Jun 1, 2015

Potential Books for August, 2015

Books on the History of Texas (thanks to Allen W.)

There are two I'd recommend.  They are equally good, although I think Brands is a better writer & story teller, but Davis' book is considerably shorter.  Both give background on the Spanish colonial period and Mexican independence, then cover the Texas revolution of 1835-36 and its aftermath through the Civil War.

Lone Star Nation: The Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence by H.W. Brands. 4.4 stars, 608 pages (526 of text).

Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic by William C. Davis. 4.7 stars (3 reviews)m 376 pages. SELECTED

Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans by T. R. Fehrenbach does cover the history of the state into the 20th century and is well written.  But, I thought Fehrenbach was at times too much of a flag-waver and the book is quite long at nearly 800 pages.  4.5 stars, 792 pages (726 of text).

Another possibility is a military history of the Texas Revolution written by Stephen Hardin.  This is a very well written, lively account, but it focuses on the military actions, rather than the loony politics of the Revolution.  It's not that much of an oversimplification to say that no one was in charge, or too many were.  Very chaotic.  This book is a good read and short; Hardin is a good writer and story teller.  However, this does not cover anything beyond the revolution.

Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836 by Stephen L. Hardin. 4.6 stars. 344 pages.

There is a good, scholarly book on the political side of the revolution and its aftermath, including sections on how Hispanics were marginalized by the fledgling Texas government, which also ratified a constitution that made it illegal to abolish slavery.  However, the book is very dry and not for the casual reader.  I brought a real interest in the subject to this book and had to struggle through it:

Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social History, 1835-1836 by Paul D. Lack 3.8 stars (4 reviews), 360 pages.

I think the best choice is probably Brands or Davis, as they cover a broader history of Texas, albeit only through the Civil War.  However, a lot of what characterizes Texas and it's people is its history as an independent republic (even though I think that was a bit of a sham).  It seems to affect how Texans relate to their status as part of the United States and the occasional rumblings of another possible secession from the United States (which is an even bigger sham to me).  Interestingly enough, Sam Houston (a mercurial figure; hard to get a real handle on him sometimes), who is (sort of) the George Washington of Texas, argued strenuously against Texas' secession in 1861.

Books on the Irish Revolution and Civil War (thanks to Chris H.)

This list was previously posted, but never acted upon.

Books on Women in U.S. History

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. 4.0 stars, 384 pages (274 of text). There are some reader reviews of the hook on Goodreads. Here is a video interview with author Roberts on the bookWhile much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts brings us women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. Drawing upon personal correspondence, private journals, and even favoured recipes, Roberts reveals the often surprising stories of these fascinating women, bringing to life the everyday trials and extraordinary triumphs of individuals like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed and Martha Washington–proving that without our exemplary women, the new country might have never survived.

Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. 4.3 stars, 512 pages (394 of text). There are some reader reviews of the book on Goodreads. Here is a video interview with Cokie Roberts on the bookIn this eye-opening companion volume to the previous book Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts brings to life the extraordinary accomplishments of women who laid the groundwork for a better society. Recounted with insight and humor, and drawing on personal correspondence, private journals, and other primary sources, many of them previously unpublished, here are the fascinating and inspiring true stories of first ladies and freethinkers, educators and explorers. Featuring an exceptional group of women—including Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Rebecca Gratz, Louise Livingston, Sacagawea, and others—Ladies of Liberty sheds new light on the generation of heroines, reformers, and visionaries who helped shape our nation, finally giving these extraordinary ladies the recognition they so greatly deserve.

Capital Dames LP: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868 by Cokie Roberts. 4.4 stars, 512 pages (412 pagess of text). Here is a C-SPAN video of the author discussing the book. Here is a brief review of the book from the New York Times. The latest in what seems a long effort of this reporter, daughter of two members of Congress, to document the role of women in politics in U.S. history. Cokie Roberts marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War by offering a riveting look at Washington, D.C. and the experiences, influence, and contributions of its women during this momentous period of American history. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the small, social Southern town of Washington, D.C. found itself caught between warring sides in a four-year battle that would determine the future of the United States.


  1. A Star Called Henry (Last Roundup) by Roddy Doyle had been recommended to the club as very good on the Irish revolution. He wrote "Certainly a page turner it is a fiction from the perspective of a 'foot soldier' in Dublin IRA. It clearly shows that behind the men of action are a group from whom the soldiers will always be excluded. This group will assume power when the New Day dawns, as such groups do worldwide."

    There was considerable discussion in the book club meeting about this as a possible selection. Roddy Doyle is a world class author, having been short listed once and having won the Man Booker Prize on a second occasion. The Man Booker Prize is perhaps the most prestigious award for English language fiction, awarded each year for the best original novel, written in the English language, and published in the UK. Doyle also won the British Oscar for best film writing. Thus he is a more famous writer than one usually finds among professional historians, and perhaps has an even greater command of narrative style than do professional historians of Irish history.

    The club has never selected a book of historical fiction, but there was some support for doing so in this case. It is possible that in some cases a fictional treatment may provide a better understanding of situations and events than straight history. It was thought that it might be worth the experiment, but the decision was deferred.

  2. A member wrote me:

    "I am not sure I like the group considering Irish history, I do not want another round of bigotry. Also, Coogan is heavily biased. His biography of de Valera is a hatchet job. I think the Civil War much more important to understand then the War of Independence. As our war of independence, Ireland's is not controversial, at least in politically in Ireland. The Civil War is the origin point for Ireland's major parties and is probably more an issue there than ours is here. I do not know either of the books on the Civil War, so I cannot recommend them nor do I know of any that I would recommend."

  3. Chris had recommended two books focusing on the Civil War. This review endorses Chris's first choice of Michael Hopkinson's Green Against Green but it even more strongly recommends 'Peace after the Final Battle': The Story of the Irish Revolution 1912-1924 by John Dorney.