Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Book Review Club (December 2019)

Welcome to the December 2019 edition of The Book Review Club. of the craziest, busiest months of the year! With lots of shopping and gift giving. Books make great gifts. Check out our reviews of books we recommend. Could be a gift-giving match made in heaven! Happy Holidays! Happy Reading!

by Richard Shenkman & Kurt Reiger
 (nonfiction, history, recommended)

This will probably be the shortest review I've ever posted. Which might be good for you in the midst of this very busy season. Anyway, I'm headed to Toronto and still have way too much to do before boarding that plane. Here goes.

I love finding the perfect book for a reader. So, this time of year in particular, I'm on the lookout. Of my four "kids," I have one who leans toward nonfiction and trivia. I forget how One-Night Stands with American History (clever title, right?) crossed my path, but, in any event, it tweaked my curiosity. Enough that I read it myself. And then bought my son a copy. No worries about spoiling a Christmas morning surprise. I don't, in a million years, believe he reads this blog.

One-Night Stands with American History begins with a quotation about Puritanism: "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." ~H.L. Menken. The book ends with a discussion of Kennewick Man, a 9,200 year old skeleton found by the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington. In between, are all sorts of obscure facts and anecdotes. Did you know J. Edgar Hoover wouldn't let people walk on his shadow? Or that in 1721 France shipped 25 prostitutes to Louisiana to help with the shortage of women? Or that the last words of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall were, "Good-by. I am sorry to have kept you all waiting so long"?

This is a book you can sit down and read or sample a little at a time. It's definitely a book for that trivia-loving or history-loving person on your gift list. Imagine going to a holiday party and sharing some of these fun, odd facts? Such as (just one more, I promise): Brides in colonial New England often got married in the nude. Why? So the groom wouldn't have to pay off her pre-marriage debts.

(Dear FCC: bought)

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


Phyllis Wheeler: FLORA AND ULYSSES by Kate Dicamilo (middle grade)

Sarah Laurence: THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL by Stacey Lee (YA, historical)


Linda McLaughlin: THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM: A NOVEL by Marie Benedict

Patti Abbott: ONCE, AGAIN by Elizabeth Strout (literary)


Margy Lutz: CHASING SMOKE: A WILDFIRE MEMOIR by Aaron Williams (memoir)


Ray Potthoff: THE PIONEERS by David McCullough (American history)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!


  1. Nothing like a little shocking humor to liven up some boring history topic. That why I trashed the textbook as a teacher and told stories or had my student's read relevant YA novels...:)

  2. Sounds like a fun and interesting read. I love the Mencken quote! He was such a curmudgeon, but he had lots of interesting things to say.

    Enjoy your trip to Canada. Make a snowball for me!

  3. Sorry to be so late to the party, but my review is now posted. Barrie, it may be short but this might be my favorite of your reviews. Those excerpts and the comment about your son made me laugh. I can think of a few others who might enjoy this book too. Thanks for the suggestion and thanks for hosting!

  4. I'm confused, what does getting married in the nude have to do with paying off pre-marriage debts? lol

    Glad you enjoyed the book and hope you're right about your son not reading your blog.

    Thanks for reviewing and as always for hosting. :)

  5. As a history major in college it is something I should look into. Back then you could pick and emphasis. Mine were High Middle Ages, Mexican history and the American Civil War. I remember getting lost in the stacks reading Civil War letters between military outfits. One letter lead to another, and I was there reading. That was way before resources could be found online. - Margy


Comments are always welcome!