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Showing posts from September, 2009
53. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli Machiavelli is officially my hero. The Prince is so straightforward and honest, and, yes, brutal, I want to give him a hug. He sees clearly. Especially in contrast with Castiglione, who stuck to ideals and praised virtue at all costs, Machiavelli blithely exposes the truly successful machinations of rulers. And yet, despite his base view of human nature, despite his advocacy of war and vice, he is much more humanistic than usually given credit for. The manifesto is succinctly laid out, with sections on how to manage new and old principalities, how to manage armies and people and nobles, how to maintain money and property, and gain power over other principalities. He illustrates each section with an example from antiquity and an example from modernity, demonstrating his education and perception respectively. He values the stability of the state above all, the state that will actually benefit the greatest number of people, even if it need be assure

A Sweet New Year

52. The Book of the Courtier by Baldesar Castiglione, translated by Charles Singleton L'shana Tova, a sweet new year, to my fellow Jews. If I had started my list at Rosh Hashanah last year, I would have answered my challenge to read 52 books in year. As it is, I started the count on January 1. I could simply continue the list for this year, or I could start a new one for Rosh Hashanah. I will take some time to think about which is the best option. The Book of the Courtier , was, interestingly, an assignment for my Sixteenth Century British Literature class. The teacher seems to use the "British" part loosely, half of our books are in translation. However, she is correct that these books influenced the English Renaissance strongly and therefore are appropriate for the course. I would prefer to learn international literature anyway, so I should not complain. Castiglione wrote The Book of the Courtier in 1528, in homage to his deceased prince, Federico, of Urbino, and al
51. A Brief History of British Kings and Queens by Mike Ashley I didn't really intend to read this straight through, it just sort of happened. I reached a point where I thought, I could finish this...and then I had to. It's a comprehensive guide to the British monarchs, but I think I would appreciate something more detailed, with more evidence. Ashley likes to shake up stereotypes, but he doesn't provide proof for his assertions. That's understandable in a book like this, but when he states that both Bloody Mary and Edward VI inherited congenital syphilis from their father Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I escaped it, I want to know more. I'm somewhat of an amateur Elizabethan scholar, and I've never heard that before. Where did he get the evidence to suggest that? Ashley praises the infamous Macbeth, and seems to think Richard III wasn't all that bad. He criticizes Richard Lionheart and mostly lauds George III. Elizabeth I does escape any unusual censure, thoug

New Books!

To celebrate the 50 book mark, I finally went out and used a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card I'd been hoarding. My purchases totaled $50.51, all in paperback, the easier to fit in my suitcase. Perfect, yes? My selections were: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon Tongue by Kyung-Ran Jo The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss Since I've started using Bookmooch, I have three books on the way: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel A Taste for Adventure: A Culinary Odyssey Around the World by Anik See Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams Will I finish all these by the end of the year? I doubt it, since I will also be contending with the formidable list for my Sixteenth Century British Literature course, not to mention my Theater in Society course....but at least I feel secure of quality reads in the forseeable future.

The Game of Europe

50. Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone In the thirteenth century, the four daughters of the Count of Provence; Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia, and Beatrice; each became a queen. Nancy Goldstone tells the lives of these four sisters in a straightforward manner that essentially sketches a thirteenth century history of Europe. Marguerite, the eldest, becomes queen of France, the wife of St. Louis IX. Eleanor, the next sister, is the choice of Henry III, king of England. Shy and beautiful Sanchia is given to Richard of Cornwall, the king of England's brother, who later contrives to be elected King of the Romans, or much of modern-day Germany. Beatrice, the youngest, inherits Provence from her father, and attracts Charles of Anjou, younger brother of the King of France, who briefly conquers Sicily and crowns her queen. Goldstone characterizes each sister and their respective spouses, as well as important players like their parents, Raymond Berenger V of Provence and his wife Beatrice of Sa