Author: Doug Most
Narrator: John H. Mayer
Title: The Race Underground
Publication Info: Books on Tape, 2014
This fascinating study documents the race between Boston and New York to be the first city to have underground rapid transit. Spoiler: Boston wins the race, but the modest Tremont Street subway would soon be overshadowed by New York City opening an extensive network of subways covering hundreds of miles all at once. This work includes a lot of tangents into the engineering, technological, and social changes of the late-19th century and early 20th-century in delightful ways. Most frames the story around two brothers – Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York City – who were behind the push for improved transit in their cities, but the stories of many politicians, engineers, financiers, dreamers, and ordinary people amazed (or frightened) by the changing world around them. The story is not without tragedy as people died building both subways, not to mention a fair amount of corruption, but ultimately this is a triumphant story about the progress of humankind.
Recommended books: 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York by Clifton Hood , A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850-1900 by Stephen Puleo, Underneath New York by Harry Granick , Subway Style by New York Transit Museum, Change at Park Street Under: The story of Boston’s subways by Brian J. Cudahy, and Tremont Street Subway A Century of Public Service by Bradley H. Clarke.
So, the FIFA World Cup ended over a month ago, but I still used this year’s tournament as inspiration to revive my ongoing Around the World for a Good Book project. The basic gist is that I’m attempting to read a work of fiction (in English or English translation) from every country in the world. So far I’ve been able to read literature from more fifty nations, but I’ve stalled out the past couple of years.
My goal for 2014 is to try to read a book for all 32 nations represented in this years World Cup. Luckily, countries I’ve read abundantly – such as England and the United States – as well as other countries I’ve read for the project were represented in the tournament, so I will only have 12 books to read to complete the field.
Here are the books I’ve read, or plan to read, for the World Cup nations of 2014. As always, I’m open to suggestions.
Author: Stephanie Schorow
Title: Drinking Boston : a history of the city and its spirits
Publication Info: Wellesley, MA : Union Park Press, c2012.
Other books by same author: The Crime of the Century
It’s an interesting premise to study one city and it’s relationship to alcoholic beverages. Arranged roughly in chronological order, Schorow covers the following topics: Colonial taverns, saloons for immigrant communities, the role of bars in ward politics, several chapters on Prohibition, the golden age of night clubs (1930s-1950s), neighborhood bars, and the present day revival of the fancy cocktail. Schorow takes particular interest in the Ward Eight, a cocktail invented in Boston with fascinating and contradictory stories of its origin, although most people admit it’s not a very good cocktail. The book is filled with stories and anecdotes, but does not cohere as whole. I enjoyed reading it but I can understand criticisms of other readers who did not feel engaged by the material.
Author: Allie Brosh
Title: Hyperbole and a Half
Publication Info: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2013.
The deliberately crudely-illustrated comics from Allie Brosh’s classic Hyperbole and a Half blog are collected here in book form. Brosh’s writing and drawing based on her life is both hilarious and poignant. Her works on depression and motivation (or lack thereof) are particularly brilliant, and make me feel that she gets me. She also writes a lot about her dogs and their lack of intelligence and a particularly belly-guffawing story of her house invaded by a goose. The colorful pictures also attracted my two-year-old daughter who kept picking up that book whenever I wasn’t reading it. This book should be read by one and all.
Recommended books: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Author: Peter Gottschalk
Title: American heretics : Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the history of religious intolerance by
Publication Info: New York: Palgrave McMillan (2013)
I received a free early reviewers copy of this book via the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.
As Americans, we proudly proclaim our religious tolerance and maintain that our country was built on religious freedom. While many forms of religious expression have flourished in the United States, Gottschalk reminds of the many instances of religious intolerance in our country from earliest settlement to the present day. The book is divided into seven chapters focusing on:
- Puritan persecution of Quakers in colonial Massachusetts
- The struggles of Irish Catholic immigrants in Protestant-dominated cities in the 19th century
- The Ghost Dance and the extermination of the Sioux
- 20th prejudice against Jews by the Ku Klux Klan, Henry Ford, and immigration restrictions
- The Latter Day Saints struggle against violent opposition in the 19th century and how the political careers of George and Mitt Romney show a growing acceptance.
- The Branch Davidians and the vilifying of outsider groups as cults
- Islamophobia in the wake of the September 11th attacks
The book is short for all the topics it covers and Gottschalk really only touches upon these various topics. The author can get oddly deep into some parts of the topics while being very broad at other times. I also found it troubling how much he defends the Branch Davidians as a persecuted minority rather than recognizing that child rape and their vast military arsenal were a threat to the community at large.
It’s an interesting overview, and if you have a familiarity with American history there shouldn’t be too many surprises. But if you think that religious groups have always been welcomed in the United States, you’ll want to read this book.
Recommended books: Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Steven Waldman and The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong