Those who followed my blog last year may remember that I was attempting to spend less time on my smartphone and more time reading books during my free time. When I say books, I mean actual hardback books, not staring at a Kindle.
Although I have a long way to go as far as not being so dependent on my phone, I managed to read several books during the past six months. I will share the top five books I read that you might want to consider for a gloomy winter day.
1. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: from the Century War Series – This collection of books was probably one of my most challenging reads to date. This four-volume set contained 750 pages each and took me over a year to read.
Reading the series was worth it as seeing first-hand accounts of generals who fought in the Civil War in their own words gave me new insights into an essential part of American history that contained facts that I did not learn in school. For example, I now know that Missouri almost joined the Confederacy and that not only were there two separate battles in the Battle of Manassas in Virginia but up north, the skirmishes are known as the Battle of Bull Run.
I believe the main reason the South lost was due to the disorganization of their military. The Confederacy could not maintain any consistency when it came to gaining victories in strategic places such as cities and transportation lines as a Union victory often followed the next battle.
Many Americans were quite surprised back in 1861 that a Civil War was even possible and that if one did occur that the war would be over quickly. Although it was a challenging read, I am glad I gained new insight into a dark chapter in our country’s history.
2. Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt – The author of this book delves into the sociology behind traffic patterns and why people act the way they do behind the wheel. One important find I never thought about involved a study behind traffic congestion along a busy stretch of highway outside of Orlando, Florida about pedestrian and traffic deaths. Over a several year period, researchers showed that there were fewer fatalities involving motorists and pedestrians in congested urban areas than in four-lane regions outside the central business district as cars are likely to be driving slower and watching for pedestrians in hectic downtown areas versus on a busy stretch of road at 50 or more miles per hour.
3. The Routes of Man by Ted Conover – Former Pulitzer prize finalist Ted Conover took a journey on several strategic road networks across the globe to discover how they are shaping communities in today’s global economy. We take for granted the vast road and transportation network across the United States and often do not realize how primitive highway and transportation systems are in many countries.
For example, I learned that despite China having a more significant population than the United States, there are fewer private vehicles than in America and even as recently as the previous decade that wealthy citizens still relied on private automobile groups to drive out into the country and many areas do not have interstate access. The Routes of Man is a must for any roadgeek interested in road systems in other parts of the world and how they operate.
4. There’s No Room for Fear in a Burley Trailer by Pam Moore – I had the opportunity to meet the author for a private afternoon tea in Boulder, Colorado with my family this past Christmas. The book is a collection of short stories chronicling the author’s move from Rhode Island where she grew up to Colorado by herself and the culture shock she endured while trying to find a job as an occupational therapist.
If one can get past the strong language used throughout the book, one will feel the author’s bravery for taking a risk by uprooting her familiar surroundings and making a life for herself without a blueprint. Moore shares the challenges of finding a new place to live, discovering her spiritual beliefs, training for a triathlon through various outdoor activities and meeting her husband and starting a family.
5. Weird Florida by Charlie Carlson – Florida's reputation of being a strange place is well-known. Carlson chronicles unusual places and the folklore behind them not usually found in a typical travel book of the Sunshine state. For example, one can read about an invasion of toads that happened in one town, a place outside of Orlando called Spook Hill where drivers can put their vehicles in neutral and ride backward uphill with a magnetic pull and Florida’s version of Bigfoot called the Skunk Ape. The book allows readers to see that there is more to Florida than Disney World and condominiums.
There is still magic behind turning pages in a book and staring at something other than a screen. This year, make a commitment to putting down the smartphone, pick up a book and read. It is an excellent way to relax during the cold and gloomy days of winter.
Which books have you read in the past year? Comment in the section below.
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