Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

Some of the new books (not school related) that I've recently added to my library increasingly teetering pile of books (I've started reading one of them...a girl can dream):
  • Baker, Jean H (2011) Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion. Hill and Wang, New York. I heard the author interviewed on NPR not long ago about Sanger -- advocate for access to birth control and reproductive rights. I appreciated that in her interview, Baker didn't shy away from difficult issues like eugenics and didn't make Sanger out to be a complete saint. Complicated people are way more interesting. Can't wait to read this one.
  • Bernstein, Peter L (2005) Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation. WW Norton, New York. I am beside-myself fascinated with the Burned-Over District of Western New York. One of the common themes in everything I read is the Erie Canal, so I figured I'd read up on it. I hope there is a lot of human story in this telling, though I do have a bit of an industrial-engineering-feat geek side so even if it's a straight "look at this amazing thing we built here is how we did it" I won't be bored.
  • Harris, Sharon M (2009) Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey. From the back cover: "The nation's first female army surgeon, a pants-wearing divorcee, and the only woman ever to receive a Medal of Honor, Mary Walker was a plucky character ada courageous reformer." Disliking the use of "plucky" there (seriously, would you describe a man as "plucky"?)... but looking forward to reading this. Also, there's a photo of her on the front cover in a jacket and tie. Who doesn't like a woman in a jacket and tie... yeah, well, I do. So there.
  • Rath, Richard Cullen (2003) How Early America Sounded. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. I don't like sterile house museums; they feel so fake. I think that's ultimately what provoked my interest in sensory history/archaeology ... thinking about how the past smelled, tasted, sounded -- not just what it looked like.
  • White, Richard (2011) Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. WW Norton, New York. White is the guy who came up with the concept of "the middle ground" in history -- that place where Europeans and Native Americans interacted. I first heard about it in a blog post by historian Jonathan Rees, who wrote that he'd never be able to look at a railroad the same way again. That, coupled with my slight infrastucture-geek-side, and how could I resist? The thing is enormous, though... just over 650 pages.
  • Weisberg, Barbara (2004) Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism. HarperCollins, New York. I did mention a fascination with the Burned-Over District, didn't I? In 1848, the same year as the first Women's Rights Convention (and not far away) the Fox sisters began to hear spirit rappings. They soon were able to use them to communicate with the dead. The social factors surrounding all of this -- and why them, and why then -- are fascinating. Really interesting for me though, are the connections between the story of Spiritualism and other major movements in the area -- connections based on people. Amy Post, well known for her abolitionist and suffrage work, was also a supporter of the Fox sisters, sitting with them on stage in support (and for protection); Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune, was a supporter; according to the author, a sceance by the Fox sisters was held around the very table that the Declaration of Sentiments was written on.  I'm part way through this book; it's a relativey quick (and very interesting) read. Lots of footnotes for information about the Fox sisters, but I've found it lacking in footnotes about other events and people surrounding them.