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Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination

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Albion traces ideas, images and patterns across the centuries to consider what it means to be English. Any Anglophile will enjoy the many and varied cultural references linked within Ackroyd's dense but fascinating text. Beginning and ending with Englishmen I admire (historian the Venerable Bede (d. 735) and composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (d. 1958)), these two disparate personalities were brought together in one memorable statement: "The embrace of present and past time, in which English antiquarianism becomes a form of alchemy, engenders a strange timelessness. It is as if the little bird which flew through the Anglo-Saxon banqueting hall, in Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, gained the outer air and became the lark ascending in Vaughan Williams's orchestral setting. The unbroken chain is that of English music itself." To me, reading this book was like examining the contents of an ancient attic trunk, ruminating on the people, places, and things that made you who you are. When you come to the end of your literary pilgrimage, you're better for having experienced it.
A Concise History of the Catholic Church (Revised Edition)

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An excellent history up to the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 and its aftermath (first 75% of the book). Thereafter it goes downhill (final 25%). Readers should know that this book was first published in 1977. New editions with added material were released in 1979, 1990, 2004, and 2005. Unfortunately, the new material was simply tacked on to the old with apparently no effort to update the language, verb tenses, etc. in the older text to reflect the fact that time had passed between the additions/editions. Should have ended so much better.
Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore

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If you live in a predominantly Mormon area, you may have heard stories linking the biblical Cain to Bigfoot, or whispers about the Bear Lake Monster. Have you ever wanted to know more about the intersection between Mormonism and the supernatural? Where did these stories originate? Why do they perpetuate? Seven such topics are examined in this recent release from USU Press.
The Year 1000

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In this interesting little volume, Lacey and Danziger take us into a medieval world which is at times both very alike and very different from our own. Using a contemporary calendar to guide the reader through the months of the year, and with doses of humor and trivia along the way, we are introduced to the daily life of royalty, churchmen and, more often, the ordinary man and woman. We learn how they worked, how they played, how they talked, and even how they ate. The Year 1000 is an accessible overview of the period and a surprisingly entertaining read.
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

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In this fascinating ecological memoir/rant, Abbey takes us along during his time as a park ranger in the heart of Utah's harsh red rock landscape to expose its beauty and contradictions. While some things have changed since the book's publication in 1968, the majority of Abbey's thoughts and experiences remain timeless. A true classic of environmental nonfiction.
Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus

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This book is an interesting look at the cultures, people, languages, and events that shaped the world around Jesus. From the influence of Alexander the Great and the Greeks on the Jews to the personalities and writing styles of Jesus's early followers, many intriguing influences are discussed. While not comprehensive, Cahill's mostly-secular work is both engaging and accessible.
A Morbid Taste for Bones

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In this first chronicle of Brother Cadfael, the medieval monk and amateur sleuth, Peters takes us along as the Benedictine brothers travel to a small Welsh village in order to claim the relics of a neglected saint as their own. But when the community's most outspoken opponent of the relocation is murdered, Cadfael sets out to discover the killer and ends up becoming involved in the miracles attendant upon the saint. A wonderful, short mystery that has become a classic in the genre. The television adaptation starring Derek Jacobi is also highly recommended.
One Corpse Too Many

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A memorable medieval tale that I truthfully found to be much more a well-crafted story of honor, life and friendship than a traditional murder mystery. Cadfael is a character for the ages.
Olivier

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Famed and acclaimed British actor Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) was an actor to his core, a self-identification which guided him confidently along the path of his life's work. But it also meant that his true personality, underneath his talent for professional deception, was known by only a few. Given unprecedented access to the remnants of Olivier's life (his effects, his letters, and his family) to cut through the miasmus of previous biographies, Terry Coleman has crafted a great and moving opus on the life of an equivocating genius.
Scribble, Scribble, Scribble: Writing on Politics, Ice Cream, Churchill, and My Mother

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Historian Simon Schama has a wide range of interests and a flowing pen which combine beautifully and to great effect in his latest book, a collection of articles and book reviews spanning three decades. Whether you are interested in art, history, travel, cooking, or politics, it's all here in Schama's wonderfully descriptive and award-winning style. Here's to hoping there's a second collection in the works!
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