What I am reading these days

I have a great love of books and film to begin with… But I have to say, I have been indulging in some rather magnificent fare lately.

All Things India

First, I have developed a serious interest in India. (Or perhaps recovered is a better term. I had a Jhumpa Lahiri phase in my early 20s.) I know I have mentioned the fantastic book I finished on the history of curry. Feasts and Fasts is another amazing book by the same author, which uses the history of food as a gateway into discussing the broader history of the Indian subcontinent (and, by extension, the various cultures that have been stakeholders there across millennia). It is so strange to me now to hear the name of a dish and be able to pinpoint the region it comes from and how it ever came to be a thing there. India is high on my list of places to visit now.

Before that, I had been reading about the Mountbatten dynasty via Pamela Hicks’ Daughter of Empire: My Life as a Mountbatten. (I wish I could recommend this book, but it’s honestly quite painful. Torturous really. If you can imagine Gwyneth Paltrow with all of her name-dropping of celebrities and shallow digressions, but with nabobs, then you have already gleaned all there is to glean from this book.) I am thankful my interest survived.

I started working my way through the series Indian Summers on Masterpiece, which I think is excellent. (Does this series come from the book Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire? I am curious, but have not read that book yet.) The show takes place across summers in Simla, which is in the foothills of the Himalayas, with a group of the British civil servants and merchants at the time of the British Raj, beginning in 1932. The show follows two plot lines: one with the British and one with the struggle for independence.

Martha Gellhorn

We very much loved touring Hemingway’s house in Key West last year, and since then, I have read a lot of books on Hemingway’s time in Florida and Cuba. And then I started reading the works of Martha Gellhorn. Gellhorn was an incredible writer in general, but an especially talented war correspondent. Most people, however, know her only as “Hemingway’s third wife.” She met Hemingway at Sloppy Joe’s bar in Key West (Hemingway’s favorite haunt) while vacationing with her family. Lord, what that woman could do with words. Her books are filled with very nuanced tales of how war and poverty impacted ordinary people.

Hemingway’s house in Key West

The Second Seminole War

I wrote earlier about how I have been studying the Second Seminole War (or, as I like to call it, the Afghanistan of the 1830s) ever since Elise and I decided to hike out to the ruins of a sugar plantation that was torched by Seminoles. My latest book on the topic is The Second Seminole War and the Limits of American Aggression. A lot of folks like to make a big deal about the Seminoles resorting to guerrilla tactics, but it’s silly to pretend this was a novel development in American history even then. After all, we have a country because a bunch of colonialists did exactly the same thing to the Brits.

Novels… I’m Trying to Enjoy Fiction (The Struggle is Real)

I am attempting to read a series of novels by H.S. Cross that revolve around the lives of boys and adults at a boarding school in England. I vastly prefer non-fiction to fiction, but these novels are well done and erudite, with is sort of a reward for a life of reading quality non-fiction, no?

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