The Sunday Salon – Non-Fiction

I’ve been reading a non-fiction book all week.  In general, I find it takes me longer to read non-fiction than fiction I guess because I’m paying more attention to facts, forcing myself to slow down so as not to miss an important detail that will be critical to the master plan later on.  Not really sure but I think I have pinpointed one problem with reading non-fiction — I must not read about the same topic twice.  I should probably explain that rather broad statement.  Follow me if you will…

Last year I read a book about the Jamestown settlement.  The book focused on several people and a specific shipwreck that was being sent to provide provisions for the settlers, and due to the ship being wrecked and its passengers being stranded on Bermuda, when the ship’s crew and passengers finally arrived (on a different ship the first being wrecked; see what I mean about important details in non-fiction?) in Jamestown, they sort of saved the place.  Not entirely saved, Jamestown was a debacle but you don’t need me to tell you that.  Anyway, the current book, Savage Kingdom.  It’s more about everyone and everything involved with the Jamestown settlement.  So not only am I getting information about the settlement itself, the Native American tribes (very interesting and part of the reason I wanted to read a second book on said topic) already inhabiting the Chesapeake area, but also goings-on in England and Spain.  It’s a rather far-reaching and all encompassing book and though I’m finding it interesting, I feel as though I’ve already read great parts of this.

Also, I feel like I’m listening to a lecture and it’s a bit disjointed as if the professor keeps jumping around saying things like: “Oh, before we talk more about Captain John Smith and his dealings with Powhatan, let’s go back to England for a minute and talk about what was going on with James II and his negotiations with the Spanish who had already setup house in Florida and were a little peeved about the English double-talk about Jamestown.”  This is where I would normally say, quietly and to myself, “What?!  Did I miss something?” and start wondering how I could go about transferring to another class.  Also, in the picture in my head, this professor keeps running his hands through his hair and he starts to look as if he’s been electrified.  Also, he’s a man cuz the author of the book is and for no other reason and have no idea why I needed to point that out but I did.

Let’s say I’m not feeling it this time around.  Did I mention that already?  Felt I should again just in case you didn’t get that from the long, rambling above section punctuated with generalized boring class behavior.

A goal of mine in 2011 is to read more non-fiction, once a month if I can.  My next non-fiction book is called Spook and is about the afterlife.  It’s by Mary Roach who wrote Packing for Mars which I absolutely loved and you should read it.  No, really, I mean that.  You should totally read it but don’t read it while eating because there’s a lot of talk about bodily functions.  Fair warning, it’s all I have to offer.  She also wrote a book about cadavers and when I mentioned that to my husband he looked at me weird and I’m pretty sure he was having a silent conversation in his head that involved taking away my library card.  There’s also a book about Cleopatra roaming around that I want to read so maybe I should mention this to him so he doesn’t wonder anymore about my reading.

If you made it his far, thanks for sticking with me till the end of paragraph six today.  Happy Sunday fellow readers.

PS — Next time I promise not to be so disjointed in my Sunday Salon.  Feeling inspired this week I guess.

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Today’s Book – Savage Kingdom

I wanted to read more non-fiction in 2011 (goal is about one non-fiction book a month) and decided to start with a topic I have some interest in, the Jamestown settlement.  I read a book about the settlement last year, The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown, and loved it so thoroughly I thought why not more.

Savage Kingdom is moving a little slow for me and it maybe that I’m feeling I already read this (reoccurring problem I have with non-fiction books of the same or familiar topic) but it does have one thing going for it — more information about the Native Americans and the role the tribes played in the settlement’s history.  The last year’s book had very little about the tribes the settlers came in contact with and that portion of the book is filling the gap I felt I missed last time.  I actually tried to find a book about the Native Americans settled in that area but had no luck with the library but this one came up on the search which is the reason why I picked it up.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so that other participants know what you’re reading.

I’m starting Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America by Benjamin Wooley today.  I’m trying to read at least one non-fiction book a month in 2011 and this is book one.  I don’t know that non-fiction makes for the best teasers but let’s play anyway.

“On the morning of 20 September 1565, the sixty-year-old carpenter Nicolas le Challeux awoke to the sound of rain pelting down on the palm-leaf thatch overhead.  It had not stopped for days, and a muddy morass awaited him outside.”  (pg. 3)

The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America

The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America

By Lorri Glover and Daniel Blake Smith

Henry Holt and Company

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8654-6

4.75 stars

My original review of this book was very long and detailed.  Unfortunately, the file was corrupted and the book is back at the library so I don’t have it here as a reference while re-writing this review.  I like to write my own re-caps but I’m going to do something I normally don’t do — link to Amazon.  It has a bit of information about the book and I’ll supplement below from what I remember and add a few thoughts.

My history of the Jamestown colony is sparse, at least what I remember from grade/middle school, and I’ll admit that it’s mostly dates and names.  The drama of what Jamestown was about wasn’t covered in those far away history lessons.  Here, the story isn’t so much about the dates and times but the drama of Jamestown.  The Virginia Company, indebted to the King of England, was so worried about forfeiting their claim that they went out and recruited individuals that had no business being part of a settlement.  These were people looking for a way to escape the poverty and grief of London and the Virginia Company promised clothes, food, and shelter if they signed up.  Of course people signed up for the chance at a new life where they would have no worries and want for nothing.  Unfortunately, the Virginia Company forgot the simple things, like signing up people who could build houses, plant crops, dig wells, and hunt.  They were doomed.

The first group of settlers fared badly, fought with the Powhatan Native Americans, and ended up being starved out by them and then turning to cannibalism.  When the second wave of settlers arrived, they didn’t find any milk and honey, what they did find were open graves and starving, mad people.  When reports got back to England, the great public relations machine that was the Virginia Company kicked into high gear to mitigate the rumors and lies as they called them.  They even went so far as to stop the publication of a memoir of one of the survivors so they could go on recruiting.

Now, the Sea Venture was a ship in the second wave of settlers.  Unfortunately, it was caught up in a hurricane and crashed on Bermuda.  There the settlers found a land full of promise and riches.  There were birds, turtles, pigs, fruit and vegetables, and a land that was rich for farming.  They didn’t want to leave.  The leaders knew that their allegiance was to the Virginia Company and built two new ships to get them the short distance from Bermuda to Jamestown.  They arrived to a land of horror.  However, they were in a way, the saving grace of the colony.  Shortly after the arrival of the shipwrecked passengers, new ships arrived with provisions and people were, in a way, saved and the settlement preserved.

The interesting part of the story for me was the founding of Bermuda.  As it turns out, some of the travelers that landed on the island, which has been known as the Devil’s Island, told the leaders of the Virginia Company what a wonderfully fruitful place it was and the Company sent new ships to the island which was settled quickly and bountifully.  In a strange twist of fate, the Virginia Company which was losing money in the pit that was Jamestown made its money back in the first settlement of Bermuda due to the richness of the land.  So the Sea Venture not only gets credit for reviving Jamestown, but also for the settlement of Bermuda.

Since I’ve been feeling historically deficient this was one of the books that I picked up with the intent of fixing that need.  This one came through for me.  It doesn’t read like a dry history book but is filled with fascinating and wonderful facts that only made me want to read more about Jamestown and the Powhatan tribe.  There was not much discussion of the Powhatan other than their fighting with the first settlement and ultimate starvation of the settlers but the history there interested me and now I have a new subject to follow up on.

If you’re looking for something to fix a history craving, I recommend this one.