Monday, November 21, 2016

The Defender by Ethan Michaeli

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The Defender
by Ethan Michaeli

ISBN-13: 9780547560694
Hardcover: 656 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: Jan. 12, 2016

Source: ARC review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Giving voice to the voiceless, the Chicago Defender condemned Jim Crow, catalyzed the Great Migration, and focused the electoral power of black America. Robert S. Abbott founded The Defender in 1905, smuggled hundreds of thousands of copies into the most isolated communities in the segregated South, and was dubbed a "Modern Moses," becoming one of the first black millionaires in the process.

His successor wielded the newspaper’s clout to elect mayors and presidents, including Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy, who would have lost in 1960 if not for The Defender’s support. Along the way, its pages were filled with columns by legends like Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, and Martin Luther King.

Drawing on dozens of interviews and extensive archival research, Ethan Michaeli constructs a revelatory narrative of race in America and brings to life the reporters who braved lynch mobs and policemen’s clubs to do their jobs.

My Review:
The Defender is American history covering the 1900s with a focus on issues affecting the black population. It mainly covered 1905 to 1983, with a brief look at events leading up to the founding of the paper and of events after 1983 until the paper closed. We're told details about The Defender and the people working there. However, mainly it's a history of Chicago and America.

While it's a thick book, the author did a good job of making it interesting and easy to read. For example, I care nothing for boxing, yet I got tense reading about the boxing matches because the author managed to capture the excitement and tension of the time and transmit it to me. We're told about major events that were covered by The Defender, often with information about what the white papers or other black-run papers said about the events. I felt like I was given a fair view of events and was allowed to come to my own conclusions rather than being told what to think or getting only one side. I really appreciate history books like this one.

When I was in high school, we totally skipped the 1900s. Even the college-level "Modern History" class focused mainly on the wars and politics. I wish I'd read this book as a high school student. I've long wondered about some of the things that this book covered and was totally ignorant of others. It gave important insights into why America is the way it is today. Obviously, I'd highly recommend this very informative book. (I'm a white gal, but this is a book for everyone.)

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, November 14, 2016

In Pursuit of Privilege by Clifton Hood

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In Pursuit of Privilege
by Clifton Hood

ISBN-13: 9780231172165
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Released: Nov. 1, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
A history that extends from the 1750s to the present, In Pursuit of Privilege recounts upper-class New Yorkers' struggle to create a distinct world guarded against outsiders, even as economic growth and democratic opportunity enabled aspirants to gain entrance. Despite their efforts, New York City's upper class has been drawn into the larger story of the city both through class conflict and through their role in building New York's cultural and economic foundations.

Clifton Hood merges a history of the New York economy in the eighteenth century with the story of Wall Street's emergence as an international financial center in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as the dominance of New York's financial and service sectors in the 1980s. Bringing together several decades of upheaval and change, he shows that New York's upper class did not rise exclusively from the Gilded Age but rather from a relentless pursuit of privilege, affecting not just the urban elite but the city's entire cultural, economic, and political fabric.

My Review:
In Pursuit of Privilege is a collection of essays about the New York City upper class covering 1750 to modern times. The author focused on seven time periods where major events created changes in the upper class, though he also talked about what happened between those times. Those time periods were: 1750s/1760s (changed by the 7 Years War), 1780s/1790s (by the Revolutionary War), 1820s (by major growth in NYC), 1860s (by the Civil War), 1880s/1890s (Gilded Age), 1940s (by WWII), and 1970s (by a financial crisis).

Different topics were covered under the different time periods, but each covered what defined the upper class (lineage, wealth, etc.), what they valued (manners, wealth, power, etc.), and how they interacted. The author also described things like where they built their houses, their social diversions (like clubs), what role or social responsibilities they felt regarding the common people, what they desired in schools for their children, how they spent their wealth, and the development of the NY Stock Exchange. He also briefly compared the NYC upper class's values and behavior to those of the upper class in other major cities.

The tone of the writing was distant, looking back at events with hindsight and clinically dissecting each topic. While some specific people were named, they're used as a brief example to make a point. As in, it's not a popular history that puts you in the time, focuses on specific people, or shows their behavior in context. While the tone was academic, the writing wasn't dry and I found the topics interesting. I'd recommend this book to readers interested in the changes that have occurred in the upper class of NYC.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Iron Dawn by Richard Snow

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Iron Dawn:
The Monitor, the Merrimack, and the Civil War Sea Battle that Changed History
by Richard Snow

ISBN-13: 9781476794181
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Scribner
Released: Nov. 1, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
No single sea battle has had more far-reaching consequences than the one fought in the harbor at Hampton Roads, Virginia, in March 1862. The Confederacy, with no fleet of its own, built an iron fort containing ten heavy guns on the hull of a captured Union frigate named the Merrimack. The North got word of the project when it was already well along, and, in desperation, commissioned an eccentric inventor named John Ericsson to build the Monitor, an entirely revolutionary iron warship—at the time, the single most complicated machine ever made. Rushed through to completion in just 100 days, it mounted only two guns, but they were housed in a shot-proof revolving turret.

The Monitor fought the Merrimack to a standstill and saved the Union cause. As soon as word of the battle spread, Great Britain—the foremost sea power of the day—ceased work on all wooden ships. A thousand-year-old tradition ended, and the path to the naval future opened.

Richly illustrated with photos, maps, and engravings, Iron Dawn is the irresistible story of these incredible, intimidating war machines. Historian Richard Snow brings to vivid life the tensions of the time, describing the building, battles, and impact of the Merrimack and Monitor.

My Review:
Iron Dawn describes the origin, building, and careers of the Merrimack and the Monitor. The author set the scene for the building of these ships through a series of short biographies of the top people involved.

Apparently, not a lot of information has survived that describes the Merrimack (as an iron side ship) and that information isn't very clear. So we mainly learned about the logistics of making her rather than details about how she actually worked. In contrast, the author provided some good descriptions of the Monitor, from how her engines worked to how she stayed watertight. Much of this information was provided through descriptions that people gave at the time as recorded in letters, journals, newspapers, etc.

Once the Merrimack and Monitor were built, we followed their careers with much time spent on the famous fight between the two. This battle was vividly retold as the author quoted descriptions given by people who served on the two ships. The descriptions were gory since the Merrimack had a devastating effect on the wooden ships it attacked before the Monitor arrived.

The author described the fate of the ships after that battle and gave an idea of what serving on them was like. He also talked about the modifications that were made to the Monitor design in future monitor-class ships and how other nations reacted to the new ships.

There were pictures of the people involved, some diagrams and such for the Monitor, and a picture of what the Merrimack may have looked like. The book was very readable, and the battles were exciting even knowing the ultimate outcomes. The Monitor's design and construction was quite remarkable. I'd recommend this book to those interested in naval history, the Civil War, or how we went from wood to iron warships.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Permaculture Promise by Jono Neiger

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The Permaculture Promise
by Jono Neiger

ISBN-13: 9781612124278
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Released: Nov. 1, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Permaculture is a sustainability buzzword, but many people wonder what it actually means and why it is relevant. Originally coined by combining the words permanent and agriculture, permaculture has evolved into an optimistic approach connecting all the systems of human life: gardening, housing, transportation, energy, and how we structure our communities.

The Permaculture Promise explains in simple terms why permaculture may be the key to unlocking a livable future on our planet. Author Jono Neiger asserts that humans can thrive while simultaneously making Earth healthier and not destroying it. The book shows 22 ways that permaculture can create a better future for all living things. Profiles of people and communities will inspire you to incorporate permaculture principles into your life today.

My Review:
The Permaculture Promise provides an overview of permaculture. The author defined permaculture as including human relationships and financial systems, how we grow food, build housing, structure communities, and gather energy. It uses interconnected, self-sufficient designs and views people as a part of nature, not above it.

The book is more a summary of what is being done than a how-to guide. For example, he mentioned rain gardens, showed a picture of a rain garden, and might have done a profile on someone who put one in, but he didn't provide enough detail that you could go make one. He did give some suggestions of what the reader can do, but it was mainly along the lines of "learn a new self-sufficiency skill" or "install a compost toilet."

He covered topics like regenerative farming, soil fertility using nitrogen-fixing plants and dynamic accumulators, composting and humanure, sharing resources with those in need, building community relationships and learning self-sufficiency skills, using wetlands instead of destroying them, urban planning and urban gardens, buying local or growing heirloom plants and heritage livestock, growing food rather than ornamental plants, building energy efficient homes, preventing erosion, collecting rain water, and using renewable energy sources.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.