I’m a writer, podcaster, and bookseller whose ultimate goal (besides being a roadie for the E Street Band) is to make reading, writing, and books in general as popular in Texas as high school football. It may take a while.
Ten Superb Documentaries You Definitely Should Watch Now
When most people hear the word “documentary,” something very specific comes to mind. Depending on your age, it might be the terrible documentaries you saw in school in the 1960s and 1970s, or Jacques Cousteau and his adventures on the Calypso, or more recently the David Attenborough Planet Earth series. For nearly everyone the word will conjure the image of a lion creeping silently across the African savanna, stealthily stalking a gazelle for dinner.
Five Persistent Myths About Julius Caesar
In any list of famous historical rulers, one name in particular is sure to come up: Julius Caesar. He is easily the most famous Roman of all time (and second only to Frank Sinatra as the most famous Italian) and most people know at least the basics of his biography. As is the case with any notable figure from antiquity, however, a number of myths about him have crept in among the fact, myths that need to be dispelled for us to have an accurate view of the man.
Not All American Colonists Supported the Revolution
We all know that there are two sides to every story, but if you’re an American you grow up believing that the only two sides to the story of the American Revolution were the colonial rebels and the British Empire. In reality, there was another, much ignored facet to the conflict: colonial rebels vs. loyalist colonists, also known as Royalists, Tories, or King’s Men. In some ways, the Revolution was our first Civil War, though on a much smaller scale than the one that would nearly destroy the nation from 1861 to 1865.
'The Shadow of the Wind:' A Book Review
I have written several times about Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and have reviewed several of his books. However, it was not until last night that I realized I have not done a review of his most famous (and easily best) novel, The Shadow of the Wind. Having written nearly 200 stories here over the past year, this oversight is beyond unforgiveable and must be rectified immediately.
The Great Bookstore War
The war begins the way all wars do, not with the actual combat but with a press release buried on page four of the business section of the newspaper. Sal Terranova doesn’t see it, since he never ventures beyond the sports pages; fortunately, Camden Templeton, his cousin and co-owner with him of The Last Word Bookstore, always reads the business section first, a practice begun back in London while she was still a CPA. She reads the story on page four with growing alarm and after finishing pours a cup of coffee, adds a shot of Jack Daniels to it, and carries it to Sal’s bedroom door.
‘New Miserable Experience’ At 30: A Look Back at the Legendary Gin Blossoms’ Album
If you are one of those people who (like me) still think that 1990 was ten years ago, this fact may throw you into an existential crisis: the now-legendary 1992 album New Miserable Experience by the Gin Blossoms turns 30 years old this year. Yes, the record that gave us “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You” has been spinning for three decades now. This milestone anniversary is the perfect time to take a fresh look at an album that I can still remember hearing the first time like it was yesterday.
The Real Story of Cardinal Richelieu, the Villain of ‘The Three Musketeers’
Back in November, I wrote a profile of legendary French author Alexandre Dumas, and in that article I said that even if you weren’t familiar with his name, you surely knew his novels (and the movies made from them): The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask, and of course The Three Musketeers. As famous as the musketeers Athos, Porthos, and Aramis have become over the past 175 years, the most iconic character from that novel was the evil Cardinal Richelieu. And while the musketeers were loosely based on historical figures, at least their names were altered; Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu, also known as the Red Eminence, received no such consideration and Dumas’ Richelieu bears almost no resemblance to the real historical person.
Debunking Some Persistent Myths About Rasputin, the Notorious Russian Bogeyman
I wrote an article last week about Vladimir Putin’s quest to become a new Russian Tsar. In researching the period of the Russian Empire, I repeatedly came across a man who is at least as famous as the Tsars, and perhaps more famous than any except Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. That man is Grigori Rasputin, the mad monk who exerted a stunning amount of influence over the last Tsar and Tsarina, Nicholas II and Alexandra.
Dispelling Three Ongoing Myths About George Washington
It’s hard to dispute that over the nearly 250 years since America became a nation George Washington has moved squarely from the realm of historical figure to legendary icon. Numerous cities, one state, and our nation’s capital are all named after him. His image is ubiquitous, from our currency to ads for the latest gadget. That’s what you get when you are known as the Father of the Nation, when every president from John Adams to Joe Biden is compared to you.
‘Letter to You’ is Bruce Springsteen’s Most Personal Album Ever
Some albums impact you from the opening chords of the first song; I have written numerous times about how Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run was such a record for me (“impact” being nowhere near a strong enough word). Other albums take some time and multiple hearings to work their way into your soul, but once there are there forever; Springsteen’s 2020 release Letter to You is one of those. That it came right when we needed it (in the midst of the pandemic) is simply further proof of Bruce’s greatness.
15 More Novel Recommendations Using Only the First Line of the Book
Over the summer I published two articles about using only the first line from a book as a recommendation to read it. Authors, publishers, and advertising gurus go to great lengths to come up with just the right marketing campaign for a book, but what if all they needed is there on the very first page of the book itself? Are there first lines compelling enough to make you read further?
Did 22-Year-Old George Washington Inadvertently Start the French and Indian War?
Everyone knows that George Washington led the Continental Army in the American Revolution, became the first President of the United States, and ended up on both the quarter and the dollar bill. There are also a lot of longtime myths about Washington, like that he chopped down a cherry tree and once threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River. But have you ever heard that it was a young Lieutenant Colonel George Washington who in 1754, twenty-two years before the American colonies declared independence, actually started the French and Indian War (with the resulting wider European conflict called the Seven Years’ War)?