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A Fierce Glory by Justin Martin

Almost every angle imaginable on the Civil War has been studied and yet authors continue to bring forth different perspectives. This is the case with Justin Martin’s A Fierce: Antietam-The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery.

I have read many accounts of the Battle of Antietam – most focus solely on either side or give a balanced view of the battle. Martin gives a balanced account of the battle, but he adds a new element by looking at Abraham Lincoln during the battle. Lincoln was waiting to hear about the results of the battle before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was anxious to issue it, but he did not want to issue it after a loss – better effect if it was issued after a victory.

Martin’s descriptions of the fighting are not too detailed, but they are enough to give the reader a decent picture of how the battle unfolded and why it ended the way it did. Its greatest strength is not in the battle descriptions, but in explaining the relationship between the battle and Lincoln’s decision to issue the Proclamation. Martin discusses Lincoln’s thought process in coming to the conclusion for issuing the Proclamation rather than choosing another course like the federal government paying for the freedom of the slaves and sending them back to Africa.

Another part I enjoyed was Martin’s discussion on the unique relationship between Lincoln and Union general George McClellan. They were polar opposites in many ways: Lincoln was humble, McClellan was a braggart; Lincoln was aggressive in wanting the Union to attack, McClellan was cautious to a fault; Lincoln was a Republican, McClellan was a Democrat who eventually ran for President against Lincoln. Throughout the battle, Lincoln was desperate for news and McClellan knew it and yet he refused to inform Lincoln on the battle except in the vaguest of terms.

Finally, it includes several pages of photographs from the battlefield and major characters covered in the book. It also includes three good maps of the Battle and of Lincoln’s daily commute to work.

Excellent book that looks at the Battle of Antietam from a different angle.

Three non-fiction books I'm looking forward to reading

Photo credit: Read It Forward

 

Despite my love-hate relationship with non-fiction, I constantly coming across books I want to read. In an attempt to impose some discipline on my reading I thought I would publicly commit and comment on the next couple of books in the queue.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin

At over five hundred pages, this book is a little larger than I normally take on but it is so fascinating and potentially useful that I had to dive in.  I have just started reading but am going to try to tackle this in bigger chunks so I can 1) finish it and 2) get more out of it.

The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life by Hunter Baker

This collection of essays by my friend Hunter Baker tackle an important subject and one with great relevance today.  I always enjoy reading Hunter’s take on meaty subject so I can’t wait to be able to finish this collection. Thankfully it is much shorter than the first book in this list!

Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln by Richard Brookhiser

Last, but certainly not least, comes the latest from Richard Brookhiser. I have a simple rule: Brookhiser writes a book, I read it.  He is a master of popular, engaging and insightful history; razor sharp biographies that flush out impact and meaning not just a collection of dates and facts.  This is a must read.

So there you have it, cognitive science and self-help, political philosophy and cultural engagement; and historical biography top my TBR list.

What books are you looking forward to?

An Evening with Steve Berry (Kinda)

As I mentioned a few days back, best-selling thriller author Steve Berry was in town as part of some Thurber House events.  I didn’t get to hang out at the reception nor was I able to attend the writing workshop but I was able to hear him speak on Friday (hence the kinda in the title).

Steve_Berry_webBerry, the author of most recently The Lincoln Myth, is a best-selling author of dozens of thrillers including the Cotton Malone series.  He is also a big supporter of historic preservation.  Berry and his wife created a foundation, History Matters, to support this passion and since 2009 have been traveling the country raising money to help the cause.

Friday’s event was also a result of this passion. Berry was part of the Evenings with Authors series with Thurber House last year and wanted to come back and help Thurber in their preservation efforts.  So they put together a reception, author event and writing workshop with all proceeds going to fund the Thurber House.

As part of this preservation focus on Friday Doreen Uhas-Sauer, from the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, gave a small talk on her background in history and preservation and its connection to James Thurber.

Berry then took the stage (he paced the stage rather than stand behind the podium) and discussed his latest book. Rather than offer a reading he discussed the historical hook and background which is the engine of his latest Cotton Malone thriller.

The Lincoln MythIt involves Abraham Lincoln, Mormons, and the issue of secession.  As a lawyer and a history buff, let a lone an author of historical thrillers, it was clearly a subject Berry found fascinating.  Equally clearly, he loves to dive into subjects and find ways to twist history just enough to create an entertaining story.

Not having read any of his books I can’t tell you how well he succeeds but judging by his book sales and the fans in attendance on Friday, quite well.

After offering some background and teasing the book he then opened it up for questions.  He talked about the writing process, what he reads for pleasure (thrillers but not much because of the lack of time and the blurbs he writes for fellow authors), Abraham Lincoln, potential TV and movie deals, and whatever else the audience was interested in.

I asked about the brouhaha over Amazon recently and he responded that it was just a supplier and distributor arguing over pricing (one side wanted a bigger cut of profits while the other was unwilling to give up more).  He was confident that it would be resolved but that the same scenario would play itself out as other publisher contracts come up for renewal. He noted that it was the author and the readers that end up bearing the brunt of the pain.

He was very relaxed and naturally engaging; clearly comfortable on stage and taking questions. Not surprising as he has been doing this all across the country for years.

It was an interesting way to get a sense of an author’s style, personality and interests.  I am sure for the die-hard fans who have read all of his books it was even more fun.

If you are in the Central Ohio area, or Ohio more generally, I encourage you to connect with the Thurber House.  They bring in a variety of authors and writers for events and workshops in addition to managing the Thurber House itself.

As luck would have it we are just entering the Literary Picnics season.  Check out the offerings this summer:

Wednesday, June 11: Scott McKenzieThe Man Behind the Nose: Larry Bozo Harmon
Wednesday, June 25: David Giffels, The Hard Way on Purpose
Wednesday, July 9: Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Fourth Down and Out: An Andy Hayes Mystery
Wednesday, July 23: Claire McMillan, Gilded Age
Wednesday, August 6: Tony Mendoza, A Cuban Summer

And if you are a fan of historical thrillers and haven’t checked out Steve Berry get crackin’ …

Friday, May 30: Thurber House Presents Steve Berry

There is still a chance to hear bestselling novelist Steve Berry this Friday, May 30.  The author of The Lincoln Myth is coming to Columbus for a special Thurber House event.  Unfortunately, the reception and master class workshop are sold out.  But you can still hear Berry read from his latest novel on Friday.  Like all the cool kids, I will be there.

Details
Who: Steve Berry, author of The Lincoln Myth
When: Friday, May 30, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Where: Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E. Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215

Who is this Steve Berry you ask?

Steve_Berry_webSteve Berry is the international bestselling author of thrillers with a historic twist; he has 15 million books in print in 40 languages and 51 countries. He is also deeply committed to the preservation of historic buildings—like Thurber House.

His ninth Cotton Malone adventure, The Lincoln Myth, was published on May 20. This time Malone gets involved in a flaw in the U.S. Constitution, a mystery about Abraham Lincoln, and an explosive political issue.

Friday, May 30: Thurber House Presents Steve Berry

There is still a chance to hear bestselling novelist Steve Berry this Friday, May 30.  The author of The Lincoln Myth is coming to Columbus for a special Thurber House event.  Unfortunately, the reception and master class workshop are sold out.  But you can still hear Berry read from his latest novel on Friday.  Like all the cool kids, I will be there.

Details
Who: Steve Berry, author of The Lincoln Myth
When: Friday, May 30, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Where: Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E. Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215

Who is this Steve Berry you ask?

Steve_Berry_webSteve Berry is the international bestselling author of thrillers with a historic twist; he has 15 million books in print in 40 languages and 51 countries. He is also deeply committed to the preservation of historic buildings—like Thurber House.

His ninth Cotton Malone adventure, The Lincoln Myth, was published on May 20. This time Malone gets involved in a flaw in the U.S. Constitution, a mystery about Abraham Lincoln, and an explosive political issue.

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