While we are all following the Stay At Home Order many of us are taking the opportunity to catch up on our reading list – or turning to books out of desperation to escape the numbing boredom after staying in one building for two weeks or more with the same people and feel we might start hitting our heads against the wall, which is a fine reason too. Books are a great way to entertain and educate. While we are spending more time reading, I thought I’d share my current reads and favorites, as well as possibly explore new ones together.
My name is Molly Hutson, and for those who don’t know me, I’ve been the facilitator, archivist, and historian for LHS since 2016. To start things off, I want to suggest books from one of my favorite authors – Tony Horwitz. His books are educational while also being fun to read. They do a great job teaching history while Horwitz also gives his own experience researching the subject he’s writing on – generally by inserting himself in the adventure undertaken by people of history. Some books involve him taking the same path a historical figure did and placing his experience side-by-side with that of the historical figure. Others involve nights spent with reenactors, and other experiences, while giving a historical background to the figures and places.
To me, the best part Tony Horwitz’s books is his style. I enjoy going between history and “current” experiences, as well as his very casual writing style. I love history and reading about historical subjects of all kinds, but like many I get bored with all too common dry history books. If you’re like me, you’ll probably enjoy any of the books by Horwitz.
My introduction to Tony Horwitz came in my college American History I course in 2012. My professor told us that, unlike some of the other books we were assigned, we would enjoy this one. He was right! Our book, A Voyage Long and Strange, prompted so much interest and conversation in class. The subtitling alone is enough to pique interest: “On the trail of Vikings, conquistadors, lost colonists, and other adventurers in early America.”
I’d like to share an exert from this book to end the post, and direct you to Goodreads for more on his books. This exert takes place near the start of Horwitz’s journey to take the route of conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, who is known for his expedition from Mexico to present-day Kansas in the 1500s. I feel that this is a nice example of his relaxed writing style and how his subjects, thought centered around the historical topic, are wrapped in just as much humor and experience as it is history.
At a concrete tower called the Edificio Sonora, I found the state tourism office and asked a receptionist whether anyone could advise me on tracking Coronado.A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz, page 136
“Si,” she replied. “El Nazi.”
This turned out to be a 350-pound man whose German godfather had christened him Adolfo, hence the nickname. Educated at a Catholic school in Vermont, Adolfo spoke fluent English and knew all about Coronado. Unfortunately, he said few other Mexicans cared about the conquistador. “We have Cortes to hate – he did much more damage in Mexico. Coronado is your sad story, not ours.”
Sadly, Tony Horwitz passed away last year (May of 2019). You can read more about him in this New York Times article.
Molly’s Suggestions for Tony Horwitz: