Last year I noted that I did not have as much time for books as in 2009, so I’m pleased to report I bounced back this year with more time for reading.
This year I continued to teeter between purchasing an e-reader or not. Some days I say no way will I abandon my beloved paper books. Other days I have doubts about how long that will last.
Anyway, here’s my list of favorites, all the paper kind.
Destiny of the Republic
If you’re like me, you knew something about Lincoln and Kennedy’s assassination, but very little about the tragic shooting of William McKinley and James Garfield. I had to do something about that, and picked up this book. Then I could not put it down. Millard also got great reviews for his first book, so her next effort will be highly anticipated.
Baseball in the Garden of Eden
by John Thorn
Baseball’s pre-eminent historian spent over 20 years digging up information on the early history of the game. The book sagged a bit but Thorn re-wrote the book on the early part of the game.
1812: The Navy’s War
by George C. Daughan
The second war of revolution against the British was fought on several fronts, and none more important than the high seas.
by David S. Reynolds
Most influential book in US history? You could never get a consensus on that one, but Uncle Tom’s Cabin packs a mighty punch. Reynolds tells how in this excellent book.
Cuban Star: How One Negro-League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball
by Adrian Burgos, Jr
The Giants need to erect a commemorative marker for Alex Pompez, and have the spelling in both English and Spanish.
Literary Capital: A Washington Reader by Christopher Sten
The anthology Washington bibliophiles were craving.
Maps of First Bull Run
by Bradley Gottfried
Gottfried, who thrilled Civil War buffs with his 2008 book, “The Maps of Gettysburg,” turned to Bull Run for his second such effort. Turning the pages, you feel like you’re there on Henry Hill, as the two sides turn the Virginia countryside in to billows of smoke and ear-deafening volleys of lead.
Glossy covers and photo-filled books can sometimes translate to a lack of well-researched writing. While pricey, this book is a wonderful exception, and the best book to date on this seaport town founded in 1749.
Inventing George Washington
by Edward G. Lengel
A nifty run down on the myths created about our Founding Father, and the comeback he made in our minds.
1861: The Civil War Awakening
by Adam Goodheart
Alexandria Civil War buffs must read his fabulous chapter on Colonel Ellsworth.
by John DeFerrari
On the trail for fascinating what- was-there stories in Washington?
This book is your ticket.
Roger Connor Home Run King of 19th Century Baseball
by Roy Kerr
The first full-length bio on the Giants best player of the 19th Century. Will the Giants new owner read it?
Second Reading: Notable And Neglected Books Revisited
by Jonathan Yardley
Another must read for Washington book lovers. He’s not a big fan of Steinbeck, but that’s ok, I forgave Yardley and enjoyed his book.
A Travel Guide to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake
by Ralph Eshelman
It's time for you to learn how to draw the shape of Maryland without looking at a map. Seriously, this is a well-researched book that will allow you to learn where and how the The War of 1812 impacted Maryland and the Bay Region.
States of Confusion
by Paul Jurt
Didn’t think I would buy this one but glad I did. Speedy read of the author’s trip. Did he reach his goal? What was his goal?
Hidden History of Alexandria
by Michael Lee Pope
Banner year for history buffs in Alexandria. First Ted Pulliam’s Historic Alexandria and then this one. Pope takes an interesting look at the rivalry between DC and Alexandria.
Far and Away: A Prize Every Time
by Neil Peart
Neil Peart has carved out quite a legacy as a drummer, lyricist and travel writer. This book, his fifth, is a collection of essays he wrote from his travels across North America. Based in L.A., Peart loves hitting the road on his motorcycle, sometimes seeking a 1,000 mile ride in one day. But as he philosophically noted once, “the point of journey is not arrive.”
"Roadshow" is Peart’s most compelling book, but this one would be the one to buy for your non-Rush fans who appreciate inner-beauty.
Book of the Year
Thorn’s Eden dipped at spots but considering what he uncovered, and the massive amount of research he did, I have to give the award to him. He told us more than we ever knew about baseball’s origins and in doing so, re-established himself as one of the great baseball historians, if not the greatest.
Congratulations to John Thorn and thanks to all these authors for making 2011 a great year.