“I'm also reading 'History of the Medieval World: The Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade.' It's by Susan Wise Bauer. I did a test and found roots with Germanic and Scandinavian tribes, so wanted to learn more. This book has short chapters and uses a time line — covering, among others, Eastern and Western Europe, China, Japan, India, Russia — teaching what was happening simultaneously.
“Constantine was 313 A.D., so I read through the establishment of Rome and the Roman empires and tribes across northern and western Europe, including Attila the Hun. He was a fascinating character, not just a guy who destroyed things. He was an extraordinary leader. He had to be able to talk — to communicate with all kinds of people. He had a family, and his sons took over after him but they weren't successful.
“I'm also reading 'Founding Gardeners,' by Andrea Wulf. She was here last year, brought in by the Friends of the Parks. I'm working on a paper for Quest Club about being green in America, and I'm reading about Thomas Jefferson, who was a founding gardener, and Ben Franklin, and other Founding Fathers. This started in England, with the desire to find things that would be agriculturally useful, so there was a movement to import new things. Captain Cook went around the world gathering plants and seeds.
“And in this country, there was pride in flora and fauna. We had experimental gardeners looking for fodder for animals and cover crops to replenish the soil. Many of our Founding Fathers were involved — George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had huge estates. John Adams was involved on his much smaller land — and many others participated. They corresponded with people here and in Europe and planted and did research. George Washington was engaged in finding plows that worked better, for example.
“One of my new favorites is Neal Stephenson and his book 'Cryptonomicon.' It's about code breaking in World War II, going well beyond the usual with mathematicians crunching numbers. I read pretty much everything Stephenson writes. I find his work fascinating.”