Current Reading: Tuckman, Harris

The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, non-fiction. I’d heard about and read about this book for years, perhaps decades, so I thought it finally time to read it. I’d read a book or two about the Civil War not long ago, and thought a jump forward to WWI might do.

What I found was an extremely densely packed book so full of dates, facts, names and places that it was nearly overwhelming. It’s hard for me to evaluate Tuckman’s much-praised writing, what there is of it inserted between the avalanche of facts on every page. I suppose this just wasn’t the type of history I wanted, as Guns of August could well be a textbook instead of pleasure reading. I’m glad there wasn’t a test, because I didn’t finish the book.

The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris, mystery. All you need to do is go back a post or two to see my review of this one for Forgotten Books on October 26. I need not say more, except to say again this isn’t an author or series I much cared for.

How about you?
What have you been reading lately?

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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14 Responses to Current Reading: Tuckman, Harris

  1. tracybham says:

    My husband has suggested that I read something by Barbara Tuchman but I haven’t tried her writing yet. I have only enjoyed a few non-fiction books, unfortunately.

    I will be doing my own birthday book post on Wednesday for Friday’s Forgotten Books. I just finished The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis.

    I am currently reading The Dusty Bookcase: A Journey Through Canada’s Forgotten, Neglected and Suppressed Writing by Brian Busby and Entry Island by Peter May.

    • I really liked the Civil War books I read last and this years, so I thought the Tuckman would be good, but not for me.
      Happy Birthday a couple of days early! I look forward to your review.
      Many of the books covered in Busby’s book were Friday Forgotten posts on his blog.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I remember reading part of THE GUNS OF AUGUST some 40 plus years ago, but like you I didn’t finish it. I have tried repeatedly with books about World War I, mostly fiction, but for the most part I just have a tough time with them. I know it is “important” but other than a few things – ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, the play JOURNEY’S END for two – they don’t hold me the way the Civil War or World War II books do. My loss.

    I finally finished the Dunsany (FIFTY-ONE TALES), a book you could easily read in an hour or two, which I read a few pieces at a time. Meh. I prefer his tall tales of Joseph Jorkens. I’m reading Brendan DuBois’s collection of stories originally not published in EQMM or AHMM, THE HIDDEN.

    I also read NO TIME LIKE THE PAST, Jodi Taylor’s fifth Chronicles of St. Mary’s book, which I liked a lot more than the fourth. I have the next one on hand. She says “don’t call it time travel” but it is.

    I’m currently halfway through John Scalzi’s THE CONSUMING FIRE, his sequel to THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE and second in the Interdependency series. I’ve started two books George Kelley reviewed – MAJOR DUDES, about Steely Dan, and THE FUTURE IS FEMALE!, a collection of 25 science fiction stories by women written between the ’20s and ’60s. And I’m dipping into 1,000 BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE by James L. Mustich, a huge and interesting book guaranteed to give you many ideas on more books to read, something I don’t need. I’ve already borrowed a couple based on his comments.

    Also, I picked up the new Michael Connelly book, a collaboration between Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard, DARK SACRED NIGHT, among several other library books. I need to finish the Scalzi and read this before we leave for New Orleans on Saturday.

    • I started on Jodi Taylor’s books (in ebook form) and enjoyed the first two or three, bought a couple more, and then lost track of where I was in the series. I liked them well enough to get back to them, if I remember when it’s time to pick The Next Book, but then I never do remember. I’ll try harder.

      I thought the Scalzi was pretty good, but sometimes I do wish he’d just get on with it, if you know what I mean. I think Barbara has already read that Connelly. Have a good trip.

      • Jeff Meyerson says:

        I do know what you mean about Scalzi, and I agree. I find some of the characters, foul language, etc. to be amusing, but often feel that he’s doing it to amuse himself rather than moving the story along.

  3. Jerry House says:

    My major reading this week was THE MAN FROM MARS: RAY PALMER’S AMAZING PULP JOURNEY by Fred Nardis, a somewhat limited look the SF writer and controversial one-time editor of AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES (among others). Palmer was a diminutive hunchback who never found a conspiracy theory hr didn’t like. Responsible for popularizing the Shaver Mystery, Palmer was also the person who “fathered” (or, perhaps “god-fathered) the flying saucer craze of the late Forties and Fifties. He also promoted the hollow Earth theory and much other nonsense, including the idea that Jesse James had faked his death and lived well into the twentieth century. The personable huckster seldom admitted to any of these beliefs, rather saying that he merely presented questions (often in his later magazines FATE and FLYING SAUCERS) for others to decide for themselves. THE MAN FROM MARS is not so much a biography, rather it is a somewhat close look at the history of some of Palmer’s more famous theories. Interesting, but frustratingly incomplete.

    The other book I read was an old television tie-in novel to the Sixties television show THE TIME TUNNEL — TIMESLIP! by “Murray Leinster” (Will F.Jenkins). In this one, the Time Tunnel crew have to deal with a powerful modern-day bomb that had been buried under Mexico City during the Mexican War. Some interesting historical data and color here, but a weak subplot with an obvious solution marred the tale. Three and half stars for this one; Leinster has done much better.

    The rest of my reading week was filled by graphic novels, including Rick Geary’s THE TUE DEATH OF BILLY THE KID, a marvelous adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s KINDRED by Damian Duffy, and three Batman compilations, THE COURT OF OWLS, THE WAR OF JOKESAND RIDDLES, and ARKHAM UNHINGED.

    Finally, there’s THE GRAPHIC CANON OF CRIME AND MYSTERY, VOLUME 1 edited by Russ Kick, a thick book with about two dozen adaptations of crime stories from ancient times through to Doyle, Christie, Himes, Nesbo, and others. Most of the adaptations are of scenes from the various stories, lessening the impact of the book, while others just did not appeal to me. Nonetheless, there’s some very interesting reading and graphic takes in this anthology. One of the most impressive was de Sade’s JUSTINE, told through the covers of a fictional comic book — SADISTIC TALES — and featuring Wonder Woman as the hapless and unfortunate title character.

    At he top of mount TBR are the latest Stephen King, a rare collection of Agatha Christie stories, Megan Abbott’s newest novel, and a Philip Marlowe pastiche.

    Have a great week, Rick!

    • Thanks, Jerry, back at you. Palmer was a real character, from everything I’d heard, but I have no interest in the book, nor the Leinster one. ‘matter of fact, Court of Owls is the only one that sounds good to me this day. You have good things on your TBR.

  4. Patti Abbott says:

    Started the Sally Field bio but not sure I will finish it. It is very well-written but am not sure I can enough about her life to read it all. I have the French book and another bio (Claire Tomalin) and my book club book to read.

  5. Like Jeff, I’m reading John Scalzi’s THE CONSUMING FIRE. In the On-Deck circle is Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, PAST TENSE. I have a bunch of Library books waiting to be read…or returned with Due Dates looming.

  6. Steve Oerkfitz says:

    Also read the Scalzi which I liked. Read the new Michael Connelly which I loved. Also loved November Road by Lou Bernay. Just started Roger Daltry’s autobiography and Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar. I read one library book and one of my own purchases at a time. Trying to get my tbr mountain down. Also have the new Junior Bender novel by Timothy Hallinan coming tomorrow. He is one of my favorite writers right now. Can’t read Lee Child. I find Jack Reacher just too perfect to be true.
    Read Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror about the 14th century years ago but never tried anything else. Doubt I will at this point.

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