Glenn A Knight

Glenn A Knight
In my study

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reading List: October 2012

October was one of those months in which I finished more books than I started. I was continuing to read in a stack of library books I picked up at East Library in Colorado Springs. In fact, as of today's writing (November 15), I'm still working on that stack of books.

Listed in the order in which I started reading them during the month, here are the books of October.

Marcel Proust, A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs. Published in 1919. I read only a little of this work in this time period, taking in a couple of pages on October 1.

Antonella Ansani, Complete Italian: The Basics. Edited by Suzanne McQuade. Between October first and twenty-first, I finished working my way through Complete Italian, including the accompanying discs. Del primo ottobre al venti-primo, ho letto Complete Italian.

Michael Alexander and John Walkenbach, Excel Dashboards and Reports. I finished up this excellent guide to the construction of reports in Microsoft Office Excel on the second and third of October.

David Gilmour, The Pursuit of Italy. This is one of two histories of the Italian peninsula I've been reading, and both of them cast doubt on the degree to which Italy can be treated as a nation-state, given the importance of regional differences. It's interesting to me that the Italian "reunification," which was not a reunification at all, was occurring at the same time as the American Civil War and the unification of Germany. Of these three attempts to establish the supremacy of the centralizing state over diverse regions, the Italian seems to have been the least successful.

George W. Bush, Decision Points. Since reading this book, I like Mr. Bush, and I respect his thinking, more than I ever did while he was President. This is immediate history worth reading. Seeing what the Republican Party has been coming to, many of us will be looking back with nostalgia to the days of "W."

Bruce Feiler, Walking the Bible. There are some ludicrous errors in this book - a "Toyota Land Rover," for one example. The big problem is that Feiler can't decide where he stands, and his process of "discovery" doesn't seem likely to lead to any resolution of his questions. Is the Bible true? Did the Israelites escape slavery in Egypt? Can Jews and Arabs live in peace? Big questions, but I don't think Bruce Feiler is up to finding believable answers.

Joseph Schmuller, Ph.D., Statistical Analysis with Excel for Dummies. Either you like statistics, or you don't. More Americans are as allergic to statistical analysis as they are to economics. And you either like Microsoft Office Excel, or you don't. I like Excel, and I use it a lot at work. For some unfathomable reason, I also enjoy statistics. I found this book readable, informative, and pleasurable. Not everyone shares my tastes.

Daniel Silva, The Fallen Angel. This is the only book on this month's list that I both started and completed during October. It is also the only work of fiction on the current list. I'm still not sure why I like Daniel Silva's books when his "hero" is an Israeli assassin who cooperates with the Vatican. Even so, these are fast-paced and enjoyable thrillers.

Keith Heyer Meldahl, Hard Road West. If the many, many settlers who set out from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, back in the 1840s and 1850s had been able to read Meldahl's excellent merger of science and history, some of them would have gone back to Ohio or Indiana to live out their lives without experiencing the Snake River Canyon, the Forty-Mile Desert, or Donner Pass. But what would life be if everyone could the safe and sane path. Recommended for readers of the Roadside Geology books, aficionados of the westward migration, and anyone who liked John McPhee's Annals of the Former World.

Christopher Duggan, The Force of Destiny. This is the other history of Italy to which I referred earlier. You know, Napoleon Bonaparte has a lot to answer for, not only in Egypt, Russia, Germany, France, and Louisiana, but in Italy. Bonaparte's invasion of northern Italy in 1796 to fight the Austrians set off a chain of events that led to Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi. The mind boggles. Very well written, but you do have to be able to keep track of Italian names and place names.

David Abulafia, The Great Sea. This may actually be the best book on this month's list. It's a long book (783 pages), it is technical in places, and its focus is on the surface and immediate littoral of the Mediterranean Sea. Just one of the virtues of this book is that it has inspired me to re-read a number of classic books set on and around the wine-dark sea, from Homer and Aeschylus to Shakespeare and Gibbon. Whether I'll actually do all that reading remains to be seen.