I created this blog to post my book reviews for Cannonball Read V, but it will likely to turn into an outlet for many things. I am currently starting my final, and very busy semester in furtherance of a BA in History.  I like to garden, bake, knit, crochet and sew and I have two cats that I find endlessly entertaining.  Between now and May, most posts will be history related but I’ll do my best to mix it up a bit just in case someone other than me and Pajibans wind up reading this blog.


CRBV # 2 Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible-Tim Gunn, Ada Calhoun

I had no plans to read this book right away.  I got it as a Christmas gift and there are books that have been in my To Be Read pile for literal years.  But it was sitting on the arm of my chair one lazy Saturday morning and I thought I’d just take a peek to see what it would like.  Two hours and one hundred pages later I figured I may as well finish the rest of the book rather than set it aside and start something older.

Gunn starts with underwear and works his way out to handbags.  He admonishes the reader who may be a costume historian not to write him with some bit of historical clothing that he may have missed as he is not writing a textbook and his book certainly doesn’t read like one.  His style is conversational and engaging (obviously).  He has very clear ideas of what constitutes good taste but he backs up said ideas with reasoning rather than a simple “in or out” list. I had a hard time disagreeing with him with all except one point. In his chapter on athletic wear (titled “Attack of the Play Clothes” HA!), contends that athletic wear should ONLY be worn for sports and workouts.  I would counter that Gunn is a man who has a cleaning lady and likely never has to do any heavy duty mopping or scrubbing himself.  Other than that, I’d be more than happy to have Tim Gunn hang out in my house and help me dress myself property without making me feel like the sartorially challenged doofus a truly am.

CBRV Review #1 A People’s History of the United States-Howard Zinn

First of all I have to apologize. I actually finished my first two books in the first two weeks of January but haven’t managed to get my butt in gear and actually post about them.  I started with Zinn’s seminal work because, first of all I’m an aspiring historian with with a definite leftward bent and this book is pretty much required reading for us.  Additionally, I’ve been attempting to plug away at this tome for years and finally decided to restart it at the end of 2012 specifically planning to make it my first review for CBRV.  I took it with me on the MetroLink where I would be forced to read it rather than spend an hour a day avoiding eye contact with my fellow passengers.

Originally published in 1980, People’s History was a revolution in historical writing.  Rather than tell history from the perspective of the political and economic elites, he told it from the perspective of common folks. It was the beginning of what many neo-conservatives would decry as the ruination of American History.  In their version, history is a straight line of upward progress from our first landing at Plymouth Rock until the present. America has always been in the right and on the off chance that it was in the wrong, it was only with the best of intentions.  Zinn presents a version that is certainly non anti-American but in his own words:

“Our people are basically decent and caring, and our highest ideals are expressed in the Declaration of Independence, which says that all of us have an equal right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The history of our country, I point out in my book, is a striving, against corporate robber barons and war makers, to make those ideals a reality — and all of us, of whatever age, can find immense satisfaction in becoming part of that.”

My one regret in reading this book is that I did not read it sooner.  By now Zinn’s alternate histories are pretty commonplace.  So it came as no surprise to me that life for anyone poor, female, foreign or brown might have been pretty damned unpleasant throughout American History.  I’m glad I read this book but it was not the mind-blowing experience it could have been had I read it right out of high school rather than less six months away from a BA in History.  Furthermore, many contemporary historians have absorbed Zinn’s style to write a more balanced view of history.  That is to say rather than just telling the tale from the perspective of the haves OR the have nots, a good history combines both to create the complex picture that is our past.