Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

Review: Rivers Of Gold

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Rivers of Gold is the first volume of Hugh Thomas’s trilogy of books on the Spanish Empire. I picked it up as part of my ongoing interest in South and Central America.

Thomas is an old school British historian and Rivers is correspondingly well researched and clearly delivered. His style is unexpectedly accessible and almost inviting. The combination of invitation and educational focus makes it feel like a great history class.

The research and references are all solid without being overbearing. I think the notes and bibliography provide a solid basis for further exploration.

The overall narrative balances the push and pull of Spanish royalty in Europe and the almost internecine Caribbean politics. Having gobbled up Conquistador and basking in the Western Hemisphere insanity, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that the European politics has a different complimentary flavor.


Review: The Library Book

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Susan Orlean opens obscure cultures and places to readers through her insightful writing. In The Library Book she takes on one of my favorite institutions – the Los Angeles Central Library (and the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) in general)

The LAPL anchors LA’s literary landscape, educational resources, and community outreach. It is a powerful and fascinating resource and I am delighted to be a contributor to it, just to slap a bias on the table.

Beyond that, the history of the place is in the center of the unique and chaotic confluence of forces that is the insanity of LA history. The parade of people and politics that swirl about the founding and evolution of the early history of the LAPL routinely drops your jaw. It’s lively and delightful, including an early (female) director who is voted out and basically responds by saying – “you want the keys? Come and get ’em.”

That’s without considering the 1986 arson that nearly destroyed the place and the subsequent conspiracy-theory-fertile legal wrangling after it. As remarkable is the powerful restorative response of so many parts of LA’s community. Orlean relates this all with the power and mystery it deserves.

Beyond the historical, Orlean takes pains to capture the eclectic feeling of the library. It is a backbone of so many facets of the city and community that no one view could capture it all. She builds a lively collage of perspectives that illuminates the library’s many roles in LA’s pageant.

Any admirer of libraries, history, or community will find much to love here.

Strongly recommended.