Monday, July 30, 2012


'Pin Picks: Se7en

Oh, dolly, today we're helping our gal Pistol Packin' Mama hook her 'rents up with a new read. Her dad (love 'im) is totally one of those War Book Dads (not to be essentialist), which is often an overlapping set with the Golf-Themed Paperweight Dads, but that's beautiful too. Look at us, wanting different things! Hold hands, little children. I'm going to go with your Dad's list, but your Mom is totally a slam-dunk for 84, Charing Cross Road, so buy it for her right away, okay? Promise me!

1. A World Lit Only By Fire, William Manchester – This is interesting, because I kind of disagree? I think Manchester's Churchill books are incredible, but as someone with a medieval lit background, I feel like Manchester was kind of faking it a little in this one? He's reasonably upfront about it not being his field, but then why not write that boss biography of Churchill's mom that I've been agitating for, instead? BUT THAT'S OKAY! It's still helpful for my purposes that your dad (and mom!) love this book.

2. The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman – Okay, I'm totally groovin' on your dad, Pistol Packin' Mama, because that book is my jam. Tuchman is SO GOOD AT WRITING ABOUT HISTORY, and I now immediately know what I'm gonna tell your dad to read. I don't care if his next pick is "Broadway Musicals of the 1930s." (I hope it is, though!)

3. John Adams, David McCullough – HAHAHAHA, Classic Dad. Classic, classic Dad. I hear they hand this book out in maternity ward waiting rooms now, instead of cigars (because of the fire hazard). No, that's wild. Annnnd, now I'm actually a little torn on your recommendation, because there's another David McCullough you might like even better. Crumbs. Okay, we're going with Option #2.

Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt, David McCullough – Teddy Roosevelt is the greatest. I actually have a mini-shrine to Teddy Roosevelt in my foyer. Not with candles, or anything (fire hazard), but with a painting and some books, including The Roosevelt Women, because, as McCullough basically tells us, if Teddy's sister had had a dick, she would have been THE GODDAMN PRESIDENT. Like most of his contemporaries, of course, Teddy was horrible on issues of land rights for Native Americans, so I'm not exactly endorsing him for 2012. This is really a fabulous read, even if you're not a Golf-Themed Paperweight Dad.

Oh, and my original recommendation was going to be for Paul Johnson's Modern Times, which is certainly not for everyone, but it probably IS for your Dad, who may secretly like Margaret Thatcher? I kind of have some love for Margaret Thatcher myself, or at least for the fake Denis Thatcher letters in Private Eye.

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<3 you PPM


@Megano! Word.

Nicole Cliffe

I had planned to be active on this thread, but, honestly, I don't want to leave the Step Up: Revolution post.


@Nicole Cliffe Oh Mah GAWD. Love it!

(My dad is a long-standing true-blue Democrat. So, I'll ask him, but I doubt he is a secret lover of Margaret Thatcher. Although the Dennis Thatcher letters, maybe.)

Thank you thank you!


@PistolPackinMama I have a great Teddy/Alice Roosevelt suggestion! My history buff dad loved it.

The Imperial Cruise, by James Bradley

So much great info, so compellingly written!

Nicole Cliffe

@PatatasBravas Thank you!!!


@Nicole Cliffe *I liked it too, I don't mean that it's only a history-buff-dad kind of book!


@Megano! The feeling, I assure you, is entirely muutal.




Ooh, a Teddy Roosevelt shrine? Nicole, you are a woman after my own heart. I fell in love with Teddy while reading Timothy Egan's "The Big Burn," which is about the beginning of the U.S. Forest Service, which sounds like it would be totally boring but actually involves Teddy Roosevelt literally wrestling his dinner guests. Teddy!!

Roaring Girl

@TheBelleWitch I am going to read this book immediately. I'm a forestry student, and ever since Nicole told us to read Young Men and Fire I have been wanting more, more, more Forest Service history.


@Roaring Girl Having just read A River Runs Through It and USFS 1919, I am adding this one to my list as well. And then I can give it to my dad once I'm done!


"What Your Favorite Roosevelt Says About You."


@Lucienne Can someone please make this the next Hairpin quiz or something?


Sigh. I wish my parents, like, read books. At all. The holidays would be so much easier!

Nicole Cliffe

@BeebsLaRue I do love spending the holidays bathed in companionable silence, everyone flicking pages at regular intervals.

the roughest toughest frail

@BeebsLaRue Same. I've often wondered where I got my love of reading, since I don't think I've ever seen my dad with a book in his hand. My mom, on the other hand, will trudge through 3 romance novels a year.


@Nicole Cliffe That is what we do together. That and eat cheese and crackers in the kitchen while making dinner. And Scrabble.


@PistolPackinMama THIS, but with Pictionary. We also have impromptu naps on the couch while everyone is reading.


@PistolPackinMama for years as a kid, i'd be sitting with a book in noisy family gatherings or snuck into church, with my family wondering what on earth was wrong with me. Then, finally, I met my father's side, where weekend visits are spent waiting for dinner to cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a good book in the other, with jazz on in the background and scrabble after dinner, and it all. made. sense.


@PistolPackinMama It makes Christmas shopping so easy - just going to my favorite bookstore, buying everything, then packing 1/3 less clothes than I actually need!


@PistolPackinMama I am so jealous of whole families that read. My grandfather is a Civil War Book Grandpa, and my grandmother reads some Christian romances, but that is it. My cousins are practically illiterate.


@PistolPackinMama Ooooo! I will bring either Quiddler or Bananagrams with me, then! /insider remark

Baby Fish Mouth

I've started keeping track of presidential biographies on goodreads because my reading bucket list is to read one really good biography on each president. David McCullough just dominates this field. Do I try to diversify or start by reading everything by him?

Also, I've had 84, Charing Cross road for the past two weeks from the library and I'm finally able to start it tonight!

Nicole Cliffe

@Wiscowhitney I am giddy with anticipation on your behalf. I would love to read it again for the very first time.

Baby Fish Mouth

@Nicole Cliffe It was so charming! I have to say you are currently my Professor "Q" since I have loved most the books you've recommended in your lists or in the 'pin picks. Thanks!

Nicole Cliffe

Oh, incidentally, I mention it briefly in the post, but TR's frontier rhetoric stuff is pretty bad, though he was reasonably enlightened about African-Americans. #lowbar


@Nicole Cliffe I'm 2/3 of the way through A People's History of the United States, and now I hate ALL THE PRESIDENTS. The book is clearly not objective / has an agenda, but I am buying most of it anyway because it happens to align with my agenda.


@Nicole Cliffe FOLLOW THE SUN


Seriously, TR was all about the Teutonic ancestral superiority! Wild times.

simone eastbro

@billie_crusoe okay, I have to say, I haven't looked at Zinn in years, but I actually think it's way more objective than it appears. You probably know this, but I am going to tell you anyway: so what that book is in professional historian terms is a synthesis, meaning that Zinn read hella monographs (or his assistants did?) and wrote a single narrative of American history using them. Which means that a lot of what he is arguing is pretty forward-thinking, serious, well-argued scholarship. I know he frames the thing in a particular way, but I actually think the book itself is more representative of the discipline of history as a whole than people think? The reason you might not think so is that what historians write is not necessarily part of the national narrative of American history.

So knowing that made me way less impressed with Howard Zinn as a REAL RADICAL BRO! but made me respect the book more.

OK that's all!


@simone eastbro Oh, yes. It's just that there are places where he is clearly speculating about people's motivations, and he makes it clear when he's speculating. I have no doubt about everything he presents as fact. (I also think most of his speculation is probably spot-on.)


Annnd now I don't have to worry about finding something for my Dad for X-mas. Because Mornings on Horseback is clearly The Thing.

Thanks, Nicole!


I feel compelled on my Pater's behalf to say, he is a great resource if you want any History of WWII's Machine Guns, Tanks, Parachutes, or U-Boats ever. (um- hello screen name?!)


He also has the charming habit of quite literally picking up what you put down. So we've had lovely conversations about Mama Day by Gloria Naylor because he read it after I read it, for example.

Have I mentioned my mater et pater met at the library? Where they both worked in high school and college? And his nickname as a kid was bookworm? It was.

Thanks Nicole, for the recs. This is very exciting. And I am going to read it after he reads it and then hopefully mater will read it and then we can go out for brunch! Yes!

Nicole Cliffe

@PistolPackinMama I am completely in love with my excellent parents, so nothing makes me happier than seeing other people who are also completely in love with their excellent parents.


@Nicole Cliffe Yay for nerdy parents! All of these books are going on my christmas list for my dad, whose nickname in school was Professor (and not only because of his giant Buddy Holly glasses).

Oliver St. John Mollusc

@PistolPackinMama Aw, I call my dad Pater too <3 Dads! Mine is a big old Evelyn Waugh/P.G. Wodehouse/S.J. Perelman nerd. For Christmas I used to just roll up to the used book store and find him a first edition of one of those guys.


@quickdrawkiddo My icy heart melts. My dad is also a PGW guy. And a Flashman guy.

@all <3 nerdy parents!


Guns of August was good, but The Proud Tower kind of kicks its butt. 19th century forever!


@Bittersweet I don't want to play favorites here, I love them both. But The Proud Tower is hella awesome!


@rallisaurus No, you're right, they're both really good. But The Proud Tower was just my kind of historical study, bringing all the threads together to point to the inevitability of war. Plus, I bawled through the chapter on Dreyfus.


@Bittersweet Not only is the Proud Tower awesome, it also help inspire Josh Ritter's most recent album.


Pinners! Maybe you could help me pick out a book as a gift to my friend. A close friend is having a birthday/graduation party and I would really like to give her a good book. For context, she double majored in Art History/Women's studies and loves to read/write/talk about both. Her favorite movies are A Fish Called Wanda and Moonstruck. Suggestions?

Baby Fish Mouth

@teebs Um, I don't know if this would be too obvious or way off, but I just read An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin. I'm not sure how much I would recommend the plot or characters of the book but I liked Martin's writing style. I think the book was well reviewed because it accurately described the art scene in New York but also acted in a way as a mini-crash course in art history. But maybe that would be old news for her? I don't know, I'm sort of rushing through this recommendation so maybe this doesn't help at all.


@teebs I think that A Month in the Country is always the right book to give anyone anywhere for any reason.


@teebs Possession by A. S. Byatt is always a good one. Ooh, and Margaret Atwood. Cat's Eye is specifically about an artist, but they are all definitely Women's Studies-y.


@teebs Oh! Give her The Time-Traveller's Wife. Lots of art references, but not too heavy for schlubs like me; interesting but not overbearing opportunities to discuss women's/mothers' roles.

Furious George

@aubrey! YES! I wholeheartedly second Possession. It is one of my all time favorites (and one of the three I submitted to 'pin picks).


@Furious George Byatt's newest, The Children's Book, is also about art and women, you could give her an A. S. Byatt Double Feature!


@Furious George Only book I bought for its cover, and that lived up to it. I had no idea who ASB was, and I enjoyed it a lot.

(I skimmed a lot of the poetry.)


@teebs I will second the recommendation for anything by Atwood (although much like Lucienne with A Month in the Country, I will pretty much recommend Atwood regardless of circumstances).

Also, if your friend is at all interested in graphic novels and/or memoirs, I would recommend Alison Bechdel - I just finished Fun Home, her memoir about her father (which incidentally I borrowed from my art history-studying roommate), and next on my list is Are You My Mother? (which on the women's studies side of things would almost definitely have interesting themes about the role of a "good" mother/mother-daughter relationships, at least based on what she alludes to in Fun Home).


@teebs "The American Painter Emma Dial" if she's a fan of contemporary artists/painting.

If she likes silly fantasy novels with billions of pages, "The Golden Key" by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot.(Might be good for the post graduate brain)


@teebs Maybe give her something by John Berger? Ways of Seeing is amazing, and she may have already read it for art history, but his novels are good, too (and sometimes sexy). How about G (a romantic picaresque that won the Booker Prize), or A Painter of Our Time?


Oh, gosh, this makes me homesick for my War Book Dad!

Krispy McGrumpypants

What about any of the Hinges of History, by Thomas Cahill?

Mysteries of the Middle Ages, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, How the Irish Saved Civilisation, etc...

sarah girl

Avenue Q reference?!

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@Sarah H. Yeah, that's what I was checking the thread for!
HOW can it GET and better than THIS?


Nicole, I don't mean to be a snob, but David McCullough? His bios are riddled with inaccuracies and not even markedly more readable than biographies that are accurate. What about that great three part Morris? This is an old article, but does a good job of explaining the more blatant McCullough inadequacies http://hnn.us/articles/157.html


I realize this is from months ago, but I just have to include the fact that I, too, REALLY HATE David McCullough sometimes. I like reading him, I like reading him A LOT. But I hate that people think that what he does is good history, or interesting history, or even history for that matter.

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