In addition to working on the same oil painting for the past six months, I have been reading lots of books.
Many of the books I have been reading are historical diaries. It is fascinating to read first person history to learn about the situations and challenges faced by past generations from those who were actually there.
As a college-educated woman, I took several courses dedicated to instilling fear into the hearts of historians regarding the twin bogeymen of bias and braggadocio and how they taint first person historical accounts. Being able to discern fact from fiction is a good skill for any reader to have…especially historians. It seems to me that too few of today’s “historians” or historical experts immerse themselves in primary sources before diving headlong into the the shallow water of secondary sources such as the ever present, easily accessed and factually challenged internet.
A good example of this type of study would be of the Christian who reads a lot of Facebook posts about scripture and who can expertly google biblical verses required to further a narrative, but who neglects spending time reading the actual Bible.
While I do read my bible frequently, I must confess that I have never read the whole Bible from cover to cover. After applying some thought to the matter, I found the situation unacceptable. So, I have spent the past several months doing just that. I am through the New Testament and am in the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament.
What a wonderful experience it has been! I have learned so much. There is definitely only one God and he’s it; Jesus is the Messiah; and creating us humans and giving us free will must make God constantly bang his Holy Head against a heavenly wall. And yet, he still loves us.
In addition to working through reading the Bible, my reading list from this summer has been somewhat extensive and I must say there has not been a dud in the bunch. Well, one was close to being a dud, but I muscled through. I strongly recommend picking up any of these books and giving them a read.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This World War II story will clue the reader in pretty quickly as to why you stand for the national anthem and our flag. This book puts you right along side the downed airman and his trials adrift in the ocean and vividly describes the horrors he experienced as a Japanese prisoner of war.
The Classic Slave Narratives edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. This book includes:
The Life of Olaudah Equiano; The History of Mary Prince; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. These accounts are real and heartrending.
Eyewitness to the Alamo by Bill Groneman. I may have never physically been to the Alamo nor seen the American’s fight to prevent the Mexican Army from taking the fort; however, after reading this book, I have in my mind.
Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel. This is a thoughtful read even though about two-thirds of this book is dedicated to Ms. Schlissel advancing her theory that women were the great bulwark and victims of western expansion. According to her, they did more than their share of the work and suffering. Not only do statistics undermine her conclusions, but so do the actually women in their diaries. This book is a good example of a modern Monday morning quarterbacking type of historical bias. As to her repeated claim that women cared more for the dead along the Oregon Trail than did men, because women kept count of the graves in their diaries and the men just noted the death. I would like to point out that the men were driving a large oxen team and the women were riding in the wagon or walking behind it. Once the gals made sure that all of their kids were accounted for, and not likely to fall out the wagon, what else did they have to do? It’s not like there were telephone poles to count.
These Is My Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1902, Arizona Territories, by Nancy E. Turner. This book is a fictional adaptation of the author’s great-grandmother’s diary. For those who are familiar with the desert southwest, this is a quick must read. Good story.
The Ox Team on the Old Oregon Trail 1852-1906 by Ezra Meeker. Ezra was there, did that and then, many years later, did it again to teach a nation just how hard pioneers on the Oregon trail had it. It is a great read and a “how to” book on going west with oxen. Theodore Roosevelt even gets a mention.
The Fetterman Massacre by Dee Brown. This is a military history about the second largest massacre of United States troops by Indians where no white soldier’s survived. I had never heard of this event and thought it would be good to learn about it. The battle of Little Big-Horn where General George Armstong Custer died was the largest Indian Battle with no United States military survivors.
Captivity of the Oatman Girls by R. B. Stratton. The Oatman Family was massacred in 1851 by the Gila River while on their way to California. Two of their daughters, Mary and Olive, were taken captive by those who had slain the rest of their family. One brother, Lorenzo, also survived the attack when he was left for dead. I decided to read this book, because I saw a picture of Olive Oatman and her facial tattoos. I wanted to know her story. It’s quite a story! It includes Mormon church history, bravery, love, cowardice, slavery, and freedom. What a strong beautiful young woman!
Adeline and Julia, edited by Robert Myers and Janet Coryell. These two sisters kept diaries. The younger girl describes a very thorough picture of what growing up in Victorian times meant for a principled feisty female child who liked to be a tom boy. The older sister and a couple of her friends, decide to try their luck at homesteading in Kansas Territory. These girls have a good time, survive hardship and always seem to make money in their business adventures including running a sod house boarding house. This is a great book and should be required reading for all young women.
Butter in the Well by Linda K Hubalek. This sweet bit of fiction is based on the Swedish homesteader’s experience. It even comes with traditional recipes.
Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart. This is the best woman’s diary I have ever read! I read it a second time, because it was hard to believe that it is a real account of Elinore’s life, but it is. Ms. Pruitt-Stewart has many virtues that I admire: bravery, independence, kindness, practicality, a sense of adventure and excellent marksmanship skills. I strongly recommend this book.
Life in the Far West by George Fredrick Ruxton. After reading so many stories about people who decided to leave everything behind and go west. I decided to try and find one of the books that these early pioneers had read that inspired them to take on such an adventure. Mr. Ruxton, an Englishman, died before reaching the tender age of thirty, but he packed a lot of living into those few short years. This book was first published in 1849 and describes the life of a fur-trapper in the Rocky mountains. Surprisingly, this book is written like a novel using the vernacular of time which has been sprinkled lightly throughout with wit and where the author adds a pinch of ironic humor and observation now and again. It is a book that is hard to put down once began. He ends this account of his life in the mountains on a surprisingly pleasant and happy note.
I also have read a book on German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and a rather long history of the Rothschild banking family. My current read is a book called, “A Woman in Berlin.” It is an anonymous diary that a woman began keeping in April of 1945 just as the Russians entered Berlin at the close of World War II. This book graphically tells about the fall of Berlin from a woman’s prospective including her victimization by Russian soldiers.
I hope you find time, even if it is just a half hour a day, to pick up a book and read!