Like everyone else in the world, the last few weeks have led to lots of additional free time. Here are 12 good books I’ve read recently that I highly recommend:
(1) The Great Influenza: The Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History.
Wanting to make more sense of what’s going in with the Coronavirus crisis I ordered this book on Kindle after hearing someone recommend it on Twitter.
The writer does an excellent job of translating medical and science concepts into laymen’s terms. If you’re looking for one good book on current events, you won’t go wrong with “The Great Influenza.”
(2) Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s
Lots of interesting chapters on angles from this period that aren’t often covered in more general books.
(3) Integrating Delaware: The Reddings of Delaware
Incredible use of primary resources and very well written history of leading Civil Rights era leader Lewis Redding of Delaware. First rate history of the highest order.
(4) Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent
Another excellent book. Written in 2012 I found it noteworthy how the author was so clearly linking the shipping of the country’s industrial base overseas to its growing weakness.
Two interesting points he makes:
- Interviews with key executives from major companies who talk on the record about how bad the decline of US industry was for the US even if “good” for their company
- Good coverage of how “Protectionism” was critical to the rise of the US manufactering economy. The US was very “protectionist” until ww2. “Only when a country reaches top do they want to adapt Adam Smith it seems”
The Covid-19 crisis made that glaring weakness even more obvious. Almost none of the most needed medical equipment is made in the US. We have limited ability to ramp up production here even if we wanted to. Hopefully this crisis will be a wakeup call.
(5) The World Crisis : 1911-1914 by Winston Churchill
I see some historic parallels between the summer of 1914 and March -April 2020 in terms of addressing a huge unknown with no clear remedy and trying to find the right balance.
That’s why I read Churchill’s book on World War One.
Has there been another example of a person who was a professional historian in their own right who was this close to major world events?
(6) Was World War One Inevitable?
This is a very good YouTube lecture. I agree with the thesis that it was not inevitable:
(7) How Britain Went to War Podcast
Another interesting podcast of relevance to today. Britain’s cabinent leaders in the years before 1914 had actually done a very good job of preparing a plan to turn the bureaucratic switch from “peace time” to “war time”.
They even had a book of 800 or so pages spelling out exactly how to make that transition. But not one page on “what comes next” or on why or whether to do it in the first place…
(8) The Last Generation: Work and Life in the Textile Mills of Lowell, MA 1910-1960
Very detailed oral interviews with dozens of factory workers from this period.
(9) A Farewell to Arms
(10) Love You, Mean It: A True Story of Love, Loss and Friendship
The story of 4 young women who lost their husbands on 9/11 who found support from each other over the next several years. My first thought when reading the cover was it would be too depressing. It wasn’t. It’s actually quite motivational and inspiring – anyone of us could be hit by a life changing tragedy at any point. Life isn’t fair and sometimes we have to just persevere through.
(11) Within the Reach of All: An Illustrated History of Brandywine Park
In most North East US cities, the factories tended to be built closest to the River around which the town was originally centered. Virtually all of these factories have closed and those areas now tend to be the least economically desirable areas of the city. In large part because the site of the factories caused environmental issues which make new economic activity less feasible.
Yet in my town of Wilmington there is a huge mile long stretch that could have become a site of more factories but for the efforts of several leading factory owners who bought the land and turned it into a public park. An excellent history of how the park come to be.