The Ever-Enchanting History Month
Posted on October 3rd, 2017
Not going to lie I've been feeling a bit burned out in the book reading department. At the start of September, I didn't have any idea what my "theme" would be this month and thus what I wanted to read. Probably because I didn't want to read. Books... they are just so damn time consuming. Not only in terms of my time but in terms of my energy too. What's the point of reading if you're not going to really engage, if you're not going to try and learn something, if you're not going to better yourself. (?????). It's hard to make time for books.
But alas, over Labor Day Weekend I forced myself into BookPeople - Fun Fact: BookPeople is open 365 days a year! I was just cruising through the isles, aimlessly, without direction when I found myself somewhere I'd never been before: the history section.
Going back to my being a "bad student" as discussed in my stoic philosophy blog, I don't think I learned a single thing in history class. Whenever American history comes up in conversation, I am utterly clueless. Luckily I have two somewhat decent excuses: one is that I'm Canadian and the other is that I went to high school in the UK where it wasn't part of the curriculum to take "American History". Even in the history classes that I was forced to sit through, I never paid attention. I thought history was boring. I hated being forced to memorize dates and names and timelines. ugh. Regardless, I'm an adult responsible for myself and I decided it was time to learn some things about the past.
The four books I choose this month are :
A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the "Mexican Drug War" by Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace
I'm doing everything I can to study Mexico, Central and South America. This book seemed like the obvious choice to learn about as I prepare to drive across the border. As much as I was so excited to read this book, it was incredibly difficult to get through. So much so that I didn't finish it. I was written in such a way that the chapters were divided into years. Sometimes spanning decades, sometimes only 6 months. Although this is logical, to me it read very dryly as there was no main character to follow along with. I guess I could have tried just a little bit harder to engage more. The parts that I did read were rather disturbing detailing senseless murder of school age kids and complete barbarianism.
Escape from Camp 14: One man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
Wow. This book left me in complete and utter awe. As little as I know about the US, I know even less about Korea. This book stuck out to me in so many ways and left me feeling totally heartbroken while still somehow remaining hopeful. In this historical novel, Harden recounts a young Korean man, Shin's story as a prisoner of North Korea's most inhuman prison, his escape, and his life as a free man. A lot of the memories that were shared here were so hard to hear, I was ultimately only able to read a couple pages at one time before needing a mental break. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a reality check!
Rebel Footprints: A Guide to Uncovering London's Radical History by David Rosenberg
I lived in London for five years when I was younger yet still feel like there was so much I left behind unexplored. Reading this book only confirmed my suspicion. This book reads as a tour guide- and literally walks you through the streets of London pointing out landmarks along the way. Interesting, since I recognized a good portion of the "walks" yet frustrating as I really wish I had been in the city while reading this book to make full use of it. All in all a quick and easy read full of insider knowledge.
A History of the World in 6 glasses by Tom Standage
This month I decided to brew my first ever batch of beer with my good friend Corinne. I was so excited yet also terrified that it would taste like shit. I wanted to learn more about the brewing process and what to expect. Reading the "beer" section in this book taught me that people used to have to drink beer out of straws since it was so nasty. haha - definitely reassured me that mine could never be that bad....
Even at the end of all of this, I didn't end up reading a lot about American history.