Welcome, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to the final post on Independence week. I shall be sharing today a review of the best books I have found on the history of America, and the treasures I found at the book sale on Friday. But business first, and pleasure afterwards. The results of the book sale shall come at the end of the post. Don't peek! :)
If you are looking for a Providential perspective on the history of America, then I would highly recommend Peter Marshall and David Manuel's The Light and the Glory for a comprehensive Christian view on the founding of America up to the Revolutionary War. Their enlightening quotes, stellar commentary, and careful reasearch combine to give an eye-opening view of God's providence throughout our country's founding.
Peter Marshall, son of the well-known authoress Catherine Marshall, set out on a mission to see if he could find God's hand of blessing upon our country's heritage. He teamed up with author David Manuel, and the story of how they found each other and the facts they sought is quite interesting. Their journey turned into a three book series, The Light and the Glory, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Sounding Forth the Trumpet. I have read and can recommend the first two, which take the reader up to the start of the Civil War, but I have not yet had the opportunity to read the third one. Today's review encompasses only From Sea to Shining Sea, as this is most pertinent to our week of celebration.
The book starts with Columbus's discovery of the North American continent, and the fact that his original focus was evangelizing the natives there. That focus changed, and the spreading of the Gospel then passed to the monks of Spain--also to evangelists from France, travelling over deserts and rivers to establish missions among the natives. Abundant natural resources, especially gold, drew young adventurers from France, Spain, and England; these countries began to charter colonies and transport Europeans to populate key areas. The history of Jamestown, Roanoke, and the Pilgrims, with original quotes from men in the British East India Company and other settlers, as well as William Bradford's work Plymouth Plantation, give a clear picture of their dedication to spreading God's Word, and the consequences upon those who failed to do so. Then Marshall and Manuel swing by the Puritans; their reluctance to leave London, and the incentives that convinced them to do so. After the Puritans comes the influence of the Quakers (a surprisingly rowdy bunch at that time) which dovetails into the Great Awakening, and our tension with Great Britain. The history of the war brings us up to a final conclusion with the framing of our Constitution, and the end of Washington's presidency.
Marshall and Manuel do an excellent job of emphasizing a principle God told the Israelites again and again: "Obey my commands, and I will bless you. Disobey, and I will curse you." Not all of our history in this particular timespan is a stellar one--even with the Pilgrims and Puritans. But The Light and the Glory shows a birds-eye view of God's patience, His Providence, and His Hand upon America. In spite of our imperfections, He reigns supreme, and He is gracious enough to grant us time to turn to Him.
The only warning I would give is that Marshall and Manuel do include profanity if it's in the historical accounts. I think they could have easily used "[expletive deleted]" instead and still preserved the accuracy of the text.
New readers will want to be aware that they go into detail on the Salem Witch Trials, and other instances of rebellion in the church where the members involved themselves with demonic influence. Though they are careful with the information they provide, there are a couple of gruesome portions regarding a woman and her baby that you may wish to avoid. Beyond this, nothing comes to mind, but do use your own discretion of course.
By far, the best knowledge I came away with is the history of the Puritans. Their works, their struggles with whether to stay in England or flee to America, and their final casting off of all ties that held them back, is an important point in history to remember as we face similar circumstances. Their dedication to following the Lord's leading was challenging and inspiring.
I highly recommend The Light and the Glory to anyone who wishes to know more about America--from a "politically incorrect" perspective.
Results of the Book Sale
And now, of course, I will share what I found on the 4th of July. It was a good day for a bibliophile. :) I shall share them in the order in which I found them, as closely as I can recall. Please note that while I endeavored to choose with discretion, I have not read any of the following books, and cannot therefore give them an unconditional recommendation.
1. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Charles Dickens--Dickens' last and unfinished work was a mystery novel regarding the murder of one Edwin Drood. When I read it, I shall of course offer my own convictions regarding "whodunnit"--or whether they did it at all. It's been confusing scholars for decades, and I have read detailed arguments in various hypotheses. I wonder which mine shall agree with most...
2. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien--The core of Tolkien's Middle Earth in a nice hardbound edition, complete with a pull-out map of the various regions mentioned.
3. Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens--The one book I came to the booksale hoping to find. Ecstasy! His last completed novel.
4. The Travels of Marco Polo--He wrote an account of his travels to the Middle East while he was in prison, and I have heard speakers refer to his accounts of seeing dragons (possibly dinosaurs?) so I am intrigued to learn more. Includes a pull-out map of the Far East marking the routes of various explorers. Nice little hardbound.
5. Carpathian Castle, by Jules Verne--I had never heard of this one, but look forward to new scientific hypotheses amidst Verne's typical adventure. It looks a bit Gothic, and I do suspect it's a tragedy, so I'll have to see if it turns out as good as his other books have.
6. Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope--I had so much fun with The Way We Live Now, and have heard excellent things of Barchester Towers. I look forward to exploring further Trollope and his satire on the Church of England.
7. American Practical Navigator, by Nathaniel Bowditch--found this in the collector's section, and it would have knocked my socks off if I had worn any. For those of you who love Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, you may be interested to take a peek at Bowditch's book, which is still carried on every U.S. Navy ship. It was originally published in 1802, and while I have a later edition, it's still pretty exciting to see 1,500 pages of star charts, navigation definitions, and tables of natural trigonometric functions. (Not sure exactly what they mean...) This, for me was the most exciting find. :)
I hope you all enjoyed a little slice of America's Independence Day this week. I am praising the Lord both for all the good book finds, and the history of our nation. Next week, I've planned an exciting review on the up-and-coming homeschool author Rachel Coker, and I also hope to delve into the knotty issue of Christian freedom for the bibliophile. Until then, I wish you a weekend of fruitful reading.