Into the Ruins: a review of Biblical Turkey by Mark Wilson

When I was 21 years old I took a formative trip to Turkey. My then boyfriend and I rented a car and drove from Istanbul to ancient Troy. From there, we hugged the coast down to Antalya on an unforgettable archaeological odyssey that spanned several weeks and explored the myriad culutures present in modern Turkey’s “ruin” landscape. Unfortunately, now that I am encumbered by a small child and all the craziness that comes with that, I am only able to indulge in armchair travel. I am still a rabid ruin freak, thus it was with gusto that I picked up Biblical Turkey: a guide to the Jewish and Christian sites of Asia Minor by biblical heritage scholar Mark Wilson. As the author states in his introduction, most people are unaware of the role Turkey...

San Francisco politics “through the curtain”

Monika Trobits’ tidy little book ends with a great quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, – “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players”. Indeed, after reading Antebellum and Civil War San Francisco: a western theater for northern & southern politics, one wonders how Shakespeare could have been so prescient. Antebellum and Civil War San Francisco consists of thirteen chapters that in a linear and concise fashion outline the political maneuverings and major events that lead up to and culminate with the Civil War. As even the phrase “political maneuverings” may elicit snores, let me assure you, this is not a dull book. Trobits’ humor leaps from the page and her experience as a walking tour leader shines as she ably makes even the...

2014, a year of many books

In 2014 I read 65 books – my experiment of tracking everything that I read has paid off. Most importantly, I read the entire Outlander series – if you haven’t tried this time-travel, historical romance series please do. If you love a great hero you need to meet Jamie Fraser. In my opinion, he’s one of the most memorable characters in fictional history – right up there with Emma Bovary, Julien Sorel, Bigger Thomas, and Humbert Humbert – tragic, warm, flawed, and certainly sexier. While many of the books were just for fun, they all have added something in my research quest. Below are some highlights from the past year.   January Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin I read the Game of Thrones series in 2011-2013. By January 2014 I was dying for more but...

A Fair to Remember and Relive

How many times have you rolled your eyes and sighed when someone starts telling you about his great grandfather? When you ask Lee Bruno about his, he is surprisingly circumspect – perhaps too much so. Lee Bruno’s gorgeous volume Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition is a testament to “the City that knows how”, the Exposition, and the remarkable vision of Ruben Brooks Hale, the author’s great grandfather. Hale was a far sighted entrepreneur, president of the Merchants’ Association, who planted the idea of hosting a grand Exposition – timed with the opening of the Panama Canal – in the minds of San Francisco’s civic leaders in 1904. Unfortunately, the earthquake and fire of 1906 naturally put plans on hold. As the city...

Bearing Witness to Modern War

As you’re probably aware, the “Recently Returned” shelf in a Library is a treasure of interesting materials that you would not think to look up on your own.  The Soldiers’ Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War by Samuel Hynes is one such gem that I found recently.  Before you think, how depressing another book on war, read on…I know you, like all of us, have been touched by war.  This book is not a history but a reflection on the “personal narratives” of soldiers, that is, the box of Grandpa’s letters from his service in France, the rotted leather diary carried through Dad’s tour in ‘Nam, the raw Born on the Fourth of July, or the shell-shocked Robert Graves’ trench ruminations. The author, Samuel Hynes, is a distinguished scholar and Professor Emeritus from...

What’s In My Book Bag

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start keeping track of the books I’ve read. As a lifelong heavy reader I’ve started and stopped this sort of record keeping a couple of times. Since I’ve started my biographical project however, keeping track of informational and inspirational sources has become a necessity. In the same place (a Black n’ Red hardbound notebook) I record both the fiction and non-fiction titles I read, along with a few notes on their content and my thoughts. The only rule is that I must read the book in its entirety (no skimming – I’m a champion skimmer). Here’s what I’ve been reading that relates to writing. Developmental Editing: a handbook for freelancers, authors, and publishers by...