Monday, December 7, 2009

A few books I've read lately

A Scattered People: An American Family Moves West by Gerald W. McFarland

This book tells about the lives and choices made by descendants of five colonial families whose lives intertwine by marriage and shared experiences. Reading this well-researched book makes it easier to imagine what the lives of my ancestors were like as they moved west from New England. I appreciate the detailed Sources section in the back. If I were to ever write our family history, this book would be a good example to follow. This gets an honored place on my bookshelf.

Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer

An excellent book. "Impeccably researched, brilliantly executed." Publishers Weekly. Fischer brings to life not only George Washington, but many of the players on both sides of these pivotal Revolutionary War battles. I appreciated his ability to explain in an even-handed way the motives and decisions of the American rebels, loyalists, English and Hessians. I also appreciated the maps that show where the players were in all the key battles. My ancestor, Luther Kallam, was in Lippet's Regiment, which crossed the Delaware that cold December night. He re-enlisted at the end of the month and continued on through the fight at Princeton. Following the army as it marched day by day and battle by battle was made even more interesting knowing that Luther was there. This also gets an honored place on my bookshelf.

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Just finished this one today. I was surprised by the lack of details about the ship itself and it's history. After just finishing Washington's Crossing with its excellent footnotes and maps, the Notes section in the back was a disappointment. I was also disappointed by the lack of information about the many reasons the Separatists left England and then left Holland. I wanted more day to day details about their lives there and to see the thinking process clearer that led them to take this drastic step of sailing half way around the world so they could worship as they pleased. I was very disappointed there were so few details about the individuals who came, but my disappointment probably stems from the fact that I'm a genealogist and I always want to know more about the lives of the average person "way back when".

Half way through, I thought maybe the book had been misnamed. It became a story about King Philip and his war. It was very interesting because some ancestors, including Gov. William Bradford's son, Major William Bradford, participated in the Indian Wars. It was told in a style that made you want to keep reading to find out what happened next. But most of the book had little to do with the Mayflower. This book will go on the lower shelf, and probably won't find itself in the "take to the used bookstore" shelf.

Now, what do I read next? How about the 700+ pages of A History of Wales? Or maybe it's time to take a break and read some poetry!

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