Monday, January 2nd, 2012

There are five books in a teetering tower on top of my bedside book case. I think of these as the books I’m currently reading, even though I’m only really reading one of them right now: Empire of the Summer Moon. Before my birthday came along I was reading a dozen or so pages each night before bed from just one book, and was feeling mighty smug about having whittled it down to that, but then my mother sent me a book in the mail and it was so good I began to alternate between that and the previous book, any why not? I can juggle two books as well as anybody else. And then My Darling B gave me a lighthearted and not very long book for my birthday and I started to read that, and then my oldest son gave me a book about trains for Christmas … and now the pile by my bed is as big as it ever was.

Sean brought a copy of Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, by S.C. Gwynne, with him when he came to visit, and I started to leaf through it when he left it on the coffee table one day. Leafing through it turned into reading it and, in just a couple of days, I had finished several chapters, so Sean let me hang on to it so I could finish and return it to him later. I know woefully little about the Indian wars, and S.C. Gwynne, as it turns out, not only seems to know virtually everything about it, he can write about it in a style that is compellingly readable. This is his first book on the subject, unfortunately, so I will be waiting impatiently to see if he writes another that I can wolf down in a week and a half.

Before I started reading Empire of the Summer Moon, I was about halfway through Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, which My Darling B gave to me for my birthday. She knows about my weird fascination with typography and allows me to indulge it by stockpiling derelict typewriters. She spotted this book on a recent visit to The Tattered Cover, our favorite book store in Denver, Colorado, and snapped it up. Organized into easy-to-read chapters, each one of them a self-enclosed story, you could enjoy this book a as a casual read without having to be a font nerd. I was reading a chapter each night before bed until Sean left his book out to distract me.

Rival Rails: The Race to Build America’s Greatest Transcontinental Railroad is very much a book for train nerds, among which I happily count myself. Sean got me this one for Christmas. It’s unusual among the books he’s bought me in that he didn’t read it himself before he presented it to me, but then he’s not, sadly, the train nerd that I am. I read the opening chapter on Christmas morning but haven’t gotten back to it since and don’t know when I’ll be able to. Even so, it’s still on my bedside book shelf waiting for me to pick it up again.

Before all these other books came to my attention, I was reading the book my Mom got me for my birthday, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-42, by Ian W. Toll, who wrote Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy, which I found with the new releases in the library some years back and put it on my TBR list, which never seems to get any shorter. Pacific Crucible instantly grabbed my attention and I was alternating between it and the last book in my bedside pile before all those other books came along. I hope to get back to it soon, but who knows.

Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight was the lone book by my bed for several weeks. Very geeky, it’s the story of the transformation of flight from the time when pilots controlled aircraft with a stick and pedals connected to the airplane by cables to the time when pilots were confronted with fly-by-wire systems and had to learn to deal with flight computers that took over a huge share of their jobs, a transition that arose from the manned space program. I was halfway through this book when Mom’s book came in the mail and distracted me.

towering | 7:04 pm CDT
Category: books, entertainment, hobby, play, space geekery
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