An Estate Sale
Today I went to an Estate Sale in Mendham, NJ. The house was set back from the street, which was a sometimes one-lane road in the middle of the countryside. It was quite beautiful…and the most beautiful part where the thousands of books lining its walls.
The former resident of the house was obviously a lover of classic/contemporary literature, arts, history, and biography. I spent a solid two hours searching the shelves and finally exited with nineteen.
I know, that is a lot of books – but when there are several hundred you want to buy and you leave with less than two dozen, one feels a certain sense of accomplishment.
So here is my haul…Perhaps it will make a fun reading list for someone who shares my interests.
Why I Chose What I Chose
Feel free to jump down to the list itself, but for those who care (anyone?) I’d like to share the reasoning behind my choices.
- I focused primarily on historical and biographical books because:
- I don’t read much contemporary fiction.
- When I read classical fiction I usually use an e-text and turn it into an e-book.
- I consider myself too much a beginner in the arts to be able to understand much of what is said in these fields and would rather focus on learning more of the basics.
- I chose almost exclusively books that the former owner had read in their entirety (which was obvious by the hand-written notes, underlines, and bookmarks sprinkled throughout).
- My primary interests in reading are to (a) understand God and (b) understand humanity. The library was sparse in the former, so I focused on the latter.
- Most of these books are historical or biographical, but the way in which I read them remains constant with my primary interests:
- Who is God? How do we relate to Him?
- Who is Man and Woman? How do we relate to each other?
Revolutionary War Era
- Susan Dunn. Sister Revolutions: French Lightning, American Light.
- An evaluation of why the American and French Revolutions took such different turns, recommended by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
- Forrest McDonald. The Presidency of George Washington. (University Press of Kansas).
- David P. Szatmary. Shays’ Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection. (University of Massachusetts Press)
- A revolution in America following soon after the American Revolution. What made this revolution different from the initial?
- William Hogeland. The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America’s Newfound Sovereignty.
- Again, occurring soon after the Revolutionary War in America, the question arises, how was this different from our initial revolution? This book even more than the last, since it directly involves some of the best-known personages of the Revolutionary War now crushing a rebellion.
- H.W. Brands. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin.
- I previously read Brands’ The Money Men and found it absolutely fascinating, I am expecting more of the same in this volume.
World War II
- Maax Hastings. Retribution: The Battle for Japan: 1944-45.
- Charles Glass. The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II.
- The title gives all the reason needed for my selecting this volume.
- Paul Johnson. Intellectuals.
- Apparently “controversial and provocative” this work looks at a number of intellectuals in history including Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Brecht, Russell, Sartre, Wilson, Gollancz, and Hellman.
- Nina Auerbach. Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth. (Harvard Press)
- From the back cover, “Here is a bold new vision of Victorian culture: a study of myths of womanhood that shatters the usual generalizations about the squeezed, crushed, and egoless Victorian women.”
- Thomas Pakenham. The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent From 1876 to 1912.
- I want to understand how white (American, European) interference and subjugation in Africa plays into the issues we see today and understand how those of the time justified themselves.
- John Huizinga. Erasmus and the Age of Reformation.
- Erasmus comes up occasionally in my readings on the Reformation and seems a fascinating fellow. I’d like to see how his thought differed from his contemporaries.
- James Reston Jr. Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors.
- John Burrow. A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century.
- I’m always looking for books that provide me with a starting place, a place to jump off from. This seems like one of those books. There are so many historical volumes – which should I choose? Hoping this volume will give me some direction.
- Paolo Cesaretti. Theodora: Empress of Byzantium.
- I am interested in Byzantium and I am interested in female leaders, especially in historical periods where men where usually the leaders.
- Strobe Talbott. The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Question for a Global Nation.
- Usually I’m not a huge fan of volumes that cover such an extraordinary sweep of time but the former owner showed great interest in this volume (according to the bookmarks), so I figured I’d give it a try.
- H.W. Brands. Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence – And Changed America.
- Again, because of what I have read by Brands in the past, I expect this volume to be excellent…not to mention the former owner apparently thought there was much worth noting in this volume.
- Derek Wilson. Charlemagne.
- Because I’ve wanted to read about Charlemagne and because Alison Weir recommends it.
- Thomas Kessner. Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America’s Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860-1900.
- I like to understand how we came to be as we are as Americans…and that includes the sort of people who built our wealth and the moral (im)propriety of that acquisition.
- Edmund Morris. Theodore Rex.
- Because it is Edmund Morris, the previous owner thought it interesting, and I find the Roosevelt’s interesting, but don’t know nearly enough about them.
-  When we record history, we interpret it. We are not objective observers. With humility we acknowledge this and attempt to be self-reflective as we write…but sometimes the reader discovers the author has in fact (or just seems to) slipped into various biases which color the facts unnecessarily. ↩