My beside table is loaded. I can’t seem to just start one book at a time. Often some theme excites my interest so a pile accumulates. Next, I’m off on a tangent suggested by one of the first books, then another side trail leads me to something completely different, and so it goes. I imagine you have the same problem–if it is a problem. (I don’t think it really is–how can good books ever be a problem?!)
Watching a few films set during WWI and WWII, I began to read about both wars. Being married to an historian helps; he passes me books I might never otherwise have discovered–like the 615-page book The First World War: A Complete History by Martin Gilbert which I still have yet to finish. Then there’s The Origins of the First World War by James Joll, a mere 264-pages. It’s the beginning of a war that fascinates me, how and why humans go there. Then via Amazon I purchased Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer-prize winning The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War 1–perhaps the one I’ve been most drawn to, though another giant of 566 pages. Before reading these, during my Nazi phase, I read a recent book, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, published in 2013, by Wendy Lower, which I finished promptly–the woman angle hooked me. About that time, I started Peter Hoffmann’s The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945–852 pages! I may never read it all but I like jumping chapters, wandering into whatever interests me.
I’m known to sometimes read a preface, then bounce to the end of a book, then roam the middle and eventually start chapter one, continuing on through–or not. Wanting to understand this world, I also began and am half-way through Richard Haass’s The World: A Brief Introduction. I’d seen several interviews of him on TV and found his thinking compelling. Only a mere 300-and-some pages, it tries to make sense of the world (something I keep trying to do, though with little success) and covers a wide range of history up to contemporary times, copyright 2020.
For contrast, I pulled out some of my art books I’d not read for decades, seeing them with fresh eyes. A favorite by Richard Schmid on landscapes, a book on Winslow Homer watercolors, and a 1999 hulk of a book on Rembrandt by Simon Schama.
Then I ordered a light read, Blood on the Tracks, (2018), a collection of railroad mysteries which I thought sounded delightful but weren’t (I love trains!). Then I went to a glamorous French cookbook focusing on outstanding patisseries. This one I will return to often as the descriptions of the elegant shops and the several challenging recipes I tried were scrumptious!
Meanwhile, my husband was watching another Titanic movie, which led to my interest in Commander C. H. Lightoller’s autobiography, Titanic and Other Ships. The second in command on the Titanic, a survivor, his entire life since a youngster at sea unfolded into one amazing adventure after another. This book is a page turner!
Then we watched Ken Burns’ documentary on Mark Twain and I realized I’d only read Tom Sawyer in school, never Huck Finn, so out it came and I’m only in the fourth chapter now because other Twain-related books took over. I read some of Twain’s mean writing; he had a very dark period when he attacked everyone and everything. Then I jumped into reading his daughter Clara Clemens’ book Awake to a Perfect Day, which I found inspiring.
All this reading led me to painting, what I love best. No, I did not paint WWI or WWII (already did a bit of that several years ago), nor Huck Finn’s Mississippi, nor a downed Titanic. I painted my own backyard view of the Damariscotta, an ocean estuary, utilizing some Richard Schmid-like techniques.
This is a very recent piece, an oil, painted on location from my backyard. Just got it framed and, as I write, it is hanging in a local exhibition in Damariscotta.