TBR List Declutter, Issue 50

Tangent: Gettysburg Address

“‘But in a larger sense,'” I read, “‘we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.'”

In our history studies we’d gotten back around to the Gettysburg Address.

“‘The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.'”

My children had gotten used to me blubbering through the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution, but the lull in between tricked them into thinking I’d learned to control my emotions better.

“‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.'” I made it through that sentence, barely, but I had to stop to compose myself before I could continue.

“‘It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here—‘”

“Mom, stop.” My son was using the Mom Voice on me, sternly telling me to stop so that I wouldn’t cry.

“No,” I said. “I’m okay. I’m not sad. I’m just full of emotion.”

He went across the room and got me a tissue. Then he let me continue.

“‘…to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.””

I interrupted myself this time.

“What do you think he means here?” I asked, wiping at my eyes.

“That they need to continue the war because the work hasn’t been finished yet,” my son said.

“True. That’s probably one thing he meant. But I think there might be more to it than just continuing to fight the war. What was the war trying to do?”

He thought for a bit. “Stop slavery?”

“Yes, it was to stop slavery, and to keep the country together without slavery. He says, ‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.’ Did the world forget what he said at Gettysburg that day?”


“No, because if it did, you wouldn’t be learning about it now,” I smiled at him, and he smiled back.

“Maybe Abraham Lincoln wasn’t talking just to the people in front of him. Whether he knew he was or not, maybe he was talking to all of us, even those of us who wouldn’t be born for another century. Maybe he was reminding us that the work to uphold the ideals that the United States was founded upon continues on and on. We don’t have slavery today, not the way it was in 1860, but you can’t just end slavery and say, ‘Well. Glad that’s over,’ and expect things to be all better. There’s still inequality, there are still people suffering because of the ripples from slavery.”

“You mean the Civil Rights Movement,” he said with confidence.

“Yes, the Civil Rights Movement, and even more work that we’re still doing even today. It’s still not done. Even the people who wrote the Constitution didn’t live up to the words they wrote, but they gave us a framework that they hoped would create a better kind of government, one that would allow us to build a country where we could always get closer to that ideal. We never quite get it right, at least not completely. The best we can do is work towards what we hope we can be.”

“Okay,” he said. He’s eight years old and had had about all the lecturing he could sit through.

“Okay,” I said. “Just one more thing. Lincoln says what we need to work for to honor those who died at Gettysburg. Listen: ‘We here highly resolve…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'”

And then he ran off to play. As an eight-year-old should.

Visual Interest:


Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.


Titles 711-730:

Future Home of the Living God
Erdrich, Louise
Date Added: 10/25/17

Verdict: Go. I’m not really sold on the “evolution running backwards” premise—evolution isn’t directional—and without that, it seems like another novel about government control of women’s bodies, which, important as it is, appears to be taken to too much of a far-fetched level in this book.

Project List: n/a

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe
Oxenreider, Tsh
Date Added: 10/21/17

Verdict: Go. I have friends who really like this one, but I took a look at it, and I don’t think it’s for me.

Project List: n/a

Her Body and Other Parties
Machado, Carmen Maria
Date Added: 10/16/17

Verdict: Keep. I read one of the stories in this collection and was blown away. I want to see what else this author has.

Project List: none/short stories

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
Beevor, Antony
Date Added: 09/29/17

Verdict: Keep. My grandfather emigrated from Spain in 1936. I visited his home town last November, and reading the brief history on the plaque in front of the city hall—apparently, the town was essentially leveled during the war—I’m even more intrigued by what Spain was like at that time.

Project List: none.

Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage
Gelles, Edith B.
Date Added: 09/22/17

Verdict: Keep. I seem to recall adding this one in place of one containing the straight-up correspondence between Abigail and John Adams. I feel a need for a little more context to the letters.

Project List: none.

How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature
Sampson, Scott D.
Date Added: 09/09/17

Verdict: Go. This looks like a great book, but it would be reading to the choir. (I’m the choir.)

Project List: n/a

Twenty Miles per Cookie: 9000 Miles of Kid-Powered Adventures
Sathre-Vogel, Nancy
Date Added: 08/27/17

Verdict: Go. I’ve been wanting to read about the Sathre-Vogel’s adventures since I first read about them in a newspaper discarded in a coffee shop in Davis, California. But…I don’t know. We still have a sort-of plan to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail as a family in the next five years or so, but I suspect that won’t really happen. If it does, though, my children will both be teenagers, and I’ll probably do as well or better to read and research online to prepare as I would reading this book.

Project List: n/a

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Loewen, James W.
Date Added: 08/15/17

Verdict: Keep. I almost scrapped this one, but the reviews were so divided, I want to take a look for myself,

Project List: none.

Democracy in America
Tocqueville, Alexis de
Date Added: 08/15/17

Verdict: Keep. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, preferably while traveling to a place outside of the United States.

Project List: Cavalcade of Classics

Groff, Lauren
Date Added: 08/04/17

Verdict: Keep. I wasn’t a fan of Groff’s Fates and Furies (well-written enough, but the characters annoyed the heck out of me, and at times I wasn’t sure why I was reading it), but I’m curious what she does with this premise.

Project List: none.

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places
Dickey, Colin
Date Added: 08/04/17

Verdict: Keep. Starting in about third grade, I consumed ghost stories voraciously. Well, ghost stories, vampire stories, and tales of ESP, telekinesis and spontaneous combustion. I had to give up the scary stuff for a decade or so after I developed an intense emotional reaction to such tales in writing and on film during my first pregnancy, but in the past few years I’ve revisited my long-time love of the spooky. Now, though, I find that I’m not interested in the tales themselves so much as I am in why it is these stories grip us as they do. Word is, this is just what Dickey’s book is about. So, let’s read it.

Project List: none.

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
Wolf, Maryanne
Date Added: 08/04/17

Verdict: Keep. I once envisioned a story in which the narrator gradually lost the ability to understand printed words. I never wrote that story, but my fascination with the experience of learning to automatically decode text, with and without serifs, into meanings concrete and abstract remains. I hope I don’t need to have read Proust before I read this one, though.

Project List: none.

Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology (Innovations: African American Religious Thought)
Coleman, Monica A.
Date Added: 08/03/17

Verdict: Keep. Womanist theology and process thought. Could be some really good stuff here.

Project List: none.

Hope in Process
Young, Henry J.
Date Added: 08/03/17

Verdict: Keep. I studied theology in college and took a graduate course in Islam a few years ago, but I’ve never read anything much about race and theology. I’m not positive that this and the previous book will hold my attention (I’m woefully short in attention span these days; damned smartphone/mid-life changes), but I’m interested to give them both a try.

Project List: none.

Hamsun, Knut
Date Added: 07/26/17

Verdict: Keep. A novel by an author who inspired Franz Kafka. How could I say no?

Project List: Cavalcade of Classics

Forster, E.M.
Date Added: 07/24/17

Verdict: Keep. I finally read Howards End last year. It was my first Forster and I loved it. When I was scoping out my next Forster novel, I found this one, which is not only by an author whose work I’ve loved, it’s also an historically significant novel in its very publication. Definitely deserves a spot on my Classics list.

Project List: Cavalcade of Classics

The Return of the Native
Hardy, Thomas
Date Added: 07/02/17

Verdict: Keep. The only Hardy I’ve read is Tess. I considered many other of his novels to read next. I can’t remember why I settled on this one, but I trust that 2017 Charity did her due diligence.

Project List: Cavalcade of Classics

A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing
Date Added: 06/27/17

Verdict: Go. I want to want to keep this one on the list. With a nearly nine-year-old with a vigorous writing life in my house, this could be a good one for him, but I don’t know. I guess I’d rather not suggest writing struggles if he’s not having them in the first place. Maybe he’ll find a way through the brambles if he doesn’t realize they even exist. Maybe they don’t exist.

Project List: n/a

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation Into the Writing Life
Cameron, Julia
Date Added: 06/27/17

Verdict: Go. I’ve read three other of Cameron’s books and none of the practices has really stuck for me. I suspect I’m going to have to find my own path into the writing life, if I want to get there after all.

Project List: n/a

Twelve Years a Slave
Northup, Solomon
Date Added: 06/21/17

Verdict: Keep. This one’s been on my list for a few years now. It’s been on my bookshelf for nearly as long. About time to take it off the shelf and read it, I think.

Project List: Cavalcade of Classics

Six more titles off the list for a total of 277 of 730 (36.9% of the original 750).

Any thoughts about which I kept and which I tossed?

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