Weekly Book Roundup – January 8-14, 2020

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, is a stark and interesting contrast juxtaposed to Pulitzer Prize finalist, Empire of the Summer Moon. Edith Wharton’s life parallels the years spanning Empire of the Summer Moon. However, it is as if they are set not in one nation, but opposing universes.

This was a “light” reading week for me as I finished only 2 books, but it was far from light considering the books – a classic that took a slower than usual time to absorb, and an incredible accounting of the Comanche wars – not light reading, but thoroughly absorbing.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth is a tragedy that takes place in a narcissistic world of society in old New York. Empire of the Summer Moon is a tragedy set during the Manifest Destiny driven expansion of the United States. A clash of nations and cultures that led to the virtual extinction of one and the predominance of the other.

I think I will need some light fiction after this week.

Weekly Book Roundup – January 8-14, 2020The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons on 1905
Pages: 532

The House of Mirth (1905), by Edith Wharton, is a novel about New York socialite Lily Bart attempting to secure a husband and a place in rich society. It is one of the first novels of manners in American literature.


I read Edith Wharton’s classic to complement a book I reviewed last week, A Well Behaved Woman. Think of it as going back to original source material. Edith Wharton, herself a member of New York society, writes astutely about Gilded-Age opulence. Thus, her book becomes a contemporaneous immersion into the era. Her writing style is as gilded as the era. Expect prolonged descriptions, innuendos and subtleties in a manner that goes beyond A Well Behaved Woman. The latter is in language much more accessible to the modern reader, or at least many (read – me).

That said, I enjoyed the book, but the verbosity grew wearisome by the end. The book is tragic in so many ways. It gives the reader – or at least this one – a sense of frustration, annoyance, sadness – mostly negative feelings. I am not sure the subjects of the book were recognizable, at the time, to themselves, because their narcissistic rejection of self criticism. Non-society readers; however, likely lapped up the story as a “tell-all” of the sordid affairs of the affluent.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne

Weekly Book Roundup – January 8-14, 2020Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne
Published by Scribner on May 25, 2010
Genres: 19th Century, Biography & Autobiography, History, Native American, Native Americans, State & Local, United States
Pages: 371

In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.
S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.
Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.
The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne’s exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads—a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.
Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the "White Squaw" who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.
S. C. Gwynne’s account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American history.


More books, fiction and nonfiction, by and about Native Americans are now on my reading lists. Because of this, I have grown in my understanding of the diversity of Indian Nations, bands and tribes. The complexity of the history is pulling me deeper and deeper with my reading.

I knew of the Comanche before I read this book, but not any details. Well, the details are what matters. This was an exceptional book. The Audible version is solid and the narration excellent. It includes a helpful pdf map that is worth reviewing before and during reading. I think a text version might be harder/longer to read.

This is not a book for the squeamish though. There are a lot of detailed descriptions of atrocities by both Comanches and Americans. While hard to read these details helped me understand the complexities of this 40 year war. The book tells an overlooked history in a balanced manner. It is a strong recommendation to anyone interested in this era.

If I could actually see one thing from Comanche history it would be their horseback riding expertise. The descriptions caught my breath.

This was not Edith Wharton’s New York.

A Woman’s Guide to Cannabis: Using Marijuana to Feel Better, Look Better, Sleep Better–and Get High Like a Lady by Nikki Furrer

I read the following book late last year, and just published a long review in a stand alone post. If this book interests you, you may also be interested in my longer discussion cannabis and women over 50.

Weekly Book Roundup – January 8-14, 2020A Woman's Guide to Cannabis: Using Marijuana to Feel Better, Look Better, Sleep Better–and Get High Like a Lady by Nikki Furrer
Published by Workman Publishing Company on December 25, 2018
Pages: 224

A woman’s handbook to demystifying the world of weed, whether it’s being used for pain relief, a moment of calm, or a fit of giggles.   Women of all ages are using cannabis to feel and look better. For rookies and experienced marijuana users alike, this lively, information-filled book is just the supportive guide you need to find the right dose to relieve anxiety, depression, and inflammation, and mitigate the onset of dementia and other signs of aging. Plus boost moods, ease aches, even lose weight, and get restful sleep. And a dose just for fun? Well, that works, too!   Here’s how to navigate the typical dispensary, with its overwhelming options of concentrates, edibles, vape pens, and tinctures. Understand the amazing health-giving compounds found in cannabis—THC, CBD, terpenes, and more—and how to use topicals to reduce pain and give your skin a healthy glow. There’s even advice on how not to get high but still reap all the amazing health benefits.   Plus over twenty recipes, from edibles like Classic Pot Brownies and Netflix and Chill Caramels to self-care products like Radiant Glow Serum and Happy Body Bar.  


I’ll be back next week with more book reviews.

Thanks for checking in.

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