Where’s The Military History Stuff?

One December day, when my son had just turned 11, we stopped by the bookstore on our way home from running a slew of Christmas errands.  We were tired.  It was our last stop.  I was looking for gifts.  He was not.  “Where’s the military history stuff?” he asked the clerk.

I forget the exact name of the book he chose, but it was some brick-heavy, Encyclopedic volume about the military structures of all the world powers.  I remember the clerk handing it to him — the weight of it filled his fingers — and he looked at her like, Yep, thank you, that’s exactly what I was talking about. I’m sure it was also expensive, but I specifically remember not caring.  I would have paid $30 or $60, it didn’t matter, that’s how longingly he looked at it.

That 11 year old is 24 now, and I know I’m biased, but he’s grown up to be one of the most interesting people I talk to.  So curious about the world, so comfortable with his politics and opinions.  I wish I was that cozy in my skin.  Last weekend we were talking about our favorite books and I asked if he had a Top 5 list.  It was hard, he said, to name only 5, as he’d recommend everything Tony Horwitz has ever written.  But here it is, the short list:

1.  GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL by Jared Diamond



4.  EMPIRES OF TRUST by Thomas Madden

5.  DIPLOMACY by Henry Kissinger

He’s been trying to get me to read these books for years, especially the first two.  Admittedly, I’ve had GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL on my long list, but it always seems to fall to the bottom.

Looking over this list is a reminder of how easy it is for me to get stuck, that I need to get out of my box.  Forgive me if this has become the theme of late, but I do feel stuck and so many things in the universe are popping up to clop me on the head.  Maybe getting out also means reading in a genre and/or subject matter I know little about.  Out of the mouths of babes, right?  Even 24 year old ones…

15 thoughts on “Where’s The Military History Stuff?

  1. lizisilver

    Just last week, my eight year old daughter pressed a book into my hands: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and insisted that I read it.

    I loved the book, thick, heavy, and painted in words and pictures. But what I love more is that she has started pressing books into my hands.

    I hope you get out of your rut, Teri, even if it does take some guns or germs to get you outta there.

      1. lizisilver

        Yes, both my husband and I read it.

        It was a quick and easy read- the book is more difficult to hold than to read. I enjoyed it, and especially loved the illustrations, which instead of simply illustrating the words, served to carry the story forward.

        Won’t be added to my list of all-time favorite children’s books, but I enjoyed it, and loved that our daughter is now part of the “You MUST read this book!” club.

  2. glasseye

    My daughter has been writing poetry for years, but only recently has she begun to share her work. I came home today and she pressed a beautiful poem (or song lyrics, possibly) into my hands. She’s such a buttoned-up little creature that I treasure these penciled insights more than almost anything I’ve ever received. Even more so because she’s giving them so freely. Sweet, sweet life.

    1. Deb

      Oh, how wonderful. I just unpacked two shorts my son wrote in middle school and we read them together. So great. Heaving contented sigh.

  3. Lyra

    I love the image of him looking at the clerk, certain in his choice.

    It’s too easy to read what you know, who you know, what you love.

    Sometimes it’s out of your comfort zone that you’ll find that one thing that becomes the catalyst you needed to make your book go further, you go further.

    My mind is still blown that a 24 year old is reading that…very cool.

  4. Downith

    Reading genres/subject matters I know little about – yes. By next week I have to read Blood River by Tim Butcher, (Congo)which I still don’t have – and the week after The Great War in Modern Memory by Paul Fussell which I took out of the library last night – over 300 pages of the teenyist tinyiest font I have ever seen… I’m pining for fiction.

  5. macdougal street baby

    What a heart warming post. Boys and war. I know the connection well.

    Hope you don’t mind but I’m going to steal this list! My brother is a history buff and I’m sure he hasn’t read Jared Diamond. So, thank you, once again.

    I would recommend Howard Zinn. I remember reading The History of the World in graduate school and really being engaged in it.

  6. Teri Post author

    Downith, what class are you taking with these books?

    It’s always been funny to me that my son loves world history and war books, and politics —- since he’s also such a Liberal (like me and his dad). He says he reads this stuff because it’s fascinating how/why cultures support the systems they do.

  7. lisahgolden

    Nate reads nonfiction and military history almost exclusively. At least he used to. Lately he’s too busy with school and baseball to do much else. I’m going share this list with him for summer reading ideas.

  8. Deb

    Are you serious? You have a 24 year old son who likes military history? Surprise, surprise so do I. AND, I took a trip to the library to pick up something out of my comfort zone. I came away with The Bell Jar and a book of poetry. We really have to stop meeting like this…

    1. Teri Post author

      How weird is that? Well, maybe not that weird. I went to a seminar in DC recently where Downith’s teacher was the speaker — I’m starting to think we’re all at about one degree of separation …

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