous, at least among scholars, reference books of all time.  In between the chapters where he examines these references in different classes, two at a time, he has what he styles "half-chapters" in some of which are found broader views of reference books in general, and some of which give delightful trivia about the creating of some of these works.  He also answered some questions I had about the reference works I use in my work, those being Spanish dictionaries from the 15th century onward, which have been digitized by the Spanish Royal Academy.  One of them, referred to as the Rosal, for its author, is in handwriting, not printed, from 1611.  From this book, I found out that the reason this dictionary is in script is that this handwritten manuscript is the only copy of this dictionary ever made.  It did not get into print.

On to more reading!