Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Archive is Back!

For the dozen or so of those who missed reading my random musings/history lessons, I decided for 2015 to make a return to the blogging world! I'm going to continue the random musings, the random facts, and an occasional look into what I'm reading. Of course, if you like what you read, share!

So what have I been doing for the past 16 months? Well, I'm working, I got married in November 2013, bought a home early in 2014, and have been keeping up with getting that in order.

I've also read...a lot. I mean, not as much as I would if I were in academia, but I think 30 books in a year was pretty good. As you might have guessed, most of them were history. So what I thought I'd do is start off with short reviews over several posts of 15 (give or take) books I've read in 2014. Keep checking over the next week or so--I have a bunch of things coming!

Let's kick 2015 off with a few reviews.

To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi, edited by Amy Elizabeth Burton. Government Printing Office, 2014.

This is easily the most recent publication I've read. My reading list is a bit backlogged. This is a series of essays put together by the Office of the Senate Curator that features a ton of images of the beautiful art in the US Capitol. The work examines the more recent research on artist Constantino Brumidi, who pained in the Capitol from 1855-1880. Conservators have been working on restoring Brumidi's murals since at least the mid-1990s. One of the big themes that is apparent in the book is the influence of westward expansion on the paintings in the Brumidi Corridors and how researchers found that one of Brumidi's main sources was a twelve volume report on possible routes of a transcontinental railroad, published in the late 1850s--the time when Brumidi and his team of artists did much of their work.

Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945, Max Hastings. Vintage Books, 2012.

Hastings wrote several volumes on various parts of World War II, but this is the only one of his books on that conflict I've read so far. The book is long, some 800 pages. Though some of the military history is a bit dense, and at times, plodding, it was still a worthwhile read. There were parts of the war in the Pacific and the Middle East that I knew almost nothing about. Hastings wasn't focused merely on America and Europe: he showed that World War II was indeed a global conflict.

The Smoke at Dawn, Jeff Shaara. Ballantine Books, 2014

This is one of two fiction works I'll write about over the next few posts. This is Shaara's third of four novels on the Western Theater of the American Civil War. I've loved Shaara's writing since Gods and Generals came out in the 1990s (caution: avoid the movie at all costs!) and he keeps getting better. His style and research really shine in this series. His account of the Chattanooga Campaign in Fall 1863 is very accurate. Early in his career, Shaara told the story through the eyes of the officers. As he wrote about the First and Second World Wars, Shaara brought in the perspective of the front line soldiers, something he continues here. It is a welcome part of this series. I can't wait til the fourth and final book comes out sometime this year!

Again, stay tuned for more reviews over the next few days!

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