Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Books

Before 2011 progresses too much I thought I'd get a quick list together of the books I read last year. My goal was to read twenty-four books last year, two a month, but I didn't quit make it. I completed nineteen books and left two unfinished. Maybe this year.

ADVENTURE (Still most of the books on my list concern some sort of exploration, mostly during Victorian times, by Europeans. I love reading about a time history when the earth still seemed so large.)

The Darkest Jungle: The True Story of the Darien Expedition and America's Ill-Fated Race to Connect the Seas - Todd Balf

This book is about an American expedition to explore a route across Panama that was a potential alternative to the one eventually used for the canal. It was a good read by an author that usually writes about bike riding. Hope he writes more adventure books in the future.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex - Nathaniel Philbrick

I read a whole bunch of Philbrick books last year and this is probably tied for the best one. It tells the true story that inspired Moby Dick. I wasn't too interested in the history of whaling before reading this book. Now I want to go to Nantucket.

Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 - Nathaniel Philbrick

Philbrick's longest and slowest book about a US expedition to map the ocean and investigate the southern continent ... kind of disappointing.

Travels on the Mekong: Cambodia, Laos, and Yunnan - Louis de Carné

I read two modern accounts about this journey last year and wanted to read the first hand accounts; so I read this book. This account is a quick run-through narrative that has few personal details.

Vol. 1 and 2 of the Mekong Exploration Commission Report (1866–1868) - Francis Garnier

These two volumes were definitely better reads than Carné's account of the same journey. I particularly enjoyed the personal bits (although they are generally too few in Victorian accounts) and the chapters that the expedition artist, Delaporte, wrote.

Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon - William Lewis Herndon

I read this account of a US expedition to explore the economic possibilities of eastern Peru/western Brazil largely on the recommendation of Gary Kidder (Kidder wrote the fantastic Ship of Gold concerning the sinking of a ship captained by this author). I don't know what he was talking about. Although very personal for a book of this period, it's a boring book. I can't finish the last 20 pages.

The Head-Hunters of Borneo - Carl Bock

Bock wrote one of the few narratives of a journey this part of the world that I've found, at least in Victorian times. The journey he took didn't seem all that adventurous to me, but his experiences with the land and people of the region were interesting to me.

Rodrigues the Interpreter: An Early Jesuit in Japan and China - Michael Cooper

I heard about João Rodrigues, a Portuguese Jesuit, who traveled within China and Japan during the 1500's-1600's during a PBS show. I then looked for a book about him and found this one. I found the book quite repetitive and only got through half of it. It's a shame, however, because Rodrigues seems like a pretty interesting guy. I'll have to get back to this book one of these days.

ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS (A few years back the majority of the books I read concern some ancient civilization or another. It's still an interest of mine.)

Angkor and the Khmer Civilization - Michael Coe

Like other books in the classic series Ancient People and Places this book is a good primer on particular civilization. I've wanted to know more about ancient Cambodia for some time.

Palenque: Eternal City of the Maya - David Stuart and George Stuart

David Stuart is a well know Mayan linguist and is father is a equally well known Mayan archaeologist. This book details the known and speculated history of one of their favorite Mayan cities. I wish more Mayan cities got such a treatment as this.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS (Recently it occurred to me that biographies about early archaeologists could be a great combination of my above two favorite types of books. I've got a bunch of known figures on my list.)

Alfred Maudslay and the Maya: A Biography - Ian Graham

Maudslay's a person I frequently heard about when reading about the Maya. Graham's book was pretty good, and needed, look into his life.

The Lost Cities of the Mayas: The Life, Art, and Discoveries of Frederick Catherwood - Fabio Bourbon

Although this book has few personal details about Catherwood (not too much is known) it was printed in an extremely large size (it doesn't fit on any of my bookcases) so as to contain beautiful, full color reproductions of his art. Many pages of this book could be cut out and framed. There are a few other books in this series I'd like to get.

HISTORICAL TREASURES (It might be a while until I get to see some world famous archaeological treasures as Meg and I won't be traveling to Europe or Asia anytime soon so I've been looking for books that can satisfy me for the moment.)

Sutton Hoo: Burial Ground of Kings? - M. O. H. Carver

The Sutton Hoo helmet is shown in every book I have about the Dark Ages or the Vikings so I was eager to learn more about the burial site. This book was a bit dry and academic, but it had the information I was looking for. I wish the pictures in it were a bit better and I might get another book about the topic for that reason.

Vasa : The Royal Ship - Kvarning

Images of the Vasa, a Swedish warship that sank just while still inside the harbor on it's maiden voyage, always seemed spooky to me so it seemed like a good idea to read about how they found, raised and then restored almost the entire ship. This book suffered a bit from being a translation of a Swedish book, but the it was still very readable and the images in are pretty good. I still would like to find a book with even more images, something akin to a walk-thru of the ship.

MUSIC (I used to read rock biographies all the time, but I haven't read any in a while.)

The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life - Simon Goddard

I read this song by song treatise on my favorite group, The Smiths, years ago. It was updated some time ago with more interviews. I finally decided to read the 2nd edition. I learned a bit more about the songs and had fun relistening to them for a few weeks.

GENERAL HISTORY (I'm not to into big history books, books covering a US president or a whole war, but some authors write about topics a that are a bit more general than my usual, but not too broad.)

Big Chief Elizabeth : How England's Adventurers Gambled and Won the New World - Giles Milton

I wish there were more Milton books to read. This is the last one i read. He can write a whole book well about a topic others would find difficult to write a lot about. This book mainly dealt with the Jamestown settlement, something I didn't know much about, even though I went there with Meg recently.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War - Nathaniel Philbrick

This book was a great companion to the above book. The title suggests that it just covers the Plimouth plantation, but it actually covers King Phillip's War as well. I think this is one of Philbrick's better books. It got me wanted to go the Plimouth reenactment.

The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn - Nathaniel Philbrick

This is Philbrick's most recent book. It is one of the few times I've read a book hot off the presses (got it for cheap at BJ's). I didn't know much about Custer's Last Stand before I read this. This book certainly filled in a lot of holes, but I wish it delved more into the after history and cultural significance of the event.d

SHIPWRECKS (Shipwreck pictures always remind of reading National Geographic at my Nana's house. I've always found underwater archaeology interesting.)

Shipwreck: A Saga of Sea Tragedy and Sunken Treasure Shipwreck: A Saga of Sea Tragedy and Sunken Treasure - Dave Horner

I was looking for a good book about the Spanish Treasure Fleets. This one wasn't it. It had some good extended quotes from a Spanish priest's journal. He survived three shipwrecks (in a row) and wrote quite vividly about them. I think an author like Milton could have handled this material better, however. This book read very unevenly, some of it was little more than treasure lists.

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea - Gary Kinder

I liked this book a lot. The book is about the sinking of Central America a ship returning from the California Gold Rush and full of gold and its eventual recovery. It was a really quick read. The story of the recovery, believe or not, was almost as suspenseful as the sinking. It kind of inspired me at my workplace!

America's Lost Treasure - Tommy Thompson

The only bad thing about the above book was the lack of any decent pictures. This book, written by the head treasure hunter, has plenty of pictures. There is much detail in the text at all, especially if one already read Kinder's work, but it does the job.