Tuesday, May 6, 2008
In our latest installment of What Tax Profs Are Reading, Jim Maule (Villanova) shares his thoughts on the 39 (!) books he has read since February 2007 (or at least the ones he remembers). Other Tax Profs are welcome to submit reviews of books (tax or otherwise) here.
1. Rome: Then and Now, In Overlay, by Giuseppe Gangi. This difficult-to-find small bundle of photographs of ruins in Rome, over which transparencies can be placed that show an artist's illustration of how the same scene appeared two millennia ago, is a marvelous book. Though there's far more looking than reading involved in perusing it, I found it very helpful when I visited Rome during the summer of 2007.
2. Guide with Reconstructions of Ancient Monuments of Paestum, ed. by Emanuele Greco. This is another overlay book, which I think I found at the church book fair. Unlike Rome: Then and Now, this work contains almost as many pages of text as it does photographs. Putting this one to use will require another trip to Italy.
3. Guide with Reconstructions, Hadrian's Villa: Past and Present, ed. Catia Caprino. One of several companion to Guide with Reconstructions of Ancient Monuments of Paestum, I picked this up with that other volume at the book fair. Unlike its companion, this is not an overlay book. Unlike its companion, it also was of use in the summer of 2007 when I was in Rome.
4. The Pilgrim of Hate, by Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter). The tenth in the Cadfael series. As I wrote in my previous summary of what I have been reading, back in February 2007, "Cadfael is a Benedictine monk living in the twelfth century. Attached to the abbey at Shrewsbury, he finds himself involved in solving a murder. Or two." I continue to think that "Fiction set in an historical context is the best kind." And, as was the case with the nine earlier stories, and some other books this "came to me courtesy of my librarian friend, who has good taste in books and no less of an interest in reading than do I."
5. The Game: The Official Picture History of the NFL, by Tex Maule. It should take only one guess to identify the reason I purchased this out-of-print first edition hardcover book when I discovered someone selling it on-line. My motivation also included the fact I am an NFL fan. Must run in the family, ha ha. Oh, it's not just a picture book. There's plenty of text. After all, it was written by a Maule, so there surely is no shortage of words. I'd advise today's younger NFL fans to get their hands on this book and bring themselves up to speed on the history of the NFL. Contrary to what many think, there WAS an NFL before 1980.
6. Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World, by Colin Wells. When Americans do study European history, the emphasis almost always is on the Roman West. Yet the Eastern Empire persisted for almost a thousand years after the "fall" of Rome, and had an significant impact not only on the cultural and military developments in Greece, Asia Minor, and the Levant, but also on western Europe, North Africa, southwest Asia, and the areas of Europe populated by Slavic peoples. Byzantium contributed much to the preservation and transmission into Renaissance times of what we consider to be Greek and Roman classics. Yet later in its history, the Hesychasm movement disfavored humanism, generating a flow of scholars to the west that helped energize the west's intellectual reawakening. Though Western monks, especially those in Ireland, have been given credit for careful custodianship of Rome's secular and Christian heritage, their efforts ought not overshadow the accomplishments of an empire whose political processes understandably have left us with the English adjective "byzantine" that finds itself frequently used when describing tax law provisions.
7. The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. It's time for another historical novel, though the truly historical characters spend much of their times on the fringes of the action. A twelfth-century market town needs a cathedral. As if the engineering challenges aren't enough, Follett introduces more than a few very human individuals, whose foibles, greed, misfortunes, dedication, and skills give the story a genuine sense of adventure. Yes, this one came my way because my great friend who happens to be a librarian, who is as much into books, if not more so, than am I, and who is extremely adept at knowing which ones should be handed to me with a "read this" invitation. This one came with a warning that I would not be able to put it down. She was right.
8. The Eagles Encyclopedia, by Ray Didinger and Robert S. Lyons. If it isn't obvious why I purchased this book, well, let's just say some people think I'm tax and only tax and all tax. They're wrong. The better question is whether I really did sit down and "read" and encyclopedia. Yes, I did. Was it the first time I did that? I'm not telling. Oh, anyone who is a Philadelphia Eagles fan should own this book.
9. The Rising Sun, by Arthur Zich. Anyone who follows my reading lists will know why I acquired this book when I found it at the church book fair. Compiled by Zich and the editors of Time-Life Books, this text-sparse photographic compendium includes numerous photographs that were new to me. What happened during the Second World War continues, decades later, to shape today's world, intervening events notwithstanding. Understanding how and why that war began, how it was fought, and how it left unsolved issues that are at the root of many of today's international tensions is essential for anyone trying to make sense of current world problems. This hardcover collector's edition helps.
10. The Road to Tokyo, by Keith Wheeler. This is another hardcover collector's edition in the Time-Life Second World War series, and I found it at the same book fair. There are others in the series, but those either weren't donated or were grabbed by the professional book dealers who descend on the fair the moment the doors open. Eventually, I suppose, I will find an opportunity to complete the set.
11. John Ogden, The Pilgrim (1609-1682): A Man of More Than Ordinary Mark, by Jack Harpster. I purchased this book in a way that rarely transpires. I responded to the author's offer to sell. Yes, I know the author. When I explain how and why I know him, it will give a huge hint as to why I purchased the book. He's a distant cousin. John Ogden is one of my 1,024 great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfathers. If each one becomes the subject of a biography, I have a LOT of reading ahead of me. But I'm not complaining. If they're as well written and engaging as this one, I'll find a way to make space in my schedule to do that reading. Thanks to the research efforts of Jack Harpster and others, I can claim as cousins, of one degree or another, Aaron Ogden, one-time governor of New Jersey, and one of parties in the landmark Supreme Court decision of Gibbons v. Ogden, Henrietta Frances Edwards, wife of Eli Whitney, Peter Skeene Ogden, the first white man to travel the intermountain west from north to south and the person for whom Ogden, Utah, is named, Caroline Carmichael, wife of Millard Fillmore, William Butler Ogden, first mayor of Chicago, first president of the Union Pacific Railroad, and president of almost a dozen other railroads, Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor, and Malvina Belle Ogden, wife of Philip Danworth Armour, founder of Armour and Company, the pork and beef packing business.
12. Natural Disasters and How We Cope, ed. Robert Coenraads. Once again, a quick scan of my previous book reviews and summaries eliminates any inquiry as to how this book arrived on my reading list. I suppose one reason I study natural disasters is because we live in a world over which humans claim to have control, and there's nothing so striking a representation of human limitations as the power and aftermath of a natural disaster. Both the text and the photographs in this 575-page hardcover volume convey lesson after lesson about human arrogance, stupidity, and vulnerability, and also temper the litany of somber events with tales of courage, research, and preparedness training.
13. Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland, by Bryan Sykes. The author of Seven Daughters of Eve presents an eye-opening account of the DNA research that dispels many myths about the origin of the people who live in Britain and Ireland, and that also corroborates other legends and historical stories about migration and settlement. For someone interested in genealogy, or history, or both, this is a must-read book. Hopefully it will inspire other researchers to conduct similar studies in other places. When those are published, they will be added to my "books to buy" list.
14. Nature's Extremes: Inside the Great Natural Disasters That Shape Life on Earth, by the editors of Time. Yes, it's another disaster book, but it's far from being a disaster OF a book. Filled with photographs, charts, illustrations, and lists, to say nothing of text, it nicely complements Natural Disasters and How We Cope. It looks forward to possible disasters that await us as the years pass. Whether sufficient steps are being taken to reduce the possibility and to prepare for the consequences of those that turn out to be inevitable remains to be seen.
15. Abraham: The First Historical Biography, by David Rosenberg. The author presents Abraham not as a character in the Bible, but as an historical figure who was born and educated in Sumer, and who prospered there until he and his family headed out to Harran, and then to Canaan. Rosenberg speculates that the reason for the departure was partly economic, partly theological, partly social, with all of these factors triggered by the ascendancy of Babylon over Sumer. He tries to shape an understanding of Abraham that reflects the culture in which he was raised, relying not only on Biblical texts but also on the contents of clay tablets and the interpretations of artifacts unearthed by modern archaeologists. Rosenberg contends Abraham was a literate, skilled artisan, who not only read texts in his native Akkadian, but also was deeply involved in Sumerian temple ritual. There's a good bit of conjecture in the book, and some critics disagree with the outcome of Rosenberg's weaving of assumption with historical fact. The lack of footnotes makes it difficult, and at times impossible, to identify the assertions that are the result of his speculation and the assertions that rest on interpreted text. I found the organization and sequence of the book challenging, as Rosenberg jumps from one topic to another as though he writes in direct response to thoughts that enter his head. Granted, after reading a few more pages, the loose strands from the previous dozen pages come together, but then another thread or two is initiated before the existing topic is sealed. In many ways, it reminded me of the only suitable way in which to teach, and to learn, partnership taxation; one must maintain multiple threads in one's mind until each is sufficiently developed to permit the student to weave them into a larger tapestry. It can be frustrating, but sometimes it is necessary. As difficult a read as it may be at time, Rosenberg's efforts deserve attention from anyone interested in how a well-known Bible story came to take the shape it now has.
16. David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. The authors are archaeologists who explore the extent to which the Biblical accounts of David and Solomon mesh with, or conflict with, the archeological record. The authors' suggestion that Judah was a sparsely populated area during the 10th century BCE conflicts with assertions by other scholars that there is enough evidence of a Judean kingdom during that time. According to the authors, David and Solomon probably existed as historical personages, but did not attain anything close to what Scripture asserts. Their conclusions will disturb those who read Scripture literally, for the authors make a strong case that much of what is in the Bible includes embellishments engrafted onto the original texts centuries later, as writers tried to recast the tales into a framework with which their listeners were more comfortable and as details were added that gave the historically accepted kingdoms of Judah and Israel justifying roots. The authors, and others, point out that the archeology, the non-Biblical texts, the archeological record, and careful analysis of Biblical texts not only fails to support the existence of a unified monarchy in the times of David and Solomon that ultimately split into two kingdoms, but also compels a conclusion that that previous monarchy was an invention.
17. Spearhead General: The Epic Story of General Sir Frank Messervy and His Men in Eritrea, North Africa, and Burma, by Henry Maule. Indeed, a book that I grabbed for two reasons. The author's name explains one, and the book's title explains the other. This is not the only Henry Maule book, and as part of my efforts to acquire a copy of every book written by a member of the family, I have also purchased, read, and, in my previous summary of what I have been reading, annotated his Normandy Breakout, and The Great Battles of World War II. Spearhead General is, like the others, easy to read and tough to put down, especially because it delves into an aspect of World War Two history that doesn't get the attention of Normandy, the Pacific campaigns, Anzio, or the Battle of the Bulge. There was much to learn in, and I did learn much from, this book.
18. The King and the Gentleman: Charles Stuart and Oliver Cromwell, 1599-1649, by Derek Wilson. This book stands alone in the present listing as one not owned by me nor loaned to me by my librarian friend. It was, however, borrowed from a library. Specifically, it was borrowed from the library aboard the Queen Mary 2. Why did I pull this one off the shelves? I try to read whatever I can about the English Civil War, because it was during those turbulent times that Thomas Maule of Salem was born. Considering that Patrick Maule, Earl of Panmure, was one of the king's closest advisors, I search for every possible clue to tidy up the seventeenth century links among family members. Though the book did not provide me with much in the way of new genealogical insight, it did present an interesting parallel biography of two adversaries, who were born and raised under different circumstances and yet who had more in common than most would guess. Perhaps the most interesting understanding I took from the book was an appreciation of how the stubbornness of two strong personalities made it impossible for the opposing sides to compromise. Yes, I returned the book on time and incurred no fines.
19. Totally Weird and Wonderful Words, ed. Erin McKean. I don't think I've ever engaged in abligurition. I surely don't suffer from bibesy. I have never committed flemensfirth. I have been known to kench. I know people who have tossed out a protologism or two. Hey, this is a fun book. I enjoy words. So does my librarian friend, so at this point I played library and loaned out the book. I wonder, though, if in my tax writing I'll ever have reason to use rhyparographer, tegestology, or woup.
20. The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. No, it's not the story of life after all law schools close and law faculty find other pursuits. No, it's not how society will function after all taxes are abolished and all tax lawyers and tax law professors turn to some other enterprise. The "us" is all of us, and this book explores what would happen to the planet if suddenly, somehow, there were no humans. Think perhaps of aliens shipping us by teletransportation to their mother ship or home planet. The jacket notes were enough to make me want to read the book, as they explain that "floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations, ... asphalt jungles would give way to real ones, ... organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, ... billions more birds would flourish, and ... cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us." Weisman explains that even though humans have done much to alter the planet, given enough time without us, nature would engage in an extensive healing process. He also touches upon a more plausible concern, namely, the impact of what has been done to date on the humans that will inhabit the planet hundreds or thousands of years in the future.
21. Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini, by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg. From a dedication that starts the laughing, through hilarious responses to irreverent questions, to an ending that comes too soon, this writer and physician duo enjoy themselves writing the book as much as the readers do reading it. Credit must also be given to Dr. Goldberg's patients and people he's met at parties and other events, for the questions were presented by those folks. Does it really take seven years to digest chewing gum? Why do you laugh when tickled? What are eye boogers? Here's a scary one: If someone is choking at a dinner party, can you do a tracheostomy with an oyster knife? Why would someone want to know the answer to this one: Can you get high by licking a toad? Is it dangerous to eat another human being? I'm not going to mention the questions in the third and sixth chapters.
22. Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex: More Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour, by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg. They're back. And they're funnier than ever. They must have read that last paragraph because they snuck the topic of the third chapter of their first book into the title of their second. I didn't say they weren't clever. Why does food come out of your nose when you laugh while eating? Why don't vultures get sick from eating rotten meat? Why do I sneeze when I pluck my eyebrows? And one that might become of increasing interest to some of us as we get older: Can bald men get lice? Need some good laughs mixed in with education about things trivial and serious? Get this book and its predecessor. Quick read. Fun read.
23. Earth Then and Now: Amazing Images of Our Changing World, by Fred Pearce. Yes, it's another book that is chiefly photographs. Yes, it is another book with "then and now" in its title. No, there are no overlays. The author sets two photographs adjacent each other. One can be anywhere from twenty to one hundred fifty years old. The other is contemporary or near so. Some are taken at ground level and some from the air or by satellite. Some feature buildings and others show land use. The 1973 and contemporary aerial views of Las Vegas are no less startling than those of dozens of other cities throughout the world. Anyone who doubts that the world is getting very crowded should take a look.
24. The First Crusaders, by Jonathan Riley-Smith. I confess what caused me to buy this book, which I discovered on-line while doing a search for something other than this book, is this entry that turned up during that search and which is in the index to the book: "Maule 99-100." A quote: "An example is perhaps the Le Riches of Maule, who, incidentally, demonstrate that religious devotion and support of reform did not inevitably lead to immediate recruitment [into the crusades]... In the later eleventh century their lordship west of Paris was a centre of evangelical piety under Peter and Ansold .... The knights of Maule had a close and warm relationship with their local priory and used to visit it regularly to discuss 'practical as well as speculative matters' with the monks... The Maule family also had marriage ties with a group of enthusiastic crusaders,...." The detail in this book makes it valuable not only for those research centuries-old family history, but also for those who want a deeper insight into the origins of the crusades and the motivations of those who joined the movement than is found in stock histories and the abbreviated summarizations dished out to school children. It was a far more complex situation than can be condensed into a sound bite, and life was much more complicated than usually is portrayed. Political, economic, social, and theological currents and undercurrents combined to bring about a dynamic shift in East-West relations. It is a scholarly treatise, heavily footnoted, painstakingly detailed, and yet easily read and highly informative. Though I was drawn to the book by the Maule entry in the index, by the time I was only partway through it I realized that many of the names were those found among my ancestors. And they're among the ancestors of many other people. Transformed from names and dates to people with lives, thoughts, and beliefs, they became much more real and easier to comprehend as individuals rather than members of some conglomeration of mere groups.
25. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, by Mitchell E. Dakelman and Neal A. Schorr. I returned to another in the Images of America series of photograph collections. Another in the series was the third book described in my last summary of What Tax Professors Are Reading. So I've already used the joke about getting credit for reading a thousand words for each photograph. I wonder how many people who have driven the Pennsylvania Turnpike understand the historical significance of the decision to build it and the planning and engineering that went into its design and construction.
26. Center City Philadelphia in the 19th Century, by the Print and Photograph Department of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Another in the Images of America series, it is what the title says it is. Some views are recognizable, and others are not. It is enlightening to see how different things were so long ago in the city where I was born and in which I worked for several years.
27. Philadelphia's River Wards, by George J. Holmes. There's much to learn from the extensive captions in this Images of America series book. For the first six years of my life, I grew up very near these neighborhoods, so close that I could walk into one of them, Frankford. Anyone who lives in, or grew up in, Frankford, Northern Liberties, Kensington, Port Richmond, or Bridesburg should find these photographs of days long ago to be worth a look.
28. Lower Northeast Philadelphia, by Louis M. Iatarola and Lynn-Carmela Iatarola for the Historical Society of Tacony. Yes, I was working my way through the city of Philadelphia as I turned to another Images of America series publication. This one takes the reader through pictorial representations of life years ago in Frankford, Holmesburg, Pennypack, Torresdale, Tacony, Mayfair, the Boulevard area, and Wissinoming, which is the neighborhood in which I lived from birth until near the end of first grade.
29. Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill, by Judith Callard, Germantown Historical Society. Without the Images of America series, a person interested in exploring the visual history of these various Philadelphia neighborhoods would need to go to each local historical society library. Not that visiting libraries is unpleasant, for indeed they have been home away from home for me throughout much of my life, but having the best of the photographs bundled and captioned by someone with deep knowledge of the area is quite an advantage. Perhaps that is how, for some reason, I ended up owning two copies.
30. King of Prussia, by J. Michael Morrison. No, it's not a biography of a German monarch. It's the Images of America series entry on a town northwest of Philadelphia that was once farmland and now is the site of the internationally noted King of Prussia Plaza and King of Prussia Court shopping megacomplexes. When I was a child, it was simply the King of Prussia Mall. That was confusing, because I thought it was named after me, and not the King of Prussia whose assistance to Washington's Army wintering at nearby Valley Forge helped turn the tide of the American Revolution. Oh, for what it's worth, I lived in King of Prussia for several years in the late 1980s. But I didn't expect to find, nor did I find, myself or my house in the book. Both of us are way too young to have been included.
31. Northern Chester County, by Vincent Martino, Jr. Surprise! This isn't from the Images of America series. It's from the Postcard History Series. This book contains a collection of old postcards depicting buildings, landscapes, street scenes, people, and other perspectives in the northern part of a county west of Philadelphia. Included are the towns and environs of Berwyn, Devon, Malvern, Paoli, Phoenixville, Birchrunville, Kimberton, Schuylkill Township, Chester Springs, Eagle, Lionville, Charlestown, Exton, Whitford, Downingtown, Glenmoore, Honey Brook, Spring City, East Vincent Township, North Coventry, Parkerford, and St. Peter's Village. Yes, I've been to all of those towns, sometimes to shop but often to explore family history and to meet cousins.
32. Kennett Square, by Joseph A. Lordi. This is another in the Postcard History Series. Kennett Square is a small town in southern Chester County, and its location might become more comprehensible to some when I mention that it is adjacent to Longwood Gardens. It is in the center of what is known as "mushroom country," as the growing of mushrooms is one of the principal industries of the area. It is also an area where dozens if not hundreds of my Maule cousins reside or have resided, so I know it well.
33. Phoenixville, by Vincent Martino, Jr. This book is in the Then & Now Series, but follows the same format as the Images of America and Postcard History series. Phoenixville is in Chester County, just south of the Montgomery County border. It is a town I know well principally because as a child we visited often. My mother's father's brother settled in that town, and though he was long gone by the time I came along, his children and grandchildren continued to live there, and many now live in the surrounding area. It was definitely a memory lane trip to see photographs of buildings and streets I hadn't seen for quite some time.
34. Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries, by Thomas H. Keels. It's back to the Images of America series. I wish I had read this book years ago, before I tried to figure out what had happened to the records of cemeteries long gone but in which family members had been buried. The answer is in this book, which in addition to the photographs, contains sufficient text to provide the sort of guidance anyone trying to track internment records in Philadelphia needs to have.
35. Darby Borough, by Darby Borough Historical and Preservation Society, ed. Lindy Constance Wardell. Darby Borough is in the southeastern corner of Delaware County, my home county, wedged between Philadelphia County to the east and Chester County to the west. At this point, it should be apparent that when I sift through the dozens of Images of America series books sitting in the bookstore, I try to select those that have some connection to my family history or personal experiences. Suffice it to say I chose not to bore readers with all of the connections but only a select few.
36. Chestnut Hill Revisited, by Elizabeth Farmer Jarvis for the Chestnut Hill Historical Society. Isn't it nice that there are so many old photographs of Chestnut Hill that the editors of the Images of America series decided to release another book? How could the answer be but yes? Did members of the Maule family live in Chestnut Hill? Guess.
37. West Chester, by Bruce Edward Mowday. This set of captioned photographs about the county seat of Chester County is part of the Postcard History Series. My brother attended high school in West Chester. I've done CLE presentations in the town. I've driven through it countless times. I have visited the Chester County Historical Society Library many times. So it was an easy decision to pull this one down from the shelves in the book store.
38. Eastern Montgomery County Revisited, by Andrew Mark Herman. Somehow I missed the original Eastern Montgomery County entry in the Postcard History Series. A quick look through my local history and genealogy library doesn't turn up what I think would be titled Eastern Montgomery County. Oh well, here's another item for the "books to buy" list.
39. The History of Tredyffrin Township, 1707 - 2007, by the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society. A newspaper article brought to my attention this tricentennial history of a township in Chester County with which I have a variety of connections. The family of Zillah Walker, who married Thomas Maule, son of Thomas Maule of Salem, Massachusetts, settled in the township at its outset. It was known then and now as part of the Great Valley. The book contains fewer than 100 pages, and I'm hoping that at some point the society publishes something more comprehensive, with maps, genealogies, an extensive of biographies, and deep history. This book, which I happily add to my local history collection, is more anecdotal than sequential. Knowing how much effort and time must be invested to create the sort of book I would be even happier to see, I understand why the possibilities were limited if the publication were to occur in the township's tricentennial year.