Recreating the Texas Revolution
‘Captain Putnam for the Republic of Texas’
By James L. Haley
In this fourth installment of the historical fiction Putnam Series, readers sail along the Texas coast, engage in naval battles, follow the Texians during the Texas Revolution, and learn how to captain a ship (sort of). A fun, exciting, and historically accurate read.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, March 2021, 368 pages
An Unexpected Visit
‘The Stranger in the Lifeboat’
By Mitch Albom
A private yacht has sunk. Ten people find themselves adrift off the coast of West Africa. They are short on fresh water, food, and faith. Then they see a man floating in the waves and pull him aboard. He claims to be the Lord. Really? Each of the survivors has a story, chronicled by one of the passengers. His notebook is discovered a year later by inspector Jarty LeFleur who attempts to piece together what happened. The chapters jump from mystery to mystery as readers learn what happened out at sea.
Harper Collins, 2021, 267 pages
The Capstone Work of a Genius
‘From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life’
By Jacques Barzun
Published when Barzun was 93 years old, this rumination on the past 500 years of Western civilization will be read for generations. Here are thousands of profound insights from a great 20th-century historian. He reminds us of the dangers of judging the past by present standards and offers us mini-portraits of scores of Western thinkers. Despite the gloomy title, Barzun offers hope for the future. If you want to know how our culture evolved, start with this.
Harper Perennial, 2001, 912 pages
Bargain With the Devil
‘The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler’
By Ben Urwand
Urwand explores a dark chapter in American history, when Hollywood studios in the 1930s, instead of making films that might have exposed the persecution of Jews in Germany, decided to prioritize profit and retain access to the German market. Not only that, these studios sought to make movies that would please Hitler. One can’t help but reflect on the costs of collaborating with totalitarian regimes today.
Belknap Press, 2013, 336 pages
Inside the Samurai Mind
‘Samurai Wisdom: Lessons from Japan’s Warrior Culture’
By Thomas Cleary
A collection of five classic books on “bushido,” or Japanese warrior culture. Whereas stoicism influenced Western ideas about what it means to be a man, in Japan, Confucian elements shaped the ideal of a warrior. Were this guide rewritten as a modern book, it would be an excellent guide on what it means to be an upright man.
Tuttle Publishing, 2014, 256 pages
A Brutal Age of Courage and Virtue
Translation by Seamus Heaney
When the man-eating Grendel attacks Hrothgar and his Danes, Beowulf and his warriors come to their aid. Beowulf kills Grendel, and after the monster’s mother returns seeking revenge, he kills her as well. In his later years, he and another comrade slay a dragon, though Beowulf dies in the struggle. This epic poem reminds readers of how distant we are from this primitive past, but also demonstrates the emotions we share in common with those ancestors. The many translations of “Beowulf” reveal the power it holds over scholars and poets.
W.W. Norton, 2001, 256 pages
Love Makes Us Real
‘The Velveteen Rabbit’
By Margery Williams
Here we meet a boy, his beloved toy rabbit, and the wise Skin Horse, who tells the rabbit love will leave him shabby and loose in the joints, but will make him “real.” Read this story to the little ones, but keep some tissues handy.
Applesauce Press, 2013, 48 pages
Kindness and Perseverance
‘The Little Engine That Could’
By Watty Piper
“I think I can—I think I can—I think I can.” The Little Blue Engine hauls toys and food to children on the far side of a mountain, all the while chanting that mantra. A 1930 classic that belongs on every child’s read-aloud list.
Grosset & Dunlap, July 2001 48 pages