What I’ve been reading

1. M.J. Ryan and Nicholas Higham, The Anglo-Saxon World.  I’ve been reading more books in this area, even though data limitations make it difficult to form an accurate picture of what was happening.  Here is Wikipedia on King Alfred, plenty of facts, broader context often difficult to recreate.  (What exactly would they have debated on Twitter, and why?)  I would put this as one of the two or three best Anglo-Saxon books I have seen, and with excellent visuals and photos.

2. John B. Thompson, Book Wars: The Digital Revolution.  Thompson’s Merchants of Culture was surprisingly excellent, now the quality is no longer a surprise.  This book covers the Kindle revolution (now dominated by romances), Google books, how electronic publishing rights evolved, crowdfunding books, the ascent of Amazon, and much more.  In all or most of these areas he offers you more substance and more inside scoops than the other discussions you might have read, thus recommended.

3. Max Siollun, What Britain did to Nigeria: A Short History of Conquest and Rule.  It is hard to find good books on Nigeria that are easy to follow and not just for specialists.  This new one is maybe the best overall treatment I know?  The British conquest of Nigeria took seventy-seven years to accomplish.  Siollun also stresses the role of missionaries in bringing literacy to Nigeria, noting that what you might call Nigerian literacy skills, for instance in native scripts, were longstanding in many regions.  Before the British arrived, the north of Nigeria was much more advanced economically than the south, though colonialism inverted this relationship.  I found this sentence interesting: “Perhaps no question makes Nigerians disagree as much as why Britain created their country.”

4. Matthew Affron, et.al. Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art.  Clustered discoveries are one of the best areas to read about, whether they be scientific or artistic.  There will be many overlapping treatments, biographies, and so on.  And the people who write about these areas may do so with a certain amount of passion.  The rise of abstract art early in the twentieth century is one of the most remarkable of such clusters, as in so many countries top-rate artists made major breakthroughs in similar directions.  This book shows you how better than any other I know, with excellent color plates as well.

5. Trevor Rowley, The Normans: A History of Conquest.  As I understand the author, he presents the Normans as an essential part of what fed into the creation of modern Europe, also serving to spread those practices and norms.  I hadn’t known that Tocqueville was in part originally a Scandinavian name, deriving from “Toki’s ville,” the Scand name tacked onto the Norman suffix.


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