I just finished reading 1776 by David McCullough, and recommend it because:
1. It tells of very real historical events (no fluff) but reads like a novel
2. I learned more about the Revolutionary War and the idealogy behind it reading this book than I did during 3 years of high school history and a semester of "American Heritage" in college
3. The manner of speaking & writing of the early Americans/British has inspired me to be much more eloquent and expressive
4. Okay, I'm really not going to write 1776 reasons, just 3. But this is a terrific investigation into the beginnings of the American Revolution.
McCullough described it as being "about Washington and the army and the war. It's the nadir, the low point of the United States of America." The author researched extensively in both the US and the UK, and knew so many details about so many things -- the characters, the landscape, the mood of both Great Britain and the colonies. He culled journal entries, personal correspondence, memos, nearly everything imaginable for details of the momentous 12 months in the fight for independence. McCullough honors Washington in the character he describes, but also lets us see his shortcomings. I felt like I came to understand the man because we get to read his own words, and then McCullough fills in the gaps with information from others who knew Washington best. I also felt that McCullough gave very fair treatment to the Mother land, and especially King George III, and their reasons for engaging the "petulant subjects" in war. This was a great book, and I can't wait to get home and read some of McCullough's other books, Truman and John Adams.
In other news, I went to the beautiful and historic Swiss town of St. Gallen with Erin and Daniel on Wednesday. Apparently, an Irish monk named Gallus felt he received a sign from God and formed a hermitage in what is now St. Gallen in the year 612. The city is famous for its library, formed in the 830's, and became wealthy due to the booming business of hand embroidery. Crazy swiss embroidery people. The library is, well, old, and I have to admit I was taken aback by the dead stuffed animals (lots and lots of taxidermy ... they said it was art) but it was amazing to see nonetheless. The entire thing is constructed of wood, and we were informed that St. Gallen has a whole fire department unit on call in case the building spontaenously combusts.
Matt and Erin beat me in FIFA 2004 tonight (badly--I think I need to learn how to pass), but it's okay because tomorrow we go to Munich (Augsburg, then Dachau, then Munich). My grandparents on my mom's sides are from Augsburg, so we're going to attempt to find the house my grandma lived in. And the Christmas markets are just starting up in Germany, so we'll be able to see those too. AND I'm supposed to try German liver dumpling soup... I can't wait. Mmmmm, liver.